Despondency has an address, and this is it.
Our house is one of a series of identical houses on the fringes of this forest. The ever present dankness and semi shadow is meant to humble and educate.
From an early age blind obedience and outright denial of any desire or ambition for ‘things’ outside the designated square meters of one’s life is inculcated into us.
My need to escape this death trap has become tangible, thereby noticeable. Judgement and disappointment is being doled out to me, in generous portions and on a daily basis, by the community and at home.
At age seventeen I am being marginalized for questioning, wanting and dreaming.
The rainy season brings with it months of humid chill. A chill that penetrates into the marrow intensifying my angst. I am one of the many shadows inhabiting these woods, born of moss and mud. It is from this lonely dark place that my story has emerged. I can now see it perfectly formed in my mind’s eye.
It is my story; the story I will tell in the future.
That day, as I remember it, the fire was blazing in the fireplace. Someone walking past the house, noticing the plume of smoke exiting the chimney stack might have thought it a charming, even painterly, scene set against the dark moody forest and stormy skies.
But, indoors, the little ones clung to each other under their bunk bed, whimpering and wide eyed while the adults wailed.
I was thrashing about so violently that my skeleton felt like it was separating from its outer shell. Spit and venom was flying in all directions. When his powerful bear like paw of a hand came down on me, it forced my head to snap sideways. Enraged On pure enraged reflex, I barreled into him, knocking him backwards, with such force that the satisfyingly clean cracking sound of skull meeting stone reverberated in the air.
Afterwards, he lay there crumpled and motionless on the ground, dark blood pooling about his head and a stunned look on his face.
The thick silence was broken by a baleful howl as she came at me like a wild beast; scratching and clawing; face bruised purple and contorted beyond recognition.
After what seemed an eternity, she became limp in my arms passed out. I let her drop into a heap next to him.
I added a few more logs to the fire and made sure the little ones each had a blanket. They were still huddled hugging each other under the bed unsure whether to crawl out now that everything had gone silent. I smiled at them and said goodbye as I crossed, for the last time, what had been my daily threshold to humiliation and suffering.
Closing the door firmly behind me, I quickly made my way down the sodden path, ran across the muddy fields as far away from the shadows as I could get and raced towards the sun.
I never looked back.