The Watchmen – Part I – A Thriller Short Story

And the Watchmen wander the streets, gazing at the scampering rodents;

 

The flurries and flutter, a wisp of a coat. With weary eyes they usher;

 

Tick-tock, little rabbits run to your den.

 

For on this night, hallowed night, We send the world to silence.

 

Ever still, ever curious in your abode, you watch;

 

wait.

 

The Watchmen release their hymn to fall upon deaf ears.

 

Let the breeze stir, let the night rise; Oh peace, dear quiet surely now come.

 

You will huddle, sweet nothings, such dears in your homes; Oblivious, diurnal, and fear of the unknown; Eyes drooping and bones weary.

 

For the world, in one night, the Watchmen did see. They gazed from the dark, the mist, while it crept;

 

into the crevices, through humble dwellings and at last, Their eyes cast up to the sky.

 

This night, hallowed night, They gifted the world to silence.

 

14

 

It was just a note, some silly poetry I’d stumbled across in my old high school backpack. I remember taking a few creative writing courses before college, and then a few more in college. I thought most of my work had been transferred to my blog online, but I guess I had missed one.

The number at the bottom intrigued me. I have no idea why it was there, or what it was meant to be, but the font on it was different and bold like it held some sort of importance.

I can hardly believe that I graduated just a few weeks ago and already starting my new job. My story is like something out of a dream. I doodled all through college, worked on projects with my friends, and submitted a few of my art pieces to companies with some silly dream to be a character designer for games.

I couldn’t believe it when I got not one but two different offers─ from the companies I never expected to hear back from. We’re talking major game titles, the guys that went to conventions with millions at their disposal.

 

I still can’t believe it.

 

I was floating on a cloud as I packed my things to move down to Dallas. Texas, man that sounded weird. I was always picturing that I would be in Eerie, or some small town in Pennsylvania for the rest of my life. I don’t even know where to begin with clothes shopping, or what to bring. I stared at my shovels and snow boots. I guess those definitely won’t be going with me.

 

#

 

After several tear-filled moments and lots of convincing, I told my parents that I would be sure to call them once I got in my new place and I was all settled in. I had made arrangements for my new place over the phone, but I hadn’t actually gotten to see it. Saying I was anxious to step foot in it was an understatement of the year. Part of the perks of this new job was I got to live in the complex just next to our office. It was newly built and within five miles of Downtown. I’d be able to drive anywhere. I was bummed that I would have to look for a car, but according to my new boss I was definitely going to need one in Dallas. Apparently public transportation wasn’t anything close to what we had back home.

I smiled as the thought crossed my mind. I was still thinking of mom and dad’s place as mine. This was definitely going to take some adjusting. Thankfully, they had given me the weekend to get settled before I started work Monday.

 

My space was actually larger than I expected. I had room for everything and then some. It was a sad realization that I really didn’t have a lot. Except my art supplies and computer which I kept exceptionally organized and stored away. I wasn’t the sort to collect things, or buy unnecessary items. Basically, in less than a handful of hours, the internet was hooked up and I was good to go.

 

I streamed some music as I dug through the last box. I’m not sure why, but I decided to go ahead and look at that poem again. Hell, maybe I’d run up to a hobby store and get a frame. It was kind of a neat piece, I’d even doodles some hooded figures around it.

 

After rummaging around, I located it near the bottom shoved between some art folders. I looked at it and frowned. There were drawings on it, but this time it was a city skyline that was surrounded by hooded figures. To top it all off, something else had changed. 

 

I could write off the doodles changing as maybe my memory hadn’t been right, or someone was playing a joke on me.But the more I tried rationalizing that logic, the more concerned I got. My parents weren’t the joking sort, especially my mother. They both wouldn’t have done that. Despite it being odd, that wasn’t what was really concerning me. The number had changed from 14 to 12. It had been exactly two days since I looked at it last. My hands suddenly felt very cold and the color drained from my face. Was the numbers a sort of countdown? More importantly, a countdown to what? 

 

I turned the paper over in my hand, looking from the back to the front. There was no other information on it, no date, just the same words. The skyline looked familiar to me, but I couldn’t quite place where I’d seen it. I pulled out my phone and snapped a few pictures, thinking maybe I could search it up online later and then put my phone away.

 

#

I frowned at the screen, shifted in my seat and then zoomed in on my character. It was my first design for a new game that was still in the planning stages. They had trusted me to come up with the side character designs. I was insanely happy at my role here as it was, but this was going to be a major release game and I got to be a part of it. Me. It really all was too good to be true. My first character, to my amazement, was approved and I was adding the finishing touches on her shirt and jeans. 

 

I added a patch, removed it, and then added it again. I decided the cute little hooded emblem would work with the dystopian theme and kind of gave it a punk edge. I grinned as I turned on the final layer. She looked badass, and not overly complicated which means other artists could duplicate the style in the department. I clicked save and got up from my desk to stretch. I looked down and blinked a few times. 

 

I couldn’t believe it. Had I really been here for twelve hours? A quick peek out at the office confirmed it. Everyone was gone except me, the building was completely dark. My mind shifted to the letter and I wondered if the numbers would change again and what, if anything, they actually meant. 

 

I’d just pushed the down arrow on the elevator when I noticed a light flickering in one of the cubicles. I guess I wasn’t here alone, one of the other artists must have stayed late to finish up. It was near the back and toward the middle of the isle. The sporadic light patterns reminded me of gameplay on a computer, like a shooter or something with fast movements. We didn’t have lamps, so it must have come from a monitor. I smirked, turning back toward the elevator. Someone was probably just chilling in the quiet office and playing games. 

 

It had been a while since I pushed the button, so I thought it would be close to our floor but the light had gone out. I pressed the down arrow again and it once again rimmed in the golden light. A loud bang erupted behind me. I spun around, expecting to see the person had stood and knocked something over or maybe something fell down. 

 

Instead, I was greeted with complete and total darkness. I panicked and froze in place, I didn’t move or dare to breathe. Ok, I reasoned, maybe the lights were on automatic timers. Suddenly there was a flash, and then the flickering started again. Except, it was the only light coming from the entire space. I turned toward the button, fumbling my way in the darkness to find it. Why hadn’t the elevator come up? The light continued its rhythmic pattern, only now there was a distinct noise to it. It ground into my head, the loud buzzing. 

