“THE NEW GODS OF THE LOST CHILDREN.”
by Jason Andrew
“Tell us again about the Blue Lady, Ruthie,” the little girl named Lisa asked.
“She lives in the water, but she can hear her name, her secret name. She can only help you if you call it. If you and your friends are on a corner on a street when a car comes shooting bullets, you can call her true name, all the kids will be safe. Even if bullets are flying, the Blue Lady makes them fall on the ground. But if you call her without need, then Mr. Bang comes,” Ruthie explained.
Ruthie was a ten-year old, mulatto girl. She was the smartest kid in the shelter, and in some cases their leader. Elisabeth Wellington pretended to sleep across the room, but was secretly spellbound by the conversation. The kids section of the shelter always had an adult present to ward off sexual predators. Twice a month, Elisabeth slept overnight with the children as part of her work for her master’s degree. When the kids think that the adult is asleep, they pull out their flashlights and tell each other stories as though around a campfire. This time, Elisabeth came prepared and clicked her recorder on.
“I don’t believe you,” Laney, a seven year old African American girl retorted.
“I’ve seen her,” Andy, a five year old Caucasian boy whispered.
A chorus of voices murmured their agreement. “The Blue Lady kept my mom from leaving the shelter. She cast out the demon in her and now she don’t smoke no crack,” Jessica, a Mexican girl, aged nine, revealed.
The children, Elisabeth noted, believe that demons can inhabit people during times of stress and make them do bad, violent things.
“What about Mr. Bang?” Laney asked, showing more fear than she intended.
“He’s a tall black man with a long black coat and a hoodie. He’s eyes are pure white and they give him away to the rich people. So wears dark sunglasses, even at night,” Ruthie explained. “He can kill anyone with just his long, bony finger. He shoots bullets. And right before he’s about to kill, you can see doves fly. Even Satan fears him. Especially now that he’s weak. That’s why they hate Seattle.”
“Why he hate Seattle?” Andy asked.
“Satan was driving around the wharf looking for places to feed his demons when he saw a girl alone. He went after her, but she knew the Blue Lady’s true name,” said Ruthie. “The Blue Lady came and held up her hand and the water washed over Satan. When the water touched him, his horns appeared and the water turned to blood. He’s weak now and can’t hide. That’s why Mr. Bang runs things.”
There were two rows of red metal bunk-beds in the center surrounded by painted children’s dresser set. The idea behind the room was to give the kids a sense of home and of a safe place. Some of it was useless. The kids were used to be having to leave at a moments notice and so everything they owned had to be put into a backpack. If a kid got something new, they had to get rid of something. The grey walls of the kid’s room were covered with crude pictured sketched in donated crayons. Now that Elizabeth has heard the stories, she could see the Blue Lady protecting children and Mr. Bang killing the saints and the sinners. “The imagination of these children conquered these grey walls,” Elisabeth decided.
“Mr. Bang killed my big brother,” Andy said suddenly.
“What happened?” Lisa asked, horrified.
“Jeff was working at a gas station to pay rent,” Andy continued. “He wouldn’t sell beer to some kids so they beat him down. Possessed by demons. Mr. Bang came and pointed his finger right to his head.”
Elizabeth was curious. Was it comforting and frightening to believe that outside spirits possessed people and made them do bad things? Was it easier to love parents that left them or abused them to think they had lost control? She wandered about the stories of these lost children as she drifted to sleep.
* * * *
“I think it’s brilliant,” Doctor Sloniker replied, excitedly. “I think if you continue along this course, your dissertation will be brilliant and likely published.”
The office was quite large and located on the corner of the building so the Professor had two large walls of glass overlooking the student quad. The remaining two walls were occupied by two giant, dusty wooden bookshelves that were overflowing with books. In the center of the office, adjacent to the door, was a large antique wooden desk. Elizabeth sat opposite of her advisor and was somewhat surprised at his enthusiastic reaction to her work. “I just feel weird,” She admitted. “Like I’m invading their privacy.”
Doctor Sloniker was the tenured, assistant chair of the psychology department. His hair was long, grey, and tied back into a respectable ponytail. He wore thick rimmed, brown glasses and sported a goatee. “But you’re going to be helping these poor kids,” He said. “Helping others council them and address their fears. For example, this Mr. Bang character is obviously a modern reincarnation of Death. Note the hood references and the bony fingers. These stories are their way of dealing with death. These poor kids are building a whole mythology to explain an unexplainable world.”
