All I saw was blackness. I couldn’t even see my hands, or the ground. I could only feel the concrete wall next to me. It was cold, like the inside of a refrigerator. I hugged my arms and winced. They hurt so bad!
After I was taken away from Daddy, a bunch of ghosts started poking me with needles. I called them ghosts because they wore funny white suits with big masks.
I hated needles! I told them that, but no one listened! They only stopped when a man with a wrinkled face said I was “powerless”. He looked like a bull dog; a mean bulldog.
After that, the ghosts shoved me in here. Why would they put me in a room with no lights? And it was freezing! “Just in case!” they had said. I didn’t know what they meant. I hated the dark.
I thought I could be brave, but not anymore. I crouched down against the concrete wall and began to cry.
I jumped up, trying to see him. “Daddy?”
I smiled. Pudge was my nickname, after one of my favourite cartoon characters we watched on Saturday mornings.
Even though his voice sounded funny, I knew it was him. Daddy was here! I wanted to run to him, but I couldn’t see anything! It sounded like a big room.
“Daddy, make your light!” I begged.
“I can’t Pudge. There’s no heat.”
I forgot. Daddy could only make light if there was heat; or heat if there was light. There was no heat or light in here.
“Is there a plugin?” I asked weakly.
Daddy could also take power from a plug in; anything with energy. I remember, I had gone out to make a snowman in the winter. It was so cold my lips turned blue. He took a hand to the plugin, and I watched a lightning bolt catch his fingers. When his other hand touched my coat all the wet snow steamed off, and I felt a wave of warmth.
“No Pudge, there’s no plugin,” Daddy answered. His voice sounded sad. Poor Daddy. He couldn’t use his powers in here.
But he had the best powers ever! We were camping last summer and I saw him make fire with his own hand when the lighter wouldn’t work – though he had to be careful no one saw.
Daddy could even disappear! I watched him do it in a ray of sunshine one time, turning into a wisp of steam. I didn’t understand it, but I remember wanting to try. He put both hands on my shoulders. When he began to disappear, I felt myself begin to break apart into a million pieces. I freaked out, begging him to stop. He did – and Mommy got really mad at him. But later that night he explained it to me. It was like a puzzle that you break and put back together again.
“Don’t you worry Pudge, I can always put you back together.”
I believed him, but I was too scared to try again.
Not as scared as I was now though. I needed to find him! How was I going to do that if I couldn’t even see him?
My feet fumbled in the dark and I tripped, my knees and hands scraping against the frozen concrete. “Ow,” I gasped, letting a sob escape me.
“Abby are you okay?” Daddy cried.
No, I wasn’t. I just sat there, scared and aching. Everything hurt: my freshly skinned knees, my bruised arms. “They hurt me,” I whimpered.
“It’s okay Pudge, I’ll find you. It’s okay,” Daddy promised softly. His voice was trying to help me, but it still sounded so far away. “Sing for me Pudge. It’ll make you feel better.”
“I can sing now?”
“You can sing now,” he assured.
Daddy always said singing healed your soul. Whenever I was hurt, he told me to sing, swearing my voice was the sweetest medicine. It usually helped. He had a papercut once; he had me kiss it and sing to make it better. After I was done, he showed me the finger and the cut was gone. I knew it was a magic trick, just like the quarters that came from his ear.
But when the officers caught us, Daddy made me swear not to sing.
Things must be different now, and I did want to feel better. But I was scared, and it’s hard to sing when you feel so awful. I couldn’t think of how to start.
“Hush little one, don’t you cry, Daddy’s gonna buy you some candlelight,” he began.
I sniffed away my tears, wishing Daddy could make a candle. I began to mutter along with him, still not feeling good enough to really sing.
“And if that candlelight don’t shine, Daddy’s gonna buy you a fishing line.”
This made me giggle. Mom and Dad always used to sing this song when I was a baby. I was six now, so they just changed the words. Daddy had promised to take me fishing.
“And if that fishing line don’t catch, Daddy’s gonna buy you a …
“A Bandersnatch!” I sang, thinking of a monster from my cartoons.
“A Bandersnatch?” Daddy cried in pleasant surprise. My laugh echoed through the darkness, and somehow, it didn’t feel all that scary anymore. Daddy’s voice was getting closer, so I kept humming while he made up the words. My arms and knees began to feel better the moment I did. “Alright… and if that Bandersnatch turns mean, Daddy’s gonna buy you a magic bean.”
“A bean? Ew!” I cried. I heard Daddy chuckle somewhere in the inky dark. He knew I hated beans; he was teasing me. I stuck out my tongue – then remembered he couldn’t see it. But he was close! I could hear his footsteps.
“And if that magic bean don’t grow, Daddy’s gonna buy you a –
Daddy’s singing stopped. Someone else was in here too.
