THE FIRST ANGEL
By Ed Crane
It was a Sunday when they brought her to me. 15.10. It was snowing outside. Knowing what her future was likely to be I should have felt sorrow rather than overwhelming relief.
Sandwiched between two Audi AnD4 models she was gently coaxed to approach me by their soft PPE hands. Fazed by the humanoid machines she was clearly afraid. They were pretty clunky back in ‘38. Those early attempts developed in such haste gave me the willies too.
I waved them away and they retreated silently. She relaxed and looked around clutching a new Steiff teddy bear tightly in her thin pale arms. Bits of Christmas wrapper still clung to its old gold fur. Dressed in plain pink dungarees over a pink cotton polo she seemed to represent a rosy apparition of hope. There was a label safety-pinned on the left side of the apron swinging on short piece if blue cord. A black and white vision of children boarding a train from a WW2 documentary flashed and died in my mind’s eye. Her name was Sally. I knelt down and took her hand.
‘I am so honoured to meet you, Sally. I’m Professor John Granger, but you can call me Jonny. All my friends call me Jonny. We will be spending a lot of time together over the next few months. My friends will look after you very well, you have no need to be afraid. You’re our guest of honour.’
‘I’m not afraid of you. You look nice. I didn’t like those funny looking men though, they’re creepy.’
I just laughed, I couldn’t hold it. Her six-year old straight forwardness enhanced by her Australian accent was so endearing. It’d been so long since I’d spoken to a young child. Horrifyingly long. That was the reason why she was here. They didn’t exist anymore. By 2037 even new-borns had reached puberty. Sally was the first child we’d found in sixteen years of searching.
‘Oh you don’t have to worry about them. They can’t hurt you. They’re galahs.’
I wobbled my head in a jerky way imitating the machines’ awkward movements. Childish giggling filled the room. A sound I thought I’d forgotten.
‘You’re crying. Are you sad, Jonny?’
I wanted to hug her, but I had to remain professional.
‘I’m very happy, Sally. Sometimes when we are really happy we cry too.’
‘Will I be happy when I see Brenda again?’
‘Yes of course you will, she’s your mum, but that won’t be for a while. She was quite badly hurt in the crash. She’s still in hospital.’
‘She gonna die?’
‘No, no. she’s in excellent hands. Alice Springs has a wonderful hospice I believe.’
‘When she’s better will she come here in a big aeroplane like I did.’
‘Yes of course she will, darling.’
I didn’t know it at that time, but I’d lied to her. She would never see Brenda again. I had no idea about the plans being laid for that poor bitch.
I put my hand on her tiny shoulder and led her over to my examination couch. Taking her gently around the waist I lifted her and sat her on the edge of it. She was so light.
‘You’ve had a long journey, Sally you must be tired. Would you like something to drink? We have orange juice and cola.’
‘I’m sorry my friend Margaret wasn’t here when they brought you. Its Sunday you see and it’s her day off. She’s coming in a little while. We didn’t know you were arriving today. Margaret is a very nice lady. She will look after you. You’ll be staying at her place when we aren’t working here.’
The little girl nodded her expression very serious. I wondered what was going on behind those large brown eyes. Given the life she’d led in her few years it would be hard to imagine.
A knock on the door signalled Margaret had arrived. Sweeping past me she picked up the child and hugged her for several minutes kissing her cheeks, her mouth, ears and eyes. All that time tears streaming down her cheeks.
‘Has she had anything to eat?’
‘Her name is Sally. I gave her some cola, but there’s no food here.’
‘Christ she must be starving. . . . Sally, dear let’s get you home, I’ll cook you something real nice. Everything’s ready for you. I hope you like your new room. . . . I’ll take her now, it’s getting late. I want to get her settled down before she goes to bed. We don’t want nightmares now, do we?’
Five minutes later I was alone in my room.
‘It’s only right she at least has a pleasant start to her new life.’ I found myself thinking.
I decided to spend the night in the medical centre. A great deal of data had arrived along with Sally which needed to be studied in detail before we could begin our examinations.