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Srebrna, Skald Arkadii (and thoughts on writing)

Posts Tagged ‘august

Splinters 5 – Make a man out of you

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August – he kept reminding himself to use that name even in his thoughts – was moderately happy.
He had been taught to read and write. He was introduced to the wonders of mathematics, biology, history and computers. At ten, he wasn’t much behind his peers, even though he started from what the teachers called “tabula rasa”, his skills limited to general survival and woodworking. The second one won him accolades at all workshops the boys were assigned to at school, as he could fashion a birdhouse, a cutting board, a key hanger and all manner of other small wooden objects that were graded for these classes. He was taught the usage of power tools, which still amazed him – he could only imagine what his Papa could have done with a mini-drill and some of these attachments that the teachers were using so easily and taking for granted.
He was a bit afraid of the computers. Machines that made a drill go fast were good. They did something he knew, but did it better than hand-drill. Machines that spoke, made lights, sung and heard you were plain weird.
He learned the mastery of text editor and calculating with a spreadsheet. He could even draw a picture which would later be put on paper by another machine, equally magical in his eyes.
Still, he preferred more traditional ways of recording his thoughts. Ballpoint pens were good enough for him, thank you very much. Ink pen was more of a challenge, as his poor fine motor skills affected his ability to handle it properly. He tried and tried, but his notes came all splotched with ink and finally the teachers gave up – no type of therapy seemed to help, so they chalked it up to some developmental problem and allowed him to use the ballpoint pen from now on. He chalked it up to him being fashioned out of wood and not being expected to learn to write at any point of his life.
One sunny day, four years after he came to the group home, all older boys were taken to the attic and given a task of dragging the boxes downstairs, where girls were unpacking them and segregating things to be kept, used or discarded. There August met his first true love. She had a number of black keys and was even properly packed in a cardboard box, with all required accessories in the pocket.
As he tried it out, the letters came up, a little dust cloud accompanying them.
At the end of the afternoon he was promised that the typewriter would be his, whenever he managed to make a new box for it and had place in his room.
It was one of the few things he packed into his case when the fall came and he got ill yet again. The doctors declared he had to be moved into the countryside for his health.
He had barely time to say goodbye to his beautiful princesses when the man from the new house came and packed all his things into a big car. He kept staring through the window, his eyes tearing up at the thought of leaving his little charges all alone.
I’m sorry, Papa. I can’t do this alone. But they are together. I brought them all here. I hope this counts.


Written by Srebrna

2016/10/02 at 23:16

Posted in Splinters

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Splinters 3 – Let’s get together

