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The Girl Who Was Never Born
The guards threw her roughly into the cell and she fell with a thump and a grunt. The hard flagstone floor smacked against her cheekbone and her head spun with a thousand horrible fates. She took her time in getting up and let out a prolonged groan of pain. But anger coursed through her veins, boiling her blood, when the prison ward sneered and slammed the barred door shut. He locked it with a jangle of keys and laughed his way down the dark corridors lit by dim torches and dancing shadows.
Ramona kicked and screamed and pulled at her hair, hoping to arouse some irritation from the guards that were stationed a few feet away from the cell. She shouted obscenities and curses until her throat was raw and she could only croak words dripping with venom and malice. But all she did was in vain for the guards did not even flinch. They stood still as statues, almost melting into the walls behind them.
Frustrated, she stumbled backwards and slid down the back wall of the cell. She sat quietly, furiously beating the ground below her until her fist was purple with bruises and her energy sapped. But her hate still fueled her rage towards everything. She sighed at length and buried her face in her folded arms, scowling.
She heard a tiny squeak. But she brushed it off as a filthy rat scuttling to and fro. The creature squeaked again and again, making Ramona’s cooling temper flare up once more. She raised her head to locate the vermin so that she could ring its little neck and stuff it down a hole somewhere. She relished the thought of squeezing the life out of it. But she immediately regretted thinking those thoughts. What kind of monster had she become?
Instead of finding a rat, she saw a dark shape shifting about in the shadows. It was much too large to be a rat and much too small to be an adult.
Ramona scooted closer on her knees and found that it was a very small child, shivering in the damp of the cell. It was a little girl, naked and exposed save for a length of cloth hanging over her hunched shoulders. Her pale skin made her seem like a ghost and her teeth chattered so violently that Ramona thought they would fall out of her small mouth. She couldn’t make out any of the girl’s features for she was deep in shadow.
Ramona suddenly felt sorry for the poor girl. She couldn’t have seen more than nine summers old. She was all bones and angles and it was obvious that she was being underfed and abused. She had several red welts crisscrossing her back and she was a garden of blooming bruises. She had a large, deep cut across the palm of her hand. Ramona noticed it when the child held her hands up to protect herself. It was a brave attempt, but tears sprung to Ramona’s eyes. The girl’s eyes were wide with fear and her trembling had gotten worse.
Ramona removed her cloak and gently covered the girl with it, making sure that she was comfortable. Her shuddering stopped abruptly, as though this act of kindness had shocked her body still. She still held her hands up in defense, but her muscles relaxed slightly.
Suddenly, the girl threw herself onto Ramona and collapsed in her arms. She sobbed and held Ramona tightly, refusing to let go even to let her tend to her wounds. Ramona managed to loosely bandage the cut on her hand but that was all the girl would let her do. She continued to sob until she had cried herself to sleep. Ramona held her and whispered comforts to her. She soon fell asleep as well.
Although light was not allowed to penetrate the darkness of the prison, Ramona awoke with the rising sun. She had barely shaken herself out of her sleepy stupor when the cell door creaked open. A large guard armed to the teeth stood before the pair huddled together on the ground.
“Your time has come,” he said, nodding towards Ramona.
“What will happen to this girl?” she asked, stroking the girl’s soft, brown hair. She was still fast asleep, blissfully unaware of her new friend’s fate and also of her own.
The guard’s voice was void of compassion. It was devoid of any emotion at all.
“Her father was a sorcerer who practiced forbidden magic and her mother is an escapee. She will be used as bait for catching and arresting her mother and then they will all be executed.”
“Do they not receive at least a trial first?” Ramona was aghast at the monotony of this man. She was disgusted with the fact that they would execute a child for the sins of its parents.
“No mercy shall be bestowed upon those who commune with the devil and befriend demons.”
“But she’s just a child! She didn’t do anything to harm anyone!”
“You do not know this child. She has done the unforgivable.”
Ramona refused to believe that this frightened, traumatized, abused child would ever do something that deserved the death penalty. But she listened as the guard unraveled the tragic tale. Ramona imagined it as a story within her mind.
Long ago, when this child’s parents were children themselves, they practiced black magic and witchcraft. But back then it was allowed and no one thought to look twice at them. They were ordinary folk who loved and respected others no matter who they were. They had many friends and many wealthy relatives.
When they grew older, they married but did not wish to have children. The girl’s mother, Hanna, refused to bear her husband, Aaron, a child. Aaron, being a kind and understanding man, respected her decision and let it be. He secretly grieved and cursed her. But when she told him of her plan, he did not question her.
