The girl sat cross legged, silent and unscented. She projected the image of a holy deity mulling over the concept of reincarnation. Lee stared at her. Hard. He felt discombobulated, detached from the moment, but entirely in it as well. In front of him—at that very moment—was a young girl almost identical to the five-year-old Christabel whom he once knew and loved dearly. Lee thought about the delicate nature of a newborn fawn and how even a short blade of grass could be enough to make it stumble and fall. 

There's. A. Girl. In. The. Corner. Lee uttered these words slowly to himself hoping that the ridiculousness of the situation could be altered. Words can change many things, but at that moment they seemed lacking.

Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma chameleon
you come and go, you come and go . . .

Once more, Lee's mind turned to music, always a comforting distraction from the moment. For the briefest of seconds he imagined a young Boy George and himself lassoing girls whilst playing kiss-chase in the school playground.

Lee decided that the girl in front of him was not Christabel.  She looks like her, he said to himself whilst placing his index finger across his lips. 

“Definitely not her...” he whispered aloud, then slowly shaking his head to convince himself, to reassure his thought processes that he had not, indeed, gone completely mad.

The girl was silent. Lee thought it perhaps could be a child's doll.  Yeah that's it, fucking hell I'm such a dick, Lee scalded himself for being so gullible. He remembered going up into his loft as a child to hide from his mother's beatings. He'd always scare himself shitless up there with all-encompassing darkness.

Undeterred with what he now was seeing, he shone the torch around the loft once again. Large spiderwebs covered much of the wooden support structures under the roof. Also, box after box of junk was pilled haphazardly in every direction. Add to that the smell of damp, wooden gas and it was all kind of spooky. What's more, Lee still felt a bit wonky from his detox. He laughed at himself and muttered the word, "Dickhead."

He then glanced back at the doll. His torch made its glass eyes sparkle as the light reflected from them and soared away into another dimension. However, Lee's serenity around the doll was short lived.. 

The "doll" pushed herself to her feet before she sat down on a quaint wooden chair that Lee had failed to notice until that moment. The seat was carved from the finest ebony, strong yet delicate.  It must have been carved by elves, thought Lee as he squinted his eyes so he could make out the intricate patterns and markings. The girl wore two large bracelets made from pearly white ivory. A thin, gold band wrapped itself around her head like a miniature hoopla-hoop. It reminded Lee of Wonder Woman.

Before Lee could take in any more of the scene, the small girl held out a delicate hand and motioned him to approach. A blank expression oozed out of her soul making her intentions impossible to read. Feeling rejected, to Lee it felt as if somebody was slowly slicing open his testicles with a rusty razor blade. Just when he thought that the emotional intensity of the scene were soon to bubble over, salt was then rubbed into his gaping wound. He took one large gulp of stale, musky air, then another and another, until his lungs were bursting to the brim with hundred year old dust particles.

His loud gulping of air was interrupted by the hush of the loft floor. The soft click created by the under sole of his trainer squeaked as he moved. Lee's attention diverted to his trainers, a classic pair of white Converse All Stars. Lee appreciated the distinct sound that new trainers always delivered. In some ways it was comparible to a complex jazz record. He squeaked towards the little girl in the corner. You could tell a lot by a persons walk, that's what his father use to say.

“Judgments and impressions...” His father's voice came booming out of the girl's mouth!

Lee noticed another chair off to the right of the girl. It was larger in size and covered by velvet cushioning which was an off purple colour. She stroked the base before gently patting it. Lee's eyes widened and without moving a muscle he found himself sat upon the chair. He looked down at his hands and noticed that Simon Benton's torch was no longer there. It didn't matter; he could see just fine.

“You need to forgive yourself, Lee.” The words were not a statement, more a suggestion. Her voice sounded like it came from another world. It was not comparable to any voice that Lee had ever heard. The only slightly similar sounding sound was like Cher's voice in her song 'Believe'. Lee hated that song.

No matter how hard I try
You keep pushing me aside

And I can't break through
There's no talking to you
It's so sad that you're leaving

It takes time to believe it
But after all is said and done
You're gonna be the lonely one

Do you believe in life after love
I can feel something inside me say
I really don't think you're strong enough

“You need to forgive your mother. She knew no different. She was merely repeating what went before," the voice continued.

