Also, I really have no idea what it would be like to be deaf, mute and blind. But I remembered in school when I read about Helen Keller and the spelling of words in her hands taught to her by her teacher Annie Sullivan. I thought it would be interesting to try a snippet of a fic somewhat in the point of view of a young girl who was deaf, mute and blind. I would hope that a society would't just leave a child in this condition to wander the streets homeless, but for the purpose of this fic, that's what happened to this girl. Also, I've read that when you lose one or more senses, the others grow in ability. In my character's case, her sense of touch and smell are rather extraordinary. Italics indicate the finger spelling. There is actually no spoken dialogue.
*EDIT* 2/15/2012 Adding this for possible confusion concerning the finger spelling: What I mean by finger spelling is literally spelling words with the regular alphabet. It's the easiest I could come up with. When I was in high school, and we were learning about Helen Keller, my friends and I thought that's what the finger spelling was. I don't mean the sign language version of the alphabet. That's why all the characters can do it.
I do not own Doctor Who, the Tenth Doctor or Donna Noble. They belong to the BBC. I also don't own Helen Keller or Annie Sullivan. Please read and enjoy...
Hungry. She was hungry. Her stomach moved within her, presumably making a growling sound, not that she could hear it. Nor could she see where she could procure food from. Once she’d been able to. Once upon a time. But a disease, an almost unsurvivable disease had taken the sight from her eyes and the sounds from her ears. She’d adapted with the help of her mother, who’d shown her that life didn’t stop just because you lost abilities. Granted it had been hard. Gone was her ability to hear music, watch entertainment, see the world around her, and most of all, her ability to communicate was gone. But her mother had taught her that she hadn’t lost her sense of touch, or smell, or taste.
She stopped making sounds almost immediately, so her mother told her, except for the occasions that she needed something. But unable to hear herself, these sounds went from intelligible words, to garbled moans and in some cases unearthly shrieks. This was the way they communicated for a while. She would moan, or shriek, and her mother would get what she thought her daughter needed. Then one day, her mother had taken her hand and held it, palm upwards in the response to a moan. And slowly spelled her name with a finger. I-S-A-B-E-L-L-E. She tapped the girl’s shoulder and again, spelled her name. Then she took Isabelle’s hand and tapped her shoulder, and spelled again. M-A-M-A. Isabelle smiled in understanding, or at least she hoped she did. She grabbed her mother’s hand and repeated her actions.
And so it began, the touching of objects and the spelling of the words in her hands. Soon this expanded to non-tangible things, and then short sentences, followed by full sentences. When one of them was done with what they had to say, they would tap their hand for a response. Her name was shortened to Belle for practicality, and this was the way they lived for the next few years.
Then one morning, Belle shuffled out of her room and into the kitchen to the table to await her breakfast, and when after several minutes, she didn’t feel the vibrations that her mother made while walking through the apartment, or the good morning hug, she grew worried. She stood, and shuffled back towards the bedrooms, feeling for the door on the left which was her mother’s room. Once inside, she shuffled to the bed, and felt her mother’s body still lying there under the covers. But she was cold. Belle moved her hands up to her mother’s face, and felt her throat move when she could feel no movement of air. She shook her mother, she hit her, and she was sure she made noises as her throat seemed to burn after a while.
After what seemed like years, but was probably mere moments, she felt vibrations in the floor and then hands on her shoulders, making her jump and her throat burned again. Someone pulled her hand out and she felt words spelled rapidly into her palm. “I’m May. What happened? Has your mother been sick?” the person identified herself as her neighbor.
“I do not know”, she spelled back. “She did not tell me. She did seem more tired in recent days.” Belle took her hand away, and reached for her mother’s body once more, feeling the lack of heart beat and lack of breath on her hands. She took May’s hand again. “Is she…is she dead?”
She got no immediate response, then a slow “Yes.” And Belle felt her mouth open and fire tear through her throat once more before nothing.
