📅 Published on June 17, 2020


Written by Kyle Harrison
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

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The only proper way I can describe my childhood is that it was an afterthought for my parents.

Father worked two jobs, one as a cattle hand and the other as a busboy in Sydney. Even with the good tips he made from tourists, the money was just barely enough to help us survive. Mum often would let me stay home from school because I had no clean clothes or I smelled from lack of fresh water to bathe in.

“It isn’t lady-like,” she would say. She kept herself busy tending to the house, trying to make things as easy as possible for dad.

Each day felt like we were walking on eggshells around him, with little we could do except to be seen and not heard. He was an angry and bitter man, forced to do labor he thought was beneath him. And although he never spoke this, it seemed clear that he was unsatisfied with the life we led.

It became obvious the morning we heard the gunshot.

Dad had bought a hunting rifle, guaranteed to do the trick, and blew his head off. I still remember being awakened by the sound of the deafening blast and rushing downstairs, thinking it was a burglar. Instead I found him slumped over in his favorite chair, a fire burning behind him and his brains splattered across the mantle like it were some shoddy trophy. The rest of the scene was just as grisly.

His blood and sinew spilling out across the mahogany table, dribbling to the floor below with sickening precision from his neck, I cannot even recall how long I stood there in shock to see what my father had done to himself.

There was no note, no plea for forgiveness that he left behind. Just this gruesome act of betrayal toward me and mum, that he would rather we wallow in poverty than to be a part of our family and our lives any longer.

And wallow we did. For weeks, mum struggled to find work. Often she taught me to steal from grocery stores, corner cafes and even dumpsters. Anything to help us stave off hunger a few short moments.

It seemed impossible to imagine our nightmare could grow worse than this.

And yet it did.

His full name was Jeremiah Lankastier the III, but I was often told to call him Uncle Jeremy. He came from across the pond occasionally a few Christmases before dad passed, always bringing gifts to lavish mum and I with. A taste of a lifestyle we did not know.

But this visit was different.

The air felt heavy when I came downstairs and found him there. I knew very little about Uncle Jeremy except that he had a lot of money and that he gave me a creepy vibe. They say that you can sense when something is going to go wrong, like a premonition that blindsides you. Had my other senses not been in such shock from finding dad dead in the same chair that Jeremy sat in now, I feel as though I would have had such a vision.

Something about Jeremy felt off and his visit there that day especially so.

“Honey, take a seat. Your Uncle has some great news for the both of us,” mum said. I could tell from the tone of her voice she was trying to sound excited to deceive me. But mum had never liked Jeremy. And even at that tender age, I knew to sniff out a lie.

But ever obedient I sat and listened to what they had to say, and it was far stranger than any outlandish dream I had conjured up.

“Your Uncle Jeremy has offered to let us come over to Sussex and live with him at his estate. Just got a little bit of course. Until I can find a job and a place of our own,” mum explained.

I was speechless. I always imagined he lived in a castle with servants. But I never could picture it as a happy place to go. And now we are going to be stuck there. Prisoners because of my father’s pride.

Jeremy told us we had a day to pack, but there wasn’t much that needed to go. What little clothes I had were torn and eaten by moths. And everything else reminded me of dad.

I tried to be in good spirits leaving our home. I wanted this new life to be everything that dad had not given us. “When God closes a window, he opens a door,” mum said. “There are so many more opportunities for us in the Empire than there are here in the outback. You can go to school, learn to be a proper lady.”

I didn’t know what that meant, but I promised her I would try to adjust to what she felt was best for us. I wanted to make her proud.

I wanted to believe that we could have a good life at last.

* * * * * *

Belief, however strong it may be, is never as powerful as the harsh reality we live in. Coming to Uncle Jeremy’s estate shattered what little hope I had in a few short days.

The castle and servants I pictured him having were nothing more than overgrown fields with neglected cattle and abandoned rooms where he once catered to nobles. This house was a pigsty, and even as a child that grew up poor, I knew there was a difference between cheap and filthy. With his wife dead and his money run dry, Uncle Jeremy had let the place fall on hard times.

