The Village Without Children

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This is a short story. There is a special woman that comes to a small village with her eye on the children. The story depicts what follows.

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The Village Without Children

There was a village. It was not a town and it was not a city. It was a village. This was a quiet village, as most villages are. But this village had not much else in common with other villages. Because this village had a special lady.

Now, when the word ‘special’ is used, one thinks of bright colors and heroes. But this lady was not that kind of special. She was the darkness kind of special.

Long after the village was established in its mountain cradle, this special woman came along. At first, she made no real impact on the village. She settled into the abandoned mine in the side of the mountain. The quiet people of this quiet town were unsettled by the woman. They didn’t think that an older woman like her should be in such an odd place, but she smiled and said she liked it better there. She said it was easier to hear the children when they woke in the night.

The people were confused by this because she had no children. But she just smiled and said that she once did. She offered to take care of any of the people’s children while they worked or played. She said that she had helped many children be more respectful and obedient.

This special woman sounds like a wonderful woman. But she is not.

Eventually, the quiet people of this quiet village began to enjoy having their quiet compounded by the absence of their children. They gave their children to the special woman and lived their lives.

At first, the parents would get their children when their activity was through, but as time went by, they realized they would rather enjoy life without their children so much. They went from a few hours at a time to a day, and then a day at a time to a week.

Then came the day that the special woman announced that she would take the children in and then return them when they had reached what she called ‘peak obedience.’ The parents were fine with that.

That is where this story picks up.

The special woman had taken in many children. None had yet reached peak obedience.

But this story is not so much about the special woman as it is about a little boy that she took in. This little boy’s name was Timothy. Now, Timothy was one of the first children to stay in the mine because his mother had passed away. His father did not want to take care of this child by himself, so Timothy became the third child to go in the mine.

The doors that the special woman installed in the mine were clear, impenetrable glass. There was one to the outside world, and one that lead inside the mine. The parents would drop their children with the special woman outside the first door. Then, she would go with the child in the second door.

What happened inside, the parent couldn’t say. One might say they were bad parents for this. But can one really call another bad for wanting an easier life? These parents just wanted the freedom they’d had before they were parents.

Timothy knew what happened in that mine. He grew up there. But this story is not a happy one. It is not a scary story, but some might call it disturbing.

Because, as was mentioned before, this special woman was not happy. This woman was disturbed, herself. And she was a little bit magic. Timothy never wondered how the mine was always light and cheery, even though there was no hole for the sun to squeeze through. And the woman never got older, though it might be accredited to the abundance of wrinkles she already had.

But the biggest reason some may not read too far is the way she instilled obedience. There were three at first, two girls and Timothy. They bonded over the time they spent together and what they went through.

The woman tied the girls to a bamboo pole bolted to the ground. Just their hands, but it was still tying two young girls to a stick. Timothy, she handcuffed to a pole a few feet away. And she left them like that.

Did the children know this was so utterly wrong? They knew this was harsh, but could they say it was wrong? They did not know what wrong was. Wrong, nowadays, is determined by what others do and approve of. Since these children knew only this way of life, how could they know this was completely abusive? They knew they didn’t like it.

The girls were older than Timothy, but he grew up a lot faster than them. Perhaps it was these first few years with the girls that made him what he was later. Maybe it was the fact that they were girls that made him feel so responsible for their safety. Whatever the case, Timothy grew up because their well-being was resting on his shoulders.

Timothy did not like being handcuffed to the stick. But even less did he like looking at the girls tied to their pole. The older one was a brunette, and her blue eyes were always sadder than her smile made her look. She was beautiful, but Timothy didn’t know that’s what it was. The other girl was a redhead. Her many freckles made him smile, and she always had a story to tell to help him not be sad.

Timothy was getting older and bigger, and he realized that the girls were getting tired. The special woman always told them to listen to her, that she was doing what was best for them. That they were learning from her. But what set Timothy’s mind working was when she told them that they could go home when they obeyed her completely.

Timothy had not known that this was not his home. He wondered if the girls had known. No, they told him, they had not thought about it.

Now, Timothy thought of this home every time he was handcuffed to that stick. He thought about it while he disobeyed the special woman, and she got mad. He thought about it while he was falling asleep. He thought about it when they had to make room for new children. He thought about it when he watched the special woman discipline them. Their homes out there were always on his mind.