Hanna planned to create a child not within her womb, but out of thin air. She wanted to challenge creation itself and see if she could create a perfect child out of nothing. So one day, when there was a terrible storm, the couple went to the highest hill they found and climbed it. They invited the lightning and the cold rain to aid them in their task.
Hanna scooped up mud from the earth and shaped it into the form of a beautiful baby girl using her skilled magic practices. Aaron produced two shiny emeralds from his pockets and placed them on the baby’s face where her eyes would be. He watched as his wife pulled a lock of her hair from her head and placed it on the baby’s. Then they called upon the spirits of the night and storm and life and creation to put breath into the baby’s lungs and urged them to squeeze her mud heart in the hopes that it would beat on its own.
But nothing happened. Hanna was a smart woman and figured out the problem before Aaron could even begin to guess. The forces called for a life in return for the life that would be given to her baby. When a woman gives birth, her pain is given in exchange for the baby’s life. But Hanna was not giving birth. She was crafting the child out of material things.
She glanced at her husband and he frowned at the baby shaped glob of mud. Quick as a snake, Hanna drew a dagger from beneath the folds of her dress and stabbed Aaron in the heart. He died quickly and she used her sorcery to capture his soul within the emerald stones of her daughter’s eyes. So desperate was she to create life and play god that she was willing to sacrifice her own husband to do so.
The mud turned into flesh and blood and bone and the baby cried for the first time. It was a living, breathing baby. Her mother, Hanna, had been so proud that she had told everyone she knew. But when the law was passed that magic and sorcery was forbidden and evil, the authorities came after her.
She hid away for many years successfully before finally giving up. Every time she looked into her daughter’s eyes she saw her husband’s spirit floating within her green irises. She began to feel guilty for all she had done. She left her baby in a basket high up in a tree and fled, never to return.
The child that Ramona held in her arms, Midna, did not know of her tragic past until a few days ago when a wandering wizard had recognized her and told her. He had promised her food and shelter but Midna was racked by guilt, just like her mother. She turned herself in but immediately regretted it when the guards and the king himself abused her and tortured her until she had gone mute.
By now, Ramona was staring at the girl curled up on her lap. She was sleeping peacefully, sighing contentedly.
“Come, we must go now.” Said the guard.
Ramona had a wicked fate of her own to face. She was to be executed by guillotine at dawn. It was well past dawn now and she did not understand why the guard had told her all this. It had only proven to further depress her.
A few weeks previously, Ramona had stolen the queen’s prized locket, all gold and jewels. She planned to sell it at the beggar’s market so she could buy food for herself and her little pack of urchins. She was the oldest of the group and that made her their leader. She looked out for them and they looked up to her. She had rescued every single one of them from cruel masters and abandonment and starvation and the likes.
When given a trial, she denied, claiming that she had nothing to do with the mysterious disappearance of the piece of valuable jewelry. She blamed everyone she could from the queen’s maids to the palace cook. But her lies had been sniffed out by a man the entire world seemed to think to be the smartest in this life. She had been bent on revenge but now she realized she had no say in anything anymore. She had accepted her punishment and found a new leader for her followers. His name was Jack. He didn’t tell her much about him except that he had his own little band of lost children to look after. They decided to join forces and work as one, surviving and hiding from the watchful eye of rich, fat men. No sooner had they made their alliance had Ramona been caught. Jack, cunning and clever, promised to look after her faithful disciples.
Ramona gently laid the girl on the ground and followed the guard to her death.
When Midna awoke, she looked around for the older girl who had been so kind to her. Such acts of kindness were rare and she had grown up knowing that the world was cruel. She valued trust and love and gave it sparingly to others. But this girl had gained it all from her.
Midna did not see Ramona. She waited and waited for her to come tumbling through the door like she had earlier, but she never did. After a week of waiting, hunger and desperation overcoming her desire to act brave, she cried. She cried all day and all night until the guard had come to escort her away.
Midna rested her neck in the crook designed for it under the sneering blade above her. She trembled like a leaf in the wind and tears spilled down her face. She looked this way and that as a basket was laid before her, sticky and shiny with blood. She grimaced, wondering if it was Ramona’s blood.
But it wasn’t.
Before the blade could rush down to her, she caught a glimpse of someone on the roof of an old house. Midna recognized her immediately. It was Ramona. Beside her was a mysterious looking boy with a worn flute in his hands. He raised it to his lips and began to play a jolly tune.