She danced within the blackness. It held her as a lover would. Its arms spread open, embracing her, wrapping her in a cocoon of pleasant nothing. She felt the blackness lift her and kiss the very spots where she had burned. It healed her from the inside out. She felt nothing but weightlessness. This was her heaven.
My black heaven.
And maybe, after the hell she had endured, it was a heaven. A heaven for people like her. People not really evil; but more wicked in their ways. Her ways were wicked. She let Robbie have her in a way that fourteen year old girls should not. While other girls her age were playing hopscotch, or giggling their secrets to their school friends; she had been laying under neath him wrapped in a web of arms and legs; telling him how much she loved him, and needing to hear those words in return. She skipped school on days he didn't work just to lay in his arms and feel his hand brush down her bare back. Wasn't that wicked? Even if she were good in nature, her ways would have easily negated all the best she had in her. So, wouldn't it be reasonable to say that a heaven for her would not be the same as the heaven for the people who were good in heart as well as in their actions? Maybe this black heaven, with it's nothingness, was a place for the wicked to return to once they had endured hell on earth.
Her mind raced within the blackness. Although her body, with all its wounds, was held by unseen hands; her mind roamed free. She thought of her mother more than anything else. She remembered Kay standing in the doorway unwilling to see what had become of her middle child. Why was a stranger offering her comfort when it should have been her mother? It should have been her mother there, leaning over her, stroking her hair and telling her it was going to be ok. Kay should have been the one to instruct someone to call the police. Instead, she had stood at the door looking out. Unable to handle the scene of her daughter slumped over, battered and broken, Kay left.
Why was that exactly? Had she been unable to view her daughter in that condition? Or was she simply unwilling to lend the emotional support that the child needed during this time? Any love that Kay felt for her daughters went unspoken. She did not give out hugs and kisses like normal mothers. Kay kept those things to herself. Any affection she felt towards her children she kept locked away in a vault in the back of her mind. Kay couldn't say that she was raised without the love of her parents. Both her parents doted on their only child from birth. In the age old argument of nature versus nurture, Kay was not a product of an unhappy home. She was more or less born this way. She was born with something missing. That piece of the soul that turns a human into a compassionate being. The piece that brings tears to a person during an emotional time; or causes someone to feel warmth for a loved one. It is this mysterious piece that connects us to the rest of the world. And Kay was missing it.
At night, when the rest of the world lay sleeping, Kay would unlock the vault that she kept hidden. There in the dark, when her middle child experienced one of her nightmares, Kay would creep into her bedroom and provide the soothing touch of a mother the young girl so desperately needed. With the covers pulled up to her neck, the child would lay perfectly still in her bed on those nights. She would fight the impulse to jump into her mother's arms and beg for the love that was denied to her. Afraid she would scare Kay off with her neediness, she let the woman come to her. For a few brief moments, Kay provided what she craved. In the sunlight of morning, Kay returned to the stranger she was more familiar with. Her mother became someone she saw in passing. Someone who would scold her occasionaly as they bumped into each other in the hallway. She was not familiar with this woman who silently entered her room at night, bringing with her tender moments. She did not reconize the side of Kay that was only visible for a brief time after the sun bid the world a farewell.
It was Kay who taught her to appreciate the darkness of night.
"I know it's scary," Kay admited to her. She had awoken in a cold sweat from a bad dream. In the dream, monsters had snatched her from the safety of her room. "You have nothing to be scared of, though. Monsters do not exist."
"I'm scared of the dark," she whispered to the stranger. "I can't see anything."
"I know. But, just think about it like this: if you can't see anything, then neither can they. You can hide in the darkness. You're always safe where you can hide."
During the colder months of the year, when they were all piled in the livingroom basking in the heat of the kerosene heater and each other, she never dreamed of monsters. During the communal bedtime, her mind became a void. Monsters did not lurk in the shadows. No one was waiting to snatch her from the safety of her bed.
She snapped back to the present time. The blackness began to losen its grip on her.
No. I don't want to go.
Yes, the thing within the blackness hissed. You don't belong here.
Why can't I stay here? Let me stay.
No! It shrieked. This is not your world. You belong in the light. Go.
He's alive. He's going to come back for me. He'll kill me. Even in the blackness, her heart swelled with fear. She began to fall towards the nothing beneath her.
A sound unlike any she'd ever heard reached out across the black expansion. The shreek filled her with terror. Her heart raced as she searched for the source. She stared into the nothingness, unable to locate the orgin of the disturbance. Arms grabbed her and slung her towards emptiness.
