Somewhere far away a child was probably crying. All around, in every country, a child was probably crying. Crying or laughing or bouncing up and down on his mother’s lap as she sang him a song. But none of those children were Jeremiah. He couldn’t cry or laugh or play anymore. Somewhere up there perhaps, if you believed in that kind of thing. Linda wasn’t sure she did anymore.


“Death is an inevitable part in the cycle of life.” The woman spoke as if addressing a whole auditorium full of religious studies majors, with authority and a worldly intelligence that could envelope the attention of a whole crowd.


 Jerked back to reality, Linda now studied the woman’s face. She should have done it earlier, to understand what sort of trap she had been led into. Usually she was good at that kind of thing. But confusion and memories had made her ignorant. She had let Sylvia lead her by the hand to a complete stranger and now she was about to spill her life story.


The woman’s face was lined with wrinkles. She was older than Linda had originally thought. The fat black line of make-up over her eye had smudged over the course of the day and travelled down her to the bags under her eyes, giving the woman a slightly disorientated look. Yet her voice, though firm, showed kindness. Her hair, though in dreads, was somehow beautifully laid out around her head, some falling on the shoulders, some cascading in neat tubes down her front and back. A hand-made feathered head garment sat like a nest atop her head.


Perhaps if she told this woman, this stranger, the past events of her life would somehow be transported onto the shoulders of another, leaving Linda to live her life without the constant remembrances. It was a selfish act, but the woman had asked. And the temptation to ease the pain just a little bit overtook Linda.


Sitting upright, Linda licked her lips nervously and asked: “What would you like to know?”


“Jeremiah.” Was all the woman conceded.




“I know about Jeremiah,” the woman cut her off, angling her gaze towards the cards that had miraculously appeared in front of her on the table. “But I want you to explain what happened in your own words. It may help.”


“How do you-” Linda began but was cut off by the thick ball of memories that had gotten wedged in her throat, restricting the passage of air. Linda forced herself to channel her mind away from the past and focus on the objective reality. The ball faded as soon as the switch occurred. Perhaps it wasn’t so hard after all. Perhaps the woman had already taken some of her pain away. “The orphanage from which I was to take him home with me was attacked by a gang…some months before I was to arrive. They – they robbed the place, set fire to the walls and took some of the children away. Those who hid burnt. Only one caretaker made it out alive. They robbed the orphanage during the day when everyone was there. I don’t understand why the police wasn’t called, why no one came to their aid. Couldn’t they hear the screams?”


Linda hadn’t been there but she could picture the scene unfolding before her eyes as though a painting of a famous Renaissance artist she had studied at school. She could see the angry red sparks as the flames ate up the building, she could hear the terrible screams escaping its insides as the surviving children tried to jump out of windows and came to their death in the suffocating flames or the ground below.


The horrid imagery forced her to close her eyes and for a while – it seemed a long while, or had time lost its meaning here? – she gave herself over to the hungry storm that had threatened to eat her up from the start, all those months ago, when she had received note that Jeremiah had vanished. He was dead, or had been kidnapped. Linda knew that the second option had probably led to death, too.


“Perhaps they have sold him on to kid traders,” the woman said, not shifting her eyes away from the cards. “He could be alive. They could have mutilated him-”


Listening to the woman as she scanned her cards and spoke of the most awful things, Linda suddenly felt a surge of anger bubble up inside her and explode at the horrid things the woman was saying.




“Stop what?” For the first time in what seemed like eternity, the woman raised her eyes to Linda’s. They seemed to dance with the reflection of a flame that wasn’t in the room, but somewhere far, far away – the orphanage, or perhaps a bushfire. Something told Linda the former.


“Stop this nonsense, please. I want to trust you, but the horrible, horrible things you say... I just can’t-”


“I am motivating you, Linda. Motivating. I want you to switch that clever mind of yours that has become stupefied in grief and become ignorant to the logical process that does so help us in life.” The woman’s eyes sparkled and went back to their dull, watery brown, as if she had shared enough insight for the day.


Linda, meanwhile, could feel her face heat up, not with anger but with a growing realisation as she let her mind relax and expand and think, something she hadn’t quite let herself do all those months ago.


“I need to find him,” she murmured half to herself, a spark of determination fuelling her racing heart. “I need to find him.”

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There are some wonderful descriptions in this chapter. A thick ball of memories wedged in Linda's throat is very clever indeed. I really liked the way you described the old lady the smudged black eye liner and the dreads gave this woman real personality. She's a seer as well so we are building up a picture of her and Linda. In Story Robert McKee talks about scenes moving from a positive to a negative charge. This chapter demonstrates that well. Linda is changed by the encounter with the old woman.