I turned around, hearing my name. The wind was whistling in my ears, cold and ominous. I was heading back to my apartment after a long shift of work, so exhausted I could barely keep my eyes open. Nonetheless, I pushed forward, letting the cold air and bright lights keep me awake. Until I heard that voice and turned around to see two burly men, heading closer and closer to me. Their figures in the dark looked threatening, quickening their pace before I could notice. They wore gray designer suits, caucasian males with sour faces, and business attitudes. I was shaking, ready run. I started a brisk jog, not a full sprint yet, hoping I could conserve energy and throw them off. But they were faster, surprisingly light on their dark dress shoes. In my high heel and tight skirt, I was no match for them. One young woman, especially me, was no match against these two. I was no stranger to feeling unsafe on the streets, alone at night, and this was my greatest nightmare. I usually started walking quickly, holding a hand in my pocket where my pepper spray was, and turned the corner a couple times, always keeping on a street with people. But there was no getting rid of them.
I was too sluggish to fend them off, they grabbed my arms and dragged me back. A yelp left my lips but a hand covered my mouth before I could scream. Duct tape was slapped across my lips, leaving a sting all over my face and disappointment as my lipstick was absolutely ruined. I struggled against them, kicking and screaming. I even tried to reach my pepper spray, but they grabbed my hand by the wrist and I watched it fall to the cement, rolling away tragically.
"You're coming with us," A gruff voice insisted. Hot tears were welling up in my eyes. Anger boiled in my throat and stomach. How dare they do this to me? After everything I had been through, all the work I put in to get a place in this cruel world, all gone because two white men in business suits took advantage of me. I slammed my heel on one of their feet and one pair of hands went limp, but the other only tightened and stabbed my hands with some handcuffs. I grunted in pain as they tightened across my wrists, behind my back, demobilizing me.
"You know what you did."
My stomach churned. What I did? I haven't done anything? I had no idea what they were talking about. Maybe they were delusional, picking some vulnerable girl off the street at night and painting some sort of mad play with their victim. They dragged me to a van in the back of an alley. The cliche was too unbearably sickening. Anger at the world tasted like poison in my throat. Seriously? Being kidnapped by white men in suits, handcuffed, and dragged into an alley with a white van? Was this some sort of cruel movie? Couldn't be, I would never make it as a protagonist in this climate.
I was tossed into the back of the van, so aggressively, like a sack of potatoes. Dizziness left me scrambling to sit up for a second, and the doors slammed. The two quickly got into the seats up front and sped away, the tires wailing against the road. They drove like maniacs as I kicked and screamed through the duct tape and handcuffs. There was no way I was playing the damsel in distress here. I did not fight like hell and claw my way through life just to sit here and wait to get drugged and beat. I kicked my high heeled foot at the window, tainted black. The first time did nothing, but after a while, I noticed it start to weaken. One of the guys turned his shoulder to look back at me. I had to quicken. With one mighty kick, focusing all of my power at the pointy heel, the window cracked. It may not have been big enough to fit through, but I could try to flag down help. I scrambled to it, sticking my head through it, making muffled screams and cries. Nobody was on the streets this late, but it was worth a shot.
"She's causing trouble back there."
I felt a sharp jab in my shoulder, wooziness taking over, and before I could realize what had happened, I was asleep.
My eyes slowly opened in a dark room, a dim bulb with moths flying around it was the only object in the room. I was tied to a chair, arms, and feet in a tight, thick rope and unable to budge. Again, the feeling of helplessness made way for rage and determination. I struggled, bouncing up and down, and eventually turning myself around to see a door behind me. If I could reach it with my tied hands...
But the door flung open, knocking me over in the chair. I fought to sit back upright, or at least get into a better position, but I was stuck. A man in a gray suit, smaller than the two that kidnapped me, looked down at me. Also an old white guy with a cool, evil face. His bitter, wrinkled eyes gazed down at me like I was a cornered animal. I hated feeling that way. I snarled and screamed through the duct tape. His lipless mouth curved up into a cruel smile. My blood boiled.
"Elle Thanatos," He said slowly. Get my name out of your mouth I wanted to say.
"You must be confused. Allow me to explain why you're here."
I grunted angrily in response. I didn't want to be spoken to like a little toddler, patronizingly and slowly, like some movie villain.
"The justice system let you go, but we won't. The crime you committed was against all laws of humanity and you will face the consequences. Now."
He bent down to face me, on his knees, and eyeing me with satisfaction, like I was on a plaque above his mantle.
"Do you have anything to plea?" He said with an amused grin, "Any last words? Confessions?"
He ripped the duct tape off, which hurt like hell but I didn't show it. I spat in his face, trying to build up as much disgusting spit from my throat and into his mouth. He sat back and wiped his face with stoic, his expression unwavering.
"I see. Such a lady," He sighed, "Very well. I suppose you'll die the cretin that you are."
"I have no idea what you're talking about!" I screeched, "What crime?"
He narrowed his eyes, great rage flickering beyond his cold eyes, "Feigning ignorance will not help you, Elle."
