There were people speaking to her. She knew speech, understood the concept. But the words, she couldn't understand. And the people were so strange. They looked at her with concern. They weren't going to hurt her. "We want to help you," they said, and she understood, though she didn't.
She didn't get much of what was going on. Everything here felt...wrong. It was one of the two things she knew for sure. The other was the boy in the bed next to her. She knew that she needed to be near him and that they would both wail ear splitting screams if they were separated. She knew he was her brother. When the people drew pictures for her. A square with a triangle on top, figures of circles atop five lines. They said house, father, mother, brother, sister. They said the words repeatedly, moving their pointers between the figures. Brother, she understood, that's what he was. The rest. She shook her head, she cried. She didn't know. Everything was wrong here. "We're getting nowhere,: she heard them say again and again. She wondered what it meant.
Sleep was worse. She was scared of sleep. She knew she'd been sleeping a long time, and when she woke up it was here, in this strange place. She thought it would happen again if she closed her eyes. It didn't, but still, the nightmares came. And all that was in them was terror, screams. And her brother. Wherever there was, that dream place, he had been there too. In her dreams, amid the chaos and the sounds she knew were the sounds of people dying, there was love, and it came from him. She couldn't articulate this to anyone; she didn't even understand it herself.
Now they were clinging to each other. And there were people urging them to calm down and follow. "Please," they said. "We've found you a home."
Home. It meant the same as house, she knew. In it would be father, mother, brother, sister. In it there would be love.
The people got them to calm down and realize that they should follow together, not be separated. They were led to and left in a brightly colored room with a few small chairs for small people, separated by glass from a darker room with three big chairs, with three big people in them. Father, mother, she thought. But she didn't know who the third was. She disentangled her hand from her brother, silenced his protests with an imploring look, and went to place her ear upon the glass, unnoticed by the big people in that room.
She listened intently, though she did not understand the words, she knew, somehow, that their fate was being decided. "There has been some kind of trauma, you understand. Neither one of them will speak to us. We're not sure they can. But they seem to understand. They're very intelligent." The two not talking were nodding. They looked happy and sad at the same time. "The boy, we've been less successful with. He cries much more, and hits objects. She is more stoic. They won't be separated under any circumstances. Are you sure you can handle them?" They were nodding still. It was happiness on their faces for sure. "Good. Then there's just one thing left. What will you call them?"
The two not talking turned then in their chairs and saw her against the glass. She felt like she'd been caught misbehaving and she scurried back to the chair with her brother. They were coming out of the dark room now, into the bright one. She held tight to her brother who buried his face in her arms. She looked directly at the two big people, challenging them. They looked gentle enough. They were cautious. And scared too, she saw that plainly in their faces, underneath the joy. The one she knew was a woman (she was wearing a skirt like in the drawing) approached her and touched her arm lightly.
"Hi. I'm..." the lady said putting a hand on her own chest, "your mother. That," she said pointing to the other person, "is your father. We're going to take you home."
She understood these words. She looked at them curiously. She put a hand on her own chest, and asked the silent question.
"You?" the lady asked. She nodded.
The lady placed a hand on her brother's knee. His head popped up, but his eyes were dry and he was looking at the lady with the same question.
"And this...is your brother, Max."
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