I lay in the darkness of the corridor, listening to my shallow breaths which merged into painful wheezes with every attempt I took at drawing breath. My step-father's harsh belt had cut into my flesh and my upper thighs were caked with blood. I did not know what I did but the pain was unbearable and I lay coughing violently on the floor because it hurt to breathe.I heard my name called sharply through the darkness and thick icy hands coiled around my insides. I tried to move but I could not walk from the pain in my legs. I could hear my brother stirring beside me and limping towards the door which lead to the end of the corridor, emitting a thin yellow perimeter of light. I watched as his scrawny body disappeared into the glow and I tried to block out the noise of his agonised screaming as his body hit the floor. My step-father was outside and my mother was no where to be seen.
I could hear his footsteps ascending the stairs. I could hardly breathe from terror and by instinct I tried desperately to rise to my feet. I stumbled through the corridor, praying to God that he would not find me, running from the thunderous footsteps that screamed through the silence. But the agony in my bruised and battered legs was too much to bear and I fell back down to the floor, my frail body landing in a crumpled heap.
The door was wrenched open and I began to shiver vibrantly, squashing my eyes shut and preparing myself for the pain that I knew I was to endure. I felt a warm liquid running down my leg as I lay in the growing pool of urine. My step-father came crashing into the corridor in a furious rage and evil words spat from his vicious tongue. I couldn't bear to listen to the words he was calling me but somehow it was all my fault. It was my fault that my mother was drinking and my step-father would not buy food for us. It was my fault that I was sick and weak from not eating.
My step-father Steve grabbed my hair and pulled me down the corridor as I felt my burning scalp begin to part. My head was being split open and he was beating it against the door. My vision blurred and soon I couldn't feel the scorching hot blows on my face anymore. Steve began ripping off my pants and held me down with force as I tried to struggle, telling me to hold still, that I was a bad girl and I had to pay for my sins.
He started to touch me and I felt fear rip through my heart. I shivered and tried desperately to get him to stop but his hard blows on my face were hard to ignore. He held his rough hands over my mouth with an unbearable force and he pushed himself inside of me. I cried out in pain but my howls could not be heard. I did not know what he was doing but it hurt more than anything he had ever done to me and I could feel him inside of me. I tried to get him out but his hands were violent and forceful. I couldn't bear to look into his blazing eyes but I could smell his hot breath on my neck.
When he was done he wiped himself off and I could see blood on him. More was leaking down my leg. He calmly opened the door and slipped through it, before grabbing my fragile fingers and holding them down. The pain was excruciating as he slammed the door on them and numerous times I heard a crack. I screamed but he only did it harder, and he held it there until I felt dizzy and surrendered to the darkness that clung to my face.
The desolate waves of darkness withered slowly as the awakening sun began to shed light into the newly born day. As dawn began to merge gradually into morning the busy streets of the city awoke with their usual morning bustle. For most it would be a normal day of work, but for the likes of four teenagers sleeping under the bridge nothing could be more different.
Erim awoke with a start, gasping for air as she wrenched her body from the ground, matted cobalt hair slipping from behind her ears to cover her face as she darkly recalled her nightmare. They had been recurring ever since she came into hospital; painful unhidden memories of her childhood that surfaced in her dreams. She didn't need her dreams to remind her of her broken past and the way that her innocent childhood was snatched from her grasp and left to slip through her fingers in shattered remains. She was ashamed that she had let it all happen and the growing weight on her shoulders could be seen by the way she let her shoulders sag.
Next to her, seventeen year old Stephen began to stir, mousy hair flying in wild directions as he sat up sleepily. Erim looked worriedly over at Rhiannon and Pipa. At eighteen she was the oldest of the group, and felt the weight of responsibility heavy on her back. Pipa was sound asleep with her head lolling to the side, waves of russet hair reaching to cover her coffee coloured skin. She looked fragile and withered, curled up in her wheelchair, but every gesture she made was graceful. Rhiannon lay almost immobilised, her parched lips breaking every second to a soundless miming. Dark hair dropped down to her lower back in shallow cascades and she looked even paler than usual. Those not used to her appearance would normally flinch at the sight of her, as Rhiannon had a deep, wide scar patched on the left side of her face that ran down her neck. Her whole arms were white with scar tissue from a fire her grandfather had pushed her into.
