ALICE

Chapter One by KR Wilde

It’s dark. The room, my life, my mind – everything save for the light filtering under the door through that stupid, measly crack. Occasionally someone will break that light as they walk past, but most of the time it remains a solid line of gold, taunting me with its delicious respite from this wretched tomb.

How long has it been since they locked me in here anyways? A week? A month? Or have they decided to let me rot in here until judgment day? I suppose letting God punish me would be far easier than wasting the taxpayer’s precious cash on a lawyer and judge. Whatever. I probably deserve to be forgotten, and left to decay like today’s social economy anyways. I’ve done awful things… unforgivable things even.

Or at least that’s what they keep telling me.

The idiots running this prison like to think their knowledge of the situation is superior to my own, but they’re wrong. Employment history, bank statements, and an incomplete medical history are far from painting a complete picture of who I really am.

I suppose there’s always the Seattle Times, but what do they really know? Those behind it are seriously nothing more than self-serving parasites looking to get front-page status through any piece of gossip about me.

Believe it or not, one Sunday’s issue had described me as a crazed atheist on a mission to exterminate female churchgoers. Ha! It’s almost laughable. Of course, there was no hard evidence behind it – only a ridiculous string of gossip picked up from a desperate nobody wanting to be noticed. The current issue is sure to have a different idea now that I’ve been finally caught, and locked away.

The jangling of keys comes from outside the door, pulling me out of my thoughts. I frown. This is new. No one has bothered to reach out to me except for a guard who shoves food through a thin slot in the wall three times a day. I push myself up into a sitting position, and eye the doorknob with a hungry look. It’s been too long since I’ve had human contact.

I listen as the person behind the door struggles to find the right key. My heart begins to pound as the anticipation builds within me, the pressure so much that I just might blow up! Can’t they hurry it up? I need to hear another person’s voice, one that’s not trapped inside my own head. Truly. It’s to the point where I don’t even care if the person annoys the crap out of me.

But more importantly… I need to see the light.

Someone else has joined the person with the keys. Their low mumblings barely reach my ears, making it impossible to hear what they’re saying. I climb off of the thin mattress, wincing painfully as my bad ankle pops in and out of place, and crawl over to the door. The conversation must be about me. It has to be! What else could it be about? I press an eager ear to the door’s cold metal surface.

The mumbling’s volume doesn’t change in the slightest.

I let out a huff of frustration. What a disappointment.

I lean back, and sit on the hard ground with legs pressed against my chest. There’s no telling how long whoever they are will take. It could be mere seconds or minutes. Heck, it could possibly be an hour before anything exciting happens. Either way, I’ll be here waiting for them to open that door, and set me free from this suffocating darkness.

The muted voices continue as my tailbone begins to ache. I grimace as the temptation to resituate eats at me, begging for respite from the concrete. But I don’t move. I don’t even twitch out of place. But why? Why shouldn’t I get more comfortable? After all, it’s my choice.

I clench my jaw, as if to crush the word into oblivion between my teeth, and tighten my grip around my legs. Choice. A word that suggests any action committed by a single person is of his or her own choosing. What a load of crap. To even suggest the dictionaries are right about this one would mean I truly am a monster… instead of her. But once the world realizes my story, choice will have to be rewritten a new definition. Then will everyone finally realize how foolish they were to judge me.

A sharp click resonates inside the room, bouncing off the spider web infested walls. My head jerks upwards in the direction of the doorknob. All prior thoughts of resentment are washed away as anticipation once more explodes throughout me.

Is this really it? Am I finally going to see the light my eyes have been craving for for so long? I lean forward. The suspense is almost more than I can bear what with the person on the other side taking their sweet time. It’s like they know every moment they waste turning that doorknob is another moment longer I spend in this maddening darkness. I hate them for it!

It’s a wasted thought.

The door swings open completely, bathing me in gold light, and forcing me to squint my eyes. But I don’t care. The brightness… it’s beautiful! Absolutely beautiful. Whoever has released it can be my best friend. Heck, why not family?

“Move back. Now!” A deep voice barks.

I cringe into myself as the barrel of an ArmaLite rifle suddenly emerges from the light, and squares off between my eyes. It’s all I can do to keep them from going cross. The rifle waves in the direction of my so-called bed followed by another harsh order, which I reluctantly oblige.