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Let’s get together
As a head of the orphanage, Annabella Hanners did not have much time for socialising, so most of her friendships from the years in secondary school had dissolved due to her missing more than one class meeting. Two of her mates stayed steady and visited her at her office, as both loved children but had none.
Samantha, who just raised a mug of tea in silent toast to her friend, loved watching the children in the group home and helped with the electronic monitoring around the place, therefore she seemed the best person to ask for a very specific favour.
“We have a strict policy of not separating twins. Or, basically, any siblings. Unless there is violence between family members, of course. But we have opinions of specialists, who say it’s better to keep children together and even at a group home than to separate them for adoption.”
“And of course nobody wants triplets.”
She sighed.
“It’s twins. The third girl is just… well, very similar.”
Three giggling blonde girls twirled in the middle of the room.
“So she could be adopted.”
Another sigh.
“Probably, yes, technically. However she’s so close with the sisters I can’t really think about separating her from them.”
Samantha fell silent.
“And we think they were born in a sect” Annabella added, turning and looking at her visitor, as the other woman looked dazedly at the children.
“What, why?!”
She made a disgusted face.
“The twins were found a day after birth. They had poorly secured cords and were not completely washed.”
“Happens to young mothers who give birth at home” the visitor shrugged. “What’s different about these two?”
“For one, they were wrapped in a blanket of pure wool and they had jewellery on them – a bracelet, a pendant, some rings – all of it looks old and kind of pricey. All of it was deposited in the bank, so they can get it when they leave, maybe it will have some value… Anyway, who leaves a pair of day-old children in a wicker basket, wrapped in a woollen blankie and wearing enough gold and silver to drown a horse? Nobody. Except for some communities that don’t have much contact with outside. Some girl probably got pregnant out of wedlock, or in some crazy cult which says twins are devil-sent.”
“And the third one?”
“Ah. She was older – a month the doctor said – and she was actually wrapped in an embroidered blanket all of her own.”
“So weird… So you think she’s also a shame baby?”
“Or someone wanted to make sure she grows up outside of the loony society. Or I have no idea really, but it sounds scary to think someone dropped, in total, three perfectly healthy babies in the woods by the highway. Luckily there was a boy who found them. He seemed to be from some crazytown, too. Scared of airplanes and cars. I’m not saying he was sent by someone from wherever they came from to look after the girls, but we’re keeping him here, safe. Just in case. Anyway, he’s one of the ‘not adoptable’ ones. Sickly and too old to be in the “sick but cute” category.”
“Pity… I’m always a bit worried about kids like this – the little ones are healthy, but he was probably not vaccinated, so he can catch anything…” the visitor shook her head. “Anyway. What do you need me for? I’m quite sure you wouldn’t even dream about guilting me into adopting the girls…”
A snort.
“No way. But, if you could, I’d like to ask you… for a little tiny thing. Considering your computer-fu.”
The visitor grinned and nodded.
“Make them triplets.”
Grin fell and eyes widened.
“People can barely tell them apart anyway. I need you to manipulate the electronic records to say that they were found to be the same age and near each other. It’s enough to say that they’re sisters.”
“But nobody will adopt triplets…” the visitor’s voice trailed away. “You don’t want them adopted?”
“They’ve been together all their lives. They are only four, but I can’t just split them up. And someone will try, you know these stupid… people from the main office. They always think they know what is ‘the best for the littles’. Making these three siblings will block any asinine decisions they may make.”
The visitor scrubbed her face.
“Very well. But it’s on you if one of them turns out to be red-haired after all.”
“I’d rather have them be all colours of the rainbow, as long as nobody can separate them” she turned with grim face to Samantha. “There’s someone out there, picking out little blondes out of the system. Each of them was adopted by a respectable pair of parents who checked out OK and suddenly…” she swallowed. “Police is helpless, nothing connects the victims except for point of origin. All adoption centres were warned, but some idiot on the top decided it doesn’t make sense to stop adoptions, as the risk is small. Small! Ten children dead…” she shook her head. “They don’t want to hear about blocking it until the killer is caught.”
“And the parents?”
“Hah” the laughter was somewhat sour. “It turns out all pairs presented are someone completely different than they pose as. The people whose data is used are unaware of having “adopted” a child and very surprised at being confronted with the adoption workers.”
“So, you want to make these three unadoptable then?”
Annabella nodded.
“In a manner of speaking. The people who do that adoption thing are only picking single girls. If I make the single one a sister… They will be better off here. I’ll make sure they have everything they want and need.”
Samantha shrugged and pulled out her laptop.
“I’d say, better alive and in the system, then dead outside of it.”
She started typing and a black screen filled with letters finally showed.
Annabella looked away, turning her eyes towards the tiny courtyard, where Elsa had just tripped over Elena and Emma was sitting on a huge pile of sand, howling with laughter.

Written by Srebrna

2016/09/17 at 10:23

Posted in Splinters

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Splinters 2 – From the day we arrive on the planet

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The orphanage – nobody cared what it was called officially, as the locals were more of a “call a spade a spade” kind – was nice. And cosy. And it was actually a good place, with good people staffing it and even a few actually caring for the small inhabitants.

He was given his own bed the moment he was let out of the tiny infirmary, instructed on the general rules of making his bed and putting his stuff in order, handed a new toothbrush and a set of soft, cotton pyjamas He looked at both the garment and the toothbrush with curiosity, making the nurse groan.

“One more eco-crazy hippie kid. Come on, boy. Time for some hygiene.”

It was a weird, slightly discomfiting experience, but as he witnessed five other boys undergoing the same kind of cleaning, he obediently brushed his teeth, took a shower, washed his hair with sweet-smelling goo and put on the slightly worn set of pants and t-shirt.

“Now, to your bed. Tom, take August to your room. And let him sleep, no ghost stories or other stupid stuff. He’s just got better and we don’t want him to be sick again.”

