|“I don’t know what my life would have been had I not chosen that day so long ago to venture down to the river; though I expect that it would have been lonely and uneventful until the day that I died. It was an hour’s walk and not something that I normally would have done so close to nightfall, especially since the air was developing a chill which warned bitterly of the coming winter. Perhaps it was fate that sent me on the unnecessary journey, and perhaps it was merely a happy coincidence that the one spot in which I could usually find at least a moment’s peace from my rambling mind was the very spot that I found her.
She was so small. She could not have been a half a year old, and she was so, so thin. She didn’t cry, probably she was too weak from hunger and exposure, and if it hadn’t been for the sound of a rattle snake hiding somewhere in the piles of rock, I might have simply stepped on her before I noticed her there. At the sound of the snake’s warning, I took a step back and looked down. What I saw there startled me much more than any snake with barred fangs would ever have. She appeared to be dead, and forgetting the snake for the moment I knelt down to examine her. I could count every rib in her small body, and she was as pale as the foam which gathers under the waterfall down the river. As I touched her tiny twig of an arm, she opened her eyes, took a small, labored breath, and closed them, becoming once more deathly still.
Realizing that the child was, in fact, alive, I immediately gathered her in my arms and began to wrap her in some of the clothes that I had brought to wash. She was feathers in my arms. The way that she seemed to weigh so little as to almost be unsubstantial was very surreal. She could have been a ghost wrapped in a dirty blouse. I looked back in the direction of my house and decided that instead of making the trip back there with this desperate wisp of a girl, I would make my way to the only other house within at least fifty miles.
Mr. Tain was my only neighbor. He lived alone in a shack that was substantially more deteriorated than the cabin in which I resided. Mine was the beautiful cabin which my father had built for my mother. He meticulously built the house to my mother’s exact specification some ten years before I was even born. He had counted it as one of his greatest accomplishments, because of the joy which it brought to my mother, and later my sister and I.
The small shack in which Mr. Tain lived looked like it has been around since the ancients walked the earth. Perhaps that is an over-exaggeration, but I would not be surprised if the house has been standing much longer than Mr. Tain has been alive. That is saying something. He is an angry old miser whom I have always avoided as much as possible. Since he lived a good distance away from me, and he seemed to desire the company of others as much as an insect desires the company of a spider, that had never been a difficult task. However, Tain’s cabin was over half a mile closer than my own, and I felt that the child needed to be tended to as quickly as possible.
In a frantic race against the child’s dwindling heartbeat, I made it to Mr. Tain’s cluttered shack more quickly than I had thought possible. I almost stumbled on a disheveled pile of hunting equipment as I crashed into the door and began to beat on the weathered wood.
“Tain! Please open the door!” I called out as I continued to knock. After a few moments the door few open to reveal a bear of a man whose beared face was contorted into the meanest of scowl.
“What are you doing here?” Alexander Tain growled.
“Please, I need your help! I found her by the river and I think she’s dying.” I plead as I hold the baby out with both arms. “Can you help her?”
“What do you mean you found her by the river? How did that thing get there in the first place, did you ever wonder that? Look at it, so pale and sickly; probably has some kind of disease and was thrown away before the little beast could spread it around. Just drop her in the woods somewhere on your way back home!” Tain shouted as he slammed the door.
“She will die!” I yell at the door. “You’re a healer! It is your responsibility to do something!” Suddenly the door flew open and crashed into the wall behind it with such force that the whole structure shook. Tain was livid. His brown eyes were blazing with anger, and his pale green skin seemed to darken two shades.
“Get off of my land! If I ever catch you up here again I will shoot you!” Tain screamed, but before he slammed the door this time he dropped a small, dusty jar on the grass by my feet. “Mix it with water. Do not come back.” The sound of something glass breaking inside the house made me jump as I picked up the jar. I unscrewed the rusty lid and found that the jar was filled with white powder. It smelled pungent and medicinal, and was very fine.