River was lost. She’d strayed around a rocky outcrop. She’d jumped in a ditch and out again. She’d skipped around the everlastings and the gum trees. She’d meandered under the summer sun and now she was lost and night had come and she was cold. She looked up at Mrs. Moon and asked her where her mother was.
“She’s down around the bend,” said Mrs. Moon.
But River went down around the bend and she couldn’t find her mother, she only found another bend.
River was tired and decided to stop. She thought maybe her mother was close. At one point she was sure she’d heard her familiar crrr-shh, crrr-shh, the song she sang to put River to sleep at night. She’d sing the song and rock her slowly, forward then backward, forward then backward.
The next morning when River woke up she looked up at Mr. Sun and asked him where her mother was.
“She’s at the start of the beginning,” said Mr. Sun, but River didn’t think she understood what that meant and she sighed because she was hungry and tired. When Mr. Sun was right over River’s head she stopped to rest and a boy came to play with her. She tried to have fun with the boy because she liked how his dark skin grew shiny as they played. But soon River couldn’t play anymore and she was frightened because all her tears had dried up and her voice had gone away.
River sat and waited for someone to find her. The boy ran away after a while. His skin didn’t shine anymore, only his feet, and River wondered if he’d gone to find her mother. She tried to turn when he left, to see which way he’d gone, and that’s when she saw the crack in her skin. She’d heard about the cracks before, but she thought it was just a story to scare the children. River stared at the crack as it widened and she prayed and she prayed and she prayed.
River prayed so hard that she thought she must’ve brought the world to an end because soon she felt herself sinking into the ground. It sounded funny; the ground. It didn’t sound like the crrr-shh of her mother, it sounded different, like there were thousands of people down there and they were whispering. So River sunk into the earth and she whispered to her mother to come find her.