Sunny found Lost today. He was alone in the dark hole of a weeping willow. She almost didn’t see him for he was dressed in shadows. She asked to stay for a bit… It was raining out, very hard, and she was quite distraught. Sunny was a very young girl, and she had never been caught out in a huge storm before.
Lost welcomed her in. They introduced themselves. Lost was a boy that never smiled, but Sunny didn’t care. Lost was polite and prepared biscuits for them both, and they then settled on a small coffee table together, eating their biscuits by the light of a single candle that Sunny had brought with her. The sound of the rain outside was the only noise between them.
Soon, Sunny was finished, and she didn’t know what to do. Lost never looked at her, but he seemed to be waiting for her to talk.
“I have never met you before,” she said. “Where do you come from?”
“A place you’d never want to live in,” he answered. Lost’s eyes met hers, and they were without emotion. “You wouldn’t want to know.”
“I might have to live in such a place one day,” said Sunny. “I have to move, soon.”
Lost was quiet for a long length of time.
“Are you sure?”
Sunny solemnly nodded. “Yes.”
Lost regarded her for a serious moment. Something she wouldn’t say was hurting her deeply. Lost turned away and felt bad for her. He briefly wondered about why she would have to move, but didn’t ask.
“Where I come from,” he began, “You’re always in the dark, stumbling. There are no fires, no stars to guide you.”
Lost killed the single candlelight before them. Everything was now entirely dark, and Sunny couldn’t see an inch in front of her.
“You’d have to catch fireflies and keep them in jars for light. But their light never lasts long…they always die in captivity. If you love them, then imagine having to do this, all the time. I’d let them go, but then I’d have nothing to guide me.”
Sunny heard him trying to strike something.
“You try to light a match, for fire,” he said. “But it was always raining there. Inside and out. Everything was cold and wet, heavy with rain. Impossible to find warmth.”
The match finally lit. Light illuminated Lost’s grim face, Sunny’s quiet one.
“With firefly light, the world you’d see was desolate and dangerous. Empty streets went on with apparently no end, or dead ends. Same with stairs, but they’d end to sheer drops. There were always locked doors. The opened ones, you’d have to be careful with. Most would trick you. You might end up meeting a demon. Other times, you’d get locked inside an empty room, or a deadly one, and never be able to come out.
“Every place there was in ruin. Abandoned houses, no people inside to warm their internal furnaces. Withering gardens, the rose bushes choked with weeds. Lonely parks with ponds of murk and quiet playgrounds with molding swings and toys.
“And the people there… Something, or someone, was always missing for them. They were always sad company.
“In a quiet club, I once met a dancer who wouldn’t dance anymore. She’d lost the one who gave her the music. She just lay on the floor, in the dark, dressed so beautifully… I think she’s still there, and she hasn’t yet moved. I hope I’m wrong.
“In a studio, I found a painter. He was slumped sadly over a painting. He could paint nothing but black and white paintings of completely no purpose. He’d lost the color in his palette, and the life to paint of.
“There was a child who’d never smile — she never had the family to teach her how to laugh. A good man who could never do enough to help the world, feeling useless, for where was the voice to tell him thanks? A lady hunched over with bags of trouble. An old man who had lost his voice because he had grown too tired trying to speak — he had no one to listen to him. A toymaker who wouldn’t stitch eyes on his toy bears faces, for where were the kids to see and enjoy them? A writer who could never complete one story. How could he when all the endings to his own life’s story were sad?
“It wasn’t only the people, the creatures were hurt, too. I met a duckling who never stopped looking sadly into a pond, thinking he was ugly – he had no friends to tell him he was a swan. There was a dog that kept running into things – he had no friend to guide and teach him. A cat stayed eternally up in a tree, too afraid to go down. Where was the one below to call her, or help take her down when she mewed? There was a sparrow all shivered-up in a bush. Where had her flight gone, to guide her toward warmer weather?”
Lost fell quiet. Sunny noticed his eyes, too tragic and deep. He’d seen too much, and knew so much, too.
“In a world where everyone is lost,” he heavily continued, “you’d find those who’d drag you down with them, in all their misery. They were the demons. Then there were those who’ve lost hope and given up… No one could get to them.
“The dancer, the painter, some of the others I’ve mentioned to you and more yet that I have not… I’ve tried to help them all. I sang a song for the dancer to dance, but even with the melody, she wouldn’t. I could have sat beside her and sorrowed eternally with her, but I’d have been lost too. For the painter, I posed. He didn’t even look once at me. I told the lady to let go of some of her burdens so I can help carry some for her, but she kept on picking up more along the way. The dog wanted to bite me when I tried to teach him how to come. The bird wouldn’t believe me when I told her she should go south for warmer weather. You see, they could not stand up anymore, even with my help. They had stopped…trying. I would’ve stayed with them until they had learned how to try again, but I was not strong enough to. It was too dangerous. But not everyone had lost hope…
“The child… She may not have had a family to learn how to smile from, but she did smile when I found her and gave her a reason to smile. The man, I thanked, for giving me advice on how to keep strong, and I became the gratitude he needed to carry on saving the world. The old man… I knew how to listen to his story, even though he could not speak, for it could be told through his eyes. The toymaker stitched a bear for me, and he was glad to see how I enjoyed it. The writer wrote a story for me with an end, and though he himself didn’t have the good endings to his own life, he learned how to write what he wished for. The gosling – I told him he was a swan, and that gave him the strength to look up and believe in himself. The cat came down when I called her, and though she was afraid, she trusted that she’d fall into my arms.
“They fell away into their own paths as I went through my own dark world. They were my friends, just small lights to help guide me, just as I was a small light for them.”
Again, Lost fell silent.
“How did you escape…?” Sunny quietly asked.
It took him a long time to answer her.
“I never escaped,” he said. “I’m still trying to get out.”
The rain outside had grown stronger. A stray wind violently raced through the crevice in the door of the weeping willow’s hole, and their candlelight was gone again.
“Light it,” said Sunny, and she felt scared. “Please.”
“You light it,” he told her. She felt his cold hands place the matchbox in her own. She quickly tried to open it, but the lid burst open and the matchsticks fell to the wet floor. She found some and tried to strike them. None would light.
She was shivering now, in the dark, from the cold and now her fear.
“Why are you here?” Lost whispered.
“Because you invited me in,” she said.
“No, you found me,” he told her. “Why were you out in the rain, Sunny?”
Sunny felt hot, rancid tears begin to stream down her face.
“I don’t know!”
Lost pushed open the door. The rain burst in, instantly soaking them. He didn’t seem to mind, just stared at her, his face soaked and expression grim.
“Do you know where to go? Where’s your home, Sunny?”
“I…I don’t…just shut up, Lost!” she yelled, and then she was running out the door and into the rain. She didn’t go very far until she slipped. The rain kept on falling. She was gazing up at the heavy grey skies, thinking about Lost’s world.
Lost’s face appeared above her, shielding her from the rain.
“I just lost the people I love…very much,” she said. “I don’t know where to go anymore.”
Lost didn’t look surprised.
“We’ll find some fireflies to guide us,” he said.
He’d grab her hand, but he’d learned that demons could try to pull you down. He’d sit with her, but he knew that he couldn’t, forever.
“Get up, Sunny.”
A Conversation With Lost won 17th Place in the 2010 Writer’s Digest Nationwide Short Story contest