But… I knew all too well he was hoping our presence there would change all that.

“You’ll have chores of course. Keep ya busy till we get you in a school this fall. Wash the barns, scrub the floors. Need to show appreciation for what you have gotten,” Jeremy told me as he crunched on an apple.

It was clear that he felt we should view him as our savior and this… garbage heap… as our paradise.

And mum reinforced this by catering to his every whim.

“I didn’t have to come and offer you shelter. But that is what family does. We look out for each other. And that’s what we are goin’ta continue to do here in my home, ain’t we, Gloria?”

He would pet my hair and smile at me in that same bizarre way he always did. It would send a chill down my spine. This felt like servitude rather than freedom. And the weeks to come only further gave me reason to believe this was so.

* * * * * *

There is a certain part of you that dies when you are young that we don’t speak of often. The innocence and tenderness we all strive after but never admit we can’t rekindle.

I thought I had lost it when I saw my father die. But that was nothing compared to the living hell that my Uncle had me go through day by day that summer.

I did not understand it at the time, but Jeremy was a gambler and a terrible drunk. Often he would leave mum and I a list of chores to finish by evening and then return home at night, angry that we had not finished them all. Even when mum tried to show that we had and that he was misreading the lists, he would strike his hand across her cheek. Often I would see other bruises on her neck and arms where he had grabbed her and I would pine for her to come and find me in the night and for us to become vagabonds.

There was a night I heard her scream that I tried to run. It was selfish I know, but I could not bear the thought of the awful things Jeremy was doing to her any longer. But that only invited his wrath to come down hard on me.

I thought I had made a decent run for it, a day’s journey, only for him and mum to find me cradled up in a tree on the edge of his property.

“Mighty fine of you to just gallivant off like that in the middle of the night. You worried your mum sick,” Jeremy told me as he yanked me by my hair and tossed me to the ground.

“You best be thankful you got chores to do today or I would tan your hide so sore you couldn’t walk straight,” he snarled.

That only warned me of the vicious treatment to come. I remember looking to mum for guidance. A way to make this stop. But she just darted her eyes away, a broken and forlorn look in them as I realized she was submitting to his cruelty for our safety.

As the day went on, I resolved to take revenge on Jeremy that night. It was a simple childish plan to be sure but at the time it was all I knew.

I waited until he was home and had finished his second bottle of whiskey before I snuck to find the barber scissors mum often used to trim his beard.

I knew of why the screams she made in the night even though they expected me to still have some innocence and I planned to yank his trousers down and ship off his wanker like the codfish he was.

The droll of the telly told me he had collapsed in his lounge chair with bottles at his side for the night, unaware of my scheme. I crawled across the carpet to where he slept, and opened the scissors wide, thinking that with one swift cut I would solve our problems.

Instead, Uncle Jeremy’s eyes darted open and he glared at me with the look of the devil himself.

To this day I refuse to repeat what he did to me that night. I never knew it was possible to be so vile, so wicked. And anytime I tried to resist, it only made everything ten times worse.

Truthfully that was only the beginning of the cruel acts he did to me. Anytime he was unsatisfied with mum he would find me and pull me to my room, treating me like a rag doll for his enjoyment.

I think he liked the control it gave him.

As a child, I knew only how to obey and to fear. Mum was not going to defend me though, and eventually his wandering hands dared to touch places I knew were forbidden except to my future husband. In that moment I struck him. It was a scratch against his right cheek, so deep I drew blood.

To be honest I was trying to rip his face off. It was the first and last time I tried to fight back.

He took off his belt, eager to whip me into submission when mum begged at last for some mercy.

“This little twat needs to be taught manners. Learn her place in this family!” Uncle Jeremy barked as he calmed down, his fiery eyes pushing mum aside and glaring at me once more.

“What good is she if she won’t even listen to orders?!” he snapped.

