Just like so many other memories, the memories of her mother and father were fading. She reviled this inevitability. She fought to hold onto them but knew they would eventually evaporate into the abyss, or wherever memories fled after they escaped you. Perhaps there actually was a place they fled to – a mysterious land of missing memories. The dwelling place for old friends, deceased pets and, of course, the “good old times”. Victoria often wished she could go to that place, though she knew this could never be, since, to get to that place she had to escape this place – and there was no escape from this place. Not a chance in hell.
Her fatigued eyes ritually explored the room in which she had been imprisoned for the previous six months. Held captive. Incarcerated by solid brick walls and a great, rusted, metal door which stood straight like an impenetrable iron guard. Although, unlike her body, her mind was far from being restrained. Her imagination had swum the depths of the deep blue seas, ventured through uncharted tropical jungles and often rocketed into space to explore the heavens. Her mind had seen things her eyes would never get to see.
Free – if there were ever such a thing.
The window. The only morsel of hope and light remaining. Like an enigmatic spectacle of a lone radiant red rose shimmering amid a bush of ghoulish nettles, it was mysterious, beautiful – almost surreal. A view of the outside. A wonderful world so close yet unreachable.
Although the unkempt garden and part of the neighbour’s garden were the only things in sight, this was now the only evidence remaining that a world beyond this dungeon even existed. A vibrant world where the air was renewed, and there existed life forms other than spiders and repugnant rats. This was now her world. A colourless realm with no one except her demons for company. And this gloomy, grey room will undoubtedly be the last thing she ever sees – of this, she was certain.
The room, the box, the dungeon – it had many names, was dark. Dark in more ways than one. There was a light once, many months back. A diffused golden glow emanated from a petite orb on the ceiling. But just like her feelings of hope and escape, it gradually diminished.
The ceiling, on which the now lifeless bulb hung like a rotting corpse on a pendulum, was so high it was impossible to touch, yet, close enough to suffocate her. The tyrannical walls and blemished ceiling caved in and throttled her every day. She learned to take long deep breaths and clamp her eyes shut – imagining clasping her mother’s hand as she strolled along a sandy beach. With the beaming sun’s warmth draped around her, her mother’s words replayed, “Breathe… baby… just breathe,” like fresh water quenching a person dying of thirst. No, it was more than that. Her soothing words were a strong sedative to an intolerable suffering. Suffering no human should have to endure. Victoria’s nostrils flared as she inhaled deeply, hoping she would somehow smell the scent of her mother’s welcoming perfume. But all she caught was a vile whiff of the sickening stench in the dungeon.
For Victoria, her mother was her angel. Was being the operative word. And just like Victoria’s hope for freedom, her mother was no more.
The saying “All good things come to an end” earned its title as a cliché, as it was, as Victoria had learned the hard way, true. All good things did come to an end, and the worst part was that you couldn’t do a thing about it. Not a damn thing! But what about the bad things? Victoria often asked herself, do they come to an end? Looking at her bruised arms and stroking her fat lower lip, she was not convinced they ever would.
If only she could just vanish like smoke into the atmosphere or be absorbed into the ground like spilled water – never to be seen again. She even deliberated suicide, every day in fact, but always lost the argument to her inner, stronger self. She detested that dogmatic bitch. Never around when you needed her but always surfaced when she wasn’t wanted. A real bitch!
Victoria circled the room and glared at every corner as if by some miracle, something would be different. Something new would appear – perhaps a delicious Victoria sponge cake or even a fresh iced bun from Gareth’s Bakery would just be there. She wouldn’t even ask how it got there – she wouldn’t even care. Stuff it down her as fast as she could and not speak a word of it to anyone, not even to herself.
Gareth’s Bakery… she chewed her nails, the little that was left of them. Her favourite place to eat. Her mother took her there as a treat once a month at least; twice when she had been particularly good. It was the best bakery in town – the food was always fresh, and Mr Gareth would always offer Victoria a strawberry favoured lollipop from his tub of sweets before they left. “Not before your dinner, mind.” he would say with his bushy eyebrows lifted. Victoria would always respond with a smile before they left. And, of course, devour the lollipop long before they got home. Her mother would never say anything – she always seemed like she had so much on her mind as they approached the house that she always forgot about the scrumptious sugary lollipop.
