18. HeadphonesAbby’s headphones were her lifeline.

Since humans couldn’t shut their ears like they could their eyes — a design flaw, in her opinion — she liked to be able to control her surroundings the best she could, and the headphones accomplished the task. She saved her money and bought the best pair she could. They were hers.

She like to listen to different kinds of music, things that let her know that there was a world out there that wasn’t the world she knew. Upbeat, happy meaningless songs when she knew her parents were fighting. Beautiful, classical music for when people were ugly to her at school. The teachers didn’t like her wearing them in the hall, but no one had actually taken her headphones away.

That was, until one day, her mother came up the stairs, stormed into her room, and yanked them off her head.

“What?” Abby said, too suddenly cut off from her world and thrust into the other.

“I’ve been yelling at you to come downstairs for dinner for 10 minutes,” she said. “Food’s cold, and we’re tired of you not listening to us.”

“Maybe if you said something worth listening to,” she muttered under her breath, but not quite under enough.

She had never seen that look of anger on her mother’s face.

Her mother looked around the room, found a pair of scissors and cut the headphone’s cord.

“Eat or don’t,” her mother said, tossing the ruined headphones to her. “Your choice.” And she left.