I must say this is definitely not how family greets one another… Oh no, no, no. But then again, how should I know? It’s not like my real family was anything like Pollyanna. Instead, I was forced to daydream about a life and family I could never have, and watch others more fortunate than myself have absolute perfection.

I resituate myself on the mattress, facing the open door, and watch silently as the rifle’s owner steps completely into the room, its barrel never leaving the spot between my eyes. I can’t see their face very well, what with it being in shadow, but the thick arms suggest them to be a man with some kind of military background.

Ex-Marine, perhaps? A few tours to Iraq a definite maybe. How about the Mexican border? I heard it was being overrun by desperate refugees seeking out religious freedom… Such gossip has only been made available to me when the food slot barfs out yet another inedible, moldy meal. I wonder if the guard doing so ever realizes he has an eager audience listening in on his private exchanges. Either way, it’s possible the newcomer hung out there before landing this gig.

My eyes flicker to the door as another man confidently emerges through it. He’s more slender than the first, likely to be a courthouse official or perhaps a rich, vengeful seeking father in desperate need of closure for his daughter I may have killed. Whoever he is, the man has a serious problem limiting his cologne use. The whole place has begun to reek of pine and gin.

I gag as the wretched mixture hits my salivary glands, forcing my mouth to water and stomach churn. It’s very possible I’ll be decorating his shoes with its contents if he comes any closer.

But he doesn’t. The man stops just short of his armed friend – I think I’ll name him big guy – and eyes me with such hate filled contempt. I stare back, my eyes watering pathetically.

The man seems to note this, not believing it’s his cologne, but instead assumes I fancy him to be my savior by remarking, “I’m Lark Hal, regretfully your appointed attorney until a jury gives you what will undoubtedly be a needle to the arm, or my personal favorite, a rope around your undeserving neck. I’ve arranged a transfer to the—“ He stops short, his face turning into a tomato before continuing coolly, “Is that really necessary?”

All eyes fall on me as I lower my hand slowly where a moment ago I was mimicking his speech with it. My face begins to burn. By no means am I embarrassed or ashamed by what I’ve done. This man is a mirror image of those self-serving parasites running the Seattle Times, and it makes me sick. They are all convinced they have me figured out, having pegged me as a common murderer delighting in bloodshed.

My story is far more complicating that that. I can assure them of that much.

The heat from my face spreads down my neck, arms, and into my hands where they ball into tight fists, my uneven, chewed on nails digging into my palms. The sudden urge to punch the man before me takes hold of my thoughts, but one glance at the big guy assures me I’ll be dead before I’m off this filthy mattress.

So instead, my animosity must find a different outlet for the time being.

I take a steadying, deep breath, and raise a japing eyebrow at Lark. “Forest puke.”

“What?” He asks, taken aback by the oddity of such a phrase. He shoots the big guy a questioning look, but is only answered with a similarly confused shrug.

“Your cologne,” I explain slowly in case his lawyer brain is too ill equipped for common English.

Lark’s hand twitches. Its movement is ever so slight, but enough for me to wonder what hides directly inside his suit jacket. His curled lip suggests something deadly, sending an unpleasant wave of chills down my thin body as though a bucket of ice was dumped on me.

It seems I’m not the only one to be mindful of.

Lark disrupts my thoughts from going any further, and hisses out, “That forest puke is a 970 dollar bottle of Royal Mayfair Eau de Parfum – a House of Creed special. I wouldn’t expect someone like you to appreciate the finer things in life.” He motions at the room’s entirety, accentuating my lowlife status. “Only a murderous trash can like yourself would have to use a corner as her toilet.”

My back stiffens, my muscles rigid. I narrow my eyes, and lean forward. The big guy shifts his gun threateningly, but I refrain from backing off. The time for suppressing my anger for this so called lawyer has come and gone for he has baited the hook, and lured me in – a deadly catch.

With voice masked in quiet anger, I growl, “You can call me what you like, but don’t come in here acting like some pompous peacock. You have no idea what I’ve been through or who I am.”

            “Oh, but I do know exactly who you are. “ Lark’s eyes flash a delicate shade of red – a predator’s gaze – as he continues no louder than a whisper, “I read your case file. Homicide detective turned stone cold killer. It’s truly deplorable how far you’ve fallen from success to absolute delusion. It even takes special care to note how much you despise the sound of your own name. Why is that exactly? Alice is such a beautiful name.”

