Untitled, by Eric Brown

The girl with the bear leaned against the side of a sky blue building, examining her new namesake. A tall shadow, cast by nothing at all, kept both the sun and the eyes of lost-looking tourists off of her. She had found the stuffed animal in the soaked ruins of a roadside memorial, next to a large wooden cross with “We miss you Dawn” painted across it. Though the bear was still damp from the previous night’s rainstorm, a faint but comforting aura of warmth radiated from it. The memorial had probably been erected within the past week. Dawn’s friends and family had probably flown back to wherever they were from to carry on with whatever lives they lived when they weren’t vacationing in half-dead resort towns.  

The girl had had a real name once, before she learned how to draw power from being forgotten, before she was taught to disappear. Now, she only used shallow, descriptive names to remind herself that she still existed. Today she was the girl with the bear. Yesterday, and for some time before then, she had simply been the girl with brown hair. She had been warned not to use any name at all, but she feared that if she didn’t give herself a name, she would disappear forever.

Something felt wrong.

The girl with the bear looked up. Crossing the street in front of her was a small child, barefoot, dressed in a plain white shirt and pants made of some light, flowing fabric. The child looked much younger than her, though she couldn’t tell whether it was male or female. Its eyes were large, glossy and pure black.

She ran.

The shadow that loomed over the girl took her shape, running alongside her. She had given up her own shadow when she gave up her name, but the one her teacher had given her was better, and she soon learned how to make more shadows herself whenever she needed them.

The girl turned a corner and began running towards the shore, where she knew there would be people. The black-eyed children, if there really were more than one of them, rarely followed her through crowds. Sometimes they did, though. Most people seemed to ignore them much like they ignored her, if they could even see the children at all.

She reached the boardwalk. Gray storm clouds had started to roll in, but the beach was still crowded with people packing up their umbrellas and coolers. She stopped. The child had appeared in front of her. She tried to back up, but someone had walked up behind her. The girl let out a short scream before turning around to find herself face-to-face with a young woman, about twenty years old, with short red hair and a caduceus tattoo on her right arm.

“Are you okay?” the woman asked, giving the girl with the bear a look of both concern and confusion. “Are you lost?”

“No,” the girl replied, unsure if she was actually giving the woman the right answer. She glanced over her shoulder quickly. The black-eyed child had stopped advancing, and appeared as though it was struggling to focus on her.  

“Well, do you have somewhere to go? A hotel room? A house? Family? Friends? It’s going to pour.”

“No,” replied the girl with the bear, once again unsure if she was telling the truth. The young woman seemed bewildered.

The wind picked up. Behind the girl, the black-eyed child was staring down at its own bare feet.

“Alright. Here. If you want, you can spend the night in my motel room, and we’ll figure out what to do with you in the morning. If you just want to go then, I won’t stop you. Would you like that?”

The girl with the bear nodded.

“Okay, good. Then let’s go.” The young woman took the girl’s hand and started moving in the direction of the motor lodge a few blocks down. “By the way, what’s your name?”

“Dawn” she said, looking back over her shoulder.

The child had disappeared.

-Eric Brown

Featured in Vol. 2 Iss. 6
Featured in Vol. 2 Iss. 6