Now, however, breakfast, lunch and dinner were a scrap of stale bread, which was solid enough to pass as a flavourless biscuit, and water that smelt like a corpse. It was nauseating.
Either that or starve to death.
Recently, however, starving to death was the more appetising option.
The shabby single bed sat hauntingly in the middle of the room, surrounded by nothing except a filthy toilet, a sink, a metal cup, a large metal bucket and an antique dressing table and stool. At first, the dressing table gave her chills. She despised it. It looked like it belonged to a little girl who died hundreds of years ago. She hated the mirror that sat above the most. Unable to bear the sight of the blonde-haired thirteen-year-old staring back at her – reminded her of what she once was, though she was far from that now. Cheeks sunken, from what she suspected was malnourishment. Nose more prominent than before, now arched in the middle from breaking a month back. Murky green eyes that seemed like a frozen lake – lifeless and cushioned by puffy dark circles. The cut on her chin that had scabbed over but didn’t seem to be disappearing. It would probably scar just to contribute to her hideous appearance.
You are the most beautiful little girl in the world, her mother would say. If only she could see her now. The ogre she had become.
The toilet reeked. Just like the dressing table, initially, she loathed it. The stench so foul that initially she was sure it would poison her in her sleep – now, she hardly noticed it. It was the only thing she smelt, except for one day in the week. One glorious day a week there was another smell – a dreamlike aroma of a delicious roast dinner. It seeped in from the tiny air vents in the window, torturing her far more than the abhorrent stink from the disgusting toilet. She assumed it came from the neighbour’s house, presumably on a Sunday, for roasts were usually had on Sundays – from what she could remember. The wonderful scent transported her back to a time when she was at home – happy and safe. Sundays were the days that her father had off work and her mother would make luscious food which Victoria patiently waited for all week.
She used a piece of broken brick to form a tally – one mark for one day and one night – a way to determine she had been in this room for approximately six months, give or take. The tally was engraved behind the dressing table to conceal it from the evil eyes that lurked in the darkness. Eyes that knew her every movement.
Six months was several lifetimes in this place. It is true, time flies when you are having fun, but also true that time dragged when you were not. Hours like days, days like months and months like years. Not that there was a clock in the dungeon to inform her of when an hour had passed. She did, however, once, count seconds and nearly made it to an hour before drifting off to another world.
This was life now. An entire existence encompassed in a dungeon. Live here and eventually die here. She feared that even after death her ghost would be trapped here. Confined for eternity with only bitter thoughts of what could have been, should have been, but would never be.
Raindrops pattered against the window before battling to the bottom, leaving behind a disorientating view of the outside world. Victoria rested her head against the window and shivered from the breeze; forced to accept she would never feel the rain. She missed the rain. She missed walking to school on the cold, wet mornings.
She was suddenly hauled back to her old life. Hair drenched, stuck to the sides of her face, exposing only the front like an undrawn curtain. The golden tips tickled her neck. Cold drops sent shivers down her back. Irrespective of how irritating it was, she would do anything to feel it once more. Anything at all.
Her father usually left for work way before she opened her eyes to their grand five-bedroom house in Buckinghamshire. A wide house with a pointy roof, surrounded by beautiful green grass and mammoth trees. She was born in that house – way too large for a family of three. They would have been fine in a three bedroom or even a two bedroom, but her father would not have that. Not a chance! He was too proud – proud of his accomplishments – proud of his wealth – and damn proud of his status. He was an accountant, no, he was the best accountant in town, or in many towns for that matter. A range of clients depended on him to “fiddle the figures”. A unique skill, he claimed, possessed by him alone.
Victoria often overheard him talking on the phone. His thunderous voice could effortlessly penetrate the walls.
