The Child's Voice
The townspeople gathered around the twisted tabloid in a hushed whisper, Arthur took a deep breath and turned towards the crowd and an eerie silence fell over them. The women held their children’s hands and the father with stern faces eyed those watching – as if to spot the perpetrator themselves. Arthur eyed the group and after a brief moment his eyes met those of the farmer Jacob Blakely, the victim’s father. Jacob’s eyes began welling up with tears as Arthur gave a slow reluctant nod confirming the farmers suspicions; that the naked boy strung behind him was in fact his son. The crowd began to stir again, reading the exchange between the two, before Arthur spoke to them.
“Charlie Blakely was murdered this morning.” He let the news wash over the crowd. He watched some women gasp as the news trickled through the crowd like melting snow down a frozen waterfall, as if the boy behind him wasn’t proof enough. The elderly made up a fair portion of their little Hamlet, some of them were much too old to be of any use and after the word was carried to those too blind or deaf to understand, he continued. He stopped for a moment considering what to say next and found himself at a loss for words, so instead he opted for the logistics of the hours to follow first and foremost.
“I need volunteers to help clean up the square and a few to help Jacob with his son.” He said nervously.
With the weight of a young boys death on their minds a fair number of offers were put out to aid the township and its people. After the duties had been assigned Arthur swallowed hard and reassured the townspeople with what little comfort he could muster and after a brief moment of silence for the young boy the crowd dissipated silently.
Over the past 2 months they had lost almost a dozen men, women and children. Arthur was without the words to console the families of the departed and instead decided to go about his business. The previous mayor was among the first victims and Arthur, being a simple wood cutter, was only chosen because he was one of the few in the town that could read and write, something his father had insisted upon at an early age. Since his reluctant acceptance of the position he not only lost many friends in the village, but also lost a great deal of respect.
When he rounded the corner of the square he stopped and crouched between Edwards barn and Ms. Margery’s house and wept. The image of the young boys lifeless eyes darted behind his own and for a few minutes he considered just going back home. He knew what the town needed him to be and he knew that if he was not able to be the strength, then this village would crumble under its own sorrow. He eventually wiped his eyes and turned to see a young boy standing at the far side of the simple wood covered alleyway. He let out a weak smile towards the boy who smiled back.
Arthur waved the boy over and the he nervously approached.
“Why are you crying?” the young boy asked Arthur.
Arthur was taken aback by the boy’s sincerity which humbled him earnestly so much so that he had to take a deep breath to keep himself from tearing up again.
“You’re a perceptive boy, yes?” Arthur managed to say with a smile, a short step back from the emotional thoughts that swam around his mind. The young boy just nodded, a large smile on his filth covered face.
“Well… I’m crying because I’m…..because I don’t know what to do.” Arthur said honestly. “I want so much to make sure everyone is safe in our little town, but no matter what I do……some people still get hurt.” Arthur felt a great sense of relief confiding his true feelings to this young boy and then felt immediately guilty for burdening a small child with such honest emotion but the boy remained smiling.
After a long pause Arthur looked at the boy’s face again, this time studying it, the details of which felt oddly familiar; then his heart sank. Tears began to well in Arthurs eyes again as he continued.
“…and because I couldn’t save you Charlie.” The pale white figure standing before him dissipated into the air as Arthur stood up, wiping the tears from his eyes. He stood in the dark alley for a few minutes thinking about the events that had transpired. Months of this and not a single indication of its stopping. Arthur turned back towards the empty alley and spoke to the vacant space where the boy once stood.
“It will not happen again.” Arthur said as if the matter were settled. He brushed the mud off his hands and headed straight towards the Doctor’s house with purpose.