Elizabeth nodded demurely. She grew up on a farm in Idaho. Her family life had been strict, but loving and kind. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Brigham Young and then transferred to the University of Washington for her Masters. The transition had not been easy for her. The student-teacher ratio was quite a bit higher at the University and no one seemed to care if you flunked out. Previously, her faculty advisor yawned his way through their student-teacher meetings and made vague recommendations. This was the first meeting to take longer than five minutes and Elizabeth was frankly concerned. “It just feels oddly intimate,” She said, getting used to the idea. “And, I have no way of knowing how far the stories go. I thought about putting up a website and seeing if we could track the mythology.”
The Professor smiled, showing more teeth than Elizabeth was comfortable with and handed her several sheets of paper. There were several drawings, obviously done by children with crayons, of a battle between a blue lady and a skeletal African American man with a hoodie. “Well, I have some good news on that front. I was very excited about your findings and was talking about it at a dinner party this last weekend and to my surprise, my wife’s cousin runs a shelter in Portland. He sent me scanned copies via email. Look familiar?”
“Oh my, these look like pictures of the Blue Lady and Mr. Bang,” Elizabeth said. “But that would mean these stories have spread from Seattle to Portland at the least. To trace this will take a lot more manpower than just me.”
Professor Sloniker chuckled, as though he expected this. “I have a couple of freshman volunteers to work on that. If you are willing to go the distance on this, I’m willing to fund you,” the Professor explained. “This could put you and this school on the map.”
Elizabeth bit her lip and tried to rally her courage. She was a plane-looking woman. Her mother didn’t believe in makeup, but did consent to yearly haircuts. Elizabeth had experimented once she moved away from home, but still clung to old habits. Despite her work away from the farm, she still found it difficult to argue with older men. It might have been because she still looked alike a girl in high school. “It’s not ready just yet. I need to do more research,” Elizabeth protested.
“Maybe I can help you,” The Professor offered. “What’s troubling you?”
Professor Sloniker was an attractive man, and brilliant. Elizabeth had read many of his papers. She wanted him to respect her. “I’m having a hard time breaking the code, so to speak. Finding the moral center of the stories,” Elizabeth continued. She had given this quite a bit of thought and wanted to show off for her advisor. “The Blue Lady feels right, feels familiar. Take a dash of the Lady of the Lake and add in a generous helping of Virgin Mary. These kids tell these stories like they’re preparing for a war.”
“Don’t forget the Blue Fairy from Pinocchio,” The Professor said. “Water is a metaphorical source for purity. The ocean has always been a symbol for source of spirituality. I read a paper where a college suggested that it was a left over instinct from our ancestors that lived in the water before we evolved. Very interesting that these kids would pick up on it.”
Elizabeth nodded. “It’s more than that. I don’t know how, but it’s like they’ve discovered something old.”
“Certainly, we can see elements of it in older mythologies. It’s a unique amalgamation of things the kids hear or see in the movies,” Doctor Sloniker said thoughtfully. “It’s like an x-ray directly into their brain. We can see how being homeless effects their sense of identity, their fears, their dreams. Do you think you could get some of these kids to talk to you about it?”
“Well, they do seem to like me. But there’s some sort of taboo about telling adults about the Blue Lady. It’s on the second tape,” She said.
“I recall, but if you could get one of them to talk. You’d have everything you need,” The Professor said.
“I’ll do my best.”
* * * *
Elizabeth took two extra shifts the following week at the shelter. Ruthie was gone. Her mother, in a strange stupor, had checked her out of the shelter. There was something about Ruthie that intrigued Elizabeth. As a little girl in a largely hopeless situation, she seemed filled with dignity and hope. Whenever the other children thought that Elizabeth couldn’t hear them whispered about demons taking over Ruthie’s mother.
That night, Elizabeth checked her equipment and then pretended to sleep at the adult bed near the door. When the children finally believed she was sleeping, they pulled out their flashlights and huddled together. “You hear about what happened to Ruthie?” Andy asked.
“I hear Mr. Bang sent a demon inside her mom and then lured them out and killed her,” one of the scared voices replied.
