Blue in a Sea of Black
She turned away from the lamp post and lent into the wind, her face stung from the bullets of diagonal winter rain. She pulled her shawl closer round her head and made off to her next destination. As she pushed against the winter weather she fully exposed the poster she had pinned, just in time for a young man in a fur lined hood to read.
Have you seen this girl?
Sally aged 9
Missing since Sat 3rd June
Last seen in Sparrow Park, Geelong West.
As he tried to focus through the rain darting into his bleary eyes he heard from deep inside the recesses of his mind he heard his mother slur "luck is not mentioned in the bible, there is no such thing.........Never ignore a coincidence James, never ignore a coincidence." He smiled at her memory opening his heart with childish joy, the smile, as ever, lasted only a few seconds before he remembered the slipper, the belt, the walking stick, the list was long....... Once he got to the gin bottle his heart had frozen and his smile had turned back to the pained grimace he had adopted during childhood and never really lost. He remembered his father, but the memory was hazy and every time he thought he had got hold of it it disappeared.
The question his mother just raised remained with him made him think though. Why this notice? why this lamp post? He had never before taken any interest in the lost dogs, kittens or parrots that festooned the power poles of this narrow Geelong West street. So why now? and why had the memory of his long dead mother decided at this moment to rear its ugly drunken head. Why did his brain spout the long repeated phrase that seemingly did her no good in her cruel, drunken and worthless life? He mused and considered the length of time that had passed since he last thought of her. He tried to remember the last time but couldn’t make it out through the boozy haze that constantly engulfed his mind these days. The question repeated insistently. Why now?. He was unaware however that throughout his subconscious mind his mother stalked, study him and influencing his every move and every decision. “Not really surprising that you ened up such a mess” he spat out a tense whisper to no-one.
Lost in his fury and indignant frustration at being reminded of the childhood that, no matter how hard he tried, he just could not drink away. He tore off one of the mobile number strips , stuffed it the warm pocket of his prized parka coat and took one last look at the photo of the girl.
He turned and walked way the nagging question of why? Was swirling and spinning through his brain making him feel dizzy and making him crave another drink. The answer continued to evade him but the question would not leave him in peace.
He stopped suddenly and searched for his phone to check the date. The 3rd was a few Saturdays ago, a month? Was that the night he had been walking home from The Barking Dog? He cut through Sparrow Park. That night he saw… well he thought he saw… that figure that looked like a man but taller and thinner slipping…..no floating its way behind the toilet block. He shook his head. It had been a shadow, a shadow, that is what he had told himself that night. A shadow distorted by the moonlight and the alcohol. He turned and looked back at the lamp post with the poster on. This was just a coincidence of course, of course. He walked on further and put it out of his mind and concentrated on his tasks for the day.
“luck is not mentioned in the bible, there is no such thing………Never ignore a coincidence James, never ignore a coincidence.”
Tasha pushed through the door and stripped off her black coat, she patted her black jumper to see how wet it was and decided to leave it on. She looked in the hallway mirror and saw an old and lined widow dressed in black staring with distant eyes back at her. Only a month ago she had been a young yummy mummy all school runs and coffee with the girls at Rushbrooks. Now the girls didn’t know what to say, at first they were all supportive and never left her side, now however, they had to get back to their own lives. Even Pete had been told he must go back to work, His boss was sympathetic but the psychologist had told him that he needed to get back to normal. Normal! she scoffed, Sally was her normal, all the things she did revolved around Sally. How could she do school pick up and drop off without her? They would call the men in white coats before you could say boo. She smiled weakly at the ridiculousness of the thought.
She walked through to the lounge and glanced at the gin bottle. It fixed her gaze for a moment as it whispered promises to dull the pain and fire raging inside inside her. Maybe it could let her forget for the morning, maybe it could even get her to sleep for the first time since god knows when. She tore her gaze away from the bottle and went to the kitchen and flicked on the kettle. A coffee and another look for clues round at Sparrow park would be the best idea. She smirked at the phrase ‘looking for clues’ who the hell did she think she was Daphne? More like Thelma these days she thought dryly. She whistled for Noodles the daft Spoodle who certainly was no Scooby Doo. He slinked off the couch and reluctantly came to her hoping for a treat before another trek around the same old park.
