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U3A Writing: Sylvie's Secret

...Sylvie tries to forget what she has seen but the shocking event has followed her into her secret place and is invading her peace...

Nancy Toohey tells a disturbing story.

Sylvie has a secret place. When she feels that she doesn't know what is happening in the world around her, she goes to the secret place. In that place there is no sound, or light or interference from outside. Sometimes she thinks it is like a cocoon. She has examined cocoons but they do not have an entrance or a way out. Once you are in, you are in and once you have forced your way out the cocoon is torn and shapeless. The reason caterpillars and grubs go into cocoons is different from her need to be alone for awhile. She didn't make her cocoon. It was already there for her to discover.

Today she did not know how to play that game where they throw the ball from one end of the court to the other and if you are hit, you are out. Sylvie mostly doesn't understand games or rules or much at all. The yelling from the children was loud when she ran the wrong way. The ball then hit her very hard. This made her feel like crying.

That's one of the reasons why she is now here in the secret place this afternoon. No noise comes from the outside and no light. Sylvie lies still, letting her body find the shape of the rock she lies on. She notices that her body seems lighter here.

Cocoons are confusing. Sylvie knows that the caterpillar spins the cocoon around it but if you take a razor blade and open it up, there isn't a caterpillar any more nor is there a butterfly, just a mess. That's another reason Sylvie thinks her secret place is not like a cocoon. She comes out of it exactly the same way as she went in, but she feels better inside.
The moon and stars that Sylvie stuck to the ceiling of her secret place glow softly for awhile when she first lies down. Sylvie bought them at the store with some money she'd found. She counts the stars each time to make sure that none have fallen off. There are twelve stars. The moon is a quarter of a full moon. She calls them names that she has heard people talk about when they ask, "What is your star sign?" Sylvie doesn't know what her star sign is. She doesn't know when her birthday is.

Her body seems to be moving into the small crevices without her trying to move. Sylvie thinks that she could go to sleep, she is so comfortable.
Most people don't like rocks very much. They throw them sometimes at school, especially when they are very angry. Windows break if they are hit by a rock and sometimes heads break too. Sylvie likes rocks. She tries to find two rocks that are the same but so far she has not been able to
match two exactly. There's always something that is different. She keeps a couple of small; nearly matching pebbles in her pocket to touch when she is feeling confused. It helps her.

Sylvie brought the stars and the quarter of a full moon to her secret place after she had dropped the bowl of water all over the kitchen floor and her father had been cross and red and loud. She had tried to clean it up but the cloth that she had used was a tea towel and he had become louder, more cross and red from his neck to the top of his head. He had seemed to be like that ever since her Mum had gone away and left him to look after her. She needed the stars and the quarter of a full moon that day.
Sylvie found the secret place when she was searching for two matching rocks among the rocks on a hill near her home. She went further and further through the small pebbles to the area where the big boulders were. There, right in front of her, was a large rounded rock with a hole that looked just like an entrance. Sylvie hauled herself up to the hole and slipped easily into the smooth round shape on the other side. She didn't really look for it, in a way it found her.

The other thing that happened today was too bad to even think about. Sylvie shudders. It seems to bring the bad experience right into the secret place with her. She stares hard at the star that she calls Pisces. It seems to turn blue and swirl with waves of colour through it. Sylvie starts to feel calm again as she watches the stars and is surprised that she can still see them.

Her fingers are sort of sticky when she feels in her pocket for the two pebbles that nearly match. She cannot see because there is no light in her secret place but holding them up to the stars and the quarter of a full moon she can see that they are smudged with a dark substance.

The star that she calls Aries blazes and pulsates with red. There is enough light now to show her again what had happened. She can see her father in his chair with his head slumped against the white crocheted doyley on the back of the chair, spilling blood on the stark white material.

Sylvie searches for Pisces but the blue has faded. There is just the faintest glow there now. Even Aries is paler and is not as angry as before. Sylvie tries to forget what she has seen but the shocking event has followed her into her secret place and is invading her peace.

She tries to wriggle around to release her body from the crevices of the rock but it seems as though she has become part of it. For a moment Sylvie struggles and becomes fearful, then she remembers what is waiting for her if she goes out there again.

Sylvie watches as the stars and the quarter of a full moon ebb and flow with colours that are more beautiful than the rainbow. Her body once again moulds into the cracks and fissures of the rock. She sleeps.
Outside, away from the boulders, through the smaller pebbles, down the hill to the small weatherboard house, there is a small group of people gathered at the front and side garden.

*

It was ten years before Sylvie's skeleton was found in a hollow fissure in one of the boulders up on the hill. It was found by a boy playing around in the rocks and boulders, looking for interesting things.

"It was like it found me really. I looked up and there it was!" he said.

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