Dahlia’s fingers slowly curled around the handle of the bone saw and ever so carefully lifted it from its resting place in the metal chest. The tool felt as heavy as an award winning watermelon at the state fair in Dahlia’s hand, but she held it firmly. There was a layer of rust coating the metal teeth of the blade. She ran her forefinger lightly down the blade, and a thin line of bright scarlet popped up immediately, along with a sharp tearing that caused her to grit her teeth. It was sharp, there was no doubt there.
“It feels right, doesn’t it?”
Dahlia jumped, the familiar voice coming from the silence around her startling her, and she dropped the bone saw back into the chest.
“Who’s there?” Dahlia demanded, her words garbled thanks to the broken jaw.
She knew the voice couldn’t possibly belong to her when she hadn’t even been thinking those words, let alone speaking them. There was no answer immediately. Frustrated and afraid, Dahlia grabbed up the bone saw in her right hand and gripped it tightly before standing and looking around her, cautiously. If anyone had found their way inside the attic, she wanted a way to defend herself. She inched around a stack of boxes and peeked toward the attic door. It was still closed and locked. There was no one up there with her. Dahlia’s hand relaxed just a fraction, and she turned to walk back to the chest.
“Giving up so easily?”
Spinning around and raising the bone saw high and ready to strike, Dahlia suppressed a battle cry as she sliced the bone saw through the air. There was no resistance; there was no one there.
“Who are you? Where are you? What is this?”
Dahlia called out to the voice, partly out of curiosity and frustration, but mostly out of fear.
“You can’t see me, stupid girl,” the voice-HER voice-said, mockingly.
“Who are you?” she asked again.
“That’s not an easy question to answer,” the voice said cryptically. “I don’t think you’re ready to hear it, and I don’t think you’re going to like it.”
Dahlia tightened her grip on the bone saw and stomped back to the chest. Reaching in with her free hand, she grabbed a metal tool that resembled an ice pick-perfect for stabbing.
“Those tools won’t work on me, you know. You’re just wasting your time.”
“Tell me who you are!” Dahlia demanded, nearly screaming.
Her yelling was answered with several jabs at the attic floor as her uncle or his wife no doubt began banging the broom handle against their ceiling. Dahlia just ignored it, focusing on the voice.
“You are so insistent,” the voice said. “Very well, then. But remember, I warned you.”
Swallowing back the bile that was rising from her nerves, she nodded, despite the absence of a physical body to witness the gesture.
“To put it simply, I’m you. I’m that part of you that’s ready to fight back and stop letting those two sadistic fucks ruin you. You see me every day, but you’ve never seen the real me, nor will you ever see it. There are many of us here, I’m just the strongest. You may call me Vengeance.”
Dahlia’s chin dropped to the floor as the breath left her body. She felt like she’d been punched in the gut with a metal fist by Superman. Her knees wobbled and gave out and she fell to the floor in a crumpled heap, the bone saw falling from her hand.
“Y-you’re…me? Like, I’m sharing my body with a-a ghost?”
“No! That’s the most ignorant thing I’ve ever heard! Ghosts…such nonsense!”
“I’m losing my mind,” Dahlia said softly to herself, pulling her knees up to her chest and pressing her palms to the temples on either side of her head.
“I tried to warn you, but you’re too damn curious.”
“How many of you are there? I mean…well, what are you anyway?”
“I told you. I am Vengeance, and I’m a part of you. We’re all parts of you. There’s Fear, Innocence, Despair, Hope-every emotion and every reaction you’ve ever had are here. Most of us you keep repressed, but sometimes we come and steal you away when the assholes downstairs rain the most nightmarish hell on you. We save you, we comfort you, we strengthen you, and you do everything in your power to push us back and keep us out.”
“No. No, this can’t be happening. This is all some kind of fucked up nightmare.”
“Well, it’s fucked up, I’ll agree with that…”
“You’re not REAL!” Dahlia screamed, squeezing her eyes shut and gripping the sides of her head, trying to push the voice away.
She sat that way for several seconds before she slowly peeled her eyes open. Carefully, she pulled her hands away from her head, listening for the voice, her eyes darting all around the room.
