I saw her from afar, and I knew it was love. Perhaps it was her shrill tones or the dank dungeon’s drips running down my spine, but I felt myself shiver with grim pleasure and anticipation, and I knew this would be an experience worth screaming about. I wasn’t wrong.
We – Louis, Bill, Francis and myself – had been together almost since the outbreak tore apart our old lives. We had a bond. It’s funny how a single moment can lead to a re-evaluation of your whole life. Perhaps the love we bore for one another developed as a necessity for survival. We’d saved each other’s lives more times than I’d care to remember. I used to insist on projecting a clearly defined area of personal space – perhaps, in the plaza, I would have steered clear of Bill rather than grant his bedraggled frame entrance. As I drew closer to her, it became apparent that I’d always deeply feared Louis. I’d pray, ‘Please let this be the end’, rather than have to make eye contact with him, rather than have him touch my skin.
Their frantic thumping, their incessant wailing, now the soundtrack to our moment. She violated me with a gaze, I submitted. An instant of paralysing fear. I no longer held my Remington, had I let it clatter to the ground? I tried to think about the time before now and found my mind unwilling to cast beyond this instant. I thought of the stench: the partially liquidated subjects of her domain had undergone a transformation less than a month ago, and the humidity of the Spring had diffused their fragrance throughout this network; compelled, I inhaled their sweetness.
Her breath on my nape. The witch, smiling with pride, spins me around as I giggle at the sight of the hems of my dress as they raise into the air. Daddy doing unspeakable things to me, I bleed, and always those eyes, so similar to my own. I’m being read to and I know I’m going to die down here.
I’m not tired yet! “I don’t want to go to sleep”, I cry. Daddy’s face is no longer smiling. Am I going to be smacked? A terrific blast topples me from my crib. I fall to the wet carpet, which no longer seems so soft. A bright flash – the colour of my abuser’s eyes – then the mad screams of a woman in torment. Caring flesh hefts me aloft. I look into the dark eyes of my saviour and tears flow as the realisation sets in that this is the man I am going to spend the rest of my life with.