The Playthings of God (pt9)

When Natie found herself lucid again, she was somewhere. Somewhere more familiar, yet not familiar at all. There was the river, but it couldn’t be the river, because it was going in a completely different direction. It couldn’t be her river, because the water was so clear she could see to the bottom.

But it was all the right size. She wasn’t looking at it from a distance and barely able to take it all in.

There were no Hands. There was no backpack either, but Natie didn’t remember if she had had it on when she had been pulled out.

Shaking, she eventually managed to get out of the tree. She climbed halfway down before she fell. Rolling onto her back, Natie wheezed for breath like her father after chasing her around the house as he used to. When she got to her feet, she stumbled away, not certain where she was, where her home might be. How long she had been gone.

She did not see the Hands.

The Playthings of God (pt8)

Natie realized she was moving again. Her stomach churned, but she only bit her lower lip until she stopped moving. She realized she was on some other smooth surface, brown and wooden maybe, with the Giant nearby. Natie could finally breathe normally again, wiping her face. As she did so, she let go of the branch and what was left of the tree, tumbling to the surface alone with nothing else between her and the strange world she saw around her.

Tears streaming freely, Natie looked around her again. It really could be like a distorted house, the proper size for the bearer of the Hands. The Giant was dipping its hands into a glass box. That box was as big as the world, as far as Natie was concerned.

But the world was bigger than that, because the glass box fit perfectly on the cabinet. Which is what it had to be. She was worlds away from it, but she could see it. Like if she was seeing the sun. Which she could see now, hanging by cords thicker than all the woods wound together, shining down into the box.

Home, in that box. It reminded her of keeping a frog, except so much larger. So much larger. So much larger. So much-

Natie cried into her hands, until the Giant used something that could have blotted out that electric sun over her entire village to sweep her onto a new tree, which she clung to. Then she moved yet again, way too fast. Maybe she threw up, but her mouth tasted terrible either way. Forcing her eyes open, she looked straight up into the face of their God.

At first she couldn’t process it, because it was so large. When she could finally take it all in, when she put together everything she could see, it came to her.

It looked just like them.

The Playthings of God (pt7)

It seemed a little darker, beyond the barrier of her eyelids. Natie couldn’t open her eyes to check though, her terror kept her a tight ball on the branch she clung to. She could breathe still, but her air came out in short bursts, little lungs hyperventilating.

Until she opened her eyes and became breathless.

She was reminded of being five years old, in her house. If her house had been twenty times the size and she twenty times less. It took her a long time to take it in, as she looked around, seeing something that looked like a lantern, but huge. She and the tree had been set down on a table that was bigger than the world, so it seemed. And then Natie looked up.

The face looked down upon the tree and the Hands carefully broke off the part of the tree she was on. Natie screamed again, as she went up up up once more. She looked into the EYE, larger than life, before hanging her head to press it into the bark.

It wasn’t real. This hadn’t happened. She had fallen out of the tree when she saw the Hand and she was making this up.

The Playthings of God (pt6)

Natie saw the Hand come down in the distance. Right into town. She gripped the branch she was on, eyes wide in horror as the hand began to move things. She saw the townhouse disappear into the sky. The Hand returned, but the townhouse didn’t.

What she had been told was to meet up with everyone else in the field when this happened. She would meet up with Mom and Dad and they would wait for the Cleaning to be finished. When it was, they would find their way home. But Natie couldn’t move. Her hands clung to the tree, as if afraid that leaving it and running toward the field would make her a big target for the Hand.

The Hand didn’t take people, she had been told. But the Hand didn’t take, as far as Natie was concerned. It was supposed to give them more food. More good things. It never took.

Then the Second Hand came and plucked Natie’s tree right out of the soil.

Natie screamed. She would have let go, but the ground seemed so far away. Her fear of falling outweighed the fear of being pulled up and up and up. She shut her eyes with a sob, feeling the air change as she kept coming up. Past the sky, into…

The Playthings of God (pt5)

She asked Mom about it, because bringing it up to Dad was something she did not want to do. He expected so much of her and she still had no idea what she really wanted.

“Patty becoming a vet is nice and all,” Mom said, “but I would choose something that would be useful. Like my being a seamstress. I no longer work fully as a seamstress, but having done so before having you has certainly helped with our family, hasn’t it?”