 

My eyes were glued to the light, I was terrified that if I turned away something would get me. The hairs on my arms stood on end and I struggled to breathe. There was a whoosh, and then a sigh as a low groan sounded in the darkness. I could feel it. It was there, waiting just beyond the light. I didn’t think it, I knew it. I could barely make it out, but just to the left was a dark, hooded outline.

 

Its presence was full of hatred, it wanted to hurt me─ hurt me in unimaginable ways. It showed me what it was thinking. It wanted to watch as me and all of my own kind stood helpless at the towering mushroom cloud that formed in the city less than twenty miles away. I watched as my face went from a curious stare to an apprehensive one. The cloud seemed so far away, but then it was on me in an instant. Bile rose in the back of my throat as I watched myself smile wide, the skin and tissue blasting against the wall in a large, gorey pile. The whole time my grin growing impossibly large. My now half-blasted body crumpled to the floor in a loud, wet thud as the roar dissipated giving way to silence. 

 

I squeezed my eyes shut and screamed as I slammed my hand on the down arrow again and again until there was wetness. The buzzing stopped and I opened my eyes. I was shocked to find the lights were back on. The bell sounded behind me and the elevator doors opened. On shaky legs, I stumbled toward the elevator and yelped as a pair of hands gripped my shoulders. 

 

“Jesus christ. Kate, are you OK?” 

 

I wanted to cry at the familiar voice, but then I remembered that this was my boss. I glanced back at the space but found nothing there. It was calm, soft light filling the room. My lower lip quivered, but I managed to straighten myself up. 

 

“I’m so sorry,” I stuttered, “I─thought I saw something.” Devon released my shoulders and took one of my hands in his. “What on earth happened to your hand? Are you sure you’re OK? I was just coming back up to check on you and close everything down.” His voice sounded guarded as he peered into the office.  

 

I steadied my breath, convincing myself that I was just tired. It had, after all, been twelve hours and my first week. I was just stressing over the new job and move. I forced a smile, “Yeah, I’m fine really. I bumped into something and didn’t realize I cut my hand.” His shoulders relaxed and he reached out again to grasp my hand. He turned it over and looked at the jagged wound, “Either way, that’s a nasty cut. You should go get that cleaned out at the very least. You may need stitches.” I blushed scarlet and looked at the ground. I must have appeared ridiculous, like a scared little girl in an empty office building that freaked out when she was alone. 

 

Which is exactly what happened but I am way too proud to admit that in front of him. It’s bad enough that I realized it. 

 

I managed to nod my head in response, “I will. It’s been a long day,” I offer weakly. Devon smiles and clears his throat quickly releasing my hand, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to touch you, I was concerned about your cut and didn’t think about it.” I shake my head and smile, “No, no, it’s fine. I think I probably would have done the same thing.” We stand awkwardly for several moments before he takes a step toward the office. “You mind if I take a look at your progress since we’re here?” I grinned wide, “Sure. Let me go clean up and I’ll meet you at my desk.” 

 

#

 

I’m speaking a mile a minute as I spin the camera around my imported designs on the character. Devon’s face is a mask, I’m not getting anything from him. Occasionally he nods and murmurs as I explain the textures I used and the designs that can be easily duplicated by the team. When I finish, he’s quiet and we sit for a moment as he stares at it. Finally, he gestures with his hand toward my keyboard, “do you mind if I drive for a second?” I shake my head, “no, go ahead” and I slide my chair over.

 

 “Don’t take this the wrong way,” he pauses and clicks a few buttons, then grabs with the mouse, “but I can tell you aren’t as used to Maya as some of my other guys.” He rounds out a section and then pulls back to take a look. I felt my face grow hot, but smiled anyway. “Yeah, I mostly use illustrator and Photoshop with Z-Brush. I learned Maya, but I’ve grown a bit rusty.” He returned my smile, “Old school, nice. But, I wasn’t trying to say you aren’t talented, I very much think this is a great start. We’ll go over it with Zedd tomorrow.” 

We sit in comfortable proximity as he pointed out a few hotkeys and helped me with my settings. He’s really getting into depth, so at some point I grabbed a notebook and started jotting down the things that I needed to learn. 

 

I’m not sure what I’m more impressed with, the fact that he is taking time out to share so much knowledge with me, or that the owner of a game company seems to genuinely care about all his employees. I’d heard so many nasty rumors from other buddies that I was steeling myself before I got here, waiting to be yelled at. Devon seemed to be a perfect mix of teacher and boss with a lot of open discussions. He welcomed me to speak about any issues I was having and pointed out my mistakes in a way that I could learn from them. This was perfect. 

 

I don’t think either of us realized that it had been as late as it was when I got a text from my mother. 

 

It’s midnight honey, did your first day go OK? We haven’t heard from you.

 

I quickly responded to her and let her know that my first day was great and that I was sorry for worrying her. She told me that it was fine and to get some rest and call her tomorrow.

 

Devon mentioned something about us both getting some rest and that my mother was right. He walked me all the way out to the train station when it dawned on me─ the trains wouldn’t be running this late. I walked over to the schedule just to double check and sagged. The last one had been twelve thirty, I’d missed it by less than ten minutes. I could walk, I reasoned, it’s less than three miles. Or, I could Uber. I got a slight thrill as I pulled out my phone. I’d never gotten to use an Uber before, my mom had driven me everywhere when I couldn’t use the train. 

  

Devon caught on really quick what had happened and offered me a ride. I’m thankful for the dim light because he had seen me blush enough for an entire lifetime, let alone one night. He’s insistent that it’s fine and we’re on my way in less than five minutes. 

 

I’m pleasantly surprised that I get to see what the inside of a Tesla Model 3 looked like. I’ve seen a few on the road, but I have never gotten to sit in one. I’m amazed at how clean everything is, especially considering the white seats. It was so quiet, I couldn’t get over it. 

 

“So, how are you liking it so far?” Devon says. I grinned like a schoolgirl, “oh, I’m loving it,” I say excitedly,  “this car is amazing, I’ve never been in one.” His eyebrows raise and he lets out a surprised chuckle, “Well, I meant at the office but thank you. I’m pretty fond of it too.” I’m again thankful for the darkness as I yell at myself to stop being an idiot. I recover quickly, “you should be more clear about the questions you ask,” I say, shaking my head. We both share a laugh as he pulls up to the stoplight. 