That had been a year ago, though Belle had no knowledge of how much time had passed, and she was now living on the streets. May had left, not wanting to be saddled with a deaf, mute, and blind girl who wasn’t any relation to her, and the landlord had chucked her out when he found he wouldn’t be getting any rent from her. She wasn’t sure how far from the apartment building she’d gotten, for all she knew, and for all the help she was given, she was going in circles. During the nights, she’d sleep where she could, and during the days she’d shuffle down the streets lightly dragging her hands along the sides of buildings. She’d collected a few items, most important of which was a quilt from her mother, she used this to sleep on, and an old ratty bag to carry it in. No one seemed to bother her, she could only guess that a homeless girl who couldn’t see, speak or hear wasn’t worth anyone’s attention.
Which brought her to where she was now. Sitting alongside a hard sided building, feeling the movement in her abdomen she’d associated with her stomach growling and hunger. She took a deep sniff of the air around her, and felt her lips turn up at the faint smell of freshly baked bread. Standing, she gathered the quilt together, and placed it in the bag. She hoisted the bag on her shoulder, put her right hand on the hard building, and began the slow shuffle towards the bread smell. The closer she got, the faster she moved. Finally, she arrived at the bakery, and judging from the smell, she could tell there was bread outside. She stopped moving and let the breezes against her face let her know what she needed to know. Heavy breezes meant heavy foot traffic, light meant not a lot of people. She felt around for a rack or a shelf near the bread smell. Finding it, she quickly reached out, and grabbed a small soft loaf, shoving it into her bag hoping against hope she wasn’t noticed. When she moved away, reaching for the building side, she sighed in relief. She moved as quickly as she could, feeling the edge of a building and rounding the corner, only to be knocked to the ground by a hard body.
Fear gripped her as she realized she was probably caught, her bread would be taken away, and she’d be shoved away, once again no one wanting to deal with her. But to her surprise, she felt gentle hands catch her and lower her to the ground carefully. She scrabbled back though still not trusting. The hands, which were large and strong kept reaching for her though, and her throat began to burn, telling her she was making noises again. Other hands, smaller and gentler reached for her, shoving the large ones away and then she felt them pull her towards a body. Then arms holding her, pressing her head against it, she could feel the vibrations of the person talking, the hands rubbing her back, and she froze, not knowing what to do.
She stayed this way in this person’s arms letting them do this, though the fear never fully left. When her shaking stopped, the person assumed she was calm, and pulled away. She could feel puffs of air on her face, and knew the person was speaking to her or to someone, and she took action. She reached out holding her hand out palm upwards and tapped her palm with her other hand. The puffs of air continued. She tapped her hand again, and still more puffs. Frustrated, she reached out and making contact with a shoulder covered in a soft material, she moved her hand down the arm and gripped the hand. No one had ever paid this much attention to her since her mother, and she wasn’t going to give it up. Not yet anyway. With her finger, she spelled rapidly, and tapped the hand when she was done. Nothing except puffs of air again. She tried again, and this time, another hand covered hers, and stopped her. She felt her own hand turned over and a finger on her palm. “Can you see us?”
“No,” was her reply.
“Can you hear us?”
“No.” Her hand was let go for a moment, and the puffs of air returned. She knew there were at least two people, as two different pairs of hands had touched her. As the puffs seemed farther away, she assumed the people were speaking with each other. She jumped when her hand was taken once again, and placed on the soft shoulder, then removed, and turned palm up.
“My name is Donna.” She felt her hand moved to her own shoulder. Understanding, she took this Donna’s hand in hers. “I am Belle.” Her hand was taken again, and placed to her right on another shoulder, with rough material, and then down the arm to the large hand from earlier. “This is the Doctor,” was spelled into her hand. She gave a nod of acknowledgement and waited in case there were more people. The soft hands took hers again, and she automatically faced her palm up.
“Are you lost? Do you need help to find your family?”
“Family? What is family?”
“Family. Mother, father. People who take care of you.”
“I take care of me.”
“ You must have parents.”
“I had Mama. Mama died. I am alone.”
The puffs of air returned, yet the hold on her hands stayed. She worked one hand free, reached into her bag, taking out the bread and taking a bite. Whoever these people were, they didn’t seem to want to harm her, not that she could stop it if they had, and she was hungry. Her other hand was turned up, and she felt the fingers of the one called Donna spelling again. “It is not safe for you to live like this.”
