A work of fiction by Andrés H.
The girl was clinging to my trousers in the middle of an inexhaustible cry. There, slowly and to the rhythm of the memorized prayers of a priest, they descend to their eternal rest, her father and mother.
Sara cries and the sky announces a storm. I checked the weather forecast and I am sure it will not rain, however, I cannot help but wonder if any of the gods or saints whom the priest named in prayers, will take pity on the little girl’s crying, and turn her tears into a mighty deluge that will wipe us all out.
Not a drop falls from the clear sky. My gaze hidden behind the dark glasses does not hide any tears, not because I am insensitive to tragedy, on the contrary, it is my brother who slowly descends into eternal — and premature — rest, together with his wife. But I cried for them enough, the day before, the night before and a little more this morning before I went to meet Sara. Now in the cemetery, surrounded by friends and family, I must keep my composure and hold the hand of the little orphan who clings tightly to me.
For her, the tears have not been enough and her crying has not found comfort for hours. The last prayers are pronounced and the ancient songs of a church in which I stopped believing long ago, accompany the shovels of earth that will cover the couple of coffins.
— Sara, it’s time to go — I bent down at her height. The little girl, with naturally black eyes and now swollen with tears, looks directly at mine and for the first time in my life I feel my heart breaking in three pieces. One for my brother, one for me, and the last one for Sara.
Sara… why me? … Sara, your life is ahead of you, and it has been my brother’s will that I’d be the one to nurture that promise of life, that I’d be your father and mother. That I’d wake up the mornings of the days of school and that you are the one who’d wake up me early the weekends. Brother… Why me? You can never answer my question and I will never understand it.
I don’t need to understand it to know what’s right. That I will accommodate you in my life, Sara, and that we will learn to put tragedy behind us and grow together like vines in the middle of the jungle, seeking the light by wrapping themselves around each other, and around stronger trees.
I remember when I got the call. An accident on the way home, a careless truck driver and my brother and his young wife never got to say goodbye to Sara. In the hospital I saw you, brother, a few hours before death finally embraced you. And the next day while I was still struggling to understand what happened, I got the call.
A lawyer and confidant, a friend you trusted enough to deposit a will. A will signed by both of Sara’s parents, specifying that custody of the child should rest with me. Something strange has happened since the accident, my memories of you are increasingly blurred and I find it hard to remember when was the last time we spoke before your death. The only thing I think I know for sure is that it was a long time ago.
No conditions, no plan B in case I couldn’t take care of her. Making a will, writing a letter, are actions that require the exercise of looking into the future while thinking, that is what you did brother while preparing your final words before the lawyer friend. You looked into a future you are not in, and you saw me as the best option to preserve your most precious treasure.
The friends dissipate, the religious songs cease and the storm clouds never come. Now Sara sleeps in the back seat of the car, while I drive back to our house.
Until yesterday, it was just my house. Usually, Not even a pet keeps me company and in my loneliness — which is rather frequent — I work better. I don’t know how Sara will alter my routine… if it will affect my work… maybe it will help me feel a little less lonely in the afternoons and maybe that will be good. I could watch children’s shows with her on weekends or mornings when she is too sick to go to school. I could write a story about her and sell it to my editor. Sara and the colorful clouds, Sara and the animals of the forest, Sara the orphaned daughter of my brother.
There was one more errand to run before I could return to the house, the will included a letter that according to the instructions left by the deceased I could only read after the funeral rites were completed. The lawyer is waiting for me in his office, working overtime.
— Here is the letter. How is the child? — He is also tired, I can see in his eyes, at least two nights of bad dreams. The strange thought that the middle-aged man, slightly obese and unattractive, is the keeper of my brother’s and his wife’s last words gets in the way of my ideas and I take a few seconds to answer.
— Sir, are you all right?
— She’s fine, she’s in the car, sleeping — I look at the letter on the desk — should I sign any papers?
— Yeah, just this form, where you confirm you’ve received the envelope.
I signed it carefully, the lawyer handed me the envelope and after a brief farewell I returned to the car. I sat down in front of the wheel and sighed.