I shielded myself, frightened he would strike again. Yet this time instead he was hesitant, his devious mind thinking of a proper punishment for my insolence.

“We will handle you in the morning, girl,” he said, snatching mum up and heading to the bedroom. I knew she was about to pay for what I had done to him in the worst way.

He locked me in my bedroom, leaving me to scratch and cry at the door. “That’s all you are, is a dog! And like all good dogs, you will learn obedience!” he snarled.

I found out precisely what he meant the next morning. Mum was nowhere to be seen, off handling errands to keep his meager estate afloat and instead I was greeted by an elderly woman at the bottom of the stairs.

She wore a black satin dress, long white gloves and laced stockings with a pair of knitting needles in her hair. Everything about her was prim and posed as though she were made of fine china, not a wrinkle on her clothes or a thread out of place.

Her sparkling green eyes turned to me in a playful way as she adjusted her cane and gave me a bow with her head.

“And you must be Gloria,” she said in a strong British accent.

Jeremy came around the corner from his den, looking like a gentleman for the first time since we had come here. His face shaved and his clothes pressed, I knew immediately he was trying to impress this woman whoever she was.

“I see you’ve met my niece. Good. Gloria, this is Madam Belfrost, of the Everstone Boarding School. She is here to… interview you,” Jeremy said as he straightened his tie. It was clear from the small act that he had little idea what he was doing.

And to be fair I didn’t either. My entire world felt like it was spinning. I knew that school had been something that mum had discussed from time to time, but until we moved here I never considered that it could become reality.

I was full of hope. And anxiety. I knew nothing of the world beyond these four walls. And whoever this woman was, she was about to unveil it all to me.

“Please take a seat, young lady. Do you happen to know how to make tea?” Belfrost asked.

I said nothing, standing there still in my nightgown and puzzling over whether she was my savior or another demon that had come to punish me further.

My reluctance to speak caused her eyes to sharpen and she made a huff as Jeremy coughed in his hand.

“As you can see madam, we are in desperate need of your services here.”

“Indeed. The girl hardly speaks, and we shall say nothing of her dress and grooming. Does her mother know that she has bled and yet not cleansed her body?”

I opened my mouth to object to why I was treated this way, but Uncle Jeremy’s gaze only further encouraged my silence. If you have ever felt under the thumb of an abuser, I do not need to explain what his warning was telling me.

I was to cooperate fully with his intentions to spare further misery.

“What sort of paperwork will I need to sign?” Jeremy asked.

“Well, as it stands I still need a statement from the mother and then I will need to determine whether or not the girl is even fit for our classes,” Belfrost said as I stepped closer.

“Her mother is under my care and keeping. Her father died long ago. I am her rightful guardian, you needn’t worry about a secondary statement,” Jeremy said.

“No. Mum will hear about this!” I said angrily.

“Silence your tongue when adults speak!” Belfrost said wrapping her cane across my knee.

Instinctively I kicked back and she grabbed my leg, causing me to tumble to the floor.

“You are quite the little viper, aren’t you?” she hissed as she straightened her clothes.

All I did in response was spit on her shoes.

Belfrost gave me a look of repugnance and turned toward Jeremy before making her decision. “You should have come to seek my help sooner. I fear this… child may be too far gone,” she snarled.

Just then mum came in with groceries, perplexed as I was by the scene before her.

“What is going on here?” she said in a whisper.

“Annabelle…. to my office!” Jeremy ordered.

I sat there on the floor, feeling more like a dog that was being cast out then her daughter as she was taken to a private room to discuss my fate.

Madam Belfrost said nothing, her once friendly eyes now turning cold and judgmental.

In a few short moments mum came out and signed the papers. I never knew for sure what she had been told, but I was given an hour to pack my things. It felt like an eternity.

As I did, mum came to check on me from time to time, saying nothing and merely folding clothes and seeming in a trance.

