It began with a simple game of catch and tag but it had morphed into something sinister for her. For every time she was caught she was punished for not being clever or fast enough.
Punished severely when she disobeyed and broke the rules.
He always caught her. Tied her and punished. They increased over time and grew more sexual. It hurt all over but he never overexerted her, saying he loved her and was teaching her to win the game. She would lie sore hoping that he would stop tomorrow. But next day would be the same. School was where she was safe. But he had made her leave after she turned 10.

Today was the same. She lay in her room, wondering why he had not come to torture her yet. Her heart stirred with hope; maybe someone had heard her cries for help after all. Even though they were quite a distance from the buzzing town, she hoped that some passer-by might have come across their wooden cabin asking for directions.
Unfortunately the door opened, making her squint at the sudden light. Being cooped up for more than half the day in darkness had made her senses weak and strong at the same time. She could easily profile anything in the dark now, from all the prodding and searching for a tool to escape from the room.

He flipped the lights on, flooding the average-sized bedroom with enough light to make her shut her eyes to adjust mentally. He strolled in, a loving smile plastered on his face and sat at the edge of her small bed. It was tiny for her height as she lay on it crumpled, trying in vain to fit in the confines of its warmth. She smiled back at him to avoid being tortured; he had ‘punished’ her severely last time when she had begun to sob at the sight of him. It was better to pretend rather than receive additional pain.

Grazing his hand across her cheek he spoke lovingly, telling her about his work day at the nearby grocery store. He had moved around a lot of oddball jobs just to meet ends and some. But when he realised people around had begun asking about why she wasn’t seen anymore, he had to step up his lies. He then knitted a story on how his disease-ridden daughter was getting treated two towns away. The people’s sympathy poured in like water; they donated money and food to support him. That’s also how he got the checkout store job, an extra way to send across money for the girl’s treatment they stated while signing him up. It had all fallen into place perfectly.

She prayed silently, that he would get engrossed in speaking about his day’s events and forget about tormenting her for one day. She whimpered softly when his fingers got stuck in her long, entangled, dark hair, and tugged painfully from the roots. He only smiled at her and strode off to his bedroom expecting her to follow as per their daily ritual. She dragged herself behind him, despite knowing that she was walking into yet another round of pain. It had been years and yet she couldn’t muster the courage to run even till the door and holler for help. The only time she managed to try to escape had left a gaping wound for a week on her left thigh.

He hugged her and whispered seductively of how and what he would do to her when he finally caught her. The silly game had stopped long ago, now all she had to do was ‘act reluctant’ and later let him claim her as a reward. She shivered in disgust but held any sounds in. Any sign of non-consent resulted in longer periods of this torture. Tracing her back with his rugged palms, he lowered his hands as he held her waist tightly, leaving behind bruises of his sadistic victory. His hands moved lower and held at her waist tightly leaving red bruising marks of his steely grip.
His eyes had a different look tonight; one of sheer carnal evil. And then it hit her, his eyes were bloodshot red; there was a faint line of white below his nose. He had taken drugs! He had never taken drugs before! But was she really surprised? No.

She was limited to watch the TV for an hour or so, on mute while he cooked dinner for both of them. It was usually the music channel and her ears begged for some sound. She had been a big fan of music from her childhood and was a good singer as well. Music made her feel strong and he knew it. So he dangled her strength acting like a merciful king but never really let her get control of it. Enough music videos displayed drug usage and it was easy to gauge what it led to.

She moved back and away, her mind connecting drugs and evil and lack of control. He staggered to her in anger at her defiance and slapped her hard; right across her cheek and below her left eye. She fell back on the bed, tears stinging her swollen eye. She gasped from surprise when an excruciating flame of pain shot through her leg. She screamed when she saw her right leg bleeding from a deep 3-inch wound. He howled in joy, the army knife still in his hand, dripping fresh blood on the floor; scarring it. She moved higher on the bed, hands out to ward him off. He lunged at her but she cut to her left, making a mad dash towards the open door.
Her run was halted when two sinewy arms wrapped around her, making her scream at the top of her voice which was muffled when a rough calloused palm sealed her mouth. There would be marks on her face of his fingers now. He dragged her back to the bed and dropped her like a sack. She shook with fear and hatred for him. He grinned, wielding the knife, its blade glinting beautifully from the reflection of the light above.

Today wasn’t going to end like this. It couldn’t.

She’d had enough. All that five years worth of pent-up misery. Enduring pain and abuse had made her weak to even think about running away or so she had thought.
She kicked him with as much force as she could conjure; a painful slam of her already bleeding leg hurt him right in the place that had once led to her birth but now abused her body, mind and soul day and night.

He tumbled on the cold tiled floor of the bedroom, cursing expletives at his own flesh and blood that was now running out. She turned back, pulled the doorknob shut and twisted the key in. Flinging it
away from her, she hesitated for a heartbeat.
He was her father. But was he really?
In spite of being afraid, she had been preparing for this day all these years. Her emergency escape knapsack was filled with essentials such as her meagre clothes (the ones she could hide-away without him noticing her lack of attire), an incomplete first-aid box, a bundle
of cash she would need for at least
a week’s supplies (collected carefully and discreetly over the past from his wallet when he was stinking drunk and unconscious on the couch). Scrambling for some snacks, a bottle of water, she dug out some more money from his wallet lying on the kitchen counter. Unfortunately, his car keys were nowhere to be seen but it was not like she knew how to drive.

Turning at the threshold of the door, her life before everything went downhill flashed in a minuscule moment before her dewy eyes. She felt it all, her mother, her death, her own loneliness, his comfort, his abuse, his revenge and her escape like a montage pushing her out of her own house. It felt like even her childhood home was urging her to run away from this bad place and move on from the awful memories. Shutting the front door, she took a deep breath. She didn’t want to enjoy her freedom just yet, what if he had managed to escape from the window!? She turned to the side of the house, jogged into the backyard and jumped above the low wall of hedges into the wild forest area behind her house.

She jogged and walked for a distance before she decided she could come back into civilisation. A lit up bedroom window from a house, made her jump over their chain-link fence falling into the neighbour’s lawn. She wasn’t sure if going-the-front way would help her escape. Nobody would even recognise her let alone believe her story.
Everything as eerie as a graveyard except the nightlife that showed survival of the living was present in this neighbourhood. People were enjoying family dinners and watching movies as it happens in
a normal world.
But she couldn’t be seen, no, for they would send her back to him and there would be hell to pay she knew. Moving stealthily, she went from lawn to lawn till she had moved a few blocks away from her house. A steady rush of adrenaline and a thin figure let her fly across the short fences and grills with ease. Her leg was still bleeding profusely and she was sure it had gotten worse from all the running and jumping around. Any moment now, it would give way under her.

So she ran. She ran like she had never run before. Stumbling and picking herself, she ran with trembling legs away from his wicked hold and voice. It was dark and silent on the long

highway, going in the opposite direction of her town.

She had escaped; after all these years of agony, she had taken the courage to ‘run’, for herself, her freedom, her life. He didn’t have any control over her anymore.
He wouldn’t dare to find her.
And if he did, now she knew she could handle him.

The small voice in her head had vanished now. Smiling, out of sheer bliss and freedom she strolled leisurely along new roads. Sometimes running, sometimes skipping, she moved away from him. Farther and deeper; till she meshed into the darkness of the eventful night.

  • Rhea Tony

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