The boy sat for a long time with his back against the tree, eyes closed, enjoying
the sun. Large white clouds floated slowly past on their way to the horizon, while birds
circled overhead floating lazily on the on the currents, occasionally diving and then
climbing back to ride the currents again. After a while, he open his eyes and stretched,
gazing out across the hill to a path that ran straight toward the crest a short distance away
before disappearing down into the valley. He decided he would go and explore the valley
soon but for now he was content to enjoy the sunshine and watch the birds wheel and dive
above him. He awoke with a start, unaware he had even dozed off. He hadn’t been asleep
long, he thought, because the sun was still directly above him. The clouds continued to float
gently on toward the horizon in what seemed an endless parade. He sat and gathered himself for a moment and then slowly stood up and began walking along the path toward the crest of the hill where it disappeared downward into the valley. He stood at the edge looking out over the valley for a short time where a small stream ran directly across a meadow, and
beyond that the path disappeared into a large forest. He started down the path, having
decided he would go a far as the stream before deciding what to do next. The valley was
beautiful, covered with green grass and on either side hills went on, out of sight,
disappearing into the mist.
He reached the stream and paused to consider what he should do now. He wasn’t quite
certain where he was or how he had gotten here but he felt no fear, only an increasing
desire to reach the forest that lay ahead. After a few moments he made his decision
and easily hopped over the stream, continuing on toward the forest. Eventually he reached
the edge of the forest and again paused to consider what he should do next. The forest
didn’t look as dark as it had from a distance; sunlight filtered down through the canopy
lighting the path. After a moment, he began to hear the sound of birds among the trees
and feel a slight but steady breeze blowing through them. He looked around, again struck
by how beautiful the valley was. He had always loved nature and he felt right at home here.
He stepped forward and began to walk again, following the path as it continued deeper into
forest, forgetting any earlier concerns he may have had. As he walked, he noticed the path
seemed worn, as though it had been used often, but still he felt no fear or concern as he
continued on even deeper into the woods. Further along, he thought he could hear another
sound in the distance, different from the wind which continued blowing softly through the
trees but he could not quite make out what it was. He closed his eyes and listened intently,
shutting out the wind and it came to him. Water, it was water. Seemingly in response to
being recognized the sound became louder and he knew it was a waterfall somewhere
ahead splashing down into a pool below it.
He loved waterfalls. The sound always made him feel relaxed and allowed him to forget
his troubles for awhile. It sounded like it wasn’t too far away and he quickened his pace
as he continued along the path, anxious to reach it. Up ahead, the trees began to thin out
and he realized there was a clearing, a clearing where he would find his waterfall. He
reached the clearing and stopped to take it in and there was his waterfall, just as he had
envisioned it. It fell over a tall rock face, falling at least twenty feet he thought,
splashing down into a large pool that fed a stream that ran out the other side of the clearing
and flowed on, out of sight into the trees. There were several large rocks that he could hop
across on if he decided to. He sat on the bank for awhile enjoying the sound of the water
cascading down into the pool when another sound came and went so fast he wasn’t sure he
had even heard it. He sat quietly, straining to hear it again when it came back. Laughter,
the sound of children laughing as though they were playing a game, calling out to each other.
The night nurse was startled by the by the sudden, harsh warning tone from the room
monitor at the ward station. Springing from her chair, she sounded the emergency code
and ran into the hallway, joining others who were already converging on the room. As she
entered, two nurses were performing CPR. One turned to the doctor and shook her head.
"Stand back," he instructed the others as he placed the defibrillator pads on boy's chest.
She watched as the doctor applied two shocks and turned with the others to look at the
monitor above the bed. It remained flat, emitting a steady, mournful tone magnified by the
absolute silence in the room. Slowly, reluctantly, the others stopped their efforts. The only
sound in the room now was the doctor quietly confirming the outcome. As the staff filed out
of the room, she held back tears, not just tears of sadness but anger as well. Anger that any
child could be subjected to such abuse.
He stood at the edge of the hill for a moment, looking down, unsure what to do. Below
him in a field, children were playing, laughing, and chasing after each other. A girl suddenly
looked up and noticed him. She motioned for him to come down as she called out to her
companions and they too began shouting and waving for him to come down and join them.
At that moment he understood. Safe. Safe at last.