Four teenagers, escaped from the local psychiatric hospital. They weren't crazy, except for maybe Stephen. They had come from broken childhoods and lives of stolen trust, institutionalised because of their trauma, and had run together from the locked wards and medication. Rhiannon was only thirteen and had come from a life of ritual abuse and horrendous traumatization by her grandfather's cult, who had subjected her to every kind of abuse, deprivation and torture for the purpose of inducing multiple personalities. Rhiannon had multiples who were hostile, self-destructive and in some ways just out of their minds. She couldn't count them all, and was helpless to the demons in her head.
Pipa was fifteen, pregnant and in a wheelchair. It probably wasn't the best idea to take her but she had insisted she had to leave. Her legs were permanently paralysed after she jumped in front of a train in an attempt on her life. Her parents would sell her body on the streets and leave her out there to panhandle. Her boyfriend would beat her and her mother constantly drank. Erim was severely physically and sexually abused and molested by her stepfather, and Stephen, well… Stephen was crazy.
Rhiannon looked battered and broken, heavy bags drooping under her eyes from lack of sleep. Usually she was so severely traumatized she would wet the bed, and her bloodcurdling nightmares stopped her from sleeping much. As she mouthed wordlessly, her eyes looking hazy, Erim grew worried for her and rose from her seat, reaching a gentle hand to her scarred face.
'No,' whispered Rhiannon, her face whitening, 'no, don't…'
The younger girl's eyes glazed over and it was evident to anyone that she was not there anymore.
'No!' cried the girl, lunging at Erim and attempting to claw at her face. 'Hurt me! Hurt me! Why won't you hurt me?'
The girl began to hiss, flailing her arms out in front of her and grabbing at the air. She grasped her own hands and brought them to her withered face, tearing viciously at her skin and falling to the floor in a heap.
'Rhiannon,' said Erim gently, keeping her distance.
'My name's not Rhiannon!' shrieked the girl, and her eyes rolled to the back of her head.
I lie curled up in the forever darkening boot of the car, counting my shallow breaths which shatter the silence with a piercing cry. I do not know how long I have been here but it must have been days. I am growing steadily weary and my limbs ache from confinement. My grandfather told me that now I that I am twelve I have to be initiated into an adult for the cult. I am scared for what they are going to do to me. Their lies are endless and they never run out of ways they could torture me.
I feel the car stop and I let out a small gasp. My body is quivering with fear. The last I saw of them they were whipping me until blood poured down my back, laughter in their eyes. They have tied me up so that the rope itches against my skin and clings to me tighter and tighter as it draws blood.
The light scorches my eyes. I squint, attempting to block out the sun as the boot is opened. My grandfather pulls me out of the snarling darkness with rough hands and he breaks the rope. It is difficult to walk as I am almost starved to death and my legs are broken; having been snapped in two by the one my grandfather is closest to, after I watched him touch me ruthlessly in places that made me shudder.
We approach the other members of the cult and they are roaring and cheering, standing in a circle surrounding something. As we reach the crowd my grandfather pushes me into the middle and the world spins as I hit the ground in a daze, scraping my knee. I pull myself up, my eyes flickering over to the many people, mostly men, who are watching me. I gasp as I see what is in the middle of the circle.
My mother is standing with her hands tied behind her back and her feet in chains. Her face is covered with her russet coloured hair as she lowers her head. I look pleadingly into her beautiful blue eyes but her face remains stern and expressionless. This is the first time I have seen her in a long while as the cult likes to keep us separated.
I have little time to recuperate myself as the next thing I know a man is holding a red-hot poker to my neck and stabbing me repeatedly with it. I cry out in pain and shock as I feel it seething my skin, but his words are the fieriest.
'Strip,' he says, and everyone else falls quiet. 'Strip off your clothes, Rhiannon.'
I know there is no way out of this, so I pull off the ragged clothes I am wearing and stand naked in the middle of the circle, my cheeks burning as I feel the eyes of a hundred men on my exposed, malnourished body. Then I feel a hard blow to the head and I am sent crashing to the ground, feeling the jagged hard stones dig into my skin. Men are standing over me with belts clutched in their sturdy hands, and they are whipping me endlessly until the pain is so great that I scream involuntarily, sealing my eyelids tight and biting my tongue. I can hear them laughing and cheering as wet patches of crimson emerge around my broken skin. The first thing I see when I open my eyes is my mother gazing at me, her eyes full of sadness and rage.
