By Jaclyn Alexander
There once was a young girl kidnapped in autumn. She had been in a park where the leaves on the sycamore trees were bursting in color, reds and oranges like candied apples and pumpkins. The mother had been in the park with her daughter, who was wearing neon shoelaces, which disappeared from sight as the mother chatted with a friend on a bench under the sycamore trees. The sky was clear blue and a family of birds swept by, on their way to warmer lands. A man in a long yellow coat spoke nonsensically through a megaphone; perhaps he was homeless. A swarm of kids in pink, gold, blue and green scrambled to the swings.
The girl had been crawling in a tunnel, which the mother felt must have turned into a spaceship. Every night the mother lay in bed imagining her daughter crawling through the tunnel. Once she submerged inside, all the noises from the park—yelping, laughter, whistles, chatter, wind shaking the trees—must have come to a halt. Was her daughter afraid? Did she scream out for help? Was the tunnel hollow, or thick with a steel-like ring to it? Had all been dark around her? Did she scream for her mother? She must have wished there was light to guide her forward. Her every step, every crinkle in her coat, must have rung out in the vast silence. Her daughter must have wondered how long the tunnel was. Every night the mother wondered how long the tunnel was.
The mother put up child missing signs and wept in her husband’s arms. She looked at pictures for endless hours, which seemed to mark a past that had hauntingly halted with no forewarning. The child kept crawling through the tunnel until she reached a door. To her astonishment, it led to a hallway. A lady with deep forehead crinkles and too much powder on her cheeks sat at a table at the end of the hallway sipping tea. Her hair was tied back in dark coils and her lips left red lipstick smudges on her mug. Perhaps she acted like a mother to the girl. Perhaps she fed her and gave her a warm bed to sleep in. Some days the girl looked out the window at the stars. Perhaps from this high up in space it was always dark and the stars never told if it was night or day. Perhaps at the same moment the girl looked at the stars, the mother popped up in the dark, waking up from a nightmare of a woman with dark red lips pushing her daughter out of the spaceship into the open sky of stars, and her daughter, arms flailing, falling against the bright, clear orbs of light. Some nights the mother would wake up in a sweat with an image of the man in the park with the long yellow coat and the megaphone. Where was her daughter now? How long was the tunnel?
Jaclyn Alexander is pursuing an MFA in fiction writing at The New School, where she works as a research assistant. She also teaches writing at International School of Brooklyn. In her spare time she loves to make ceramics.