“The question is not how much on taxes you need to pay; rather, it’s how much do you want to pay?!” His favourite line – usually followed by a vulgar snort. He was charismatic and always demanded to be the centre of everyone’s attention. Everyone’s except Victoria and her mother’s that was. To the outside world he was the beauty and to the inside, he was unquestionably the beast.
If he wasn’t at his office, he was meeting a client, and if he were not meeting a client, he would be on the phone to a client. Vitoria didn’t mind this much. She had nothing in common with him, except, of course, that he was her biological father.
It was as if they were from two completely different planets. Victoria liked to paint and read storybooks. Her frequent reading earned her the nickname, Matilda, after the main character in her favourite Roald Dahl book. All of this was a waste of time in her father’s view, “If you aren’t making money from it, it isn’t worth doing!” He often chanted.
An absurd saying that didn’t mean anything then or anything now. He was dead – his money could do little for him. And she was in hell, so the money could do nothing for her either. His fixation to accumulate money had consumed him, thus Victoria associated it with other harmful substances that consumed people such as alcohol and drugs.
She relived that day in her head many times…
Father had a late dinner party to attend and insisted mother paint her face, dress up and go with him so he could show her off like his other accomplishments. A pretentious man consumed by arrogance – dependent on praise. Her mother secretly despised his ridiculous functions. All of which were excuses for wealthy snobs to prance around in clothes worth an average family’s grocery shopping for a month, convincing other snobs that they deserved to be there. A battle of statuses. Pathetic.
Victoria loathed them more than her mother did, since she was left alone. Deserted in this grand old house. Her mother did not like leaving her on her own; Victoria knew that – she could sense it from her – the nervous look in her eyes, the prolonged hug goodbye, all clues to the fact that she would stay if she could. But dared not utter a word – Father was not the gentle, loving type. He was a ‘can’t take no for an answer’ man. He understood his responsibilities and made damn certain you understood yours.
A man shaped by his father’s belt.
Nevertheless, how could you hate a man that kept a roof over your head and food on the table? Her mother repeated robotically.
“Do me a favour petal,” Victoria’s mother said in a voice so beautiful that it sounded like greatest symphony ever composed. “Get my coat from the rack.” She smiled warmly – a smile that exposed her dimples and concealed her anguish. Victoria dragged her feet. All the while, hoping that her mother would not go.
“Thank you.” Her mother put her arms around Victoria and squeezed, “Now, you be a good girl. Make sure you brush your teeth and get to bed no later than eight.”
“Must you go?” Victoria whispered in her mother’s ear.
Her mother seemed desperate to hold on to her smile, “It is your father’s friend’s function. You remember Arthur, right?”
Victoria remained silent. Victoria could not care less whose function it was. Just another stupid function or party. And everyone knew father didn’t have any friends – no real friends anyway. They were people he worked with, or tried to suck up to, or who tried to suck up to him.
“I will be back before you know it.” She ran her fingers through Victoria’s silky hair.
“When will you be back?”
Her mother stood and faced Victoria’s father, “When will we be back?”
He sighed and then lit up a cigarette. The end of the cancer stick blazed brightly as he took a huge drag.
“We’ll be back when we are back!” he said dismissively and blew out a thick cloud of revolting smoke in Victoria’s mother’s face, “Now let’s go – we’re getting late!” With the cigarette clenched in his teeth, he wrestled to get his coat around him. The buttons on his shirt clung on for dear life as his belly sagged over his belt like a sack of dead chickens. Within a few seconds, he was gone.
In his eyes, Victoria was certain, she did not exist.
“I’m sure we won’t be long.” Victoria’s mother bent down to give her another hug.
“You look beautiful,” Victoria complimented as her mother released her grip.
Her mother tilted her head and smiled without parting her lips.
“Thank you. You are my little princess.” Her smile then dropped, “Now, remember, bed by eight.”
Victoria nodded her head but remained silent.
“I love y—.” But before her mother could finish her sentence, her father burst back in.
