'Heaven Eyes', by David Almond. A fantastic book, which unfortunately does not have a category here. If anyone had stumbled upon this in the 'Misc. Book' section, I welcome you. any David Almond fan, I salute you.
This is a present for my lovely cousin. Happy Birthday to Near Kitten!
"Watch the clay, Erin."
Wilson Cairns had turned to me in the doorway of Whitegates and had whispered in my ear, leaning over, because at some point he had grown taller than me. His voice was low, distracted, as if our world was one he had to talk to across a void, one that he did not belong to anymore. He was slimmer now, and his hips no longer draped over the sides of his chair, although he was still on the stocky side.
One thing I was glad of was that he had not lost the look of perpetual daze in his eyes, the mist of another world. In his eyes, you could believe that he was something greater than what he was, something great and powerful and strong and whole, ruler of a land where no one was broken and everything was right.
A better world.
A beautiful place.
A world for people like us.
He had his small suitcase in one hand, worn with time and use, the one that he had brought with him when he had first arrived. He had another now too, a newer, smaller one that he held tight in his other hand. It was filled, we all knew well, with clay models he had made, ones that had, over the years, meant the most to him.
We had each helped him pack them up, wrapping each one with scraps of fabric that we had found and collected for it.
There was one of me in there, I knew that, and one of Heaven Eyes too, and a beautiful little sculpture of a hand with fingers connected with clay baked as thin as it could without breaking.
He had always sighed at that hand, as delicate and beautiful as it was, and we could tell that he did not think that it was good enough. 'Not right', he would mutter to himself, and Heaven Eyes would take his hands and touch her cheek to the tips of his fingers and tell him it was 'lovely', that he was 'lovely'.
We always felt sad when his clay broke, or when his sculptures fell apart. His face made me want to scoop it all together and push it all into one ball and make it all better for him again.
I wanted to fix it.
He modelled less, these days, but he was still far away from the rest of us. He no longer needed it to escape into his mind, although we all knew that all he could do was escape, was hide, hoping that no one would chase him in there, break his little fortress of distraction. At one point, he had been pushed too far into the darkness, too far away from the light. People are cruel, like that, and he had never found his way back.
He was a lost child.
A damaged child.
But a child no longer.
A man now, or near enough, ready to make his own way in the world.
A world that didn't understand us.
A world that didn't want us.
"Erin, watch the clay."
We watch him walk away, those of us that are still here, still waiting in the concrete prison, still less than a home. More and more walk out of this place over time, but the family does not get smaller. There are always more children to be damaged, more children to be rescued by Whitegates and helped. Only the original children stand here now though, those left that were here when Heaven Eyes arrived.
Only we remember what it was like before she was here.
Only we can know what used to be.
We stare until he is long out if sight, wondering, waiting. Quite what we are waiting for we do not know; united by a sense of loss, we need this moment to collect ourselves, to adjust to the sudden space in our lives from which Wilson has vanished. What might be out there for him we know not know; what there is out there for us is a mystery too.
What we do know is that one day we might have to find out.
That was where Wilson was going- to find out what might be out there.
To walk amongst the ghosts.
To find out if there was anyone else as lost as he.
As lost as all of us are.
"Did you see it move?"
If I close my eyes I can hear the water, and I feel the tug of it pulling me down towards the river. That is where I want to go whenever things get displaced; that is where I want to escape to. I know that if I looked at a mirror now, I would see the darkness of the river in my eyes, the bright shine of the moonlight, the strong pull of the currents, taking me far, far away. Or the lines of shooting stars in the sky, the muted green of heather in the darkness for me to lay my weary head on.
The rush of the water.
The cold of the night.
The taste of freedom.
The feeling of being dragged deeper and deeper down, until there is nothing left but the river, to hold me and drown me and comfort me all at once.
Sometimes I still want to run away from here.
But then I feel fingers wind around my own. They are cool, soft fingers, and I know that if I looked over I would see the girl there, the girl with webbed fingers and toes, staring out as if she could still see Wilson walking away from us. She would have a look of sadness in her eyes, missing him already, hoping for the best for him.
Her lovely Wilson, with his own treasures, had left her, and the pain was almost tangible in her eyes. He had built things out of the mud, just like her dreams had been built out of the promise of what, one day, would be dug out of the Black Middens, and I know that if I were to look at her, there would be tears in her eyes.
There was no way I could leave her.
I look to the other side, and see the silvered burn scars on the neck of Fingers Wyatt, faded a little in time, but still there, still obvious; just a little more beautiful now that the brightness of them was fading. It was like fire itself had tried to choke her, had gripped tight to her throat and tried to pull her down into its raw, red hold. Her green eyes were sparkling with tears, as they had been the day Jan had left us, and her fists opened and closed, as if trying to grasp on to something that was not there for her.
Blue lines on his pale skin.
pLeAse loOk aFter mE
Something I had to do now.
I cannot leave here without them.
"Did you hear it speak?"
So when I feel the burning, that pulling inside of me, I turn away. When I look in the mirror and see the girl that soon may no longer be a girl, I close my eyes. When I hear Jan's mocking laugh in my mind, I cast it aside, and forget that boy with eyes like the devil and a sense of adventure that could match my own. He asks me why I don't run any more, and I have no answer for him, nothing I can say that could ever explain it all in ways that anyone else could understand.
I walk away, because Jan had his happy ending. Jan no longer needs to run.
Jan got the lady with the red rucksack.
She came back for him.
Mine cannot come back for me.
And so all I can do, when that path is blocked to me, is to carve my own path. I must take steel to the wilderness and I must find a way. This is a family now, this is my family; a place for broken children and damaged promises. A place where people can stroke their scars in quiet, a solitude where they can play with mice without being disturbed by the ghostly clamouring of the rest of the world. They need no longer look at the cold metal letters littering the ground, or think of the black mud, or remember those nights of pain and loneliness and misery. This is a place far away from those that can hurt us.
I will remain here, and keep here safe for them.
Safe from circle time and Life Story books and talking about what we all want to keep locked away in our heart of hearts. I will protect them from Maureen's sadness and bitterness and protective stranglehold.
I have responsibilities to them.
I will forget those days of feeling wild with joy.
I will look into the future, look into eyes that shine like pale moons.
I will hope that one day they will be healed.
I will wait to see movement in those tiny figures on my window-sill, those little birds and lizards and people that Wilson had made for me. I will watch and I will pray and I will see it when it happens, when one of those little birds spreads its wings, when a lizards forks his tongue at me, when a figure takes its first, tentative step into this new world.
I will wait and I will watch until I can see the movement, until I can be sure that it is more than the spectre of shadows and light.
"Did you watch the clay?
One day, Wilson, I will find you. One day, I will find all of us who have walked out of Whitegates.
"Erin, did you see it?"
And I will remind them of their family.
And I will tell them, "I have seen".