Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: Both
Title: The Mother
Sarah spun in circles, her hands brushing the bristly stems of sunflowers. She laughed and spun faster, yellow suns surrounding her, blinding her. Closing her eyes, she sang as she spun.
“The sun will rise, the sun will set,
but I haven’t lost my home yet,
The rain will fall, the wind will blow,
but they won’t see me down below,
The bitter cold, the muggy heat,
but I will -”
She gave a little squawk as her legs tangled, sending her crashing on her bottom.
“Bruise my seat!” she finished with a laugh. Her eyes opened and she gasped. There was a soap bubble floating over her head. It didn’t reflect her sunflowers though. She sprang up, confused, and nearly fell over again when she saw her surroundings.
A boy in muddy and torn coveralls sat on a dock blowing bubbles. He was probably three or four years younger than Sarah. Beyond the dock, tall trees swayed and rustled in the breeze. Not the poplars of the windbreak at home, something taller, grander, and greener. The air was noticeably cooler as well.
“Where am I?” she murmured, confused.
“S’okay,” the boy assured her. “I stumbled in here a year ago. The Mother will look after you.”
“I have a mother,” she told the boy indignantly, “and she is going to wonder where I’ve gone.”
“Yeah, one day, but you’ll spend a week here before she even thinks to look for you. Don’t worry. The Mother isn’t scary. She’s… well, you’ll see.”
“No, I won’t.” Sarah spun on her heel to stalk off and fell into the water.
“Come now, Sarah,” a feminine voice said. A hand wrapped around her upper arm and pulled her up onto the dock. “This won’t take long. We just need you to do us a favour.”
The woman, the Mother, was a round woman with frizzy curled hair as bright as wildfire. Her eyes were a strange shade, almost purple, and impossibly deep. Sarah should see some reflection in them, but there was nothing.
“I-I’m going home,” Sarah said again.
“Of course you are, dear. And very soon, I’m sure. Did Dylan here give you the wrong impression? You aren’t trapped here, love. At least you won’t be for long. We’ll show you the way, same as everyone else.”
“Then why is he here?” Sarah asked.
Dylan didn’t answer but tucked his chin and focused on his wand in the bubble juice.
“He doesn’t have anything to go back to. He likes it better here. But you could go home any time, right, Dylan.”
He didn’t answer and didn’t look up. His lip trembled.
The Mother moved faster than a woman of her size ought to be able and had an arm around Dylan’s shoulder, squeezing him in a hug and whispering in his ear.
He nodded and sniffed but otherwise remained silent. Abruptly the Mother was before Sarah again.
“Well, come along, Sarah. No point in standing around the dock. We’ve got lots to talk about.”
The Mother’s arm was a bar across her back, pushing her forward toward a cabin a few yards down a path, nestled among those tall, green trees.
Sarah looked back, trying to figure out how she had come here, but all she saw was Dylan, blowing another perfect sphere.
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Kimberly Gould is the author of Cargon: Honour and Privilege, and it's sequel Duty and Sacrifice. She can be found most places as Kimmydonn, including Kimmydonn.com