“What the hell is wrong with you?!” he yelled, forcing her up against the wall. “I told you we were getting late!” he growled from behind his teeth. “Now get out!”
Victoria stumbled back, and her heart pounded as she watched her mother tremble. The colour drained from her beautiful face. She followed Father out of the house like an obedient slave. Without so much as a glimpse back and closed the door – never to return. Victoria detested that man and covertly wished he would die – she did not, however, expect him to take Mother with him when he did.
“I love you too…” Victoria whispered as she stood staring at the large, ugly metal door – she was back in the dungeon. In the dark. All alone, with only fading memories of a life that once was.
She ran to the window and stared out. The wind was blowing ferociously in all directions, making the overgrown grass dance wildly and dead leaves floated in circles like lost souls. The clouds stared down at the world threateningly, yearning to unleash their wrath.
How she longed to be out there, in the land of the free. She glared at the birds with envy.
She couldn’t stay staring out of the window for too long, however. Must be winter, she assumed. The days were short and nights incredibly long. The room was bitterly cold. She stood gazing out for a few hours last week and had a nasty cough for the following few days as punishment. She had to be more sensible, and thus she created a routine. When she woke, she would move the dressing table and mark another day on the wall, then use the loo, wash her hands, brush her teeth and comb her hair. She would scoff down the stale bread and drink the cup of stinking water, if it was there that was, and then spend forty-five minutes staring out of the window, daydreaming. She had no idea when forty-five minutes were up, so she just guessed.
It would then be time to wake Simon. Simon was her best friend, new best friend. He wasn’t much of a talker, but he was a great listener, and he always smiled, even when he was angry – though he rarely got angry. Victoria strolled to her bed and turned over her pillow, where she had used an old crayon she found in the room to draw two big cartoon eyes, a round nose and big smile.
“Hi Simon,” she chirped. He smiled back her. He was happy to see her.
After talking to Simon for a couple of hours about everything – the good, the bad and the ugly, she would turn him over and rest her head. She would stare at the ceiling and butterflies would dance in her stomach at the thought of what would come next in her daily routine. The very thought sent shivers through her, and if her malnourished body was not so desperate to cling on to the little scraps of food she consumed, she would certainly throw up.
She remained frozen. Trying not to make a sound. Hoping, praying that she would not hear that dreadful sound. The sound of the metal door unlocking and opening. But it did. Every night, without fail.
She squeezed her eyes shut and held her breath as she heard the chilling clunks of the door unlocking.
The silence was chilling. She had become the master of pretending to be asleep. Like a corpse, she remained completely still and kept her eyes clamped shut. The art of not letting her eyeballs move under her eyelids was hard to master but she had done it. She breathed slowly, preventing her nostrils from flaring and her chest from raising. Perhaps he would think she was dead – that would be even better. He might just wrap her up in this disgusting bed cover and toss her into the woods. Though she knew she was not that lucky.
“I know you are awake.” A snake like voice hissed. She didn’t respond or move. The feeling was surreal. She was now so focused on acting she was in deep sleep, she had almost convinced herself.
“Must we do this every day?” the voice continued. She could hear creaks of leather, presumably from his shoes as he crept closer. Her heart was striking her insides like a desperate animal trying to escape incarceration. It was so loud she feared he would hear it.
In just a few moments he would be right next to her, towering over her. His demon-like eyes would penetrate through her. His revolting warm breath on her.
“Open your eyes, Princess.” The voice spoke again, “That was what your mother called you, right? Oh, she was such a lovely woman.”
Shut up! Victoria wanted to shout but dared not utter a word. He has no right to mention my mother – she represented everything good in the world and this vile monster stood before her, represented all that was evil.
“It really is a pity that she spent her short life with that brute, your father. He was a real terror, even from when he was a little boy.”
Victoria could feel tears forming under her eyelids. She desperately tried to stop them from breaking out. Why must he do this? She thought. Why must he bring up my parents?
“You know, your father and I had nothing in common. Growing up, he liked fancy things and spent a lot of his time sitting on rooftops and staring at girls as they walked past. I hated that stuff and so it was only natural that I hated him. I was different, I wanted more from my life, so much more… but my father… well, he couldn’t understand. He wouldn’t even try to.”
