Dear Reader(s): I have been to some very dark and distressing places in my life experiences, and in my mind. And I do feel the need to share this story. However, it is ghastly, and gross, in my opinion.
This fictional story contains strong and clear allusions to child abuse, sexual abuse, and extreme violence.
If Wishes Were Hunting Knives
Sometimes I wish I had done things differently. And then I could remember a different true story.
I woke in the darkness. In the night. I don’t know for sure what woke me. Upon waking, though, I had the sense that hopelessness, fear, and powerlessness had loomed so loudly that they had dragged me from sleep.
Darius was missing. And not in her bed. I knew, because we shared one. The blue acrylic globe-shaded swag lamp hung quietly from the ceiling, and still, and I watched it do so as I gathered my bearings.
Mother, that horrifying, terrorizing, angry wraith which wove and plunged itself chaotically into and at and through my life, was away. Hospitalized. Very very sick, and deeply absent. Although the two-week old half-brother, whom she’d named the name I’d hoped for him, slept in his crib in the room down the short hall from me. Older brother… I had no idea where he was. I had no clear sense of him, that I can recall in the least.
But where was Darius? The powerlessness closed in, the fear, suffocating my little chest, crowding out the blessed, exhausted absence that sleep always laid upon me, like a blanket, which might be also a secret doorway, to other, less harrowing terrain. And if no less harrowing, then at least new…
But where was Darius? I knew. Somewhere. Inside of me, I knew exactly where she was. Because he was here. I remember being shocked at his boldness. His sick and greedy audacity. The sheer fetid reek of the presumptuousness of it.
I nursed that anger. It was something. It was my abused kid’s crack. I fostered, without knowing it, a dream of the day I’d be big and angry enough to effect my own safety, and the safety of mine. But it was impotent. I was eight. I was alone in the house with other children, and a monster of a man.
He wasn’t the sort of monster you’d know right off as a monster, unless you happened to be a child. And then, if you were lucky, you had some sense of how disgusting and gross and wrong he was. If you were not lucky, your mother made him her live-in boyfriend, or your babysitter. And then you were fucked. Not all of us, not literally – but twisted, damaged, violated, sickened, certainly… each of us.
But I couldn’t care about that much in that moment. The fear kept breaking through. And along with it, the powerlessness, and the hopelessness, as an all-encompassing vision of a decade more of this life stretched out before me in my battered and beleaguered mind.
I thought about going in there. Into Mother’s bedroom, into the gold and brown and earthy darkness, and out of the deep and watery blue of my own. I thought about pushing the monster off of the bed, and lifting him, with all my rage, to throw him out the window. Naked and clammy and grey-white pale, as he surely was. As he so often, or too often, seemed to be. I thought about rescuing Darius. I thought about taking her to a place and to grown ups we did not know. Ones who would fight for us. Kill for us. Lock a man up for us. Love us. Enough, anyway.
Then I thought of the newborn child. The monster’s offspring. I wondered if I knew well enough to bring everything it would need, on what was sure to be a long journey to salvation. I wondered if I should leave it. If whatever big people I found would come back for it in time. In time. The anger roiled again. But more, the fear. The fear that a monster willing to violate a child in the room directly across the hall from its child would have no clear, discernible depth to which it would sink.
The bed swirled away from beneath me. I was airborne, but I could not fly. All about unfolded scenarios of life to come, and in every direction lay sickness – so deep and so vile – that it clamped a deep and abiding nausea around my every hope for love, and safety and joy. The bile at the back of my stomach sloshed warningly up into my asophagaus, as my mind reeled and head pounded.
I knew, exactly, why I cried. It was a desperate bid, I knew, even then, but I tried. I cried in hopes of appealing to his humanity. To the sliver of this man which was compassionate, not infected, not overthrown by sick depravity. I hoped. Foolishly, of course, but I did hope, nonetheless.
And he dashed those hopes, of course, as I pitched my voice at him in my mind. As I pleaded, with sobbing alone, for some protection we, the children of this home, had never known.
“What the hell are you crying for? Stop your crying!” The words shattered, together, the hope of pleading my case and having it heard. And here’s where my lie begins.
I snapped. I don’t know if I moved my body; if anyone watching would have known, but I did. The hope, born at hearing his question, and shattered by the directive which followed, turned to hot and glassy shards. And they cut. More than deeply, they cut through intangible layer of self and divided me irreparably. And who I had been was changed.
Somewhere within me, in some facet now fundamentally distinct from the rest, I recognized the truth of the thing: that I would do a very wrong and lasting thing, and that my whole, forever, would be marred by it. That I would have to work very hard – in the world and within myself – to restore the balance of good from which I was about to detract. And the pureness in me, which I’d forgotten until I’d shattered and broke into pieces, nodded once – softly, resolutely, and sad.
It would be done.
I crept as quietly from my bed as I could. I knew the monster was like to be on alert, having just paid me mind. The swish of the bedspread was a terrifying and thunderous shiny blue, filling the room with sound, drowning out the pounding in my small ears. And still, the monster did not speak again. Though I heard Darius, her soft crying like an echo of my own, and yet reaching for my own vocalization, and the wan hope within it, at the same time.
