He keeps screaming at me, his voice becoming ragged with the passion that he uses to spit the words at me. I scrunch myself up into a ball, becoming as small and inconspicuous as possible, but my body does not move. It is frozen, like my eyes. Frozen in submission to him and his words. Only the vacancy of my gaze tells him I am no longer there. I have escaped far away into that land where I am warm and secure, not afraid or intimidated.
He pauses in his rant. “Are you even listening to me?”
I hear his question from far away; his voice sounds like a distant echo in a large vacant cave. Turning away I leave the cave so that I can no longer hear the echo. I step out into a vast forest. It is beautiful, green and gold beneath a soft pale blue sky. I breathe in, deeply inhaling the scent of the exotic flowers and the serenity of this haven.
A gentle wind plays with my hair and rustles through golden leaves, which fly off the boughs of the trees in a single airy, fluttering mass. The leaves swirl around me, encircling me in a burnished cloud, some coming to rest on my shoulders and hair. I reach out my hands and they land on my fingertips. The birds trilling their songs fill me with a strange and strong yearning, echoing the urging of the cloud of glittering butterflies surrounding me. I want to fly!
A shy illuminous haze of light peeks through the treetops before it meanders down to the forest floor and whispers, “this is an enchanted place where anything is possible.” The birds urge me to fly like they do with their young. The butterflies use their combined strength to try and lift me off the planet’s surface. I strain against gravity, stretching myself skywards, whilst simultaneously pushing my hands downwards to counter the pull on my body to stay earth bound.
But, roots sprout from my legs, winding their way round my ankles and my feet, penetrating deep into the soil beneath me. I struggle against them, trying to break free, but they hold me tight, not yielding to my exertion.
Suddenly, a harsh voice silences the birds, scatters the butterflies, shattering the trees.
“Well?” He moves closer, a giant towering over me- a tiny shadow. There is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Leaving me exposed with no one to defend me. This ‘giant’ is ‘supposed’ to protect me! Instead, he slashes me with that knife, which is always close at hand: the words that cut so deep.
“Are you going to answer me?” he demands, with his face only inches away from mine. His breath reeks of his power mingled with my fear.
I survey my ruined woodland, silenced now except for my heavy breathing. Mute aside from a distant rumble, a far off growl. Fear claws at my chest, squeezing me tight like the tethers that fasten my feet in situ. The earth shakes with the repeated thud of heavy footfalls and the snarling increases until it fills my ears. Now it is all that I can hear.
Then, from behind a pile of debris, the source of the roaring is revealed. An odious beast, which is nearly a head taller than me, but almost four times my width and strength. It is covered with a scaly skin a deep red dulled by dirt. Its eyes, black pits within its cruel face. All four of its legs are primed and ready to spring. My attention was fixated on its claws: long razors protruding from the eight digits on each paw. I cowered before this malevolent entity.
Terror rushes through me, like a torrent of freezing water flooding me from my toes to my head. I try to turn and run, but topple over, forgetting that my feet were held fast. Now that I’m prostrate I know it’s all over. I’m as good as dead as the ferocious creature advances upon me. I close my eyes, and wait..
A small voice whispers inside my head, “I can’t quit, I don’t want to die.”
I feel hot breath upon my skin. My eyes snap open to take in the two dark caverns staring me straight in the face along with a gaping mouth filled with hundreds of narrow sharp teeth. In desperation I punch the hideous visage. The fiend bellows, taken aback it hesitates for a moment, giving me just enough time to grasp the nearest object, a sizable stick. Actually it was more of a branch than a stick.
As my attacker bears down on me to tear my head from my shoulders, I raise my rod aloft and smite it with all of my strength. My makeshift weapon hits it in the mouth, dislodging several teeth. They fall to the ground with a gruesome tinkling accompanied by yowls of pain.
I’m not sure who is more surprised by my resistance- my predator or myself? “There’s no way I’m giving in,” I declare between heavy gasps, “I won’t surrender, not anymore.” I skilfully wield the bough striking the brute between its huge eyes. It yelps like a scolded dog, eyes me for a moment whilst deciding upon its next move. Finally, the monster turns and slinks away,- defeated.
I scrabble about in the dirt for the dislodged teeth, finding one I use it to saw away at the lashings securing my ankles. When I look up, the titan is standing before me once more, glaring down at me, with veins popping out from his neck and forehead in sheer rage.
“I’ve had enough!” I state emphatically. My defiance causes the colossus to waver and shrink a little.
His eyes widen. When he speaks it sounds like a whip crack.
“I’ve had enough!” I insist. “I’m not going to just lay down and take it anymore!”
I don’t really want to hurt him, but I have to do this! I can overcome my fears, I know I can. I need to be brave, to stand up to him. I must be free.
His eyes glitter dangerously as he stares me down. “Really?” he snorts, “Yes you will, because you don’t have the guts. You know that I’m much stronger than you. You are week and useless without me.”
“You are wrong. You’ve been telling me that I’m weak and useless all these years, but I’m not! What other lies have you been telling me that I’ve just swallowed?”
Despite being a rhetorical question, he decides to answer. “Lies? You’re calling me a liar? You Self conceited little cow, has it ever occur to you that maybe you’re not the most perfect person in the world?”
I feel his knife cut deep, but this time I choose to block out the pain, because I know I must fight it. The cuts from his knife only hurt if I let them, and I’m not going to let them hurt me anymore.
“I’m leaving.” My announcement causes him to shrink some more.
“WHAT?” he explodes.
“I can’t live like this anymore. I am my own person and you can’t mould me into what you think is acceptable.” He shrinks further.
“Well, be prepared to be very lonely then, because if you keep going the way you are, no one will want to hang around you. No one likes poor excuses for human beings like you.”
Something growls within me, it too wants to wield a knife. But, I can’t cut him. I don’t want to behave like him, even if he does hurt me.
“You can only pretend for so long,” he continues, “before everyone will see you for what you really are, pathetic!”
“Is that how you see me, as pathetic? Then I can’t stay with you. I can’t do this anymore,” I repeat.
“Can’t do what, live with the truth?” he accuses me.
I sigh. Will he ever understand; ever accept me? Ever really know me?
“Don’t you sigh at me like that!” he orders.
“I have to go!”
“No, you can’t,” he asserts.
“Just try me!” I snap back. I turn and walk away, but his hand clamps my arm like a vice. I turn my head to face him. “Let. Me. Go.” I command through gritted teeth.
He glowers at me for the longest moment, and I stare back unwaveringly. If I back off now, I will never have the courage to leave, I’ll always be his prisoner.
After a long pause he releases me with a shove. “Know that if you leave now, I’ll never take you back. I want nothing more to do with you.”
He returns to his original size.
I don’t reply, but turn and keep walking, shedding the scars and burdens from him as I move on, leaving him and everything I’ve known for the last few years behind me. I can’t look back, I mustn’t look back or I run the risk of falling under his control once more. No amount of apologies or gifts will ‘buy me back’ this time.
I stand in the doorway, gazing out at the world ahead of me. It is bright and clean, the wind smells like summer rain. From here even the hills and mountains look climbable. All of the trees stand strong and tall. Has it always looked this way, I wonder. Maybe that peaceful place doesn’t just exist in my head. Maybe it has always existed in reality but I couldn’t see it because he didn’t want me too. For if I did then I wouldn’t want to stay with him.
The birds are calling me from deep within a grove of trees, so I take a step closer. Out of the doorway to his domain, and into this new country. I breathe deep, inhaling the scent of fresh grass and green leaves. I exhale, it’s over, and at last I have my freedom!