A sudden sound and I am sucked in the abyss. The dark closes onto me. Blackness swirls around my mind, infecting my psyche, my heart, my mind. I fall again.
Heaving breaths, an insane cackle bouncing off of the walls of the alley, sound of boots pounding of the ungiving concrete, shadows looming menacingly. Blood dripping from the rusted pipes, leaking like a festering wound. A squelching sound, a pained cry, the sound of something falling on the ground with a thump. And then, silence. Utterly tangible and completely dreadful silence.
The scene changes, it feels like it rewinds itself yet moves forward. ‘Oh God, no. No more.’ I think. It’s enough horror for today. It needs to end! I can’t. I can’t… My pleas are forgotten in my head, desperate and unheard. A lone alley. The waning moon. Steps, coming closer. Moving, the feeling of being herded towards one’s death. Pants. Desperation. Hopelessness. Help!
Dear lord! I beseech. I knew there was more. More horror, more atrocities, more hurts. My mind wanders, spirals down in the abyss seemingly for a moment, but which feels like an eternity. Bound to the steel table as an animal readied for slaughter, my arms restrained above my head laid out like a sacrifice, ridden with bleeding wounds. The scalpel burns each time it comes in contact with my skin, parting it like butter. I swallow my screams, not giving my captors the satisfaction of hearing me cry out. My fright increases tenfold when I see him, his pants undone, sick anticipation and glee in his eyes. I close my eyes, resigned to my horror-filled fate, a tear escapes.
My pen rolls, my head lolling forward on the table.
I am moving forward, my limbs not in my control anymore, one step, and another, and another. Air, I need air. The door opens, my mother- the sweet woman that she is, smiles at me- “Hello, dear Alyssa. Would you care for some tea?” I smile back, screaming internally, “Thank you, mother. I need to run, though, but I’ll come to supper.” My body moves, fluid with the grace of the professional dancer that I once was, exiting the sunroom, walking towards my car- it starts and reverses from the garage. The ride is all but a blur, my nightmares not giving me any reprieve
A dark alley, a darker fate for those who had hurt me- I stay hidden- silent, deadly. A man in a black suit, blacker shoes, talking on a headset smirking, laughing, walking unconcernedly. I see red. I feel something dark in me gaining strength, filling each cell of mine with an uncontrollable rage. My hand clasps the baton masterfully, hiding it behind my back, my feet silent on the broken gravel as I move towards the alley entrance. I lift the baton and strike behind his head, his body crumples.
I pull him in broad daylight inside the dark alley, grunting under his heavyweight, to prop him on the grime-ridden wall. Taking out the zip ties from the pocket of my leather jacket I tie his hands behind his back and put a cloth in his mouth to gag him. His suit absorbs the dirty water while I watch and wait dispassionately for him to wake.
There is a dissonance between my body and my mind, half the time it feels like each day my real self gets farther away from this broken person that I have been reduced to. Each day this realization makes me want to rage and destroy and hurt those around me. Each day I fight the coldness invading my body. Each day, I fail a little more, I die a little more.
He stirs a bit, flexing his muscles trying to orient himself with his new reality, his eyes bulge when he realizes his immobility and unintelligible curses erupt from behind his gag, his eyes- they widen in recognition and then narrow in a promise of retribution. I smirk.
I crouch down while my finger lightly caresses his face while cataloguing all his features and imperfections- his muddy brown eyes filled with hate, clean brown hair cut for efficiency and his crooked nose- highlight his status as a mere thug. But, a thug with power, a thug with a penchant for cruelty, a thug who gloried in hurting me. I could feel myself panicking, feel the dissolution of my inner walls separating my trauma from this reality of mine. I squash it with my rage.
Lightly caressing his jaw I lean forward and whisper, “Adam, tell me where are they.” Leaning back I stare hard in his eyes, my grey ones pierces his- guaranteeing a world of hurt for any wrong answer while removing the cloth from his mouth. For a second none of us speak, the world holds its breath, then he spits on my face, snarling, “Never, bitch! Never!” For a second neither of us react, his harsh breathing filling the bated silence. I move. The gag goes inside his mouth again and I hit his knee with the baton, he screams in pain. Another hit on his solar plexus, another on his right shoulder, his left elbow, his hurt knee again. Each scream becomes a sound of ecstasy for my soul, his hurt becomes a balm for the torture that I had endured in his hands.
Tears track down his face, a splotchy mess, hatred and resignation shining bright in his eyes, I gently remove his gag once again and ask, “Adam, tell me where are they.” Loathing coat every word from his mouth, I look at him indifferently, “They are going to the state shipyard, two nights from now, to be sold in Brazil. There is a lot of demand for these goods in Latin America.” He sneers and continues, “You’ll never be able to free them before they leave for Brazil. You and your pathetic attempt at rescue will all be in vain! You will never free them! They were destined to be slaves, selling their bodies for money! That’s what all women are good for anyway!”
