This was posted by one of my daughters who has an autistic child. Of all my “high flying” children I am most proud of her!
I know one of her greatest trails was the reaction of folks around thinking (or even saying) “Why doesn’t she shut that kid up!” not realizing he had a genuine problem (he looks like an angel – a normal angel!). She said sometimes she felt like hanging a sign around her neck saying “Give us a break he’s autistic”.
Now years later thanks to her love and sacrifice he has made tremendous progress he can talk, interact, love. Now the world is no longer the strange and upsetting place it once was to him. But how much pain could have been avoided had those around had more understanding.
God help us not to judge when we don’t have all the facts.
(The intro to the new fantasy book I’m working on which could best be described as an apocalyptic love story. – feed back especially welcome!)
Lisa lurched up in bed, eyes glaring open. Beyond gaping curtains blood dripped down a moon washed sky. Like crimson drops from an overloaded brush it seeped from the heavens. Visions trapped her eyes in lurid glimpses, even as the dull rhythm of chants filled her nights with foreboding. They had done from childhood.
“Save us, save us!” voices throbbed, like waves on a beleaguered shore, oddly unemotional, echoing. Damp sheets clasped to her face she gazed in horror, clutching her eyes, seeking to evade the images. Clenching them only blanketed her in darkness, she needed light. Grasping the ebony rosary about her neck, she mumbled ineffective prayers…
The vision faded… they always did in the end. Sobbing she reached for the lamp.
Some would envy her “gift”. They didn’t understand. She wanted to escape it. Like a highly sensitive receiver she picked up “channels” that others were blissfully unaware of.
It was growing worse. A feeling of foreboding nibbled at the corners of her mind, things were coming to an end. As a child it had been fascinating playing with her “powers”. Now it was no longer a game. She played for real and stakes were high!
Only the rosary seemed to help, perhaps it had belonged to some saintly nun… a friend’s gift bought in a charity shop, she had no idea of its origin. Lisa herself was no nun or ever likely to be. She’d had her share of lovers, seeking one whose arms could shield her from the “shadows”. What comfort she’d found was brief, none could keep away the prevailing darkness she felt enveloping the world; rather they tended to drain her, sucking energy from her beleaguered spirit. At best they were powerless to help her.
She kept things secret.. People were apt to restrain, medicate, to put folks like her in asylums where drugs and negative environments would leave her unable to exercise any control.
Shaken she took a book from under her pillow and began to read, words tumbling past her mind into the oblivion she sought.
Morning sun revealed the devastation of the night, dark brown curls lay tangled about her shoulders and shadowed, red glazed eyes peered back from the waxen face in the mirror. She had to work, she needed the money. She must paint on a mask and pretend everything was normal when she knew it was not…
The tiny pod lingered in the vastness of the universe. He was alone, barely enough fuel to make in to the surface. Sweat beaded his brow. Would he make it? Around him the pod bore the scars of its ejection through the meteor shower precipitating the end of the doomed star ship limping home, defeated, to a dying world. They’d gambled and lost. Now his species faced extinction, would he be the last he wondered, alone on planet 84?
Looking out of the window he marvelled at the glory of the galaxy around him, the neighbouring planets of solar 19. He could see it now, planet 84, his place of exile. He flipped on the analysis screen. That it had water, a breathable atmosphere, he knew, but it had yet to be fully investigated. He’d be the first human to set foot on its glowing orb, (if he made it that was…)
There was nothing he could do now but wait, wait as its radiant sphere loomed closer, glowing in the inky sky. It was not unlike his native Earth had once been, before rendered uninhabitable, pristine oceans, white cloud masses set against green brown lands. He’d seen pictures of earth, retained from the first space flights long, long ago, but seeing with his own eyes was different, a healthy, thriving planet alive with growth. What creatures would he find there? Might there be others like him, humanoid? He doubted it, in their frantic search for a new home they’d found none, only the devilish carnivores that called themselves Illumi and feasted on newly discovered human flesh, farming them like animals for their consumption. The fleet had been the last vestige of resistance, hidden in the depths of the dying earth. They had risked all in a futile attempt to save their people, but they had failed. Now, alerted to the possibility of rebellion, the Illumi would annihilate them. Tears streamed down his face, there was no one to see, no one at all.
They had entered its atmosphere. It looked like he was going to make it. Gazing down at the surface spinning past he was overwhelmed by its beauty. Turquoise oceans spotted with islands sparkled in the sun; mountain tops lifted their snow topped heads to the sky. Shifting to manual override he checked his fuel gage … It should be enough. This terrain looked familiar. He slowed a little. Three large triangles loomed through jungle canopies, definitely constructed by intelligent life, but would they be as the Illumi?
He’d seen them before, but where? No! It couldn’t be! But it was! His journey it seemed had not only been one of space but time. Below he saw the tribes people scatter as he touched down in what he knew one day would be Mexico.
