The Sparrow (The Returned)

The Sparrow (The Returned) by Jason Mott

Book: The Sparrow (The Returned) by Jason Mott Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jason Mott
    A couple in their twenties found her just outside Michigan, standing at the edge of a busy highway, watching the cars pass with a look of fear and helplessness. She wore a white, flowered dress, and her dark hair was pulled into pigtails with small beads dangling from the ends. She was dark-skinned and small and beautiful. When they asked her how she got there, she only replied that she did not know. “It’ll be okay,” they told her again and again. “We’ll get someone to help you.”
    It had been happening this way for a couple of weeks now. People who had once been dead were suddenly showing up alive, alone and far from home. It began with a man in North Carolina named Edmund Blithe almost six weeks ago, who had inexplicably shown up for work exactly a year after he had been tragically killed in a bus accident. Since then, the numbers had multiplied each day. It was in the thousands now, and no one—not even the government—knew where they were coming from or what to do with them.
    They were on their way home from visiting Matt’s mother just outside Saginaw. Heather was the one who noticed the girl, just off the highway, standing in the cold and darkness like a ghost. Her name was Tatiana, and, instead of calling the police or the news stations, they brought her home. As much as Heather and Matt were intrigued by it all, as much as they watched the television and the internet for all the latest developments, they never thought they would encounter the Returned firsthand.
    “What are we going to do with her?” Matt asked his wife as they stood in the doorway of their bedroom, whispering. They watched Tatiana eating a bowl of cereal at the kitchen table. Now and then the child looked around, taking in her surroundings—an antique wooden dinner table, a large, fancy-looking coffeemaker on the counter, a ceramic pitcher holding various cooking utensils. The girl still appeared to be afraid, though she had stopped crying.
    “We’ll figure something out,” Heather replied.
    “Where do you suppose it’s from?” Matt asked. “Africa? That’s what I’d guess by the accent.”
    “ She ,” Heather corrected. “And does it matter?”
    “No, of course not,” Matt said. “I’m just, well, curious.” His leg fidgeted from all the energy he was holding in. “Can you believe we’ve actually got one of them —one of the Returned—sitting at our kitchen table?”
    Heather finally took her eyes off Tatiana. She looked Matt in the eyes. “We’ve got a child in there, Matt. That’s what we’ve got. Don’t talk about her like she’s something . ” But he hardly seemed to hear her.
    “We’ve got to talk to it,” he said. “We’ve got to find out what it remembers. Where it’s been.” He took Heather’s hand. “Just think of what our lives will be like if we were the first ones to have answers about the Returned.” His eyes were wide and bright, like those of a child eager to unwrap a gift.
    “She’s a child,” Heather replied, taking his face in her hands. “She’s away from her parents and surrounded by strangers, Matt. That’s the only thing we need to think about.”
    Later that evening, after Tatiana had eaten everything in sight—cereal and ice cream and frozen pizza—the three of them sat together at the kitchen table. Heather and Matt were on one side, both of them smiling at the Returned girl as if they were being interviewed for a job. Heather played with her hair. Matt shifted position over and over again, unable to get himself settled.
    “You’re from Africa?” Matt asked finally.
    But before Tatiana could answer, Heather intruded. “Are you still hungry? There’s some pizza left.”
    “No. Thank you,” Tatiana said. In her lap, she wrung her hands nervously.
    “How old are you?” Matt asked. Then, immediately, “That’s a fair question, isn’t it?” He aimed the question at Heather.
    “I am ten,” Tatiana said. Her eyes shifted from Matt to Heather and back

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