Too tired to deal with his tirade anymore I take out my handy semi-automatic from the holster, take aim and shoot him clean between his eyes. A perfect T-shot. Twisted elation bubbles inside me. One of my tormentors was dead, an evil soul removed from this world- one nightmare conquered, one part of my psyche returned to me, I take a deep breath. Hearing footsteps nearing my hiding place, I hurry away further inside the alley and disappear.
The next few hours are a blur- I remember going back home, greeting my mother, having supper with innocuous conversations, pretending to be predictably boring- pretending, always pretending- going back inside my room, sitting on my bed to finally, finally let my emotions out. My body starts shaking- in elation, in terror, in hopefulness, in restlessness, in helplessness, in sick, twisted ruthlessness. I could save them, I could fulfil my promise- finally, finally be allowed to rest and feel. Nonetheless, it was time to plan now, plan the rescue, it was time to make some calls for it.
“Alyssa, what a surprise this is.” A familiar baritone voice sounds from the speaker. “I know where they are, Austin…” I smile.
The night is quiet, no insects can be heard nor can any movement. My army fatigues camouflaging me in darkness, Austin crouches next to me, his body a honed weapon, silent in all his entirety. “All clear, captain,” a slightly distorted voice speaks from the walkie talkie placed in front of us. I look up at him, a true smile gracing my face for the first time in so long. “Listen to me, Alyssa. You might rank higher than me in the army, but today I am the team leader. So, follow. I know what is at stake- I know it is not just the lives of those women, but remember- you follow me today.” He gives me a sidelong glance, hoping to reiterate that which both of us knew. My imbalanced psyche and questionable hold onto my sanity had made me unfit for active duty- the only way I could be a part of this rescue was by adhering to Austin’s commands. I give him an affirmative nod and wait for further affirmations of cleared areas.
Looking over the shipyard from my vantage point, metal containers stacked in clean lines I start to spiral down into the memories of my capture, my claustrophobia acts up. Heart beating in tandem with my harsher breaths, my surroundings change from the open shipyard to the constricting walls of my prison. I look into the lifeless eyes of the monsters who had tormented me for so long, now looking listlessly into oblivion, my body unchained to prepare for its routine abuse. My hand is wet, I don’t want to look down, but I do- it’s red, it is deep, bloody crimson, the blade that I hold- dripping the red liquid, each drop liberating me.
I look around to see the frightened eyes of the chained and starving women around me. “It was too much,” I whisper harshly, my throat clogged with unshed tears, “I couldn’t do it anymore. Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me…” My hushed cries sound thunderous in the deafening silence of our cell. “Run, Alyssa. Run! Find your freedom!” The voices of my cellmates blend in a cacophony of desperate demands, overpower my muddled brain, I bolt, like a coward- I bolt. Tears staining my face, guilt weighing me down, I run- for my salvation, my sanity, my self. I dash to the opened doors of the warehouse, where our screams went unheard for weeks, but I promise, “ I’ll free you, my friends. I’ll free you.”
I’m jolted out of my downward spiral with the disembodied voice of the soldier giving the all-clear. I shiver with unwanted memories. My hand tightens on my rifle, a nod to the commanding officer I step out of the hiding place and silently move between the containers. My steps are quiet, each breath calculated, every action measured. I shoot those guarding the pathways without any mercy, without any empathy- the same way they treated me I shot them- in cold blood.
The complete team steps forward together to the container in the middle of the shipyard, the lock is broken and the door opened slowly. A dreadful silence, a frightening ominous creak of the door, I train my gun inside the dark interiors. A thin naked woman steps in the light, her malnourished body shivering in fright, her eyes large and tear-filled. Another and another and another naked woman step out in the light, holding onto themselves, holding each other with all their might. Austin stepped forward, “Ladies, we are the Rebellion Forces. Let us get you all cleaned up now…”. It is like the collective burden fell from their shoulders, they slump in relief. Some crying, others giving a semblance of a smile- which looks more haggard on their faces- they walk forward, together.
The most prominent thing in the group was the small number of women inside- there were more than twenty captured, yet only seven came out. “Where are the rest?” I rasp, my throat closing onto itself, “Where are the other ones!”. A red-haired woman stepped forth, her tear-stained face not hiding her inner strength, “They were taken before us. Long before us.”
The world shifts.
These were the people whom I had promised to save when I had fled from that hellhole. And I had failed them, again. It got difficult to breathe, to retain my sanity. It hurt. Hurt so much. I failed them, a tear escaped, I clasped my abdomen in agony. And then, then something inside me screamed in denial, in despair- No! I stood back up, took a deep breath and refrained from shouting and scaring the women being herded to the parked vehicles. Another fortifying breath. Austin looked up and nodded, giving me the unsaid orders of not settling, not leaving those girls to the same fate that I had been subjected to.
I turned on my heel and vanished in the night.