Victoria opened her eyes and looked up at the tall, pale man stood next to her. She couldn’t stand him and could not care less about what he was saying. She did not want to hear about him or her father – she loathed them both.
“Anyway, enough about that,” the voice said after a prolonged silence, “You must be hungry?”
“I am not hungry.” She eventually replied with her stomach grumbling.
“I forgot to leave any food for you in the morning… I had something very important to do and had to rush out. You do understand, right?” His unsightly, bushy eyebrows raised as he anticipated a response.
“That’s a good girl,” he said, “I will go and get you some bread and some water now.”
He ambled back out of the room. Victoria breathed out loudly as if she had been holding her breath the entire time. The very presence of him suffocated her. She sat up on the bed and wrapped her arms around her knees and squeezed. She did this often as it helped suppress the feeling of extreme hunger.
After a few moments, she caught sight of the door and noticed that he had left it open. She could not believe it. She could not work out whether it was indeed open or whether she was just imagining it. He never left the door open, she thought to herself. Never!
Her heart pounded, and she felt as if every drop of blood in her body rushed to her head. The door that had kept her imprisoned, in for what felt like a lifetime, was open. She didn’t know what was behind it. She had never seen the rest of the house. She woke up in this room and this room was all she knew.
She finally built up the courage to roll off her bed and landed quietly on to the cold surface of the floor. What are you doing? She asked herself. Reminding herself of the fact that the man she both loathed and feared was just beyond that door. Can you imagine what he will do if you try to get passed that door? Her inner voice warned.
But she crept towards the door, unable to stop herself. What was the worst he would do? Kill her? Fine. She would choose death over this any day.
You will be surprised at what you can live through! Her inner voice spoke again. This was not the first time she had argued with her more sensible self and it was certainly not the first time she ignored her advice.
She approached the door. Fear had taken over the ship and yet it still sailed towards the unknown. A dull glow seeped from the small gap. It was frightening but felt magical. She reached out with trembling hands and tugged at the door. It creaked as it swung open. She immediately released her grip and shielded her eyes from the light that burst into the room.
It was so bright, she felt as if she were about to go blind. She spread her fingers a little allowing the small gaps to let in a little light in a bid to allow her eyes to adjust. Burning tears streamed down her cheeks and her skin stung agonisingly, but within a few moments, she could see again.
She was faced by a large staircase. Dim lights on the wall led up to another door. It was open.
Amidst the terrible thoughts that clogged her mind was the belief that at the top of these stairs was the possibility of freedom. Freedom from this life of imprisonment. Freedom from a life of misery. Freedom fro—
“Death!” Her inner voice interrupted, beyond those stairs is death! Turn around and go back before it is too late. Before he sees you! It’s a stupid idea – no, it’s more than a stupid idea – it’s the stupidest idea ever!
Victoria took the first step and then paused, wondering whether that would be it. That first step would be enough – the door above would swing open and the monster who resided behind it would come scampering down the stairs and finish her off for good.
Complete silence. The door didn’t open, no one came running down and she was still very much alive. Although if her heart kept pounding at this rate, she felt, she may just die from panic.
The smell of old wood charged up her nostrils. It must be from the stairs, or the wooden panel on the walls she thought – it didn’t really matter – it was amazing to finally smell something different, even if it was just old damp wood.
The second step was much easier than the first, though it was still extremely difficult. The fear and panic that boiled inside her were ready to erupt. Her legs disagreed with her and she fought to keep moving. She could feel her lips quiver as she approached the top of the stairs. She paused and momentarily glanced back at the room from which had escaped and then turned and faced the door that lay ahead. There was no going back now. She had come too far to turn back.
Her hand shook uncontrollably as she clenched the brass handle of the door and shoved it until it opened wider. She was immediately hit by a cold breeze that sent shudders rippling down her spine. Her mouth suddenly became painfully dry and swallowing was now impossible.
