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Sep 22, 2017 9:52 PM
Annie at the end of all things
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On September 13, 1987, a nice Norwegian-American couple have a home birth and welcome a screaming baby and call her Annabel. They have a few days at home, then try putting her in the car to see if that will get her to stop crying; nothing else will. They get on the highway. A truck capsizes directly onto the car. The parents are killed instantly; anyone looking at the scene would expect that the baby would be dead too.

The baby is covered in blood and her car seat is destroyed and her onesie is a writeoff but she is, when found by the rescue workers, miraculously unharmed. Not a scratch. There is minor press coverage.

There is a lot of demand among would-be adoptive parents for healthy white babies.

Annabel is not healthy. She's blind, turns out, usual culprit would be neonatal conjunctivitis but her eyes are uninfected; she's always, always crying, and it escalates to bloodcurdling screams at intervals no one can figure out; she hates being held and hates being swaddled and hates lullabies and whimpers even in her sleep. She spends a couple years institutionalized, in and out of bewildered hospitals. Talks startlingly early. She is too hot, she says; and indeed she calms down a lot if she buries herself in ice packs - she says singing hurts her; they toy with an autism diagnosis, at any rate mostly remember not to turn the radio on -

- she's missing somebody, she says, and they tell her that her parents are gone but they will try to find her new ones.

She says new ones won't fix it. She has no reason to doubt the supposed identity of the missing someone, but she knows new ones won't fix it.

They get her new ones anyway. With her mystery conditions manageable she is still not a healthy white baby, but she's a cute toddler, and some people enjoy collecting disadvantaged children. The George family takes her in as a foster kid. She's one of eleven, some internationally adopted, some rescued into the Georges' all-welcoming arms from abusers, a couple children of drug addicts, one brittle bone disorder case. Mrs. George can't have kids of her own and interpreted this as a command from the Lord to shelter those who need her. The Lord did not specify very much about the quality of the shelter.

The George family feels called to spread the word of the Lord in India. Off they go. Little blind fever-warm Annie objects to the weather; Mr. and Mrs. George do not have any interest in addressing this concern and when it is brought to their attention this is explained to her with a level of violence precisely described in one of Mr. George's favorite parenting books. She does not complain again about the weather. She learns the local languages so fast and without anyone knowing quite who's teaching her; she winds up translating a lot in the market. Her vocabulary mysteriously fails her when the Georges want to express anything complicated like the wisdom of God but she's only a little girl, so.

 

When Annie is six she tells the Georges that the Lord has given her a miraculous gift. They tell her that this is not how miracles work and spank her. She repeats herself: a miraculous gift from the Lord, honest, watch.

And she lays hands on the foster sibling with the brittle bones, who has not been doing particularly well in rural India, and -

 

The Georges build their ministry around their blind miracle healer. Annie mostly leaves the preaching to them; she just places her hand on whoever comes to her, holds it there, lets them go when they're cured of what ails them. She does express one or two theological opinions (she is negative on making joyful noise; disinclined to claim to be the Second Coming) but that's all.

Annie suggests that maybe the right place for her miraculous gift would be in some sort of large city with real hospitals. The Georges have fallen in love with the little village they first settled in, though, and Annie is kept there, healing villagers (they do keep getting cholera) and her foster siblings.

When Annie turns eighteen she turns out to have saved up kind of a lot of money in secret; a villager's been playing go-between for her and some translation work, bringing her printouts and then going and typing things up, and gets her her passport renewed at the consulate - she doesn't explain this to the Georges. She doesn't explain anything to the Georges. She has a plane ticket for her and her brittle-boned sister and the Georges find out when they see the note. (It has somehow never come to their attention that their blind fosterling could read anyway. They certainly never taught her. Fancy that.) The note doesn't say where they're going; it merely indicates that they have not been kidnapped.

 

They go to join the Peace Corps.

Annie figured out what the other half of being too warm all the time is. She's never had a mosquito bite in her life.

They go through Peace Corps volunteer training and fly to Sierra Leone. Annie has some empirical differences with the Corps and strikes off on her own, swinging by to fix up her sister's accumulated injuries every now and then. An Ebola outbreak turns out to have been a false alarm. The rates of yellow fever and malaria nosedive. Everyone who can afford it has a freezer or an air conditioner.

She's still missing someone and she remembers who it is now but this is not the place to find her.

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She spends seven hundred years putting her head back together and then the next thirty working for the CIA. She is quiet and diligent and deeply unhappy, enough so that it shows even though she is a disconcertingly gifted liar. She's missing someone and she never forgot who it is and when Africa turns out on the brink of curing several major diseases at once she does not hope - she doesn't do emotions, they're exhausting - but she does run a search of public records. 

 

And finds something, the minor news stories and the adoption records and the miracle healing -

 

Two days later someone shows up on the doorstep of the Georges. 

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One of the kids answers the door and is surprised to see a white person and blinks at her.

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"I'm here for Annabel where is she."

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"...She ran away with Marisol like a year ago."

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"Are you still in touch with either of them?"

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"Marisol sent a postcard to Lakeisha once..."

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"I need to talk with her right away please."

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"To Lakeisha?"

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"I think she's at the church." He provides directions to the church.

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She goes to the church. She asks for Lakeisha.

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Lakeisha is busy.

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This is really urgent and have I mentioned I have a smile like I murdered several hundred thousand people.

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Lakeisha can be fetched.

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"... can I help you?" says someone who is apparently Lakeisha.

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"I urgently need to know where Annabel and Marisol are, do you have any ideas?"

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"I don't know about Annie. Marisol joined the Peace Corps."

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"Thank you."

...eighteen hours later Marisol's door is knocked on.

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Marisol answers the door and says something in Temne.

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"Do you speak English?" She wants to just read her mind to save time but that'd hurt Annie -

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"Yes."

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"I urgently need to know where Annabel is, do you have any idea."

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"She doesn't tell me where she goes. - what's going on, is she in trouble?"

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"Did she ever tell you she was missing someone?"

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