How dare you doubt me, It said. I am here. Call and I will come ready to bring chaos down apon those that harm you. He is nothing compared to me.
Who are you?
She woke to bright lights and voices. Voices calling her name and asking endless questions. Voices which belonged to people with hands that reached out and touched her. They touched the burned places the darkness had lovingly kissed moments before. Pain ripped through her body as needles penetrated her skin. She tried to move. She attempted to cry out, but it was all in vain. Restrained, all she could do was lay in agony. Tears rolled down her cheeks. For the second time in less than 24 hours, she prayed for death. And just as before, Death was unavailable.
Help me. Please. Someone stop this. I hurt. Please. Please. Please.
"Hannah," a gentle voice called to her. "Hannah can you hear me?"
She shook her head no. Hannah could hear other voices chuckling around her. She opened her eyes and looked around.
She was sitting upright in a hospital room. Strapped at her ankles, arms, and with a vest around her chest; the young girl was unable to move. Her long, curly black hair laid in tangles around her shoulders. Her deep brown eyes were bloodshot from the night before. Bandages covered her arms and legs. Florescent lights hurt her eyes causing her to strain to see those around her. A kind looking doctor gazed down at her from beside her bed. At her feet stood three nurses. On the other side of the bed, stood her mother, silent and uncaring.
"Momma," she whispered. "What happened?"
Kay nervously cleared her throat. Without glancing at the others, the doctor spoke to her again.
"Hannah, I'm Dr. Kayzech. You are in the hospital. Do you remember anything at all?"
Hannah looked at the handsome doctor. She guessed him to be in his late forties. He wore his blond hair shaggy, like they did in the old pictures Kay hid in the box underneath her bed. He was about 6 feet tall with a slight build. He nervously pushed his wire rimed glasses up on his thin nose as he anxiously waited for her response. Hannah closed her eyes. When she thought about last night, it all came to her in a series of flashes and noises. She felt the heat rise to her face as the memory approached. The smell of Robbie's pudgent breath suffocated her. Hannah could imagine him standing in the corner, staring at her. Grinning that stupid grin as he said her name in that sing-song voice he used to use.
She pushed through the terrible memories of the previous night. Yet, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't escape how real his voice was to her now. Hannah could detect the faint odor of vomit. She could feel the electricity in the air stir as she recalled the horror from the house. The possibility of him standing in the room, unnoticed, was absurd. Her fourteen year old mind was old enough to grasp that concept. Deep down, though, she knew differently. Somewhere in that room, in the shadows where the light couldn't reach, Robbie was waiting for her. She could almost see him.
The doctor nodded. "That's right. Now, I know that you have been through alot. But, there's a detective that needs to talk to you. He wants to talk while everything is still fresh in your mind."
Don't leave me alone. Please, someone....anyone...
"Can my mom stay with me?" She looked to her mother. "Momma. Please?"
Kay continued to look at the floor. She could feel her daughter's desperate need for her. It was palpable, like a hand gripping her throat and squeezing the breath out of her. She ached to feel what she should feel. Kay wished above all things to be what Hannah needed her to be, at that moment, that second, in that room. No matter how hard she tried, the woman could not be anything other than what she was. A statue. A stand in until someone else came along to be what a real mother should be to this tragic child. Nodding to the nurse, she turned and left the room. She uttered nothing to her daughter who watched her go with eyes filled with a fear few people had ever experienced. The doctor and nurses wondered about the silent mother who seemed to have no concern for her young daughter. They stood there, silently judging the woman who showed no emotion. They wept tears for the young girl who laid, brutalized and restrained, in the bed.
A dark haired nurse walked to the head of the bed and spoke to Hannah with a voice that was smooth as velvet. She talked to her like she would her own daughter, soothing her and telling her how brave she was. She stroked Hannah's black hair; running her hand through the tangled curls. She told the young girl about all the prayers that were being offered up to an absent God that Hannah had pleaded to only hours earlier.
"I don't like God," Hannah informed her matter of fact. She turned away from the well meaning nurse. She didn't have the energy to explain how God had failed to help. Hannah lacked the patience to describe how she searched for God along the dirt road. Even towards the end, before the fire took over, she still held out hope for a God that never arrived.
I don't like Him at all.
