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A Small Town Season 1 Chapter 4

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Hello again! We are now up to a second week and the fourth instalment of the serial. It is moving ever closer to the major point of conflict for the cast which will hopefully be introduced later this week. However, today’s instalment focuses on Maia’s situation. Maia is a bit of an enigma because much of her own struggles are internal. She is quite lonely but tends to put on a brave face because of the unusual nature what she can do.
Feel free to post your own theories so far in the comments section. I am curious as to how many people are in the same ballpark of where this story is headed. I also welcome feedback and/or people simply dropping by to say hello.

Until next time, I wish you all an awesome week.

***

Maia lay in her new bed staring at the ceiling. The conversation that she’d had with Daisy the day before still weighed upon her. She felt an odd kinship with the horse, the feeling of loneliness and loss. She understood these feelings personally.
As promised, the woman had given the two dogs a stern talking to. Nacho had been initially dismissive of the assertion that a horse was intelligent, but Egg had insisted that his human knew what she was saying. It had been strange listening to Egg reason with the dogmatic canine, but it made her smile appreciatively. The two had agreed to be more mindful of Daisy in future.
Maia’s mind now turned to her own dilemma. The exhaustion was getting worse and she would need to find the answer that she was looking for sooner rather than later. Hopefully, even a solution. The problem was that the clues had effectively dried up. She wished that the problem had been physical, but there was a spiritual component that made it difficult to deal with.
Real shamans were not easy to come by and many tended to hide away. However, there was one rumoured to live in the hills near her hometown. It was part of the reason why she’d made the difficult decision to move back. Thomas was given the option to stay in Brisbane with the family of one of his friends, but he wanted to be there for her. It made her feel guilty, but she knew that he might feel even worse if she rebuked him.
She loved her son but wondered if there would ever be a time when he would resent her. She was aware of just how many children blame their family for their own situation. In this case, he’d moved away from job prospects and face time with his friends. Would he hate her for it later?
Her mind retreated to a time before he was born.
*

For most of her life, Maia Dunham had been able to understand and speak to animals. She was eight years old when it had first happened, a small crow landing on top of a rotunda not far from where her family were picnicking in a park beside a river on a pleasant spring afternoon. It had been odd, the mix of its cawing and a secondary translation in her head. She looked up and saw it perched on top of the newly repainted building, staring over at a slightly ajar bin.
“Food here. Smells good!” it had yelled to some other crows in several gum trees beyond a second larger rotunda. It swooped down and hopped about the grass rummaging around trash that had fallen onto the ground. She heard some odd throaty noises before it grabbed some scraps of meat from a discarded former meal of KFC.
It momentarily looked over at the girl and her family with fatty chicken skin in its beak. She had looked back, taking in those large dark eyes. She wasn’t entirely aware that the secondary voice had been the hungry corvine and not some of the other people roaming around. She wanted to believe it, though. She liked the idea of chatting away with a bird as awesome and weird as a crow. However, she was fully aware that it was fantasy at best as human beings most definitely cannot speak to animals. Eventually, the bird would be joined by several members of its kin before being run off by some other picnickers wanting access to the bin.
It would be several weeks before a replication of the incident.
Maia had been walking along the somewhat bare main street of the small country town when she heard a dog yapping in a yard. The dog was a terrier of some sort, but its small frame belied a rather aggressive side. It didn’t appreciate a young girl walking near its fence.
“Fuck off! This is my place! You come any closer and I’ll kill you!” it had said, moving back and forth along the fenceline. Its stance would have been misconstrued as simple excitement at seeing another human being, but Maia knew better. She also knew that it wasn’t kidding when it gave the warning.
The girl decided to hurry back to her home where her sister and parents were waiting.
She considered talking to her sister about it, but a part of her knew that Peggy wouldn’t believe her. Maia had been known to tell a tall tale in her time. It wasn’t that Pegg thought that she was a bad person, not in the least. It was just that the idea of a person talking to and understanding animals were both ridiculous notions.

Over the following days, the frequency of the voice increased. The young girl was hearing every single bird, cat and dog in the neighbourhood. It was becoming very noisy and she found it difficult to differentiate between what her family and friends are school said and that of the animals around her.
It was in the fifth week that a chance encounter with an eastern brown snake led to Maia realising that she could understand reptiles as well. It had been warming itself on the back steps of her family’s home several houses up from where the little dog lived. She hadn’t seen the snake until it reared up and hissed at her.
“Bugger off or I’ll strike!” it had said to her.
It was in that moment between fear and curiosity that Maia had spoken to it, “I’m sorry to disturb you.”
It stopped hissing at her and simply stared back at her. It was in a mild state of shock. After all, it is not every day that a snake is apologised to by a human, let alone a tiny female. Then it realised that she’d been speaking the same dialect.
“Okay then. I’ll be off then…” it said, before sliding quickly down the steps. As it reached the bottom, it tasted the air for a moment. Content that its desired route was safe from potential danger, the reptile moved from concrete to grass and then underneath the back fence toward the river.
Maia sat on the top step with morning sun touching her sandaled toes. She tried to make sense of her odd circumstances. She went over numerous possibilities of what to do. It occurred to her that she had no idea was happening and she knew that it was unlikely that anybody that she knew would believe her and therefore be able to help. So, she decided to visit the library on the next day that it was open.