“Hello?” she called.
There was no answer.
“Vengeance? Are you there?”
Still no answer. With a brief smile, Dahlia sighed and flopped backwards, lying flat on her back with her arms spread to either side. The voice was gone, but the memory was there to stay.
Dahlia was afraid. She wasn’t really sure what the voice was or what it wanted from her, or even how to protect herself if it came back. How can one protect themselves from an unseen enemy? At least with Uncle Dennis and Edna, she could see them and fight against them.
She picked the bone saw up and placed it back in the chest. Before she closed it, she ran her eyes across the various utensils and instruments with a mixture of fascination and hatred. Closing the lid, she went back to her pallet by the window and sat staring out at the dark night sky until sleep claimed her.
The bright morning sunlight streaming in through the window woke Dahlia, and she blinked against the harsh glare. Every part of her body was aching, and her girly bits still felt as though they’d been run through a meat grinder. Her uncle had clearly not been very gentle the previous evening, though thankfully, she couldn’t remember any of the heinous act.
Standing and walking to the door in the floor, she pressed her ear to the wood and listened, barely breathing for fear of making too much noise. She heard nothing. Moving quickly she unlatched the door and pulled it open. She released the latch for the door, dropping the ladder to the second story of the house with a soft thud. She waited, listening for any sounds of life, before making her way down the ladder and to the second door on the left past the stairs.
Once inside her designated room in the house, she changed into more suitable clothes. What Dahlia really wanted was a shower, but until she knew the house was empty, she couldn’t risk it.
Dressed in a pair of tattered jeans and an old, oversized sweater, she tiptoed down the stairs and into the kitchen. Peering out the back door, she saw both her uncle’s truck and Edna’s car were gone. She was alone.
Racing back upstairs to the bathroom, Dahlia stripped naked and turned the water on almost hot enough to scald her skin before stepping into the shower. She washed the dried, caked blood off her body, watching the swirling water turn pink as it trickled down the drain. Examining her injuries, she found the gash in her hand from the ladder was barely more than a scratch and an annoyance. Her jaw, however, was a mangled mess. She needed a doctor, of that she was certain, but if she even tried to go to the doctor, the hell Uncle Dennis would bring down on her would make last night’s trauma seem like a stubbed toe in comparison. Without a doctor to put the bones back in place, Dahlia worried about what would happen with her poor jaw.
When she examined the rest of her body, she found at least one broken rib with a huge shoe-shaped bruise, and a deep puncture wound in her back. Her thighs were varying shades of purple, blue, pink, red, even a little gray and green from older bruises that were fading. The same was true for her lower abdomen and hips. The worst damage, however, was her girly bits. He’d ripped her open, and she was still bleeding lightly. The pain was immense, and sharp stabs of what felt like electricity shot all the way up into her abdomen sporadically. She’d been through worse, especially in the beginning when he stole her innocence away and she bled for days, writhing in agony in her bed. He was a monster.
Dahlia stood under the steaming hot water, hoping it would wash away some of the mental anguish and scars of her broken life. It was rare that she had the opportunity for more than a two minute shower while often fighting off her ever-lustful uncle. It was a miserable shower, used only to get the grime off her body and out of her hair, and even those brief moments of cleanliness were once a week at best. She’d once gone an entire month without a shower in the summer and developed a nasty infection from it.
A half hour went by and the water grew colder, finally to the point of being borderline uncomfortable. She turned off the water, wrapped a towel around her body, and grabbed her clothes before slinking out to her bedroom. Dahlia knew Edna would scream at her and possibly beat her for wasting water and using up all the hot water, but she didn’t care. It was the best she’d felt in what seemed like ages.
Back in the security of her bedroom, Dahlia dressed quickly, and grabbed a large duffel bag she’d swiped from the attic ages ago. She stuffed an armload of clothes and what few pictures she had of her life before her parents died into the bag, and with it slung over her shoulder, she quietly tiptoed out of her room and down the hall. At the top of the stairs, she hesitated. She’d tried this maneuver so many times in the past, and it always ended one of three ways. Either someone was actually home and she didn’t realize it, there was some booby trap or series of booby traps set to incapacitate her, or the house would be barred up so she couldn’t get out. Whenever they both had to be gone, they always locked the house up so it was a prison, but the worst was the horrible traps they’d set up for her. Once, she’d almost lost her left leg, and once she took a blow to the head so intense it left her unconscious for over a week.
