The Awakening of The Empath
The Empath had been summoned. Ordinarily responsive to appeals for her services, she had tried to evade this particular assignment. She wasn’t dressed well enough. She needed to meet her daughter’s school bus. She only slightly knew the woman burying her grandson.
When she was younger, she shared her gift without hesitation. But now each mission depleted her, and she needed to protect her daughter from their aftermath.
In spite of her reluctance, the obligation was assigned to her. She arrived at the cemetery early and stewed in her station wagon, contemplating steamy swirls of air hovering over the grass. In the back, her groceries beaded with sweat. She breathed deeply, gathering her reserves.
She had never served at an infant’s funeral.
A sad parade of cars approached with drooping pennants proclaiming “FUNERAL.” Limp families emerged in clumps. The Empath looked at herself in the rear view mirror. Her green eyes sparked; her emerald aura flashed with restrained energy.
She trailed behind the mourners as they wound their way between the scattered gravestones. A round-cheeked cherub with blond curls strained against her mother’s grasp, grabbing dandelions with her free hand.
Two pallbearers placed an unnervingly small casket on the ground between a cluster of folding chairs and a hole dug far too large. The Empath bowed her head with the others. While the minister fumbled with his prayer book, past sorrows flickered through her thoughts.
Your niece is failing Honors English and Remedial English at the same time. How is that even possible? I thumped her on the back. Her sister’s disappointment and frustration had sunk into her like a rock.
Your father becomes anxious if he can’t see me. I can’t go to the bathroom without him calling for me. I am suffocating. Her mother’s aura, once a soft amber glow, had dimmed to a dusky grey.
Clara was my angel. Her family is trying to take her things away. Viktor’s desolation tore at her heart.
She had eased their pain, but she still felt it.
The service was brief. Two expressionless cemetery workers in coveralls climbed into opposite ends of the grave. Arms at their sides, they faced one another like soldiers. In unison, they turned, lifted the white box as if it was weightless, and bent their knees as they lowered it out of sight. Sobs tore the air. The mourners tossed in clods of dirt or flowers. The cherub threw her dandelions.
It was time to perform her mission. The Empath edged around the throng to squeeze the grandmother’s hand. She murmured the healing phrases into the woman’s ear. So sad. I came for you. I am here. The bereft woman clutched The Empath’s shoulders like a life preserver and a tidal wave of despair washed over them.
It was done. A moment’s distraction. Absorb a portion of the grief. Move on. Legs trembling, The Empath backed away. The crowd closed around the grandmother.
As the mourners loosely drifted down the hill, the little blond girl crouched to pluck more flowers. The Empath dropped to her knees to avoid tripping over the girl. She grasped the child’s pudgy arms to keep from toppling her over.
At the contact, The Empath knew the true reason she had been summoned. The child’s sizzling orange aura burnt the story into her brain. Mommy can’t read to you now. Mommy has to feed the baby change the baby rock the baby. Be quiet; the baby is sleeping. The vision appeared as if it was a scene in a movie: Big Sister, stretching into the crib with the floppy plush bear that muffles the bad noise. Now the baby is very quiet and very still.
Clutching those innocent forearms, The Empath drew the child closer. It will be all right, sweetie, she whispered in the tiny ear. Your mommy and daddy love you so much. The little one’s somber face brightened. She offered The Empath her last dandelion. Her mother spun around and yanked the child away, scowling at the stranger.
Gasping, The Empath reeled back to her car. Slamming the door, she threw her head back and howled. She drove home, not noticing the route. Leaving the groceries to ruin, she sat at her kitchen table, staring at the crushed yellow flower. Her aura roiled, a tormented whirlpool of desolation. The clock ticked off the minutes of the afternoon.
At four o’clock, the door swept open and a pink backpack plopped on the floor. A wail filled the room. “Mommy…I spilled my milk at lunch, I didn’t get a turn on the swing…” Round blue eyes brimming with childish woe, her daughter’s body was a homing beam seeking the comfort of her mother’s arms.
“Don’t touch me! Stay back!” The Empath shrieked. It was too late. The child took a running leap for her mother’s lap. As they connected, a violent current surged between them. Her sweet ballerina convulsed and flopped to the floor like a rag doll.
The seizure was over before The Empath could reach her. The girl’s breathing evened. She stirred as if awakening from a deep sleep. The Empath’s hands hovered over her daughter’s body, touching her arm, her chest, her forehead. The child’s energy reassembled itself; the sizzling yellow streaks in her aura softened to a pulsating golden glow. The child blinked hard, and The Empath gazed into unfamiliar eyes. They were green as a leaf, just like her own. The girl wrapped her arms around her mother’s neck.
“Why, Mommy, why did the baby have to die? Why is the little girl so sad? Don’t worry, Mommy. It’s okay, it’s okay. Mommy, Mommy, I am right here with you.”