He knew who they were, his children after all, but he did not know their names. He knew he should know their names, Bartholomew, Enid, Galadriel? He wasn’t sure, and of the one name he knew for certain, Sophia, he wasn’t certain at all as to which child the name belonged. Even their exact number was a mystery, seven or eight or six or twelve, as well as their respective ages or even their birth order. Had they been born? Surely, but he had no recollection of the events, as many of them as there had to have been. But still, as they were his children, no doubt, he cared a great deal for them as best as he could at least with the pressing concerns of his work.
He sat in the silent room. That’s not quite right for he could still hear the echoes, long stilled, of laughter and shrieks of joy, of cards being shuffled for a game of chance, of clinking champagne flutes to ring in the new year, of the arguments that were always the one argument, the last argument. All this and more echoed in his mind as dust motes danced slow pirouettes in a solitary shaft of sunlight.
Sprite flittered from one flower to another. She loved the flowers and spent as much time with them as she could when she wasn’t working. Colors, scent, transformation from flower to seed, these gave her sanctuary, a place for her hands.
Lively hands, five fingers, no thumb.
Sprite heard the song, tiny, not too far away. She buzzed into the air, following the voice of one quickened but called away. That was her job, to hasten those called, assist them in their transformation from the quick to the land beyond. She and her brothers each had their own, each as methodical and certain in their work.
The song called her to a young woman shivering in bed. It wouldn’t be long now, Sprite knew, even though the woman herself was unaware of the child forming inside her. Sprite listened to the unborn, a boy, as he sang to his mother. Not with voice, no vocal cords had developed yet, but with heart and soul. If the young mother could hear, even if she sang back, it would make no difference. This child, so small, smaller
If the young mother could hear, even if she sang back, it would make no difference. This child, so small, smaller than Sprite, had already been called to the land beyond. Something deep in his knitting had failed and his time was done.
Sprite landed next to the woman and even though the woman could not see her, Sprite shared in the flow of emotions, the fear in the woman’s body, tense and perspiring. As the boy’s voice grew silent, Sprite extended her hands and touched the woman, drawing the boy to her, embracing him, and sang to him, sang to him of the land beyond.
Under the glare of the phosphor lights, he shielded his eyes. His night vision eradicated, he stumbled on the empty football field. They said they would be there. They had to be. How else could he deliver the ransom money if they didn’t show at the drop they’d picked? The lights continued to brighten and even with his eyes closed, he struggled against the light. Heat. His skin blistered and his clothes and hair ignited, a human candle, consuming the briefcase of cash along with him.
As was his custom and habit, he made his way down to the sea each morning. Rain or not, sun or not, it made no difference. To walk along the virgin sand, no prints to compete with, any interesting detritus his for the collecting. What he found that morning both surprised and delighted him. The skeletal remains of a merman. These had been washing up on shore more often of late, though in part only; not a complete intact specimen like this one. He wondered, not for the last time, what had driven the sea people to war on each other like this, but he gladly accepted their bounty.