The men step back from me and I look with bleary eyes towards them. My grandfather steps out from the circle and unbuckles his trousers, lowering his body to mine and pushing himself inside of me. I cry out in pain, silently begging for him to stop. The men fall silent but each one of them take turns to plant their seed inside of me, fierce dominance in their eyes. I look up to the sky, examining the clouds and trying to detach myself from the pain of each one of them violating my body.
It is over before I know it and I feel a harsh wrench on my hair as I am pulled up from the ground, my scalp on fire. My grandfather narrows his eyes at me, clutching a knife tightly in his hands.
'You are a murderer, Rhiannon,' he says. 'It's time for you to live up to your name.'
The cold handle of the knife is pushed into my shaking hands, and I stare at him in disbelief. Reluctantly I am hauled to the side of the circle where my mother stands, and my body is shaking vibrantly.
'You are tainted and contaminated from sin,' I hear someone hiss. 'You must be saved. Kill her! Kill her!
My mother stands with her head lowered and her hair covering her face. I want her to say something but her mouth is covered with cloth that they tied around her. I want her to wrench herself free of those chains and save me, like she has done so many times before.
I hear something click and I turn around to see the barrel of a gun held exactly eye level with me. The holder stands grinning, his eyes fierce.
'Do it,' he sneers. 'Do it or I'll kill you and your mother.'
The crowd jeers and I am pushed further towards my mother with groping hands, the knife in my own clutch threatening to drop from my weak, trembling grasp. My heart has stopped and so has my breath. I stand frozen to the spot with my body paralysed.
I feel the hard gun shoved against the back of my head. Something wet gollops down my scalp and the words "Kill her" are snarled viciously into my ear. I feel dizzy and my body aches all over. I begin to cry; thin, salty tears streaming down my cheeks as I see my mother's limp, tired body crouch over.
'Hurry up!' says a man from the crowd, and he rams the red-hot poker they were using earlier into my bare back. I muffle a yell and my body is jerked foreword. The noise from the crowd drowns out my sobs and shakily I lift the knife, shutting my eyes tight.
'There is nothing in front of me,' I whisper quietly to myself, and I bring the knife down in front of me.
I scream as I feel the knife my hand is grasping insert into something hard and fleshy. I pull back my hand and fall to the floor, dropping the knife and only opening my eyes when my body has reached the ground. I can hear my mother's screaming shivering through the air and I am bawling hysterically, clamping my hands tight around my ears and shutting my eyes once again as I see gollops of blood fall to my mother's feet.
'I'm sorry!' I moan, gasping for air between my sobs. 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry!'
'Don't be,' I hear a sharp hiss in my ear and my head is forced up to where my dying mother stands, my fingers yanked out of my ears. Her screams are piercing and poison to my ears as my body shakes frantically with fear at the sight of her mutilated body. It's unbearable to watch and I am paralysed with shock.
The crowd is hooting and screeching, and I am hauled to my feet and pulled back as someone drops something at my mother's feet. Both the ground surrounding her and my mother's body erupts in roaring flames and I shy away from the heat, still shell-shocked and weak.
I am still in the circle, and someone by my side spits forcefully in my face as the fire crackles raucously.
'Murderer,' he growls.
My eyes blur from tears and after the crowd goes silent they roar up again, yelling "Murderer!" and "Fucking bitch!" into my face. I am confused and disorientated, but before I have time to react to the fit of indescribable rage screaming inside of me, the cult hushes and my grandfather comes into my view. I can feel the heat of the licking flames behind me on my back and hear its deafening growls.
'She's full of sin,' says my grandfather, his eyes dark. 'She has to be saved.'
There are shrieks of agreement from the rest of the cult, and my grandfather takes hold of me with firm hands. He lunges towards the middle of the circle and pushes me into the fire.
The yells from the cult are dying out. My body is screaming and unbearable heat rushes through my ears with piercing force. I claw helplessly at the cool air in front of me as my skin seethes. I am screaming, screaming, screaming for the darkness…