 

“Sorry, let me be clear─ how are you liking everything at the new job?” He turns onto the street and I’m almost sad that we will be to my place in less than a handful of minutes. “It’s hard work, but I knew that going into it.” I pause for a few seconds and wait on him to respond, when he doesn’t, I quickly add “but it’s a great job and I’m very thankful to have it. I’m one of the lucky few that can say I draw for a living.” That got a smile out of him and I relaxed a degree. 

 

“I’m glad that you feel that way,” Devon said. He looks out the window and then glanced at me, “I meant to ask earlier─ Did you get a look at Zedd’s design already?” I furrowed my brow and pursed my lips, “At Zedd’s? No, I didn’t. Will mine clash with his?” My heart started to sink thinking about all the hours I put into a few of my characters today. Maybe I should have checked in with the team first, I hadn’t even thought about it. 

 

“Oh no, nothing like that. I just noticed that you both used a black hoodie design on your characters and had collabed. Just an odd coincidence I guess” Devon responded. I smiled at him despite the growing nausea. 

 

“Did he design his today too?” I asked. He nodded as we both pulled up in front of my place. “Yeah,” he said, “that’s why I thought the two of you had spoken about it.” “Oh,” I said, my awkward smile growing, “how odd. I guess great minds.” Devon smiles at me as I try to shrug it off and reach for the handle, “See you tomorrow Kate.” 

 

 

It’s not until I get out of the car and wave goodbye that fear started creeping its way back in. Had Zedd seen them too? I mean, a hooded figure is always related to death I suppose. Apocalyptic themes, blah blah─ It could just be that our minds were in sync. Yes, that had to be it. 

 

I tossed my keys on the counter and then sagged into my computer chair. I’m thankful that our hours are flexible at work. I could work the early eight to five, or take the ten to seven. I’m tempted to go in earlier, but honestly it’s crunch time so I know it won’t really matter and I won’t have much of an evening left even if I did come in at eight. I decided that sleep sounds better and to take the second shift. 

 

#

 

When sleep finally comes, it comes in fitful bursts. I can’t purge the image from my mind and it again keeps going back to my skeleton grinning from ear to ear, half of my face dangling by a thread. The hot, white light is blinding as the boom echoes throughout the city. 

 

And the worst part is It is there, watching from the corner. Then all at once, I realize─ not just It, but They. There, just in the building next to mine and then another standing below. They’re all staring at me, their dark hoods as black as night. I can feel the joy as they sense my suffering. They’re─devouring it. To my absolute horror, I can feel there, just there behind me. It’s right there.

 

I can’t move, and somehow I’m still alive. I can feel my bones creaking and the pain, like searing pokers jammed into my belly. My skin is slithering from my sleeves, falling to the floor in a sickening wet thump. I reach up and tear at my face wanting the sensation of dangling to stop. I can still see with the eye that now faces the floor and the one that remains in my head. I try and move, but I just fall to the ground. All I can do is lie there, suffering. Jesus.

 

I can’t take it, I just want to die.  

 

Let me die.

 

I screamed and screamed but nothing came out. There’s nothing but the deafening quiet. 

 

#

 

My eyes try to focus as I stare at the screen. I rubbed at them and stood for the hundredth time to grab a cup of coffee from the kitchen. I needed to get my shit together before I had my first team meeting with Zedd. He’d looked over my files and seemed happy with the direction I was going. I was a little nervous because this would be the first time I’d actually met the guy. We may have worked in the same building, but most of us sort of kept to ourselves. 

 

I got to meet the sound team earlier today and was slightly envious that they got to spend their time recording different noises for our game. It looked like a blast watching the actors get into character, or the strange things the guys used to make all the different sounds. I’m sure they had a sound bank, but Devon had explained that they like to add a little flair to each game. 

 

I hadn’t got to talk with him much today, but he seemed just as friendly as he did yesterday. I’m lucky to have a boss like him. Really, I’m lucky to be here. That’s why it was imperative that I make the best impression possible. I didn’t want to be seen as the newbie that can’t keep up. This morning, I’d even walked through some of the hotkeys and shortcuts Devon showed me so that I could use them with confidence. 

 

In the end, all I managed to do was stay awake and flesh out a few characters and vehicles. I was feeling pretty shitty when one thirty hit and I needed to show a team of people some scribbles and color concepts. I sighed heavily as I saved it to my folder in our drive and trudged over to the kitchen for one last pick-me-up. 

 

#

 

“Wow. Kate, was it?” I nodded over at Zedd as he shuffled through my files. He projected them up for the team to see and I felt my face growing warmer by the second. I kept trying to convince myself that I would be ready, but I was dying inside at the attention. I couldn’t wait for them to move on. “I want you to take a look at something,” he said. I watched the screen as he opened a secondary folder containing his work and then pulled it into an image viewer next to mine. My jaw dropped as I looked back and forth between the two. They were in different spots, but our characters had matching hooded tattoos. His was way more clever, hidden between the character’s knuckles and going halfway up his arm in a badass old-school reaper style. Mine was clearly displayed on my characters back and shoulder that went up into a reaper hoodie. I’d decided against the patch today and went with something a little less obvious. Zedd had caught it right away. 

 

“I can take out the flair if it messes with one of the mains,” I offer wanting to be done with it. He looks over at one of the other guys and they both grin. “Are you kidding me? This is great. Honestly, I think we should add her to one of our main crew.” Zedd pauses and then leans in to get a closer look. “Is that a scythe, that converts into a hoverboard?” I blink a few times and then stutter, “yeah─ I guess I got carried away.” The whole team laughs as I silently try to melt into the chair. 

 

“I don’t say these sorts of things lightly,” “he really doesn’t,” one of the other guys muttered. That gets another hearty laugh and it’s a few more seconds before Zedd calms them down. “But seriously, I see why Devon hired you. Did you get to see our concepts before you drew yours?” I press my lips together and shake my head side to side. “I probably should have, that would have been smart.” He chuckles. “Well, we can clean it up a little bit with the rest of the team and she’ll fit right in. Missy, I think we got ourselves a new main character.” 

I’m mortified at the thought, “Well, no, I mean it’s just some scribbles. We should ask Devon first right?” I’m practically stumbling over every word. The corners of his mouth turn up and there’s an unsettling gleam in his eye. “There’s a reason I’m team lead, Kate. Devon trusts me.” “Oh no, well, I didn’t mean that you weren’t─” words fail me and I’m left speechless at the thought of my new responsibility. This is all too much too soon, but I thanked him and smiled. 