He left the room, leaving me confused and panting angrily and in fear. Did they take me here to execute me? For some sort of crime, they pretended to bestow on me? What was my crime, existence? I lay on the cold floor for a long time, staring at the dark brick wall until all the grays blended together and my vision went black.
When I woke up, no one was around. But the energy in the room felt static, almost waiting for me to do something. I knew I had to get out of here. So I struggled for a long time, tried to push myself back up off the floor. Eventually, after a long time of pushing against the wall with my feet and pulling up, it worked. And I just needed to scoot my chair back to reach the handle. It was warm. Someone had been in here. I wrapped my arms around the handle, letting the rope wrap around it. I remembered a trick from my friends on how to get out of rope if your hands were tied (typical conversations had with other minority women). I weaved my hands around the rolls of rope, letting the knob untie it with me. And after shaky weaving, the rope went slack and my hands were free. I quickly untied the rope at my feet and I was free. My heart was beating rapidly, excitement, and anticipation against getting caught. All I could hear was my heartbeat and heavy breathing in the stale room. Slowly, quietly, I opened the door to reveal a hallway. There was no light, so I had to maneuver through. Voices echoed from the top of the hallway. I couldn't get caught escaping, I would have no other chances after this. I held my breath and found the closest door, opened it quickly and shut it slowly, hoping they didn't hear me.
Inside, there was a dim light and a corkboard with images and red yarn all around it. The part that sent chills down my spine was the images of me. Me as a little kid, before I transitioned. The imaged made my insides crawl, so disturbing, like something out of a horror film. The pictures were tied to someone I couldn't bear to look at.
I repressed a lot of painful stuff from my childhood. After my transition, I changed completely as a person. Maybe it was unhealthy to leave everything in the past and not address it, mentally, but it was easier than letting it hurt every day of my life. The memories stung like knife wounds. There was an old kitchen knife laying on the desk in front of me, wrapped up in a cloth. My breathing was ragged and the air felt stagnant around me, leaving me shaking and in physical pain. How could they know about this... I barely knew about this. My brain shut it all down for me. Seeing it all again, so real and tangible... I felt sick. Nausea swelled up and I almost puked. I couldn't help but pick up the clothed knife, it was an object that haunted the deep recesses of my mind. It hurt so much to even touch the handle again. I dropped it in haste like it had burned me. It might as well have, the stains it left on my hands and scars on my heart and mind. Everything in the world was imploding. The cloth unraveled around the knife, revealing the dried up blood. Blood from years and years ago, blood that I thought I had manifested out of existence. But here it was again, right in my face. This had to be a dream, a vividly conscious nightmare. Maybe I was still in the back of the van, being dragged away. This was a punishment my brain had sent me, from all the guilt I had let build up subconsciously.
I didn't hear the door open. I didn't hear the footsteps approach me. I didn't hear the gun get cocked and placed against my temple. Shaking and unraveling emotionally, I turned to face the old man. My father. I should have recognized him. My brain wanted to save the pain of seeing this man again, but there was no saving me anymore. I had to face this reality, letting it wash all over me again. I was too small, too frail for this. It crashed over me like a tsunami.
"You remember, Elle."
I wretched, covering my mouth to keep the sobs inside. I wanted to keep it all inside me, but it wouldn't. Now, at this climax, it was all spilling out. The pain, the anger, the regret, the guilt, the disgust, and grotesque gore. The blood. The screams. The quick exhilaration and right after the horror.
"You have to face this, Elle," His voice was thick like blood or poison. I couldn't breathe. I knew my life was coming to an end, gun at my temple or not. This knife, this one little piece of sharp silver and sweaty wooden handle took over my life within seconds.
"She tried to kill me first," I said weakly, my voice so meek and hurt. It sounded like a wounded animal, giving up in defeat. The tears and snot ran down my face, the vomit all over my chest. I couldn't face this. I was shutting down, "She was beating me and- and..."
The gun went closer against me, shaking.
"She was your mother, Elle."
I burst into sobs, escalated by the sniveling tears from earlier. This was how I died? I paid the price every day of my life, the guilt torturing me and eating me away every day. It was like my life was the fields of punishment, being tortured all day every day with the sin of my past.
"You took everything from me, Elle," he said shakily, his voice tight, "And you never paid the price."
"I didn't pay the price?" I repeated softly, my voice raw and ragged, "I pay the price every day of my life. Every day I'm tortured with it, every time I look at myself, every time I step outside my own reality and remember that night. And you stood and watched."
That night played back like a horror film to me. I told my mother I wasn't happy with myself. I wanted to be a girl. She called me vile, disgusting, inhuman. It escalated, she beat me, and I was cowering in the corner, bones broken, nose bleeding, eyes red from crying. She stood with her back to me, on the phone, ready to send me to a facility. My father stood in the doorway watching, his expression glassy and stoic. It disgusted me. Anger and my defenses overwhelmed. Before I knew what I was doing, I grabbed the knife, and my life ended along with hers.
The gun dropped from my father's hands. I turned around and he shed his first tear. I was sobbing, hands on the desk, shaking and falling apart. He looked at me wordlessly, the gun clattering to the floor, and placed a hand on my shoulder.
I would have preferred the bullet.