“Where’s Ruthie?” Lisa asked.
“I heard she has a foster momma now,” Andy said, wishing for a happy ending for their friend.
“That must be nice. The Blue Lady took care of her,” Lisa added.
The others murmured their agreement. It was very much like the beatification of a Saint, Elizabeth decided. How long until Ruthie passed into legend and became a patron saint of these lost children, she wondered?
“Why can’t the rich people see Mr. Bang and Satan,” another voice asked.
“Satan blinds them. They want to help, but they forget with their doings. And when they cause too much trouble, he sends Mr. Bang. They needs us to be poor to feed from us,” Andy explained, much like Ruthie would have.
“Why doesn’t God fight them off?” Lisa asked, horrified.
“A couple of years ago, Mr. Bang and the demons invaded Heaven in a drive-by,” Andy explained. “God had a palace of beautiful blue-moon marble. They didn’t kill him, but they hurt him so God had to hide. Most of the angels died.”
The children whispered their agreement. “That when the Blue Lady came to lead the Angels,” Andy continued. “They’re fighting the hordes until God gets better and comes back. But the demons feed on us. On hate, on greedy people, and bangers.”
“I heard more and more demons keep coming. Can’t we stop them?” Lisa asked, feeling a bit heroic.
“The doors keep getting open. Old fridgerators that people leave out in the open. Broken mirrors that have seen someone die. Places littered with rusted old needles,” Laney said, in a hushed voice.
“We have to be strong. Things will get better, if we believe,” Jessica added.
“That’s right,” Andy said. “Fear is the thing the demons love the most. Just don’t be afraid. The Blue Lady will protect us.”
With her blanket covering her eyes, Elizabeth was surprised to see blue light. For a moment, she thought that the kids had caught her and were shining a blue flash light upon her head under the blanket. Startled, she pulled the blanket down and was dazzled by the ethereal blue light. It was as though the ocean had been transformed into a brilliant spotlight cast straight into her soul. Within the light, a tall, feminine shaped silhouette touched several of the children upon their heads as though blessing them. By the time her eyes adjusted, the children were in their beds pretending to sleep in the darkness.
* * * *
Elizabeth was too terrified to sleep the rest of the night. She spent her time watching the children, who occasionally seemed to either be sleeping peacefully or not so secretly sneaking peeks at her. The kids had previously ignored her as much as possible. She was just another liberal, white adult that couldn’t see what was real. Suddenly, all of the children in the shelter referred to her as Ms. Wellington and spent as much time in her presence as possible.
Could that have been real, Elizabeth wondered? Did she dream the whole thing? She had been very tired and listening to the children talk about the Blue Lady. What if she wasn’t dreaming? What if what she saw actually happened? If there was a Blue Lady, then there could be a Mr. Bang. Confused, frightened, but determined, Elizabeth decided to confront the matter directly.
As soon as she shift was over, she returned to her dorm room and began to research. Previously concerned that the children were just retelling stories from another forum, Elizabeth had already searched the net for references to the Blue Lady and Mr. Bang. This time, she decided to search using the parameters of ‘Seattle,’ ‘occult,’ and ‘magic.’ She had expected one or two hits at the most, but was surprised by the sheer volume of hits. There were schools, jewelry for sale, a bookstore, and even a news article from the Seattle Times about a local detective saving a child from a cult in Renton. How had she avoided learning about this?
She found a pagan bookstore on Capital Hill. Although it was Sunday, she found that it was open and just a short bus ride away. She packed her bag and ran to the bus stop just in time to make it. The store was called Source of the Spring books and was cramped, slightly disorganized, but obviously a labor of love. The range of the selection was dizzying. Elizabeth had imagined Vincent Price standing on a velvet carpet with a pentagram and a goat’s head. Instead, the store was like a yuppie craft store that smelled of lavender. In the far end of the store was equipment for making candles of varying scents. The walls were lined with art from religious symbols from across the world. There were self-help books, medicinal books about healthy eating, and women’s spirituality. Near the cash register were twin display cases resting at a perpendicular angle showing daggers, runes, tarot cards. Her father would have screamed at her just for being here. “Can I help you?” a thin man, the cashier asked.
“I’m just browsing,” Elizabeth replied, uncertain what she should say or even look for.