My breath catches in my ribcage, my heart skips a beat. Blood rushes out of my face, leaving the remnants of a ghost to stare back into her unspeakable past. Faces spanning from my childhood to more recently greet me in a funeral procession, and cloud my gaze with their grief of lives lived too short – all of their names crystal clear and like the plague in my mind.

I try to swallow, but my throat has gone dry, having taken on the coarse quality of sandpaper. My name was beautiful to hear once. I loved how my tongue would roll when saying the ‘L’, but now… Now it’s a disease I wish to wash myself clean of.

My eyes waver on the open door of my prison, both filled with a terrible longing to escape, but Lark pins me in place with his next words.

           “I can only imagine, Alice,” I wince, he ignores me, “how dreadful it must’ve been when your mother died, but it’s truly no excuse to become,” he gestures at me in disgust, “this.”

At the mention of her, my mother I snap. Time slows, even stops as I tear my gaze from the door, throw myself from the bed on to my feet, and point an accusing finger at this abhorrent man who in the law’s eyes is meant to bring me justice.

           “Your file may hold my employment history, bank statements, medical history, but it does little to shed light on who I really am,” I say, my voice weak and shaky. “That woman was… awful to me. She made me—“

My whole body trembles violently as a ten yearlong affliction suddenly scorches me from the inside out, silencing my speech, every cell remembering the absolute torment I endured under her roof.

My gaze bounces around the room in a panic, searching for something… anything to calm myself down. But there’s nothing. Absolutely nothing! I stumble forward a few steps, causing Lark to tuck himself behind the big guy. Both wear identical expressions of unease as they track my erratic movements, most surely wondering when to pull the trigger on me.

My vision abruptly shifts. Lark, the big guy, the concrete walls… All of it dissolves into a whirlpool of obscurity as my mind treads deeper into that nightmare I left behind in Federal Way, but somehow have never been able to fully shake. Pictures of past horrors swirl inside my head, strangling my mind with its black fog – Her singing in that chair; her eyes glazed over as they stare right through me; her hands methodically carving that knife’s blade into her forearms.

It’s too much!

Unbearable pressure from within begins to build. It pushes past my clenched gut into my lungs, tightly squeezes my already mutilated heart, and fights its way up my throat. My fingers claw at it in an effort to stifle the pressure like some mad cat on its scratching post. But no matter how hard I try, it doesn’t work. I can’t contain it. I explode!

My scream fills the small prison, paralyzing Lark and the big guy in place, and spills out into the hallway. Their eyes are bugging out of their skulls, and bouncing left to right in search of anything to quiet me. But there’s nothing save for the stained mattress and concrete walls – all of it utterly and completely useless.

A shrill siren blares from outside the room, accompanied by yellow flashing lights. They dance on the walls, my crumpled face, Lark, the big guy… Distant shouts reach my ears, but I can’t stop. My lungs just keep fueling my scream with never ending air, and fresh tears gush down my face.

The sudden thunder of boots stampede down the hallway, growing ever nearer, and most likely with ArmaLite rifles as friends. Lark begins to yell at me, even frantically gestures for me to shut up, but he’s lost to me. If only he had taken special care to listen to that note written in my file than perhaps none of this would’ve come to fruition.

Harsh orders and methodized howls to end my life are right outside my room now, the siren still wailing its repugnance for me.

The Calvary has arrived.

Lark and the big guy barely jump out of the way as five heavily armed men storm into the room. They waste no time sweeping their guns around in precise movements, each taking their turn placing me in their crosshairs. They’re like clones of the big guy, but less human. Face shields conceal their identities and instead mirror my own image in each, their skin has been replaced by thick armor, and their stance like hungry predators stalking their prey.

Two of the reptilian-like men rush over, sieze my arms, and tackle me to the ground without warning. My cheek smacks the floor hard. The bone shatters as it gives way under the immense pressure. Blood pools into my mouth as my scream crescendos, a different kind of agony taking control of my senses.

The two men struggle to keep my writhing body still long enough to handcuff me, the metal biting into my wrists, but it’s no use.

The situation is out of control.

