Comes the Blind Fury

PROLOGUE

She moved slowly along the path, her step careful, yet not hesitant. The path was familiar to her, and she knew almost by instinct when to move to the left, when to veer to the right, when to stay close to the middle of the trail. From a distance, in her black dress and her bonnet, she looked more like an old woman than a child of twelve, and the walking stick she always carried with her did nothing to lessen the impression of age.

Only her face was young, serene, and unlined, her sightless eyes often seeming to see that which was invisible to those around her.

She was a solitary child; her blindness set her apart and placed her in a dark world from which she knew there would be no escape. Yet she had accepted her affliction as she accepted everything—quietly, peacefully—gifts from a God whose motives might seem clouded, but whose wisdom was not to be questioned.

It had been difficult at first, but when it had come upon her she had still been young enough that her adjustment was almost natural. What had been seen was now only dimly remembered, and her dependence on her eyes was completely forgotten. Her other senses had sharpened. Now she heard things no one else heard, smelled perfumes in the sea air that would have been strange to anyone but her, and knew the flowers and the trees by how they felt.

The path she walked today was one of her favorites, winding along the edge of a bluff above the sea. On this path, her cane was almost unnecessary, for she knew it as well as she knew her parents’ home a few hundred yards to the south. She counted her steps automatically, and her pace never varied. There were no surprises on the path, but her cane still went before her, waving from side to side, its white tip like a probing finger, eternally searching for anything that might block her way.

The sound of the ocean filled her ears, and the black-clad child paused for a moment, her face turning seaward, a picture of wheeling gulls forming dimly in the far reaches of her memory. Then, from behind her, she heard another sound—a sound that to any ears but hers would have been lost in the roar of pounding surf.

It was the sound of laughter.

She had heard it all day today, and knew what it meant.

It meant her schoolmates had become bored with their games, and were going to focus their attention on her for a while.

It happened every year during the fall It seemed to her that each summer, when school was out and she seldom ventured beyond the beach and the bluff, the children forgot about her. Then, come September, she would become for a while an oddity to be stared at, wondered about, talked about.

And tormented.

The first day of school she would hear the whispering in class as she came slowly in, tapping along, familiarizing herself once more with the steps, the halls, the doors, the rows of desks. Then there would be the terrible moment, the moment she always hoped would never come, when the teacher would ask her where she would like to sit, and arrange the classroom for her convenience.

That was when her torment would begin.

It never lasted long—in a week, sometimes two, they would forget her, going on to more interesting things, but the damage would have been done. She would spend the rest of the year in solitude, making her lonely way to and from school.

Often there would be a time during the year