“Is this your first time?” the cashier asked.
Elizabeth smiled and blushed just a little. “Is it that obvious?”
The cashier laughed. It wasn’t a mocking laugh; it was a laugh almost designed to share life. “Nothing wrong with that. My name is Daniel. I own this place. Can I show you around?”
Her father certainly wouldn’t have approved of Daniel. He was too thin, his brown hair was too long, and he was too short. She shook his hand and noted that it was soft and warm. He smiled freely and that endeared him to her. “Well, I’m not really sure what I’m looking for.”
“Well, why don’t we start at the beginning? What church did you grow up in?” Daniel asked.
“Later Day Saints,” Elizabeth replied, suddenly finding her shoes very interesting.
“OK, so you see a lot things around here that make you a little nervous. That’s ok. It’s ok to be nervous. What are you interested in?”
Elizabeth didn’t want to lie to Daniel, but she also didn’t want to admit that she might have seen the Blue Lady. “I’m writing a story and I’m looking for background information. Could a group of people or kids make something happened because they believe it enough?”
Daniel thought about it for a moment. “Well sure. Or at least tons of people believe that to be the case. Snake handlers believe that. People that believe if their faith is strong enough that the snakes won’t harm them. Many different religions around the world are based on that conceit. Hell, there’s a famous local homeless guy that swears he fell in love with a goddess.”
“What about creating a spirit or something unique?”
“It sounds like you are talking about a tupla,” Daniel explained.
“It’s a Tibetan concept. The idea is that you can create an entity entirely by your imagination. Kind of like a character in a novel, except you don’t write tulpas down.”
“Are they dangerous?”
“I don’t know,” Daniel admitted. “Some stories have them being dangerous being that try to trick you out of your life-force. Others have them as protectors of children. When you start researching different beliefs, you’ll find so many contradicting answers that really in the end all you can do is ask yourself what sounds true.”
Elizabeth knew what she had to do. She bused across town to the shelter and frantically searched for the children. Some of them were playing basketball in the parking lot. It was a warm spring day and Andy and Laney were sitting on a bench whispering to each other. They stopped once they saw her. “Hello, Mrs. Wellington,” They said.
“I need to talk to you two. About what I saw,” She said, frantic.
“Saw what?” Andy asked.
“The Blue Lady,” Elizabeth replied. “I think I saw her.”
Laney gasped. Andy looked like he might cry. “You didn’t see anything, Mrs. Wellington. It was just a dream, see?”
The wind cooled and gained strength. Elizabeth’s hair jostled. Doves cooed and took flight. “There shouldn’t be doves around here,” She said, awed.
“He’s here,” Lanely cried, pointing behind her.
Elizabeth spun on her heels to look where the little girl was pointing. A tall, lanky black man was strutting across the pavement. The wind blew his trench coat like he was a superhero preparing for a fight. He peered over his dark glasses revealing his milky white eyes. His large hood covered most of his head and seemed immune to the wind. He smiled; his front gold tooth gleamed with power. “You shouldn’t be here,” said Mr. Bang.
The other kids, except Andy and Laney ran. Elizabeth felt her knees buckle. “You aren’t real. You aren’t a demon. Just something these kids made up!”
“It don’t matter what I am,” Mr. Bang told her. “Demon? Man? Figment of their imagination. What matters is power. Power to do what you want. Power to get what’s yours. I get mine. These kids are mine.”
“No, they belong only to themselves.”
Mr. Bang shook his head in disbelief and raised his hand. He pointed a long, boney finger at Elizabeth and whispered “Bang!” She dropped dead instantly; her heart shattered.
* * * *
“Tell us again about Elizabeth and the Blue Lady,” the little girl named Lisa asked.
“Elizabeth was a white woman that was going to school to learn to help people. Help children like us. She believed and so the Blue Lady tried to help her. But she could hear the secret stories, but couldn’t hear her true name,“ Andy explained to the huddled mass of children. “When she was a little girl, her Daddy told her stories and hurt her. He was possessed by a demon. She believed in Mr. Bang in her heart and he killed her because she feared. But she told the secret stories to others. The rich people don’t believe, not yet. But their kids will one day. They’ll know the secret stories of the Blue Lady and then this war will be over.”