“Up!” My eyes flew open and I stood so fast the room went black. His footsteps were soft and the next thing I know he’s dragging me away. I cried and kicked and screamed but he was stronger than me.
“Evil! Horrible! Monster! Please...please.” This was the worst part of the day.
“Shhh. It’ll be over before you know it. Just do your countin’,” I forced myself to be still. Acceptance.
“What are you taking?” I asked reluctantly.
“A good memory,” he smiled.
I felt it leave me like a kick to the stomach. A sharp sting went through my head and I thought of a summer years ago when I went swimming in the creek with... I couldn’t remember.
“See? I told you it would be fast.” And just like that I was back in my room with nothing but the pain left. It would all happen again tomorrow and the next day and the next.
How did my life get to this? I thought about that a lot. Only for a moment though. I couldn’t change what happened to me so it was no use to dwell. Acceptance. I tried to remember the things he took. My good memories. I knew I had parents, that’s common sense, but I didn’t know their names and I couldn’t remember what they looked like or where we lived. Those were some of the first to go. I think he took them to break my spirits early on. I had a sister they didn’t know about. I was careful to keep her hidden in a box in the back of my brain and I only opened it when I needed to hold on. She taught me how to be strong and wouldn’t want me to give up like this.
The night was warm and for once I was able to sleep. I dreamed about what the world was like now. I could wake up and go to the kitchen and hug my parents and eat breakfast with them. It was a vivid dream. The room smelled clean, like lemons and the windows let in the early morning sun. We all had green eyes that matched the dewy grass and everyone spoke with gentle voices.
“Up!” No. My heart dropped. It wasn’t time yet. I had so much left to experience. All those glimpses were fresh on my mind and now he’ll be able to take them. The lemon kitchen cleaner, the breakfast table, even the color green would all disappear. He can’t take this. I wouldn’t let him take this.
“No.” I never talked back to him.
“You can’t say no to me.” His eyes were wild and dark brown, almost black. I wanted to cry but I held myself together. Seeing him look so vastly different than the image I had just conjured up pushed me over the edge.
“I won’t let you take anything else from me. You may be holding me here but this is my own prison.” I stood my ground with wobbling legs. He opened his mouth to reply and as if instinct, I lunged for the door. Jiggling the handle, I was surprised to find it unlocked and by the look on my captor’s face, he was surprised I had the nerve to try. Taking him off guard, I gave myself a second’s head start. I took the stairs two at a time and resisted the urge to throw up what little food I had in me. I hadn’t moved in so long. Upstairs was bright and bigger than I had imagined. Confused on where I was, I bolted down the left hallway hoping my good luck hadn’t run out. Dead end. I heard a door slam and I jumped.
“Nowhere left to run, girlie.” And he was right. I looked around for an idea as I backed myself against the window. The window. This is my only chance. All I had to do was be brave for a little while longer, I’d made it this far.
“What did you say before? This was your prison? Well I hate to break it to ya but this is my house.” He was drawing closer.
As he talked, I counted. One, two, three. Hands behind my back I unlocked the window. Four, five, six. Crack the window. Seven, eight, nine. I whipped around and threw it open. Ten. I jumped. It wasn’t a long fall. It felt like a little kid hoping out of a tree. My ankle stung a little but not bad enough to worry, and then I ran. I ran until my legs went numb and my heart was flying out of my chest. In that moment, I felt more alive than I ever have.
As I kept going, I thought about how I came here. The man was a smooth talker and I fell for his lies. He told me he would only take the bad memories and I thought that that sounded nice. The only problem was that when the bad memories started to leave, I couldn’t remember why the good ones seemed good. I tried to stop it so many times before but looking in his dead face, silenced any thought I had about leaving. I was scared of him. I was scared of what it would be like to leave. How do you reenter your life when you’ve been gone so long? How do you explain what you’ve been through to someone who now feels like a stranger? I thought about what I said to the man. I had made it out of the house but I still had a long walk ahead of me. A whole other prison to break out of.
I came to road that I recognised and I stopped to look around. I have no idea what the road is called or how far away from home it is. I started counting, trying to keep the disappointment at bay but quickly stopped as I really noticed my surroundings for the first time. The grass was green and in the breeze I caught a whiff of something citrusy. All that mattered was that I was heading in the right direction.