Outside the mine, the parents were beginning to wonder if they should not be taking better care of their children. One couple hired a detective to see what was going on inside the mine. The detective tried to ask the woman questions, but she only said that since he had no children for her to train, she would not speak to him.

But this detective was a determined man, and he was set on making sure that these kids were alright. He was a compassionate and caring man, and if he thought something was off, he would pursue it until he was satisfied.

The special woman did not take into account how determined he was. One night, he snuck into the mine. Timothy woke when the detective’s flashlight shone in his face. He had never seen a man before.

The detective was appalled, and he immediately set about freeing the children. They all stood about, not sure what to do. Had the detective went for help, he might not have ended up in the situation he did, and our story would have been over promptly. But he poked around, getting evidence.

That was how the special woman found him. She snuck up on him with a piece of cloth in her hand. Timothy was trailing the detective, shadowing him, interested by what he was doing. Perhaps that is why he felt so guilty afterward.

The woman came up behind them. Timothy noticed her, but failed to alert the detective. The detective struggled for a moment as the cloth was shoved over his nose and mouth, but the woman was strong with the strength of the unnatural. A few seconds later, the detective was on the ground. Timothy was frightened.

The woman told them all to go back to their poles. But Timothy was thinking about their homes. This man had come from there, he just knew it. But how had he come?

Timothy got his answer when he secretly followed the special woman as she walked away. She took the cloth with her to a clear door. Timothy was shut off, but he could see through the door. He saw the village down below. He knew that was home. He just had to get there.

He did not know that the woman was going down so that no one would bother her in her work again. Every parent in the village forgot that night. They forgot any doubts they’d had.

When the woman came back, the children were standing uncertainly around. Timothy watched from beside the girls as the detective was dragged into what used to be a storage closet. The woman did not mention the man. She just tied or handcuffed them back up. But Timothy would not let the matter pass.

Perhaps it was nerves about the unease of the parents in the village. Perhaps it was the detective in her closet. Whatever it was, the special woman did not lock the handcuffs tightly about his wrists as usual.

The girls listened to his idea. The brunette was excited. The redhead was wary. Timothy promised he would get them through, out to their homes and parents. The girls agreed because children want their parents.

That night, once the special woman was in her room, the three put the plan into action. Timothy slipped out of the cuffs and untied the girls.

Why did he not go to the other children? Timothy had incredible protective instincts, but these children were too new. He did not know them. He had to protect the girls, first.

They made it to the exit, and the redhead rushed out with excitement. The brunette, however, saw that Timothy was not running out.

Why are you stopping? she wondered.

Timothy was thinking of the detective. The detective was a nice man, and he did not deserve to be left here.

I’m sorry, Timothy said, but I kept my promise. Go to your home. I need to stay here.

The brunette wanted to help her friend that was more like a brother, but she could not bear to stay with the special woman. In this, Timothy was brave and strong. The brunette gave him a hug and pushed open the doors.

When the girls showed up to their parents houses, they discovered something they could not puzzle out until they were grown. Time passed differently in the mine than it did in their village. How could this be? The woman was very special.

But their parents welcomed them back. The girls were the only children in the village until they were grown. See, when the woman came out to make the parents forget, she established a tradition in the town. No one thought anything of leaving their children with her. They liked to party.

How did no one think it odd that their children never came out? Magic is a tricky thing, and sometimes, things that seem clear to others become muddy and confusing to those under its spell.

Why did the girls not tell what they had experienced? Of course they did. But no one believed them. Their parents told them not to talk about it, that they were imagining things. They did not want to be the parents of crazy children. They told the girls they would send them back if they talked about it. This frightened the girls, and as much as they wanted to save the children in the mine, they were more scared of going back.

Do not blame these young girls for the decision they made. They were scared and alone in a village of ignorance. They stayed together and spoke between themselves about the mine and Timothy.

Timothy had gone back to his stick and put the cuffs back on, but not before visiting the detective. He saw that a rectangle had been cut out of the bottom of the door. But the door was locked, and he had no key, so Timothy retreated to the stick.

The special woman was very angry when she woke to find the two girls gone. From that moment, she changed the form of her lessons.

Perhaps it was the girls. Perhaps it was the detective. Either way, the children were not always tied to the poles anymore.

Instead, she locked them in their bedroom at night. In the morning, they had to be in their desks by the time she rang her bell, or they were punished with the poles. The amount of children inside the mine grew, but they never ran out of space.

