Lost child

May. 13th, 2009 07:58 pm
siren_echoes: (Default)
[personal profile] siren_echoes
This is the first part of a story (not the one I'd mentioned earlier). Hopefully there will be more to come.

Eyes of an ancient one gazed from the cherub face of a child. Hair that perhaps beneath the layer of grime was the color of sun-bleached straw hung in limp strands, concealing smudged cheeks. She stood before me in the alleyway, incongrous, as if dressing a part, playing a character, far from home. I had been walking home from work, my bag slung over my shoulder, cell phone close and knife in pocket (because one never knew who would be waiting in the shadows around here).

She had been standing there as I rounded the bend, just watching, silently.

I stopped before her as she gazed at me expectantly. "Are you lost, sweetie?" I asked gently. She shook her head. "Do you know where your mother is?" I asked.

She lifeted a tiny, porceline, dirt-caked finger and pointed at me. I felt the breath catch in my throat. This was not possible.

"Honey, I'm sorry, but I'm not your mother. But I can try to help you if you let me." She reached out and took my hand. I felt a surge of something akin to electricity, but more... fluid... flow through me at her touch.

I led her to my home, a tiny one bedroom apartment in the heart of the city. Without bothering to change out of my waitressing uniform, I prepared a bath for her and let her clean up. I dug through my closet and found a tee-shirt which would at least give her something clean to dress in. Leaving it just inside the bathroom door, I finally went to change my own clothing and start some dinner. I put on some leftover soup that I had made from scratch yesterday, and pulled out a plate of homemade bread. Even with my busy schedule, I still loved to cook, and did it the old fashioned way.

She emerged then, dressed in the clean shirt, angelic in her beauty and innocence, yet still somehow so much older than she appeared. She carried something partly concealed in her hand that caught the dim light and flashed an ethereal blue.

I found myself hesitant to do what I knew I must do, to call the Children's Protective Services tomorrow and report a missing child. Everything in my heart at that moment said she belonged here, though I could not understand why.

She pulled up a chair and sat at the table with me, holding my eye. Still, she said nothing. I wondered if she was capable of speech.

I am, but I do not communicate as you do.

The words formed clear and defined, the melodic voice of a child in my mind, and I jumped a little. Surely she did not...

I did. I do. Mother, do you not also do the same?

"Can you... write?" I asked softly, not entirely certain I believed this. She nodded once, and I quickly found a phone message pad and pen nearby and gave it to her.

She wrote:

"I am capable of speech, but I do not communicate as you do. You wondered if I communicated mind to mind? I did. I do. Mother, do you not also do the same?"

Seeing her small hand forming the words that had filled my mind moments ago, writing with a skill far beyond what her young years should have allowed for, seemed to somehow solidify the surreality of the situation.

You could not hear me if you did not have this ability.

"What is your name?" I asked in a whisper, because I didn't know what else to say.

She smiled sadly. You never named me, Mother.

I could not answer to that. How could I name a child I never knew I had?

You knew of me. I was with you from the start. Do you remember? You hid me away in shame, in fear. There was no judgement in the words, only sad acceptance.

"I did no such thing!" I said, unable to keep a sharp edge of shock out of my voice. I took a breath, controlled myself, and said more gently, "I can't possibly be your mother, sweetheart. I can't have children."

Yet I am here. She gazed at me wide-eyed. You cannot see? Don't you see the world around you, Mother?

I looked around myself, taking in the familiar surroundings of my tiny kitchen, the old stove, fading curtains, the dingy refrigerator and second-hand table surrounded by mismatched chairs.

"I see my apartment."

Do you think that is all there is?

"What else is there here? Besides maybe the ground it's on, or the sky..."

Look deeper.


She watched me expectantly, and I looked around again. It was all the same. She sighed and slid from her chair, her legs dangling and swinging slightly before she dropped to the floor with a little hop. She walked to me and peered into my face, close but not touching.

I can help you see. But you have to accept me first.

"Why wouldn't I accept you?" I asked. "I brought you into my home. Though I'm not entirely convinced this isn't some fever-dream..." I tried to remember if I had been feeling ill at all recently.

She laughed, the first vocal sound I had heard from her. The laugh had a note of derision to it. Mother! You do not even acknowledge me as yours, as a part of you. Do you not remember me? You embraced me when you were young...

I could not think of what to say. This child who claimed to be mine had been with me when I myself was a child?

She lifted her hand, opened palm up, watching me expectantly. I hesitated briefly, then took her outstretched hand...

And then, I was elsewhere.

She still held my hand, melded close, a guide and a dependant. The moment of disorientation passed, and I saw then that I was in the backyard garden of my childhood home. A child sat amongst the violets and rose bushes, in the shade of a myrtle draped with frothy pink blossoms. Her back was to us, but I could see a flow of pale hair. I recognized the purple and white jumpsuit I used to love to wear so much, the one with the unicorn emblazoned on the front. From inside the house, I could hear the sound of shouting, a man yelling profanities while a woman wept. The girl turned to look at us then, and I saw a pair of ancient blue eyes gazing at me.

My child guide was no longer standing beside me, but was sitting before me in the flower beds. She held something partially concealed in one hand, soemthing that flashed an ethereal blue in the sunlight.

Don't you remember this place? she asked, as I came over to kneel beside her. I remembered seeing pictures of myself at that age, rare pictures because so few had survived my father's drunken wrath. I looked different now, having colored my hair to a deep brunette, but my eyes were still the same as those of this small child beside me. Old. Haunted.

"I do..." I said. "I remember it."

I shifted my legs, folding them beneath me as my young counterpart had, leaning forward, my eyes slightly wide as I looked at the garden around me. The flowers were in full bloom, flashing a myriad of colors, filling the air with intoxicating perfume.

Do you remember? Do you know where you used to go? The gate?

I raised my head and saw at the end of the path, nearly obscured by a cluster of willows, grown over with moss and ivy, an ornate iron gate. There was no fence surrounding it, only a gate standing alone.

The others could not see it, she whispered to my mind. When you tried to tell them, they punished you.

I stood and moved along the cobbled path to stand before the gate. Up close, it seemed almost insubstantial, as though formed of mist. I could hear the crashing waves of the ocean beyond, the haunting call of seagulls. My family's home had been in Colorado, far from the Sea. Its wild song beckoned to me now, and slowly, I put my hand against the gate and pushed it open....
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January 2014


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