“I’m not ready for this!” he yelled, as they rushed him through the field hospital. No one answered, just the syringe spraying its fountain of analgesic before plunging into his arm. They were taking off his leg for Christ’s sake! Strong hands held him down as he sank into darkness…
Light pervaded his eyes, as blinking, he re-emerged into consciousness. Panic surged. Grasping frantically joy erupted. It was there, solid flesh, without searing pain – the anesthetic? The strange thing was he was in his army fatigues and this was no hospital!
Before him stood monumental gates their scrolled iron work giving clear view. He watched as people thronged past. His side seemed strangely empty unbearably lonely, but within life thronged in happy abandon. He grasped at the iron work but a chain held it in place against him. He yelled to let him in, but they shook their heads smiling.
A familiar face wended through the throng.
“Dad!” Father smiled knowing his appearance heralded understanding. It hit Sam like a thunderbolt. Dad reached through the railing.
“It’s OK Sam, you’re not locked out forever, it’s just not your time yet.
“It’s the anaesthetic, an allergic reaction, but they’re fighting for you. If they fail the gate will open. You’ll have your leg here,” he nodded down at the sound limb, no longer a shattered mess of blood and bone.”
“But what about Jan and the kids?”
“You’ll have to wait till they come…” The gate quivered, but he no longer wanted entry, he wanted Jan, to hold the boys in his arms, be there as they grew up…
Darkness enshrouded him once more, all faded to nothingness.
Harsh hospital lights invaded his eyes. The leg was no longer there. It didn’t matter, he told himself, it would be waiting. For now Jan and the boys were more important.
Sunlight glistened on the petals, once her skin had been soft like that, now it was mottled with brown, wrinkled, old. Work had roughened her fingers as care had worn grooves in the once pristine brow.
She chuckled to herself remembering summer days, moonlit nights, of long ago. The years had taken their toll on her; she’d paid the annual tithes of age, now her account was all but empty, little remained of strength or beauty. Yet as age took its yearly toll something had been added, a divine sweetness, long brewed it her heart, burst forth in song as a rare and precious vintage. As flesh slowly withered youth returned, eternal within, a song of love ever new growing in potency.
The hands folded in prayer as she walked amidst the flower gardens wondering at their beauty.
“Mother Teresa!” a young voice sounded, face alight with joy. Bending to embrace the running child ancient arms embraced the future.
She hadn’t wanted to do this. It was too painful. Images flashed before her eyes as she neared the old café. Images of Colin in bed with her best friend, blurs of flesh seen through tears. Kori was hers; there was no disputing that. He could see her weekends, that was only fair, she knew he loved her too. He’d always been a devoted father; she couldn’t fault him in that.
The coffee shop bustled around her as she sought out his table, reassuring in its ambiguity. There he was, she could spot that smile anywhere, though today it was dimmed, without its normal sparkle. Kori burst into rapture.
“Daddy! Daddy,” she squealed fighting the restraining strap of her buggy. He rushed over to release her, clutching her in his arms, tears welling.
“Daddy where you been. I missed you.” The three year old lisped affection broke Lia’s heart. Why did he have to do this, reopen old wounds.
Setting Kori on his lap he looked steadfastly into her eyes.
“We need to talk Lisa.”
“I won’t stop you seeing her. She needs a father. You were always a good dad to her, just not much of a husband.” She sensed the spite on her tongue, the salt on a raw wound but she couldn’t help herself.
His eyes darted warningly at Kori, didn’t want her caught up in all this. Perhaps it had been a mistake to bring her, but what other option did she have; besides a part of her wanted this revenge, to see him suffer. She looked up rebelliously twisting the knife.
Tears welled over, the smile puckered. She felt cruel, vindictive. Why did it have to end this way?
“I told you I’m sorry. I’d do anything to undo what happened that day, anything to make it up to you. We were drunk, I told you…”
“I’ve heard it all before, Colin,” she snapped.
Kori looked up alerted by the catch in his voice. “Daddy, what’s wrong, why are you crying. Shall I sing you a happy song?”
“Nothing’s wrong darlin’ I just missed you and mummy.” He put on a brave smile.
“Hell! Of course “and mummy!” You think I don’t miss you? Every morning when I wake up alone, every time I make a lousy cup of coffee,” a little of his sparkle came back. Most of all I missed those first days when you looked at me with that doggie look, when I was your world … when you found time for me, before you got that God awful job.”
His arrow struck home. She was not entirely blameless. Home late every night too tired to talk, too tired to make love, work obsessed. Not any more, she’d had to quit her job, go part time to care for Kori. Would it have made a difference if she’d been there for him? “Probably not”, she told herself, but deep in her heart she knew. She’d driven him away. The fault was hers too.
