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* The Library - Fiction for the Heart *

The Gathering
Ch. 2- Two Together

After a time, she noticed her body had changed. She could stand straight and tall, she was no longer wraith-thin, her eyes no longer darted about nervously. And she became aware that her thoughts were more coherent. She could hold onto a thread of thought and follow it for quite a while now, instead of getting lost after only a few words. She began to delight in this. She found she could give her feelings words and names, and when she cried, sometimes words would come to her. As if her feelings were talking TO her now. And she cried often. She cried to the grasses and the flowers. She sobbed and wailed, nestled in the roots of a large leafy tree, drawing comfort from its living. She moaned and groaned while completely submerged in the pool in her cave. The warm water soothed her and loosened stiffnesses where her body was holding pain and fear.

With her new-found ability to think, she began to question. Why was she so alone? What had happened to put her on the long road, of which she could only remember bits and pieces? Why had she been beaten and scorned wherever she went? Why couldn't she remember who she was in the before time? Why couldn't she remember?

She resolved to remember. It became the most important thing to her. She wanted to remember more than anything in the world.

One day, sitting nestled in the roots of her favorite tree, she tried to remember some of the things that happened to her on her long journeys. She remembered being cold, so very cold. She felt again the emptiness and aloneness and as the tears began to flow, she heard a small sound, a whimper, like the cry of an injured dog. She searched the trees at the edge of the glen and found, curled into a tight ball, a very small child, no more than two. She knew with a certainty that came from somewhere deep inside, this child was kin. She knew, in the way she felt the pain thrumming through the small body, she felt the tears streaming down her own face. The woman touched the small face and felt a shallow breath, but the skin was cold and the eyes seemed not to see her. And the skin! The child's skin was blackened and burnt, but cold, cold as ice.

Frightened, she gathered the child up in her arms and carried her to the cave. She placed her carefully in the pool all the way up to her chin, holding her gently, hoping the warm water would soothe her skin and thaw her memory frozen bones. She murmured soft comforting sounds and words - "safe... home... warm... "

At first the child lay deathly still in her arms, barely breathing. Then, slowly, a single tear slipped down her cold cheek, and she gave a sudden sobbing intake of breath… and then she was crying and they were crying together, and the woman knew everything would be alright.

It took many days for the child to recover from her frozen coma. Hopelessness had nearly swallowed her up. For many days she could do no more than hide in the cave, submerged in the water or curled up in the woman's lap. She let the woman hold her and rock her while she sobbed and moaned, and one layer at a time they peeled the onion of her pain.

They remembered together...

She awoke, alone in the dark. The dark was the vastness of space and she was lost in it, unable to move, unable to call out, cold and completely alone. The horror, the stark aloneness, the terror!

She couldn't feel anything - all was cold nothingness. She reached out and … nothing. She cried out but she could hear nothing. There was no up, no down, no forward, no back, and absolutely no hope of rescue. She screamed a soundless scream, her terror completely overtaking her and then knew no more for a time.

This happened over and over again, more times than she could count. Always, when she woke again it was to endless dark terror and aloneness. Madness was slowly overtaking her and soon she would be wholely insane.

The woman held the child tightly and they relived the terror of those times. And then the rage came. Together, they remembered the darkness, and then they remembered seeing lights in the distance and hearing music and they knew there were others out there. Others! Yes, of course they knew there were Others, that's where they belonged! How did they get out here in the dark and the cold, why didn't somebody come and get them, why didn't somebody save them?!?

When the rage faded she asked the child "How did it happen that you were out there all alone?"

But the child didn't know, she couldn't remember. She vaguely remembered feeling that it must have been something she did wrong, and it must have been something very very bad. But she didn't know what, and she didn't want to know.. She was just so very very grateful to be here with the woman, in a safe place where she could cry and not be alone in the scary cold dark anymore.

She nestled deeper into the woman's arms and whispered, "Please don't leave me."

And they went into the cave together and the woman put the child into the warm healing waters of the pool and held her while she cried.

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