Story/poem about a girl who's trying to overcome her strange past.
|“What’s wrong with her?”
Her eyes are empty, her face a blank mask that reveals nothing.
Hands are folded neatly, feet arranged lady-like.
She is silent.
No one knows of the turmoil inside.
It writhes, screams, haunts, agonizes her.
An exact opposite of her abnormal apathetic appearance.
A crowd gathers round, as if they were at a carnival where she is the one thing that catches their eye over everything else.
Over the noise.
Over the screams of roller-coaster riders.
Over the hiss and sizzle of the vendors’ kitchens.
Over the cries of a little girl who is lost.
She does not notice.
She is a lost little girl, only not quite so naïve now.
Beyond the emptiness of her eyes, beyond the gray matter that is the brain, her memories replay themselves.
She watches carefully; she is a lost little girl whose eye is caught by an intriguing puppet show.
The puppets are real people now, and she waits for the show to begin again.
The cycle never stops.
A man steps carefully into what is clearly a little girl’s room.
Decorated in pink, white and yellow, it is the epitome of girlhood.
He pauses to glance in the mirror, whose borders are lined with princess and pony stickers.
The girl is a lump on her bed, and he walks over to poke at it.
Squeals emerge as the pokes turn to tickles, and finally the little girl throws the covers aside and flings herself at her father, who is beaming.
“Happy Eighth Birthday, my darling,” he says.
The girl grins and opens her hands as she closes her eyes.
The father smiles ruefully, and drops a small square box into his daughter’s outstretched hands.
If only he knew that this would be the last exchange made between a loving father and daughter.
If only he knew what tragedy was about to befall the entire family.
The little girl watching the show is intent, and she knows.
She knows exactly what will happen.
It’s happened a thousand times before, in the course of five minutes.
The cycle never stops.
Another squeal is issued as the box is revealed to contain a gold necklace with a crystal pendant whose color matches, shade for shade, the little girl’s eyes.
She lets her father put it around her neck, and the little girl in the audience fingers her own crystal, of which the color is the same as her ice green eyes.
The show continues.
The cycle never stops.
The father and daughter unite in front of the mirror, and the show stops for a split second.
A snapshot is made, highlighting the girl’s delighted countenance and the man’s pride.
The characters snap back into life, and the father walks out of the room.
The girl is staring pensively into the mirror, stroking the polished crystal for several moments.
She is alone now.
Her parents and her sister have gone out to the store.
The little girl naively hopes that they will come back bearing a chocolate cake.
The girl observing these scenes is cleverer, and although this gives
her an advantage, the knowledge that she carries is not.
She is familiar with the screams of the ambulance, the wails of police sirens.
Familiar with the sight of pale, blood-flecked faces and cold clammy hands and the dull, dull stares of the dead.
The puppet girl turns away from the mirror as the phone rings.
She is hesitant to answer, but she is older now, after all.
She picks it up as the girl in the audience watches silently, knowingly.
She does not bother to scream, “DON’T ANSWER IT!” because she has done so before, and nothing had changed.
The cycle never stops.
Asks the little girl, twirling a piece of curly brown hair around her finger.
She knows not that the next few minutes will send her life careening into the darkest, deepest depths for the next eight years.
The cycle never stops.
“This is the Sacred Heart ambulance patrolman Rick Jones. Are you of the family named Johnson?”
Fear is creeping into the little girl’s heart, wrapping its black tendrils around her soul, squeezing, squeezing, squeezing.
She can’t breathe.
“Hello?” Rick Jones asks.
The little girl chokes and stumbles out a response.
“Yes. My name is Amber Johnson. Is something―…is something wrong?”
“I’m sorry to say…your parents and your sister…have been in an accident.”
Silence is met with silence, and Rick Jones knows that this girl must be young.
His heart pangs with pity; yet, he is helpless to do anything.
“We tracked down your number and address from the license plate, as well as some other information. I was hoping―…”
Here Rick Jones broke off, for he knew not what to say.
Glancing at the laptop screen again, he confirmed that Amber turned eight today.
“I’m really very sorry, Amber. I’ll send someone over to take you to―…”
But the little girl was no longer listening.
Her eyes glimmered with tears, and despite knowing these emotions, having felt them a thousand times over, the girl in the audience began to cry.
Although the puppet girl did not know yet what exactly what condition her family was in, the girl watching knew precisely what the family’s faces would look like.
Twisted, pale, frozen in pain and horror.
The three dead members of the family lay on separate autopsy tables now, each with a white sheet up to their chin.
