we miss you. We’ll carry you home.
Come Away Home, Alice
CHAPTER
1
Alice.
The train rumbles on the tracks. Clattering rust pounds against the ground. Nails are undone. The day is warm, the sun is high and mighty. The clouds scamper and play like children. The breeze is gentle and light as not to blow them away. The birds chirp and fly, spreading colour to the pretty blue sky. The trees swayed to the melody, their leaves rustled with laughter. The yellow and pink and blue and purple flowers danced along with the heavenly green grass.
And there was one perfect smile.
That was the only way to describe that afternoon.
That smile belonged to a young, but not too young, lady. She wore old shorts, lined with grass stains and mud and dirt; her baby blue t-shirt which wavered in the wind, and her small bare feet. So light that the clouds could’ve carried her away into the night and past the stars.
Alice.
They laughed.
She held a stick tightly in her hand, afraid to let go. She stepped to the tracks, they were cool. She pulled away but tried again. She let the feeling sink in. It was wonderful. Her shiny short hair was bouncing off her shoulders as she put one foot in front of the other. Her hands were out to the side.
Keep steady.
They said.
She walked.
She smiled.
She laughed.
She cried.
She wobbled a lot. She wasn’t perfect. But she tried. She stood to the edge and hopped along the rails. Occasionally, she’d lose her grip and fall to the ground to find another scar and cut had appeared on her arms or legs or anywhere else.
She stood up, brushed it off and went up again. She did not fear falling. She feared words.
Words would cut more. And those wounds, they never healed.
The railway was slippery, but it was okay. She was okay. She always told herself that. Well, almost told herself. She had a tongue alright, but it wasn’t used for speaking. No, she didn’t have a voice for that.
Alice was mute.
Not that it mattered in the first place. No one talked to her anyway. No one wanted to either way.
The train blew its whistle into the distance. The smoke rose past the fortress of thick trees of the deepest greens. She copied and whistled along. The breeze seemed to like that and the flowers were pleased.
She dragged her stick behind her. Thump, thump, thump, against the tracks it went. It was a pleasing and annoying sound at once. One ruled over the other.
Ugly and beautiful. One ruled over the other.
Alice was never really beautiful, or so everyone told her disdainfully, but she had a beauty that couldn’t be measured by a mirror and a heart of gold that couldn’t be weighed.
The clouds were scared and huddled close to the sun, they were sad. They were grey. The wind was wild and the trees and leaves weren’t laughing anymore. Fog was rising.
Alice paid no mind.
Stop.
They screamed.
She didn’t.
She continued on, walking away, arms out, head down, hair falling over her eyes. Her sweet whistles had echoed to the mountains and vanished into thin air.
The train whistled. She didn’t whistle back. The wheels turned faster and faster. The tracks rattled with their rusty sounds. She covered her ears slightly but then stopped. Why bother trying?
The smoke rose high but the fog hid the grey well.
The light punctured a hole through the thickness, just long enough to see a figure standing in front. The light was dim and the train pulled the brakes but they were already too fast. It was too late. But personally, it didn’t matter to her whether it was too late or not. To be honest, she was never early enough.
She didn’t mind, though, she kept walking towards it. The only thing she feared was words and what had she got to lose?
She saw the light, and for a second, she thought she saw the sun, the moon, the stars, and the world all in one place.
The stick lies in the mud. Abandoned.
Goodbye.
They whispered.
Only words could hurt her.
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