Chapter 1: Escaping the home
Darkness. All I could see was darkness. Where am I? I stretch my hands upwards and feel something hard and cold. What was it? I press my hands against it, listening to it as it makes an odd sound, a metallic sound. I was even more confused now. I try to sit up, only to hit my head on whatever was above me. I furrow my brows, stretching my legs out until they touch something. It was as cold as the ceiling and seemed to be made of the same material, but two squares were jutting out. Unceremoniously, I flip over and crawl to the wall, pressing my hands against the cold surface and pushing on it. Nothing happened, and I huffed a bit. I crawl towards the back of whatever I was trapped in, then crawled forward as fast as I could. Movement. Slight movement with a creaking sound gave me hope that what I did helped my situation. My shoulder hurt slightly, but I didn’t care. It was worth it. I back up once again, taking a deep breath before crawling as fast as I could and slamming into the wall.
Light. Light flooded in from the crack, air wafting into my confined space. I grab onto the edge of the wall and begin to try and squeeze my small body through the tiny gap, grunting and whining with effort. Once I get free, I stand on the edge of the wall and look around. Cabinets are lining the walls, and it takes me this moment to realize that what I was standing on wasn’t a wall, but rather the door to the cabinet drawer I had been locked in. The cabinets are white like pearls, with some of the corners rusting and rotting. I hold onto the drawer handle above my head in pale hands, looking down at the tile floor that was reminiscent of a doctor’s office. There was an open drawer at the bottom, full of what seemed to be towels. They looked like towels at least. I take a deep breath, why did I have to be so high up? I thought about whether or not it would be easier to climb down using the handles for the drawers, but I realized as I looked closer, that most of the handles were too rusted to hold any weight or were missing. I take another deep breath, closing my eyes and stepping off the edge of the door. I yelp as I hit the towels, something hard underneath them. I sit up, rubbing my back and whimpering in pain. I stand, legs shaking slightly and I almost fall. I fix my knee-length, stone gray skirt before turning to see what I had landed on. I move the towels aside and see a boy lying lifeless. I squat down, poking his cheeks a couple of times.
“Hello? You awake?” I ask, tipping my head to the side. “Sorry for jumping on you, I didn’t see you there.”
There was no response. I pull the towels back more, and I’m able to see the rest of him. His dark skin was sickly pale, and his eyes were closed tight as if he was frozen in a nightmare. He was bigger than me, with a chunky body. His ash-colored hair was hidden by a red and black beanie, with his oily bangs clinging to his forehead, and his hands were clenched in tight fists. He was clad in a dark green hoodie and a pair of black shorts. I look down at my outfit, a tan and white blazer with an orange shirt underneath, my gray skirt, a pair of white stockings, and a pair of black flats. A brown tag was tied to my leg with white string, and I reached down to undo it. I held the tag up to my eyes, squinting to read the writing.
“B...Bea...Bean, Beaney?” I squint at the words a little more. The last few letters were smudged, as if someone had tried to erase them. I shrug. “Beaney it is.”
I toss the tag on the floor, shivering as a breeze passes over me, and my skirt flares up a little.
“Hey...can I have your hoodie and shorts?” I ask the boy.
“I’ll take that as a yes, thank you!”
I lift the boy’s chubby arms, grabbing the cuffs of his sleeves and beginning to pull the article of clothing off of him. Once it was off, I toss it on myself and adjust it until it was on correctly. I then grab the shorts, pulling them off of his legs and yanking them up past my flats and up until the waistband was just underneath the top of my skirt. They slid down the moment I released the waistband and I huffed, swiveling my head side to side to try and find something to fix the problem. I take notice of the string from the tag and snatch it up into my hands. I loop it around my waist, grinning lopsidedly as I tighten it. I then look at the beanie. Do I need it? Another cold breeze answers my question, and I quickly snatch up the beanie. There was a sickening crack, and the boy’s head lulled to the side. I wince.