When it was finally time to leave, I was sure that I could find the courage to convince mum not to let me go. But in those final moments, as Madam Belfrost brought her vehicle around and I saw Uncle Jeremy place his firm and unyielding hand upon her shoulder, I said nothing.

“It will only be for a little while. You will be strong for us,” Mum said as she kissed me and then returned to Jeremy’s side.

Uncle only gave the thinnest of smiles, an image that stayed with me for the next few weeks and months to come. It told me of the torment and anguish he intended to inflict upon mum the moment I left.

* * * * * *

It was that smile that kept me going. Because I dreamt of the day that I could wipe it off his smug face.

My arrival at Everstone was with little fanfare. Madam Belfrost gave me a room and a change of clothes with only a few short words and then informed me breakfast and classes were to begin at 8 the next morning.

I crept into bed, ashamed and confused still about why I was here; the girls that shared my dormitory beginning to whisper about it as I lay down.

“You think she was from the streets?” “Look at what she’s wearing.” “Just a little skank!”

“Oi! Girl! What’s your name then?” one taller girl asked, pulling the blankets off my trembling face and pushing me to the floor.

“G-g-Gloria,” I said as I stood up and then took turns laughing at my shoddy clothes.

“Must be one of them homeless wretches that Belfry brings in to make us all look good,” the girl teased as she checked my arms and grunted. “Are you a sewer rat?”

“Leave her alone!” a voice commanded from a bunk a few meters away.

“And what’s she to you, ya little twat? Your new lover?” the tall girl spat back.

The stranger hopped down, her raven black hair melting with the darkness of the night as she met the tall girl’s eyes and dared her to take her on.

“I’d make ya squeal Uncle in under two,” she swore.

“Fight, fight, fight, fight, fight!” the other girls chanted.

Then a shuffle of feet made them all retreat to bed. One of the maids stepped in and turned on the lights, chiding all of us for being up at that late hour.

Then the room was quiet again and the tension over.

As the other girls turned in I gave the stranger a nod of thanks. She said nothing and simply turned over and let the darkness cover her.

But it was definitely worth remembering her kindness that night. The first glimmer of hope I’d experienced in quite a while. It’s warmth guided me to sleep.

* * * * * *

Life at the boarding school was in stark contrast to what I knew of home or Jeremy’s estate.

Every morning Madam Belfrost has us set our beds and straighten our linens. Any girl that did not have theirs properly made suffered punishment. I learned rather quickly this game in a variety of forms.

Even on that first morning when I leapt out of bed at the sound of a foghorn, Belfrost made an example of what she deemed was my laziness.

“You must remember that every moment you are being defined by the society around you. You must submit to its will and be molded according to its purpose. This is your prerogative,” she told me as she took out a ruler and used it to wrap on my hand.

“Recite our etiquette!” she demanded of the other girls as she told me to hold my hand out and accept the thrashing.

As the others obediently provided a list of rules that told me all I needed to be aware of to survive here, I was instead forced to focus on the pain and swelling that came from her repeated lashings.

“You would do well to remember everything you hear and to ask all the questions you can. Always raise your hand ad wait your turn. Do not speak unless spoken to. Do not forget that it is a privilege you are here,” Belfrost remarked as she told the girls to all get dressed promptly. She stood there coldly waiting for us to obey.

There were many times that I was naked before Uncle Jeremy or even my mum when we shared a room. But somehow doing it now in front of this callous woman it felt different. Every flinch and motion she made was a part of her critique.

I could not put on my new uniform fast enough. And standing there, being examined like a mannequin on display, felt even more humiliating.

Each morning after we did this, followed by breakfast and writing. There were several teachers at the school, all just as strict as Belfrost and all eager to please her cruel spirit.

“You are most assuredly one of the worst students to grace our halls. Were you even raised at all in society?” she asked one afternoon as I failed to use proper silverware.

Her constant beratement of my senses had nearly reached a boiling point.

“Maybe it is because I prefer to live undecently… mum,” I said, standing up and flipping the tray.

She forced me to pull down my uniform and gave me 10 lashings right there in front of the other girls. Complaining that I didn’t even know proper grammar.

