I’ve lost my way.
Emily heard the small voice beneath the rustle of the morning winds . It was a child’s voice, high as a piccolo, full of distress . I’ve lost my way.
She turned in her bed, faced the bedroom window . It was still dark outside though the horizon was bleeding at the edge . She was in her dressing gown and her hair was coiled up in a braid under her bonnet . The floor was chill beneath her bare feet, but Emily didn’t bother to put on slippers .
She saw him at the window, beneath a shrub . A young boy in tattered dull clothing . He had blond hair under a cap and the chubby cheeks of a cherub . His skin was as thin as tracing paper . She could see things beneath its surface . Moth wings, curled ferns, as if he were a stuffed doll . And his eyes were a pale turquoise blue that glowed .
The moor was full of ghosts . She had seen them many times during her long walks, men and women and children with translucent skin, earth-colored clothes and bewildered expressions . They wandered the windy grasslands, drifting here and there like scattered dandelion fluff. They never seemed to see her, appearing to be preoccupied by some private matters . Emily ignored them and for the most part, they ignored her . A couple of times, one of them might follow her for a brief spell or tried to get her attention . Eventually they would dissolve like mist . The ghosts moved their mouths, but no sound issued forth .
This young boy was the only one who could hear . That must have meant something .
“Who are you?” Emily asked .
The child reached through the fogged glass and touched her hand . The fingers on her flesh felt like icicles made of feathers. They tickled her; gooseflesh rose in response.
I’ve lost my way.
The refrain echoed in her brain . She knew that voice, that angelic boy soprano that resounded throughout the church nave . Then, she recalled the face .
“Heath Linton,” Emily said .
He’d gone missing a little over a year ago . Vanished . Had he been kidnapped? Beset by highwaymen? Or fallen down some hidden hole on the moor, in pain and in the dark? Heath was like Emily in that he loved the countryside . She’d even gone on a few walks with him .
Why was he there, outside of her window? And why could she hear him?
Emily’s late mother could hear the spirits of the departed.
“I hear my babies in the wind,” she told Emily on her deathbed . “They’re saying ‘We’ve come home, Mama! Let us in!’ ” Her mother was referring to her two sisters, taken from them by consumption . Just like her mother had been, in a cruel twist of fate.