She stepped out on to the oak coloured wooden floor. Tiptoeing, she ambled along a narrow corridor and eventually into an enormous room. Her feet felt the warmth and comfort of a thick rug that lay in the middle of three luxurious sofas. The tickling sensation from the soft fibres of the rug on the soles of her feet felt alien.
Her fingertips gently stroked the leather on the sofas as she walked towards another room. She imagined escaping the dungeon so many times but now that she was out of the room, it was unlike anything she felt. Instead of rushing to find an exit, she roamed the house like a lost soul. It was as if she were in a dream or under the influence of a magical spell.
Panic began to set back in as she noticed huge paintings on the walls – portraits of the man who had held her captive. Except the paintings were not a true representation of him. In these, he looked almost human. His skin was that of other humans, he did not have so some many blemishes, his eyebrows were not like pointy horns of the devil and his eyes not so demonic.
“That’s my favourite one.” The man’s chilling voice emerged from behind her, making her fall with fright. She looked up at him, towering over, holding a metal plate and cup.
“People used to tell me that I looked a lot like my father.” the man said as his bloodshot eyes locked on to the portrait. His head tilted, and she could see the blood draining from his face. His eyebrows met in the middle as a seethed look appeared on his face. He stepped forward, still staring at the portrait – lost in thought. His expressions switched between frowns to twisted smiles and he cursed repeatedly under his breath. He was like a volcano moments before the eruption.
Victoria looked towards the door – the illusion of escape suddenly vanished. Although this was the furthest she had been, she was still nowhere.
“You!” he said in an ominous tone, “You should not be out here!” His horrifying voice echoed, and a thick vein formed on his forehead – it appeared like a small snake under his skin. She could have sworn she saw it slither. It was mortifying. His demeanour was not that of a human. His pupils were as black as coal and completely glazed over. A look she had seen many times.
Her pulse was beating in her ears and her stomach churned as the room spun – drawing her into a whirlwind of terror.
“Get back where you belong – you evil little child!” The plate he had in his hand launched towards her like a torpedo as she ran back towards the stairs. Her legs moved sluggishly as if they were in mud. The sharp pain from the metal plate as it hit her back proved that this was not a nightmare. This was happening.
She could feel his presence behind her as she hurried down the stairs and into the room. He followed her in. Within seconds, her back was against the cold wall and he cowered over her, breathing heavily. Her body stiffened. Unable to move. Unable to make a noise. Unable to escape.
“You have the devil inside you!” He hissed. Spittle sprayed out as he spoke. An intense heat radiated from him and his fists were tightly clenched. His penetrating gaze burned straight through to her very soul. She had seen and experienced the rage of the man stood in front her many times but never like this. Surely, this was it.
She should never have left the room, how could you have been so stupid, her inner voice spoke with an I-told-you-so tone. As a result, he will probably beat you to death.
She closed her eyes and prepared to meet her maker.
A few moments passed and by some miracle, she was still alive.
She could hear him taking deep breaths as if trying to calm himself down. Slowly opening her eyes, she noticed he had loosened his fists and his expression of fury seemed to have subsided.
“It’s alright my child.” He spoke in a serener tone, “I understand… I, too, had him inside me. It’s not your fault.” He took a step back and stared at the wall as if in deep thought, “My father… he knew how to get him out – he knew exactly how to get him out… and get him out he did.” His eyes fell back on her, “I know it seems cruel… it’s alright to feel that, believe me, I thought that as well. I used to think of him as a monster – the things he did… the things he made me endure. But little did I know the monster was in me… as it is in you.” He stepped towards her again, “You must know that there are things in the world that you do not understand. I never quite grasped this when I was younger…” He suddenly grabbed Victoria by her throat. She felt his large fingers tighten around her neck. “But I do now.”
Victoria felt as if she was being lifted off the ground. No longer able to breathe. The pain was so intense that she nearly passed out. A warm trickle of urine streamed down her leg.
