Darling Clementine Part 4

Clem called out, “Hello???”…more of a question than a statement really.  She waited.  Something wasn’t right.  “HELLO???”  This time louder, more insistent.  She had thought perhaps the person, the source of the singing, might call back to her.  Perhaps they could connect through the darkness.  Perhaps the direction of the person’s voice would help to guide her through the darkness.  Perhaps she wouldn’t feel so lost, so frightened, so alone in the darkness.  In her heart, she knew that no one would answer.  She wasn’t even entirely sure she wanted them to answer.  Still, she tried one more time.  Mustering all the strength she could, she screamed as loudly as possible “Is anyone out there???”  That’s when it hit her.  “I know what’s wrong,” she thought.  “There should be an echo here.  There’s always an echo here.”  Instead, the sound traveled from her and seemed to die mid-air.  “Die.  An unfortunate choice of words,” she thought.  

Clementine dropped to her knees.  She needed to think.  This was all hurting her head.  None of it made any sense.  In her mind, she was transported right back to that department store.  Right back to being 4 years old again.  She was lost again, just like when she had been 4, and she remembered all too well the fear that had consumed her then.  She was convinced she would never see her mother and grandmother again.  She was convinced that she would be doomed to wander from clothing rack to clothing rack for the rest of her days (well you were warned that Clem is a drama queen!).  The memories were so vivid.  She could feel the soft silky textures of the clothing surrounding her face.  She tried to focus on the joy that being swept up by those beautiful articles of clothing had initially caused but she soon became aware of another sensation, another memory. 

Sure, at first hiding in the clothing racks had been a pleasurable game but the moment she realized that she was lost, it all changed profoundly.  She had tried to retrace her steps through the clothing racks to make her way back to her mother and grandmother.  Suddenly, the clothing seemed alive, almost…possessed.  That thought made her shiver!  What was worse, it was as if the clothing was gathering power and energy with every passing moment.  It was as if it were….feeding off her fear.  Big gulp.  Deep breath.  This was a new realization for Clem but she knew at once that she was on to something.  She concentrated her thoughts on the incident of 30 years ago.  As she thought about it, she remembered the clothing that she had once snuggled up to, allowing it to gently caress her face, beginning to surround her face, more and more pieces of it covering her mouth and nose.  She could recall struggling to breathe as the fabric seemed to feverishly attack her, nearly smothering her.  She clawed at her face, tugging at the fabrics to create little openings.  She would quickly suck in a deep breath before the clothing would close in on her mouth and nose once again. 

As she was fighting with the clothing, she could feel something tugging at her feet.  She looked down and saw the metal feet of the clothing rack wrapping themselves around hers, holding her in place.  Clementine alternated between scratching away at the clothing surrounding her face and trying to pull her feet free from their steel trap but even at her tender age, she could tell it was a losing battle.  It was then that she heard it.  Or maybe it had been playing all along and she had just been too consumed with trying to breathe to notice it.  The song.  Growing louder and louder.  What’s more, she noticed something else that was strangely familiar.  Clem had been carrying a little purse with her when she entered the clothing racks.  It had not left her side until, in her need for two hands to fight off the attacks, she had put it down on the floor.  She looked for it then but all she could see of it was a bit of the handle…all that remained of it as it was being sucked into the floor. 

By that point, Clem was crying so hard and so loudly that she was hyperventilating.  In fact, she was making so much noise herself that she very nearly didn’t hear it.  But suddenly there it was.  Faint at first but growing steadily louder…it was Mommy and Nana, frantically calling her name.  “Clem, where are you?….Clementine…please come out now!”  The closer the voices got, the weaker the hold that the clothing and rack had on her.  “Mommy!!!!” she yelled and she could hear the sound of footsteps rushing towards her location.  The calling continued, back and forth, and soon the clothing’s hold was weakened enough that Clem could shove both arms through the clothes and out into the store.  She felt two hands grab hold of hers and pull hard.  “Clem, oh Clem, you’re all right!” her mother said, all at once kissing her and scolding her for giving them such a scare.  

“Well now that’s all well and good,” she thought, “But who’s around to rescue me this time?”  Clem jumped up from her knees.  The feeling of defeat and despair was overpowering.  “I have to find my way out of there!”  She began running, all the while consumed by one thought…”I’m lost!”  The panic was palpable and she began to sob again.  As she cried, it was as though each of her teardrops, when hitting the ground, turned into vines and branches and leaves and soon she was fighting them away from her just as she had with the clothing and rack back in the department store.  No matter what direction she went in, branches and vines were continually tripping her and grabbing her and smacking her in the face until she could no longer move.  They whipped around her, winding around and around, forming a shroud-like covering around her body. 

As the power of the objects around her grew, so did the power of the song.  What had first sounded like the baleful moan of a solitary singer sounded like a duet, then a trio, quartet, and then just seemed to increase exponentially until she could hear thousands of voices swirling around her face, singing.  This, of course, frightened Clem but not nearly as much as the realization that she could now make out the lyrics and that they were indeed familiar.  She had heard them many times in her life. They seemed to be sung at every Girl Guide campfire she attended, on the school bus each time her class went on a field trip, and most especially, by nearly every new person she met the moment they learned her name.  

Even Clem’s Nana had sung it to her when she was a child…that is, until Clem finally begged her tearfully to stop.  People seemed amused by this song, looked upon it as a delightful little ditty for such occasions, even setting up groups to sing it in rounds!  Clementine could never understand that.  “Didn’t they ever LISTEN to the words?” she wondered.  They were terrifying and the song had always made her very uneasy.  It was as if it contained a……………..warning.  “Oh my God!” she screamed with the sudden realization of what was happening here.  The song.  It WAS a warning.  Getting lost, the fear, it….whatever IT is…fed on it.  The realization came too late.  By this time, Clem’s feet had been pulled into the ground and she was now waist deep in what felt like quicksand beneath her.  The branches and vines that had been enshrouding her had very nearly completed their work and she had mere slits to see through and tiny little holes through which to draw her last breaths.  In her dying moments, there was nothing left for her to do but listen.  Listen to the song that had haunted her for her entire life as one final tear rolled down her face. 

“Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling Clementine.  You are lost and gone forever, dreadful sorry, Clementine……………”



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