Acknowledging my desire for, but inability to sleep, I decided to read for a while. Stretching for my neglected novel, I prayed for heavy eyes and dreamless sleep. As I read several chapters I could feel myself nodding off, jerking awake, nodding…
I could see the young redheaded boy crouched on the rotting, dilapidated porch of my childhood home. He couldn’t have been more than seven or eight. His mop of hair whipped in the gale force wind surrounding us. He had a white-knuckled clutch on the shell of the bay window.
Fearing for his safety, I screamed, “Hey, over here.”
The wind pricked at my face. My white nightgown billowed out behind me. I again called to him over the blustery wind. “Hey you!”
Turning toward my voice he removed his hand away from the window and pressed his index finger to his lips to silence me. He beckoned to me in a gesture of his hand. Struggling against the wind like a drunk attempting to walk a straight line, I finally reached him. He slipped his small hand into mine and led me out of the windstorm and into the abandoned house.
Once inside, the house transformed before my eyes into the home I once knew. There were panes of glass inside the windows. Mustard-colored carpeting covered the floor. The only light in the room was the flickering glow of the television set, its light falling on a snoring man on the couch. The stench of whiskey and cigarettes hung in the air like fog rolling off the San Francisco Bay.
The man and the children appeared blurry as if I was watching them on a station with bad reception. In a tight-knit group, several children sat within inches of the television set, but instead of watching the program, they used the light to see primitive motions they were gesturing toward one another. Although the children had not noticed us, the young boy and I stood motionless as we watched their signals of communication. They seemed to be conversing with one another in their own sign language, I assumed in an effort to avoid disturbing the passed out man.
I could feel myself turn toward my companion with an eerily slow motion. He watched the children and imitated their gestures. He tapped my arm and repeated a hand sign over and over.
Attempting to recall the sign language class I took in college, I searched my memory.
Yes! Help. It’s the sign for help.
As the boy walked backwards toward the downstairs bedroom, he beckoned me to follow him. The bedroom was furnished with an unmade, queen-size bed, a shabby pressed-board bureau with a cracked mirror, and a bassinette someone had taken the time to weave blue ribbons through. A familiar, barely audible, tune played as a mobile of butterflies turned above the bassinette.
I scanned the room for the boy, but he was no longer there. A glimpse of the bed drew my attention. It was now covered in cobwebs and an undisturbed layer of dust materialize on the bureau. I focused on an invisible finger etching words in the dust. The words left behind read: HELP THE BABY.
I scanned the room once again for the boy. Though I could not see him, I was certain it was he who wrote in the dust. The beautiful bassinet enticed me-almost as if beckoning me to it-but I planted my feet on the arctic-cold floor. My gut instinct seemed to warn me against approaching the bassinette. Somewhere outside of myself I felt a presence encourage me. Go over there…over to the bassinet.
A wall of water ascended behind me, and with enormous pressure, forced me toward the bassinet. The icy water splashed against my back as I peered into the ribbon-wrapped bassinet. As a mother, the site made my heart flutter. A blue and white crocheted blanket lovingly swaddled a baby. No mother could resist the urge to glimpse at a baby. My hand—as if of its own accord—moved toward the baby. With gentle care, I tugged at the blue blanket edged with sheer lace, which had tiny flowers embroidered on it. I desired to get a peek at the baby.
I could hear the infant cry. Picking up the bundle I was surprised how light the child felt. Removing a corner of the blanket from the child’s face I inhaled in shock.
Suddenly, the boy stood before me signing in jerky panicked motions, “Help! Help! Help!”
In mortified horror I tossed the crochet blanket. Remains, human remains, tumbled out of the blanket onto the floor in front of my bare feet. The beautiful crochet blanket had tenderly covered nothing but decaying bones. Everything in the bedroom vanished, except the spinning musical mobile. Now the barely audible music became deafening. Over and over the mobile played the tune, Hush Little Baby..
As the whirlwind from outside shattered the windows, spraying glass pierced my face and torso The wind whipped around in the hazy bedroom and the mobile began to spin violently. It crashed to the floor, landing on top of the bones. Even over the howl of the wind I could hear the music. At unbearable decibels, Hush Little Baby, resounded from the wreckage.
The wall of water that forced me to the bassinet now gushed down on top of me, tossing my body like a buoy. With a brunt force, I smashed up against the bedroom wall. As the water stung my throat, my nose, and my lungs, the entire bedroom flooded.
Drowning. I’m drowning!