In the preceding weeks, Maia befriended Daniel, the son of the librarian. He was a couple years older than she was and they went to the same school. All of her female friends left on a bus, leaving her to her own devices after each school day. Daniel was a weird boy, but when she saw him talking with a finch sitting upon his finger through a window of the tiny library, she believed that they might have something in common.
So, she walked out and listened to the conversation between the ten-year-old boy with scruffy brown hair and a little brown and grey bird, peaking occasionally from around the corner of the building. The two were absorbed in a discussion about bugs and seeds, with the boy occasionally pulling out a plastic container from his schoolbag and offering his companion a mix of small seeds. The bird took it thoughtfully, thanking him for the simple act of kindness.
“Don’t worry, Zambeaky. You’re my friend…”
The bird chirped back, “You are my friend as well. I will tell my little ones about you.”
It was the first time that Maia realised from the slight differences in the sound of the second voice that the bird was female. The difference had been subtle, but the clue about babies had made her aware of it nonetheless. She’d learnt something new.
Much in all as she wanted to talk to both boy and bird, Maia knew that the bird would likely fly away, spooked at the strange human arriving. She decided to talk to Daniel some other time when he wasn’t otherwise occupied. And with that, she went back into the library and fetched her library tote and umbrella.
Three days later, she returned to the library after school and found Daniel sitting on a bench outside eating a jam sandwich. Dark brown eyes looked up and her as she sat down next him. He was momentarily confused.
“Would you like a sandwich? I have a spare…” he said, pointed to the lunchbox on the other side of him.
Maia smiled and nodded. They sat eating strawberry jam sandwiches whilst some swallows darted between the community centre where the library was located and local ambulance building nearby. The two talked about television shows that they liked and found their taste in cartoons to be quite similar. They discussed some of the toys that recently came out for one of the shows, and which ones they liked more.
Just then, the little finch that Maia had seen Daniel talk to on the Monday prior, landed on a beam overhead and chirped at the boy.
“Hello, boy!” the little avian said. “Who is that with you?” she queried.
Without prompting, Maia offered, “I am Maia. Nice to meet you Zambeaky.”
“Oh, my. It seems that I can understand the girl… and she knows the name that you call me,” the bird chirped in amazement.
“I can. You seem very clever. Are all birds like you?” the girl responded.
Daniel looked at her and she smiled back. He returned the smile with his own, understanding that he was no longer alone. She seemed like a good person as well. He decided that she would make a good friend even if she was a girl. The other boys would laugh at him, but it didn’t matter because she shared something special in common with him.

*

In the years to come, the two became close friends and eventually moved in together after they graduated high school. They eventually grew apart, but not before she fell pregnant with their son. Thomas looked very much like his father, but she’d lost contact with Daniel before she was able to tell him about the child growing within her belly. She’d tried on many occasions to learn what became of him, but Daniel had effectively dropped off of the face of the planet.
No matter how long it had been, Maia still missed him. Regardless of how many times she’d been encouraged to start dating, it just didn’t feel right. She wanted her best friend back, but words had been said that couldn’t be unspoken. She’d deeply hurt him and it was only through the adoption of a puppy that would later go missing that she’d regained any sense of normality to her odd life.
When Maia had gone to the pound all of those years ago, three-year-old Thomas was following behind clutching the back of her slacks. They looked at all of the animals as they moved past the pens, each with their own sad stories. Each animal needed love, but she knew that there was only room at their house for one pet.
When she’d passed by little Egg’s pen, he was crying in the corner. She asked the carer about him, and she was informed that his mother and the rest of the litter had all died. She felt for him but decided to see what her son thought.
“Thomas, would mind if we give this little dog a home?” she asked, pointing into the cage as she stood in front of it.
Thomas poked his head around her slacks and looked inside. He stared at the crying puppy for a moment before looking up at his mother.
“Why is he sad, mummy?”
“He is sad because he lost his family.”
He looked confused, “Where did they go?”
“They died, sweety…”
He lowered his head, understanding what death was. He looked back at the puppy again and let go of his mother’s pants. Walking a few steps toward the pen, he called out to the puppy.
“Here, puppy. Can you be my little brother?” he asked.
The puppy nearly immediately stopped crying and looked back at the little human in front of his cage. The dog that would later be named Egg cried out is sadness, wanting somebody to hold him. Maia couldn’t take it anymore. She called over one of the carers and told them that she wanted to adopt this puppy.
As soon as the pen was opened, Thomas ran in and hugged the puppy. From that moment on, the boy and the dog were inseparable. As for the name, her son named him after what chickens come out of. Maia never dug deeper, accepting that her son had what he believed to be a good reason for the name.
And over time, Egg became her friend as well.

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Author: keikomushi

Reader, Writer, New Media Buff, Anime Fangirl, Gnome Hunter, Last Action Femme Fatale, Appreciator of Nature, Jack-of-all-trades.

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