The envelope was sealed, my brother’s signature and my name under it. Sara is still sleeping while I wonder about the contents of the envelope. I arrive home and after accompanying the girl to her improvised new bedroom, I prepare myself to face my brother’s last words.
My studio looks particularly big, my library, my most precious possession (along with some books autographed by unsuspected authors) looks faded today. But today I’m not looking for any of the good old stories, there will be no stories for me of lost sailors in impossible worlds, or princes in distant kingdoms, or princesses turned into dragons. All I want to read for today is my brother’s letter.
I opened the envelope and from it some handwritten pages slipped into my hands, and when I finished reading the pages I had no choice but to make a cup of coffee to get ready for the vigil, I can’t sleep… not until it’s daylight, not until I can talk to… Sara…
If these pages are in your possession, it only means that I have had to leave and even more I have had to do it in some inopportune way — I hope not violent, you well know, that I cannot tolerate the sight of blood without feeling terrible dizziness — Moreover, Juliet has also left and she has done it also without being able to talk to you before. If you are reading these pages it only means that destiny has led us to the worst possible scenario … the worst possible one … for me, for Juliet and probably also the worst possible one for both of you. For you my brother to whom I owe a farewell and a hug, and for Sara to whom I owe my whole life.
Sara will pass into your care — as I’m sure you know now — I don’t trust anyone else in the world to take care of her. I know very well that you never saw yourself as a father, but the truth is that nobody does, until they hold a child in their arms for the first time. A Feeling that changes your life forever. Sara changed it for us, however… there is something that you should know and that I will try to explain in the following words. But I must warn you: I still don’t understand it completely, I still wonder how all this is possible, I still spend sleepless nights remembering past dreams, remembering the day Sara came into our lives and how she changed them. And now, that the cruelty of circumstances has intertwined your path and hers, I have no choice but to be completely honest with you. It is your only chance to get to … understand her, maybe you do better than us.
Sara is not our daughter. At least not in the biological sense and not in the strictly legal sense of adoption. We adopted her, yes, but the story of how she came into our lives has little to do with adoption agencies or natural births.
Where to start… I suppose that at this moment it does not make much sense to give it too much thought, however to find the words is difficult… if I have to summarize it in a sentence… Sara is not of this world.
Juliet and I… have been participants in things that most would classify as, strange, to say the least. This world hides secrets that are far beyond our comprehension, alternative planes of existence, creatures that live in enchanted forests, genies in bottles, underwater cities… everything is out there if you know how to look, if you know how to ask the right questions. And Sara is proof of that.
The day we celebrate her birthday every year, commemorates the day she was given to us. Given or found, we never knew if she came into our lives as the work of some superior being, or if — as Juliet often argues — it was a lucky accident.
That day 8 years ago, Juliet and I tried for the first and last time an ancient ritual. You should know that we always had deep faith in the magic of what we don’t understand, yet we never got to experience anything that could be called … real … something to feel or touch or show to other ancient art enthusiasts. We had no reason to think that night would be any different, it was just another page in our usual book.
You should know that the books and places I’m talking about right now don’t exist anymore. The books, we burned them a few days after Sara’s birth, sold the house at a bargain price and move as far away as we could. We did well, a few months later a voracious fire destroyed it and its new inhabitants. The firemen fought almost all night to put out the flames, not much could recover and you will see, we don’t think that was a coincidence.
The night of Sara’s birth, we prepared as usual. Magic requires the senses to be awakened in a way that our conscious state is simply not capable of achieving. Precise doses and exact recipes are required to achieve the desired effects, to go beyond the merely narcotic, to transcend to higher planes of existence …I’m sure that all this sounds like another invention, a scam or a lie. However, I am dead and you will also learn that the dead have little reason to lie.
We sang during the night, while the moon occupies specific positions in the sky, we threw ourselves at each other as lovers who have been separated for eternities and still do not stop desiring each other. We draw on the ground using sacred ashes. Drawing patterns indicated in ancient texts. Searching for that apex of magic that we do not doubt — nor do I doubt now — exists.