Dr. Kayzech spoke. "The detective will be in here to talk to you shortly. I know you are tired Hannah. I can not imagine what you've been through, but it's very important to speak to him. You've got to tell him everything you remember about last night."
"When are you going to take these straps off of me?"
"We have to get someone to sit with you," the doctor said. "As soon as that happens, the straps will come off."
"Why are they on in the first place?"
"You don't remember?"
"If I did, would I have asked?" Hannah replied.
"True. True." Before the doctor could say anything more, the detective walked in.
Detective Larry Jones was an intimidating man. Standing at an impressive 6'4" and weighing all of 450 lbs, he looked more like a linebacker than a cop that dealt specifically with victims of sex crimes. His eyes were a rich chocolate that hinted to the temper that laid just underneath the surface. He had an easy gait about him; as if he were in no hurry to arrive at any particular destination. People tried their best to not upset the calm mannered detective. His size alone indicated he was not one to take lightly.
As he approached Hannah, he quickly surveyed the restraints.
"Is this really necessary?" He inquired.
"Yes, sir." The doctor said quickly. "Hannah is a danger to herself and others."
"Well, I'll tell you what," Detective Jones said in his easy going manner. "You take those restraints off, and I'll be responsible for her. If she hurts me, I'll let you know."
After Dr. Kayzech and the nurse removed her restraints and left, Hannah eyed the massive policeman. She couldn't explain it, but she immediately felt comfortable in his presence.
The detective took a moment to introduce himself and then got down to business.
"I'm going to ask you some questions. Take as long as you need to, but I need you to tell me exactly what happened. Can you do that?"
"I can tell you what I know," Hannah said.
"Fair enough. Around what time did you go to bed last night?"
"It was about eleven. I was at a cook out earlier."
"Whose house was the cook out at?"
"It was at Robbie's house."
"And Robbie is who exactly?"
"He's my boyfriend. Well, my ex-boyfriend. We broke up at the cook out." She hesitated. Something wasn't quite right. She could remember most of last night. She filled him in with the pieces of the puzzle that she could fit together. But, a big part of it all was gone.
"There was a fire," she told him. "At least I think there was. The heat burned me. But, I don't remember any smoke. The flames though were everywhere. Am I right? There was a fire, right?" The detective shook his head no. "But, I remember being burned. When did they put the fire out?"
"There was no fire, Hannah."
"Yes, there was," she insisted. "I remember the burning. I have burnt places on me." She began to pull up her nightgown to show Jones her scars.
Jones quickly jumped up and covered her. "There's no reason for that. I've spoken to the doctors and the others that were there last night. You weren't burned anywhere."
He was wrong. This whole thing was wrong. She knew there had been fire. She knew because it had scorched her inner thighs. It had consumed her. The fire brought the devil out of Robbie. Or had it been the other way around? Had the devil brought the fire. Surely it was more like that. The devil's home was fire. So, naturally, he would have brought the fire with him. For a brief moment, she imagined the devil packing a suitcase filled with fire and brimstone.
"Well, we're all packed," she imagined Lucifer saying. "Now, let's go torture Hannah. Wait....where'd I put my keys?"
"But.....but, the fire was everywhere. I thought I was going to die in it."
The detective nodded. He recognized this moment for what it was....a confession of sorts. He didn't want to slow the momentum that was building. Let the girl say what she needed to. Jones was determined to get to the heart of the terrible events that had taken place over the last twenty-four hours. Had he known...truly known....what would transpire in the days to come, he would have packed his bags and bid farewell to this haunted girl. But, he was not blessed with a sixth sense. No music played ominously in the background to foreshadow any impending doom. So, he sat his big fanny on the little stool in the room. He didn't touch her. It was his experience that rape victims preferred not to be touched. Especially by a man that looked like he did. But, he held her gaze and listened as she rambled on about a fictional fire that burned her where no one had any business touching a fourteen year old girl.
Sensing her anxiety, the detective tried to sooth her with his voice. "Hannah, listen to me. You are safe here. No one is going to hurt you anymore. Not on my watch, baby girl."
Hannah looked at this man that promised the very thing she had been pleading for since Robbie had barged into her home and stolen her from the couch. She dared to believe him, but couldn't. Hannah knew that Robbie still lived.
The devil can't die.
