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To a young boy of nine years of age every day has the potential to be an adventure, yet none would be as unforgettable for Ricky as the day he learned of The Taker.
It had started off like any other, rising to the sounds of the morning blossom, smells of a hearty breakfast, eyes adjusting to the bright sun. But before he even had a chance to step down upon the floorboards below, arms outstretched in the process of awaking the insides a commotion blew through Ricky’s small village as fast as a stream of wind, setting into motion a scurry the likes of which he had never witnessed before.
Peering out his bedroom window the neighbors were in a frenzy, all scattering this way and that in preparation for something. A coming storm? He looked up towards the sky. Nothing but soft blue and fluffy white.
As if echoing the dash of the dozen or so disheveled the young boy’s mother came darting into the room.
“Get dressed. Grab your shoes,” she said while snatching up whatever article of clothing was nearest and flinging it over to him.
“What’s happening? Can’t I eat breakfast first? I’m hungry.”
“Grab a biscuit on our wait out. No time. Hurry, there’s no time.”
“But-“ She was back out the door before he could say another word, his heart beginning to match the pace of the madness about.
By the time Ricky had dressed and entered the kitchen, a full sixty seconds to be precise, his small family was busier than the ant farm he had received on his last birthday, older sister, father and grandfather all joining mother in the skedaddle to flee the house.
“She’s coming!” someone yelled from outside.
She? was the only thought the boy could wonder before mother had grabbed his wrist and started pulling him towards the door, barely having a fraction of a second to get his fingers around a single biscuit, the unmistakable sound of a sob coming from her as they passed through the open doorway and into the chaos outside.
Another echo, this one from their fellow villagers he could now hear, all crying while lining the streets.
Were they in danger? Why weren’t they running away? Instead doing the opposite, joining in with the others by simply kneeling on bended knee and saturating the ground below with tears of sorrow.
Ricky couldn’t help it, his eyes beginning to well up as well. But why? Who was she?
As if reading his thoughts grandfather was the one to finally answer, his gentle tone softer than usual so as if not to disturb the surrounding phenomenon. .
“The Taker. She may only ever appear thrice in one’s lifetime, and maybe not even that. Last time I laid eyes on her I was merely your age.”
“What does she take?” Ricky asked while choking back tears. “People?”
“No, sweet lad. Sorrow. Those missing limbs. Loved ones. Lost treasures so precious time does not heal.”
Just as Ricky began to contemplate just how this could possibly be a figure in all black, from veil to long-flowing dress, began to surface down the path of mournful gatherers. Her pace was slower than that of grandfather’s, yet carried a fluidity to it unlike any person of any age.
“It is said ages ago when she was a wee lass she would cry for days on end, lying there in sorrow with face toward the heavens above, countless tears rolling down into her ears,” his grandfather continued as she slowly grew nearer and nearer. “For why she shed an ocean of tears, no one ever knew, the miraculous event creating the unique ability to not only hear the wails of others but take them away too.”
So close was the mysterious woman now that Ricky could make out the purple veins snaking over her hands, the deep wrinkled flesh of her bare feet appearing to absorb the glistening of weeping wetness underfoot.
The nearer she drew the harder and faster Ricky’s heart pounded, still he couldn’t help but sit upright while all other souls leant forward in their bewailing,
Readying himself for the worst sight of his young life he looked up towards the front of The Taker’s face, the black veil hanging to its side, expecting to see a face so ravaged by both time and sadness that it would forever haunt him.
What Ricky’s eyes found was just as frightful if not more so. A young beautiful appearance on that elderly body, eyes of infinite iridescence staring back at him for a moment so monumentally enlightening. Peace, love, void of any and all suffering.
And for this he had no tears, only wiser eyes as he watched The Taker continue on her way until she was no more.