Failing to see that my act of defiance was my choice to try and free my soul. It made me want to run and hide. I didn’t want to be the center of attention anymore. I didn’t think I could survive it.

The times I was not the brunt of their blows, often I would see the stranger instead.

Yet it became clear that her stay here easily eclipsed mine. So why did she continue to fall out of line?

It made little sense to do anything besides submit.

Her behavior toward me was especially vexing.

At night she would often wake me up and force me to spar, preventing what little chance for rest I had. She wouldn’t explain why she treated me like a punching bag except I could tell that she felt like she was training me.

Forcing me to fight back.

“If you ever hope to get out of here, you need to make me fall,” she insisted as she took me the top of the stairs and often wrestled with me to gain control.

When we did collapse to the bottom of the steps, Belfrost or one of the other instructors would come to find us and reprimand us with more lashes. Anything to remind us that we were just there to suffer. To fall in line like good soldiers ought to.

The stranger would often claim she started the fights, which, while true, made me wonder why she kept at it. Why was she still forcing herself to go through this?

Seeing her constantly taking the toll for the rest of us that fell out of line made me question her sanity. Until the day I recognized what she was doing. I wish I could have come to this revelation sooner, but this is not about fairy tales.

We were taking a class in ballet, Madam Belfrost seemed to believe we could get the chance to perform at a local theater soon and I found myself having difficulty keeping posed during the sessions.

As a result, she decided to make me face a new punishment.

“If you cannot behave with an ounce of dignity, then you shall be forced to recognize the price of insolence!” Belfrost said as she snapped me up by my hair and told me to come to her study.

The stranger nearly fell over herself to stop her.

“Milady, please. I feel as though my performance was far more lacking than hers,” she insisted.

“Melody, you foolish girl, you may pride yourself with taking the whipping for all these other girls as their surrogate mother. But this shrew has no excuse for her continued lack of manners! Decency is expected of all of you, and this time you will see that simply acting as a proxy will do no good!” Belfrost fumed as she took me by the hand and stormed out.

As we got to the Madam’s study, I saw some of the other girls stand anxiously to see what would happen. There was a large vanity at the west side of her room, just big enough for a girl of my size to stand in and she ordered me to do so.

“If you refuse to be molded as a lady, then we shall show you what happens when you fail to obey!” Belfrost shouted as she locked the door to the case.

What followed were the worst 15 minutes of my life.

Belfrost proceeded to turn the vanity into an Iron Maiden, with me as the pincushion. Slowly she pressed in the knitting needles she often carried in her hair straight through empty slots in the vanity, their sharp points forcing me to stand up straight, to suck my gut in.

I felt like I was slowly suffocating, the needles pressing against my tender brutalized skin as I squealed and cried.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to scratch my way out of that coffin as she kept placing more needles into me, forcing blood to drip from every pore.

“Do you see now, whelp? Your place is simply to be seen and never heard. This is what society has in store for you! Once you accept it, you will live a happy existence,” Belfrost snarled.

I closed my eyes, praying to any god that might listen, for it to stop.

But it was the stranger that saved me that day.

Just as another needle was pressed straight against my neck, I heard a cry of surprise come from the madam and then sounds of a struggle.

Something large shattered and broke as she spit violent words to whoever was attacking her. In the ruckus, a few needles were pressed harder against my body, making my own wails match Belfrost’s as the struggle continued.

Then suddenly the room was dead quiet. I heard a final scream and gurgle from Belfrost and then the door to the vanity opened and I fell over, quivering as the needles inflicted more damage. I was a shaking mess of blood and pain as I struggled to open my eyes and comprehend what happened.

The first thing I saw was Belfrost’s widened eyes, a knitting needle stuck straight through the back of her skull and splitting her nose and mouth straight down the middle. A slow trickle of blood was dangling from her mangled corpse as I looked up and saw Melody standing there, a disheveled mess.