First night was quiet, probably because Mrs McConnaly was patrolling the corridor and checking each room for disturbances. On the second night, when it was the turn of Mr Waters, Owen (who slept by the door) declared that the man is back in his room, probably reading, and then they were free to talk.

“Is your name really August?”

He shrugged. It was a name as good as any, and if Mrs Hanners thought it suited him, he was OK with it.

“Mrs H said they can’t keep calling me ‘boy’ and I don’t remember…” he whispered.

“Mrs H said the fever messed up your brain” Tom provided helpfully. “The nurse said you may get your memory back in time.”

“So you just, like, remember nothing?” Owen’s eyes went big and round.

August shrugged.

“Not sure. I remember my da, making things out of wood. And I remember people sitting in a circle and having a council. And I remember that someone was screaming and they put me in some wooden box and everything went black” he licked his lips. “And then I was in the forest.”

“With the babies” supplied Tom.

“With the babies. They were in baskets and they were cold and crying…” he paused here, not knowing what else he should say.

“Did you drag them for like miles and miles?”

“Felt like it” he said with sincerity. “I thought I would pull my arms out.”

“Now you’ll have hands like a gorilla! Ook!”

He looked at laughing boys in wonder.

“What’s a gorilla?”

He watched the bassinets with his princesses in worry. He could barely work out which one was which, and it was strange not to know which of them is his future queen.


He blinked, turning towards the nurse.

“Yes, ma’am?”

“Why are you here, and not with the other boys, outside? They are playing soccer.”

He shrugged.

“Can’t play, ma’am. I trip over my own legs all the time. I’d rather stay with them” he nodded towards the quietly sleeping girls. “I feel like I should watch them.”

She tested his forehead with her hand and hummed.

“If you want, you can sit in my chair” she rolled the upholstered office chair from her small room. “You could probably read something, if you want?”

He shrugged again.

“Can’t read. Nobody ever shown me the letters.”

He was still watching the bassinets, so he missed the outraged look in her face.

Miss Thompson brought out the primer the orphanage kept for smaller kids and they spent next days in the nursery, going very slowly through the basic book, letter by letter.

Written by Srebrna

2016/07/12 at 23:48

Posted in Splinters

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Splinters 1 – Where dark woods hide secrets

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Summary: A boy, two baskets, three newborns. All in the woods in Maine. Sounds familiar?

He slowly picked himself up from the forest floor.


His daddy always told him to keep himself clean. This wasn’t even remotely clean. This was mushy, mouldy and moist. Whole seat of his pants was covered in mud and there was nothing around that he could try to use to clean himself off. Just lots of decaying fall plants in a very leafy forest.

And he had to move.

His task, given by the two most important people in his life, was to find the basket and to get help for all of them.

Fortunately babies made noise, so he found the basket very quickly. Only it wasn’t the basket he wanted.

There was only one baby in it and it seemed there had never been a second one there.

Which meant now he had one baby and still had to find two more.

In a short time he was burdened with two baskets, for the total count of three tiny, squealing girls.

He dragged one basket twenty steps, left it there, went back for the other one, dragged it a bit ahead, went back…

He had to find some people before darkness or the babies would become ill. Or even die.

His hands were shaking and he felt a stitch in his side when he finally managed to drag them near some man-made surface. There was nothing natural about the even, black cover that smelled funny, so he had high hopes of finding someone at last.

As he stood there, shivering and trying to work out what to do next – he could not see any kind of human settlement in any direction – suddenly a noise and lights appeared as if out of nowhere and passed him with a smell of hot metal. He threw himself backwards into the bushes, trying to cover the baskets with his body, and curled there, in the mouldy leaves, hoping the monster had not noticed him.

The noise died abruptly and he heard some clicking and clunking from the direction of the road.

“Are you sure, Jim? I never saw nothing.”

“You never see nothing, Bart. There was a kid, all alone here, in the woods. He can’t stay here alone tonight, it’s going to be below freezing.”

“Jim, you’re seeing stuff. There was no kid…”

He saw a very strong beam of light go directly into the bush he was huddling under and suddenly there was a man leaning over him, watching him intently.



