The shadows danced across the room as the gray light faded quickly into oblivion. A whimper was heard in the closing darkness and the sound of shuffling feet. After a moment a match was lit and in the glowing light a face could be seen.
The girl holding the match was dirty and unkempt. Her brown curls hung about her face, oily and matted. Her face was covered with a multitude of tiny scars that crossed and covered each other giving her an unearthly look. She seemed to be somewhere between childhood and womanhood but it was hard to tell under the thick layer of dirt and grime. Her eyes might have been blue at one time but some kind of incredible sadness had overtaken them and the murky depths now gave out only a muted gray color.
A howling noise echoed through the house as the wind picked up speed. The slender hand holding the match shook slightly at the sound and the match dropped to the floor. Darkness consumed the room again and the whimpering returned.
“I’m scared,” a voice whispered.
“Me, too,” another sounded in the dark room.
The girl-woman’s voice wavered, “I have no more matches.”
“Stupid!” a new voice growled, “You let the only light we have go out!”
The whimpering grew louder as the angry voices debated and the darkness closed tighter.
After several minutes of anger, the fear began to set in again. The girl-woman sat down heavily in the midst of the frightened children. The smallest one whose whimpers could still be heard climbed onto her lap.
“I’m s-s-scared,” a voice repeated from the corner of the room.
The girl-woman reached out a hand in the pitch black room and felt around until she touched the girl. “Come, Frightened,” she said as she drew the child over. Within a few minutes all the children in the room were pressed close together, all reaching to the touch the girl-woman.
Frightened curled up next to her side. Hurting, who was still whimpering softly against her chest, was snuggled in her lap. The other children all tried to grab onto her hands, her hair, her skirt, whatever they could reach.
The fear was so thick that one could feel it in the air. After a moment of silence Spiteful whispered in her venomous way, “Why won’t you hum that song that makes us feel better? Huh, No-Name? Do you like it when we’re afraid?”
Hurting whimpered louder and her grip on the girl-woman tightened.
Angry reached out a hand and let her fingers scratch across No-Name’s face. “You’re causing the darkness aren’t you?!” She cried, then jerked her hand back, frightened at the feel of the girl-woman’s blood under her fingers.
No-Name reached up a hand to wipe the blood away that trickled down her cheek. Instead of responding she began to softly hum a song that was etched forever upon her heart. She had heard it once, long ago. The children knew of nothing except the Shadow House but No-Name had a memory, a distant drifting memory of a voice that sounded like water rushing over rocks singing the tune that she was now humming.
Although she could hum the song, the words had forever escaped her.
The soft humming caused the children to relax around her. Spiteful and Angry both quieted and snuggled in close. Hurting’s whimpers subsided and Frightened slumped next to her as sleep overcame them all.
When they awoke, morning had come, though it wasn’t a sunlight or moonlight that shown in the morning at the Shadow House. Instead it was a gray-light that kept the darkness from overpowering but did nothing to stop the shadows from dancing upon on the walls.
“I hate you!” Spiteful growled from her corner of the room. The words were directed at Outcast who was slumped in the opposite corner. “I wish you’d leave. We don’t need you here.”
No-Name sighed as Angry joined the dispute. Hurting clung to what was left of the girl-woman’s tattered skirt and Wounded sat in another corner with her head in her hands rocking back and forth muttering under her breath, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
No-name sent Frightened and Lonely out to find matches. Usually she sent Angry and Spiteful, just to get them out of the house but today she didn’t have the energy to force them to go.
The girl-woman wiped a hand across her face then winced. The new scratch marks on her cheek were sure to leave scars. It didn’t matter though, for they only covered old scars from other children who had lashed out at her.
The morning dragged on and the children became restless. No-name went to the door many times to call for Frightened and Lonely to hurry with the matches, but they didn’t come. It was nearing noontime before she heard the pattering of their bare feet on the path. She hurried out to meet them and give them a good scolding for taking so long but stopped short when her gaze fell upon the two girls coming toward her.
In their hands were buckets full of matches, but more than that, they were hardly recognizable. Lonely was smiling, a huge smile that showed forth white teeth and sparking blue eyes. Her usual downcast expression was gone and replaced by one of pure joy. Never had No-name seen anything like it.
And Frightened, she looked nothing like she usually did. She was walking with such assurance there seemed to be no fear in her.
No-Name’s gaze swung from one smiling child to the other. “Lonely? Frightened?” Perhaps it simply wasn’t them…perhaps it was some other children who had lost their way.
