When his father pulled up outside the house from the hospital, he knew something was wrong. He didn’t much like it when things were wrong in the world, so he stayed in his room finding as many reasons as he could to keep on looking out of the window and not go downstairs, but the Mountain came upstairs to find Mohammad anyway, sat down on the bed and for the first time, a new kind of silence was shared between them.
“Come and sit down. I’ve got something I need to tell you.”
The boy sat down on the other bed in the room, not wanting to be too close, wanting to keep as much control over whatever was coming as he could.
“Your mother is fine, she has to spend a few days in hospital but ought to be back by the weekend.”
Well, that was something. For a fleeting moment, he thought she might be dead but it was obvious there was more and this was only the tip of the iceberg because his father never acted like this. He didn’t even recognise this tone of voice coming out of his mouth. He had never heard it before and it sounded almost soft.
“You have a sister…”
A pause piled itself on top of the previous one signalling more to come but the words had got stuck in his father’s throat.
“You have a sister, but she has Down’s Syndrome.”
There were so many silences hanging in the air, it was hard to know which one to look at.
“Do you know what that means?”
The boy nodded and now it was his turn to choke on the questions that had formed a queue in the room. He didn’t know which was worse - the news he had been handed or that he had never before seen The Mountain so unsure of his place in the world.
“Things are going to be hard and different when they get home.”
He paused again.
“I need to get back to the hospital. I think there’s food in the cupboard but if not, we’ll get some when I come home later. I need to go into work too. You’ll be OK until then?”
He nodded but his father had already left the room because the last thing A Mountain wants anybody to see when the weather gets rough is the river bursting its banks and flooding the forest.
He heard the front door close and then the car door, and then a hundred other doors slamming shut inside his head as he tried to process the information. He sat on the bed and cried because he felt sorry for himself - and then he cried until he didn’t feel sorry anymore - and then he cried until there weren’t any more tears left to cry.
The boy took off his clothes, threw them into the corner of the room, knelt on the floor, clasped his hands in front of his face and prayed to a God he never before had cause to speak to quite so honestly. It didn’t much matter which God because surely one of them would be listening.
He told the Gods what had happened and listed some of the reasons this shouldn't have happened and in his own twelve year old way, asked the Gods to make it go away. He bargained and pleaded. Then he tried to reason with the Gods before offering to trade everything he had in his life - including anything good that might be coming down the line later - to rebalance the books.
When he felt nothing was happening, he got angry at the Gods and threatened them. He swore if they didn’t make themselves known to him and hand over a box with some hope in it, he would spend the rest of his life exposing their weaknesses.
When the prayer was over, he looked around for a sign that his words had meant something but all he could find in the room was another useless silence hanging in the air.