I Remember Mamlaurea
The little boy wakes up from his bed, eyes puffy from crying in the night. There’s hay in his hair- he can feel it dangling and sticking. He reaches up to rub his eyes again, and does so, and cries out in pain without a sound, the echo of his agony clanging against the outer reaches of his empty skull.
Not Academy, they said. Never school, they said. He sticks a grimy foot in a worn slipper and yawns.
One day, he’s going to tell people he is too good for yawning. Superior body. Superior brain. Someday there’s going to be stuff in his empty head. Too much stuff to waste time crying. So much stuff, he might even forget why. Imagine, forgetting his name one day! Preposterous.
So he gets up, plonks one foot in front of the other and looks for his other slipper under the stuffy bed.
His hand quivers as he reaches for his bedding, slumping there in a pile beside the bed post. Maybe with his foot, he can...
But no. No looking. She said not to, the lady last night. The nice lady under the bed. Oh, that face will give him nightmares. He remembers as he touches his foot. He remembers that she petted him, like a proper mum would have.
So he doesn’t look for his other slipper. Instead, he smiles, and waits for the knocking that will signify the only joy he gets out of his day.
Koschei should be by soon.
And he waits.
So he blinks and swears and cracks his neck, because his neck is suddenly cold, and he thinks maybe he should look out of doors for Koschei’s knock, in case it was too lazy to come in, like Koschei sometimes is.
He’s always telling Koschei to come in the whole way, not just half. But Koschei’s father doesn’t like him. Says he’s stupid and dirty.
But Koschei says his father is stupid and dirty for not liking him.
But the little boy thinks maybe he’s just sad. So he cries for him. And he cries for Koschei. And he cries for the people who don’t like him. And the people who don’t like them. And he cries because he’s stupid. And has an empty head.
He should really get back to Koschei’s knock, or he’ll start it up again, the crying. The nice lady wouldn’t like that.
But he thinks she would understand.
Nobody else does. Not even Koschei.
He balls his fist on the bedcover and sniffs a mighty dribble of snot back up into his nose. Quite an accomplishment, at his age.
But none of that matters.
Because Koschei isn’t here. He didn’t see it.
So the little boy tugs on his old brown coat and ambles to the barn door, cutting himself only twice on a nail hidden in the hay, because his right foot hadn’t the benefit of a slipper. He knocks four times, then reaches for the big wooden bar and lets himself out.