Natie nodded. “I guess.”

“Then how about becoming a cook? You can help me more with the meals. See if you enjoy it.”

Natie did that, because spending time with Mom was fun. And while they were doing that, Mom spoke more about cooking than she did about the upcoming Cleaning. If she focused on that, really tried hard, then she was very tired by bedtime and all Dad would do was take her book from her bag and read her whichever story she asked him too.

“Dad? Patty said I’m too old for bedtime stories now.”

“Don’t be silly. You will never too old to have a story.”

Natie wondered if cooking would be anything like a bedtime story. Putting in the ingredients. Letting the fire change it. But in the end she would rather climb a tree and press flowers. That was where she was when the Cleaning commenced.

The Playthings of God (pt4)

“Are you still going to be a vet when you grow up?” Natie asked Patty.

Patty nodded. “Yep! Di said I could stick around when June delivers her puppies and help out! I’m on my way!”

Natie frowned. “Wow. You’re lucky.”

“Uh huh! And Miranda said she will let me sit with her when she works. I’m well on my way!”

Patty sounded so proud, she didn’t notice that Natie didn’t have anything to contribute to the conversation. Natie didn’t feel like mentioning that she had no idea. She didn’t feel like mentioning that her father always reminded her that she was running out of time to be free before she would have to start looking. Start choosing.

That Patty already knew what she wanted made Natie jealous. This seemed increasingly more important than waiting for the Cleaning.

But none of those things really interested her, as much as she tried. She hung around the store, but only wanted to buy some candy. She fed some of the cows, but if she had to do more than hold out her hand flat and let the long tongue come out to eat the little she could hold, she would get tired. She climbed a tree, but wasn’t sure what that might relate to when it came to her future job.

The Playthings of God (pt3)

Natie wasn’t sure she wanted to be outside when the Cleaning happened, even though that was where most everyone else wanted to be most of the time. While she really wanted to see what new flowers might show up after the Cleaning was over, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to see the Hand take.

The Hand had always given before, every time she had seen it. The great, big Hand descended from above with food or toys or would rearrange something. Patty’s house had been shifted from the left side of her property to the right side when they were five. Natie had thought that was great, because it meant she could see her from her bedroom window.

But this time the Hand might take something. And if it was taken out, there was no guarantee it would ever come back. That was why Mom made her wear a backpack with the things she didn’t want to lose.

Natie became tired of hearing about it though, when the months passed and the Cleaning had not happened yet. Her shoulders hurt from carrying around that book all the time. She really wanted to talk about something else.

The Playthings of God (pt2)

The Cleaning would happen at some point this year, but no one knew when. In the meantime, everyone would carry the most important things with them until it was over with.

“Wow, your bag is heavy.” Patty couldn’t even lift it. She showed Natie her collection of flowers as well, carefully put at the bottom of her bag underneath all of her stuffed dog toys and a single ball. “Mine is better.”

“Is not!”

“Is too!”

Patty’s brother yelled at them to take it outside.

The Playthings of God (pt1)

It was the year of the Cleaning.

It was all anyone talked about. Their faces bright, yet at the same time a little pale. Cheerfully discussing what might change. Bemoaning what might leave forever, but excited to see what would replace it.

Natie’s mother had made her a backpack. As well as one for herself and for Natie’s father. “We can’t keep anything we can’t hold, but if there is anything you don’t want to lose, you will keep it with you.”

“I don’t see what is so dirty right now,” Natie complained. “We clean every day.”

“We clean what we can,” Mom agreed. “But God will make everything fresh for us. You will see. There will be new things to explore and the freshest of water and trees that provide something entirely new!”

Natie knew that. She had been told that before. But the last cleaning had happened right after she was born. She had no memory of it. Now she was ten and would see it for, technically, the first time. She went to her room, wondering how anything in here couldn’t be safe. Mom was always right though, so Natie went through her things to take what she couldn’t be without. The baby blanket she still put on top of her covers. Her teddy bear who had a bandaged arm from when she and Patty had fought over who would play as him during their tea party when they were seven. Her favourite bedtime book that Dad read to her from every night.

Which immediately made her backpack really heavy. So Natie added her pressed flowers in the pages of that book and called it a day. Or a week. Or a month.