Chuck Wendig’s ‘The first line’ Challenge.
The first line was contributed by devsmess. I wonder if she knew what she was letting herself in for.
Image credits go to my newest friend and source of inspiration, Bettina, at http://zeebam.com She is a very talented visual artist and writer, and an all-round lovely person. Go there. Immerse. Repeat.
** Multiple Warnings: strong continuous horror, catastrophic violence, disturbing image **
The darkroom was decades unused, but she found it still suitable for developing photos; and as the contours of the images darkened and formed, so did her impression of the mother she thought she knew.
Zee sat on the floor, one leg tucked uncomfortably under her, and cradling her broken right arm with her left. It would take months for the deep bruising on her body to heal. She knew that from years of experience. Now she sat there, staring at the double doors leading into the darkroom that had introduced her to a world of pain and had held her there, captive, for so many years after.
Fate plays cruelties on the innocent, and at times it pays retribution to the guilty. The next few minutes would determine which was to be paid or played out next. Zee was tired; that kind of bone-seeping tiredness that comes when all the adrenalin has run out, having done battle with crashing waves of fear and the sea monsters of pain. There was nothing more that she could do now. This had been her last stand.
The silence was shattered by a heavy bang on the other side of the door, that sounded like earth-shaking thunder. Small scratching sounds followed, as if mice were attempting to claw their way through. “Not mice,” she thought. “One single, solitary rat.”
It had been going on for most of her life, and all of the life she could recall. It began as a punishment for some childlike naughtiness, but she long knew well enough that this was simply an excuse to usher in the real and more brutal purpose.
The darkroom was not fully dark. Dim lights had been set up, so that she could see what was to be done to her. It was part of the thrill her tormenter needed to feed and inflict all the vile obsessions, tortures, and pain.
The torment had been very cleverly devised. Until now no one had really believed her, even though she kept running away and twice even went to the police. After a while, something inside her flickered and died, quietly, there in the mist of her life. There is no tragedy as real as the child who has given up on life, and she was that child. It didn’t help that she was uncoordinated and often fell or hurt herself in the presence of others. Every scar, every painful bruise and blood stain, was attributed to that and her ‘overactive imagination’. Now she was known as a troubled teen, as if that trouble had something to do with her age. Was it to be a pattern that played out throughout her life? That there would always be some age-appropriate ‘explanation’ for who they thought she was?
The last attack had been unusually brutal; she had lost teeth and she had burn marks on her inner thighs that suspiciously failed to support the self-harm and carelessness she had been forever labeled with. Questions were asked, but they were the wrong ones asked of the wrong person. The dark and hate-filled eyes glaring at her from behind the police officer’s back warned her to keep silent. A stealthy glint of steel told her that the wrong word now would kill the officer and she’d be next.
This time, it was different. The threat on her life was real and present, and that spark of life that she thought had died in her suddenly and devastatingly flared back into life. When there’s nothing left to lose, there’s nothing left to lose. Zee lunged forward, grabbing the blade of the specially honed knife. Its tip rounded and dulled but with a blade like a razor, it had been designed to slice but not stab. Slicing, as her arms and legs attested, was the goal. Dicing, until now, was not.
The flesh on the palms of her hands opened and bled furiously, but she held them firmly closed and wrenched the knife free. Their eyes met in that quiet and desolate second before she plunged it into the mass of hatred standing before her. Even a dull tip will penetrate if enough force is applied, and once the knife was embedded she wrenched it furiously from side to side. The attack was over, because the attacker was down and dying, or perhaps even dead.
She dropped the knife, which clattered hollowly on the floor in the confined space. Zee stumbled away, disoriented, and feebly reached for a handle on one of those dreaded doors. It turned but didn’t open. She whimpered, her hands shaking, and looked up at the slip lock that held the door firm. She couldn’t reach it, and there was nothing she could use. The knife! She could slip the lock with the knife! It was then that her arm was broken by the heavy crash of one of the ‘weapons of war’ that had been held in reserve for a ‘special anniversary’.
There in the dim light she spun and pushed at the mass that intended on killing her. Through tears and pain and blood she heard the thud as body met floor, and with her good hand she reached for the weapon and slid the lock open.
Light burst in as she opened the door, disorienting her, making her head spin; bile rose in her throat as she stumbled out into the clean, sweet air of the storage room. She slammed the door shut and staggered away, until she couldn’t go a step further. With a sigh and a small cry she slumped to the floor, one leg tucked under her.
The darkroom doors burst open, the darkness inside strangely swallowing the light that tried to enter. She saw legs up to the thighs, and the dull outline of the weapon of war she hoped would kill her on the first hit. Staggering out, her father glared at her with eyes so furious they alone could have killed. He took one staggering step and then another. “You bitch,” he said with menace and malice. So, this was it. Devoid of all emotion she looked at him, barely registering the ‘click’ from behind her.
His eyes went wide as he looked past her, and then they went lifeless as the bullet smashed through his forehead. Her mother walked past her, briefly and oh, so tenderly, touching Zee’s shoulder. She walked to the man she had married, looking at him as if studying something curious, and then she aimed the gun and fired twelve more bullets into his lifeless body.
All the photos Zee had taken of her injuries over the years; the hidden space she’d filled them with, everything that had developed in the darkroom chemicals and in her life had been found by her mother in the shed in the yard, where the gun was kept, just minutes ago. Zee’s impressions of her mother had changed over the years as her mother aged, but what had just happened made the biggest impression of all.