Pelle shoveled the gruel into his mouth as quickly as he could. Even though the color was revolting, the actual mash was rather sweet and tasted a bit like licorice. Bismax patiently waited until the boy was finished with his food.
The post office was small. It had a rickety wooden counter that Bismax stood behind and delivered or accepted mail. To the right it had open cubbies with names written on tape underneath, and to the left it had locked safes with strange circles on them that Pelle supposed were keyholes.
Next to the open cubbies were some stairs, and after marching his way up the stairs, Pelle found himself in a nicely furnished room, with a fireplace, a large comfy bed, and a sturdy wooden table.
It was at this table that Pelle found himself now. Eating licorice flavored gruel in the presence of a monster. A very patient and hospitable monster. As Pelle finished his bowl, Bismax set another full one in front of him, and Pelle dove into it with gusto.
It wasn’t until the third bowl that Pelle got a heavy and sour feeling in his stomach and pushed the bowl away.
“So, child,” Bismax said gently, “Tell me about your journey?”
Pelle crossed his legs and shut his eyes, “I was with my parents,” he said slowly, “It was raining very hard, and my mother was complaining that she couldn’t see anything.” Bismax’s face twisted. “Then all of a sudden there was this loud sound, and a scream, and I fell from the sky in this place.” His brown eyes widened as cold hard fear gripped his body. “Am I dead?” He exclaimed.
Bismax frowned, entirely unsure of how he should explain this to a small child. “Well, no you’re not dead.” Pelle breathed out a sigh of relief. “But you’re not alive either.”
Pelle’s eyes reddened and began to well with tears. “Bismax?”
“I just want to go home!” He wailed. “I miss my mamma! I miss my pappa! I want my mamma! I want…” his voice broke and erupted in massive heaving sobs. “I… just.. want to… go back.. home!” He hiccuped.
The logs in the fire crackled soothingly and Bismax’s heavy sigh seemed to fill the large square room. “If your mother and father didn’t come with you, then that means they’re in a different place from you. They probably died in the car accident, you didn’t.” Pelle hiccuped some more and Bismax continued. “You, for some reason, are caught here. In the in-between world, for lack of better explanation.”
Pelle buried his head in his hands and though his child voice wasn’t particularly strong, now it sounded downright inconsequential.
“I wish I was dead.”
Bismax slid over to Pelle and patted his sandy hair. “Now now, let’s just all take a deep breath…” This display of kindness only made Pelle cry more, which terribly confused Bismax. “Look, I… I’m sorry. About everything. If it makes you feel better, I knew your mother, this is also a personal loss for me.”
Pelle looked up and wiped the tears off his face. “You knew my mamma?”
“What about my pappa?”
“By association. Since I knew your mother I also knew your father, though we never really spoke.”
Pelle sniffled and was quiet. He was aware of the presence in this room. Of how tiny he was compared to the size of Bismax’s chair, and fireplace, and bed. He was also aware of his presence in this world. How a small child like him was a distressingly easy target. But now, he didn’t feel puny. He didn’t feel afraid, or lost, he felt safe, and a small resolve began to grow.
Bismax knew that face well. It was the same expression that had made him fall in love with her. Turned mouth, scrunched up nose, and squinted eyes carefully calculating.
“Alright,” Pelle said, “What do we do now?”