The Child
Sarah Reid

The child is curled up, her tiny hands and skeletal arms clutching at her similarly bony knees. The look in her wide, dark eyes is a knowing one, sad but without fear. It is the look of a child who knows Death is searching for her. Tears that have long since dried have left ugly, pale streaks down her angular, ghostly cheeks. Her tattered tunic hangs loosely concealing years of malnutrition and abuse. Black hair falls limp onto her shoulders, pieces of an otherwise beautiful mane missing. She does not, indeed cannot speak. She cannot tell how brutal her few years alive have been for her. She hides, but cannot escape from the rats, the filth, and the devastation that has been brought upon her. She has no family to comfort her. She is alone.

Television crews walk through her streets with their perfectly made-up models. They never glance into the houses. They cannot see the despair of the neo-orphans that have managed to scrape through another day. The models babble in an unknown, sophisticated tongue. No one who watches them understands. A few brave children poke their heads out from the decrepit doorways and are spoken to by the fair-skinned newcomers. With bones barely strong enough to support their measly weight, the young boys and girls obligingly throw soccer balls, jump rope, and draw crude pictures in the dirt. They are rewarded for their strange actions with sticks of gum that they gleefully accept. Then, the television people jump into their loud, foul-smelling vans and leave, never to be seen again.

Later, the emaciated child lies on the hard dirt floor. Rain pours in from the many holes in the roof, turning parts of the floor to soupy mud. The girl's breath is ragged. She no longer has the strength to sit up. Her skin ignores the feeling of the cold outside air. She clutches at a worn doll made by her sister years before. Finally, she lets sleep overtake her tired form.

It is in this form that she is found by a new television crew. A porcelain woman leans over the body and whispers how it was such a shame the child had no food to sustain her. Then, after covering the sight with a handy tarpaulin, the woman turns to the camera, reporting on the poor, helpless children of the world.

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