The War On Dreams

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    we all showed up. 

    we showed up willingly. 

    but, if we    were aware 

    of        

               what we had

    showed up to, 

               we      would have fought 

                to stay as we

    once  were

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    It started in August. It was August 24th, if I remember correctly. It was a hot night and we all showed up in our best dresses with our favorite shoes. I remember my dress was pale yellow with pastel purple flowers. I wore solid black dress shoes with a small bow on each foot. My mother had braided flowers into my hair that day. Flowers she asked me to pick from the gardens outside; they were nothing special, perennial flowers she insisted on keeping. She says it helps add color to our unpainted house.

    My mother saw the invitation before me. She told me near a week before that I had a very important event coming up. I didn’t know what she meant, even when she was dressing me and shoving me into her car, I was unaware where we were going or why we had to leave so soon. The invitation said to be at that address at 10 P.M, well after my instructed bedtime. We drove for what seemed like years to an abandoned building in a remote part of Mississippi. It was a long drive. Four and a half uneventful hours. Although, I wasn’t tall enough to sit comfortably without the seat belt cutting into my neck, I sat in the passenger seat. She told me I’d have to sit there from then on. 

    We didn’t make any stops along the way. She ignored when I asked for a drink, something to eat, or even to go to the bathroom. It wasn’t until I asked where we were going for the third time before she replied. Even then, she never answered my questions, she’d just tell me not to worry and it would all be over soon, and then I could go home. Nearing the end of those four and a half hours she pulled into a rather large, empty parking lot. I saw a dimly lit building through the car headlights and the heavy fog we were enveloped in. What was it that Mother told me? Fog forms after it rains. Had it rained recently? My mother told me to get out of her car and then she hurried away. I stood there in my new-found darkness and as I gazed at that building in front of me, I noticed I was no longer alone. There were other girls around my age there with me. Before I had time to fully process what was happening, a tall man with a suit and dark brown hair and dull, lifeless blue eyes opened the doors to the building and ordered us inside. As I took a step inside he ripped the flowers out of my hair; he said I wasn’t allowed to have that anymore. I wish I never found out why flowers were forbidden. We were rushed down a long hallway that lead into the small, almost empty room where he left us. The only noticeable decor was a clock hanging on the far wall, just out of our reach, away from the only exit. There wasn’t anything else on the walls, not even a light switch. The tall man disappeared and we didn’t see him again for the rest of that day. 

    None of us slept well that night. We stayed up half of the night waiting to see if the Tall Man would bring us anything to sleep on, but he never did. The floor was as you’d expect: cold, hard, and uncomfortable. We talked for a few hours about why we were at that building, but no one had a reason aside from being dropped off and instructed to enter. Eventually, after a couple hours of confusion and unanswered questions, a few of us fell asleep, while others didn’t sleep at all. But, for the first time since we arrived, it was calm. 

    Earlier that morning, or at least what we assumed to be morning, we woke up tired, having decided to sleep on the hard, wooden floor instead of hoping for beds. He kept us locked in that room all day. He didn’t feed us. A few girls had started crying, complaining, or whining. They started screaming and begging to go home. It wasn’t explained to anyone why we were sent to that room, and our patience was starting to wear thin. We sat in the room for hours, having nowhere to go and nothing to do, we sat and waited for any signs from the Tall Man, and just like the night before, he never showed up. 

    I believe the clock on the far wall instructed 9 that next morning when the tall man barged into the room, waking us all. He hastily looked around the room before his eyes stopped at me. As he glared at me I felt my heart rate and body temperature rising. He instructed me to follow him. I rushed to the other side of the doorframe and looked up at him as he shut and locked the door, trapping the other girls inside. I was terrified, but I decided it was better not to keep him waiting. He turned towards me and suddenly I was pinned to a wall as his mouth trailed down my neck and shoulders. He was anything but nice as he ripped my dress down and pressed his hips into me. I tried my hardest not to cry, not to make any noise, but I couldn’t help but scream when he grabbed my wrist and dragged me to what looked to be a workroom turned into the makeshift bedroom that I assume he called his. His bed was bigger than I expected, not that I expected to end up there in any case. His alleged room was filled with useless treasures and what looked like unwashed clothes, a bookshelf with what I understood to be medical books and criminal cases, and a desk I got the chance to glance at on to which I saw newspaper articles about various events such as global warming or presidential elections. The events that occurred next are not worth mentioning; they are not worth mentioning because I cannot trust myself enough to not lie for this man. I cannot bring myself to tell what happened in fear of hurting the man who helped me to see what the reality of living is. I was later returned to that room, clothes back on, but slightly askew. I watched him take each and every girl into the room I had just left, and would soon spend much more time in. 

