by Sybil Cameron
The boy was holding a clear plastic cube so close to his face italmost touched his nose. The cube was solid except at the centerwhere a tiny lion was suspended in a springing position facing a redhoop. When the cube was tilted to the side, a small metal bar droppedinto position and the lion appeared to jump through the hoop. It wasthe hoop that actually moved but the effect was the same. A tilt inthe opposite direction reset the simple mechanism. It was the boy'smost treasured possession.
He was crouched in a corner, as far away as he could get from thesounds coming from the next room. He tilted the cube from side toside and stared fixedly into it. He had discovered that, if heconcentrated really hard on the lion's movement, he could block outthe sounds of violence that had been a part of his life for as longas he could remember. He was reaching out now for that wall ofsilence but it was getting harder for him to see the lion in the dimlight of early evening. The angry voice from the other room gotlouder. The boy kept tilting the cube, but there were tears now andall he could see was a dim blur. He heard the familiar sounds ofblows being struck, muffled cries, then the slamming of a door. Theboy wrapped his arms tightly around his knees, pushed himself furtherinto the corner, and tried to make himself smaller. The cube fell tothe floor. The bar dropped. The lion jumped through the hoop.
It seemed a long time before the boy's mother came into his room.Hopelessness, the product of years of abuse, was evident in herposture as well as on her bruised face. She looked at the small,huddled form of her son. Although he had not been physically beatenthis time, he looked as though he had been spared nothing. A spark ofdefiance ignited within her. She could not let this continue! Thememory of the brutal punishment she had received for her last attemptto leave threatened her resolve. He said he would kill her next time.She believed he would. She weighed the risks and made herdecision.
They managed to remain hidden for almost two years. She made asafe haven for them in a dingy little apartment in one of the poorestsections of the city. They had very little except each other but itwas enough. Slowly, they had begun to heal. The boy no longer feltthe need to block out the world behind a wall of silence but he keptthe cube with him always, just in case. The experiences in his shortlife had not taught him to trust that he would remain safe.
The cube was in the boy's hand the day the man found them as theywalked home from the drugstore. He pushed them into an alley, a knifeflashed and the boy's mother slumped to the ground. The knife flashedagain although there was no need - the woman was already dead. Theman grabbed the boy, his son, roughly by the shoulder.
"You will not tell anyone about this, do you hear", he said coldlyand clearly. "You will never say anything to anyone, ever."
The man started to walk away, dragging the boy with him. The boymade an inarticulate sound through a throat that felt as if it hadfrozen shut, then broke free and fled down the alley into thedarkness. The cube in his hand tilted with the motion of his flight.The bar dropped. The lion jumped through the hoop.
. . .
In the tunnels below the city, a secret world provided refuge formany who had fled, wounded, from the world above. Today, a specialchild was being welcomed into that world.
"I've named my son Jacob", Vincent said.
A murmur of approval greeted his words and the face of the elderJacob, the one everyone called Father, showed how deeply he wastouched by the honor. He looked with pride at his small namesakenestled securely in Vincent's arms. Vincent's joy in his son was veryapparent but Father knew that the heart of that gentle being helduntold grief and pain as well as joy. He looked at those who weregathered around Vincent and the child in a strong circle of love.Father knew the healing power of that love. It had already reachedout and reclaimed so many who had lost all sense of hope. As thechildren eagerly moved forward to present their gifts to thenewly-named child, Father's eyes suddenly filled with tears. Many ofthese same children who now greeted young Jacob with love hadalready, in their young lives, known grief and pain. Some had enduredhardship beyond imagining in the world above but no sign of that pastnow showed on their happy faces. Below, they had been welcomed withlove and they had learned to trust and to love in return. Theirbirthright had been reclaimed.
"Naming Day present for Jacob. From me", Mouse announced with hischaracteristic disregard for sentence structure.
Father watched as Vincent opened the gift. Mouse's gifts wereusually his own inventions and Father tended to be wary of them untilthey were shown to be harmless. He remembered all too well certainepisodes of chaos involving Mouse's inventions, 'Mousescapades' thepeople Below called them."This is very generous of you, Mouse",Vincent said when he saw what Mouse had given, "but are you certainyou want to part with this? I know how much you cherish it."
The boy everyone called Mouse looked up with complete trust at theone who had brought him from the darkness. Vincent's friendship washis most treasured possession.
"Don't need it", the boy said. "Not now. Not here. Not ever. Look,show you how it works", he offered and he tilted the cube.
The bar dropped. The lion jumped through the hoop.