Far Off Voices
Hanging by a thread, Ludmila looked down at the boy and said, "Bring me some water." It was clear: he doesn’t understand her and so he doesn't. Instead, he focuses his wide gaze on the snake hovering below her bare feet, its tongue darting out to taste the air for danger or food. Something beyond, unseen and unheard, captures the boy’s attention and he scampers out. Startled, the snake struck.
In the distance, Ludmila heard voices calling. ¡Lalo! ¡Lalo! The boy scampers back in, hugging the rough wall close as he inches his way to one side away from the door and the outside voices. He cranes his neck over his shoulder to peer between the broken slats. His hands ball into fists.
“Help me,” Ludmila said to the boy. “The snake bit me.”
The boy pulls himself away from the wall and turns up his black eyes that stop as far as the snake. He seems taken with the creature or perhaps its skin or the pattern or color if it. He isn’t close enough to feel its texture.
“Please, help me. Lalo.” Ludmila packed her voice with urgency but couldn’t keep out the unknown.
This time the boy looks fully at her, but she couldn’t read through the onyx of his eyes and the pain was spreading, mounting. She didn’t want to die in the suspended position she was hanging by. She could hear the snake rattle and hum the air below her and she wanted to pull up her legs, but she knew the snake would follow their path. The pain was true to its maker and coiled its way up through her thigh as just beneath her other foot the maker's tongue stabbed blindly at the air again, signing its wary search. She curled her toes.
“Can you call it away?” Ludmila could hardly get the words out and she wasn’t certain the boy had heard, but she didn’t dare raise her voice. “Lalo, can you call it away from me? I’m in such pain and misery. Soon I’ll have no feeling.”
Again he looks directly at her, but still she saw no reason in the black realm of his eyes and began to doubt he could see. The dusk of his expression seems to march with the numbness that followed her pain. Her own seeing was beginning to blur and wander.
“I can’t feel my foot anymore but I know it’s swollen.” She took a short breath and looked down to see. “Is it still there? I can feel it. Oh, please, let it be gone.” Her plea became a lost prayer as a thick torpor took over her body. The boy hasn’t taken his eyes from hers but she was nearing, she knew, the point of no return. There was no part of her unafraid, untouched by pain.
From outside and beyond the distant voices called out again. ¡Lalo! ¡Lalo! ¡Ven! The boy breaks off his hold and runs to the far corner where he crouches with his arms covering his head as if defending himself from unseen blows. ¡Lalo, ven! ¡Ven! ¡Ven! the far off voices cried out once more. The boy shakes his head violently and the snake descended. It slithered over to the boy and raised half itself up as if to look closely at him. Its tongue darted and stretched wildly, and the boy drops and thrashes and rolls himself around in the loose dust everywhere fully covering his entire body with it. The snake was awed by the motion and lowered his pose. By the time the boy stops moving, the snake was fully supine and relaxed low in its place. The distant voices had faded or gone away, perhaps in retreat or to recollect.
The thread holding Ludmila broke and she fell hard and close to the boy with the snake nearby and sleeping at last.
“Are you my lost boy?” she asked numbly.
The boy is blind, after all. Or it seems to see so in his black eyes.