Amber sobbed as she looked at each one, confirming to the police that these bodies were indeed her family members.
A woman guided her gently by the arm to a room filled with stuffed animals and assorted toys.
The little girl took no notice, instead, strangely, reverting to a four-year old again.
“Where’s my mommy?” she asks, her ice green eyes wide and questioning.
The lady, who was about to leave the room, turned back to study the girl.
“They’re dead, honey,” she said at last, deciding to take this case after all.
Amber’s mouth trembled, and indeed, she did not look eight years old anymore.
Her brain had taken itself back to a happier time when she was always safe and comforted.
Her mentality was now equal to that of a four year old’s.
This particular mystery was intriguing to the lady, and she told the police so.
After all, what other chance would she get to examine a real life case of a girl who has, so to speak, dumbed herself down to protect herself?
Cases like these were rare, and the lady was eager to run her tests.
She watched the girl silently through the one-way glass, noting Amber’s silence and the way she picked up the toys reverently.
Amber had forgotten already the earlier incident.
It was a hole in her mind, a vast empty space that she did not dare to comprehend.
And so she played, just another four year old girl enjoying new dolls and playthings.
Sleep, that night, came just as easily as the following nightmares.
The little girl tossed and turned in her soft bed, moans and whimpers escaping her throat as her eyes twitched and her body convulsed.
“No, no, no, no, no, no…” she kept muttering.
Flashes of red, glimpses of only slightly familiar faces, glimmers of some unknown item, displays of metallic crimson liquid flecked over various surfaces.
Four years old by day, a panic-stricken creature at night…a strange case study that lasts for two years.
The woman who has been observing her has taken all the notes she can, watched every possible move the girl could make, and has come to a conclusion.
There is one last test that shall determine this girl’s fate, and there is no avoiding it.
Walking into the room and kneeling to face the solemn looking girl, she speaks quietly, softly, unerringly.
“Amber, it’s time for you to go back home to your family.”
Those frost green eyes held the lady’s for several moments, a whirlwind painting of sadness, confusion, and depression.
The eyes are the window to the soul.
Leaning forward, the girl in the audience watches raptly, for this is where things have gotten murkier; this is where things have become nearly unintelligible.
This is where the real mystery starts.
Puppet Amber breaks the serious stare and grasps the woman’s proffered hand.
It’s time to go home, the four-year old that has been dominant for so long screams in excitement.
But the real Amber, the ten-year old brunette, is hesitant.
Something happened, she is quite sure.
Something is not right about this return, about ‘coming home’.
Still, the memory is furtive, elusive, hidden.
But something, something is not right.
The cycle never stops.
They stood passively in front of a withering brick house.
Blasts of icy wind fiercely strove to wreck, to ruin, to damage, to demolish.
And there wasn’t that much work to be done, after two years of abandonment.
The steps croak and stutter as small feet land, mostly eager, and also hungry for the warmth and love and joy and safety of family.
But as the girl will soon find out, there is no family.
No safety, no joy, no love, no warmth.
The woman joins the silent, motionless girl who is standing in the middle of what was the living room.
“Where are they?”
It’s barely a whisper, barely a stir in the heavy, dark silence which makes the house so oppressive.
It’s a whisper devoid of emotion.
The lady leans down to speak in the girl’s ear.
The words come hard, cruel, brutal, heartless.
The four-year old wants to laugh it off, smile with sparkling eyes and say, “Oh, the joke’s over! Where’s my mommy?”
The older Amber, she knows better.
The void has disappeared, and in its place are those hateful events, merging and blending until they become a blur of emotion, color, and death.
Amber collapses, and the woman watches coldly.
It’s the final test, and Amber is close to failing.
Her quivering body lies on the dusty, splintered floor.
Ice-green eyes mist over with tears, and Amber’s mouth opens in a silent wail of agony.
The lady waits patiently; the test is not over yet.
Slowly, brokenly, Amber sits up.
“I’m not four years old.”
Her voice is quiet, calm, simple.
“My parents and my sister are dead.”
The lady remains.
“I will not be broken.”
Amber’s statement is clear, concise, and firm.
Standing up to bore her icy eyes into the lady’s, she carefully brushes away all the dust and dirt and lies that have defiled her clothes.
A symbol of readiness.
Amber has passed the test with flying colors, and the woman smiles approvingly.
“You will not be broken,” she agrees.
“Instead, you will break others.”
Amber’s mouth tightens, but she does not say a word.
The woman continues talking, creating a piece of art that speaks directly to Amber’s soul, paints an image of loneliness, despair, wrath, and revenge.
