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Her shadow nonexistent in the overcast gloom, she silently fled the confines of the broken-down building. Walking across dry and dead grass, yellow and brown, she made her way to the boulder.
Her battered shoes seek a hold in the cracked rock as she pulled herself up, up along the cold, mossy stone, thin body slithering across dead pine needles and dirt.
She stands on top of the boulder and looks out at her world, the only real one she knows, in all it's crumbling despair. She sees the broken-down and rusted junkers cluttering a nearby field, and next to that, a fine, neat house with it's perfect family living inside. She sees a thunderhead rise and feels the warm breeze chill. Shivering, she turns away and crawls into a fault running down the center of the rock.
She is sick; she coughs deeply, but she only huddles closer to the warm stone as the wind whips over the barren earth. The door of the building opens and closes a few times, but no one comes looking for her. They haven't even noticed she's gone.
A single tear threatens to spill down her cheek. It hangs in her eye, glistening there for a few moments, before gravity takes hold and it falls, sliding over her skin like a snake.
A car passes on the high road, choking her with it's dust. Coughing again, she buries her head in her hands. When she raises her face, it is streaked with mud.
Despair fills her heart and her eyes as the waves of loneliness come crashing down on her tired body. What's the point? No one cares, she whispers. No one has ever or will ever care.
So many times she has been here, sandwiched between rocks, and so many times she has cried here, the place where no one ever comes. Everybody in her short life has abandoned her, they have all given up and now turn instead to other, younger children, who still have that spark of life in their eyes. The spark that was killed all those years ago, the same time as her laugh, her smile, her feelings. All gone- forever.
Once you take the light out of the eyes of a child, something happens to them inside. They become cold, unfeeling, and lifeless, operating like robots. An army of automatons.
The light would have gone out eventually on it's own, when the child grew up and became subjected to the toil and hopelessness of the adult world. It dosen't happen to everybody; some adults still have that flicker of mischievousness and are quick to laugh. They are rare, but not unheard of.
But to loose that light before your seventh birthday- that is nothing short of a tragedy. You have grown up too fast, shocked into adult life. You have lost the innocence of childhood. You have lost the best part of your life.
All children should grow up the same way one learns how to swim. First, you just dip your toes in the waves, getting used to the sensations and experiences. Soon you have waded in halfway, then three-quarters, and then your body is immersed, with only your head above water.
Somebody comes and shows you how to move your arms and how to kick your legs, and then how to float and hold your breath. Next you learn how to go under and how to tread water, two very useful skills. Not everybody gets taught these, and they can make a world of difference.
You must be careful, however, that you do not stay underwater for too long, or that you do not go down too deep. Dreadful things happen to people that do.
Sometimes when an unhappy child is learning how to swim, they go out too far, too deep, and they go under for too long. They don't hold their breath. They don't want to come back up.
And sometimes, they don't.