Search Party

It all started when Mrs. Evansworth ran screaming through the city streets, frantically seeking her child who had gone missing. Groups of searchers were commissioned to search for the missing child, and search they did -- for days, then weeks, then months. But the child was never found.

Finally, the search was called off and friends and family and paid mourners visited the home of Mrs. Evansworth, to console and comfort. And when they returned home, many discovered that their children had gone missing.

Whether they had all disappeared that day or whether they had one by one began to disappear during all the commotion caused by the search for Mrs. Evansworth's child nobody could say for sure.

Panic swept through the city. And a meeting was called in the town square to address the situation.

-- What force is taking our children? The mayor began. Who has an idea?

-- I have read a legend of a piper responsible for leading children away into a mountain. Perhaps something similar is occurring now.

This seemed reasonable to many as quite a few of the city's youth were known to gather around traveling minstrels and become enthralled with their merry tunes. So the citizens rounded up all the musicians in the city and in the city's outlying regions and took them away for questioning and locked them away for the public safety.

But the children continued to disappear. And so the meetings continued.

-- Perhaps the children are not disappearing at all but are donning the garb and manner of adults. Perhaps we have 5 year olds running around as lawyers and judges. Maybe the banker who granted your loan was actually your son.

This certainly would explain many of the recent strangeness going on with the courts and the finances of the city.

-- Or maybe the children have run off to college and are just now beginning a family of their own in some distant city. We often lament that our children are growing up too fast. What if the process has accelerated beyond even our fearful imaginations?

A compelling argument indeed. And so a search party was formed to visit the area universities and local townships -- looking for any clue that the missing children had grown up faster than people had thought possible and had moved on with their lives. But no evidence was found. No children were found. And the disappearances continued.

And the meetings continued.

-- My neighbor has strange habits. He whistles tunes I've never heard and can often be found staring at the night sky.

Strange indeed. So the neighbor was brought in for questioning and jailed. And more and more people reported the strange behaviors of fellow citizens and soon all the strange people were locked up and the strange behaviors ceased.

And the disappearances continued.

-- What if the children are to blame?

-- What do you mean? Asked the mayor at the next town meeting. Who said that?

A tall man in the back of the crowd stepped forward.

-- I did.

-- Explain yourself sir.

-- Well, often when a dish breaks a child is to blame. They have small hands and have trouble holding dishes. And I remember when graffiti covered our city walls, it was discovered to be the fault of the children. So what if the children are to blame for their own disappearances.

A quiet murmuring went through the crowd and a general satisfaction swept through the town members. And so they all went home with cleansed hands and peace of mind, and went about their lives.

And the disappearances continued.

~ ~ ~

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