Death. How do you feel when you’re dead? Really, there’s no one to describe it and yet everyone goes babbling on about how they feel dead on the inside, but do they? I’m not dead, though I will eventually die, for now I’m simply decaying.
Nostalgia makes it worse, makes me feel a sense of grief in my soul. Hollow.
She sits by my side sometimes, stroking my mind until I fall asleep in the arms of an illusion and suddenly I’m back, back to those winter days faking illness. Mother would give me hot soup and cradle me under the tenuous flames of an imperial fireplace and read until my worries drained away.
Love enraptured my heart and blindfolded my eyes. I was fourteen. Mother hated him. He was a man of the night she said. He’ll do you harm. She was wrong. Still is. Wrong. From one day to the next, the Danse Macabre followed her like the sun’s icy shadow. She became the devil. Shattered all the delicate architecture of my memories, replacing them with screams, hysteria, punishments and eventually silence. This was worse. She did not care anymore, turned her back on her daughter. Me. She invited me to leave and so I did. I collected all of my belongings and headed towards my sentence.
Death. I presumed it was winter; the cold floor stabbed the flesh tightly glued to my bones. The wind whistled through the water pipes echoing a ghostly symphony of embittered prosperity.
At the back of my eyes I can still see those mellow summer days laying by his side as the heat pushed down our naked bodies onto the couch siphoning our energy away as he wrapped his limbs around mine. I felt so safe, I felt free. The dope would free my spirit from worry, it gave me the strength to return to my parents’ house every night and fake a smile.
But I was far away, in a land buried under black snow and black fur coats. No fairy tale, no candy cane pillows and of course no Prince Charming. Howling chants of misery came shrieking from the other Shlyukhi and pealed like insistent church bells against the floor, echoing through the walls. Yet, if I closed my eyes tight enough, not to hear, I could feel the enchanting nutcracker dancing inside my heart from the ballet hall across the street.
Escape dominated my thoughts. Another chance to make things work. In a radiant yellow parlour the breeze will caress the silk white curtains, making the bluebells tingle and we will feel the pure ecstasy, joy. My castle on a cloud. It’s funny, how my entire life turns amongst running away and how going back was all I wished for then.
Drowned in my own mattress, I felt exhausted. Katarina my only confidant here lay by my side, on her mattress. We felt pity for the others but wouldn’t share with them. Survival. Mere existence.
I told her my idea, I told her I yearned for her to come with me, but was too scared. Too scared to die living.
“Ya’ wanna make’em kill me? We’ll get slaughtered, If we even try to step a foot out tha’ door, ya’ gonna have ta look for ‘nother one. Now go ta sleep”
Tears yielded freely and caressed my cheeks as reassurance everything would be okay. My eyelids fell heavily on my eyes dampening my eyelashes. Releasing my mind from the foreign world where I was stuck in, feeling, for a short lapse of time, fully free.
Waking to the beat of ammunition hitting the ceiling became the morning routine. Sometimes I even wished for one of those Kalashnikovs to put a bullet straight through my skull. But today was different. As I peeked through the side of my rheumy eyes, Katarina wasn’t there. The girls flittered around like beheaded hens. But Katarina, Katarina wasn’t there. I forced my body to stand up and rushed to the main floor. I could hear screaming from the corridor, the sound of leather cracking into human flesh.
At the end of the room, Katarina held herself up. Her knees cringed with every bash, her teeth clenched and her blistering back oozed increasingly with every lament. A force pushed my spine onto the ground. Suddenly the air felt heavy, burning. Everything felt dreary as I pulled my head up trying to understand what was going on, someone grabbed my hair, dragging me across the room.
Master kneeled down; he stroked my cheek, enjoying every millimetre of my velvety skin. The only part of my body remaining untouched. For some reason if we were still beautiful there was no sickness to what they did.
“Sofia, Sofia, always liked to act like a hero… After two years under my custody you’re still battling against my authority” his lips felt moist as he articulated the words, the vicious taste reverberated inside my eardrum. “ You know what this means don’t you my little girl?” He made me nauseous. Oh god how much I wanted to make him suffer my authority, crawl to my feet begging me to stop. But then I wouldn’t. I would make him feel like an ublyudok, a bastard, all he ever deserved.
I was scared, of course, I was scared. I was fighting against the behemoth. I had to be intelligent, cautious. I was already risking enough. Katarina, I felt sorry for her she was going to moulder in that dump. I’d said I’d try to get her out of there if I ever got to escape. I hadn’t promised it though; I didn’t know whether I would even want anything to do with this again.
Would Jim remember me? It had only been two years, but would he? Suddenly my heart flooded with expectations. I felt the rush of adrenaline tingling in my stomach. I was ready. I had the metal bar. I’d studied the possible exits. I was ready.
I was in the ventilation system. The Artic cold made the tips of my fingers burn beneath my skin: I was starting to lose sense of my extremities when I recognized a familiar voice. I re-played its timbre in my brain again. Shivering in fear I glanced down through the grille and then I saw him. Jim. A drill burrowed into my stomach, my heart was being torn apart, my throat constricted suffocating my breath. Then all at once the pain floated away making me feel so light, so pure, my spirit laid harmoniously on the cold metal tube. I could imagine that’s what babies feel inside their mother wombs.
Black. My sore mind was blasting inside my skull. That motherfucker had sold me out; he had taken advantage of my vulnerability. I felt a rush of heat radiating out through the pores of my face. I felt so stupid, so simple, so shallow.
It was already quite late, I could feel the temperature rising and the birds chanting from the other side of the ventilation system. I didn’t have much time left before they’d realise I had escaped. As quickly as possible I slid towards liberty. I could see it, the racked faint aurora; my eyes swelled with a cascade of joyful tears. My body glided across like a blue heron and faced the rack that separated me from the street. I was there. I removed the rack.
There was a guard standing in front of the brothel, just one. Idiot. I scored the metal bar I’d been carrying, aimed it at the top of his head, hoping it would be sharp enough, to pierce inside, rupturing everything as the skull caved in. It was. I jumped over his prostrate body and ran, ran, ran.
I ran. Not even checking if I were chased or not. I reached the first metro station, hoping to find a policeman. Nothing. I went up to a man, begged him to buy me a ticket. He glared at me in repugnance as if I were viral. I started sobbing in frustration; my moans increased finally erupting into an incessant cry, a desperate plea. Suddenly a girl a beautiful little girl pulled the side of my dress allowing me to notice her kind green eyes as she gave me a ticket with her soft, baby-like hands before she ran back and to buried her face into her mother’s coat. A flash of memory darted through my mind. Poor little fool.
I had returned to the cradle of my misery. Yet so different now, humane; comfortably sitting by the fireplace, It truly felt like home. It wasn’t my home but yet, a home. I reported everything to the police-the brothel, the beatings, the slavery. Mother and Father insisted. However, who in this harmonious world would believe my dissonant figure? Chained to a far away reality where white would always be shaded grey.
I read about us in the papers, Brothel Burnt to ashes by the Black Hand, Blazed in glorious freedom. I nostalgically thought about Katarina, of our midnight talks and our shared secrets. Our unconscious support. My psychologist insisted that I shouldn’t blame myself for leaving her behind. I didn’t.