Thorn of the Rose: Issue 14: Taking Shelter
What happens when trust breaks down?
Thorn had torn out a drawing from an abandoned library book years ago. The bird (maybe a wren, maybe a finch, it was hard to tell with just the black and white pen lines) trailed a wing on the ground before a fox, leading the fox out of the way of her nest, believing that she was fooling the fox and saving her children with her life. Frayed and torn about the edges now, that drawing still resided in Thorn’s backpack, tucked in a side corner pocket where it would not get lost or damaged.
For this is what Sarah, Thorn’s mother, had done for him. When the Illegal Killers found them cowering between the walls of an abandoned factory and a dumpster during the Illegal Riots, Sarah pushed Thorn to the back wall with a silent gesture—don’t move, don’t make a sound. Then she limped out from the dumpster ahead of the killers, pleading with them for her life, for a chance to prove her identity.
“Don’t waste your breath” one of the pack growled. “Don’t nobody stay here on the street except for you illegals. Gonna clean out the vermin here and now. I see you ain’t gotta mark. That makes you my mark, woman. My trophy here and now.“
Thorn watched from the shadows as the man pulled the trigger and her body fell, crumpled and empty, onto the street. The men kicked the body almost as if they were children playing with a soccer ball, laughing and grunting when someone “scored’ and Sarah’s body flopped over.
The men finally left for another street, but Thorn still did not dare run to the body. Breathe in. Breathe out. But don’t make a sound. Don’t cry out, don’t go anywhere. Thorn followed this mantra silently for seconds. For hours. For eons. They did not see Thorn in the shadows of the wall. The gunfire continued—from down the block, from the other side of the building, from around the corner.
No one came into the circle of street light where Sarah’s body lay. Huddled on the ground, wedged behind the dumpster and the wall, Thorn counted the pockmarks on the bricks, watched the shadows flicker from the streetlight and then sharpen in the dawn’s weaker light. Daylight came and Thorn still stayed glued to this spot, unable to move, unable to go to her body. Unable to think or cry or breathe. Unsure.
A door swung quietly open on the other side of the alley, and a young woman stepped out, carrying a white bundle. Leaning against the wall, she looked both ways and listened for something, someone. Hearing nothing, she ventured out to Sarah’s body and knelt over it. After a moment, she covered the body with a sheet. She sighed and stood up, her hand holding her forehead as if that, too, would break. Then she slowly walked beside the factory walls, quietly, not to disturb any abandoned nests.
When she got to where Thorn lay huddled on the ground, she knelt down in front of Thorn and reached out to him softly. “It’s ok, little one. Little scared one. It will be ok.” Thorn sobbed then, tears still quiet, in case the Illegal Killers came back. In case she was one of them. She extended her hand, closer to Thorn, almost touching but not quite daring to. “It’s ok. I’ll take you in. I’ll make it safe.” she said, barely above a whisper. “Trust me.”