idol season ten | week 27 | 1330 words
Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you
It is dark, so dark, here in this forever of cold and despair. I have been here longer than I can remember.
I fear it is too late to hope I will ever leave.
There was light here, once, but that was no kindness. In time, it showed all too many things I dreaded seeing. Sometimes, it showed the man—who was often there or soon would be, the man who brought me here, who lured me away from the park with the promise of newborn puppies. The man was terrifying when he was angry, but worse when he was quiet. He looked at you then with eyes so cold and cruel, you felt the terror of it to the core of your very bones.
Sometimes, it showed the blood spattering the walls or seeping into the dirt of the basement floor. My own blood, some of it. Seeing it set off terrible memories of each time the man chose to spill it.
And then there were the other children…
Lonely was the Hell I lived in, but it was worse when other children were there—many who were younger and weaker than I. For all the pain inflicted on my body, there were times it grew so fierce I did not feel it. But when those children screamed and cried, I could not steel my heart against their torment, and I could not save them. Poor little Annie, with her broken dolly. All she'd wanted was to go home, and I did not tell her that she never would. Little Susie used to whisper stories to herself when she was scared, but before long she stopped speaking altogether. She would be awake and breathing, but no hint of her remained inside her eyes. She was never the same again.
The man became very angry when that happened. He turned his attentions to me then, breaking my fingers and carving letters into my flesh. "Ruby," the letters spelled, and "Jessamin."
I wondered who those girls were that he hated so much.
Back when there still light inside that basement, I could see all the horrible things he had done to me. Much as I loathed the dark, those bruises and raw patches of missing flesh were too sickening to behold. I had forgotten what I once looked like and could no longer bear to see what I had become.
I often wondered whether fear itself might kill me, like a poison. Day and night I lay there, strapped to that filthy bed and worrying about what the man would do to me next and whether I would survive it. Even when he was absent, I always knew he would return. I agonized over every creak and scuffle, certain he was on his way back to destroy me all over again.
I do not know why the dark has become so relentless now, nor the cold so unforgiving. Time seems endless in this prison, broken only by pain or terror or the revolting sense of creatures crawling on me when I can do nothing to stop them.
I hear the voices of children from time-to-time. Will they be captured too? I scream at them to stay away from this horrible basement, that the man who lives here is not to be trusted, and I am so relieved when they seem to have listened. I hear the voices of unknown men as well. They are neither my tormentor nor my own dear father, and I so hoped Father might someday find me…
In this musty blackness of things unseen, I am almost too frightened to breathe as I wait for the ritual of pain to begin again. But sometimes even the most terrible of things is still easier to withstand than the excruciation of wondering when it will happen.
Now I notice the sound of a woman's voice, in soft, low tones I have not heard for years upon years. "I am here!" I shout. She is not my mother and would not know me, but I have wished it for so long! "Rescue me from this madman, please, I beg of you!"
I think maybe the woman hears me. Doesn't she? She is no longer speaking, but "Please help, oh please don't leave without me!"
And yet, the heartbreaking silence returns.
Hours or days go by, there in the darkness with nothing but nightmares and panic and the memories I wish I could forget. I will be alone forever, I think, except for those awful times when that terrible man returns. I would sleep until the end of time itself, if only I could.
I hear voices again one day. Not just one or two people, but a group of them. "Let me out!" I scream. I don't care what the man does to me, it's worth risking for freedom. The people ignore me, although I can feel them poking around nearby. "I'm right here!" I say.
There is a frozen silence, but then they continue on with no reply. I cry and plead myself to exhaustion, but they are focused on the task at hand.
I wake sometime later to find people digging in the basement. They've added lights to the room, so I can see the curious work they are doing. They do not look at me, all of them too polite to stare at my wounds, my filthy clothes. After so many years of cruelty, the shock of such simple kindness nearly brings me to tears.
None of the people respond to my greetings and pleasantries, but I can see they are busy and may be trying to spare me embarrassment. I simply watch instead, trying not to disturb them. Hours go by, and then they finally move back enough to let me see their progress.
Oh… oh, dear. They have unearthed a pitiful little pile of bones, some poor creature who was buried in this unholy tomb. Not Annie, I think, oh please, not Annie. I never saw what happened to her, only that she left us. I never dared to ask.
That—wait. That dress is just like my dress, the one I was wearing at the park that day. But it's ruined now, half-rotten with blood and age, and I don't understand—
Oh, no. A wave of sorrow passes through me, as I curl up into something impossibly small and sad. How could this have happened?
I suddenly just want to disappear to where I can't feel anything anymore. Sleep, I think, willing myself to go wherever it is I escape from truths I cannot face…
Later—days, or maybe more—I am pulled back to that horrible basement. Why can I not be left in peace? Let me forget all that happened there, and let it forget me. It can be some other person's tragic history, anyone but me.
Still, I am drawn there by force.
The workers are going up the stairs with a stretcher, a collection of bones and a tattered dress lying upon it.
It is too horrible to think about, but I cannot pretend not to know the truth. Those wretched bones are me.
The procession moves out of the stairwell and across the kitchen, heading outside. That's when—wait, what's happening, something's changing. Something big.
I feel heat tingling through me, like the glow of fireflies in the night. I have been so cold for so long, I'd forgotten how sweet it is to be warm. Everything becomes bright—almost glaring—as the workers move out into the sun.
It is all so beautiful, the light as white as a midsummer's day and all the more blinding for how long I've been lost to the dark. I feel it overtake me, and I gasp as if I'm drowning in it.
Then the basement—and the very world itself—drift loose until they are finally as far away as if I were standing on the surface of the sun…
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