Anna

Anna lives not here,

Anna lives not here.

She packed her bags and went away,

Anna lives not here.

Boris walked into his apartment after his wife's funeral to find that his seven year old daughter had shut herself in her room and begun singing to herself. "Anna?" He pushed her door open. Inside, his darling Anna was rocking, knees pulled to her chest, staring at nothing, and a far away look in her eyes. "Anna, honey, what's going on?"

She continued to rock back and forth, back and forth. "Anna lives not here, Anna lives not here. She packed her bags and went away..." Boris rushed forward to wrap his arms around his little girl. "No!" she let out a blood-curdling scream. "Anna lives not here!"

Boris did not go to work that day.

He spent it in his daughter's room, trying to get her to say something other than the strange montage she had adopted. She wouldn't eat. She wouldn't sleep. She wouldn't move, other than the rocking. Neither did he.

When he walked in her room that morning, the walls had been a pretty, princess light pink. Now, in the hot afternoon sun, the walls were blindingly bright. Anna had finally stopped rocking, out of sheer exhaustion. She now sat muttering to herself, having sang until she was hoarse a few hours ago.

Boris wrapped his arms around her, and other than a small cry, Anna let him. He picked her up, carrying her over to her bed. He placed his daughter in the middle of her bed, and went to leave. Upon seeing his daughter sitting on her bed in the same exact position he had picked her up in from the floor, Boris sat back on the bed. He pulled her into his arms, and curled around her. Neither of them slept.

Boris didn't go to work the next day.

He spent it trying to get his daughter to move. She wouldn't. Anna just laid on her bed in the fetal position. Boris tried talking to her, calling her name, asking her questions. Anna just stared off into space. He was scared to leave her, but finally his gnawing hunger overtook him. He took soup into her room, two bowls. He tried to get Anna to eat, but she still wouldn't move.

The walls grew brighter with each passing hour, and with each passing hour, Boris lost hope. That night, Boris tried to sleep curled around her. Neither could sleep again. Boris picked her up around midnight, carrying her to the couch in the living room. They stared at the television, with the infomercials muted.

Boris called in sick the next day. In fact, he took the whole week off.

He took Anna to the doctor. The doctors said they didn't know what was wrong with her. They gave her medicine, and sent her home. Boris tried to get her to take her medicine. He had to force it down her throat. He had to force it down her throat twice a day, every day.

Slowly, his Anna came back to him. Sort of. Anna could walk now, stand up, move around. She was eating and drinking what was put in front of her. But she still wouldn't talk. She only stared into space, looking at nothing. She was just a shell.

The next day, Boris took her to the park.

Anna stood at the foot of the slide. She stood in front of the swings. She stood beside the monkey bars. Boris watched her. He thought about when they used to come to the park. She would run to the slide, climbing the ladder and slipping down until she grew tired of it. Then she would come over to him, drag him to the swings giggling, and make him push her. She would squeal in delight. Later, she would talk about how he pushed her so high she went above the bar. She would go to the monkey bars next. She would sit on his shoulders and hold the bars as he walked under them. That was before, though. Before Kelly died. Before she went silent.

Boris called her over to him after an hour or so. He gave her an apple. She ate it, staring unblinkingly at him. They left the park.

When they got back to the apartment, it was late. Boris gave her food, water, and medicine. He gave her the pill that the doctors said would make her sleep. They sat on the couch again. Anna pulled her knees up to her chin and fell asleep. Boris turned on the television. He stared at infomercials all night.

Boris and Anna went to the grocery store the next day.

They walked around the produce section. Anna picked out two apples, three oranges, and two bananas. Boris got a bag of chips and two frozen pizzas.

That night, Boris cooked one of his pizzas. He ate a slice and gave Anna one. She ate an apple from the fridge instead. He put her pills in front of her, one to make her normal, one to help her sleep. She took them on her own. They went to the couch, and Boris sat down. He turned on the television and muted it. Anna laid down beside him, resting her head in his lap. He stroked her hair until she fell asleep.

The next day, Boris and Anna went to the zoo. Boris held Anna's hand as she walked around and looked at the exhibits. She reached out to the gorillas in their cages. They reached back. She waved at the otters. She touched the fish in the tank. Boris made her wash her hands. He gave her money to feed the llamas at the petting zoo. She smiled when the baby goat nuzzled her cheek. They went home.

That night, Boris gave her leftover pizza from the night before. She ate a banana instead. He put her pills in front of her. She took them. They went into the living room. Anna turned the TV on. Boris muted it. Anna curled under his arm, pulling her feet on the sofa. She fell asleep.

Anna and Boris went to church. She dressed in a pale pink dress, white socks with frills, and white shoes. Her hair was a wreck. Boris wore his shabby suit. His coat sleeves were too short and the pants almost didn't button. They went in and sat down in the last row. When the choir started to sing, they stood up, reverently silent. When the preacher began to speak, they sat. Anna rested her head against Boris' shoulder. She fell asleep.

After church, they went home. Anna went in her room. Boris sat on the couch. Anna stared at her dolls. Boris stared at the blank television.

Anna was slowly getting better. She looked less like a zombie every day. Her eyes focused, her skin lit up, and she almost smiled at her daddy. Boris was slowly getting worse. He never slept. He ate less and less each day. And slowly, ever so slowly, the light started to leave his eyes.

Boris gave her dinner, cold pizza. She took an orange from the fridge. Boris peeled it for her. She ate it. He put her pills on the counter. She took them. He sent her into the living room. He took one of her sleeping pills. Boris went to the living room and sat on he couch by Anna. She already had the television going. There was no sound. They slept.

Anna woke up the next day. Boris didn't. She turned the television off. Boris slept on. She shook his shoulder. Again. Again. He didn't move.

"Daddy?"

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