..Chloe Thomkins..

Young Fear Forsaken

It was a perfect summer day and Lucy had just come in from her walk by the sunlit brook. She was grateful that her little sneakers were the kind that had extra rubber around the toes, protecting her from the wetness of the morning dew.

She went into the house and pulled herself up onto a chair -- the same one her mother enjoyed sitting on while writing letters to relatives. She glanced at the unfinished letters, proud of her ability to read. The teachers had placed her in the "Advanced Reading Group" and this was the only joy that came from attending school. Well, lunchtime was also nice when she would get to sit in solitude -- even though others were around her -- and eat the tunafish sandwich her mother made perfectly.

Mom's writing revealed a summary of the family, stating each child's age and activities. Lucy began to ponder what would be written the following year and realized, naturally, that everyone would be a year older. Her mind kept advancing year after year, older and older until, with a sudden gasp of horror, she realized that one day her parents would become so old they would die! And if they must die, she and her brothers would someday face the same fate.

Her heart pounded and fear gripped her little body. There was no way out of death! It would happen, definitely. And then what? What exactly is death? Nothing? From blissful walks by the brook to blackness and nothingness? Unimaginable terror gripped every part of her mind and body, which just a few minutes ago had been filled with the peace and tranquility of nature.

She jumped off the chair and ran as fast as she could. Where? Around the lawn, around and around. She had to shake the fear that was strangling her consciousness. It wouldn't leave. It was like a bee that couldn't be outrun or tricked. This monster attacking her could not be lost by swift footwork. And Lucy was fast. The boys in the neighborhood had ordained her as having no cooties, based, in part, on her ability to run as fast as the boys, as well as for consistently hitting the baseball solidly into the rhododendron bushes. But not even Lucy's non-cootie athletic agility could save her from the horror that engulfed her entire being.

The only thing to do was to run up the stairs into her mother's bedroom, which she did with lightening speed. "I'm afraid of dying," she blurted out, her mouth contorted in agony and her face deeply red from crying. As she tried to catch her breath and wait for mom's soothing explanation, she began to braid the tassels on the bedspread in the hope of distracting her panic-stricken mind.

"Well, dear, some people believe, like Catholics, that after death there's a heaven that you go to" said her mother, in an effort to sound convincing.

Lucy remembered that President Kennedy was Catholic and he seemed nice, definitely good looking, and he'd have to be smart to be President so...maybe it could be true. Maybe there was something more than blackness and nothingness after death.

Lucy chimed in, "And, maybe, by the time I get older, they will have perfected the artificial heart so everyone could live forever."
"Um, yeah," said mom.

The artifical heart suggestion was a long shot, Lucy realized, but she wanted to keep the positive momentum going and would say or do anything to get this pain to go away. She took a deep breath and felt slightly better, despite the fact that mom did not sound entirely confident. It was something they could work out together. There had to be a solution somewhere and this was a good start. The terror had subsided, not fully, but somewhat. At least she could breathe and her heart had returned to normal beats.

She walked downstairs and went directly to the freezer to help herself to an ice cream on a stick. Her parents were of the lenient sort and ice cream was allowed any time of day or night. If you lost your appetite for meals as a result, then that was your decision. (This never actually happened, as her appetite was hearty.)

Holding the ice cream carefully, she returned to the brook and sat on her haunches. It had been quite a day, and it was only lunchtime. The rubber on her sneakers protected her from the mud and for that she was glad. She decided to stay focused on the sweet, soothing taste of cold vanilla, and the water trickling peacefully between rocks.

"Stay away from death thoughts," she told herself. "There's got to be a good ending to this life. Mom is hestitant but Kennedy is President. He must know something. Try to relax and finish your ice cream."

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