I stayed frozen, not even daring to crane my neck forward to try to catch a glimpse of the man. From my vantage point, in the shadowy rafters of the barn, I could only see the girl. What was left of the girl. The axe swiftly rose one more time, blood droplets flying off into the air, and then it came crashing down again, this time lopping off her other arm.
I had been playing, climbing high, as any fearless nine year old intrepid explorer would, up into the hay covered attic, my special place away from the dark world below. Up here I was safe, free to fantasize about whatever I chose. Nobody to tell me to stop daydreaming. Nobody to thrash me with their belt.
One sound and I knew I would be next, and so I stayed motionless, but not emotionless. Tears were forming in my eyes and I feared one of those tears falling thunderously to the floor below, and the man seeing it fall and looking up. I had attempted not to watch, to keep my eyes shut tight, but I wasn’t able to, the morbid scene below somehow as fascinating as it was gruesome. So, instead, I tried my hardest not to feel, to become a dispassionate observer watching a horror movie unfold.
The axe swung upwards again, but this time hung in mid air. I could see the man’s feet as they slowly turned towards me. Then he stepped back and I could see him. And he looked up and saw me. Our eyes were locked in an unblinking, horrified stare. He didn’t say a word. Instead, he motioned with the axe, pointing it first at me, then at the ground, demanding that I climb down. I didn’t move, couldn’t move, but his crazed eyes remained fixated on me, and I knew I had no choice.
As slowly as I could, I retraced my upward route back down, until eventually I was standing next to him. Still he didn’t speak. He handed me the axe, and then walked back to the girl, now limbless. Then he turned and watched me, the wildness gone from his eyes, now more of a gentle warmth to them. Almost imperceptibly, he looked down at the girl, then at me, and then he stepped back.
I moved towards her, my legs with barely the strength to support me, and I stood where he had stood. I looked at the man, and the man nodded. I looked at the girl. She was around my age, sweet looking and with blonde, wavy hair, now covered in flecks of red. It was not the first time I had used an axe. I had chopped logs for firewood several times, so my aim was good. Her head fell to the ground.
The tip of my tongue slowly slid the length of my upper lip before returning to its hiding place. I looked up into my father’s eyes, begging silently for his approval.