‘Coming. Hang on,’ I thought to her fiercely, as I crept down the stairs, every creak sending bolts of terror through my heart as it beat wildly and erratically, trapped in my throat. I wanted to vomit. I couldn’t. Surely even the tiniest of wretching sounds would garner the attention I desperately needed to keep from me.
‘I am sorry,’ I cried to Darius, silently, as I abandoned her, yet again, to the monster, ‘it will never happen again. I swear.’ That oath kept me company, shrouded me, as I moved through the house along the main floor to the front closet, unsheathing with a leathery kiss, my saviour. Our saviour. Though some might argue with that now. Even me.
The innocence of me moaned as I crept toward Mother’s bedroom, that I’d not even seen for myself if the monster was out, before I’d set in motion. It was horrified, though, and reassured of its righteousness, as I approached the door, sliding along the floor on my tummy to avoid making noise.
While the blood in my veins roared, and the sweat and tears crashed noisily on my skin, my mind was clear, and focused. The end shone, sick and harrying, certainly, but also dark, like a silhouette against the brilliance and light beyond it. I salivated. Whether out of desire to vomit, or abject hunger for the brightness of the beginning beyond the end, I don’t know. I kept moving, though. Steadily, one hip and elbow jutting out at a time, alternating, eating up floor and distance. ‘I am like the snake,’ I thought, ‘in the sacred garden of the God of whom they speak in Sunday schools.’ I wondered what that God would think of me. I wondered if it would approve. I wondered why it had allowed this thing to become necessary. I looked around me in my mind’s eye and knew for certain that the pantheon of gods and forces around me were my equals – and that I would take care of this thing for myself – and that in doing so, my relationship to them would never be the same. I was satisfied with that eventuality, I told myself, and I squeezed more tightly, my tensed jaw forcing my teeth deeper into the only safe end of my only hope.
I suppose that response belied the complexity of the matter, and the future, but I could not conceive of that then. Only later, looking back and recalling, did I put those two pieces together.
My fingers touched the slab of door, and my pounding heart soared with wild hope. I would do it. I would make safe. I would confront the seething, sick, perpetual madness, and I would kill it. As surely as I was a brown-haired child, this would be.
I pushed at the door with my fingertips, but the door would not give — and my heart plunged to the depths of my sickened stomach. It had not crossed my mind that I might have to enter the room boldly, and on my own two feet. The hallway lurched sickeningly in my peripheral view, and the door, the only solidity in my line of sight, seemed to glow at me, and beckon. It called for my courage. It called it from deep beneath the facets of me which were scared, and alone, and which knew that what I was about to do was somehow both fundamentally wrong, and justifiable, at once. And my courage answered. As did the shard of me laden with the ability to deceive. To this day, that shard yet haunts me. It seemed somehow, the worst of me that night. Perhaps because I knew and know betrayal so intimately that perpetuating it was the most sickening thing I could do. I don’t know, though. I know for sure I felt it, and do. And that it nauseates me still.
I pulled myself to my knees and planted a heel into the floor. It seemed to give slightly, as though accommodating this thing. Heartened, I reached for the door handle and pulled myself up to standing. I held my only friend, glinting, in my right hand. And with my left, turned the doorknob, and punched once and for all through the enforced quiet which had plagued my entire existence until that one fateful night.
I remember my wild crash into the dimness, the sick expanse of the clammy flesh I knew inappropriately well; I remember the sick expanse bolting upright. I remember thinking of a fawn’s white chest, and dashing up onto the bed to swoop at it from abdomen to head as Darius lay still where she had been, face up beneath a monstrosity, at six years old.
And I remember Darius. Like that, and so skinny. No more than fifty pounds. Sixty, tops. Scared stiff at the explosion and then covered hair-ends to knees in blood. Sick chunks and clots of the darkest, blackest red I think I will ever see, gushing forth and making her tiny form disappear as she screamed.
I remember the headline in a local paper read: 8 year old girl kills sexual assailant, rescues 6 year old sister. I remember exactly where the knife landed when I let it go, how long it seemed to take to get Darius to rinsed clean in the shower, and then dressed. And so much blood. And I remember how long it took for Darius to look at me again, too, without one of the shards of her lurching away from one of the shards of me. I remember the colour of the leaves and the play of the sun, shimmering on her pale and freckled, delicate skin. The smell of the grass that day, in the yard of the foster home to which all four of us had been moved. And I remember joy, and deep delight, and the feeling of forgiveness, the day it finally happened and our eyes met without recoiling. And I remember thinking that this was part of the light I’d sliced open, and that it was okay that I’d done that.
I remember all of this.
But I lie.
And sometimes, truthfully – though the matter is far far far too far long gone now, and I am not so much the vigilante type — I wish. I wish I remembered all of this.
If Wishes Were Hunting Knives by Blue Kim Anderson. Copyright June 15th, 2013.