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I blinked my eyes into focus, emerging slowly back from my cave and back into the real world. I wondered briefly how long I had been sitting perfectly still like that, unthinking, before realizing I didn’t care.
I stood up from my seat and walked down the length of the hall.
Don’t look at it, I thought desperately, repeatedly, as I passed the calendar on the wall. It’s just a number.
I lifted my arms over my head, clasping my hands behind my head, a subconscious effort to get myself to just keep moving. My face dripped into the beginnings of a grimace. The thoughts were seeping slowly into the edges of my mind. The surest way to think about something is to tell yourself not to.
I could feel the grimy, dirty feeling begin to penetrate my skin. It consumed me. Fighting the need to claw the impurity off of my body, I stripped down quickly and rushed into the shower.
I had to do anything to keep the memories from creeping up on me, yet again.
I rotated the white porcelain knob gradually as far to the left as it would go. I stood in the flowing water a moment, trying to get my chilled body to soak in its heat. My nerves cried out as I plunged my head and face into the stream. The burning water felt like shards of glass whipping around my face. I gritted my teeth. My hands shook as the disgusted, dirty feeling only grew in intensity. Colors popped in my vision like bursting light bulbs, sporadic flashes of memory. Memory so sharp and intense that tremors shook my knees.
I took a deep breath. I lathered shampoo into my hair firmly, focusing on the motions of reality so I wouldn’t be dragged into the past. I stood directly under the showerhead again, rinsing the soapy bubbles from my hair.
The hot water directly hit the crown of my head and fell in sheets over me. It slithered down my back in tendrils, malicious and unrelenting fingers that teased as they wrapped around every curve and trickled down the drain, taunting.
His hands clawed gently down my back in sick ecstasy. I pressed myself deeper into the ground, trying to pull away. The scents of moss and sweat rested over my face like a suffocating sheet.
With a violent shiver, I retreated from the water. I leaned my forehead against the cool wall of the shower. Rotating my head, I pressed each burning cheek to its smooth surface. I didn’t close my eyes for even a second, my feeble defense against my own mind. My breathing shallowed.
The moisture of the soil was soaking into the back of my shirt. One arm was pinned beneath my body and the other swatted helplessly, unable to budge his broad, lean torso from pressing down and constricting my breath. Every part of me was shaking. The fear was like an electric current.
I gasped. With the deepest of breaths, I turned my back to the wall of the shower and tilted my head back against its solidity.
My lungs were searching. My mouth gaped, but all that seemed to enter was the steam that filled the shower. I needed air, and everywhere around me it was coated in slick water. I was suffocating in a cloud.
My hands groped ahead of me and pushed the knob on the opposite wall. The shower shut off, but the mist was still surrounding me. I stumbled out of the shower before the walls could close in on me and wrapped my towel tightly around my shoulders.
I stood without moving for several minutes. I knew that the second the towel rustled, cold air would come rushing into its folds, biting and snapping. I looked at my own reflection in the medicine cabinet mirror. I looked like I had seen a ghost. I looked like I was a ghost. My cheekbones, once glimmering with a prominent grin, were gaunt and stiff. My eyes dark and haunted. My features seemed no more than a brittle shell. Clenching my jaw, I began to dry myself off. My skin shone pink from the boiling water I had been standing in. But I still felt the perpetual layer of invincible grime.
Going through the typical bedtime motions, I crawled in between my sheets a few minutes later. My eyes were wide open, and frozen that way. I knew the nightmares would be coming soon. Just as they did every night. I felt the warmth and pressure build up behind my eyes, my nose, my throat. The shaking sobs were trying to fight their way out. I felt a peculiar weakness in all of my muscles. I clenched the sheets even tighter between my fingers, trying to prove to myself that I wasn’t as frail as I absolutely knew that I was. I started violently, nearly leaping a foot in the air, as I heard the wind whine through the trees. It sounded uncannily like…
He moaned deeply. His thighs quaked between mine and my body trembled, trapped. Everything about this was violating, wrong, disgusting. I continued to cry out, but the unidentifiable lump of fabric shoved halfway down my throat was a hindrance, muting my would-be shouts.
My mind had shut down. It was happening. I couldn’t stop him.
His hands trailed all over my body, enveloping the shape of it. Gestures that would be romantic, comforting, under any other circumstance. But not this. Not like this.
He slid the blade of the knife held between his teeth in winding patterns over my stomach and chest. He was threatening me; he hadn’t used it yet, but it sent a clear message. He was not afraid to.
As he assaulted me, I fell limp. My thoughts retreated and I blacked out. I was drained of everything. Energy, will, self-respect, courage. It was snatched violently by the man that held me captive and ravaged me in a forest so close to my own home.
It was like it was happening all over again. Hot tears raked down my cheeks and my chest ached with the force of my violent, erratic breathing. I looked down at my stomach to see that my arms had been crossed over myself, a vain attempt at protection, but in my terror had clawed over the sensitive skin. Distinct, terrible lines dragged across my abdomen, physical proof of my horrible damage.
I felt filthy. Impure. Repulsive. Sick. I wanted to crawl out of my own skin.
Today was the one-year… “anniversary.” I should have known the nightmares would be this bad.