"Redemption comes in strange places, small spaces
Calling out the best of who we are"
-Add to the Beauty, Sara Groves
She was a worm. It was the smallest thing she knew how to be and be safe. Ants were smaller, but definitely not safe, always scurrying around out in the open. She wanted small, dark, still and invisible. She would be a worm. Nobody noticed worms, they burrowed into the darkness and everyone forgot about them. Worms were good hiders.
They were yelling again. She hated the anger in their voices and the cruelty in their words. She hated that it wouldn’t stop at yelling. Someone would get hurt. Someone was always getting hurt. She didn’t want to get hurt. That was the biggest thing she knew how to wish for: that it would all just go away, and leave her in peace. Not-hurting was the highest joy she could imagine. She crawled under the bed. Would it work this time? “I am only a little worm,” she whispered to herself.
Once she had seen inside a grave. It was dark there, and she could see a worm burrowing back into the fresh-turned soil. It looked so safe. Maybe dead would mean not hurting any more. She knew where the graveyard was – down the next corner and round behind the little yellow church. She knew she was not supposed to cross the road on her own, but she wouldn’t get into trouble if nobody saw her.
There was a scream, and a crash that sounded like broken glass. Under the bed was not safe enough; it was time to find somewhere better. It was too dangerous to go to the door, they would see her on the way, but if she could just open her bedroom window, and climb onto the sill from the bed it wasn’t far to the ground. All she needed was to take her little blanket so she could cover herself up.
The drop hurt more than she expected, and the world looked so different at night, but it was still a lot less frightening than what she was leaving behind, so she resolutely got up and took slow, careful steps towards the gate. She was just tall enough to unlatch it, and she knew to draw it quietly closed behind her so that it would not bang and be heard.
There was no traffic, and the night was dark and cold and clear. She crossed under a streetlamp, looking both ways as she had been taught, but crouching down low as she ran across the open space. She was safe if she stayed a worm.
The gate to the churchyard was locked, and for a moment that frustrated all her plans. She very nearly cried, but she was used to holding back her tears. Quietness was safety. Then she saw a space under the fence that was just big enough for her to crawl through. Of course, isn’t that what a worm would do?
It was a strange place at night, wanly lit by the streetlights beyond between dark pools of unidentifiable shadow, oddly comforting in its very darkness. It never occurred to her that anything here could be more frightening than what she had left behind; the darkness had always been her friend. She found herself a place on the ground, where fallen leaves had filled in a hollow place beneath the bushes, wrapped herself in her beloved blanket and quickly fell asleep. She could not remember ever feeling so safe before.
It took a moment for the voices to wake her – they were soft and gentle, not at all what she was used to. She was lifted in strong arms, put in a car and taken to what she was later told was a hospital, where more strong, quietly spoken people undressed her, touched her, said sorry when it hurt her, and spoke to each other in slow, sad voices. There were bright lights, and lots of people, but even though she couldn’t be a worm here, she didn’t feel unsafe. They asked her lots of questions and she was proud that she could give them her name and address, and tell them exactly why it was so important to become a worm. One of the ladies, dressed like a nurse, seemed to be crying. That was strange; she’d never seen anyone cry about worms before.
They said she would have to stay in hospital, and then they would find her a new family. She heard them talking to each other using words like “mess”, disaster”, and “too late to save them”. She had no idea what had happened, but it didn’t worry her very much. Someone gave her a big cuddly yellow rabbit, she tasted chocolate, and she learned that there were shows for children on tv, not just grown up stuff. One afternoon a blonde lady who smelled like flowers came and told her that she would be her new mother as soon as she left hospital. “Will I have to be a worm anymore?” she asked.
“No, sweetheart,” said the nurse who had cried who was standing in the room. “I think you’re going to become a butterfly.”