Upper Washington State
Anna pulled the woolen beanie securely on over her dark hair. Despite it being spring, the temperature was still barely hitting the mid forties. She opened the back door and grabbed the two buckets that waited for her before stepping out. Licking her lips, she pursed them and let out a sharp whistle. Almost immediately, clucking came from the chicken coop and snorting from the pig pen. Anna started heading to the coop but paused for a moment. Had that been the wind? Or a trick of her imagination? She could have sworn she heard….no, that was ridiculous, there was no one else for miles. She headed for the coop once more, the flock of a dozen or so Rhode Island Red and Delaware hens emerging from roost in search of their next meal.
“Good morning, ladies,” Anna said as she let herself into their run, “Have we laid lots of lovely eggs?” The hens jostled each other as Anna filled up their feeder.
“Alright, now, play nice,” she said, “I’ll be back later to check for your eggs.” She carefully picked her way back to the gate and headed towards the pig sty.
She stopped. There it was again! She was certain she had heard it now! But still, there was no one for miles, it was probably just being carried by the wind.
“Martha, Bertha, come and get it!” she called. A few snorts and snuffles later, the two Berkshire pigs emerged from their shelter, trotting over to their trough in anticipation of their meal. Anna dumped their feed out into the trough, watching as the two sows began to eat. It came again, crystal clear this time. A child crying. Anna put down the bucket and looked around, trying to pinpoint the direction. It came again. The woods! She jogged towards the woodland that lay a short distance away. The cries came again, stronger this time.
“Hello?” she called, “Hello?! Can you hear me? I’m coming!”
She weaved through the trees, following the sound until she emerged in a clearing. Sat in the centre was a small child, no more than three or four years old with long blonde hair.
“Hey,” she said softly, “Hey there, it’s okay, I’m here.” She crouched down as the child turned. She still couldn’t tell if it were a boy or a girl. Big fat tears slid down their cheeks as they blinked at her.
“Hi,” she said, “I’m Anna. What’s your name?” The child blinked again, wiping tears away on the back of their little hand.
“Anna,” she said again, pointing to herself. A small hand pointed towards her.
The child pointed to themselves, sniffling slightly.