The Lost Child
She is Lost
The wind howls and whistles through the heavy branches of the tall pines that cover the darkening landscape. A tiny figure crouches at the foot of one of the tall trees and cries softly. Tears drip down half frozen lines on her cheeks and her lips are slightly blue.
“Mommy,” she sobs as the wind once more whips across her exposed legs, “where are you, mommy?”
The tiny child wraps herself into a tight ball at the base of the mighty tree and tries to cover her freezing limbs with the thin nightgown she wears. Her scarf, the only thing her mother had been able to grab to cover her, had been taken by the wind. The wind now seems intent on covering her with pine needles and old leaves. Another cry escapes her lips, a soft cry sounding as if there is no hope, and then she falls silent. Nothing more can be heard except the snapping and crackling of the large branches as they moan and groan their secret messages to each other high above her motionless form.
As dawn approaches, the forest sits in silent vigil. Snow has fallen around the outskirts of the forest, but the strong trees have held most of the white flakes on their large high branches. Wind groans across the cold white plains nearby whipping snow into dancing whirls of sparkling whites and blues. But only the cold reaches this deep into the forest. The child, now completely covered with old leaves and pine needles has apparently been spared from the worst of the heavy snows. She wakes as the first rays of the sun worms its way through the branches to stab a beam of light into the darkness below and touches her cold cheek.
“Mommy,” she cries softly, but no one answers her call except the cold harsh wind.
The child looks about her at the darkness that seems to seep from the very roots of the trees. The leaves and needles have protected her from the wind and the trees have protected her from the snow, but she does not realize that they have done so. She knows only that she is alone. Alone, cold and hungry; and there is no one to help her. She remembers her mommy shoving her out of the falling car and screaming at her to run. Knowing nothing but her mother’s last words, the child ran. Now she is alone, cold and afraid.
What Should She Do?
Strange crackling noises surround her and seem to seep from the trees with the darkness. The child fears to rise and walk within the darkness. She doesn’t know what dangers may lurk there. But thirst and hunger force her to rise and move once more into the unknown. Her bare feet stumble over branches and stones hidden beneath heavy pine needles; but they are nearly numb from the cold so she barely feels it. She falls many times, catching herself with half-frozen hands. Finally, cold, numb and exhausted, she falls one last time and fails to rise. She can no longer feel the biting cold. In fact she is beginning to feel warmth spread through her limbs and into her heart. She feels as though she is lying in a deep bed of warm soft blankets. She closes her eyes and begins to dream happy dreams of home with her bunny slippers warming her feet and her puppy sleeping beside her.
Something In The Snow
On a road near the thick pine forest, a police cruiser stops to check out the deep grooves that mark a possible accident. Though snow fell the night before, the groves are deep enough to still be seen. He climbs from his cruiser and walks carefully to the edge of the cliff. There, he sees a gray car half-way down the cliff face. There is an eerie silence that seems to seep from the wreckage. He calls for assistance and runs the license plate numbers. The answer is quick to come back. The car belongs to a young mother who was kidnapped, along with her young daughter, from her home sometime during the night. The kidnappers took her car when they left the scene.
The officer is informed that the mother and her daughter have not been found, but blood was found at their home. Careful not to fall, the officer tries to make his way down to the car to see who is inside, but the snow on the cliff face is too dangerous for him to maneuver. He calls out, hoping to hear a reply, but only silence answers him. All he can do is wait for the heavy rescue vehicles to arrive. While he waits, he sits inside his car to stay warm
He finds himself thinking of his own two-year-old daughter who had hugged him tightly before he left for work that day. She beamed at him and kissed his cheek. He smiles in remembrance of the evening before when she had climbed on his back for a ‘piggy back ride’ to bed. He hoped the young child and mother were somehow not in that wrecked car; yet, he knew his hope was probably useless; even if they had escaped the car, they would be in this deadly cold.
The rescue vehicles finally arrive. Using ropes and pulleys, they are able to repel down the hill and to the vehicle. They peek inside and see four people. Sitting at the wheel of the car is a young man of about twenty years of age. He appears to have hit his head on the steering wheel which is covered in blood. They can find no pulse. In the passenger seat, there is another young man. His seatbelt is still secured. Though he appears to be unharmed, he also has no pulse. Both are pale and cold.
In the back seat, behind the passenger is another young man. He appears to have been unstrapped and was apparently tossed about the vehicle. He has no pulse. Behind the driver, there is a young woman dressed in a bloody nightgown. She is pale and cold to the touch, but when she is touched she moans. She is alive, but only barely! Rescue workers jump to remove the woman. They pull her to the top of the ravine and begin life-saving first aid while the vehicle is attached to chains and slowly raised.
The vehicle reluctantly lets go of the small hill against which it had come to rest. Pieces of metal and glass fall into the grooves as the car slowly slides back up the cliff face. Once the rescue crew has the car back on the road, officers and emergency personnel surround the vehicle in search of clues. The woman, now in the ambulance, begs for her daughter whom she says she told to run. The child is not in the vehicle. Fearing that the child is lost in the forest in the freezing cold, police call for more assistance. They will need to search for her. The weather, cold and dreary, would not help the search, nor would it help the lost child.
