The child was no more than eight years old, he was fair haired, dark eyed, and prone to long bouts of silence that could stretch for months at a time. Amanda knew this because it had said as much in the file she had been given. The file that told her nearly nothing about the boy at all and contained a single pass key to zap her through any security door that got in her way.
When she met him he was staring out of the glass doors of the day room at St. Augustine’s Hospital for Children. It wasn’t much of a garden in Amanda’s opinion. A single square of perfectly cut grass and three neat slices of exposed soil, pinpricked with pansies of varying colours. The only interruption to this order was the stone fountain in the centre. Three foot in height, the round, shallow bowl played host to three starlings. They chirped and splashed and played and eventually they flew away as a nurse opened a window and disturbed them. They boy kept staring though. He was not staring at the birds, or the bath, or the neatly laid out garden, he was staring at something else, something only he could see.
Amanda sat next to him and cupped his hands in hers.
‘Shamus? Can you hear me?’ she asked.
The boy’s gaze slid from the doors and onto her. Her throat swelled and for a moment there was a burn behind her eyes that threatened to overwhelm her. Amanda let go of his hand and the feeling faded.
‘Hello,’ said the boy quietly. ‘Did they send you to take it away?’
Amanda knotted her hands in her lap and tried her best to turn the corners of her mouth up into a smile. It was strained, she could feel the muscles in the cheeks twitching with the ache. She let it drop and ran a dry tongue around the inside of her teeth instead.
‘I’ve been asked to come and see you, that’s all,’ she said. ‘Your parents think I might be able to understand what exactly happened to you.’
The boy’s smile was easy in comparison to Amanda’s. It reached his eyes and softened the tension in face. ‘They don’t want to understand do they? They would rather think I’m crazy then believe I can see the things that I can see.’ The smile faltered and the boy shuddered. ‘He always kisses her afterwards,’ he said. ‘He kisses the places where he leaves the deepest marks to show her that he’s sorry, but it’s not true, it all pretend so that she won’t leave him alone. He’s too scared to be alone.’ The boy shuddered again. ‘He hurts her a lot.’ He turned to the doors and didn’t say anymore.
Out of the corner of her eye Amanda caught one of the nurses watching them. She had that narrowed eyed look of someone not happy with what they were seeing. The hairs of the back of Amanda’s neck prickled.
‘Tell me Shamus, what do you see exactly? Who is hurting who? Where is this happening?’
The boy bit his lip. ‘You don’t believe me really, adults never do.’
Amanda shook her head. ‘I do believe you, I do. I know what it’s like. I can teach you how to control it but first you have to tell me what you’re seeing.’
Over in the corner the nurse had been joined by a second, bodies close together, heads bent in conversation.
‘I see people,’ said the boy. ‘I see them…’ he screwed his nose up, ‘I see them kissing.’
‘I see,’ Amanda said. Kissing wasn’t exactly the go-to for physic bridges between places and people but it wouldn’t be unheard of. Normally those with any sort of ability connected with the key events of a place, or focused in on a single individual.
‘Some are okay,’ the boy continued. ‘There’s this couple, she kisses her on the cheek every morning before going to work. It’s like a protection spell. It’s full of warmth and… and…’
‘security?’ Amanda supplied.
The boy nodded.
‘Look, all you need to do is-‘
‘Excuse me ma’am.’
Amanda looked up to find one of the nurses from the corner standing beside them.
‘Yes?’ she replied, painting her fake smile back on. It worked as well as it had done the first time.
‘I don’t think you’re supposed to be here, do you?’ asked the nurse. She wore a white starched uniform and a pair of scuffed black shoes. ‘All visitors must be registered on the patient’s authorised visitor log and I don’t believe I’ve seen your name on there.’
‘You don’t know her name,’ said Shamus. ‘How do you know it’s not on there?’
The nurse scowled. ‘Your parents are the only two names on that list Shamus and we both know it. This woman needs to leave.’
‘But she’s my Aunt. I’m sure she’ll be on the list if you check, Dad said he was going to get you to put it there so she could visit me. Could you not check again? Or call my Dad, he’ll tell you that’s it’s all right! She’s only in the country for a day or two, she flies out to Africa tomorrow and then who knows when she’ll come home.’
The boy’s eyes had started to water and Amanda sat frozen in place.
‘I-,’ she stumbled. ‘Yes, that’s right, that’s me, I’m his Aunt. My brother did say he’d cleared everything for me to come and see my darling nephew. I really do hope there isn’t a problem. I really can’t delay my flight and we’ve all been so worried with everything that’s happen. I just want to make sure he’s alright before I leave.’
The nurse looked back over her shoulder to the other one still stood in the corner.
‘I’ll check,’ she said, not looking convinced.
She left the room but the other one stayed to watch them. Amanda sucked in a sharp breath, her heart rattling against her ribs. She was on a clock it seemed.
‘Quick now,’ said Shamus. ‘You better tell me what it is I’m supposed to be doing before she finds out that you lied to her.’
‘That I lied, why you-‘ she cut herself off and glanced over at the remaining nurse. ‘Yes, well I suppose I can make this short. Copy me.’ She closed her eyes and centred herself, focusing on each breath in and out. ‘Count backwards from thirty, do it slowly or it won’t work.’ The boy copied her, his numbers drawn out and clumsy in places as he stumbled over the sounds. ‘Now find the place where the vision are getting in. Think about it like a gap in the walls around your mind, a crack to be mended.’
‘Found it,’ the boy said, his voice strained. Amanda opened her eyes and saw that all the colour had leeched from his cheeks.
‘Good,’ she said, trying not to let concern taint her tone. ‘Now imagine filling that crack in with concrete. Fill it until it blends with the wall again.’
‘It’s too wide. I can’t.’
‘Yes you can, you just have to try. It can be tricky the first time but after this you’ll be able to repair any cracks that appear and only let in the things you want to see.’
The boy raised one eyebrow.
‘You can choose to see none of them if you want,’ Amanda clarified ‘My point was that you’d be in control.’
The boy nodded and she watched his hands tightened around the edges of his seat.
‘Ma’am! A word please!’ The nurse was standing in the doorway with two security staff behind her.
‘Ah, yes, just a moment.’
‘Now if you don’t mind ma’am,’ said the nurse.
Amanda looked back at the boy. He’d opened his eyes and was blinking at her as if it was the first time they’d laid eyes on each other.
‘Hello,’ he said. ‘It’s quiet now. I can see you.’
‘Good,’ Amanda smiled. She stood up as the two security staff came into the room and towards her. She stepped backwards towards the glass doors, her hand closing around the handle. Open she found. Lucky for her.
‘Thank you,’ said Shamus. ‘I think you should run now though.’
‘Yeah,’ said Amanda. ‘I think I should as well.’ She threw the door open and spun. ‘Take care Shamus. I’ll see you around when you’re older.’
The cry came too late as Amada slammed the door and took off across the lawn.
‘His brain didn’t melt,’ she told herself. ‘You see, you can save people when you’re paying attention.’
I’m playing around with Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge for this week. He’s sent us over to the Magic Realism Bot over on twitter to pick a tweet that we wanted to write a piece of flash fiction on. My choice:
A child can see every kiss that has taken place in Buenos Aires.
I sort of ignored the Buenos Aires bit except for in the title, but then again, I’ve still sort of fulfilled the prompt. I might even tackle another tweet later on in the week and see where that takes me.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it.