“That’s not my name anymore,” the one who used to be Frightened proclaimed. It was most certainly her voice, but never once had the girl-woman heard her say anything except, “I’m scared.” The child continued to smile as she went on, “I have a new name! It’s Confidence! And Lonely isn’t lonely anymore, she’s Beloved!”
No-Name’s face betrayed her bewilderment. “What…where….how did you get new names?”
“He gave them to us.”
“He? He, who?” No-Name questioned.
“The Deliverer,” Confidence told her. The child’s voice displayed such awe that No-Name began to feel an ache within her heart.
“The Deliverer?” She asked, “Where is this man?”
“He’s coming!” Beloved exclaimed. “He’s coming here, for you! He said he has new names for all of you too!”
No-Name spun around to look at the group of children standing at the doorway of the Shadow House. “New names…” she whispered. If only it would really happen. The dirty unkempt children crept toward her and reached their hands out to touch her as they stared at Confidence and Beloved.
Just then a sound echoed through the yard. It was a strange sound that No-Name recognized from years before. It caused her skin to tingle and the ache in her heart to throb harder. The golden laughter grew louder as the being approached.
“It’s him!” Confidence said as she started jumping up and down in excitement.
A man stepped out of the Shadow woods that bordered the yard. He was different that anyone the children had ever seen. His whole body seemed to glow with a light that didn’t just lessen the shadows but caused them to run far from him.
He walked up until he was standing before No-Name and the little girls that were hidden behind her, their eyes hurting from the light that shone from him. Even the clean girls took a step closer to the girl-woman, their scrubbed skin not looking nearly as brilliant compared to the Deliverer.
The man’s eyes blazed as he searched until his gaze fell upon the smallest child. Little Hurting was whimpering and clinging to the girl-woman’s skirt afraid to look at the man who was glowing with light.
He lifted a hand and motioned for her to come. Hurting glanced at him but instead of going, hid further behind the girl-woman’s skirt. No-Name could see the longing in her eyes so she reached down and gave the child a slight push toward the man. As soon as Hurting took one step in his direction the man reached for her and gathered her into his arms. He rocked her back and forth whispering words of love softly in her ear.
As the light-man held the child the light began seeping from his hands that were wrapped around her. It traveled into her body and slowly her skin began to change. Patches of light began to show through the dirt then suddenly a glow of light burst out and swirled around them, hiding the two from view. In the midst of the swirling light a voice spoke. It echoed around the Shadow House, loud and commanding yet gentle and loving at the same time. “You shall no longer be called ‘Hurting’, for through me you have overcome your pain and heartache. Therefore, your name shall be ‘Overcoming One‘.”
The other children watched in wonder as the light began to settle and the outline of Hurting came into view. To their amazement the little girl, now glowing in light, threw her head back and laughed. It was the same golden laughter than had come from the light-man; a sound that caused their hearts to beat faster with longing.
The light-man turned again toward No-Name and the children and motioned for Outcast to come. The girl looked toward No-Name and at her nod, took a faltering step toward the man, afraid that he would turn her away. Instead he rushed to her and lifted her high in his arms. “My child,” He said in a voice loud enough that all could hear. The transformation began again and the voice in the glow of light proclaimed, “You shall no longer be called, ‘Outcast’ , for I have accepted you. Instead you will be known as ‘Chosen’, for I have chosen you as my own.”
One by one the children slipped from No-Name’s arms and clung to the Deliverer as he transformed them into new children. Angry became Joyfulness. Spiteful turned into Caring. Wounded became Healer.
The last child to come from her hiding place behind the girl-woman was Prideful. She hung back, her eyes longing to run to him, but her stubbornness keeping her there. She refused to move until No-name took her by the arm and marched her over to the Light-Man. He smiled at the child and embracing her in the swirls of light, he transformed her into Loving.
As the two of them stepped apart, both glittering with sparkles of light, the Deliverer turned his gaze to No-Name’s face. At that moment she felt a greater fear than she ever had before. She realized that while the other children had names that were being changed, she had no name at all.
Tears welled up in her eyes. She knew that she could not be transformed because she was no-one and it made her heart break within her. As the tears slid down her scarred cheeks, a hand reached out and caught them.
The Deliverer, who had waited for each of the children to come to him, did not wait for No-Name. He reached out and pulled her into his arms.
“What is the matter?” he asked, his mouth close to her ear. The sound had dropped to a musical tone that struck a chord within No-Name’s heart. It reminded her of something…someone from long ago.
She kept her head buried deep in his chest and whispered in complete shame, “I have no name.”
She stepped back from him and looked up at his beautiful face. In that moment she remembered her own scars. Horror filled her as the man lifted his hand and gently rubbed his finger across her scarred cheek.
“I have many names,” he said, “I will give you one of mine.”