Children In Winter
Child who will save humanity. If only she knew how
Bare, nearly empty rooms with brightly colored walls filled her earliest memories. She lay on her too big bed, staring up at the deep blue ceiling, counting the stars over and over, her imagination filling the painted galaxy with planets and spacemen and adventures, even though she knew very well there were no such things. Sometimes, she made the bed go up and down, pretending she was taking off or landing. And sometimes the bed was a boat on a huge ocean, and she had to be careful not to fall off the edge, or she’d drown in the bottomless sea.
The bed made a good toy, for a child with too much imagination and too much free time. She had few actual toys: a much loved teddy, a ball, chalk worn down to small nubbins on a black slate. And for the most part that was enough, she didn’t need extra when she had the friends her mind gave her.
Those, and her most prized possession, her greatest and best friend, the present she received on her fifth birthday.
The doll was nearly her size, made of beautiful fabrics. And it looked just like her. The softly molded face had green eyes, and a serious mouth. Framing it all was long, yellow-brown hair made from a soft and fuzzy yarn, hair that could be braided and taken down and braided over and over again.
The very first time she’d held the doll, she felt a quiet but insistent fizzing deep in her tummy, a feeling that’d filled her whole body when she’d touched the dolls soft cheek. In fact, it’d spilled over into laughing tears, catching her deeply by surprise, until she’d had to hug the doll and hide her face against its hair.
Even as she grew, the doll remained her best and constant companion. Clothes were made to match her own, until they both had the same outfits, and she could pick their clothes out every morning. The doll even had the same nightgown, so she could stay close when the doctors came prodding for more blood or samples or whatever they called them.
Yes, the doll was all hers, and had always been there, it seemed, sometimes even longer than it could’ve been possible.
And the doll had watched, the day the bad men had come, the day they’d spilled the doctors’ blood instead, the day it’d run red over painted grass and splashed up over the imaginary sky. Its calm green eyes had seen as they took her, as a rag that smelled wrong clapped itself over her mouth, as her brightly colored walls and too big bed and teddy and ball and world had all faded away.
And somehow, the doll had come back to her, along with the woman who was neither doctor nor bad, but small and quick and smiling, protecting her and talking to her like a grown-up, like someone out of a dream of space and adventure.
She’d held out her hand, and taken her away, to safety. The doll thought she could keep the bad men away forever.
She just hoped the doll was right.