 

I’m flooded with relief as they move on to the rest of the team. I couldn’t believe the talent I saw and they are all working on backgrounds, and side characters. I definitely didn’t deserve this. As soon as the meeting ends, I was determined to pull Zedd aside and tell him to just put me back on the side characters. 

 

The meeting lasts for just over an hour and we’re all packed up to leave. I made a beeline for Zedd and tried my best to argue that someone else’s work should be used before mine─especially since they had been there longer. That got me nowhere fast, and in the end Zedd finally convinced me that it would be fine and that he would supervise me every step of the way. 

 

After pouting for all of five minutes and slinking away, it suddenly hit me─ why am I being such a baby about this? Anyone else in my graduating class would have killed to be in the position I was. I just needed to get over this fear and allow myself to believe I was hired out of talent. 

 

I thought back to the comments earlier during our meeting and smiled, There’s a reason I’m team lead, Kate. Ok, maybe I was being a little harsh on myself. 

 

#

 

I nibbled on my stylus as I sat back and stared at my submission art. I wanted it to be perfect and I’d been playing with my Maya all day. I pulled her into a standing, and then crouching pose before I decided to send her bent on the hoverboard. Both her hands were sprawled out with flair and I made a quick gif of her pose animation for the opening credits. Technically, it’s a whole other team that does that part, but I wanted to present her with style. 

 

Zedd told me that the social media guys were working on a fun build up to release her as a surprise and asked me to sit in on a quick skype with them today. It felt super awkward at first until one of the dudes and me hit it off on another game we loved. I described in detail about her abilities, and we came up with several ability trees in less than an hour. It was going to have to be run through Devon, but Zedd said that the rough draft was looking great and that we were early enough in that adding a fourth lead was no big deal. 

 

After what felt like a long, but productive day I stood and stretched. I sent over my final draft and copied Devon on it like Zedd mentioned. I looked at my fitbit and frowned, I had barely gotten in three thousand steps today. I was definitely going to the gym tonight, especially after the team meeting donuts. I suddenly felt very aware of how many I’d eaten. Was it two, three? I shook my head, yep definitely gym time. 

 

“Hey.” I leapt at the voice and spun around. It was Zedd, but he looked─ different. His normally well kempt hair was wild and his eyes were rimmed with red. He looked as if he had rolled out of bed from a long night of drinking. 

 

And god, he smelled

 

What was that putrid odor? I tried to smile, but my wavering words gave me away, “oh, hey Zedd,” I replied, “what’s up?” He staggered toward me, his eyes trained on mine. His arm came up and he pointed at me, jabbing in my direction, “you saw them too. Didn’t you?” My eyes grew wide at how angry he sounded. “Saw who?” I asked carefully, edging my way back toward the elevator. 

 

His red, watery eyes bored into mine. He looked as if he would fall over at any moment. His hand stayed mid-air but he jabbed it in another direction, “them,” he whispered hoarsely. I swallowed thickly, but remained quiet. Zedd looked over toward the area I had first spotted the creature and nodded, “I saw your sketches and it made me curious,” he slurred. Was─he drunk? 

 

Then it dawned on me, that was the odor I had smelled, it was vomit mixed with liquor. “So I went back and reviewed the cameras.” I covered my mouth and shook my head, “oh god, I’m so embarrassed, I was really tired and it had been a long day.” His finger came up to his mouth and he shook his head, silencing me. “I saw how scared you got,” he whispered.  I shifted uncomfortably at his words, not really sure what he wanted me to say. 

 

Before I could say anything, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. The crinkling sounded loud in the large, open office. “Here,” he growled, “take a look at this.” He thrust his hand toward me. I leaned forward gingerly and took the paper from his hand. “I thought it was just me until I saw your drawing.” I glanced up at him confused and then down at the paper. 

 

The hooded figure glared back at me from the sheet, nearly filling the page. There was no denying it─ the darkness glared back at you, gleefully inhaling all the pain, the suffering. I could feel the entity’s eagerness oozing from the page. And there, right there were the words. The same poem that I had discovered in my box from college. “Where did you get this?” I demanded. He blinked in surprise at my anger. 

 

“You’ve seen this before?” He grabbed my shoulders and shook me, hard.  I tried to pull away, but he held on tight. “You have to let me see it. Does yours─change?” My body grew cold as I realized what he meant. The numbers. He released me slowly as he studied the look on my face. My legs felt like they were going to give out. I didn’t want to, but I scanned the page all the way down to the bottom. There, in bold print were the neatly typed numbers: 

 

10    

 

#

 

“I’ll have the number four, well done, with a coffee,” Zedd responded mechanically.  I could tell he’s been here a few times, the waitress smiled and called him by name. I ordered a muffin and coffee, smiling politely back. Zedd had managed to clean himself up some. His brown hair was combed back and he smelled a little less sour with a hint of mint. He must have swigged some mouthwash. 

 

As soon as the waitress left, Zedd turned his attention to me. He cleared his throat, “hey, listen─ sorry I gave you a scare earlier. It’s just, no one else has” he trailed off, taking a deep breath. He seemed to really be struggling with the next sentence, “seen what I have. I thought I was going crazy.” I nodded sympathetically, “it’s ok. I thought I was just, you know, tired or something. But, how did you know we saw the same thing? I mean, it was just a hooded figure. There’s tons of those around. It’s not exactly original.” He stared at me, quiet for several beats. 

 

“You’ve seen them, right?” his voice is soft, but it’s emotional.  I tilt my head to the side, “I saw them, yes. But I only saw more than one when I─” I hesitated. He was the one that brought me here, but suddenly I felt dumb saying it out loud. “That wasn’t a dream. It’s going to happen.” It was my turn to stare at him, “how do you know that?” I asked. 

 

“You asked how I knew we saw the same thing. I know because I felt that same feeling when I looked at your drawing. Plus, check this out” he pulled out his tablet and opened the files back up. It was our drawings sitting side by side. “It took me a while to spot it, but there it was, plain as day.” He tapped on the screen and then zoomed in on both images. “Do you remember drawing this?” I frowned at the screen, squinting to see what he was trying to show me. 