Just before she passed out, he released his grip and she immediately fell into a puddle of her urine, gasping for air. But before she even had time to think, she felt a hard blow to her ribs. He then repeatedly kicked her while she lay curled into a ball. Every blow was worse than the one before.
“Get out! I will get you out – I shall expel the evil from you!” He chanted as he continued his beating. His voice echoed hauntingly until she could hear it no more.
Her eyes opened. It was dark and silent. A diffused white of moonlight spilled into the room. Barely enough to fight the darkness around her but enough for her to know where she was. She imagined the sky to be clear with speckles of shimmering stars. Its exquisiteness and mystery would be a magnificent sight, if only she could get to the window ledge.
She lay on the floor – excruciating pain radiated from every part of her body. The pain was simply a verification that she was still alive. Still breathing. She wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or disappointed. Moving redefined the meaning of pain. A sharp stab in the chest with every breath convinced her she was not going anywhere for a while.
“Why could I have not just died?!” she said out loud. Tears rolled down her face and on to the floor. Her eyelids forcefully closed as she drifted off again.
“Victoria, can you please pass me the salt.” Her mother asked. She looked around at the table full of delicious, warm food. A large straw bowl filled with sliced loafs of bread. Plates filled with roasted chicken breast and vegetables.
What is this? Victoria asked herself. It… it can’t be… She was in the dining room of her home with her mother sat opposite her at the dining table. The sparkling light from the chandelier and glowing candles bounced beautifully off the wine glasses, casting dancing shadows on the walls.
The aroma of the food was causing her mouth to water and stomach to grumble. But she felt too scared to touch a thing.
“Are you alright?” her mother spoke again with a concerned expression.
Victoria did not respond – she did not know how to respond. This must be a dream… It can’t be real. It cannot be. How could she be at home, safe, in the warm, and around the person she loved the most.
“What’s wrong with you?” Father’s startling voice emerged. Victoria turned her head and noticed him sat there. His mouth full of food as he spoke. “The salt… your mother asked for the salt!” He said in an annoyed tone.
“Yes father.” Victoria said and leaned forward to pick up the jar with salt inside. But in doing so, she knocked over a glass with her elbow. It shattered as it hit the wooden floor. Her eyes grew in panic as she saw her father stand up and his chair fall behind him.
“It was an accident!” her mother yelled. But her father ignored her and ran towards Victoria.
Victoria squeezed her eyes shut.
When she opened her eyes, they were met by the greyness of the dungeon. She was back in the room. The night was over, along with it the dream. She would have taken the consequences of dropping the water over this any day. At least she would have been with her mother even if all she could do was helplessly watch as Victoria got better acquainted with Father’s belt.
It took her a while to blink away the blurriness. Her body was sore and stiff. She tried to shake her numb forearms to revive life back into them. They were the first line of defence against the brutal blows.
Unable to stand, she dragged herself to the bed and somehow climbed on to it – exhausted as she lay there facing the stained ceiling.
“I’m OK. Honestly.” She said and forced a smile.
“It hurts a little. But I am OK, honestly.” She kept up the smile. “You worry too much, you know that?” She turned on her side and faced Simon.
“Thank you.” she said and stroked his soft face.
“For everything. For always being there for me, always smiling at me when I am down. You are my happy thought.” She hugged on to him and squeezed.
“I’m your happy thought too? That’s so sweet.” And for a moment, just a moment, she forgot about the pain and everything else around her.
“You always know the right things to say. Even when you say nothing.”
“What do you mean that’s silly?” Victoria chuckled then immediately groaned in pain. “I’m fine, I’m fine.”
“Yes. That sounds like a wonderful idea. But I’m starting!”
“What do you mean why?” she screwed up her face, “You started the last two times, that’s why!”
“Thank you! OK, you ready? I spy with my little eye… something beginning with “w”
“No. Guess again.”
“A clue? OK… let me see… erm… OK, I got it… It’s something we do every day. We use it to do something.”
“Yes! You got it!”
