Pushing aside the long grass, the young boy scanned the ground before him, his eyes darting amongst the shivering green blades. His nose wrinkled against the gritty stench of earth.
A twitch to his left. The child’s eyes snapped to a tangled weed that had partially crumpled beneath his knee. He clawed at it, heedless of the soil catching beneath his fingernails, determined to claim the prize that had crawled underneath. He withdrew a balled fist; unfurling his fingers, Selim Bradley squealed with delight at the cricket that lay disoriented in his palm.
Mrs Bradley watched the child with mild amusement. She couldn’t help but take joy in his growth - after all, this was the first time she could truly experience the beginning of her adopted son’s life. She could not, however, dismiss the fact that it was a life he was living a second time through.
Fuhrer Grumman had skipped over much of the details of her son’s supposed rebirth - Mrs Bradley knew that much, and she was grateful for it. The recollections she had of little Selim were imbued with enough doubt already. Was the son she had raised nothing more than a shell? A vessel for something ancient and foul? That was the vague message the military officials seemed to convey, anyway.
In the passing years, Fuhrer Grumman had called by many times. The visits were cordial enough: tea was shared, political matters discussed - though their discussions seemed to involve the older man gravely describing conflicts in the military, with Mrs Bradley nodding sympathetically when a lull in the conversation deemed necessary.
These days, it seemed politics did not engage her.
Grumman would always find a way to ask about Selim, to the point where Mrs Bradley was becoming impressed with the creativity of his segues. Each time she dismissed his concerns: “There is no need to worry, Fuhrer. He is a gentle young boy, and he’s growing up healthily.” Sometimes Grumman would push further, though often he would just lean back in his seat and regard her thoughtfully. Mrs Bradley often wondered if he suspected that there were things she was keeping from him.
Certain things should be kept a secret, she thought. Grumman had no reason to know that her son had trouble sleeping. That he spent most nights curled up against his mother for comfort and protection. That little Selim often whimpered when faced with the silence - the silence that bore no distraction from the moaning, disjointed voices whose cries seemed to echo within his head, the haunting presence of many hundreds of things that clawed at him from the inside.
Grumman had no reason to know.