 

At first all I could make out were what appeared to be a bunch of squiggly lines. I looked from one character to the other, trying to find some similar pattern or shape. “You can’t spot it yet, can you?” I shake my head, “no, sorry.” He taps on the screen a few times and then desaturated the images. The color drains from my face as he pushed the screen toward me. “How about now?”

 

Suddenly, I can see them everywhere. Words scrawled across their clothes, skin, making up part of the scythe, on the hoodie, covered in the background repeating over and over again:

 

Tick-tock, little rabbits.

 

My stomach is in my throat as I think about the joy that creature plucked from me as the skin slid from my bones and my insides sprayed the walls. How delighted It was to dine on my terror. 

“There’s no escaping it.” Zedd’s voice sounded defeated, tired. “It has to be what that countdown is on our papers.” I don’t know what to say, because there is nothing to say. After several moments of silence, the waitress brings us our food. We both thank her, but neither of us touch our plate once she’s gone.

 

Part II coming soon.

❤ Grey

I will be posting this story on RoyalRoad.com

Gallery

A Madwoman’s Guide To Overcoming Anxiety

Ok, most of us have heard it─ the typical b.s. that never works:

Just train your mind to think differently, what’s the problem?

disgusted vomit GIF

The problem is, that is great for long term over continual months of practicing breathing techniques and retraining your thoughts to go in a positive direction. It’s called cognitive behavioral therapy, and it does work.

But what about when you are in a pinch or can’t afford to see a professional?

How about all the physical feelings you get? The tightening of your chest, or feeling like a stranger in your own skin. I mean the actual feeling of being irritated to be awake, alive, and doing things when you would rather just eat and go to sleep.

Or, my personal favorite─ when you are trained to know your signs, but all the ‘you’re not being a rational person’ speeches in your mind aren’t quite getting through.

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I feel you, I’m there. At least two to three times a week, sometimes more.

 

So, this isn’t fool proof and I’m not a licensed professional, but I can tell you what has worked for me after dealing with anxiety and depression my entire life. I mean actually work, not some bullshit click-bait that every site seems to have.

Hello, hi, we’re a website─ just click on these next 100 pages of advertised products and we’ll never get to the real point. 

Ugh.

Get physical

I’m not going to lie, I work out a lot. Like 5-6 days a week a lot. Not because I want to be thin (but bonus!) but because it keeps my mind preoccupied. The key to not going mental is to keep yourself physically active. It releases good chemicals called endorphins. They interact with receptors in your brain that reduce the feeling of pain. I also love a schedule and repetition, which brings me to my next point:

Repetition

Keep. A. Schedule.

Rinse, repeat. I’m not joking. You will function significantly better when you know what is going to happen from day to day. It’s calming because your body goes, ‘ok, I know this, I’ve got this.’ Having daily rituals has saved me more times than I can count.

For example, when I wake up─ I make myself breakfast and coffee. As this is happening, it gives me time to tidy up and think on what I need to accomplish that day. P.s. this also knocks out two things that need done: cleaning and scheduling.

This doesn’t need to turn into: OMGIHAVESOMUCHTODOTODAYFUCKI’MFREAKINGOUT

It’s more a collection of thoughts. “Ok, today I need to get a project done at work─I have a meeting at 1 with Jeff.” The end. Refreshing your memory, keeping yourself on track. Check your google calendar.

For the love of god, keep yourself some sort of reminder on google calendar, or remember the milk, or whatever app you have. I am the sort that I will forget instantly if I don’t set up a reminder─ and I’m pretty sure most people are. This will also help keep that crazy voice down instead of a self-induced panic attack for forgetting things.

You know the one─ the bitch in your head that shouts shit like:

“How could you be so stupid, why did you forget to just set up one simple reminder, god you’re useless.” 

She’s fun, I take her to parties sometimes─ or dates, or you know, family events.

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Breathe

Ok, I’m aware that not everyone has a fitbit but it’s what I use. It’s called Relax and it makes you practice inhaling and exhaling. Some people can meditate, some cannot. Instead of getting yourself into a tizzy over how to meditate, just focus on drawing breath in and out for two minutes in a comfortable position. (don’t cross your legs, that raises blood pressure) Most people can spare 2 minutes.

Whether you use an app on your phone (like Calm) or the fitbit app, Alexa, Google, or what have you─ these are all wonderful tools for helping to get your mind into a head-space that calms you. You’ll eventually (slowly) start being able to do it on command.

It’s pretty neat.

I’ll share a weird fact with you, since we’re sharing.

I love to visualize when I’m doing my breathing exercises. I think of the strangest thing that would probably freak most people out but somehow calms me: I love to imagine I’m by myself in a ship, floating in space out in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes, I can see a star in the distance, or planet─ occasionally an event horizon ringing beautifully around a black hole.

But I’m a freak so, you know, you do you.

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Clean:

I’m not kidding. Keeping a clean, tidy environment has been known to release the happy chemicals like serotonin and cortisol (much like the runner’s high) and gives you a sense of accomplishment. When you meet goals, even small ones, you feel happier.

Marie Kondo is definitely on to something with this one. Bring in those happy vibes by feeling in control, accomplished, and clean. You would be shocked what that does for you mentally.

 

Morning showers are amazing to me. I feel like a new human being.

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Goal Setting:

Set small goals, and I mean small. You can always plan your yearly stress for long term goals in January. They’re great, but they set high expectations throughout the year and bring you down when you don’t accomplish them.

So, set up daily ones!

Today, I’m going to get through one day without having a negative thought about myself. Go on, try it. It feels good to pat yourself on the back for accomplishing something!

Hey, I got through that meeting and I paid attention and interacted. Way to go me!

I set out to clean the kitchen this morning and I finished it. Great job.

Rewarding yourself daily allows the long process of having a positive mindset to kick in. Keep it up, and you’ll be one of those people you make fun of for being too happy in no time.

Well, maybe.

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I really feel like over the course of just a few more years, AI will be a wonderful tool for anxiety. Alexa and Google are already looking into this. If you missed any of my podcasts, I talk about them in the Grey Space series on Soundcloud you can check out here:

 

Slow it down

Take each day, one day at a time. (much like we covered in small goals) I can’t stress this enough. I’m a huge offender of thinking about everything that needs to get done and get completely overwhelmed. Instead, focus on the day. Focus on tasks instead of the entire day at once.

My mantra on bad days:

3…2…1… time to get out of bed and start the day. 

