As the school year is winding to a close, I am so thankful for your patience with me, particularly with posting Child of the Kaites. My long-term subbing job for the past couple months has been deeply challenging. I have definitely needed the extra time to devote to teaching instead of to editing/posting.
Today is not a day on which you’re expecting a new CotK chapter. I am aware, however, that I might need to take a rain check on next Monday (grades are due, it’ll be the last week of school, etc.). So this is my way of breaking that news to you, and warning you in advance.
If you think it’s hard for you waiting, know that it’s hard for me not writing–so hard, in fact, that I tend to write in my sleep when I have to go too long without writing while awake. Recently, this manifested in the most vivid story-dream I’ve ever had. I woke up with the details still perfectly clear, and instantly knew it would be the prologue to something I’ll eventually write. To soothe your agony in waiting to find out what happens after that last CotK chapter, here is the manuscript of that dream.
I hope you enjoy it and can forgive me for making you wait.
It started as an innocent day out with Dad.
Mom was on a business trip–Angela couldn’t remember where–and that always meant Daddy took Angela and Patty on adventures. That particular day, their adventure led them to a festival at a local park.
Angela, at twelve, was decidedly too mature for the slides and cotton candy, but Patty loved them and Daddy loved when his girls played together, so she played along. It just meant she hhad to keep a keen eye out for anyone from school. They couldn’t see her having fun like a little kid.
That was how she noticed the Woman who sat down beside Dad. She looked too young and pretty to be the mom of any of the other frolicking children. Then she laughed and touched Dad’s arm.
Angela’s eyes narrowed. Suddenly, the park wasn’t so fun. Angela had just tasted her first doubt about her father’s fidelity.
The Woman laughed again, and Dad called the girls over to him. “Girls,” he said, “this is Meena. Meena’s going to join us today.”
For the rest of her life, Angela would try and fail to forget Meena’s name and the way the woman smiled at her. She knew what Angela was thinking, Angela could feel it, but the Woman’s smile was still so genuine and unashamed.
“Why?” Angela asked, but no answer came.
Meena’s smile stole Angela’s enjoyment of the rest of the day. Lunch, the movie, even ice cream after had no appeal.
Little Patty seemed blissfully unaware. Angela had to suffer through the day in silence.
Then, as evening fell, Angela inexplicably found that they were at the front door of a rather shabby house on a street of rather shabby houses. Her father acted like this was nothing unusual. Maybe he had known where they were going, though Angela was hopelessly turned around from their day in the city.
“My friend lives here,” Meena said in an even, too-innocent voice. Angela’s misgivings grew. Everything about Meena seemed too pure, too honest. “She’ll be so glad to see us. You’re a doctor, right?”
Here, Dad nodded. The Woman opened the door.
Inside was stale and crusty. The hard sofa stank of cigarette smoke. Ants crawled through the orange carpet as soft as cement. Angela hugged her arms to herself and hissed at Patty not to touch anything.
Daddy and the Woman disappeared down the hall. There was hushed voices, silence, and then groans.
That was the worst of all.
It took so long. Patty kept asking why they were there. Angela kept shushing her.
When Angela plucked an ant off her arm–her whole skin felt like it was crawling–she decided to take action. “Stay here,” she whispered to Patty.
For once, her little sister listened.
Angela crept up the hall, terrified of being caught. She peeped through a tiny crack in an open door.
Daddy and the Woman huddled together. They were too close. Angela felt sick and burning with anger all at once.
There was another moan. Daddy shifted.
Angela couldn’t quite tell what she saw, not at first. It wasn’t until a tiny cry entered the room that she understood:
The Woman had just caught a baby. Someone had given birth.
That was not at all what Angela had expected.
At that moment, the Woman glanced over her shoulder. Meena’s eyes locked with Angela.
Then Meena looked away.
“She’s precious,” Meena murmured to the mother, who Angela couldn’t see. “I love her already.”
A voice slurred words. Meena answered, “Of course. We’ll give our lives to keep her safe.”
Then Daddy was heading toward the door. Angela scrambled for the front room. She tried not to look out of breath when Dad appeared, followed by Meena carrying a tiny, squirming bundle.
Angela had never trusted babies. She trusted this one less than usual.
The Woman whispered to Dad and disappeared into another room. Water ran somewhere in the house. Dad said, “I know it’s late, but we have one more place we need to go.” His voice was cheerful, but couldn’t hide the strain underneath. “Just as soon as Meena finishes cleaning the baby.”
“But Mom⎼” Angela began. If she could remind Dad about Mom, maybe he would forget this whole business and just take them home. Maybe she’d never have to see Meena again.
Dad hushed her.
The one more stop ended up being the new building at the university. Patty took it in with wide eyes, but Angela felt worse and worse. She kept looking between the baby in Meena’s arms–asleep–and the trickle of people steadily climbing the stairs and leaving through the doors below them.