I liked this game. “Po –
“Shhh,” Daddy whispered. He was so close, but then his footsteps started to fade back. “No more singing Pudge.”
Daddy was moving away from me! Why?
“Marco…” the voice echoed again.
“Daddy?” I cried.
“Don’t answer. Walk a few steps, sit down, and be very, very quiet,” he whispered, but it sounded further than before.
The echo was a man’s, and he really wanted to play. He wasn’t loud, and he didn’t sound as bad as the ghosts. I didn’t mind this game but it sounded eerie in the dark. A lump was in my throat. I wanted Daddy to come back!
“Abby do as I say.” Daddy’s voice was still quivering, but I didn’t like it when he sounded angry; it made me shake and not from the cold. The last time he sounded like that he had told me to run. I didn’t run fast enough, and we were both caught by horrible men with guns. They were the ones who took me to the ghosts.
I didn’t want to be taken again. Obediently, I took a few steps, sat down, and stayed silent.
“Marco,” the voice continued. It sounded closer to me.
There was a ragged breath and my father answered: “Polo.” He was further away now, and I felt mad. Why did he get to play and I didn’t? He never liked this game! Maybe he was trying to trick the other man! Yes, so I could win. Daddy always let me win.
“Marco…” The man’s voice was going away, following Dad’s answer. I decided to call him Marco.
“Polo.” It didn’t seem like Daddy was having much fun. Suddenly, he made a horrible sound. It reminded me of choking on a chicken wing.
“There you are.” Whoever had found Daddy seemed pleased, but I didn’t like the glee in his voice. It sounded weird.
“Leave her alone,” Daddy gasped. His voice sounded real bad, like he had a sore throat. “Please.”
“And why would I do that,” the man answered quietly, “when she could help me out of here?”
Me? I rubbed my arms nervously. My arms didn’t hurt anymore, but my chest felt like it would cave in.
“Leave her alone, she’s got nothing to help you,” I heard Dad say. His voice was choppy. I waited, knowing something was wrong. He sounded sick.
“Neither do you, your powers can’t help me in here. But I am very interested in knowing hers.”
“She doesn’t have any. She’s powerless.” Daddy’s voice was a hoarse whisper. Were they talking about me? I don’t have powers, not like Daddy!
“Really?” The voice sounded shocked. I didn’t understand what was going on. Why couldn’t adults make any sense?
“One scream and those officers will be here, and you’ll never get away.”
I stiffened in surprise. Daddy said the S word! No matter what: I was not allowed to scream. That was a big rule. Even when the ghosts poked me with the needles, it hurt, but I didn’t scream. I grinned. Daddy would be proud when I told him. But for now, I had to keep quiet.
“That might help me,” the man said. “In any case, you’re in no position to fight.”
I couldn’t understand what happened after that. I heard shoes scuffling on the concrete. There was grunting and sharp yells; Daddy’s cries scared me the most. I didn’t like this game anymore! I wanted it to stop. I knew I was supposed to be quiet, but the sounds scared me. I covered my mouth with my hands, trying to keep my voice in.
Finally, the noises stopped. All I could hear was harsh, raspy breathing, but I couldn’t see who it was.
“Open your eyes.” said Marco. He wasn’t raspy.
“Abby?” It was Daddy.
“Open your eyes.” Marco demanded this again, more slowly. I decided I didn’t like Marco.
“Abby,” my Dad said gently. “Close your eyes and cover your ears.”
“But it’s dark!” I was confused. The other man wanted me to open my eyes; Daddy told me to close them.
“It’s okay Pudge.”
Why did Daddy sound so tired?
“But you have to close your eyes and promise me you won’t open them.” I did so, squeezing the tears down my cheeks. “If anyone comes up to you, scream.”
There was a grunt, and Daddy let out a yell. I let out one too. Oops.
“Open your eyes!” This time the demand was sharp and loud. I hugged my knees close, trying to stop them from shaking.
“It’s okay Abby,” Daddy said with a cough. “You can scream now, I promise. Now close your eyes and cover your ears.”
“Open your eyes!” the voice yelled.
I didn’t ask questions. I didn’t want to hear anymore. Right before my hands came up, I heard Daddy say one more thing: “I love –
A strong wind hit my body, and though my ears were covered, I heard a long, horrible yell: Daddy.
“Stop it, stop it!” I begged. I was shouting, trying to use my own voice to drown out what was going on. The swirling breeze stopped, but my sobs didn’t. I kept repeating myself, rocking back and forth, waiting for Dad to come tell me the game was over. Warm tears streamed down my face, while the rest of my body trembled. I was going numb.
Two warm hands touched my arms. I jolted back in surprise!