It was then, when the birth occurred. Knowing the exact time is impossible, and I doubt it matters. In the middle of a half-finished ritual a blinding spark stunned us and the room was filled with an indescribable glow. Everything was light, the night had ceased to exist and we were trapped in that impossible room. Perhaps we had experienced something similar before… many times we finished our sessions exhausted and the next morning we discussed at breakfast time what we had experienced. There were always incongruities and disagreements, sometimes I thought I had seen the birth of a solar system while Juliet insisted on having seen how to interpret the butterfly’s flapping. But not on this last occasion, there in this room of light, whilst holding hands, we saw the child lying on the floor, waiting for her adoptive parents.
Like two shadows we approached her, knowing very well what we had to do. Sounds don’t belong in that room, and I didn’t hear my daughter crying until a few moments after we lifted her off the floor, and the time around us, dared to thaw.
Hugging Sara, the three of us were reborn.
We spent the rest of the night in the room — already without light or anything, it was back to be our humble study — huddled next to her, contemplating her in all her perfection, wrapped in her white blanket. Even magic knows that a child must not endure cold.
Juliet and I didn’t talk for the rest of the night, and at dawn when we let Sara rest in our bed, we finally broke the silence.
She will stay with us, she will be our daughter, her name will be Sara and we will give her everything, to her will be our hearts and our dreams and for her we will give everything. We loved her since before her conception, we love her now, and now that I am dead I hope to find her again.
Now you see, she is not just any little girl. Her unexplained origin is not the end of the story. During the first years of her life, things seemed normal. We managed to pass her off as our daughter and there are a number of papers, IDs, signatures, stamps and emails to prove it. Some hospital officials who swore they saw her being born there, you may have something similar to a distant memory of Juliet being pregnant, but now you know none of that happened. It’s all part of the miracle that she is. None of that will stop us from loving her.
She grew up with us and her early years were spent in a peaceful tranquility, everything in our lives revolved around her. We watched her learn to walk, talk, read and were happy without asking much about her past and birth. Sometimes Juliet and I shared that complicit look, as Sara plays in the park, that look saying I can’t believe how lucky we are.
Things soon began to change, an unknown aspect of Sara’s nature emerged to take us by surprise and we remembered that our role in all of this was tiny. We began to dream about her.
Night after night … Sara … appeared in our dreams. The dreams were not always pleasant. The theme was usually the same, after waking up in some strange place, Sara would ask us to follow her, anxious to show us something. And we followed her.
And I say we, because that dream was shared by all three of us. Every morning when I woke up I would ask Juliet only to find that she had seen it too, that she had also traveled through the strangest worlds in dreams, holding my hand, on Sara’s trail.
Sara dreamwalker. She wants to show us… something we could never find. We followed her through the most twisted worlds, for years. We follow her in worlds similar to ours but in ruins, worlds ruled by terrifying demons, or as dark as the ocean floor, we follow her trail through impossible planets and distant galaxies, waking up every morning exhausted and lost. And she continued to live her life innocently, growing up, playing, not suspecting that she would tortment us in her dreams.
We never stopped loving her, but I won’t deny… we started to be a little afraid of her. Even so, we did not give up and for years we tried to make sense of everything we saw, of all the paths that Sara took us on in our dreams. We never finished our search, and the fact that you are reading this is the final proof that something sinister happened to me and Juliet before we could find out. And I stopped believing in coincidences a long time ago.
Brother, my last legacy to you is not Sara, nor is this letter, it’s a map. The first night you go to sleep after she is in your house, you will find it, in the same place where we ourselves began to walk through dreams and nightmares with her.
And you will, too. Sure it has been a long day brother, go rest, sure Sara is already sleeping too, and she will find you while you sleep and take you to visit worlds as wonderful as terrifying, in search of an answer that I do not know. Accompany Sara to find that which she lost at birth.
Brother, complete the mission that we have failed, find peace for both of us. Or lose your reason in trying, but never lose track of Sara, the dreamwalker.