That drawn-out sigh of relief soon turned into a deep wheezing breath, triggering a coughing fit that had the child bending over and clutching his burning sides in an attempted to regain control over his ragged breathing.
For a long time the boy remained in that position: back to the door, head locked between bent knees and arms around his waist, his small shoulders rising and falling in trembles at each deep breath, heart hammering away in his chest and throbbing in his flushed ears.
Soon, though, as his breathing evened out and his heart slowed down to a steady beat, the adrenaline from the chase began to ebb away, leaving room for pain and fatigue to start settling in.
Lifting his head up, the child opened tentative eyes to sneak a look at his knees. At seeing them both scraped raw and covered in dirt, minuscule shards of glass and dried blood, he took in a sharp breath and turned his face the other way.
It wasn’t a serious abrasion and it didn’t hurt very badly, but the boy had learned that any wound, no matter how small, could become a serious problem if not cleaned properly.
With a sniff and a bite to the corner of his lip, he steadied his feet and, pushing his hands against the door’s wood panel, tried lifting himself off the floor. But the effort proved too much for the exhausted boy; he had barely risen a couple of inches before slumping down to the ground with a startled gasp.
Wincing in pain, the child shot his hands up to cradle them against his chest; they hurt almost as bad as his knees. Taking a look at his palms, he noticed they were also grazed and smeared with dirt and blood.
Tears began to fall down the already stained cheeks but he stopped them right in their tracks by wiping them away with the sleeve of his ruined shirt.
Then, all of sudden, the boy let his arm drop and his eyes shot open, flashing in remembrance. His hands went down to fish around the pockets of his shorts, stopping once he found the object he was looking for. As gently as he could, he took it out and lifted it up to his eyes.
It was the blue rose that had almost been stepped on by Dagga.
He inspected it with growing panic as he realized how damaged it was. A pained sob escaped him when one of its remaining petals actually dropped to the floor between his legs.
The flower was dead.
The child’s hands began trembling, eyes watering. His flower was broken, that meant he was broken too.
Slowly, he brought the flower up to his face, rubbing it softly against his wet cheeks, teardrops coming to rest atop the wilted petals.
Then he moved it away from his face, his expression changing altogether. Sweeping a glance around the room he was in, he searched for any signs of life and found none – it was empty and silent.
With that confirmed, he brought his attention back to the flower in his hands. He mourned over it for a few seconds, further analyzing the damage, before bringing it closer to his face once more, this time almost brushing the corolla with his swollen lips.
There was a moment of almost complete silence (the most audible sound in the room being the child’s soft breathing), and then, after visibly relaxing and straightening his body, the boy took in a deep breath and, parting his lips, began to sing:
“When the rose is faded,
Memory may still dwell on
Her beauty shadowed,
And the sweet smell gone.”
His voice had started out small, close to a whisper, but it grew steadily at each verse, carrying itself across empty spaces and corners of the unlit room; the beautiful treble voice suited the song’s simple melody perfectly, filling it with an innocence common to young children, despite the mournful tone with which it was sung.
Then, as the song took on a more hopeful tone, something odd began to happen.
A strange green ribbon of light appeared around the boy’s chest and stretched outwards, enveloping the rose in his hands with a warm glow, just strong enough to illuminate his youthful features. The child, however, did not open his eyes, focusing instead on resuming his singing, his voice ringing clear and loud.
All the while, more green ribbons of light appeared, lengthening and expanding as they moved between the furniture in the room, occupying and illuminating as much space as they could. The ones closest to the boy extended downwards; they picked up the fallen rose petals that had been resting between his legs and brought them back to the flower.
At this point, the child’s voice faltered, becoming strained, the sweat that had been collecting on his forehead coming down to rest on his furrowed brows. But then new ribbons came into being, this time an intense blue, the same color as the rose, rising and extending in swirls to help the green strips of light around the young one’s hands.
There was a brief flash of light as the two colors collided, lightening up the whole room, then, just as the song reached an end, all the ribbons fell like feathers to the ground and faded.
When the boy, after taking a deep breath, blinked his eyes open, taking a while to adjust to the diminished light, he was met with a perfect and healthy blue rose.
Smiling in pure delight, the child giggled and brought the flower closer to his face, brushing it against his cheeks in an affectionate manner.
“It’s okay, you’re all better now,” he reassured it, like one would with a loved one. “I’ll never let anyone else hurt you,” his lips touched the glowing blue petals, a gentle kiss upon the rose.
“I will never let you die,” was the young boy's eerie promise, and innocent smile on his swollen lips. “You will be mine … forever.”