God is a Little Girl
For Anna, and all the kids who suffer...
“Where did you go?” Marissa called into the darkness. Everything was so quiet. It reminded her of the time her sister hid inside the shed during hide and seek. Father looked for Diana for hours, shouting through the yard. She hadn’t gone back into the house until after Father began driving the neighborhood and screaming her name. Marissa knew where Diana’s favorite hiding spot was, but she was too afraid of Father’s anger to say anything. What if Father blamed her?
“Diana!” Marissa called out again into the inky darkness. “Where did you go?” She was right here, right next to me! A hint of frustration crept into her voice. “Come on Diana, I’m tired of this game.” The darkness didn’t respond.
Marissa’s frustration slowly gave way to a creeping fear that seized her throat like a vice. She reached out into the blackness and tried to latch onto something, anything that might anchor her to reality. It felt as if she was floating. Her hand touched nothing. She lifted her arm above her head and tried to grasp for the familiar feel of metal that should have been there. Nothing but empty space greeted her touch.
“Mom?” She muttered. A warm tear swelled at the edge of her vision, blurring the world of shadows into a murky pool of gray and brown. “Dad? Anyone?” Her voice was small and speckled with strange murmuring echoes that overlapped her words.
Marissa rubbed her eyes and tried to blink the tears away. “Where is everyone?” She brought her legs up close to her chest and wrapped her arms around her knees, rocking back and forth as she cried. A few moments later, after her tears had subsided, she stood and attempted to see through the darkness.
She felt the stone floor beneath her bare feet and it made her shiver. “Where am I?” She wondered past the lump in her throat. The rough stone scraped the underside of her toes. Marissa stepped forward hesitantly, completely blind, and felt an unevenly hewn wall in front of her. She ran her fingers along it, searching for a door, but found only more stone blocks.
The soft call of garbled voices snatched her attention away from her path and to a direction behind her. Marissa turned, seeking out the voices, but could only see darkness. She gathered her courage in the form of a deep breath and walked toward the sounds. Somehow, every step she took filled her with the distinct sense that she was doing the right thing.
Suddenly, the voices stopped and the stone wall to Marissa’s side faded into the familiar textures of a wooden door. She slid her hands up and down the door until she found the wrought iron handle. With another steadying breath, she brushed the tears from her cheeks and pulled on the handle.
“Ah!” She gasped, immediately recognizing the room beyond the doorway. Everything was bathed in warm and inviting light. The dark cherry pews were polished to a brilliant sheen, just like Marissa remembered them. Sitting at the front of the church on the steps beneath the altar, wearing a white dress and sparkling red shoes, was Diana.
Marissa’s face lit up from ear to ear as she ran between the pews to the waiting embrace of her sister. “Diana! Where were you?” Marissa practically shouted into her sister’s face. “Father will be upset if he can’t find you.”
“Oh, Marissa,” Diana cooed, taking a step back toward the altar. “Don’t you know where we are?” Marissa gazed all around the sanctuary of her church. Nothing looked different – maybe cleaner – but certainly not different.
“We’re in church…” Marissa said, suddenly aware of the fear building inside her once more. A fresh wave of tears threatened to break loose of her eyes and stream down her cheeks. “Where’s Father?” She asked, hesitant to learn the answer.
“Marissa, what is the last thing you remember?” Diana asked, twirling behind the altar in her dress.
“I… I don’t know…” Marissa responded, more to herself than her sister. “We were in church, right?” She looked up at Diana for confirmation, but her sister’s back was turned.
“Nope,” Diana called over her shoulder. “Think harder.”
Memories flooded into Marissa’s consciousness like an emotional landslide. “I was in the hospital,” she stammered. “You and Father were there…” Instinctively, Marissa reached above her head for the metal bar of the hospital bed like she had done a thousand times before. Her arm brushed against her scalp. She was bald. Marissa collapsed to her knees. She was too stunned to cry.
Diana rushed to her side and gripped her hand, lifting her chin up. “This is Heaven,” Diana whispered, never taking her eyes from her sister’s.
Marissa suppressed as much of her emotion as her nine-year-old body could. “Are you God?” She whispered back to her sister.
“Yes,” Diana answered, squeezing her sister’s hands as they both began to cry once more. “And no.”