Two years later, Amber stands over a quivering mass of flesh, watching the man’s wide eyes as they darted about, searching for an exit that did not exist.
The long black barrel of the gun she held pointed at his head gleams in the soft candle lighting of the Italian restaurant.
Making a show of flicking the safety catch off, the now twelve-year old girl lets a sadistic smile stretch across her taut face.
Her eyes are the same ice-green color, but they have become colder, harsher, more distant and less forgiving.
She bares her teeth and lets the words out, the words which she had been longing to throw at the man ―who killed her family!― like rocks.
“Marco Johnson, age 42, stock broker. Therese Johnson, age 40, secretary. Rhea Johnson, age 10, middle-school student.
The man trembles even worse now, and his thick, pudgy face is red and strained.
The girl in the audience has her hands gripped firmly on the armrests, her eyes wide and searching.
The man nods slowly, his breath coming out in low, harsh pants.
Amber draws a deep breath and prepares to pull the trigger.
A short, tense moment passes, and then a small voice speaks, full of life and curiosity.
“What are you doing, Daddy?”
Amber’s eyes are ripped away from the tremulous figure in front of her, and rest on a little girl no older than seven.
The little girl is carrying a pink bunny with floppy ears; her long blonde hair frames an innocent face that holds huge, doe-like blue eyes that look at her father with adoration.
Amber’s hand nearly falls to her side before she catches hold of herself again, catches hold of the wrath and fury that has overtaken her flesh.
“We’re playing a little game,” Amber says softly, her voice smooth, belying the words she really wanted to scream.
“Aren’t we?” she added, directing her icy gaze to the man, who lay prostrate before her.
He nods furiously, and forces a smile on his face as he addresses his daughter.
“Why don’t you go wait in the car, honey?”
The little girl’s mouth opens, but with a look at the gun, she turns slowly away and begins to sing softly.
“A hunting we will go, a hunting we will go
Heigh ho, the dairy-o, a hunting we will go
A hunting we will go, a hunting we will go.”
Amber’s eyes once again follows the little girl, whose voice is fading as she walks away.
“We'll catch a fox and put him in a box
And then we'll let him go.”
Two years ago, Amber would have laughed.
A childish song, for sure.
And yet it struck a chord in Amber’s heart, and she realizes that she has lowered the gun.
We'll catch a fox and put him in a box, and then we'll let him go…
Her thoughts were jumbled; incoherent.
And then we'll let him go…
Let him go…
I can’t let him go!
Amber’s own voice was shouting in her head, screaming obscenities with rage.
I have to let him go, she murmured back, but her only answer was more obscenities, more fury.
HE KILLED MY PARENTS!
Amber raised the gun again, and her unforgiving green eyes stared straight into the soon-to-be victim’s.
“You killed my parents,” she said evenly, ignoring the growing volume of the man’s cries.
He didn’t mean to, something whispered inside her.
Let him go…
It was an accident; nobody could have helped it.
Accidents happen; I can’t blame him for―
KILL THE BASTARD BEFORE HE GETS AWAY!
What if it had been me?
Dead silence crushed her mind, and her gun-holding hand trembled.
What if it had been me, Amber thought, who had killed someone’s family?
What if it had been me who destroyed a little girl’s life without knowing it?
What about his little girl?
Let him go…
I would destroy that little girl’s father, and for what? Amber mused.
She would be like me.
Revelation broke into her consciousness, and she felt as though she were dying for lack of air.
I don’t want her to be like me.
Who am I?
A would-be killer, an orphan, a sad, distraught, screwed-up twelve-year old.
A dark curtain of shame befell her countenance, and she barely noticed as the blubbering man left quickly.
What did I almost do?
The thing that I swore to never do under any circumstances.
I almost destroyed her life and created another me.
She began to chuckle, first quietly, and then louder, breaking into a fit of wild, insane, crazed laughter.
The last thing the world needs is another me.
It was time to go.
Puppet Amber rose, still laughing, and walked out of the Italian restaurant.
All her planning, scheming, thirst for revenge had flown out the window, like an eagle taking flight after months in a cage.
She was free.
Free as a bird.
She started laughing again, and now, the girl in the audience began to laugh as well.
Amber’s taste for murder had dissipated that night, and she left the lady psychologist for good.
She had discovered the truth, and the truth was that she no longer had to live in the past.
She had discovered the reason for living, the reason to let her family go, the reason to not take revenge.
Now, at sixteen, she could finally stop the cycle.
But first, perhaps, something could be done about