Timothy was now the second oldest. How? Well, some people had moved into the village with an older kid. He adapted much quicker to the lessons than the others. How could this be, since he had known the outside world? He wanted to go back, so he obeyed and listened so that he might reach her peak obedience and leave.

Timothy thought he would never reach that, and he was okay with it. He thought the special woman was bad. He helped the other children, and she said that was bad. Timothy thought this was good, so he did not stop.

When someone stole two slices of bread, Timothy said it had been him. When someone left their bed unmade, Timothy said that he had messed it up. His wrists were bruised from how much he lay next to that bamboo stick.

One thing Timothy never let the woman know was that he knew about the detective. He never told her that he knew she still kept him in that dark closet. He never told her that he knew she fed him twice every month. He never told her that he saw her leave one bottle of water twice a month, too.

Timothy didn’t know if the detective was sick, but Timothy knew that he got really hungry when he couldn’t eat while he was on the pole. So every other day, he didn’t eat his dinner. When the woman was in her room, he picked the lock on the bedroom door, something he had learned from trial and error.

Then, he slid his cold meal through the rectangle. He couldn’t steal the dishes, for the woman counted them every night. So he could never give the detective water. But Timothy gave him the moistest foods he could. He was hungry a lot, but he thought the detective must be even hungrier.

After a while, Timothy got to know one little kid very well. This was the only kid who wore a colored shirt. It was a dark, colorful blue. It hung off his skinny frame, making his dark hair stick out when he pulled it over his head. He was always late because he was clumsy and spent too much time making his bed.

What could Timothy say to make up for this kid’s tardiness? Nothing. So Timothy made the kid go ahead, staying behind to make both their beds. Sometimes he made it okay, but mostly he was late. After you were late three times, you had to go to the pole.

All the kids knew that Timothy would do all that he could to protect them. However, there was one more person Timothy liked as much as the kid in the blue shirt. It was a little girl. She was stubborn and defiant. Her brown eyes were always on fire, and her black hair always messy. Timothy liked her because she was dreaming of bigger things.

Timothy thought a long time about all the kids in the mine. He wondered if there was a way for him to get them out. It took him a long time, but he eventually got an idea. After the detective came in, the woman had taken to locking the doors. They could only be opened from the inside with a key.

One night, Timothy snuck out of the bedroom and took one of the keys. Of course, the woman immediately noticed, and demanded to know who took it. Timothy admitted to it, but he said that he had lost the key.

Actually, it was hidden with different children each night so that the woman would never find it. Timothy was handcuffed to the pole for an entire week. The woman was very angry. The only thing Timothy could think was that the detective was not getting food.

It was worth it to Timothy, though, because now the kids could get back to their parents. Once a month, Timothy took one or two children to the door and let them out. The woman was very, very angry, but she could not figure out how the children were getting out.

And then something awful happened.

The woman finally had had enough. She changed the locks and the only other key was given to the oldest boy, who she allowed to go out for errands. Timothy, of course, found out right away when he tried to get the kids out. He tried to pick the lock, but it was much more complicated than the bedroom’s lock. He was forced to admit defeat.

One of the children that had been in that group was Timothy’s black-haired favorite. She would not stand for this any longer. She was too high-spirited to endure the special woman’s lessons. She snuck away and stole the oldest boy’s key. Timothy woke and followed her. He came upon a scary scene.

The girl was in between the two doors, but the woman had caught her. The oldest boy, hoping to convince the woman that he was ready to leave, had informed the special woman of the theft.

Without thinking, Timothy dove into the mess. He knocked the woman over, and she let go of the girl as she tried to catch herself. Timothy pushed the girl out the door, but was held back by the woman, who was in a rage.

Never had she had such a disobedient boy, she said. He needed to learn his lesson once and for all.

Now, this next part is unclear. The woman did not touch Timothy. She didn’t whisper a curse over him. She just took the oldest boy by the arm and shut the door tightly behind her. Timothy was left in the space between, alone.

Now, switching gears, the village was beginning to stir from its trance. The children that escaped with Timothy’s help were telling stories, disturbing stories. It was one thing when two young girls claimed something, it was another when dozens of little voices were echoing them.

The parents were beginning to doubt the wisdom of leaving their children again. Less and less were making the journey up to the mine. More and more were beginning to wonder where their children were.

Timothy’s father was the first to have a real change of heart. He trudged up the mountainside and kept a constant vigil at the door, demanding his boy back. He pounded at the glass, commanding the special woman come out and give him Timothy.

