Oh Child by Aurora Hallal


Small footprints wet the ground with blood, trailing after the little lost soul. Snow began to fall, collecting in her dark hair, wetting her clothes, and washing the blood from her legs and arms. It silenced the depravity of the stolen lives littered around her, slowly burying them. Her feet, washed of red, left only momentary prints in the snow. Her shaking body was barely displacing inches in the powder that had since fallen. Her legs, cold and sore, near to giving out, were of no importance to her as her mind was undaunted or unknowing, faced with the death surrounding her. Finally, she was there. Her little stone hut. She could hear the dismal cries of the other cold children as they arrived home to find their families distorted by the hand of death. The door of her home gaped open. Snow fell across the face of her mother, melting upon contact with her still-open eyes. 

“Ma?” She whispered. No response. “Ma!” Tears began to leak from her eyes, tracing her cheeks with their icy touch as they fell. Her small hands danced across her mother’s face, sweeping the sheen of snow blown in from the outdoors away. Her mother lay motionless. The little girl yearned for warmth, for her mother’s touch, her firm voice, and her presence. She looked down at her feet, red coating them once more. It was warm, the only thing that was warm. The little girl knelt, slowly drawing closer to her mother’s body. Unable to lift her mother’s arm she sidled under it, feeling warmth wet her skin, leaking from her mother’s body, feeling the comfort of her mother’s touch. It was not warm for long. But the little girl was not cold anymore. Soon her body grew numb. Before long, the quaking existence trapped between her mother’s lifeless arms and body dropped her last tear. 

***

“You see here,” the guide pointed to the entangled bones, the larger mass encompassing the smaller forgotten being. “We aren’t sure exactly what happened here, beyond the knowledge that this entire village was decimated during the mid-1500s.” His voice was monotone as the familiar words escaped his throat for the third time that day. Seven people trailed after him, glancing through the doorway towards the mother’s body laced around the bones of the child. “Some say,” the tour guide continued, “that it was the children who went wild, that on one winter day, they became deranged, possessed by  ‘Làmh a’ bhàis’–  otherwise known as ‘the hand of death.’ They started with their own family, then moved through the village as evil personified. Until they were all that was left, and even the evil had to surrender to the powerful fear of a scared child, fear conjured from their own actions. They looked around and saw the carnage they had left in their wake. Finally desperate too, they returned home, finding their family dead.” The gathering of people began to whisper. The guide pulled any threads of truth that may have been woven through the timeless myth away, leaving it exactly as bare as the bones lain before them.