“One day we will, just like that bird over there on the tree.” She pointed out of the window. She suddenly released her hold on Simon. Her eyes widened as she stared out of the window. She blinked wildly and then rubbed her eyes and looked again.
“Wait here…” she whispered and put Simon down.
It was hard to move. The pain was unbearable – her ribs felt broken. But she had to get to the window, she had to get a closer look to prove that her eyes were deceiving her.
She clambered out of her bed – her knees shook uncontrollably until she fell to the ground. She couldn’t depend on her body to get her there – she relied on her curiosity alone to carry her.
As walking was still not an option, she slithered along the floor until she reached the window ledge. Screaming in agony, she pulled herself up and stared at the garden in astonishment.
She couldn’t believe her eyes, but it was true. There, in plain sight.
“Simon! She yelled. “You must see this.” She smiled uncontrollably.
“No, you must see it – I don’t even know how to describe it.”
She fell back to the ground, adrenaline now pushing the pain aside.
She reached out and held onto Simon. “Come on… I got you…” She made her way back towards the window.
“I know the floor is cold.” She said. “I have been swarming around on it for a while now. It will be fine. We are nearly there.” She could hardly contain her excitement. If it wasn’t for the fear of her ribs cracking, she would have run back to the window.
“You’ll just have to wait and see.” She said.
“No, I’m not telling you. Be patient. You will see soon enough, and you will know exactly why I am so thrilled.” She could not wipe the goofy smile off her face.
But as she got closer to the window, she heard the clunking of the metal door. She froze. Her vision distorted as if she was looking through broken glass. Choking, unable to breathe, she curled into a ball and closed her eyes. It’s OK baby, just breathe… her mother’s voice echoed in her mind.
She tightened her eyes enough for them to appear like they were closed but just open enough for her to get a glimpse of the room.
The door squealed like a dying animal as it opened. She gripped Simon with sweaty palms. And then the stark realisation that he would notice Simon dawned on her. Although she was in the same place where she was savagely beaten and left for dead, Simon was now wrapped tightly in her arms. The drumming of her heartbeat reverberated in her brain as the room spun. What if he takes him away? She thought. What if he hurts him… the way he hurts me?
“Don’t worry Simon… I will not let him hurt you.” She whispered knowing full well that she couldn’t promise that.
“It will be fine – I am not scared.” She lied.
She could see the mud stained black boots as they trailed into the room. A blend of dried and fresh mud. She tightened her grip on Simon in a bid to overcome her trembling hands. The boots creaked as he approached. The urge to scream intensified with each step.
He crouched and looked at her with vacant eyes. He placed the metal plate and cup on the floor next to her. The odour of the water made her want to vomit. It smelt as if he had scooped it up from a gutter.
She could feel his dry hands stroke her hair. “I know this is hard…” He whispered. “I assure you it all will end. The evil that is deep within you will be extracted from you and you will not be angry at me, you will not hate me anymore – rather you will appreciate what I have done for you.” He paused for a moment and then sat down on his knees.
Please just go away! She thought. Why are you here? What do you want from me? Just leave the bread and stinking water, if you must, and go.
“I can see your eyes rolling underneath your eyelids. I have always been able to see them, regardless of how many times you have tried to deceive me.”
She had the sudden urge to urinate.
“It’s alright. I do not blame you, for deception is the devil’s trait. And while he is in you, his characteristics will continue to surface. This is why what I do is so important.”
She could feel herself shivering uncontrollably.
“It’s alright my child.” He said as he stroked her cheek. “It’s alright… Your body needs to heal before we can continue.” He stood up. “The one thing my father didn’t understand.”
She felt a little relieved – she cared very little for his words but escaping a beating was heavenly.
Was she supposed to feel sympathy for him? How could she care about a person who had no mercy or remorse for what he did? She couldn’t – she would never be able to.
His shoes turned in the other direction as he walked towards the door. She wanted to sigh but dared not to just in case he heard it and changed his mind. Instead, she held her breath and waited for him to leave.
He suddenly stopped and then peered at her bed.
Damnit! He has noticed Simon is not there. I know it. He sees everything.