3…2…1 brush your teeth and take your medicine.

One foot in front of the other, all day if you need it. This has helped me tremendously on very bad, no-good, terribly-awful days.

Big no-no─

Don’t drink while you are depressed or anxious. Alcohol is a downer, a huge one. Avoid drinking during a time you are freaking out.

Steer clear of too much caffeine too. I found on days I had more than three or four cups of coffee, my anxiety was insane. It made me jittery and I was incredibly irritable.

I know, I know: fuck off, Grey.

I am very serious about this one and have seen first hand what it does to your body to drink and suffer from worse anxiety the next day. Crippling anxiety.

Don’t do what dumb Grey did.

 

One of us:

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Try your best to actually steer your mind away from negative thoughts as soon as they enter your head. While this is like, 1000% impossible all the time, it does start to become habit forming.

My inner bitch, “damn girl, your ass gettin thicc AF”

Counter argument? “Damn girl, dat ass don’t quit” Then do a booty shake and take your fine ass into the day with a grin.

Love yourselves.

❤ Grey

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Understanding Child Abuse – An Open Letter To The Public – Part II

Warning, NSFL. Ages 13+ recommended. 

Cue the tiny violins folks, we’re off to Pityville, party of me. If you’ve ever been through this─ my intention is to raise awareness for all of us. Though each of our experiences are different, I hope that by sharing my own suffering we can shed some light on what others have experienced.

Warning, this is raw and graphic and my unfiltered experiences. I recommend getting a hug or watching some warm fuzzy shows after this.

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Alienation

By the age of nine, I had graduated to getting into minor trouble at school. Nothing major, mostly just talking too much and not paying attention with the occasional petty theft of other kids’ pencils or erasers. This was because I had pretty severe ADHD (not the petty theft, that was just me being an asshole and there was zero excuse for that.) but I really struggled hard in school to focus.

I daydreamed, lost focus, and found it incredibly hard to sit still. I would constantly feel trapped in my skin and irritable, my legs would bounce, and I would fidget. Children back then were just classified as kids, and boys had ADHD, not girls according to most doctors.

This is where my mother would talk about me being a difficult child. I would blurt things out, or correct things I heard that were wrong. (I still do this, embarrassingly enough. I was known as the ‘um, actually’ girl at a few of my jobs.) I would talk over others, or jump around excitedly which would often lead my mother to call out in exasperation, “What the hell is wrong with you?”

It got me thinking recently. Especially with it being mental health awareness week.

No one, not even once, asked me as a child what I was going through at home. Other than a child psychologist I was made to see to build a court case against my father.

Did I mention my mother hated my father?

Let me tell you how much. She wanted him to be out of her life so bad that she convinced herself that he was horrible. Bipolar does that to you. It makes you paranoid (at least the type my mother had) to the point that they feel people conspire against them.

Someone was always out to get my mother, or harm her. She was forever a victim of something.

So for the entirety of my childhood, my mother kept me from my father whenever she could, built up a false court case against him and sent him to prison on circumstantial evidence.

Do you know how long an innocent man got sent to prison over evidence such as, ‘spoke crudely to a child, threatening a child, and inappropriately touching child (this was based off of some redness my mother had found when she was bathing me and something she cooked up in her mind)?

Twelve years. He was originally sentenced to twenty. 

For being suspected of doing those things.

The justice system used to take women’s word against men’s (still bias in this department in a lot of states) without solid proof of it ever happening. And while, it’s horrible that things like this exist with the opposite and men get off the hook that have done vile things, this was not the case with me.

My mother had convinced me that these things happened. Had me testify in a court against him. I was a child, with a very impressionable mind.

She thrived on this sort of attention─ everything had to be circled around her.

I can’t stress this next part enough. The only reason my father was able to get all of these charges against him expunged was because I had to go on trial a second time as an adult and explain what really happened.

Even then, my mother said she thought he did it─ After I had repeatedly told her otherwise. I mean that I told her directly after it happened, in tears saying he didn’t do anything. I had no idea what I had done until my grandmother called me in tears and told me I’d never get to see her or my father again. I was six years old.

This all came full circle to her plans of excluding me from others’ life.

While all of those things went on, my grades, much like my social life, slipped from my grasp. I became alienated with very few friends. I wanted desperately to make friends, but had no idea how. My mom would make that more difficult by yelling at me or beating me in front of other children, like neighbors.

Which is key to my next point: Abusers like to alienate their victims and have complete control. My mother would always make excuses to taking me anywhere, especially to sleepovers, or allowing me to have play dates. She didn’t like me being anywhere that she didn’t have complete control over.

They start by making it seem like it is in your best interest, ‘oh so-and-so is a bad influence’ or, ‘I don’t like how they behave.’

I once dated a guy that I never realized did this until he got jealous of me hanging out with friends. That was a huge red flag and I left him immediately.

p.s. he showed up at my house after that and it took calling the police to get him to leave. Watch out for these personality types and don’t be dumb like Grey.

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The Day I Accepted Death, I Was 12 Years Old

There are hundreds of times that stick out in my mind, but the biggest one is the day my mother tried to kill me.

I was in seventh grade. My stepfather was working a full time job and going to school. It was a stressful time for all of us.

My mother had come out to tell me to do the dishes and to be quiet because my stepfather was sleeping until his shift. Now, my mother was someone that put the fear of god into you.

Nothing trumps that, except one thing:

Teen angst.

What any doctor that has majored in Biology will tell you, is that the pre-frontal cortex of your brain is not fully developed until your early to mid twenties. This is the part of brain that develops logic and reasoning. I apparently had none of those as I muttered things and put the dishes (softly, but still clanging occasionally and probably on purpose) because I hadn’t had a chance to do anything except clean that day.

I have no idea what she said, or what was yelled at me other than, ‘you ungrateful little bitch’ and suddenly I was bent backwards over the sink. I couldn’t move, but what was going on didn’t fully register until I started getting that famous tunnel vision.

When you’re getting choked out, you don’t necessarily feel that you are being choked. It’s a lot of pressure. Things start to go black, or you start hallucinating.

What I do remember is that as she squeezed and I could no longer make gasping or crying noises, one thing stuck out in my head:

Maybe I won’t wake up this time.

That thought gave me a complete sense of calm and everything felt right.

At the age of twelve, I was ready to die.

