I lost Hope in the middle of this shopping mall when she was four years old. She was snatched up by a stranger while my back was turned and lost in the constant metropolitan bustle. Her mother never forgave me… just as I can’t forgive myself. She eventually left because that stranger took more from me than just my baby girl. So I come back here every day as I have for eleven years, hoping to see my daughter again.
And today I think I did.
I was sitting on the hardwood bench overlooking the spot where I’d last held her tiny hand and I caught a glimpse of a young woman who could’ve been my Hope. Long brown hair with streaks of red, big green eyes, that kitten smile…
I leapt up and ran to her as she turned the corner at the food court, speaking her name beneath quickened breaths as I went.
But when I got to where she’d been, I’d lost her to the bustle of everyday people with everyday lives, where tragedies go unseen by the faceless crowds. I willed myself to keep searching, telling myself that desperation can be a virtue. But my body wouldn’t move.
“Would she know her daddy?” I asked myself as those old tears came. “Would knowing what happened ruin her life? Would she hate me? Would she love me or even care?”
A stranger stole my baby girl, but time was a thief as well that trades hope for fear and doubt. And so for a second time I watched the world roll about me, my heart reaching out in vain. And again I dropped to my knees, my sobs drowned out by the voices of those passing by, those strangers who still knew who they were, whose lives were still their own.
AUTHOR BIO: Franklin Charles Murdock is a fiction writer from the Midwestern United States. Though most of his work is harvested from the vast landscapes of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, Franklin strives to spin tales outside the conventions of these genres. His work has appeared in MicroHorror, The Casket of Fictional Delights, Yellow Mama, Heavy Hands Ink, Three Line Poetry, WEIRDYEAR, Phantom Kangaroo, Thirteen Myna Birds, PrimalZine, and various other publications. Most recently, he’s been coauthoring the serial epic BEARD THE IMMORTAL at beardtheimmortal.com.