Nina Müller

Inspired by the Metta Sutta

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Sara woke up in a panic to the stillness of the room. Her first reaction was to glance at her brother’s empty bunk, as she had done every morning for the past two years. She felt the familiar pang of grief deep in her gut. This normally lasted a few seconds and then, as usual, her mind returned to more recent worries: would Miss Heather make her read in front of the class? Would her mother join her and her father for dinner tonight? Today, however, these worries did not occupy her thoughts long, for something seemed to be terribly wrong… Not only had her dad not woken her up, but now that she was awake, there was no sign at all that her parents were around. She did not hear her mother’s impatient high heels on the stairs, nor her parents’ habitual bickering as they set about their morning tasks.

In fact, now that she thought of it, the sunrays which were beaming in through the blinds seemed unusually bright for a school morning—and for a second she had to think back on the past few days to make sure it was not the weekend. Having reminded herself that yesterday’s cafeteria theme had been Tuna Tuesday she slid out of her bed. The sound of her feet hitting the cool surface only highlighted the stillness of the house and sent a chill down her back. Sara looked once more at the empty bunk before opening her bedroom door and heading out into the hall.

Nothing. Nothing but bright winter sunrays which suggested school was well on its way for the day. For a moment she felt the sun on her face and allowed her skin to tingle in its warmth, but as young as she was she had learned that such pleasures could not be enjoyed long. Knowing too well that terrible things happen when you let your guard down, she stiffened and pushed onwards. After glimpsing her parents’ empty bedroom she made her way downstairs, where still she neither heard nor saw a peep. She suddenly missed her parents terribly, and felt at that moment that she would never see them again, or worse, that she had dreamed them up and that she alone inhabited this still, cold world.

And then, she heard it. Faint at first, but there it was, a sound nonetheless. It was a queer, unfamiliar squeaking sound, and it was coming from the basement. Hesitantly, she opened the door to the basement and a rush of fresh musty air affronted her face. Sara stood still for a few moments… She had always disliked walking down the dark staircase and feared above all its narrow walls made of cold stone.

And of course, there was the squeaking sound, which now sounded not only higher-pitched but also more distressed… Keeping one hand on the stony wall and the other stretched out in front of her Sara drew her breath in and walked downwards, the heavy thumping of her heart growing in synchrony with the other unfamiliar sound until, expecting the worst, she took the final step into the unknown…

“It looks like our family just got bigger,” said her mother, who was kneeling by their dog and the five new puppies she had clearly just given birth to. As Sara’s eyes adjusted to soft light of the room she noticed the rising and the falling of her dog’s belly and the small puppies that scrambled for her attention. She saw, too, her father’s hand on her mother’s shoulder. Letting out a deep sigh she made her way to her mother’s lap and allowed the warmth to soften the pang in her gut.