As she walked, wet gravel clung to her bare feet. Scraggly trees lined the sides of the narrow road. To her left was a field, left fallow for the year. To her right, on the other side of the trees, the ground sloped, disappearing into a small valley. Crickets sounded around her, making their presence known. Every few minutes she heard a dog bark in the distance. It was particularly warm for a mid-spring night. Overhead, the moon shone bright and clear.
She wasn't quite sure for just how long she had been walking, but she did know that her feet were hurting and her throat was getting scratchy from lack of water.
Rather suddenly, a fog began to roll in, and dark clouds moved in front of the moon, making it impossible to see anything ahead of her. An unexpected owl's hoot caught her off guard. She let out a shriek and picked up her pace, running blindly down the road. Unbeknownst to her a fallen log was blocking the road. She stumbled over it. Unable to catch her footing she started crashing down into the valley.
After violently tumbling down the hillside, she landed in a patch of weeds, hitting her wrist on a large rock. She lay there for a few minutes, trying to calm her racing heart. Once that was accomplished, she gingerly sat up. Leaves and burs clung to her matted brown hair. Her already unkempt clothes were even worse, torn by brambles and covered in fresh mud.
The girl rose to her feet and looked about her. Climbing back up the slope deemed too much for her tired body so she'd have to travel into the valley. The fog was thicker down here therefore she didn't see the gray church until it was towering over her.
The entrance was a massive wooden door. Faint indentations could be seen covering it. At one time the carvings would have stood out and the door would have shone in the sunlight, but not anymore. A clap of thunder sounded and rain started to drizzle down on the girl. She pushed at the door with all her might. It creaked open and she ducked into the church. Unfortunately, most of the roof had caved in under years of abuse from the elements.
The small sanctuary was fairly empty. A few scattered pews and a small altar were all that remained. Only one of the six magnificent stained glass windows was intact. It depicted a brown haired girl with joyous eyes running with outstretched arms through a field of wildflowers. The sun was shining bright and the sky was a brilliant shade of blue. Oddly, it reminded the girl of someone, but she couldn't place who.
In the few moments that she had already spent in the church, the rain had picked up. It pounded its way to the ground, soaking the girl to the bone. It looked as if some of the roof was left intact behind the altar. She made her way to the front of the church. Just as she was rounding the altar, she heard something to her right. Turning her head, she didn't see anything or anyone. Just to be sure she squinted her eyes and noticed a small door set in the corner. She hesitated only for a second before going over to the door and turning the knob.
The door opened to a massive room. The room was as wide as the church, but certainly its depth was far beyond that of the churches. She saw before her five rows of shelves. They were made of the darkest of wood and nearly touched the ceiling. Lining every inch of the shelves were corked bottles of all sizes. Under each bottle was a gold plaque. Stepping forward she saw that imprinted on each plaque was a name and a number. It looked as if the bottles were filled with water. Upon closer examination she saw that it wasn't just water, but individual water droplets. How bizarre. How could you capture and keep solitary water droplets without them sloshing together?
She looked at the name card under the first bottle. Aaron- 462. She reached up to push a stray piece of hair out of her eyes and suddenly the number was 463. She blinked. It changed again. 464. She stood there and watched it slowly increase. 465. 466. 467. It stopped there. They couldn't be water droplets. She slowly moved down the row. There! Anna-734. A second later it changed. 735. The girl sneezed and saw that the number had increased even more. 736. 737. 738. 739. 740. Then it stopped.
The water droplets weren't water droplets. They were tears! Somehow people's tears were appearing into bottles and as they cried, the number increased. How very bizarre! How was this even happening and who would want to know something like this?
A thought popped into her head. Do I have a bottle? She ran down the first row. Nope. Not even close to her letter. Up the second row she went and then down the third. Halfway down she came to a halt. This is where it should be. Right after L. She ran her finger over each name plate until she saw hers. Unlike all the others, she didn't have a number next to her name. It was just her name. What? She looked at her bottle. It was corked like all the others, but the size of it was significantly smaller than the rest. She gently placed a hand on the shelf on either side of the tiny bottle and lowered herself to eye level.
It was empty. There wasn't a single trace of water in it! She was taken aback. Surely this couldn't be right. She had cried thousands of times...hadn't she? She must've when she was a child. But thinking back, she recalled her mother telling her that she had always been a tough girl. Never crying, not even when she broke her wrist jumping out of a tree when she was 7.
She stood there for a moment in total disbelief before crumpling to the floor and resting her head on her knees. It wasn't true! It couldn't be! Her face started to get warm and her throat was beginning to ache. Her eyes also itched and she didn't know why.
Something warm and strong gripped her shoulder. She recoiled, jerking her shoulder away. She looked up. It was a man dressed in a wool tunic and worn leather sandals. His warm eyes offered her strength and comfort. She sniffled and scratched at her itching eyes. He sat down next to her, reclaiming her shoulder with his hand.
"It's okay, Lily. I'm here with you. You can let it out."
The girl felt something wet and warm slide down her nose and fall to the ground. Quickly, the man reached out his hand and caught the tear in the center of his palm. Using his other hand, he reached for the bottle and held it out to the girl. She took it in her shaking hands and uncorked it. He then put his free hand over hers to steady it and gently slid the tear into the empty bottle. Corking it, he placed it back where it belonged.
"That wasn't so bad, now was it?"
The girl looked up at her name plate. Next to her name was now a number. 1. She squeezed her eyes shut and felt a few more drops hit her cheeks. 2. 3. 4. She coughed and ran the back of her hand across her nose. She offered him a smile and he wrapped his arms around her. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. As she cried he gently ran his fingers through her hair, untangling it, and removing the debris. Once her sobbing reduced to nothing but sniffling he stood up and lifted her to her feet.
She did as was told. The man led her out the door and back through the sanctuary. Only it wasn't the same cold, gray, and lifeless sanctuary she had previously walked through. Miraculously it had been restored to its former warm, colorful, and lively state. The roof was once again high in the sky, the pews were back, and the broken stained glass windows replaced, depicting scenes from the bible.
Reaching the massive wooden door, the man gestured for her to open it. She hesitated and looked up at the stained glass window of the brown haired girl. Turning back to the door, she pushed it open and was instantly bathed in dandelion colored sunlight. Stepping outside she turned her face upwards towards the sun. The man moved next to her. She faced the man and wrapped her arms around his waist, giving him a hug. Pulling back, he held her by the shoulders.
"You'll be coming back to visit, won't you?"
The girl nodded her head. The man chuckled.
With a smile on her face, the girl gave him another quick hug before bounding down the steps and running through the field of wildflowers that surrounded the church.