After weighing the options, she took her chances, searching every corner and cranny for signs of whatever traps they’d set up for her. Calling for help wasn’t an option, the only phone in the house was kept under lock and key. The nearest neighbor was miles away, so no one ever heard her screams.
Walking carefully, each footstep testing the durability and safety of the floor before putting her weight on it, she made her way downstairs. The front door was locked, of course, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. One peek through the curtain told her the bars were securely in place; even if she got the door open, the screen door was held in place by a row of steel bars which acted like a cage surrounding the door.
With the possibility of traps eliminated, she rushed through the house, checking every window and door on the first floor before heading upstairs. Every door and every window was locked, even the window in her bedroom.
Defeated, Dahlia gathered up the remainder of her meager belongings and hauled them up to the attic in two trips. Once her entire life was scattered on the attic floor, she hurried back downstairs to the kitchen. If she couldn’t leave, she was going to make damn sure her uncle and his wife knew she wasn’t playing their game anymore.
Locating the two large pitchers Edna used for tea and lemonade, she quickly filled them both with water and hauled them to the attic, then returned, bringing a large bucket she’d found in the attic. She filled it full of ice, then filled the gaps with water and hauled it upstairs. In the kitchen for a third trip, she grabbed a large trash bag and started filling it with foods. Lunch meat, bread, canned corn, butter, jelly, oatmeal, half a gallon of milk, oranges, peaches, cans of tuna and chicken, celery, a head of lettuce, hot dogs, chips-anything she could get her hands on that wasn’t frozen or needed to be heated. She stuffed the bag full, and snatched up some utensils, then dragged the bag to the bottom of the stairs.
In the kitchen one last time, she put the stopper in the sink and turned the water on full blast and opened every cabinet door, yanking everything out and throwing it across the room. Broken glass littered the floor, along with every pot and pan in the kitchen. She unplugged the refrigerator and snipped off the end of the cord. With a metal ladle, she busted out every window in the kitchen and dining room before using every ounce of strength in her tiny body to overturn the table.
The adrenaline was surging through Dahlia’s body, and she was nearly euphoric causing such a disaster. Grabbing a butcher’s knife, she rushed to the living room and sliced open the couch cushions. She plugged up the drain in the half bath, turned the water on, and returned to the foot of the stairs by her garbage bag of goodies, admiring her work as the water overflowed from both sinks onto the floor.
Then she heard a car door. Panic flooded her, and she hoisted the heavy bag over her shoulder, trudging up the stairs much slower than she’d hoped. The adrenaline rush was leaving her body exhausted, and the fear was nearly paralyzing. At the top of the stairs, she heard the sound of the door opening.
“What the FUCK?” Dennis screamed.
“Oh my God! What did that evil little bitch do?” Enda squawked.
Dahlia rushed to pull down the ladder, hearing her uncle make his way through the mess, pausing in the living room to swear and curse her yet again. It gave her the time she needed to get the ladder in place and start climbing. Dennis bounded up the stairs two at a time, and Dahlia had barely gotten the bag in the opening of the attic door when she heard his growl as he charged at her.
Moving with a speed she had never even known she possessed, she hauled herself inside the attic door, and as she swung her legs up, she felt thick fingers wrap around her right ankle and yank down hard. Startled, she lost her balance and fell sideways into the opening, her leg twisting at an unnatural angle behind her. She slammed into Dennis, and the two of them fell sprawling to the floor.
Dahlia’s leg was injured badly. She tried to pull herself up, but pain shot from her hip all the way down to her toes. Tears streamed from her eyes as she watched Dennis stand up and gaze down at her, rage evident on his face yet again, the bandaged nose only making him look more fierce.
Dahlia closed her eyes, and felt herself slip away from her own body into a world of comforting darkness.
Keep following Dahlia's story-it's just now starting to get good! Tune in next Tuesday for Episode 4!!