Emily tried her best not to think of the past when she was awake and she usually did pretty well, most days. It was the nights that were so hard to get through. It was the dreams or rather her memories of the past that kept her from getting a good night’s rest and made them so hard to forget. Dreams that usually started off so nice but quickly turned ugly and terrifying.
For the past few years she had worked hard to turn her life around, to make it better than what it had been and she had finally been happy with the way things were going. She had a good job, a nice apartment, a few friends that she hung out with on her days off. She had gotten her degree in computer programming and was saving money to go to Europe one day. She dated casually but so far she hadn’t met anyone she was serious about. That was until she met Derrick! Now all she could do was to wonder what had she done to deserve this?
She had learned how to survive on her own from when she was very young. Her father had seen to that. He had been a very controlling and abusive man who was convinced that someday the US would be overrun by “some foreign power” and he was determined to make sure his children knew how to survive. They all did as they were told or faced the consequences, usually with his belt, sometimes his bare fists but either way, you did what you were told or he made you pay heavily for any defiance.
More than once the school had called CPS to investigate the cuts and bruises that were a big part of growing up in their household but all of the kids and their mother had been too terrified to back up the school’s accusations. Her mother had taken a majority of the abuse from their father over the years but she had refused to press charges every time the neighbors called the cops. Because, even as she stood there, bruised and bleeding, with three terrified children trying to hide behind her, they didn’t do anything so Emily’s trust in cops was not real strong.
Her father had been an avid outdoorsman and survivalist and had taught her, her sister, Connie and their brother, Jake to survive in the outdoors. While they had been allowed to attend school so that they could learn to read and write because, in their fathers mind, it was only important because you had to be able to read posted signs and the survival guide, which was more like a bible to him.
That and the fact that the cops would come around more often to find out why his children were not in school and he didn’t want them looking too closely at how he raised his kids. He had insisted that his lessons would teach them how to survive anything that came their way and his lessons had taken priority over school lessons and social obligations.
They hadn’t been allowed video games or TV. Their evenings had been spent either at the firing range or in what he called “survival training”, which included that they had to learn how to build a fire with only sticks, to become expert marksman with both a rifle and a handgun and how to use a knife for more than just cutting bread or spreading butter.
They had to learn to gut and skin an animal, how to salt the meat to keep it from going bad, how to fish and hunt and to build a shelter when they couldn’t find a place to get out of the weather. They had to learn to cover their tracks and to hide from anyone or anything that might be hunting them. Also basic medical training to care for themselves when they got hurt.
Once they turned 10, he had taken them “camping” every summer. But his idea of “camping” was not like what most people would do as a family outing. He was determined to teach them how to survive!
Emily had been too young to remember Jake’s first camping trips but she would never forget the two summers when their father had taken Connie and Jake camping and she had been at home alone with her mother.
She and her mother had had a wonderful time, going to the park or having special treats that they weren’t allowed to have when their father was home. But they had also worried about Connie and Jake. Neither of her siblings had been allowed to talk about their camping trips when they returned home but they had been different when they came back.
When Emily turned ten, two years after Connie, she finally found out what the camping trips were like. They had spent the first two days setting up camp outside the camper attached to the back of their father’s truck. They each had to put up their own tent, build a small fire outside of it and then set traps to catch dinner or catch a fish. She would never forget having to watch her brother kill the rabbit he had managed to catch and had thought she was going to be sick when he began to gut and skin it but she knew better than to allow herself to throw up where her father could see or hear it.
Connie had managed to catch a fish and it was equally disgusting to watch her gut and filet it. She would never forget the look on Connie’s face as Connie stuck her knife in the fish almost with a vengeance and then glanced at her father. It was like she had gone dead inside but the look in her eyes was what had scared Emily.