“You… you killed her!” I said in disbelief as she climbed over Belfrost and helped me up. I was paralyzed by the needles, hardly able to even feel my legs.

“You need to run,” she told me as she helped me to stand and slowly pulled the needles from my skin. I wasn’t sure which felt worse, having them inside my body, or that slow sickening feeling of having them taken out.

A few other girls came into the room, chattering away in disbelief about what had happened to Belfrost as a few of the other instructors came to see what the commotion was about.

“My lord!” a housekeeper screamed as she saw my naked form standing over Belfrost’s corpse.

“The wench killed the Madam!” another shouted in shock as I was pulled up.

Melody used her bare teeth to snap at the housekeeper’s arm, pushing me away and shouting, “Don’t make what I did be for nothing! Run while you still have a chance!”

I understood in that moment the many times she had taken lashes for others was out of a kinship for our suffering. She wanted to become our guardian. And for that, I respected and envied her.

I took her advice in that moment and fled, naked and afraid toward the window. Sliding down a drainpipe to the gardens below, I felt like some feral animal attempting to escape containment.

More shouts and alarms came from all corners of the school as I hid in a creek, catching my breath and feeling the residual pain of the needles coarse through my body.

I saw in the window above the other instructors were grabbing Melody, forcing her to her room as she fought even more wildly.

One day I would come back and thank her properly.

But for now, my only purpose was revenge.

* * * * * *

Finding and nursing my wounds came first. Using clothes I stole from the nearby laundry, I fled to the woods and nursed my punctured skin. Thankfully the blood loss wasn’t great enough to consider medical treatment. All it really had done was transform me into a numb machine.

Maybe that was for the best though, considering what I was setting out to do.

My focus was to take what Melody had taught me and to sharpen in. Find a way to liberate my mum and let us have a life we deserved.

I practiced wrestling, got a class in boxing and learned to fire a gun properly. I wanted this to be the final nail in my Uncle’s coffin.

I knew the only way that would work is if I killed Uncle Jeremy.

No decent woman of my caliber should ever consider such trappings. But by now in life, through the hardship and the pain, I was going to make sure I lived up to the statement I gave Belfrost months ago.

I would be the opposite of what any civilized lady was expected. I would be the fury that brought justice to my uncle.

* * * * * *

One thing Melody taught me above all else was to exert patience. I needed to train myself to learn and watch Jeremy and his patterns.

I realized it wouldn’t be enough to simply take his life. That would be far too easy for a man that had tortured me all his life.

Instead, I needed to learn what he did care about. And then simply apply pressure.

It took precisely fourteen weeks. I became a part of their lives, a stranger.

I rented a small cabin across the way, just far enough to get surveillance on them. Hack into their internet. Modern deceptions that would allow me to understand their every move.

My mum never saw me of course. That would have given away my plan all too easily. But I watched her too. The endless inane chores she did to satisfy his every whim. Following her every day into town, or watching as she catered to him at home. It made my stomach churn.

He took pleasure in seeing her work and profiting from her labors. With my presence no longer a factor, though, I could see mum was not simply putting up with his foolishness. She wanted out.

Each time she went to the market, she would consider staying. Or in the evening, hitching a cab and leaving Sussex altogether.

Jeremy on the other hand was the very epitome of laziness and the definition of a slob.

I could tell that he cared for money so that was where I attacked first. He would fritter it away nightly at the casinos. So I burned them down.

It likely caused a few honest people to lose their livelihood in the process but I was beyond caring by that point. All that mattered was the end result.

Next were his spirits. The wines and beers he would often turn to before he lashed out to mum.

I kept a record of every store he went to, every merchant he rubbed elbows with.

I threatened them all. Walking into the store with my sharpened blade likely made me look like a bandit from olden days. But the message stuck. They all agreed to never contribute to his bad habits again.

As I continued to monitor Jeremy, and take away the fun and games he wasted his days on, I saw his mood change.

One day while they were both gone I installed listening devices to hear what my Uncle might be planning.