The oldest boy was the only thing that interrupted the rave. He came in and out without a word. Timothy’s father tried to get through the door, but the oldest boy would not take the blame and was always very careful.

For one thing, Timothy was, at that time, right there in between the doors. Why did he not stand and shout at his father? As said before, it is unclear exactly what the woman did to him, but after she left, all Timothy could do was sit against the wall in the constant shadow. The light was slowly fading from his eyes, and he watched his father from a few feet away without emotion.

All the children missed Timothy when one by one, they had to visit the pole. The little boy in the blue shirt missed Timothy as he fiddled with his handcuffs. The detective missed Timothy when he began to hunger again.

Then, one day, when the light had finally disappeared from Timothy, the woman told the oldest boy to open the door.

Timothy had reached peak obedience, she told the boy.

The oldest boy was relieved; he was always guilt-ridden when he had to pass Timothy on his way out. He had liked Timothy.

Timothy’s father scooped his son into his arms and ran down into the village.

It was not long, though, before Timothy’s father began noticing how strange his son was. Timothy never did anything until he was told to.

He sat in the old recliner, staring, until Timothy’s father said, Timothy, come eat.

Timothy ate his food, and sat staring at his plate until his father said, Timothy, go wash your dishes. Then, he washed the dishes and went back to the recliner.

The only thing Timothy had ever done without being asked was cut a rectangle in the bottom of the door of the closet next to his recliner.

He sat staring at it until he was told to do something. The only expression he ever showed was when a person in blue walked in the room. Then, Timothy would sigh.

Timothy’s father was stricken with his son’s behavior. All the parents in the village came to see Timothy. Each was horrified with what the special woman considered the finished product. More and more parents made the trek up the mountain to protest.

At last, the final set of parents had seen Timothy and decided they wanted their children back. When every parent in the village had chosen to raise their children themselves, trouble or not, the special woman disappeared. She was just suddenly not there.

The children were confounded to find her empty dress at the desk early one morning. The oldest boy seized the moment immediately. He told all the kids in the room to go to the doors at once and gave them the key. He stayed behind to free the children on the poles.

When the river of children came from the mine, the parents claimed their own and fled to their homes. The oldest boy was the last to come out, having made sure that all the children, every one was out of the mine. Once the mine was empty, it collapsed upon itself, the dust flying out and settling far across the mountainside.

Timothy’s father had five important visitors soon thereafter. Having heard of Timothy’s condition, there were some people that came to help. They came in to find him as he always was, staring at that hole in the closet door.

The first visitors were a pair of young women. One was a brunette, one a redhead. They had grown older in the timeline different from the woman’s. They had moved far away to raise their two girls, and their husbands had understood.

But now they had returned to remember that little boy that had helped them so long ago. He was not much older than he had been, and his hand was small compared to the ones they laid on it.

Timothy’s blank expression eased for a moment as he looked into their faces, but he went back to staring at the closet door a moment later.

Then, another girl came up, a black-haired spirit. She knelt down and held Timothy’s hand. Timothy’s expression eased a little bit more, but he returned to the closet door again.

A little boy in a blue shirt came up to him next and touched the hand that lay on the chair’s arm. Timothy’s expression was almost like his old self when he looked at the boy and sighed, but he still returned to the closet door.

Finally, there was a man. He was very skinny, and he held a bottle of water tightly as he leaned on the cane. Instead of going to Timothy, however, the man shuffled to the closet.

The group stared as he shuffled in and shut the door. Timothy’s father was about to go open the door when Timothy stood.

Timothy’s father held his breath at the boy’s action. Timothy didn’t look at his guests. When he came to the door, he stopped for a moment. Then, he lifted a trembling hand and opened it. The detective smiled as the light shone on his face.

Thank you, son, he said, his voice rusty from lack of use.

Timothy’s mask finally broke completely as he said with an equally raspy voice, thank you.

Then, Timothy turned to the people gathered on the rug. He hugged the two girls. He hugged the two children. He clung to his father.

So Timothy ended up saving everyone from that wretched, special woman, whether through helping them escape or opening the eyes of their parents. No one in that village ever allowed magic to come between them again. The mine remained collapsed for as long as the village stood.

What happened to Timothy, one may ask? The story does not extend that far, but it must be supposed that he protected everyone he could until the end of his days.

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