It was something like a memory that grew with its recalling. Reba knew though that it felt wrong. It did not seem like a memory, even less like a dream. She thought it strange, but it felt more as though it was someone else’s memory. Perhaps someone once had told her of such a place, such a time.
But how could anyone know of such a time, such a place?
How could anyone know about a place where the carts moved as if by magic without horses or oxen to pull them? How could anyone know of a place where demons lived inside boxes, taking the shape of friends and family for people to talk to? How could anyone conceive a place where the nights were as bright as day and glowed with no fires to light them. Not only that, who could believe the size of the hordes, the crowds, of people that surged around her.
She had been there!
Reba could see herself on one of those crowded streets, it surface shining in the rain. The magic lights reflecting all around her as the hordes surged past, some talking to their little boxes in their hands.
Was it some kind of afterlife, some heaven, or – more likely – some hell?
Reba knew she should talk to the shaman or the wise woman. They were the ones who understood the nature of dreams. They were the ones who knew how to speak to the gods. They were the ones who would know if she’d once lived a previous life in some strange heaven or hell.
She could not talk to her family. As she’d grown, her mother had become more distant as her daughter had grown less like her, dark where her parents were fair-haired, dark skinned where her parents were pale.
Her father, Sturt, had took her down to the river one day when her mother was too exasperated by Reba’s unending wonder and questioning.
Sturt took Rena’s hand in his. She had wondered then about how dark her skin when compared to his. Like light and shadow their hands lay wrapped in each other as they sat watching the river make its stately progress through their valley.
‘You are not our daughter, as other people’s daughters are,’ Sturt murmured, looking at her. ‘I think you know that, don’t you?’
Reba felt her doubts overwhelming her ability to speak of them, to put her questions into words. She just nodded, feeling the tears welling in her eyes.
‘Don’t cry, Reba.’ Her father kissed the top of her head. The hair that was so different to his and to her mother’s hair.
‘What…?’ She could say no more.
‘We found you one day, moving with the herds, heading south. I heard a cry from near the trail. You were a baby, almost. Just able to stand and toddle a few steps. You tottered out of the bush and fell into my arms.’ Sturt smiled at her. ‘You’ve been in my arms ever since,’ he said. ‘I could never let you go.’
They were silent for a while.
‘We had a child. She died. Your mother could not stop crying. I thought you would….’ He shrugged and threw a stone into the river, watching it plop into the shifting water. ‘You help heal her. You gave her – gave both of us – a reason to go on. Hope.’ He kissed the top of her head. ‘Someone to love.’
Reba didn’t say anything for a while. ‘But where did I come from?’
Sturt looked out across the river towards the distant grey hills on the horizon. ‘No-one knows,’ he said. ‘No-one knows.’