The thing was, I couldn’t take her with me any more. Please understand. That frozen November morning, the ground was too hard for a burial, and after I had cried a while I searched through an old storage shed for a spade. Having tried the hard earth, and despairing of a proper grave, I wrapped her thin body in many layers of plastic from a roll that I had found there. The broken house next to the shed once had a rock garden, and its members were put to good use in building her cairn.
In late September we had met, she the first living creature of my kind fortunate enough to be here still, in this outpost of desolation. I had been aimlessly following the railway tracks, and had spotted a far off station. I quickened my pace, thinking to find food and shelter there. On the platform she sat, all dirty, with dangling legs ending in two different shoes. Maybe nine or ten years old. She was trying to crack acorns collected in a shopping bag, then saw me, dropped it, and began to run down the tracks. One shoe came off and she fell, crying and picking pebbles from her wounded knees.
Approaching slowly, I held out a bottle of juice and a can of sardines from my pack. She allowed me to pick her up and set her once more on the platform’s edge. The crying had subsided to a hiccup-like sob. She said nothing as I got our meal ready, but ate and drank readily. I tried her with questions, but no. She would not, or could not, speak. I never knew her name, I am sad to say, and so I just called her “Miss”. I think, now, that she was not a mute, but had been forced by the horrors to travel deeply into herself.
The station platform did, in its way, offer food and shelter. The food was from a vending machine full of chocolate bars and chips. I smashed it open by pushing it off the platform. We enjoyed our unhealthy meals for a time, then had to move on. Little Miss, with renewed energy, ran ahead of me many times. Other days, in the weary cold, I carried her piggyback.
Just four days ago, I think, after a long and fruitless journey, we had come to the last of the food, a bit of roasted rabbit I had saved “for the end”. Missy had become very lethargic of late because of the short rations and the creeping cold. I had made a fire to help warm us up, and we had our best meal in a long while. When dawn came, I awakened to find that we had come in a circle. In the foggy morning, I could make out the decrepit station and its violated vending machine. I confess that in my weakness, I hung my head and cried.
That night, I made a fire on the tracks, and contrived to build it around one of the railway ties, so our blaze was very warm and merry. Later, the snow started in earnest, and we had to shelter in a small maintenance room whose door I had forced. Gone was the warmth. We each had a blanket roll with us, but it was poor comfort from the cold floor and icy walls. Through the night, I awoke to a strange silence. The storm had abated, but so had something else. My little Miss breathed no more. I prayed stupidly to the lord of the starfields.
I am beaten now, I think. That silent soul, that Someone I needed, and who needed me, gone without a hope of a loving word.
How can I…..
How can I….