Chapter 4: “And Also Another Keeper-Boy Was Squeezed Into This World Without Any Notice Or Explanation”
He had a name. He knew he had a name because he had siblings. And they all had names. And he knew all of their names. And they all called each other by their names. Because “brother” and “sister” wouldn’t do, when you had three brothers and five sisters. Though, come to think of it, there were two mothers, and they both just went by “Mother. ” It was less confusing, though he couldn’t figure out why. Probably because one was tall and one was short.
He had a name. It was right on the tip of his tongue. It was—
“Rain?” He asked the sky, looking up. Why was it raining? He hadn’t seen rain in… in… well, in a very long time.
He looked around, not even bothering with confusion. He had been in the garden. He had always been in the garden. His sisters had been running up ahead of him, laughing, trying to hide before his second-to-youngest brother finished counting. Short Mother had been pruning the pomegranate tree. Baby Sila had been digging for beetles underneath the blackberry bush.
“Short Mother?” he had asked, running up to her. He had had a question about their game. He felt like his second-to-youngest brother was trying to cheat, but he couldn’t remember the specifics. “Short Mother, Bead is—“
And then the garden had shifted. He had stopped, frowning, feeling somehow off. And then the garden was pressing in all around, crushing him, suffocating him. Colors, light, earth–they all ran together as they fell towards him, loud and sudden. And then he was sucked into nothing. And there was no air, and there was no sound, and there were no thoughts. And then he opened his eyes, and he was gone. Well, he was here, he supposed. But everything else was gone.
He stood up and looked around. He was on the top of something very tall. Very rocky. Green grass grew all around and grey sky hovered above his head. Not too far above, though, and getting closer by the minute. It sagged, tired, almost. Rain fell quietly.
The boy was on the edge of the world, it felt like. Or, at least, the edge of this rock. He supposed it was a cliff. Black-blue water fanned out beneath him. Far beneath him. He could jump off of this cliff and never reach the water, he thought.
The water was waiting for something. It was hushed, soft, expectant. But it wasn’t waiting for him. He looked back up to the collapsing sky, curious.
“Tall Mother?” He called out, looking around. “Baby Sila? Celeste? Where are you?” They weren’t there, on that cliff. At least he knew that much.
“Rosey? Derek? Where have you gone?” He walked around the clifftop. One edge overlooked the dark water. The other edge ended in a little trail. It led down off the clifftop, and was also very steep. But it wasn’t leap-off-of-a-cliff-into-an-ocean steep. He wondered how far the trail went.. Where “down” led, if not into the water.
“Lea? Josey? Cade?” He blinked and blinked and blinked and nothing changed. “Short Mother? Where am I?”
He shrugged. He felt a lot of things in his chest. One of the things was confusion. He didn’t have a name for any of the other things. So he decided he would just be really, intensely confused.
“What’s my name?” He asked the sky, knuckling his brow, closing his eyes. He saw his sisters running up ahead of him, shrieking as his second-youngest-brother started counting faster. Tall Mother walked around, looking for Sila. He should probably tell her the baby was playing with beetles again. But he didn’t really want to spoil Sila’s fun.
He opened his eyes, looking around the cliffs. He wondered if there was anything beyond the clifftop. Which was a strange thought. “Beyond” was a new concept for him. He had never wondered if there was a “beyond” of the garden.
“I guess I’ll walk beyond, then,” he said. “What do you think, Josey? Yes?” He nodded to himself. She would say yes.
“Good-bye,” he said to no one in particular. He turned his back on the waiting water and began the trek down. A song played in his head. He had never heard it before, but he liked the beat.
“And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden,” he sang. “By the time we got to Woodstock… we were half a million strong… something something…” he chuckled, not understanding the words.
He wondered about his name as he walked. He wondered about his family. He wondered about the garden. He wondered about this world beyond the garden.
“I am very sorry, Cade, but I think you might be gone,” he said to the grass. “And Tall Mother, and Short Mother. And Baby Sila.”
Most of all, he wondered how he knew that such things were true.