I knew something was wrong when he began inviting strange men to the home. They reminded me of the media portrayals of mafia gangsters. Slick and deceptive. Slimy and conniving.

“You’re over three weeks late on your payments, Jer. The Gravemaker is an understanding man but this is beyond our control. Either you pay, or we find a different way to collect,” the first man said.

I had never seen my Uncle frightened. It pleased me briefly to see that these men were doing that. But I also recognized what they were representing.

I realized if I didn’t act soon, he would likely take mum’s life simply for being unable to control his gambling. Profit off her life insurance.

I had to act that night to save my mum once and for all.

* * * * * *

To think that the moment I planned so gracefully for months was thrust upon me in an instant didn’t seem fair. But then when has my life ever been?

I waited until they were both home and properly in bed. I figured one slice to the throat would be all it would take.

I climbed the outside of their estate like any typical burglar, my toned body no longer the frail girl he once often took down.

Instead, I was a vigilante here with a purpose. I took out my blade and slid open their second-floor patio, stepping gingerly into the bedroom like a ghost might.

As I stood over the bed and saw my mum shiver with her back turned to Jeremy it made me even more furious. Even her rest could not be free of his torment.

And though I wished to take his life swiftly, having come so far to make him fall so gracefully… I knew I was going to take my time with this.

I placed the blade at his throat, taking in the scent that had plagued me for ages one last time.

Then I covered his mouth with the chloroform clothe I had brought, safely keeping him from awakening in a flash to my arrival.

I did the same to mum, although I was far more gentle with her. She need not be aware of the carnage this night would be filled with.

Then I took my uncle and dragged him to the first floor, his body as limp as a doll. I placed him tied and bound to a chair and quickly found a few sharp needles to awaken him. They reminded me of Belfrost and all the ways she had tortured me. To think that I now used the same methods disturbed me. But only for a moment.

Seeing my Uncle’s eyes widen in alarm as the thin needles from mum’s pin cushion slid under his fingernails was enough to make me cackle with glee.

“Gloria?” he asked in disbelief. He tried for a moment to scream for help from mum but I quickly shook my head and remarked, “No one is here to save you.”

In those few short words, my Uncle seemed to understand my purpose being there.

“You’ve come to kill me?” he guessed, shaking his head and spitting at the floor. “I suppose this is what those letters from that fucking school were about? You were expelled, eh? What a riot. Couldn’t even be properly trained there. You’re just a fuckin’ animal, aren’t you?” he spat back.

I positioned the blade I had meticulously carved beneath his lips and warned, “You will show respect or I will make you eat your words.”

“And why should I? Because you will torture me? Show me my place. Wake up, girl. You have become nothing more than the monster you wanted to escape!”

As he laughed madly I lost my own temper and plunged the blade into his chest, twisting it sharply.

This only made his laughter turn to madness, his eyes dazzling as he looked at me.

“Is that all you’ve got? You are pathetic, truly. Just kill me and be done with it,” he urged me.

I spat in his face and took the blade out, ready to riddle him with more wounds. But no, he would not gain control over my victory. This was going to take all night.

“You think you know pain because of what you inflicted on me. But you’re wrong. You’re no longer the monster here. I am. And by the time I am done with you, you will be begging for death,” I sneered in his face.

He only smiled and shook his head.

“Prove it,” he challenged and then added an interesting proposal. “Untie me. No weapons. No advantages. We will see just what sort of animal you have become.”

I looked at his bruised hands, his bloody waist. I knew he was goading me into a fight.

But it felt worth it.

“I will make one thing clear to you. There is no point to any of this unless only one of us walks away. And it will not be you.”

I cut the bounds and flipped his chair up, urging my Uncle to his feet the same way he had all those years ago.

As he stood up, his calm demeanor receded in mere seconds. Grabbing at my ankles, he tugged me down to the carpet and lunged for my face, pressing his fingers toward my eyes.

“Filthy bitch! We should have sent you off to a foreign school!” he snarled.

