The Caged Bird Sings



Water is running down my face, seeping into my hair, trickling all about me. The scent of marigolds and daisies fill my nostrils, and I'm thrust back to the forest, running, arms outstretched, and the tips of my fingers feeling the rough, familiar bark of wood; Gale calls, Prim smiles, my father sings…

The water is shut off and the cold returns upon my skin for an instant before I feel heat on my skin, drying it before lotion comes and my hair is combed until it shines. The girl and boy next to me look on appreciatively, dipping their heads to me in acknowledgement and it's so hard not to hate them. Do they know what's going on? Don't they know humans shouldn't abuse other humans?

Their faces tell me no. And if I told them, they may inform him and he'll know. It is best to remain low and give no indication of feeling whatsoever. I look into the mirror, looking healthier than I have in weeks but my skin continues to crawl, the searing, twisted memory of him all on me. I shudder.

They come forward, handing me a robe to wear and I enter back into the torture chamber, looking at the bed, white and clean, not knowing my blood's been spilled on it countless times. It's filthy, and it doesn't know it.

It's like me. But I know I'm filthy.

So I sit, trying to forget the touch of his hands—trailing slime that burns into my flesh, acidic.

I'm alone, so I allow myself to curl up into a ball, wishing I can be far from here, wishing I was back home, holding Prim close, sitting in my scruffy meadow that's perfect, with my best friend next to me.

I miss the sun. I can't figure out how to work the buttons to open the blinds, but a part of me wonders if he purposefully made sure it didn't work for me—to keep me in the dark, to keep me from looking at something that reminds me hope is out there somewhere, there are people who want me home, and they'll try until they die to get me back.

At least that's what the child in me wishes for… but then I remember: what inner child do I have left?

I'm thrust back into black, choking on black dust, listening to the men that are trapped inside, trying to climb their way out of darkness that stains their arthritic hands, gags their throats, the very thing they gave their lives for killing them off one by one—

"Do you need anything?"

I turn around, astounded to see an actual human being. And the desperation in me is kicking into full gear again and I'm running towards the door. The face of the young girl is shocked and she immediately tries to close the door to prevent me from escaping but my fist connects with her jaw, ignoring the shockwave of pain that trails up to my shoulder, having had no strength for days.

This is a problem, because I'm weak, and the corners of my eyes are bleary but I'm running, the hallway pristine, a red carpet adorning the floor, a long red serpent that hisses, "You can make it, you can make it..." but it's lying—I'm tackled to the ground and a scream is wrenched from my throat, agony and wrath reverberating through my very being.

I'm held up, hands grappling my arms tightly, and I look through my hair to see more men coming to take me back to my fancy prison cell. He's there in an instant, and I can't help the glare that leaks out from my eyes. But he's not looking at me; his face is furious, staring at the girl with open hostility, "What the hell were you doing?"

"I-I'm sorry!" she squeaks, "I thought… I thought she might, uh, n-need something."

And without the slightest flicker of remorse, the back of his hand is connecting with her blue-tinged cheek. He stands above her, and she stares up at him, looking at him with such fear that I suddenly find my voice, "You leave her alone! She hadn't meant to let me out!"

He turns to me, a flicker of surprise there for a second and it's gone, faster than lighting strikes.

I'm surprised myself that I said anything. I drew his attention to me. The cold feeling in my stomach returns quickly, dropping heavily into the pit, drowning me in the fear I don't want to feel but it's there, tangling me in silver fingers, caressing me and it reminds me of him—how he enjoys my fear; so I increase my glare to counter his gaze.

Within, I know he doesn't buy it; because he's grinning.

"Take her back," he says, "I'll deal with her later."

So he does.

And it's not what I expected.

He murmured to me with such tenderness it frightened me, touching my cheeks softly, taking wisps of my hair and twining them about his fingers till they curled around his digits without his aid. And that image is burned into me, reminding me that I belong to him now, that all he has to do is move those hands, speak with his voice, and remind me that, in every tangible way, he owns me. I belong to him in a way I never thought I could be possessed.

He didn't force me onto the bed. He didn't do anything other than take my face and place kisses on it, kisses that made bile rise into my throat and ice slide down my spine. I didn't understand, I couldn't comprehend—he wasn't making me do anything. He treated me differently, murmuring how brave I was to stick up for her and then he left, my skin remembering every movement his lips made, and he turned, giving me a smile and locked the door.

It hit me then: he was torturing me, the deadliest, most frightening way possible. He reminded me of humanity. He reminded me that touch isn't a curse. He reminded me of the compassion and forgiveness I desired so badly to receive and give. He reminded me I'm weak.

And that, to me, is worse than the rapes.

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