My stepdad rounded the corner and pulled her off of me. I remember bolting around the corner and catching my breath as she screamed over and over again that she hated me as he calmed her down.

That day, I learned that mothers really can take the life that they give.

I always thought that somewhere within her was the capacity to love me. After that, I knew she couldn’t.

Get lots of hugs today and hold your children close. Tell them what they mean to you.

❤ Grey

 

 

 

 

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Halloween Audiobook Coming – Your Votes Put To Spooky Fun

So after two days, we got all the votes in and you guys have spoken!

We’re going 1600 occult style witches, in a modern setting, with a family home. I can’t wait to write and record this, it’s my favorite time of year! I thought I’d make it even better by creating a fun, creepy audiobook. I haven’t gotten to make one in a while, but if you aren’t familiar with my work, you can find the audiostories here

Thanks for everyone that participated in the vote and I’ll get this up as soon as I can. I’m shooting for two weeks, just to make sure that it is done well, and still in time for the holiday.

Stay tuned, dearies. An awesome, scary tale is coming your way.

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Stay creepy, friends.

❤ Grey

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Halloween is Right Around the Corner – I’m releasing an audiobook in celebration!

Place your votes now!

It’s my all-time favorite time of year. Not just because of Halloween, but because it starts the kick off to all the wonderful holidays. There’s nothing like fall to winter─ all the beautiful colors, the crisp air and a time to enjoy family and food. My next special will be decided by a vote from all of you.

I’m polling on Twitter right now so you can pick:

  1.  the basis of the spooky (ghosts, witches, vamps, etc)
  2.  the storyline!

Once everyone votes on what they would like to hear, and the setting of the story, I’ll record my tale on post it on here!

I can’t wait to see what all of you choose.

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❤ Grey

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Recipes moved to my food blog – Link below!

Hey guys! I’m slowly working toward moving all my recipes over to the new food blog. It’s a work-in-progress, but I’ll have them up as soon as I can.

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Food Blog

So what happens to this blog? I will keep this as articles, and stories so it doesn’t become confusing for people that are following this for the articles and writing. So, easy peasy─

This blog will be for writing and podcasts, and the food blog will be just for food!

I hope you guys have a great week, and I look forward to posting tons of fun stories (and spooky stories with the holiday’s coming up) and audiobooks.

Take care all,

❤ Grey

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Understanding child abuse – An Open Letter To The Public – Part I

Warning. NSFL age 13+ recommended*

You just can’t understand. I don’t mean that to sound rude, but it’s true. Just like any other person that has experienced something you haven’t will tell you.

I can’t speak for other survivors of abuse.

I can’t tell you their story, how they were hurt, or how it affected their lives.

What I can do, is offer you an open invitation to my life, what I’ve gone through, and what others might be (or have been) experiencing.

 

No one likes to talk about child abuse. No one likes to admit it happens, especially when you are a child reaching out to the law.

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If they do know it is happening, many will tell you that it is better that you stay with your abusive parent than go through the system.

For a lot of cases and friends that I grew to know, this is sadly true.

 

I want you to take a moment and think about that statement.

 

 

 

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It is better to stay with an abusive parentthan to go through a system that is supposed to be designed to protect the child.

But it isn’t, is it? It’s a business. Just like any other. Except it shouldn’t be because a human life is on the line.

 

I listened to a podcast earlier in the year called Broken Harts. It was a horror story about how two mentally unstable women managed to adopt several kids. The kids were beaten, starved, and eventually─ lost their lives.

This really digs deep into many situations involving society and children. Way more than on the surface of kids getting bounced around, abandoned, and used as a business.

If you’re naive enough to believe that children aren’t used in sex trafficking that grow up in homes, my friends can tell you a very different story. It is a big money maker, and it’s enough to make you sick about humanity.

 

I won’t get too preachy, and this alone could be another topic of discussion, but we’ll move on.

 

I’m not the worst case you have heard involving abuse. I know there are worse─ far worse─ stories than my own. My stepfather was a prime example of the evils parents can do. (his own life, tragically, did not end well.)

I offer my own story to help with perspective on many others that have had similar experiences and my own thoughts about myself and others. I hope to help educate people through this experience, most importantly to help spread awareness and some compassion.

This journey is very personal to me. It’s raw, it’s very real and not appropriate for anyone under the age of 13. Be warned, things get very uncomfortable.

It’s opening up old wounds I’d long thought I had buried, or perhaps helped me realize several things about myself along the way.

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You ready?

 

Let’s go back to the beginning.

We won’t pour over every little thing, but we are going to journey through the memories that stuck out the most, and hard lessons learned at an early age.

 

Lesson 1: Stay Quiet, Stay Still.

Thankfully, many of us don’t start forming memories until we’re over the age of 3. There’s strong debate on whether we still retain things, or form habits before this age, but for argument’s sake, we’ll stick with what I remember learning.

To backpedal a bit, my own mother came from a cycle of abuse. Her mother abused her. Did it make it right that she did it to me? No. That was her normal, therefore, she continued what she knew.

Throughout the years, there was always a constant in my relationship with my mother. Tension/Anger would build, she would snap, sometimes yell, and then the beating, followed by a complete quiet and calm afterward.

This was usually because I would stay quiet and stay put. It was a mantra I would later learn to say in my head so that the pain would go away.

 

Stay quiet, stay still.  

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You learn this very young. As long as I make myself as small as possible and don’t fight back, it will be over soon.

I learned to read my mother’s triggers. Mostly it was a look when I would ask for something, or if she was in a certain mood, or angry about things in her life. I was the cure-all for her frustration.

Basically, I learned how to read body language and facial expressions very well. My survival depended on it.

My daily world was constantly changing. There was no such thing as normal, routine, etc. because my mother’s moods changed from moment to moment. Yes, she was bipolar, no she was not medicated.

Imagine life with a person who’s mood could swing one way to the next in seconds over the smallest things. Everything overwhelmed her. Now imagine that person had controlling issues and always snapped to anger. It was the first thing they jumped to and it was an uncontrollable rage.

 

Want to know the hardest part about this?

 

Also imagine a parent that would read stories to you at night, occasionally give you back scratches, and spend time and money on your room for you. She threw birthday parties, took us out, you know─ normal things too.

It can all be so confusing, not knowing which parent you would get.

Anyone that grew up with their natural parents and were abused─ wasn’t abused all the time. Don’t get me wrong, it was a daily occurrence and it was horrible, but it wasn’t everything that I remember.

