'CHIMERA' Chapter One: The Silent Treatment

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                               Chapter One: The Silent Treatment

Ordinary days that turn extraordinary don't typically have warning signs. They begin as expected and spiral out of your ability to imagine. Dreaming is nothing new to me. My mind is my sanctuary and my savior both. It supplies an inner voice that keeps me from the utter despair of my life in captivity and gives me access to an outside world of information. Who—or what—brings this to me and for what purpose? That's an excellent question for which I hope I find an answer if I survive.

This particular morning I awoke from a strange dream that left me so restless I immediately sat up, violently scissor-kicking at the threadbare sheet, my only covering during the cold night hours. When my thighs rubbed together, I stilled and thought to myself, did I just pee the bed?

I concentrated on my bladder; it still felt full enough that I knew I needed to use the tiny stainless steel prison cell toilet. A whisper-quiet mechanical whirring informed me the corner mounted camera had focused in on my movement. It tracked me in the ten-by-ten space as if I might up and disappear.

Whoever was on the monitors wanted to know why I was up at—I looked at the glowing digital clock display on the side table—5:45a.m., fifteen minutes before my alarm usually went off. The dream I'd been having ran circles in the background of my mind.

I shook off the sensation with a resigned indifference. Why did it matter what I dreamed if I was still here, wherever 'here' was? I tried not to remember the day of my abduction, but the memory rolled to the forefront against my will as it often did when I woke in the dark.

The men who broke down our door in the middle of the night to kill my parents and take me captive had moved with precision. The whole event that had changed my life forever and been the subject of countless nightmares had probably taken five minutes or less. Three hundred seconds to wreck a life, a whole family. As they carried me out the apartment door, I saw Father's sightless glassy eyes as he lay sprawled on my parents' bed. Mother's petite white feet protruded past the edge of the open bedroom doorway.

I forced myself from the memory by imagining an iron portcullis slamming down. I pulled back the sheet to investigate the cause of the sticky sensation between my thighs. My linen night shirt had ridden up my legs to bunch around my hips. Even in the dim light from the clock, the stain had a dark reddish tint.

My inner voice was alive with unexpressed hope at my body's physical milestone. I searched for information instinctively, and it settled like a falling feather in my mind. My heart rate steadied as I absorbed the knowledge of thirteen being a perfectly acceptable age for menstruation to begin. Again the wall mounted camera whirred as if it was focusing on my sheets. Not half a minute later I heard the beep of a swiped key card.

In walked both of my regular guards. I called them Thing One and Thing Two because neither of them had ever spoken a word to me, and they looked like twin androgynous cartoon characters from one of the Dr. Seuss books my mother read me as a child. No stubble marred either of their faces, and they both had weak chins. I could only tell them apart by the scar on Thing One's neck. Sporting shaved heads and white scrubs with white orthopedic tennis shoes, they each grabbed an arm. The skin on my arms burned where it was twisted and pinched in their grip.

As soon as they crossed to the cold tiled floor of my tiny adjoining bathroom, they lowered me to my feet. Thing One pulled my ruined night shift over my head catching my ears on the way. Thing Two leaned down to tug my underwear to my ankles.

They usually left me to my own devices. I tried to pretend it didn't matter I was naked in front of them. I shuffled forward into the shower as fast as I could and closed the door to the cramped space. The springs on my cot squeaked as they stripped the sheets. I reached out to turn on the hot water as far as the rusted knob would allow. Since they only let the water get barely above lukewarm, I was in no danger of scalding my skin.

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