[Content warnings for abuse, torture, and blood.]
Darkness. Silence. I never thought that I would crave these again.
My head pounds and my vision tilts like I'm on a seesaw. Someone reaches a hand towards me, and tries to take my champagne flute from me, but I pull away and break free.
Oh, how I wish I could break free of all this. All the glitter, the bright lights, the parties. All the jargon, the expectations, the constricting suits. All the fake smiles, the greedy eyes, the talon-like nails.
Another lipstick-stained face lingers by my side, hands clasped on my arm and her lips on my neck.
My neck, aching from the weight suddenly placed on my shoulders. My mind, blurring the past with the present, reality with fiction.
The music distorts until the soothing strings become shrill screams. The woman's mouth on my neck begins to feel like the weight of a chain collar, her hands encompassing my wrists become manacles. I break out in a cold sweat, tremors making my hands shake. Shoving the woman off me, I stride across the wide ballroom, fighting off vine-like hands, panic rising and falling like waves in my chest.
I need to get outside. I need to see the dark night sky. I need to hear nothing but my own laboured breathing. Outside. I can still hear the sounds of people coming from the building I just exited. Outside. I need to get away.
Away. I open my eyes and find myself in a small dark room, little more than a hole in the wall. The smell of blood and human waste is heavy around me. My hands are tiny and child-sized, lacerations zigzagging across my palms and fingers. My chains rattle as I twist my head from side to side, my eyes blinded with tears.
Away. I blink, and I'm crying in a ball on the floor of a cold cell. I blink, and I'm trying to fight off the infection that threatens to kill me. I blink, and I'm getting silently beaten by my captors, having no more tears to cry. I blink, and I'm lying on the floor of a helicopter, a man in a black uniform telling me that everything will be alright. I blink, and I'm seeing my parents' faces for the first time in 11 years. I blink, and I'm in a fancy private school uniform. I blink, and I'm sitting in a stuffy board meeting with my father.
I blink, and I'm 18 again, squatting alone in the middle of a water fountain, my hands covering my ears. Everyone's staring at me and whispering into their hands. There's a horrible sound, like a dying animal crying, and it takes me a minute to realise that sound is coming from me. But even when I've closed my mouth, the sound resonates in my ears. My father's standing to my right, speaking into his phone in hushed tense tones. My mother's by his side, wailing and crying into her balled fists.
Hands. My hands and forearms are seeping blood. It drips off my face where my hands were and into the water, which is rapidly turning red. Looking closer, little cuts and blisters pepper my hands. I have no idea how they got there.
There. I blink, and I'm in the back of my dad's car, towels wrapped around my hands and draped over my head. I blink, and we're at home, dad pulling me inside, bright flashes of light chasing us up the front steps. I blink, and I'm in my bed, sterile white bandages wrapped around my hands and my mother by my side, looking years older than she really is.
"I love you,” she whispers.
Whispers. All I could do was whisper after I screamed myself hoarse those first few years. And then, one day someone heard me and came to my rescue.
Rescue. I was saved then, and I'm sure someone will save me this time too.