The Search Begins
There is a local officer leading the search. He advises the searchers and coordinators alike that the child has already spent one night in the forest. She was in a thin nightgown with a red scarf in below freezing temperatures. Sadly, they may be looking for her body and must be prepared for that. Then he sketched out a rough map of the forest and had the search teams spread out and search by sections. As the day wore on, the teams had no luck in finding the child. Word came back to them that the mother was stable and begging for her daughter, but they had not found her. Nor had they found any evidence of her traveling through the thick woods. Noon came and went and small flakes of snow began to fall. Still there was no sign of the child.
As each hour passed with no success, the teams begin to fear the worst. Someone suggested that perhaps the child had been in the car and thrown out during the accident. Teams used ropes to repel back down to the scene of the accident to see if they could find the child. They had little hope of success since the police had already scoured the area for evidence. Stil they searched, but they found no evidence that the child had been there. They searched further down but their hearts were heavy with fear of failure. All they had been able to find was a red scarf hidden in the branches of a nearby tree. If it was her scarf, then why was she not there?
A Searcher Rests
A searcher, cold and tired from traipsing through the deep piles of needles and old leaves, walked to a semi-sheltered clearing and sat down on what he thought was a large, snow-covered stone. The stone turned out to be an old dead tree which cracked beneath his weight. He fell backwards into a hole in the base of the tree that had been hidden. He turned on his flashlight to see where he was and spied a wisp of white buried beneath a large pile of old needles and leaves. He reached for the white cloth and tugged.
A tiny hand reached out and grabbed his arm. “Are you here with my mommy,” asked a soft voice.
The searcher gently wiped away the leaves and needles and found a young child. She had apparently crawled into the tree and buried herself in the needles and leaves to keep warm.
"No, child,” he said, “but we have been looking for you.”
“Do you know where my mommy is?” the child asked innocently as she rubbed sleep from her eyes.
“Yes,” the searcher said pulling off his coat and wrapping the child in it before calling out that he had found her. "And we will take you to her as soon as we can."
How Did She Survive
Sometimes we hear about things that could never be and wonder how they exist.
Sometimes we see things that are impossible and wonder how they could happen.
Sometimes we know that miracles can happen because we have experienced them.
Sometimes we just know.
Sometimes we just have to believe!
A Statement is Released
Three days passed and mother and daughter were reunited and staying with family. News media had been hounding them to discover how the little girl had survived. A family representative stepped out of the house and addressed the media.
“I have been given permission to read to you the following statement. Please do not ask questions as no answers will be forthcoming. The statement is as follows:
Three men entered the home of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin James and their young daughter. They stole money, food, knives, and the family car. They kidnapped the mother and child, intent unknown. During their escape, they stopped on a road near a steep cliff so one of them could relieve himself. The mother took that moment to push her child out one of the back doors and told her to run. She then grabbed the gear shift and put the car in neutral. It was sitting at such an angle that it began to roll and the men were unable to stop it.”
As for the three men, who they were, why there was blood in the house, and how the men died, nothing was ever revealed. The police, after the men were examined by the coroner and a death certificate was issued, had the bodies cremated and buried in the section for unknowns. Officially, the men were never identified.
The officer who found the little girl went back to the spot and planted a tree along with a cross. He said a silent prayer before leaving the area where life had been preserved.
The Child Grows Up
Despite repeated attempts to get a better idea of what happened, no other information came out of this incident until several years later when the young child was an adult. She wrote a story about her time with the ‘bad’ men and her trials in the forest. She insisted that her story was fiction, and was only loosely based on what had really happened. She did a lot of personal appearances and book signings but would add nothing to the actual situation.
In her story, she spoke of the men being from her neighbor's trailer. She also described how forest dwellers had come to her and shown her where she could hide from the cold. They warmed her with fairy dust and then they covered her to keep her warm until another human could find her. Her story was entertaining and a great read; but gave no further incite into what had actually happened on that cold, snowy night. But the story does not end there.
On the outskirts of town, in a rundown cabin, sit three men who are getting on in years. They have no electricity, no plumbing, and no internet. They hunt for their food or they go hungry. They have remained estranged from the town where they grew up ever since they learned that their boys had 'overstepped their bounds'. A Sheriff had come to them on a cold winter night and told them of the incident where a young mother was kidnapped and a child lost in the snow. He told them that should the identity of the three men be told, it could be bad for them. He suggested that they might want to find a different place to live for their own safety.
One year later the three sit by the dying fire and warm themselves for the last time.
"Guess we had better go now," said one to the other two, "the road won't get any easier or warmer the longer we wait."
"Wish things had been different," said another as he hefted his pack.
"No need for wishes, they won't come true," answered the third man.
The other two agreed and then followed him through the door and into a cold snowy night. They left the door open so that 'Mr. Wind' could finally howl inside the old, broken-down cabin walls. No one ever heard from the men again; although rumors years later said that the woods on one side of town were haunted by three men who could be seen walking through the woods during bad storms as they searched for something they could not seem to find.
© 2012 Cheryl Simonds