Jimmy pushed on through the rain, lost in his thoughts and bitter memories of his mother. He hated it when he thought about her, he hated the fact that despite everything, he had loved her. He especially hated the fact that he missed her and wanted her back in his life. He knew that she did not deserve his love, he knew this because he told himself so over and over again. He grimaced as he painfully acknowledged the fact that he could never understand why he cried so much through his sober nights.
As he turned Jimmy looked through the curtain of rain and realised that he had absent mindedly taken a wrong turn. In the middle distance he could see the desolate shivering mirage of the playground and swings. Sparrow park was glibly becoming clearer, usually a place of such joy and happiness for children and parents alike. Right now though, it looked like one of the haunted houses in the horror movies that had so enthralled him when he was a tweenager. They scared him then, but nothing like the sight of this children’s playground was scaring him now. Why the hell had he found himself here? “….never ignore a coincidence” he heard once again. His inner monologue screamed like a dying dog for his mum to shut up and leave him alone.
In the distance he saw a shadow moving by the toilets, he flicked his eyes aroung to see nothing but the wind pulling the trees from one side the other. He walked past the playground, his eyes transfixed on the dark empty shadows underneath the tall trees that lined the way to the toilet block. He considered the shadows under the trees and through the haze of his stinging eyes wondered if they were there. Of course they were there. The trees had to make a shadow from the light of the moon. He wondered where the moon was as he stumbled through the mini skate park. No moon, no shadows, just blackness. The foliage of the trees like deep impossibly dark green patches sewn onto the blackness of the night.
As he stumbled further he looked over to the dim light of the toilet block and saw a shadow slowly creeping round the back. He blinked and tried to focus his eyes as another shadow seemed to join the first. The shadows seemed to skip and play as they moved along the grey stone rendered wall. He rubbed his eyes unsure what was a trick of the light and what was the beers he had consumed earlier. As he stumbled on his stomach seemed to empty itself. Replaced by a void of darkness seeping in from the trees and shadows around him. He had felt emptiness like this before, in fact he felt it every time he sobered up. Right now though the void was stronger than ever and pulling him swirling inside himself. A dark negative vacuum like a black hole turning him inside out and tearing him apart at the same time. Out of the matter came a fire, erupting like a volcano up through his throat and emerging as a silent retching scream that closed his eyes and sent him hurtling within himself.
James had no idea how long his eyes were closed but when he opened and he saw two children standing in front of him looking straight down at the ground, their hair covering the tops of their faces down to the middle of their noses.. He stopped in panic and stepped back to regain his balance. The void in his stomach felt like it was feeding and growing while consuming his body.
“Hello.” he heard his own voice, almost unrecognisable amongst the confusion and darkness.
The children said nothing for a moment. Then as they spoke they woke the darkness within him and shook fear through his bones. He felt like his body was shaking, vibrating to the frequency and resonance of their voices
“We need your help, will you play with us.”
Jimmy looked to see which one was talking, he was confused as both seemed to speak, the smaller girl a split second behind the boy. The eerie sound spinning hard like an echo through the void that now consumed him.
“Will you help us find our mum?
They both looked up, the girl slightly before the boy. Their hair moving like smoke to drape around their shoulders. The void stirred and surrounded him. He stood staring at the children, nothing inside him but nothingness, nothing but fear amongst the shadows of the pitch black night. He focused and flicked his eyes between theirs trying to comprehend what he saw. No irises, no whites just pitch black rough almonds where the windows to life should be.
“We have been sent to collect you.” They said together.
Tasha woke with a start, cursed herself for falling asleep on the couch when she should be out looking for something. She supposed that Pete would be happy when he got home from work. He thought she was crazy for spending so much time wondering the streets wasting her time. He thought it best that she just let the police get on with it. Although he never had an answer to the question about what on earth she should be doing while her baby daughter was out there, somewhere.
He would be home in about half an hour.
Right then though she had to find something to occupy her for those endless 30 minutes. She looked pensively again at the gin bottle and pondered killing the empty, gaping , painful void at the pit of her stomach with a G&T or two. She felt guilty and almost apologised to the nagging pain that had become her constant companion since Sally had disappeared. The pain was like the last remaining part of her beautiful daughter. It had replaced her love and affection in Tasha’s heart and stomach and maybe if she cared for it?. What she knew though was that If it went, it would that mean that Sally would be gone too, never to return.
