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Silvered Tracks


Artwork by Isabelle Lu, staff artist

By Amberlynn Gong


She draws a finger along the windowpane, tracing the tracks of each ghost like they are only raindrops.

A hospital is a funny place, a house of life and death. Each day, the newborns take the place of the dying, or dead. A cancer patient, gone, but replaced by her pruny baby sister.

The girl is seated on a stool in the cafeteria, swinging her short legs above the ground. Thomas told her to wait here. Thomas was back with her mother, watching the nurses poke and prod at her new sister.

She swirls her finger on the foggy window again. Ghosts stream down in a deluge, following her fingers like a cat to a laser. She giggles, watching one ghost shroud her finger is mist before dissolving before her eyes.

She did not know how long Mother would take. Mother, with the loud baby who cried whenever someone breathed.

STAND.

A command reverberates through her system, before she realizes these are words. Words that have meaning. The girl looks around furtively before sliding off the seat. It seemed as though she was the only one who noticed this voice.

WALK TO ME.

The girl pivots on her heel, trying to pinpoint the sound. Who could be speaking to her? The food lady counting change by the trays? The wheelchair man staring glumly at his feet? They are all too far away to notice her, let alone whisper to her.

She does not know where to go. Walk to me? Seeing no other option, the girl heads towards the food lady.

“Hello dearie. Where did your father go?” The woman sets aside the change, bending down to smile at her.

“You said walk here.” She stammers, watching the woman through her eyelashes.

The woman laughs, straightening again. “Maybe it’s your imagination at work, dearie. But if you want a hot chocolate, you know where to find me.” She winks, and the girl scowls. Thomas bought her a hot chocolate yesterday. It froze her insides, it was so cold.

WALK TO ME.

The girl shudders, hating the way the voice ricochets through her skull like a ping pong ball between two walls. She glances at the woman, back behind the cash register. The lady takes no notice that something-- someone, had spoken again.

“Walk where?” The girl whispers, speaking more to herself than anyone. Her legs carry her, betray her, skipping back to her stool by the window. Thomas told her to stay put. Thomas would be back soon. She didn’t like to disappoint him.

The silver vestiges in the window ensnare her, and before she realizes it, a betraying finger traces them once more. Something hums contentedly in her mind. A veil emerges from the tracks, both translucent and solid enough for her to rake her hands through.

MMMMM.

The mist. The ghosts were speaking in her mind.

She knows it is speaking, although it had not grown a mouth and yodeled. At the same time, she could feel the veil vibrating against her finger, as though she had a palm against its throat.

The girl snatches her finger away, banging her elbow against the counter. The wheelchair man swipes his eyes over her, frowning at the ruckus.

DON’T BE SCARED, GIRL.

There it is. Again, the mist flits closer to her fingers, turning over them like a snake in her hands. She doesn’t know how to respond, if she should even respond.

MY LIFE, FOR YOUR SISTER’S.

The girl draws closer curiously. How did it know? Thomas had only told her about this an hour ago, telling her each time a soul died, they were reborn in the form of an infant. He said when she was born, a princess’s soul claimed her body. It made her giggle.

The girl's pity takes place of the fear in the pit of her stomach. “I’m sorry,” She whispers, twirling her hand to accomodate to the ghosts' sinuousness. “I don’t want her here either.”

The ghost pauses it’s motion to press itself against the window.

YOU DO WANT HER.

She shakes her head furiously, stopping only when she realizes there are other people in the room. “I don’t want her here. Mommy and Daddy will forget about me.” After a moment's thought, “They already have.”

THEY HAVE NOT.

“They have.” She says more urgently. “Thomas left me here. He says Mommy can’t see me yet.”

THERE IS ALWAYS YET.

She huffs. “I’m five. I don’t know if ghosts are real.”

I AM AS REAL AS YOUR LITTLE SISTER.

The past months, she hadn’t even been able to properly give her mother a hug. Her sister was always in the way, as she is now, driving a wedge between the girl and her mother. “Who are you? If you are real, let me see.”

On the window, all silver tracks dissolve, clumping together on the counter like a puddle of mercury. To her delight, one by one, figures begin to leap out of the puddle, taking form in the air before diving back.

I AM YOUR PAST.

I AM YOUR HISTORY.

I AM YOUR ORIGIN.

Each time one jumps, the girl’s mouth moves soundlessly. It is an array of flashing silver, a spectacle of imagination.

Finally, the puddle diminishes until there is only enough to form one figure. I AM YOUR SISTER.

“My sister is just born, silly. She can’t talk.”

I AM NOT ANGRY TO TAKE FORM AGAIN.

IT IS A GIFT TO HAVE YOUR SOUL BELONG TO ANOTHER.

WE ALL HAVE THIS GIFT.

It begins to rain. Dark blots of silver, each hitting the window and shimmying down in a sinuous path.

The girl eyes this trail, eyes beginning to pool at the sight. “Why are there so many dead?”

ONLY IN DEATH, CAN WE PROVIDE LIFE. WITHOUT US, YOU WOULD NOT EXIST.

She is so riveted in the rain, she does not notice the cafeteria door swing open, her father rubbing away sleep from his face.

DON’T BE SORRY WE ARE GONE. DON’T BE SORRY YOUR SISTER IS BORN.

THANK HER FOR EXISTING. THANK HER FOR TAKING OUR PLACE.

Her father fishes a few coins out of his pocket, and offers them to the food lady in return for coffee. She takes one look at him, and graciously pushes it away. If the girl were not so concentrated, she would hear, “No, no. You’ve just received the gift of life, darling. Congratulations.”

She does not notice him approaching her, tired eyes lit with newfound joy.

THE CIRCLE OF LIFE IS NOTHING TO BE SORRY FOR.

The girl watches in horror as the puddle ripples across the counter once, before throwing itself at the window. If the girl hadn’t blinked, she may have seen the outline of a woman, before the rain washes it away.

Plink, plink, plink.

“Tamara!” The girl turns just in time for her father to wrap her into a hug. “Nice to see you listened to me.”

Unshed tears begin to fall in rhythm with the rain. “I thought you forgot about me, Thomas! I thought I would have to drink cold chocolate and listen to the ghosts forever!” She gestures to the window, vestiges of silver now completely washed away.

He blames the speculation on his child’s wild imagination. “Of course not. And didn’t I tell you to stop calling me Thomas?”

She sobs, ignoring him. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Ghosts came to tell me that I shouldn’t be sad. I didn’t mean to be mean to baby!”

He brightens, at the mention of his new daughter. “Would you like to see them?”

She stops sobbing, only to look up warily. “I have to say bye to them.” Leaning back in her father’s arms, she glides one hand down the window. If her father had an imagination as great as hers, he may have seen a small form of mist enveloping her fingers; a final goodbye.


 

Contributor's Note: Amberlynn Gong is a rising high school freshman in Maryland. She has been reading and writing since a young age, but has most recently gotten back into writing two years ago. Amberlynn enjoys reading, swimming, and eating.


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