I kicked him hard in the crotch, yelling as I used all of my strength to push him away and began to beat him like the worthless pulp that he was.

But Jeremy was a fighter. With every ounce of his energy, he fought back and tossed debris at my face, scolding me with his words as he frantically searched for an upper hand.

“You’ve dreamt of this moment, haven’t you? How miserable your life will be once I am gone!” he chided me.

“I look forward to it!” was the only response I dared to dignify him with.

For several minutes we wrestled upon the stairs and patio, each of us trying to gain the upper hand.

At last, I pushed his skull against the banister and into the glass of the garden patio, shattering it in the process. Victory in my grasp, I held him over the edge of the balcony and snarled, “Give me one good reason why I should not end you here and now.”

His laughter and defiance were gone now. Only a look of… I think, pity, remained.

“Do you really think any words I offered to you would suffice, Gloria? There are some things in this world that just cannot be fixed. I am one of them. So go on then, finish it!” he spat back.

I wrapped my fingers around his throat, eager to do him in.

“You deserve so much more than this!” I said angrily, pushing him back onto the carpeted floor, frustrated that he still defiantly refused to fear what I had become.

“And you as well, my dear. We are not so different, you and I. Except that I recognize that there is no turning back. Embrace it. Revel in what I have made you become!” he cackled.

Was this a game to him? A moment to treasure? Did he think even now that he held sway over me?

I lost all recollection of thought in those next few instances. I leapt onto him like a cat, using my bare fingernails to scrape at his face. My rage engulfed all my senses.

For the first time, I was the one that made him scream. Like Melody had shown me, I used my bare teeth and plucked his left eye from his skull. In unbridled pain and desperation he fumed, his shrieks echoing throughout the room.

Once it was free from his body, I forced his mouth open and shoved the dangling orb down his throat alongside his sinew and nerves. I pressed my knife against his throat, forcing him to chew.

“I am going to carve you up, little by little, until you realize that you are nothing but trash. You are beneath it. You are the scum of this earth. And no punishment I give would suffice to make you properly pay for what you have done!” I screamed.

His body quivered, and he moaned as I forced my knife into his side again and again, until my hand had gone numb from plunging it into his gut.

Then I stumbled back and beheld this pathetic excuse for a man, and shouted, “Say it! Say you are worthless! Admit to your useless excuse of a life!”

He was crying, hardly able to breathe. He couldn’t even get two words out.

But in those last few moments of his life were a show of defiance, of pity. Treating me like a victim to the last.

Then, to my stunned amazement, the sound of a gun ripped through the air. Two bullets found their way straight into his skull, no different than those my father had likely used to take his own life. Though, this time, they served a completely different purpose.

I turned to the stairs to see mum standing there, holding Jeremy’s firearm and shaking.

“You… have no idea… how long I have wanted to do that…” she said as Jeremy fell to the floor, gurgling on blood.

I collapsed in her arms in a ball of tears.

The wails of death and of our reunion resounded throughout the night.

* * * * * *

There is little else to tell save for the fact that mum did remarry a preacher from Manchester. Surprisingly she insisted on a service for Jeremy, though we opted to cast his corpse to the bottom of the sea rather than bury him alongside our kin in the family cemetery.

I was given the rest of my father’s money on my eighteenth birthday two years after the ordeal, and used it to purchase the Everstone School.

I resolved to teach the girls there self-defense and survival skills, rather than manners. The world suffers from no lack of decency, I think. But as for forces of nature, such as me and my mysterious savior, the sort that cannot be stopped… we are few and far between.

I made a plaque to honor my strange friend, who first inspired me to stand up for myself. I never saw her again, nor could I confirm whether or not she was still alive. I remain hopeful she is, however, as every now and then I hear word of others having been saved from abuse the same way I was. The rumors give me hope that she is continuing to teach others to resist, and to behave in a way that can only be considered… undecent.

Rating: 9.55/10. From 11 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Kyle Harrison
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Kyle Harrison

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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