WINCHESTER — A Winchester woman launched a new podcast last week that is equal parts heartwarming and terrifying.
"Fictitious Truths" tells the story of Lucy, a bright, hopeful 5-year-old living with an alcoholic, abusive and emotionally broken father. She has to hide her undergarments each morning so her dad won't punish her for wetting the bed, and she waits for him to leave their tiny apartment each day so she can go out into the cold to find something to eat in the dumpster that she considers "a treasure box all her own."
It's sometimes hard to hear Lucy's story, but "Fictitious Truths" does an excellent job of making listeners understand how a fragile child finds ways to cope with a parent's abuse and neglect. Lucy sees adventure and wonder in the world around her while waiting for the day that her father will once again be the good man he was before alcoholism and abusiveness drove away his wife and caused him to look upon his daughter as a disappointment and inconvenience.
Lucy's life appears to take a positive turn in Episode 3, which will be released Tuesday. That's when a retired school teacher with a poodle named Riley discovers Lucy in the dumpster and offers to help. What happens next will be unveiled over the course of season one's remaining 20 or so episodes.
Podcast creator Barbara Eberle, using the pen name Barbara Lane, writes and narrates each 10- to 20-minute episode using Lucy's voice, striking a child-like tone of joy and optimism even as she shares stories about hunger, poverty and the ever-looming threat of physical abuse.
"One of the things about child abuse is the inability to look at it, and that contributes to the continuation of child abuse more than anything else," Eberle said during a phone interview on Thursday. "How do you get the story out there in a way that people listen?"
For Eberle, the solution was "Fictitious Truths," in which she can offer real-life stories of abuse and neglect without compromising the privacy of actual children who have endured such treatment.
"Words can make things so visual, maybe more so than even movies," she said. "Listeners can envision in their minds what it must be like for Lucy."
Eberle herself had a difficult childhood, being raised in the foster-care system from the age of 3 after she and her 10 biological sisters were removed from their home. The sisters remained apart for nearly 40 years, and Eberle is now in the process of telling their stories in a memoir she is writing and hopes to publish at some point in the future.
Rather than run from her traumatic childhood, Eberle decided to help others who had similar experiences. As an adult, she built a career in family therapy and advocated for children in domestic-related court cases.
"What you've experienced doesn't define you, it doesn't limit you. You don't have to wear it as a badge," Eberle said. "You can let it go and live a really full life, and that's a great message to share. ... If you make it through, you have a gift to share."
Several of the situations Eberle dealt with during her childhood and career are now being used as fodder for Lucy's story.
Season 1 of "Fictitious Truths" will continue to tell the story of 5-year-old Lucy, but if the podcast catches on, Eberle said she would like to do additional seasons focusing on Lucy as a 10-year-old, 15-year-old, young adult and so on.
"I think it's important for a kid like Lucy to grow up," Eberle said. "What happens to a child like this as they develop?"