She cried. In her mind – for her form and substance had been stolen – she cried for a very long time before the crying turned to hopeless weeping and then quiet whimpering. Was it months? Years? Moments? It was hard to say. She was trapped in a slime-covered boulder wedged in the runoff from the hot springs. The natural hot springs were located downhill from the elevated section of county road that followed the bends in the river. If she could see she would have recognized the place from the many visits there with her family. She could not see. Neither could she feel nor hear nor smell nor use any of her physical senses.
The smooth, black, granite river boulder she was trapped inside was wedged where the hot, mineral-laden water streamed into the icy waters of the river carrying snow melt and spring water down from the mountains. In her rock she was pure essence of Corinna, pure emotional and psychic content. Her memory and personality were intact but she herself was without shape or form or freedom. The stone was now her body, tumbled smooth by the eons, continually etched and scarred and smoothed again. The slime of bright green algae trailed away from the rock’s surface, undulating in the warm, trickling, burbling stream.
But she saw none of this, nor could she hear the running water, the birdcalls, the voices of children and grown-ups enjoying the hot springs. She knew only fear and the fear chilled her essence. She was exhausted. She would be three in July. Perhaps she was three already.
She was still learning language when she was torn from her family. She was a quick learner, surprising those around her as she moved quickly from single words to phrases to sentences and then paragraphs. Her grasp of ideas and concepts were childlike but still astonishing for a little girl not even three years old. Everyone agreed that she was a rare child but none of her giftedness prepared her for the sudden terror of waking up alone, blind and disembodied, in absolute silence and in space the color of unlit absolute nothingness Was her situation hopeless? Could nothing save her? Was her best and kindest hope for insanity so sudden, so overpowering it extinguished all memory and consciousness? Lesser insanities would merely make an endless streaming hell of memory and love.
To have salvation come from an altogether different quarter was something her kidnappers never imagined and therefore never prepared against. She was a child concealed in a place beyond the natural order. Nor did her anguished family imagine she could be anything but lost to them. They found the girl missing from her room. Seeing the horrific mess of human blood the kidnappers spilled and spread about in order to deceive did its work. Wish otherwise as they might the parents could only believe their child dead, an innocent victim of senseless brutality. Neither kidnappers nor family nor investigating authorities imagined the natural world might have a natural interest in recovering its own, mush less the ability to do so. None imagined that in the deepest part of the child’s heart images older than humankind were taking shape and rumbling voice and calling to their own in the hearts and essences of the land and water creatures now nosing around the girl.
The plan of the kidnappers had always been to steal the girl and park her essence inside a rock until she went totally, irretrievably insane. Then, in the guise of rescuers, return the gibbering, raving child to her parents, forcing them to recognize the depths of horror she had suffered and to wish instead for the quick and merciful death they had previously dreaded. As the cloaked enemy, the kidnapper’s hatred of this family knew no bounds; it was implacable, remorseless and only wanted the family dead, all its lines and branches snuffed. First though, they wanted to hear screaming and keening and to see suffering to the very extreme of death. And then they wanted suicides.
If it weren’t for the turtles, the minnows and trout, the birds and field mice and beaver nosing about the girl the enemy would have had its satisfaction. But destiny hiccuped and lost its place when Corinna suddenly became aware of sentient life and interest surrounding her, aware of her, moving closer. Beyond the motile, individual life forms the larger web of life pulsed with gathering light. The awareness of all this display of interest and power pulled her from her hysteria. The life about her was curious and warm. It circled, moved and nuzzled her and she forgot herself completely – no sobbing, no hiccupy transition; just a fine and instantaneous focusing of her attention. She thought as a child for her mind was a child’s mind, but it was an extremely sharp one, and exceptionally strong.
In the darkness she suddenly saw moving colors and shapes. Inside the colors and shapes she saw pulsing holograms of hearts and veins, capillaries and arteries. Cold and warm blooded creatures came to her as if with one mind. She knew their quickening interest, saw fiery leaps across synaptic chasms, watched intention and feedback race across interconnected neural networks, whole galaxies lighting up, dimming, lighting again at the speed of intuition, recognition, knowing. She saw small moving bodies as dazzling electrical fields and she saw what few humans could – the dynamic, responsive fields and reaching tendrils that extended far beyond the physical boundaries of the bodies of the creatures nosing about her.
Awestruck she watched creation’s pulse, its essential waves and cross-currents as they swept and combed the life-forms around her. Life had given her new eyes, and she used them as if she had always known how. Life had also given her its undivided attention and she responded, shedding fear and terror like dried husks of a chrysalis. She was at a perfect age to respond, to wrestle free of the no longer useful and to thrive. Squeezing through unyielding hardship to meet the life around her strained and stretched the damp, curled wings of her human potential. She was at a perfect age, developmentally, to change. She was at a perfect age and in the perfect circumstances to find her wings and learn to use them.
And change she did, and though she could not have put any of this into words she found the recognition she sought. She saw that she was neither abandoned nor forgotten. She found the security she, and perhaps all humans, craved. She found she was no longer held by the binding spell for she was no longer the same person who had been bound. She was still essence, presence, life and awareness; she was still content without form but she was changed. The frightening void of her entrapment was now filled with color, presence and movement and she was motile. The rock released her and the world welcomed her back. The images released from her heart’s depths flowed effortlessly, endlessly.
When she once again had hands and fingers, elbows and toes, words and images would flow from her mouth, her toes, her fingertips. She would conjure worlds, languages, dances and spells, she would weave mythic histories and fill creation with the missing stories, stories, stories. Stories and more stories; some to light like butterflies, others to bomb to earth like hummingbirds attracting mates. Those things would happen, but first she had to get her body back and find her parents and for all of this Corinna was going to have to find her brother and enlist his help.
…to be continued (maybe)
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