What She Found Under the Snow

What She Found Under the Snow

Zita tied her green hair at the nape of her neck before she leaned over the sewing machine. With practiced fingers she adjusted the needle before pressing her foot to the pedal. Only for a moment, she wasn’t going far. Tiny stitches closed a tiny hole, her patient unaware anything had ever been amiss.

The small silver bear had already been claimed. A mother had called the lost and found not an hour after Zita found it in the hallway, coated in a layer of dirt from all the careless shoes that passed it by. Two seams had popped, but all of the stuffing remained inside. A bath and the careful application of some thread were all the little creature required to be good as new when it was reunited with its child tomorrow morning.

She couldn’t help wondering what the little one would do until then. Her coworkers told stories of their children screaming for hours until lost stuffed animals were located in the middle of the night.

She cut the thread and smoothed her finger across the seam. Better to return the precious object to its original owner than add it to the shelves lining her tiny, crowded office. It wasn’t that she needed something cheerful to look down on the piles of research papers and history books, it was that she couldn’t bear to have them sitting in her house anymore, staring down at her with empty, hopeful eyes. Nor could she stand to leave them packed away in boxes where their innocent desire to be loved again remained hidden in safe shadows.

She shuddered and set the bear aside. She couldn’t sew the last seam with her hand shaking so hard.

A museum was the only place she could unpack such a wide array of childish artifacts without fielding many questions. A close enough look at some of the dolls and animals stashed on those shelves would reveal wholly alien concepts. She could pass them off as mythological beasts to the layman, perhaps, but not to her history-buff colleagues.

It didn’t matter. She could hardly abandon them a second time. They’d already suffered that loss once.

“What are you doing to yourself?” She could hear her sister’s voice echoing in the vaults of her mind. “What difference do you think it’s going to make? They’re just toys. Just objects. They can’t feel anything.”

“No, of course not, Neffy. But I can. I do.”

She closed her eyes and drew a deep breath. It was a mistake.

Time was supposed to heal all wounds. But a thousand years couldn’t erase the marks of the war upon her psyche. The invisible scars remained.

When the soldiers went to war, when the conquerors rode over the inhabited cities of dozens of worlds, no one had thought of the children. How many dropped their precious childhood memories while they fled with their mothers into the chaos of night? How many other fires went out, inches from the objects which gave them greatest comfort.

She had always come too late, after the embers had cooled. After the bloodthirsty moved on. She and her sister, always two steps behind. Most of the bright coloured toys had been crushed under the soles of her boots. She fixed them later, when she had the time, because she couldn’t fix the holes they tore in her heart.

They stared down from their crowded shelf, judging her failure to finish the final seam. Judging her failure to save the innocents when she had a chance.

“We’re supposed to serve as chroniclers, Little Star,” the heartbreakingly absent voice invaded her thoughts. “We weren’t born to be warriors.”

So she recorded the war crimes in the form of lost toys. Plucking them from the embers of burnt houses, freeing them from the rubble of toppled walls. Once, she had even bent beside a splash of bright pink in the snow, digging frantically through the drift, prizing frozen clumps free with her fingernails, even dashing the last bit of ice away with her fists to save a raggedy doll lost by a child fleeing war.

“But not you,” she reassured the fluffy silver creature on her desk. She drew a deep breath, steeling her resolve. Once more, she adjusted the needle and positioned the bear beneath it. “You’re going home tomorrow.”

Be sure to check out my writing partner’s version of this prompt!

If you’d like to participate, leave a link to your response in the comments and I’ll feature it next week.

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