Seeing her hesitation he grabbed her hand across the table.
“Lisa, please, I’m not asking you to forgive me, just please let’s try to get back together for Kori’s sake.”
“Kori’s fine with me.”
“You think so?” He glanced down at the anxious toddler, not understanding why her parents seemed so angry. Had she done something wrong?
“She would have been fine if she hadn’t seen you!”
Kori burst into tears. “No, I want to be with daddy. Daddy loves me!” The words sung like acid.
“She doesn’t mean that Lisa. She’s just upset. You love mummy too don’t you Kori? Tell mummy you love her Kori.” He prized her away from his shoulder looking in her eyes, but Kori was not to be placated.
“No, I hate her! She took me away from you! I hate her!” Colin looked up helplessly.
“Kori, listen to me. Daddy did something very bad, that’s why mummy took you away. It’s not mummy’s fault it’s daddy’s.” Eyes were watching over their coffee cups, a hush had fallen on the café. Lisa reddened, humiliated before all the world; their dirty laundry strewn for all to see. Why had she come? Why had she brought Kori?
“I’ve got to go!” she hissed grabbing a screaming Kori from her father’s neck.”
“No, don’t do this Lisa. You’ll regret it forever just like I regret what happened between me and Tansy. Some things you can’t undo.”
“Forgive me for butting in,” their heads swivelled, mouths open, as an elderly waitress set two cups of coffee on the table. “I couldn’t help but hear. It’s not true what you just said young man. Things can be undone. It ain’t easy, I’ll attest to that, but it can be done. Now why don’t you just sit right back down and give the poor mite back to her dad for a bit.” Nodding to a man behind the bar she pulled a chair from an adjoining table. Sitting she waved them to the other seats. Kori had stopped screaming, studying the old lined face. Lisa hesitated, then passed her back to Colin as he took a chair.
“Now you’s all can get back to your coffee, shows over for the day. Give these folks some space.” The waitress looked meaningfully around. Folks pretended to ignore them, resumed their conversations.
“My husband cheated on me once too, well more than once if truth be told.”
“What’s cheating?” a small voice interrupted.
“Why it’s when you play a game and someone doesn’t stick to the rules. You knows what cheating is child.”
“So daddy cheated and that’s why mummy’s mad at him?”
“You’s got it child.”
“But my friend cheats all the time and I forgive her.”
“Of course you do, of course you do, ‘cos she’s your friend right?” Kori nodded. “But some games are more important than others and you’re not supposed to cheat.”
“But daddy did.”
“Right child. Someone cheated on me too, honey and I’ll tell you I was angry just like your mamma, but I had to forgive him. See I didn’t have a job and I had five little ones not just one to take care of.”
“So you forgave him.”
“Yes, child I did. But you know what, that son of a bitch never cheated on me again and he dang well made it up to me. He was the best dam father and husband a mamma could ever want. He learnt his lesson and he was real sorry.” Her eyes shifted back to the man behind the counter and they smiled. There was something in that look that stirred doubt in Lisa’s heart. Could it be that she was wrong?
“See it were my pride that was hurting most. That he’d cheat on me and play games with someone else, that hurt.”
Kori nodded knowingly. “Best friends should always be best friends; they shouldn’t let other kids spoil their game.”
“That’s right honey, best friends are forever.” She turned to Lisa.
“Now I ain’t gonna say no more. Choices is yours to make. But I jus’ want you’ll to know it’s not impossible. It sure ain’t easy, but you got this little one to think of haven’t you.” She nodded at Kori and smiled. “Now don’t you go worrying your head little one. You ain’t done nothing wrong. Your mamma and papa they’s had a fight, but you’s had fights with your friends right?” Kori nodded. “And you’s worked it out, right?” She nodded again.
Colin picked up his cup of coffee and took a sip. “Not bad, but not as good as you make Lisa.” He looked up, “I want you back. I’ll make it up to you I swear.”
“You’re not gonna cheat again are you daddy?” the little face was serious.
“No sweetheart, I’ll never cheat again, daddy was an idiot, a stupid idiot, ‘cause I only really like to play with mama.” He looked into Lisa’s eyes and she felt her heart start to melt.
“I’ll think about it.”
“Good, well that’s a start.”
“And you can have Kori over anytime you want, she needs you.” A sneaking suspicion was forming in Lisa’s heart. She needed him too, needed to know it had been, as he said, a stupid one off thing fuelled by neglect and alcohol, needed to know he loved her the same way he loved Kori, not perfect, but love.
Colin raised his cup. “Here’s to the hope of some decent coffee in the near future.” He winked at the retiring waitress, “No offence, but no one makes it quite like Lisa.”
Hesitantly Lisa raised her own. Kori leant to clink them together spilling some on the table. No one cared, it was just a spill, between they could clean it up.