“There. We’re alone now,” Meena declared.
Angela looked at the people below, confused.
“Oh,” her father said. “Is this building a train station, too? I had no idea.”
That might explain where all those people were coming from, Angela thought. Even if it seemed strange.
“Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous,” Meena said, in that same smooth, happy voice.
“But where are all the people coming from?” Dad asked.
Meena spun around. “I have to check on something.”
And she abandoned them.
Moments later, there were sounds of shouting and thumps and other noises Angela didn’t understand. “I’m going to go find out what’s happening,” Daddy said.
And he left them alone.
Angela’s unease grew too strong to stay still. “Stay here,” she told Patty again, and followed after the Woman, not her father.
Angela found herself in a deserted hall that opened to room after identical, immaculate room. Angela had never seen a scary movie, but she’d heard about them at school. This hall felt just like she imagined a scary movie would feel. At any moment, some invisible thing might grab her.
Yet, when she peeked into a room and saw Meena cradling the baby there, shrouded in shadow, she was not afraid. Meena’s eyes were trained on the baby. She bounced the sleeping infant cocooned in a tight wrap. But when Meena spoke, it was not to the baby.
“I’m so glad you came.”
Angela glanced behind herself. The hall was still empty. She took one tiny step into the room.
“Where are we?” Angela asked.
“We,” Meena swayed her arms and the baby in them, “are somewhere They hopefully will pass through quickly.”
Meena just clucked her tongue. She shifted, so the baby’s head was higher. Angela caught a glimpse of its round cheeks and tiny eyelids. Meena whispered conspiratorially, “Do you want to see how easy it is to fall in love with someone?”
Angela bit her lip. “I’m too young,” she wanted to say, but didn’t. She couldn’t figure Meena out. Still, something drew her closer. She wanted a better look at the baby.
When Angela was right next to her, Meena tipped her arms and slid the baby to Angela. Instinct kicked in the second the tiny human touched Angela. Her arms moved of their own accord, tucking the baby close, nestling its head in the crook of Angela’s elbow.
And with instinct awoke wonder. Wonder filled every inch of Angela, and then all her fear and misgivings vanished. Strength took root in her. Strange though she thought it, Angela realized she would do anything to protect this baby.
“See?” Meena said. “Don’t you love her already?”
Then Meena’s voice changed. She no longer sounded like an angel with a convincing voice. Now, she was human, very human, and afraid.
“Then, Angela, get down by that wall. We’re almost out of time.”
Angela obeyed. She wedged herself between a table and a shelf against the wall by the door, and ducked so her head was lower than the window.
“Down!” Meena insisted. When Angela crouched an inch lower, Meena came and added pressure to her shoulder. She didn’t let up until Angela’s feet were under the table, shoulder pressed to the wall, and head ducked over the baby. Through this all, the baby slept soundly. Angela’s body now formed a protective cave around the infant.
“Good,” Meena said. “Angela, you must stay very still. No matter what, you must not move or make any sound.” Then she dumped a hamper of laundry, which Angela hadn’t noticed until then, over Angela and the baby.
Angela thought that was very silly. The rooms, when she thought about it, looked like offices. Anyone looking for something amiss would surely notice a pile of laundry in this room, so different from the other tidy offices.
But she didn’t say a word. Meena paused, whispered, “I’m so sorry,” and left Angela alone.
When the noises came, Angela didn’t dare look. She made her breath as shallow as possible. She bit her tongue. Unknown Things swept through the halls with noises that would haunt Angela for the rest of her life.
Even when the noises were long gone and all Angela could hear were her heartbeats, the baby’s breaths, and a clock ticking a few rooms away, she didn’t move. She didn’t move when the light grew, making it easier to see the baby’s squishy cheeks and pink nose. SHe didn’t move when many heavy footsteps climbed the stairs and methodically progressed up the hall. Radios crackled, and voices said, “Clear.”
Someone said, “God, what could do this?”
The footsteps reached Angela’s room. She held her breath.
“Wait, boss, look at this.”
Something poked Angela’s side.
All at once, Angela let out her breath and turned her head. A sock fell off.
Four policemen and women stared slack-jawed at Angela. One of the policewomen was first to move. She clicked her radio. “We got a survivor.”
Police were good. Police were safe. Angela slowly unfolded herself. Police would help them.
Only then did the baby stir.
“Well, I’ll be…” the policewoman gaped.
One of the men radioed, “Make that two survivors. Dan, it’s a kid and a baby.”
The woman reached for Angela. Angela thought she meant to take the baby away. Angela clutched the infant closer, and she started to shake.
“Sh, you’re okay,” the policewoman crooned. “You’re gonna be just fine. I’ve got you.”
Angela’s eyes filled with tears. “I want my Mama.”
And that’s it, folks! I have some ideas of where this is going, but you’ll just have to wait to find out (*muahahaha*). What do you think is up with Meena and the Things? Share your theories with me in the comments :)