Sara is a summer writer excited to throw her fiction at the world and see where it sticks. She is the author of dystopian thriller The Night Butterflies and blogs on happiness and hope at www.rightinkonthewall.com, which is also home to her editing business and publishing division, RIW Press – all aim to make the right mark on the wall of the world.
Born in the English midlands, Sara earned a Masters in Theology at the University of Cambridge before becoming a reluctant big-four accountant in London. She is now recovering in the southern hemisphere where she devotes herself to all things words and wonderful from her base in Middle Earth (sometimes known as New Zealand).
Here’s a sample of Sara’s writing — a creepy story about bureaucracy in the afterlife…
Why She Goes Back
The girl perched on the edge of the sofa and rocked the little bundle in her short arms, back and forth, back and forth. I glanced out the open window at the brilliant sun shining down on the bright, green grass. Another bluebird day. The faint laughter of children floated in on the breeze.
I turned back to the waif in my office, giving her my full attention. I couldn’t tell how old she was. She was just young, too young. So little. Her dank, blonde hair was swept back in a messy ponytail away from her grey, hollow face. Milky-blue eyes stared vacantly across the room. I couldn’t bear to study the bruises on her arms, those short, emaciated limbs that never stopped moving, always rocking the bundle back and forth, back and forth. The bruises looked like fingerprints.
“You know that you are safe here,” I said softly, as I always said.
She gazed at me blankly. “Yes.”
I kept my voice steady and gentle, as they’d trained me. “You know that you never have to go back. You can go outside and play with the other children.”
A narrow-eyed stare, a sinister shadow flitting across those pale eyes in their sunken sockets. But only for a second before they glazed over once more.
“Why do you go back?” I asked gently.
Most of the children never went back. Some went back once or twice but then settled here in peace.
The child sat in silence. We’d only just realised she was going through the door. The others came back crying from an excess of love or an excess of hate. We helped them. This one had been slipping through to the other side silently and coming back the same way. It had only been an off-feeling when I saw her in the corridor that day that gave me a clue. She could have been doing it for years.
Time to try another tack. “Can I hold her?”
A hiss. And those small, thin hands grasped on like claws. I shouldn’t have asked; she never let the bundle go.
“Okay, that’s okay.”
The rocking resumed. I chewed my lip.
“She thinks she can forget us.”
My breath caught. Finally… I leaned forward and nodded in encouragement.
“The first time I went back, I thought she might not have noticed we’d gone.”
I nodded, holding my breath like fragile porcelain.
“She had found us. She was screaming and crying. If she cared, why didn’t she look after us? Why didn’t she stop us going?”
I shook my head, mute. I heard too many horror stories here, too many.
“She was always with the needle. Even when we cried. If she noticed us she shook us. Then sometimes she’d be sorry and scoop us up and cuddle us. But then she’d forget us again.”
The child stopped rocking a moment, bewilderment in all the lines of her body, in the tone of her treble voice. “She threw away the needles when we were gone. She went into the hospital and stopped taking the needle and changing. Why didn’t she do that before?”
I cleared my throat gently. “Why do you go back?”
“Later when I went back, she was all clean. Her cheeks were pink and rosy. She was wearing new clothes. There was a man with her. I waited until she was sleeping. When I woke her up, her face was white, white, white.”
My hands shook. Her face was so blank. A mask. There must be a way to reach her. “How did you wake her up?”
She tilted her head. “When I pinch her, she cries.”
She stuck a hand into the bundle and it screamed.
I threw out an arm and half rose out of my chair. “No! Don’t do that!”
She withdrew her hand and threw off the mask, giving me that slit-eyed, narrow look, and her voice changed. “You can’t stop me. You can’t take her off me. She came with me.”
I sat back down in my chair. The wailing stopped and the rocking resumed.
“Why do you go back?” I whispered.
“Every time I went back, I’d wait until she was sleeping and wake her up. And she’d be white. And sometimes she’d be crying. But then the man would wake up and he’d hold her. He’d scoop her up like she scooped us up sometimes. And she’d be quiet and she’d sleep. Then sometimes she stopped hearing when I tried to wake her up. I’d pinch and pinch and pinch and nothing would happen.”
How had she ended up here? Was it because they’d come through together? Because she’d come through blank? The ones… The ones we couldn’t help didn’t ever come here. They went somewhere else. Somewhere with locks on the doors.
I swallowed and shifted in my seat. “Why do you go back?”
The girl looked down at the bundle, almost absentmindedly. “She barely hears us at all anymore. Her tummy has gotten big.”
“Honey,” I said. “It must hurt so much to go back and see her. Maybe you should stop going back for a while.”
She looked at me wide-eyed, as though I were insane. When she spoke, it was as if she were trying to explain something very simple to a child.
“She thinks she can forget us.”
She got up and walked towards the door. I didn’t know what to do. There was no one I could ask for help. I had died and I had been sent here, to comfort them, to help them grieve, to transition them to this place of peace. If we discovered that they were going back, we found out why and then we helped them heal. I stared at the door that closed behind her.
I let her go back to her room. What else could I do? I couldn’t lock the door. I couldn’t stop her going back.
The next day I sent for her. I had to try something. I had to convince her to stay here, in the world where she belonged. If she wouldn’t then I’d have to get a message through to the other place somehow. Have her taken to the rooms with locks on the doors. Even if that meant the baby would have to go too.
She was in the office when I got there, facing the window.
“Hi,” I said. “Let’s not talk about going back today. Let’s talk about all the things that you can do here.”
“That’s okay,” she said. “I don’t need to go back anymore. I got what I went back for. She won’t forget this time.”
She turned around and the world faded away. She was holding two bundles.