Waifs

Fiction By Sarah // 1/11/2011

"Please, sir? A bit of food?" I ignored the child's pleas and outstretched hands and walked on. On to the next starving child, on to deny even the acknowledgement of its existence. Why weren't the beggars ever adults? It would make this simpler. Despondently, it sank to the ground, incapable of following me, it would wait for the next passerby. I was good at ignoring them, though at first I tried wildly to assist each and every one of the ethereally thin waifs I encountered. Now I knew better, looked through them like everyone else did. I discovered this the hard way. On every world I visited for years I tried to help them and found it impossible.  If you acknowledged their presence, they would never leave a person alone.  At least I assumed that held true for all people. I'd never actually met anyone else who could see them, though, and the one psychiatrist I talked to had promptly put me in a psychiatric hospital once I told her about the waifs. That was centuries ago, though. I walked straight through the crowd, mostly waifs, of course; jostling and pushing each other as they tried to reach the best locations they could within the reaches of their individual chains, but scattering every time a person walked through. A tiny child so small once I would have wondered it could even walk appeared in front of me. It said nothing until I drew closer, its eyes huge and sad, I could not help but notice even as I stared through it.
"I'm so hungry." it said, and my heart skipped a little bit. I nearly slowed my pace but kept walking, she moved aside at the last possible second. She. I mentally kicked myself for noticing gender, or anything to make them stick in my memory. Just as I stepped past her - it, I reminded myself sternly - I heard a whimper.
“Why won't you look at us? You won't even see us!" Not until my guide, several yards ahead cleared his throat impatiently, did I realize I had stopped in the middle of the walkway.
"Sir, is there a problem?" I looked up at his quizzical expression and forced my clenched hands to relax and smiled.
"Oh, I'm fine, just lost in thought." I gestured with my hand and supressed a wince as my hand - to my senses at least - went through the head of a taller child who had appeared next to the first little girl.
"It's so....striking here."  
“Please help us." I jumped involuntarily and tried to turn it into an energetic stepping out.
"Can we go into the house? I wish to rest after my journey." My guide smiled, white teeth gleaming in a genuine smile, relieved, I was sure, to see some normalcy in the odd guest to whom he had been assigned. I sighed and thought longingly of a bed I could lie in without huge, sad eyes staring at me, something I had only managed in a SkipDrive cabin in the coolness of space.
I followed the guide to a quiet cabin room which, astonishingly, had no thin, starvelling children lurking in corners. Two silent porters set my heavy case next to the one, slim bed in the room, and I noted with satisfaction that my requests had all been noted. The room was a pale gray, the bed narrow with a firm matress, and I was almost certain the sheets were even the thread count I requested. I peered around every corner in the room, checking the closets and bathrooms and couldn't find any waifs. Anywhere. I was stymied! I crossed the main room to the nearest window and looked out. There were two waifs sitting about ten feet away under a tree; they looked up expectantly as the window opened and their hands immediately were held out.
"Please, we need food!" I shut the window with an abrupt snap and went to the window on the opposite side. This time I did not open it and barely twitched the curtains to peek out. There were more waifs on that side, the East side, I noted, and they were all about ten feet away from the side of the house. I scratched my head.
"I wonder..." I said aloud.
"Can I answer a question for you, Sir?" I jumped and fell off the divan. The porters began to laugh behind raised sleeves, and the older, more dignified guide shot them a scathing look that instantly silenced the two youths.
"I am sorry!" I exclaimed,
"I forgot you were here."  The guide smiled politely, I could tell he was thoroughly tired of my eccentricities to which he had been privy through our two week journey together.
"May we be of further assistance to you, Sir?" I shook my head.
"Thank you, no." The guide and porters bowed in their peculiar way at once and filed out the door.
"Wait!" I sprang to my feet and raced outside to follow them.
"Sir?" the guide couldn't quite hide his disappointment at being detained, again.
"Is there something special about this place you put me to stay in?" The guide smiled.
"Yes, it for visitors because it is special, haunted, I believe is your term for it. Guests find it quite exciting." I burst out laughing harder than I could remember doing before. I sat down on a stump and gave way to my merriment. The guide looked concerned.
"Oh, I'm fine. " I waved him away.
"You're dismissed. And stop calling me sir! I am actually a ma'am."
"But all people are sir!" he exclaimed before walking away down the path, leaving me alone outside the 'haunted' guest house. A group of waifs rose out of the ground, ankles chained to an unseen location.
"Please...." they began, but I rose sharply to my feet and walked quickly into the house without changing my expression as more began to congregate around where I had been sitting. I slammed the door and sat down on the bed.
"Haunted, huh?" I mused.
"How odd... that this would be the one place on over ten planets I've been to that there are no waifs." I looked around the room, relishing the feeling of actually being alone for the first time in two centuries, and lay back on the bed. So this is what it felt like to be normal! To not see the waifs everywhere. It was both surprisingly nice, and lonely feeling at the same time. I pulled my datapad out of my pocket and opened a new itinerary sheet, my fingers dancing over the illuminated touch buttons.
"Visit other 'haunted' places on this planet." I typed quickly.
"try to discover anything special about them and analyze."

Comments

Will there be any other

Will there be any other installments of this? I found it really interesting.

E | Tue, 01/11/2011

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

strange

This is intriguing, eerie, fascinating and odd, all at the same time. And I mean that as a compliment! My only two requests would be 1) put in some paragraph breaks, at least where different people speak--it's easier to read that way, and 2) please write more!

LoriAnn | Tue, 01/11/2011

Ditto!

Ditto!

Anna | Tue, 01/18/2011

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

^_^

Erin: There will be more installements, yes.

LoriAnn: I've edited it further! Yay me!! And thanks for the compliment, that was precisely the effect I hoped it would have.

Anna: HI! haha. Thanks.

Sarah | Wed, 01/19/2011

"Sometimes even to live is courage."
-Seneca

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