I hop off of the cabinet drawer, waving goodbye to my friend and I begin to wander around the room. The shelves stretched to the ceiling, which felt like it was hundreds of feet above me. There were two doors, one with a small window, and the other without. I walked over to the one with the window, stretching my short arms upwards and jumping to try and grab the door handle. I huff, stomping my foot on the floor as I realize I can’t reach it. I look around but don’t see anything that could help. I freeze up for a moment as the door handle begins to move. I sprint back over to my friend and scramble into the drawer and duck under the towels, peeking over the door a bit, and watching a tall man enter. He ducked inside, his head grazing against the ceiling as he walked. He strode across the room, black leather dress shoes clicking on the tile. He stopped midway across the room, pivoting on his heels and walking my way. I duck under the towels, covering my mouth to muffle my quick breathing as he moves around above me. I feel a slight shake, and there’s a slamming sound. I hear his footsteps recede, and I poke my head out again. He opens the other door, ducking under the doorway as he leaves. The door was open a crack, and from my hiding spot, I could see a long hallway. I crawl out from under the towels, tiptoeing over to the door. I poke my head out, looking around. A group of people shuffles past, their long, black, and white robes dragging behind them. A giant white cross was printed on the backs of all of their robes, one of them having a fancier cross with some odd shape behind it. I shrug it off, and once they’re out of view, I scurry down the hallway as fast as I can. The walls are white, the tiles are white, the ceiling lights are white, everything was white and blinding. I tug the beanie down further, running faster and listening to my shoes squeak with each step.
“IT ESCAPED! GET IT!”
A screaming voice startled me into a full-blown sprint, and I heard a stampede of footsteps thundering behind me. I tumble around a corner, scrambling to my feet and continuing to run. They were gaining, I knew they were. I couldn’t stop running. I couldn’t get caught. I look around frantically, spotting an open vent a little bit ahead. I leap towards it, diving and quickly crawling into it. One of the owners of the footsteps crouched and tried to grab me, but I was quick to crawl as fast as I could out of reach. Once I know that I’m far enough away, I stop and look back towards the opening. My breath catches in my throat as I see a face staring right at me, eyes locking onto mine and an angry scowl plastered onto the fair, wrinkly face.
“W-Weird..” I mumble as I begin to crawl down the vent, away from the opening.
I don’t dare turn back, not wanting to see that face again. It was burned into my brain, making me cringe and shudder every time it crossed my mind. I wasn’t sure where I was going from here. I couldn’t see what was ahead of me, so I guess I just have to hope for the best. I stop as I approach a split in the vents, and I look between the two paths. They looked the same. Same metal, same dim, cold vibe.
“Eenie...Meenie...Miney...Mo, catch a tiger by its toe-” my finger flicks back and forth, pointing in each direct sync with the nursery rhyme. “-If it hollers let it go...My mother told me to pick the very best one and you are it!” My finger points to the left. “Left! Coolio!”
A smile tugs at my dry lips, and I lick them as I begin to crawl again. The cold metal numbs my hands, and my stocking keep getting caught on the bolts. I roll them down to my ankles, hoping that would solve the problem. I continue to crawl, happy that the shorts were protecting my knees.
“Thank you friend for your shorts, and your hoodie, and your hat,” I say as I continue to crawl.
Left, right, right, right, left. Turning this way and that, crawling eagerly for freedom. I wondered what was outside of this place. Fields of flowers and butterflies? Smiling faces? Clean water? Who knew. Whatever’s out there though, I’m excited to see. I stop dead in my tracks, almost falling the long shute to who knows where. I sit back on my calves, fiddling with the edges of the hoodie sleeves, and peer down the vent. It was a straight down drop, and I couldn’t see the bottom. I put my hands into the pockets of my skirt, raising an eyebrow as I pull out a small metal cross. I dangle it over the drop, releasing it and watching it fall. I lean forward, tilting my right ear down and listening to the cross hit the sides of the metal vent. Then there was nothing, absolute silence. Did it hit the ground, or was it still falling? I furrow my brows. Maybe it was worth the risk. I take a deep breath, dangling my legs over the edge of the vent and weighing my options. This drop could kill me, but what if it didn’t? What if I survive? Was it really worth the risk? I lean back a bit, tilting my head back as much as possible and looking behind me. A shadow cast on the wall, moving my way. My eyes widen as I hear the shrill squeaks of a rat. I see its pink nose poke around the corner, and soon its body comes into view. It scurries towards me, and in a last-second decision, I shove myself off the edge and begin to fall. I curl up into a ball, my back and sides slamming on the walls. I hear the rat shriek, and then hear its fat body hit the vent wall. Did it fall too? It must’ve. I had to pray that it wouldn’t crush me, so I’d have to act fast if I manage to survive the fall. I gripped my white bangs in my fingers, waiting for the end. I open my eyes and see the metal cross glinting a few feet below me, and I curl up tighter.