Maybe she could just squeeze in another trip round to the park and still get back in time for Pete to return home and he would think she had been home all day. She might even be able to persuade him that she had been doing something other than clutching at straws and wasting her time. Her other option was to tackle the dishes that have been piled up all day. She was sure that Pete would appreciate not having to come home and clean up again.
She grabbed her raincoat and mobile, looked over at Noodles asleep happily on the couch and headed out the door. Alone.
As she hurried down the street she realised that she was agitated and jumpy the darkness seemed to engulf her making her feel even more alone than usual ‘Just me and you Voidoid’ she smirked to herself. How do you get so attached to a draining emotion that you give it a name? And if you do name it, why the hell do you name it after that shitty punk band that your husband used to bang on about all the time. Blank Generation kind of says it all about him and that terrible punk music he thinks is so wonderful.
The bloody street lights were on the blink again. It was hard to walk on the uneven and broken pavements at the best of time, let alone on a dark cloudy night with no lights to guide her. She had wasted so much time sleeping this afternoon and evening but if she could just get round the park again maybe she could find something there, it might be something small but it might just create another lead, something , anything to cling onto and make her feel less useless. Maybe Pete was right and all this was doing was keeping her occupied without actually doing any good. As she turned the corner onto the open grass part of the park her heart gave out as she saw a father talking to his two children. This was always the problem with searching around the park; she has to watch one family after another going about their normal daily lives with no idea how lucky they are. Laughing, smiling, playing, screaming, crying and arguing their way through play dates, coffee and time outs for mum. This guy was a perfect example. He really doesn’t know how lucky he is. What on earth are they doing out so late at night, those kids should be tucked up in bed by now.
As she watched this slightly disturbing scene with confusion and anger she was amazed and startled as the dad ran straight at her, his face twisted, wild eyes looking straight through her leaving the two children watching in horror after him, their eyes dark with confusion, fear and sorrow. Although it wasn’t horror on their faces it was………it was…….. She shook her head and rubbed her eyes not understanding what she saw. It must have been a trick of the dark. As they looked at her she felt in horror as Voidoid was rising in her stomach with a force that she hadn’t experienced since….. since ….. since the first day of Sally’s disappearance when the pain had been its rawest and voidoid had just been the tiny distant fear of the very worst case scenario . When the dad reached her she screamed with a force and passion it took her by surprise. She felt Voidoid rising, angry inside her, working its way to her mouth. She began screaming uncontrollably, simultaneously furious with the man and terrified by her reaction and the strength of raw emotion she felt inside herself.
The dad ran frantically towards her, his eyes locked on hers as the panic enveloped him. He was concentrating on his own fear and all he could see was the blue of her eyes against the black; the black of his soul, the black of the children’s eyes haunting him and the black of the dog that must have come out of nowhere to start running between his feet. His legs tangled round the barking dog ‘s lead as he ran, he flew into the darkness, weightless for a moment before landing hard cracking his cheek on the path. Tasha continued screaming as he climbed back onto his feet blood sliding down his face. He looked back at her, eyes flicking from side to side.
She sniffed hard to pull back a tear. As she turned and hurried over to see if the children were okay she realised that they were nowhere to be seen. She searched frantically; surely they couldn’t have got far in that time. She turned and turned, spinning on the spot trying in vain to see where they had gone. Then she thought she saw something moving, just a shadow in the corner of her eye. She turned and faced, there it was again. In amazement she watched as two childlike shadows danced and played across the darkness of the toilet block wall. Spinning again to try and see the children that were casting the shadows. Voidoid began to grow, silent screaming through her body, taking her over and consuming her body like Sally had once done. She was mesmerised by the shadows. Voidoid would not let her look away as they scurried mischievously round the toilet block and disappeared behind the trees. She followed the path of invisible movement across the trees and watched the two shadows reappear in the darkest shadow of the trees.
They ran into what looked like a tall thin male figure whose arms and legs had no end, just seemed to fade into the darkness beneath the trees. The figure enveloped the children with long thin arms, he squeezed them and the dark shadows seemed to swirl and twist like something between a whirlpool and a vortex as the whole scene melted into nothing. She was jealous now, so jealous that this trick of the light seemed to have the love that she was craving. Tasha watched the empty space in horror as the shadows became nothing more than a confused memory in her mind.
Pete and Tasha sat and ate in silence once again. It was a long time since