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Scars of the Earth

by

C.S. Moore  

prologue

A smile danced across Amanda’s innocent round face as she bounded, her dark brown hair blowing in the breeze. She was playing hopscotch and singing a childish tune while both sweet and stern-faced nuns pecked around the play yard like the hens that they were.

“Hop,” Amanda sang, putting too much emphasis on the letter P. She brought her boney elbows in and bounced off one foot.

“Eee,” she said, swaying a little as she landed on two feet.

“Scotch,” she said, bouncing off with all her might. Where she landed wasn’t on the playground at all, and no one noticed her leave. Instead of the number nine square she was aiming for, Amanda found herself falling through suffocating darkness.

* * *

With a shrill chirp, the dreaded bell that ended recess sounded, and all came to their seats, save one. Sister Wesley was the first to notice her absence. Amanda wasn’t one of the children who was usually late. After ten minutes had passed, she stood from her desk and crossed the small classroom to the cool single paned windows. The playground was deserted, not one child had lingered behind to enjoy its merriment. The chains of the swings rattled a bit in the breeze, but Amanda wasn’t on any of them.

A chill took Sister Wesley as she realized that one of her students was gone. The hallway of the old building turned into a snowstorm of white and black robes. Teachers flew up and down the halls calling for a search party.

* * *

Two hours after beginning the search, Father Benton found the missing child in the woods just beyond the fence. When he came upon the girl, he immediately crossed himself and spoke a quick prayer.

The small child was crouched down in a good-sized hole that she had apparently dug with nothing more than her bloodstained hands. She looked more like an animal than a girl, covered in a mixture of sweat and dirt and shouting hysterically as she clawed at the ground.

He stood a moment, frozen in shocked horror before he rushed toward her. Father Benton lifted her up, gently pulling the tiny thing into his arms. She tried to fight him off, throwing her weight around and kicking her skinny legs.

“Amanda, calm down. Everything is okay. You’re safe. I will help you,” he promised.

She relaxed, but as he started to walk away with her still in his arms, she lashed out, slapping his face hard enough to sting. In his momentary surprise, she wriggled out of his grasp and ran back to the hole she’d been digging.

“No, I can’t leave him. Not there, not there,” she screamed. He cried out as one of her little finger nails ripped away from its home and lodged itself into the dirt that she was trying desperately to move. She didn’t seem to notice his cry or the pain that she must have felt. I can’t imagine what has happened to her. She was always such an angel. He knelt beside her, moving slowly so he wouldn’t frighten the little girl.

“Amanda, what are you doing? Tell me how to help you,” he said.

She ignored him and persisted with the terrible scratching. He continued to talk to her, hoping something would snap her out of this mental fit. “Amanda? Did someone take you from the playground? Has someone hurt you?” he asked, fearing the worst.

“No.” She answered quickly but didn’t look up. However abrupt her answer, he was happy to hear her voice.

“Where have you been? Everybody’s been looking for you, all of the sisters and your friends,” he said.

She stopped digging for a moment, breathing hard. Her face turned up toward him, but she said nothing. She seemed to be trying to decide how best to answer the question she was being asked.

“I don’t know where I was. I was here, and then I was there. But I don’t know where there was,” she said.

He looked down at her in confusion, but she seemed to be satisfied with her given answer. She looked up at him, her sad blue eyes pleading.

“Please, Father, please. He is hurting so bad, and I’m the one who’s supposed to help him. I knew it the minute I saw him. I filled up with sunshine, and I just felt him ask for my help,” she said.

Father Benton didn’t know how to console the poor child.

He just kept her talking so that she wouldn’t be digging. “Who, Amanda?” he asked.

She looked to the old priest like she would have cried had she not used up all of her tears already. “A boy, Justin was his name. He is stuck, and I could have helped him. But I got scared and woke up here and left him,” she whispered.

She started screaming and clawing at the ground again. He jumped into the hole and held her firmly in his arms, making sure she was snug and couldn’t hurt herself. She screamed at the top of her lungs, trying desperately to free her arms, but he was stronger.

“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry, Justin!” she cried.

He rocked her gently while humming a church hymn on their way back to the towering Gothic structure that was the lonely child’s home.

eleven years later...

1

Amanda sat staring at the age-darkened table, feeling on edge. It didn’t matter that she should feel comfortable after two years back. She didn’t. No matter how hard she tried to ignore it, the feeling of being watched was unbearable. You’d think people could understand why a thirteen-year-old felt the need to run away from a place like this, but of course, none of them did.

I wish they’d stop staring at me. It must get tiring to glare at someone for two straight years.

“Don’t look so tortured, Amanda,” Cole joked as he set a bowl down in front of her.

She looked up at him, the unease draining as he sat next to her. He had laughter dancing in his brown eyes. It was so easy to forget her unwanted audience when he was with her.

“Am I expected to be anything but in the presence of such terrible company?” she asked him with a smile.

“Terrible company?” he said, feigning hurt. “You know I could get offended by that if I wanted to.”

“You’re always excluded from my rants, you know that.”

“I know I just like hearing you say it,” he said around a mouthful.

He’d already started digging into his soup, and it did smell uncharacteristically good today, so she followed suit. Her spoon fished around in the creamy stew until she found a chunk of potato. It was still steaming as she brought it to her lips, but the metal spoon fell to the ground with a loud clatter. As the familiar choking darkness formed around her, she was amazed by the freak show that was her life, knowing none of her many observers were surprised a teenage girl had just disappeared.

It’s never been this strong. Amanda thought as she fell through space, and the growing feeling of dread ripped at her chest. This wasn’t how a Scar should feel. She wasn’t in danger.

This was a memory. Whatever danger she witnessed had already happened. She repeated the mantra over

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