Lee fell off the chair and coughed so violently that he thought he might swallow his tongue. The wooden floor cut deep into the bones of his knees. He started trembling, then a high pitched noise drilled deep into his skull cutting all nerve endings. It felt as if he'd woken up during a major operation where he'd been given no anaesthetic. He was on all fours, face touching the floor, hands covering his ears trying his best to block out his horror senses. 

This is how it feels to be lonely, 
this is how it feels to be small, 
this is how it feels when your world means nothing at all. 
Husband don't know what he's done,
kids don't know what's wrong with mum . . .

The lyrics to an Inspiral Carpets' song pounded Lee's head like a Sergeant Major poking at a new recruit to wake him. The lyrics got progressively louder until eventually forcing out a scream, followed by a storm of tears. If Lee ever had to give birth, he knew he would scream like he did on that day. The shriek scared him as soon as it exited his mouth. The scream was scared of itself. Fear itself, incarnate. It was the first time it had left its comfortable-but-dark surroundings of the inner core. It knew that once it was out it was never coming back.

The girl cupped her small hands around Lee's raw face. They felt warm. Lee imagined them to feel like what a mothers hands should. She was kneeling down staring into his eyes.

“Let it out. Take your first step towards peace. Close your eyes. Follow my breathing.”

Lee did as he was told and followed her as she used her nose to breathe in for four seconds then held it for four seconds before breathing out for eight seconds then holding it for four seconds, once again. Lee had no idea how long he'd been doing the breathing exercise, but a calm, coup d'etat of peacefulness and tranquility had descended upon him. With his eyes wide shut he could see colours. Plain, primary colours. Nothing fancy just simple harmony. His mind was clear, empty and bright. Lee felt strange. Usually his mind was filled with a constant noise. It felt like it had—finally—been turned down.



“Lee, Lee, what do you see up there?! Anything?”

Simon Benton's voice immediately brought Lee out of his trance. He stood up in the dusty loft with the torch still in his hand. He shone it towards the hatch and could see Benton's head poking up as if it were a Japanese knotweed determined to break through a well-kept garden. In any event, Simon's invasive chitchatting punctuated Lee's peace. 

“A up. This looks exciting down't it?” Simon Benton beamed like a cat who'd just got creamy whiskers. Lee noticed that Simon wore a head torch to go nicely with his camouflage jumper.  He's actually put that jumper on especially to climb into the loft, thought Lee. 

“Always be prepared,” Simon said, acknowledging Lee's observation.

Simon lifted his whole body into the loft with ease. He was a stocky fellow, well-fed is how a grandmother might have described him. It was obvious to Lee that Simon had never been anywhere near heroin in his life. He looked physically strong, robust. Although he was short; if he were any shorter he may qualified in the dwarf category.

Lee wondered why Simon had not mentioned anything about the screaming? 

“This dolly has got an ugly mush.” 

Simon stood in the corner of the loft holding up a child's doll to inspect. He had it by the scruff of its neck. It looked like he was picking up a kitten. The doll was about the size of a three-year-old child. Rather than feel confused or spun out—which would've been understandable, given the circumstances—Lee felt like he was floating along the path of acceptance. 

Simon blew the doll's head and a cloud of dust was set free.

“I say . . .  it's blooming dusty, innit?”

The doll had piercing eyes made of clear, crystalline glass. 

“This is a bit weird,” Simon said and looked at the doll's face as if trying to work out a difficult puzzle. Lee noticed that Simon was looking at the dolls mouth . . . or, at least where a mouth should've been. In place of a mouth there was a large, black stitched X. Maybe X marks the spot, thought Lee to himself, chuckling.

The child doll had been dressed in a tatty, school uniform and black, patent shoes graced her feet. Unlike the rest of the dusty doll, the shoes were in perfect condition. In fact, they looked brand new or as if they'd been polished that very morning.

Before he could process any more of the prophetic trance he'd experienced, Lee suddenly heard Simon say, “Oh aye, look there's a name badge on the back of her jumper. Chris-ta-bel.”