Soft. Soft and squishy. I sit up, looking to my left, then my right, then down. Robes, stinky, muddy robes. I grimace as I feel my hand press into the mud, and then I hear the shrieking of the rat. It’s so close. I scramble over the robes, yanking at my ankle as it gets tangled in one of the robe strings. I give an extra hard tug, and my shoe comes off. My body tumbles off of the hamper and I land on the cold floor with a thud.
I sit and sniffle. “Ow! My head!”
I rub my head as I get to my feet, looking around the area. It was practically empty, minus two washing machines and two dryers. The floor seemed to be cement, and the entire room reeked of sweat and mud. I cover my mouth and nose, letting out dramatic gagging sounds as I make my way across the room, distancing myself from the hamper. I adjust the beanie and spot a door in the left corner. My way out. I smile hopefully as I bound towards it, my hands flying away from my mouth and I pump my arms as I sprint. My smile fades quickly as I look at the door handle. It was so far out of my reach, even as I jumped and stood on my tiptoes. I let out a frustrated yell, stomping my feet and flapping my arms like a flightless bird.
“It’s not fair! Why is it so high up?!”
I kick a nearby sock away, watching as it lands near the hamper. An idea hits me, one I’m not too fond of. I have to pull the stinky hamper over so I can reach the handle. I don’t want to though. The hamper was stinky and looked sticky, even from across the room. I flap my hands in disgust, sticking my tongue out and blowing a frustrated raspberry. I decided to try and find another way. I was not touching that hamper, not again. I shuddered at the thought of the muddy robe, and look down at the hand that had touched the mud, and wiping it on my shirt. I begin to wander around the room, skirting around the hamper every time. I whine softly as I find nothing. There was nothing that I could use, except for the hamper.
“I don’t wanna!” I shout.
“Did you hear that?”
My hands fly to my mouth as I hear the voice of the person who had yelled at me earlier. I scamper over to the hamper. It was now or never. I grab onto the corners of it and begin to drag it across the cement. I gag at the scent, the feeling to vomit rising in me. The wheels squeal and whine in protest as they have to move, the weight of the hamper straining them. Footsteps approach from a door I hadn’t noticed before, and I pull on the hamper more.
“No! No no no! Not now!”
I yank on the hamper with all my might, but I don’t have the strength to dislodge the wheel from the crack on the floor. I look at the distance between the door handle and the edge of the hamper. I clasped my hands together in front of my petite chest, whispering a prayer. It just felt right.
“Dear God...Please, let me make it...”
I begin to climb up the hamper, feeling a sudden strength bubble up in me. My small fingers wrap around the edge of the hamper, squishing against the sweaty robes. I was so close. Pain. A sudden pain shoots through my fingers, and I wrench my hand away from the edge of the hamper. The footsteps are getting louder. The rat pokes it’s ugly face over the edge of the hamper, squeaking in a mocking tone. It was laughing at me! I puff up my cheeks and quickly pull myself up. I shove the rat to the other side of the hamper.
“You’re a meanie!” I shout at the rat, turning quickly and leaping.
My heart beats at a million miles an hour as I jump. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the door open, and the men from before appear. The main one, the one that shouts, runs towards me. I grab onto the door handle, my weight pushing it down. The door shrieks open and I dive through the small gap. I slide on mud, twisting and tumbling like a snowball rolling down a hill. I leap to my feet, scampering over mud and roots, and grass as fast as I could. To escape the man.
“DON’T LET IT ESCAPE!! I NEED IT!” The man screams.
The robed men that followed the screaming one came surging forward. I let out a scream and continue to run. I had to get away. I couldn’t let them catch me. I just couldn’t. I pick up my pace, slipping and sliding on the mud but I didn’t care. I yelp as my right ankle catches on some vines, tangling up in them. I tried to untie the vines, but there was no use. I yank my ankle as hard as I can, and surprisingly it worked. My flat came off and my stocking came off halfway, but I was free. I leap to my feet, beginning to sprint again. I can feel the footsteps of the robed men thundering the ground, and I can feel my legs screaming for a break. It didn’t matter, I didn’t have time to take a break. I needed to keep going. I needed to keep running. There was a ravine up ahead, washing rushing. I didn’t have much of a choice. I sprint as fast as I could, pumping my arms harshly and lengthening my stride as much as I could. Air rushes past my face as I leap, and for a moment I feel like a soaring bird. Was I flying? It felt like I was flying. Did I grow wings? Was I an angel?