After umming and arring, I've decided to publish this short story on my blog. It was originally homework for our Writers' Circle, and I liked what I churned out. The only problem is I need a title - so if you read it and you like it, title suggestions would be good.
They say I killed a man. I don’t remember that.
They say it had been a vicious, brutal murder, committed in cold blood, but I don’t recall it. I do remember the blood though. I see it in my dreams at night. It’s on my hands, over my dress, and in my hair. So much blood. It’s everywhere.
They say I killed my stepfather. Now that I can believe. After everything he made me do and everything he did to me, I wouldn’t be surprised if I had killed him. He thought he was impregnable. I had apparently proven him wrong – but I don’t remember doing it. They say the evidence at the scene was undeniable. It had been me who murdered him, but I’m sure I’d remember doing something like that. Butchering a person isn’t the sort of thing someone would forget. And I’m only small. I don’t believe I’m physically capable of committing such a crime. How could I?
They also say there is something wrong with me – something psychological. The fact that I can’t remember what happened that night strengthens their theory. They whisper behind me, but I know what they’re saying. They believe there is something wrong in my head. Something is making me forget. They think the events leading up to the murder were so horrific that my mind has blocked it out, like it’s decided to believe it never happened. They mentioned a name for this – in fact they’ve mentioned many names – but I can’t remember them either. This is the reason why I am here in this Institute. It’s full of people who can’t remember, who refuse to remember, or who make up their own tales in fear of remembering.
I don’t like it. The atmosphere isn’t right. It keeps me awake at night and it makes the screams echo.
They question me on a regular basis. They ask me about my past. They make me talk about my relationship with my stepfather, and they make me speak of what he done to me. Each time they do, I relive what I went through time after time. I can feel the tight bindings on my wrists and ankles all over again. I remember the prickling feeling in my fingertips, and the cold draft over my naked body. It makes me cry.
But I know what they’re doing.
They think they’re clever. They think if they make me talk about my past, it might unlock something in my head and I’ll remember the events of that night. But the questions they’re asking me are the same ones I’ve been asking myself for the last six months. They’re demanding answers that I don’t have. They want to know what happened, what drove me to murder that man, but I don’t know. I don’t remember.
And I don’t think I’ll ever remember because I don’t believe I did it. My visitor made me realise that. He told me that he was there on that night. He says that I asked him for his help, and that now I owe him.
He comes to me in my cell some nights after all the lights have gone out. I sit on my bed and wait as the surrounding cells plunge into darkness, listening to the screams. I can only imagine what the other women are going through. The night brings dreams, and dreams cause remembering. The women here don’t like remembering. Some scream and cry all night long, and I rock myself to sleep to the sound of their song. They echo. They always do.
I remember the first time he came, and how terrified I was. My cell seemed darker that night and I was drowsy with medication. I hadn’t been sleeping properly, and my days were filled with bad tempers that needed to be calmed. The tablets I was forced to take were what the doctors ordered. And sometimes when I refused to take them they would inject me and make me sleep. Often I’ve woken and found myself strapped to my bed.
That night I was scared, but too drugged to fight. The man was big, much bigger than my stepfather ever was, and he picked me up and hit me. He said I deserved it. He said I had caused my stepfather’s death and that I needed to be punished. He done things to me, just like my stepfather had, and it made me cry again.
It was that night he told me he had been in the house on the night of my stepfather’s death. He said I had called him and that I had pleaded for his help. I was angry with my stepfather, angry and hurt by what he was doing to me. I wanted him to stop, but he wouldn’t. I wanted to kill him. I wanted to make him suffer for the pain and torture he was putting me through, but I wasn’t strong enough. I could never over-power him. This was what I needed help with, and this is what the man had done for me.
Now he says I owe him. I owe him a lot. He says that because I wanted it, I’ve been a bad girl and I need punishing. He is ridding me of my sins. But, despite how horrific and peculiar his touch is, and how it hurts, he says that it will end. If I’m good and accept my punishment then eventually I will have served my sentence and be free. That was five months ago.
When he turned to leave that night, I asked him who he was. I had been beaten black and blue, raped, and was feeling drained and exhausted, but my damaged and drugged mind was still capable of asking the question. If it were to be a regular thing, this punishment, then I wanted to know the name of my assailant. I had known the name of my stepfather.
He said he was `the Devil`.
I didn’t see him leave. He just merged in with the shadow and disappeared.
The next day I was treated for my wounds, and my medication dosage was upped. They believed I had tried to kill myself. As I began to heal, more questions were thrown my way. I told them what I knew, that the Devil had paid me a visit, that he confessed to murdering my stepfather for me and now I must pay for his troubles.
The dosage was increased even more. It made me violent and it made me sleepy. Again and again the Devil came to me at night and done things, and still no one believed me. It frustrates me and I’m angry. At night I squeeze myself into the corner of my cell, listening to the screams and waiting for the lights to go out, wondering if the Devil is coming. I prey that he isn’t. Most nights I get my wish, but as morning comes round I have gained little sleep. This leaves me tired for the rest of the day, and it is on these days that I find myself lashing out at others and needing an injection. These are the days I wake to find myself bound to my bed in solitary.
No one believes me. I speak freely to anyone who wants to listen, hoping that someone would offer help. But the people who need to listen, and who aren’t incapacitated with their own torturous memories, just scribble notes down on paper and re-evaluate my disorder.
They’re not going to help me.
It makes sense that the Devil killed my stepfather. I had wanted it to happen so much. Maybe he heard and came, knowing a bargain could be made. I don’t know why I agreed though. I can’t see myself wanting to agree to this kind of punishment. The death of my stepfather should have been an end to all this, not the continuation of another. I can’t remember anything from that night, but I must have agreed to something. He wouldn’t keep coming back if I hadn’t, therefore I have no choice but to accept it and prey that my sentence comes to an end soon.
The dosage I have been given tonight was fairly high. It has been a bad day, although I can’t remember why. I’m so drowsy I am lying on my bed instead of sitting in my corner. I haven’t moved from where the carers abandoned me. The injection bruised my arm and I can still feel it throbbing. I refuse to sleep, and even as the lights go out I stare into the darkness of my cell. A woman screams into the shadows and I shake with anticipation. I know he’s coming tonight.
I hear the jangling of keys and watch as the door in front of me opens. I want to cry out, I want to scream for help, but my body is limp and lifeless. I see in the dim light that the Devil is wearing a white pair of trousers and top, and a pair of white trainers. I wonder to myself why he feels the need to take on the appearance of a carer when no one else can see him, and why he needs the keys to enter my cell?
But these questions are forced to the back of my mind as he closes the door and slopes towards me in the darkness.
I have to accept my punishment. I’ve been a bad girl.
I only wish I could remember exactly what I’m being punished for.