    I seemed to go with the tall man more often than the others, maybe I was just his favorite. Maybe I was just trying to convince myself I was special; that I had some type of value in that type of situation. In any situation. But, unlike the others, he did not always practice these unorthodox aspects of adulthood with me. On those days, those good days, he would tell me stories of how things were before his turn to partake in adulthood. He explained that this was the way of things. The way of everything. He explained that no matter what steps are taken, not everyone will understand why things are meant to be the way they are.. 

    As always, I would return to that room. 

    When midnight of the fourth night came around the lights shut off. I don’t know how; there wasn’t a light switch in that room. The lights shut off and we were left in pitch-black darkness until they came back on. The lights were back on in a matter of seconds. Seconds passed and the girl next to me was on the ground in a pool of her own blood. Her throat was slit. We never heard the door open, and we never found a weapon. She was dead, and that was all we knew. She was dead, and there was nothing we could do. Whoever killed her, they could hear the other girls scream. I know they could.

    From then on, we had one murder a night. They didn’t always die, though. I suppose I should say one injury a night. Every time it happened it was at midnight, at least that’s what our clock always said. We had no other way of telling time aside from that clock. No way of stopping it and no way of controlling it. Each day was spent trapped in that room as we watched the time pass by; closer to midnight with every tick. The events were out of our control. Out of my control. I tried so hard to stop what was happening but no matter what I suggested or what we tried, it always failed. We spent one night huddled in a corner and hoping that at least one of us would see who was doing this to us. Despite being so close together, no one saw what it was. 

    As the days passed and the time ticked by, our health and our courage depleted, but every few days the Tall Man would bring us food and enough medical supplies to ensure we lived long enough for him to enjoy his rather unhealthy game. Each time he would visit, he smiled at me before he left again. I spent hours upon hours in his room, doing anything he instructed. The pain soon faded to the dull throb that I learned to expect. 

    It must have been five days that passed since the murders started, at the least, and the group’s main topic was our parents and if they knew what would happen. They did bring us here without telling us what would happen once we got here, and they did drive away in a hurry. By the end of the fifth day we had established that our parents knew what was going to happen and that they brought us here anyway, but what we couldn’t figure out is why they would do this.

    The smell was easy to become accustomed to. After a few days and a few dead girls, we didn’t even notice anymore. We were trapped in a small room with days-old carcasses and half-dead girls. The least of our worries was the way it smelled. 

    It had been fourteen undocumented days from what I recall. Why would anyone want to recall an incident like that? Then murders stopped unexpectedly for a few nights. We had racked up two murders and one injury by the seventh night, three murders and five injuries by the fourteenth. 

    We were caught off guard the last night. Though, maybe we shouldn’t have been. The lights flashed like they always did, and after a few seconds they were turned back on and the skin on my foot was gone. It was as if someone had peeled it off. And yet again, we found no weapon, we heard no sound, at least not until after the lights were back on. I looked down at my foot, and to my surprise, I felt nothing. As I stared at my freshly skinned foot, I reached out and dragged my fingers over the exposed bones and the muscle masses. I felt nothing. I’m not sure how long I sat there staring, touching my foot, but I do know that they weren’t murders. They were suicides. I saw myself though the darkness, I saw myself cut the skin off my own foot. I saw myself holding those old, rusty, scissors. I don’t remember what I did with them, but I know I caused this. 

    We spent a total of 17 days in that room. I suffered multiple injuries on my legs and feet, never anything above the waist. I was the only girl to leave that room alive. On the last day, after the last suicide, the door opened and standing outside was the tall man. He reached his arm out to me and I hobbled around dead bodies to make it to him. I expected the numbness of adulthood to flow into me like all the other times he grabbed my hands, but instead, he lead me outside. It was unbelievably bright and as I squinted my eyes against the sunlight, I saw my mother standing by the car she used to leave me in such a rush the last time I was with her. Then, I caught myself staring at the tall man for what felt like the first time. I hadn’t noticed his age before, he was well in his fifties; a tall, slender man with all-too-graying hair and a forget-me-not smile. He had sullen eyes and, surprisingly, the dark complexion of a man who isn’t afraid of hard work and a shovel, his hands were large and calloused. I focused my gaze to his eyes and found them staring back at me. He pulled me to him and whispered in my ear before pushing away and turning to walk inside. I could hear the door lock and his heavy boots marching away. In the daylight, I could see that the building was actually an abandoned bank. I sighed heavily as I turned to make my slow descent down the bank’s small staircase. My mother made no effort to help me as I helplessly tripped and fell on to the concrete. I laid on that ground for what couldn’t have been more than five minutes before making another effort to head towards my mother’s car. I slowly limped my way to the passenger seat and heaved my limp body into the car, shutting the door behind me. I don’t quite remember the ride home, but I’ll never forget the time I learned becoming an adult was inevitable. 

    All I know is at the end of that day, they were all dead and I was the only one to survive.

     

    I guess I was just the Tall Man’s favorite.

     

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