First published in Flash Flood 2016
She crawls into the space under the bed. In the real world, it is full of boxed books and cocooned quilts. They exist here too, but are easily bypassed, as she wriggles past them to a place where she finds everything lost. There is the gonk, all green velvet and smug smile, who faded out of existence when she was six. Behind him is a vague shadow, the shelves and tiles of grandma’s pantry, where gonk was last seen.
She strokes the gonk, he feels cool and clean. He whispers encouragement and she moves on. His name, forgotten for years, appears before her. “Mr Sylvester” she breathes, and smiles. Next, the book of comic poetry, gone since she was nine. Fragments of rhymes dance around her, the rhythms have always been a part of her, and she recognises now the whole of each work.
She moves on, hearing a siren in the distance.
And now the doll, Sally-Lou, her best friend in the whole world. Sally-Lou has wise brown eyes, soft brown curls, and a curiously normal figure. One of those wise brown eyes has spun backwards into a head marked with biro; an arm is missing. There are tooth marks on one lower leg. “It’s OK.” Sally-Lou says. “This wasn’t your fault. I was stolen from you.”
There is a distant pain, easily dismissed. The sirens have stopped.
Next, the dog who ran away when she was a teenager. She swallows hard, all laughter gone. There is nothing here to embrace. She wishes for sad eyes, even reproach, but the wet mess of his head allows for no sentiment. She turns away, careful not to smear her clothes. The space is tight, and getting tighter. She can still crawl. Ahead of her is a harsh, white light.
It’s more crowded now. A cardboard box, torn and limp, droops enough to reveal a pile of cheap newsprint. A full run (far too short) of a girls’ story magazine that didn’t dwell on boys, or make-up, but was all about adventure and imagination. For the first time, she feels that her loss is echoed, a wave of anger encloses her, and gives her determination to move on. There is a fight to be won, and still enough will to struggle through.
There is a screen ahead of her, images of the future, the next album from her favourite artist, the books that have not yet been read or written, the mountains that have not yet been climbed. She clambers through a tiny gap and gasps once, looking up at Chris, who cries out with guilt. There is pain, but there is hope. She tries a smile, but it hurts. “It’s OK, this wasn’t your fault. I was stolen from you.”