Amidst the sirens, flashing lights, shouting and screaming I hear a gun being cocked. It’s crystal clear to my ears like a wind chime on a quiet summer’s day. My blood runs cold, my heart pounds. Out of the corner of my eye, I see him standing there – Lark, the jerk claiming to be my lawyer, my bringer of justice – with pistol in hand, aimed directly at me.

A fresh set of tears stream down my nose. This can’t be happening! I clamp my eyes shut, and try to prepare myself for the bite of his bullet. All the while, my mind races, screaming four words over and over again:

He’s going to kill me. He’s going to kill me!

The pistol fires.

Its pitch splits through me violently, disrupting the suffocating darkness’ hold on me. An uncomfortable ringing fills my ears. My heart beats once… twice… three times… I slowly open my eyes, and lock them on Lark. He’s breathing hard, chest heaving with smoking pistol still in hand. It’s not aimed at me anymore. My eyes widen in disbelief.

I attempt to lift my head to follow its trajectory, but one of the men drives my head back down. My bad cheek slams once more into the ground. Fresh blood pools into my mouth as black spots blind my vision, the pain electrocuting my body. The sting of tears follows, and I’m left with the realization that my ears are officially my last option to understand what’s just transpired.

The big guy speaks, his voice sounding strained. “How did you get past security with that?”

The air is vitrified with tension, and silence weighs heavily on all of our shoulders as we anticipate an answer.

Lark, arrogant but mostly short-winded, replies, “I reminded them who I was here for.”

My skin prickles unpleasantly at his words as though a thousand tiny daggers are attacking me. A stream of profanity slips from the big guy’s lips as he curses the foolishness of his coworkers.

“Shut up, Mach. I shot a stupid mattress, not a person.”

“You could’ve—“

Lark snaps back. “Missed? It’s highly unlikely, considering I’ve known how to shoot since I was eight years old.”

Mach growls from deep within his chest, clearly vexed by Lark’s callousness. “I don’t care about your history. Hand it over.”

My vision finally clears enough to see Lark’s jaw tighten, a vein in his temple throbbing purple with anger, before finally handing over his pistol. It wastes no time disappearing inside a tactical utility pouch attached to Mach’s hip. Relief floods my body, and for a small instance I forget my pain. I exhale out of my mouth loudly. Muscles in my neck, back, and legs loosen under the crushing weight of the two men still on top of me.

I shift my gaze to Mach, a part of me wishing to say thank you, but the thought goes to waste when met with his frigid stare. The cold-blooded intensity in his eyes provides a frostbite effect on my insides, and I’m unable to match his gaze. That man could care less if I die. If it wasn’t at the risk of his men’s safety, that bullet would’ve been mine to chew indefinitely.

The sting of metal kisses my wrists as the men finally finish placing their handcuffs on me. Lark and Mach leave the room, the siren wailing one last goodbye not too long after. Thickly gloved hands grip my bony shoulders, and pull me to my feet.

Without warning, the world rushes to greet me in a whirl of dizzying color, the blood running from my head, my body swaying. The effect is instantaneous. I heave. Bile burns the inside of my throat as I vomit all over the concrete floor. It splatters across my jumpsuit’s pant legs, marrying itself with the dried feces and urine I wish didn’t exist.

As the remaining men scramble out of the way, not desiring to get caught in the mess or help me save shout and curse angrily, I straighten enough to catch a harrowing reflection of someone familiar, yet lost to me in a reflective face shield. A rat’s nest of snarled, long brown hair, jaded blue eyes for sinkholes, and bluish-purple skin hanging loosely over a mashed cheekbone hails me.

I watch as bile dribbles down the reflection’s chin in a disgusting manner, but I feel it. So I lift a hand to wipe it out of instinct, instantly freezing in place upon seeing the reflection mirroring my actions. My eyes, those haunted blues, widen in shock.

This can’t be happening! Am I truly seeing myself? It’s felt like an eternity since being imprisoned that I can scarcely believe it. I gingerly touch my bad cheek, wincing as I do, to prove I’m not perhaps dreaming.

The sharp sting of pain transforms into a dreadful coldness that numbs my fingertips and lips. Only now am I beginning to suspect my prior questions of time were not only foolish, but unacquainted with my situation’s true seriousness.

I lick my lips fearfully before whispering to no one in particular, “How long have I really been here?”

The answer comes too readily. “Two years.”

End of Chapter One

This material is copyrighted by KR Wilde. Any retranscription or reproduction is illegal.

 

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