The Sunflower's Cassette

Written October 2020

Word Count: 972

[Trigger Warning: Content may not be appropriate for all viewers]

Rewind.

Stop. Play.

I remember it like it was happening today. Mommy used to tell me stories about how sunflowers came from drops of sunlight and how they show us that there can still be light on the earth. She said I was her sunflower; I was an itty-bitty seed that grew every day. When I saw her last, she told me that I still had some growing to do.

"Okay! It's on!"

"No way! I'm not gonna do it!"

"C'mon silly girl, you sang so beautifully just a minute ago… What are you giggling for? Hey, you can't escape me!"

Mommy used to be like a sunflower. Daddy took good care of her. He worked a lot so we could have a roof over our heads- that's what he said, anyway. He always made sure she was eating healthy things, like salad and water. At dinner, we would all sit together at the table and watch TV together. I don't like TV. I don't understand it. They use fancy words and yell at each other and fight– it makes me upset. But I'm used to it now.

"Fine, let's sing it together then. Ready?"

"The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout. Down came the rain, and washed the spider out…"

Sometimes when I was tucked away in bed, I could hear mommy and daddy talking to each other. It was really loud, so I had to press my pillow to my ears to fall asleep. One night, I remember mommy came back into my room after she already said "sweet dreams". Her face was red and stained with tears. Daddy pounded on the locked door while mommy held me close– so close I could feel her heart pounding.

"Out came the sun and dried up all the rain; and the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the spout again!"

The day when the sky was grey, and the air tasted like stale bread, I walked home from school and called out for mommy. I threw down my backpack and eagerly searched the house. Maybe she's washing the bedsheets– she's always doing that. I looked around everywhere, but mommy wasn't home. Mommy had never been gone before. She was always there, waiting for me. When I was all alone, suddenly, the rooms felt large and empty. All the lights were off. I strained on my tippy-toes to turn on the light switch, but I couldn't reach them.

"Hahaha! Very good!..."

Click.

Rewind.

Stop. Play.

Have you ever thought that everyone is just a doll or a robot? And you're the only real person? It's like you're the only one that exists. You're the only conscious one. I thought that for a while. But then daddy came home that night to a dark and silent house. He smelled like pee, and his pants were covered in mud. I couldn't tear myself away when I looked up at his bearded face. I couldn't move. It was burned into my mind. He stared at me. Called my name. Quietly, in a whisper. But I could hardly breathe.

"Okay! It's on!"

"No way! I'm not gonna do it!"

He screamed my name louder than a lion's roar, and everything shook. I could hear the vases ringing and the plants drifting gently. It was like an invisible earthquake, but I was the only one who was shifting and everything else simply vibrated in response. Then daddy stomped over to me. I thought that the house was going to fall on us. The sounds would break all the glass, and the violent movement would make the walls crumble.

"Fine, let's sing it together then. Ready?"

Daddy grabbed at my arm and yanked me across the dusty floor. I was confused, and his touch hurt. The scariest thing was, when I started screaming and crying, he didn't seem to notice. I called out to mommy, but she never came. He pulled a cord dangling from the ceiling, and a staircase fell open like a drawbridge to an ancient dungeon. Up he carried me by my arm as I struggled. He told me later that I didn't struggle hard enough. That I was nothing that he couldn't handle. I was weak.

"The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout..."

I thought that if he released me, the pain would stop, but the moment he let go of me was the moment I was thrown onto an old mattress. I glanced down at my arm and spotted the red mark. In the few seconds it took for him to approach, my mind committed the scene to memory like a framed picture. The dark attic. The smell of rotting wood. The specks of dust that breezed past my face. The spider webs that hung from the ceiling and littered the floor.

"Down came the rain, and washed the spider out…"

The dark shadow of a man I never knew of.

I still remember how he dropped his belt on the floor. I can smell the musky odor that filled the air. Feel his hands pressing against my arms and hips. And the sharp, blinding pain. That was the day when I learned something very important.

"Out came the sun and dried up all the rain…"

I learned that in this world, I wasn't the real person. I was a doll.

"… and the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the spout again!"

"Hahaha! Very good!..."

Click.

Your sunflower is wilting, mommy. I stopped growing. I wish you could come to water me. Please wash away the dirt that sticks no matter how hard I scrub. He is haunting me, even though I'm safe now. I still sense his presence at night when I lean into my bed. Will I ever face the sun again, mommy?

Rewind.

Stop. Play.