“There now,” the voice whispered. This was not the voice I wanted to hear.
“Where’s Daddy?” I demanded.
“It’s alright darling,” Marco said. His voice wasn’t mean like Mr. Bulldog; it wasn’t muffled like the ghosts; it wasn’t loud like the men with guns that had taken us…but it sent shivers up my spine. “You open your eyes, and you’ll see Daddy soon.”
I shook my head. I had promised. “No.”
“But if you don’t open your eyes, you’ll miss him.”
“You’re lying!” I yelled, still not opening my eyes.
“Oh puppet, I didn’t mean to make you cry,” he said smoothly. I felt his hand climb up to my shaking shoulder. Daddy had told me to scream. But should I? It was a big rule! “Daddy’s right here, see?”
I felt that warmth, the same warmth when Daddy had touched my coat. His power was back! I opened my eyes, thinking he’d be looking back at me.
I was wrong.
Two eyes stared into mine, and once I looked at them, I couldn’t look anywhere else. I tried. I tried to move my head but I couldn’t! Those evil eyes kept me frozen. That’s when my insides started to hurt – bad! It hurt worse than the needles, worse than scraping my knee or falling down the stairs. It was like a wind was trying to suck the life out of me, and his stare caused the pain to spread! Where was Daddy? I didn’t know what was happening…
… so I screamed.
The eyes let me go. I squeezed my eyes shut and screamed louder. I screamed until my ears popped; until I could feel the ground shake beneath me; until it felt like the air in the room was squishing me.
There was a loud bang, and the frigid air whooshed around me!
I stopped, and everything went still. A warm wind washed over my frozen face. I opened my eyes, then had to close them again. The sun was too bright. Raising my hand, I looked up. The roof was gone. Dirt and tiny pieces of rock fell from the sky, raining down on my arms and hair. Tall concrete walls surrounded me. It was like being in a basement with no windows and no stairs.
Marco had disappeared. Those evil eyes were gone too.
I smiled. I had won the game. But where was Daddy?
Then I saw him, laying on the opposite side of the circle. I ran to him, excited! There was light now! We could disappear! “Daddy, we can go home!” But he didn’t move at the sound of my voice.
I frowned, kneeling next to him. “Daddy?” I gave him a shake. He was so cold! Daddy was never cold. He must be sick. His eyelids were red and blotchy and his face was almost white.
Shouts came from above. The men with guns were coming back! I shook him harder, needing him to wake up. We needed to leave!
“Daddy!” I yelled. I knew he was sick, but we had to go or they’d take me away again! “You gotta wake up!”
That man couldn’t kill Daddy. No one could kill Daddy! He had one of the strongest powers ever. So why was he not –
“Dad wake up!” I pleaded, shoving him as hard as I could.
But he didn’t.
Tears blurred my eyes. From above, the men in black returned, pointing their guns at me. The ghosts came through the door, along with the Bulldog. I snuck under Daddy’s shoulder and threw my arms around him; his chest cold and unmoving.
That’s when I realized…Daddy wasn’t going to wake up.
But we had so much to do! We needed to watch Saturday cartoons and go fishing! We needed to sing again; he needed to do more magic tricks and he still had to make me disappear… but no matter how I pleaded, his eyes wouldn’t open.
I sobbed, burying my head in his chest, trying to hide from everything – from everyone.
“Should we take her?” I heard one of the ghosts ask.
“Let her cry. Where is the other super? He must have done this!” the Bulldog snapped.
“Impossible! The bunker was devoid of all energy sources.”
I was crying so hard my stomach hurt. There were so many voices, and I wanted them to stop. There was only one I wanted to hear.
I kept begging him to come back, wishing I could hear the heartbeat that wasn’t there anymore. I had never hurt this bad before; everything was painful.
Then I remembered what Daddy said.
“Sing for me Pudge, it’ll make you feel better.”
I looked at my outstretched arm, the red dots and swollen bruises all healed. They had healed when we sang together in the dark; Daddy’s last trick. I knew without him the magic wouldn’t work. But maybe – just maybe – I’d feel a bit better. Hugging him close, I sang our song:
“Hush little one, don’t you cry,
Daddy’s gonna sing you a lullaby,
And if that lullaby don’t work,
Daddy’s gonna buy you a mockingbird,
And if that mockingbird don’t sing,
Daddy’s gonna buy you a diamond –
A thump bumped against my ear. Then there was another. I looked up. Daddy’s eyes began to blink open. I felt myself rise as he took a big breath. His warm fingers brushed the tears from my cheek and the other hand pulled me in close.
A shout came from above. They had seen him move.
But all was okay. In the sunlight, I felt myself breaking into a million little pieces; just like a puzzle.
I wasn’t scared anymore – Daddy could always put me back together.