“There’s more of them…”

The sheriff looked at wet and miserable boy and two baskets placed in his office by the burly truckers.

“You boys kidding me? Found them in the forest? What the hell do you think I’m going to do with them?”

Jim (who managed to get the boy to eat some of his sandwiches and drink hot tea from a thermos) leaned over the sheriff’s desk.

“You are going to get the social worker here and get her to take the kids into a safe place. We picked them up smack in the middle of the woods, no sign of anyone around. The boy was half-asleep but he says he dragged them in these baskets for hours. He says he doesn’t know where they started and that he has no idea where they came from. How does this sound to you? Because I reckon it sounds like some friggen commune of stoners lost four of their kids today and I’d much rather they were taken to a proper home than be left to die of cold in the woods. What do you think, Bart?”

Bart, who stayed mostly silent for the previous half-hour, nodded and mumbled “Aye” tersely.

Sheriff leaned back on his chair.

“So you picked up some kids in the forest and now you want to dump them in some orphanage?”

“They are not ours, if that’s what you mean. Look, these two are newborns. I was at my youngest birth at the hospital and he looked the same…” Bart finally found his voice. “Someone has to take them to the hospital and check them.”

“And it can’t be us, seeing as the truck is not supposed to carry any passengers. We took them from the woods, that was emergency. Now we’re here, you’re the local authority and you will take care of them. Get the social workers to take them. It’s your job.”

He shivered in the borrowed flannel shirt Bart wrapped around him and listened to the adults arguing. The man, seemingly someone official, was for whatever reason trying not to take the girls into his care. He knew very well what would happen if they were not taken care of. They would die and he would have failed.

He swallowed with effort. He saw many little children die of neglect in his time as a wooden puppet.

“Sir…” he pulled Jim’s sleeve and the big trucker turned to him.

“What do you want, kid?”

“Sir, can we get them somewhere warm? We were in the forest for hours, and they may get sick…” he made his best begging face, eyes big and round, looking even more innocent in the oversized shirt.

“You see, sheriff? Even the kid knows something must be done with them. But, if you say you can’t, you can just write this here, on this paper” Bart pulled a blank sheet from the shelf next to the rickety printer “that you deny care of foundlings, day this and that, and us as witnesses. And we’ll take the wee ones to the hospital.”

Sheriff finally stood up with a huff.

“I’ll go to the hospital with you” he said through clenched teeth.

The social worker came, made all appropriate papers appear, made a lot of noise over the state of boy’s attire, found something more or less his size in the hospital’s storage – “people really leave a lot of stuff here when they leave”, handed the shirt back to Bart, huffed at sheriff’s attempts at explaining and then gathered all four children, arranged for a transport to her office, pushed the boy to say his goodbyes to the truckers – Jim hugged him tight and Bart shook his thin hand – and almost magically relocated them to the nearest social services office.

His head was still spinning when he was sat in a high, hard chair in front of some other lady in wire-rimmed spectacles and asked a lot of questions, half of which he actually could not understand.

“So you took the girls? Where from?”

He blinked.

“From the forest, ma’am” he answered timidly. “They were crying and I thought they must be cold or hungry…”

“And you couldn’t feed them there?”


“Why didn’t you feed them there?”

“I don’t think babies eat leaves” he said honestly. “They must drink milk and I didn’t have any.”

She surveyed him with her piercing eyes.

“So you say you found them in the middle of the woods? Nobody was around?”

“Nobody, ma’am. Only me and the three of them.”

“And how did you found yourself there? Where are you from?”

He sighed.

“I don’t know, ma’am. I know I used to live with my daddy and he was a… A…” he made a face. “A carpenter. He made wooden things. And someone shut me in a… A wardrobe? Or a box? And then I was in the forest and she was crying so I picked up the basket. And then I found the other two and I couldn’t just leave them there…” he suddenly coughed.

“Bloody hell” she murmured and rounded the desk. “You’re burning up, kid. What is your name?”

He squinted his eyes.

“Not sure, ma’am” he admitted, praying his nose would stay the same size despite all the lies he had to tell that day. “Mostly everyone called me ‘boy’ or ‘son’.”

Written by Srebrna

2016/07/07 at 23:22

Posted in Splinters

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