The Lost Children
The children, half fledged and pale faced, were a
raggle-taggle bunch, with red eyes swollen and snotty noses, their duffle coats
buttoned up against the biting wind that unremittingly cut across the platform.
Above the iron slatted cathedral like expanse of the station roof, they could
have made out the distant sky of morning, half overcast, half gleaming a void
of bright nothingness. Did they see?
No. They stared at their dirty feet or each other
uncertainly, with furtive glances like timid little mice in cages. It may be
that they sensed what was to come was a terrible wrenching from their familiar
orbit, flung out into the unknown. They knew. Deep down they knew.
The commuters stared at these little beings, these ‘Lost
Children’ with their dread filled eyes, who seemed to be on the edge of
leaving. A motley crew and so small and dishevelled, the men thought. Where
were they going? No one seemed to know.
One woman stopped in her tracks at the sight of a girl,
possibly about three years old, clutching a doll, like it was the last vestige
of a crumbling world, that she refused to give up – that she could not give up…
“Oh, bless them,” the woman said to herself, yet she had her
own journey to think of, her own children, the bakers to visit and all the
cooking to do. No, she simply couldn’t stop and talk, she did not have the
time. Her heart’s guilt was appeased by a sense that all was inevitable and
that was how life was. These things happened. Exits and entrances.
One man did stop. He was old and the sight stirred in him,
something buried and painful.
“Where are you lot off to, then?” he stammered, warming a
smile for the littluns but answer came there none. The littluns were dumb, a
few trying to mouth their thoughts but inarticulate they remained little
parcels of silence, these ‘Lost Children’ unable to voice their own story.
The man, filled with fear, looked at the group and sensed the
horror that was buried in all of them.No tears came from the old man, just the
dumb silence the children had given him and he let them be –left them to their
fates, glancing back once and once only. A fate that no one knew?
Someone knew where they were bound. Somebody.
Perhaps it would be beautiful. Perhaps home was just an idea
and ideas can be formed in any geographical location; perhaps it would all end
positively and this moment of departure was the beginning of a new adventure…
But no, it seemed otherwise. Where was mummy? Where was
daddy? Who was the man in the great black coat who growled orders?
Suddenly, the train, soot covered and ramshackle, a great
hulking machine with fiery eyes staggered into the station and the cries went
up. The children, holding onto the bags of lives about to be extinguished,
trembled and sobbed.
Time. It was time.
‘I don’t want to leave,’their pleading eyes sobbed. “I don’t want to leave…”
But there was no choice.
Did anyone call out as they bundled them on board some
weeping, some sobbing at the disintegration of all that was? No. People looked
away. The ‘Lost Children’ were lost and that’s the way it was.
You see their faces now, don’t you, through the soot stained
glass of the carriages. You see them watching the world fall away as they are
dragged towards the flood. You feel their terror, don’t you, because it is your
own terror too – the terror you know is about to engulf you.
You watched those ‘Lost Children’ go, and looked away, but
now it is your turn to board the train.
Get in and shut up!