Talespinning Tuesday: Shard, Chapter Three

I had traveled many days through an antique and arid land,
hunger and thirst hounded my steps as miles passed by,
until I came upon a young boy leading a cart to market,
and he offered me bread to ease my Hunger,
water to slake my Thirst,
and a ride to abate my Weariness.
Being a proud man, I said, “I shall not take pity from child.”
He looked at me with innocent but wise eyes and said,
“It is only now that I pity you,
for you know not the difference between pity and compassion.”

Elsa turned away from the door when she heard someone humming a honeyed tune. On the bed behind her sat a young child of about nine or ten, her hair the same flaxen shade as Elsa’s own. She was deligently folding a piece of blue construction paper. After a few moments of intense concentration, the ordinary piece of paper was transformed into a miniature crane. Elsa stared at the mock crane and it leaped to life for an instant, flapping its wings and stretching skyward, within the cup of the little girl’s hand.
The girl stood up and smoothed her simple baby-blue dress, careful of the origami crane in her hand. She then approached Elsa’s mirror twin and mutely presented her with the crane. Not-Elsa shrank away from the proffered gift, hissing in alarm. “You backward, little bitch! I want nothing crafted by your hands!”
The child withstood the verbal lashing, placid and undisturbed. A gentle smile appeared as she offered her creation more insistently, cupping it in two hands now. The mirror twin shied away once more, looking like a vampire in an old film being confronted with a cross. “You insignificant, trifling tiny brat!” the twin spat acidly at the tranquil child, who remained unperturbed. Seeing she had no effect on the young girl, the Elsa-parody turned to Elsa and uttered malevolently, “She will not always be around to ward you from the pain of truth. I’ll be back with horrors that you can nary imagine.” Her eyes flashed crimson and she transformed into a cloud of roiling black smoke, two glowing red pinpricks still hanging within. It hung there for a few seconds then issued into the frosted mirror.
The room brightened noticeably with the malefic effigy’s departure. Elsa let out a breath she scarcely knew she had been holding. She felt her heart lighten immeasureably and turned a glad eye towards her savior. Elsa’s young champion stood looking at the icy glass sadly, the crane still cupped in her hands. Elsa, mistaking the girl’s gaze, said, “Oh, you musn’t fret, I believe you have chased her off and she shan’t be coming back.”
“It’s not that,” the little girl returned, her voice light and musical, “I just wished she had taken my gift.”
Elsa was taken aback for a moment, confused. “Why would you be so nice to such a detestable woman?” she asked.
“It’s not her fault,” the girl began, “it’s simply who she is,” the girl shrugged, “I think something bad made her that way.”
“She said some positively dreadful things to you,” Elsa retorted, “and we shouldn’t spare another moment dwelling upon her.”
“Maybe we should,” the girl said slowly, mustering up the words of the thought like soldiers, “the meanest people, I think, they usually hurt, on the inside, you know. So, you musn’t listen to the mean things they say but look behind them.”
“Behind them?”
“Not really, silly,” the girl said in smiling exasperation, “like, behind the things they say. You can see the hurt that is here.” She finished by pointing directly between her eyes then moved her finger down to point at her heart. “And here,” she added.
“That is such grown-up thoughts for one so young. I believe you shouldn’t worry your pretty head about them,” Elsa said in the patronizing tone adults took with kids.
“But if I don’t, will you worry about them?”
Elsa was momentarily at a loss for words, stunned by a complex swirl of emotions. She was ashamed that such a small child would admonish her in such a way and angry at the same time for the same reason. She was embarassed by her anger towards one so young and angry once more. There was a bit of depression and a bit of self-deprication. Elsa dove deep, peeling back layers of self, like a diver who had passed the point where up and down made sense. Sudden anxiety gripped her as she felt something deep in her unconcious and she lurched back, desperately trying to not crash head first into whatever it was. She managed to pull back but not before skirting the phenomenom.
Beep. Beep. Beep. Breathe in, breathe out. Wires and tubes, hooked up to various monitors and bags. Man crying. Child pleading. White-clad men and woman, probing and prodding.
The little girl watched her with apparent concern and understanding. When she saw that Elsa was looking at her, she pursed her lips in a wan smile, more to show Elsa she was there for her than anything else. “Are you having those flashes more now?”
Elsa looked at the girl, alarmed. “What do you know about flashes?” she asked incredulously.
“No more than you,” the little girl stated matter-of-factly.
“You are a most peculiar and vexing child!”
The girl merely shrugged at this. “No more than any other child, I would think,” she said evenly.
Waking up in the middle of the night, seeing the clock flash three a.m. The baby wails in the other room and she feels a momentary pang of resentment as her husband mutters, “It’s your turn this time.” The feeling only lasts until she is up and shuffling towards the baby’s room…
Elsa clutches at her head, shaking it as if she can dislodge the vision. “What are you doing to me!?!”
“I am doing nothing to you, Elsa,” the little girl said apologetically, smiling sadly at Elsa, “You musn’t fight this, it will only make what’s coming worse.”
Elsa sprang at the small child, grabbing her roughly by the shoulders. “You most disagreeable, little brat! What do you know? What is coming up?” Elsa screamed, her mouth veritably frothing.
The child merely withstood the onslaught, turning cool blue eyes to regard Elsa. The same sad smile was mounted in its customary position. “You must watch which one of us you feed, it is a choice that may haunt you,” the young child said. Elsa felt her slip from her grasp without apparent effort or movement. “As to what is coming up, a decision. Before you make it, you must know what came before. The past informs the present which, in turn, informs the future.”
“You are the most adult sounding child I have ever met.”
“I was not always thus and you were not always here, you just lost your way,” the child responded. Elsa noted that the child was beginning to lose coherence. “Before I go,” she said, “I can tell you one more thing,” Elsa leaned forward, eagerly intent upon her words, “Something you should remember but have conveniently forgot. She left the door unlocked.”
Elsa quickly glanced at the door and when she turned back, the child was gone. In her place an origami crane floated to the ground, its wings flapping during its controlled descent. As it landed, it seemed to stretch its head and wings skyward before settling into motionless.