Especially after my mother’s passing.

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You get so conflicted, and wonder─ was it really that bad? Maybe I’m being dramatic.

But you aren’t, and you know it because of the awful things that you wish were false memories, but were very real. You come to mourn what could have been, instead of what was. This is a later chapter we will get into, so for now we’ll put a pin in it and save it for later.

Appearances are everything to an abusive parent, and they will go out of their way to seem like things are fine.

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My mother spent hours perfecting herself before we would go anywhere. Her makeup, her clothing, her hair. We couldn’t leave until she felt she looked perfect, and that I looked perfect. Two perfect girls, with a dream life.

She constantly made strides to appear like everything we weren’t. Which was poor. I knew this was a frustration to her because when I would ask about a toy at the store she would snap and say, “we can’t afford it.”

We most certainly could always afford things for her. Interesting how that works.

 

Lesson 2: Cry Out For Help, I Dare You.

After the years passed, I reached around the age of five (kindergarten) when I realized that other children were not treated this way. I remember meeting other parents and marveling at how sweet and calm they were.

But it didn’t really sink in until I hit seven years old. I’m unsure about what the significance was at this age, or why, but my mother hit a new type of tactic at this stage. I was growing, my hair changing colors from blonde to a sandy brown. My mother, (who had been divorced from my natural father since I was a baby) hated it. She dyed my hair.

She dyed a 7-year-old’s hair because her daughter’s natural hair ‘looked filthy.’ She tweezed my eyebrows, dressed me in the frilliest dresses she could find and finally I could look how she thought I was supposed to look. Her darling dear with blonde curls, and sweet dresses.

I look a lot like my father. I suspect that there was a lot of hate held for me because of this. My mother hated my father. She would later describe that I would give her a look and it would set her off.

You see, all of my beatings were my fault because I was such a difficult child.

Her words would drone on and on about how hard I was to deal with and that she had always done her best. Denial is very strong with anyone, especially parents.

At school, teachers had noticed things about my behavior around kindergarten through first grade but nothing much was done about it. It wasn’t until around second grade that teachers really took notice of the bruises around my neck, and arms. I’m not sure if there was a change in policy, or they were more noticeable but never-the-less, CPS was informed.

There is only so much a school can do about abuse. The child has to have come into school with filthy clothes, bruises, and bags under their eyes for them to actually do anything about it. The parent has to be a repeat offender of dropping off the child late and showing up late. And that has to happen for weeks on end. It may be different now, but I’m speaking about what I experienced.

I learned that I would need to walk to school in order to make it on-time. So much of grade school, I walked in the mornings and walked home many times when my mother would forget to pick me up or was too late.

When all of it sort of came to a head, they notified my mother that a caseworker was going to be assigned to us.

She calmly drove us home. I remember that look─ the horrifying look of calm that was my mother’s face as we drove from the school to our house. It was the second house that my parents had rented. It was on a circle drive near train tracks with a small back yard surrounded by other little box homes like it.

It was at this time that my brother was nearing the age of two. He was my mother’s joy and she loved him very much. He was my stepfather’s child, which was very special to her. To clarify, I have never held a grudge against my brother for this. We actually get along and he is a great guy. It just was what it was. I was the product of a past she wanted to forget.

What I learned to fear the most from my mother was not screaming. Screaming meant a few slaps, hair pulling, maybe a few whacks with the belt.

Silence, calm─ it was terrifying. It meant something far worse.

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I remember that day, her gently laying my brother in his crib for a nap. She told me in a controlled voice to sit on the couch. She rocked and sang to him, her voice carrying through the thin walls. His room was just behind the living room t.v. so anytime he napped, we had to be quiet.

I remember hearing the love, the gentle coos, the wood from the chair creaking as she rocked in time. I secretly wished that it was me in her arms.

Then it was done, the door closed softly with a click.

I’d hoped that some of her anger had gone away. Maybe a bit of it had.

She sat next to me, wrapped her hand under my chin and tilted my eyes up to meet hers. None of this was done gently, there was clear anger there. White-hot anger beneath her blue-green eyes. She spoke one sentence,

“What did you do?”

Her voice was shaking as she held me in place and began squeezing my jaw into a death grip. She shook it once as she tugged me closer to her face.

My mind raced, I didn’t know how to respond or what I had done wrong. I just knew that my mom had been in the principle’s office. I knew I had to have done something, I just didn’t know what. I knew that my jaw was on fire and the pressure was killing me, but I dare not cry out.

She shook me, hard.

“I said,” she paused between shaking me and this time she gathered a handful of hair and pulled my head back, “what did you do?”

This was different. She didn’t want me to be quiet, it wasn’t going to suit her this time.

I don’t know why I did it, I’m still not sure if it was just instinctual or a form of defiance, but my head pulled away and I tried to run. I remember tears coming, even though I didn’t want them to.

My head went to a different place that day. It was something I think my mind began doing to help ease the distress.  I remember being pulled to the ground and my head screaming from the pain.

The world rang off-key, and it wouldn’t be until later that I realized I had been slapped in the head around my ear. She held my hair the entire time, keeping her voice low as she pulled and pulled dragging me on the floor. My face numbed as the adrenaline coursed through my body and I curled on the floor.

She finally released me after apologies flew from my mouth between crying. I didn’t know what I had done, but I knew that I should apologize. She stood up and told me that if they got into trouble over any of this, I was going to pay.

And if I ever, ever told anyone like that again I would live to regret it.

I wanted to ask what I’d done and what she meant, but I knew better. I had once asked and been hit harder for questioning her.

This is how an abuser works. They use fear to make you stay quiet. Believing that it will only get worse when you try and reach out.

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I hadn’t fully learned my lesson from this experience, or maybe I had grown tired of it when I grew older, but at any rate, this was a precursor to what was to come later.

That was the first time I’d heard her snap this way.

This was when she learned how to be sneakier with her hitting.

 

The CPS (child protective services) worker, like others, came and reviewed our family. My mom smiled, I smiled, we were the perfect family. I never opened up to my teachers again about anything that had happened. You see, my mistake was telling a teacher that my bruises were from my mom.

Lesson number two had been, never trust adults to protect you.

 

This is part I in this series. I will be posting more soon.

Remember to get hugs and love after reading these.

❤ Grey