“I have for a long time. No one cares. Why should you?”
“How long? Of course we should care. You are a child on the streets, never mind your…difficulties.”
“I do not know how long. It was cold for a while, then hot, then cold again. What are difficulties? Is it no sight and no sound?”
There was nothing after that, and Belle felt Donna’s hands pull from hers. After a few more moments of nothing, she decided that Donna and this Doctor were going to leave, or perhaps already had. She scooted towards where she thought the building might be, and reaching it, shoved the bread back into her bag, stood, and began shuffling away.
She was several paces away, before she felt her hand being grasped again. She tried to jerk away, but the hold was tight, and then her hand was being turned up. “Wait. Where are you going?” The softness of the hands told her it was Donna again. “On my way. You go your way, I go mine.”
“Come with us.”
“You can not stay here. It is not safe.”
“I have. I can. It is,” Belle wasn’t going with these people. Who knew what they’d do to her, she who couldn’t see, couldn’t hear. She had enjoyed the attention, especially the hug, but she could take care of herself.
“How old are you?” the question made Belle think. She knew she had been nearing the age of 11 years when her mother had died, but since her death she had had no one to tell her the date, or the time. It wasn’t as if she could read a calendar, or look at a clock. The only way she knew it was day and not night was the air temperature on her skin. During the day it was warmer than at night. She took Donna’s hand spelling slowly. “I do not know. Mama said I would be 11 years but then she died.”
“When did she die?”
“A long time ago. It was cold in the daytime, then it was warm for a while and now it is cold again.”
No response again, but Donna didn’t let go of her hand, and she felt the puffs of air that meant the two were speaking again. Impulsively, she let go of Donna’s hand and reached both of her hands towards the puffs of air, and felt a face, while the person she touched froze. She felt thick hair, followed by a plastic like object that covered the eyes, and a pointy nose. The lips were moving a little and once her hands had slid off the chin, large hands grasped her wrists loosely and she started in surprise. Pulling her hands free, she grabbed at one of the hands, hastily spelling onto the palm. “Not Donna?”
Her hand was turned over. “The Doctor.”
“Where is Donna?” In response, her hands were moved to another face, smaller than the Doctor’s, without the plastic object over the eyes, softer skin, and her fingers paused at the lips when they turned up at the corners. She felt that, then placed her fingers on her own mouth, and turned up the corners. She returned that hand to Donna’s face. “You are softer than the Doctor,” she spelled into Donna’s palm, and moved backwards when Donna began to shake. Donna didn’t let her retreat though. “Laughing,” she spelled on Belle’s palm.
“Your words were funny. They made me laugh. I am softer than the Doctor though.”
Belle felt a heavy puff of air coming from the direction she thought the Doctor was in and felt Donna’s finger on her palm again. “He thinks we are teasing him.”
“What is teasing? Funny words?” Belle was becoming intrigued with these people.
“Yes. Funny words. I can tell you more, if you come with us.”
“Why do you want me to come with you?”
“You look to need help. We would like to help you.”
Belle withdrew her hands, but stayed where she was. Donna and the Doctor seemed nice, and they hadn’t taken her bread from her, they hadn’t hurt her, they had acknowledged her, and communicated with her. She was starting to have this feeling with them that she hadn’t felt since her mother died. She didn’t know the name for it, but she liked it. And perhaps where they could take her, would be so much better than where she was. “If I go with you, there will be food?”
“I remember a thing I had with Mama. A bed. It was soft. Is there one of those?”
“There is. Does this mean you will come with us?”
Belle thought a moment more. She reached her hands out again, touching Donna’s face, feeling her lips with upturned corners again. Moving a hand to her own lips, she turned up the corners. Then she took Donna’s hand once more. “Yes. I will come with you.”
She was hugged again, by Donna in response, and she felt each of her arms taken one by Donna, and the other by the Doctor. They moved forward slowly, so she could keep up, and began to walk towards their destination, and towards Belle’s new future. And she hoped it would be a good one.