(Short story written to investigate a book idea)
“I just can’t…” tiny fingers stretched toward the object bobbing in the water just out of reach. Determination flashed in gray eyes as the girl sat back to think.
“Lena,” she said to a doll made of dried seaweed and dry rotted material, “if I could just find…”
A bright smile possessed her face and her naturally saddened expression was transformed by the tweak of lips and crinkle of eyes. “Of course!” she cried. Excitement propelled her to her feet, and she crossed the barrier’s edge to an old, forgotten shed. The door was barred, but on the side of the shed where the water lapped at the wood, a fungus grew, weakening the wooden planks. The girl worked at the wood until a hole appeared, small in size but large enough for her nine-year-old, wiry body to fit through. Once inside, she climbed on a pile of debris to wipe the square window down with the hem of her sleeve. The light entered the shed, though sight couldn’t not penetrate the window. It was impossible to remove the years of wait and worry from the glass, but this suited the little girl’s needs for discretion.
She rummaged around the shed looking for a make-shift tool, something she could use to drag the object in the water closer to her. And then she found it- a stick about three feet long with a curved hook at the end. Someone long ago smoothed down and rounded the sides, or maybe it was smoothed by the waves when it was once drift wood. It didn’t matter to the girl how it formed its shape. All she knew was that it felt like she’d received a gift. Her fingertips did not touch when she grasped the stick, but she was able to manage it reasonably well.
She hurried through the hole to the pier where Lena and her object waited, nodding up and down as if acknowledging that she was its true owner, that it had finally reached its destination. “You’re home now,” the girl told the object as she reached her new tool, hook end out, toward the water. “Just a little…” she wedged her bare foot into a space in the landing so she could lengthen the last inch without plummeting to the water below.
The hook reached around the object and guided it to the girl. She looked back at Lena, smiling widely, before focusing all her attention on the warm, oblong glass in her hand. She rested herself, crossing her legs under her, in the same covered corner where Lena waited. Something stopped up a small, round opening at the skinny end, but she could see there was something inside the glass, something the little girl desperately wanted to get to. So she risked removing the brown, cracked stopper and emptied the contents into her lap.
“Lena, look!” The girl whispered, her eyes widening. “Paper!” This was a find in itself, as paper was scarce and limited only to what the people here could salvage from the sea and dry without damaging it. Her mother spoke of it; the girl had seen it in the rare books that wandered to her people; it was how she learned to read, but to have a piece of her own? One no one had ever seen? The little girl would keep it forever.
She felt strangely vulnerable, all of the sudden, so she scooped up Lena and her glass and paper find to make her way to the abandoned shed. No one came to this side of the barriers anymore, and she was glad, but that didn’t take away the feeling. Once in the safety of the shed, the little girl let out a nervous laugh. “We can’t be too careful, can we?” she asked Lena. She perched on the edge of a dirty patch of light, skirting the darkness. Gingerly, she propped Lena up facing her and opened the paper to properly see the treasure she found.
She read it silently at first, then aloud to Lena. The light began to wane after the thirtieth read-through and the girl decided this was her secret. So, she found a hiding spot in the dilapidated shed where she hid the glass and letter she found that day, and every glass and letter she found every day after that for ten years, and somewhere in that time she vowed she would find the passion, the experience that these letters expressed. Even if that meant she had to do what no other Seer could do. Leave.