Fear gripped her. Out of that fear, another emotion emerged. Anger. Anger can be very powerful. Anger is what fuels the weak, strengthens the frightened, and adds to the burning of the needy. In an instant she realized why her mother stood by as others tried to help her. It wasn't that Kay lacked the love a mother should feel for her daughter. Rather, she lacked the anger that was needed to motivate her towards action. It was this anger that powered Hannah now. She looked at the detective with his bulging biceps and the weight that he carried effortlessly, and knew that no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't stop her if she made a run for it.
The need for escape swelled within her. The walls began to shift as the shadows in the corners began to grow. Something caught her attention out of the corner of her eye. The smell of sweet vomit rose to tickle her nostrils.
Oh dear God, he is here.
She turned to her new protector. "You have to go. You have to leave now. It's not safe for you."
Detective Jones looked at Hannah with confusion and concern. He could see the terror sweep through her. Underneath the terror, Hannah was visibly seething with rage. A strange combination for such a young girl.
Her attention seemed to be directed towards the corner of the room. "What is it Hannah?" He asked.
She shook her head and repeated that he needed to leave. Jones could feel the static electricity in the air. Was it his imagination or were the light bulbs actually burning a little brighter than a few minutes before? He could smell a sickening odor in the room. The hair on the back of his neck stood up. Jones could feel the weight of some one's stare on him. Feeling ridiculous, the large detective tried to shake the feeling. He couldn't erase it from his mind. He'd swear that something else was in the small hospital room with him. He developed the sudden urge to get as far away from there, and her, as possible.
"Hannah? Talk to me. Look at me."
Again, the young girl shook her head. She began to mumble softly to herself. She appeared to be in some sort of self induced trance. She sat up straight in the bed and curled her knees up to her chest. She folded her long arms around herself and rocked.
"Stop. Stop. Go. Go. Go. Stop."
"Hannah! Hannah, listen, you need to calm down. You're safe now. Hannah look at me."
Hannah stopped her rocking. She sat up, slowly turned, and fixed her eyes on Jones. He forced himself to return her gaze. There was something in Hannah's stare. Something frightening. Something that suggested the young girl meant to harm him. With Hannah staring intently into Detective Jones eyes, the air around them stood still. The clock ceased to tick. For a brief moment, the world stopped. The only sound that circled around them was the sound of his heart beat. It was like the girl had stopped living. She just sat there, with her crazy not-quite-brown eyes breaking down the detective's strength. His pulse quickened. His breathing deepened. He could feel knots tightening in his stomach. Jones fought the impulse to run. His reasoning told him there was nothing to be afraid of. Not a small hospital room. Not the sound of his heart beat. And not a small, frightened fourteen year old girl. While his mind was drawing out these rational conclusions, his body was telling him to run like hell and ask questions later.
Hannah stood up on her bed. At this height she towered over the 6'4" detective. She raised her arms above her head and drew her hands into a claw like grasp. She cocked her head to the side. He could swear he heard her neck crack. Never taking her eyes off of him, Hannah slowly opened her mouth.
Blood poured out.
He shook his head and not knowing what else to do, Jones ran out into the hallway for help.
Stop. Stop. Go. Go.
As Jones exited the room, Hannah collapsed back onto the bed. She returned to the fetal position and started to rock again. She knew Robbie was there. She could feel him. She could smell him. She heard the laughter before she saw his face. It was a sickening laugh. The type that spewed forth venom. She gagged on the scent of vomit and rotting flesh.
Help me. Where are you?
I see you. He spoke to her in his sing-song voice. She could feel the pure weight of his being boring down on her. Not wanting to look at the devil in the flesh, she turned her gaze and hid her eyes from him.
Don't look. Don't. Stop. Stop.
Haaaannnnnaaaahhhhh. Come say hi to me. You stupid little cunt. Come here.
It sounded like he was dragging something
behind him as he approached her. Unable to help herself any longer, she stole a glance over her arm. The scream that she was preparing to let out stuck in the bottom of her throat. She sat there, speechless, not looking away. Unable to look away.
Vivid colors danced around Robbie as he approached. His arm still dangled at the side. The leg, still backwards, he drug behind him. His neck was twisted like he was looking for something over his left shoulder. With the one good arm that he had, Robbie fiddled with the intestine that fell out of his stomach. And as before, he wore that loopy grin.
The walls shook from the force of her terror. Again, she tried to scream. Nothing came out. Her voiced betrayed her as well as her legs. Neither provided her with the ability to get help. She was stuck on the bed, crying silent tears. Only able to beg for help within her own mind. Any resemblance of the anger that she felt earlier was gone. She sat trembling, waiting for this monster
to come and end her.