The darkness surrounded her, giving her no indication of time of day or where she was. She tried to slow her breathing down, knowing this had happened before and knowing it would come to an end. “Breathe in, hold, count 1....2....3....release. Breathe in, hold, count 1.....2......3....release.” It was a relaxation technique she had picked up as a teenager during one of her many visits to counselors. The fear began to set in, her chest tightening, the feeling of an enormous weight pressing against her chest, making it hard to breathe, and adding to her panic. “What next, what next... Ah, the Lord’s Prayer.” That was her failsafe, the one sure thing that always brought her out of her haze. Somehow re-establishing that Christ owned her and no one or thing could have her gave her the strength to pull away from the spider webs, move her body again, and sit up. It would surely work this time.
She recited the prayer, yelling in her head that her body and soul had been purchased with Christ’s blood and she was God’s property. She waited to be able to move again, to sit up and look around, realizing this was just another dream. She waited, knowing the demons were there, watching her, waiting to pull her down. She pleaded with God to protect her. She looked over and saw her husband sleeping next to her, oblivious to her predicament. This wasn’t right, there was something missing, something wasn’t working. She could feel the claws around her ankles and wrists, feel the burn as they held her tighter. She could hear the laughter, smell the sulfur, and hear the cries of others around her. She knew what was about to happen. She closed her eyes, and kept praying, but the pain made her scream out. She knew what was going on, and she knew she was powerless to stop it.
It was her own private hell, one that she had been experiencing regularly since she was fourteen years old. She was thirty-five now, and knew that she was damaged goods. She had known that ever since the afternoon in her bathroom when she was seven years old. It was the day she lost her virginity. She bled that day, and believed God was coming for her, coming to kill her. She had never bled from that place before, and she knew it wasn’t normal. She had been bad again, not made her bed the right way, and her father punished her, but this time it was a different punishment. He had been making her do things, things she didn’t like, since she was four, but this time was the worst. He kept saying things to her that made her stomach turn, but it was more of the way he was saying them. It was the guttural whisper in her ear, his breath hot and the smell of coffee on his breath almost made her vomit, his voice quivering, and every word accented by each thrust into her. Promises that as she got older she would love what they were doing, and it was how women showed men they loved them. He told her he would be giving her a surprise.
Afterwards he tossed a towel at her and ordered her out of his room. She was having a hard time walking, and she felt something warm and wet between her legs. She made it to the hall bathroom and locked the door, leaning up against the wall she slipped downward, finally finding herself on the floor. She didn’t look for a long time, she couldn’t look, but eventually she had to and that is when she saw the blood. Her crying intensified and she began to pray, begging God to help her, to forgive her. She knew she would bleed to death, that God was surely on his way, but not to help her. He was coming to punish her. She wasn’t sure how to clean herself up. She ran warm water in the tub and slowly peeled her clothing off. They were wet and smelled of her father’s sweat. She climbed into the tub, expecting the area that was bleeding to hurt when it hit the water, like any other cut or scrape, but it didn’t. A steady flow of a bloody liquid came out of her. She took a washcloth and tried to clean herself as best as she could. She scrubbed her entire body with soap over and over again, trying to get the smell of sweat and sex off of her, but the smell seemed to be permanently attached to her, it was in her nose, she smelled it every time she breathed in. She stayed in the bathtub until the water had turned cold and wrinkled her skin. She knew she couldn’t stay in there forever, but she couldn’t bring herself to leave either. People would know, they would look at her and they would know her sin, know what she had done, there was no turning back, no undoing what he had done. She wondered, almost with a sadness, why God had not come for her. It would have been much easier for her, to just be taken by God, to die and leave this place instead of having to endure this again, and she would have to, over and over again for five more long years.
Pain forced her back to her current hell, but it was a hell she preferred to the hell of reliving the things that her father had done to her. This “nightmare” was a recurrent one, and she knew if she just held on a little longer it would be over. The demonic hands held her in place while the large demon raped her in every way possible. The pain was excruciating, it was humiliating the way it laughed at her and promised her a place in hell, but she had learned several years ago how to distance herself from her dreams. She had become a lucid dreamer, and if she were having a regular nightmare she would merely fly away, or change the outcome of a dream she disliked, but these were different. These were part of her punishment for eight years of abuse at the hands of her father. She tried to get out, to get away. She told her cousin in nearby Waxahachie, Texas, who stoically told her “if anything else happens let me know.” She never asked about the situation again. She told her grandmother, who told her “these things just aren’t talked about.” She finally told her mother, although she knew her mother didn’t like her very much. She made it clear that she had wanted boys. She had gotten two, but here was this girl sandwiched between them, more of a burden than anything else.
When she was seven she finally told her mother. Her mother told her she would be right back, and sure enough, a few minutes passed and her mother returned, angry and indignant. “I hope you’re happy, you made your father cry! Is that what you wanted? To upset this family? Don’t you know what trouble this is, and I can’t raise three kids on my own, so I don’t want to hear this again! Now go to sleep!” That was truly the end of the already tenuous relationship she had with her mother. A clear message had been sent to her father, however. He was free to do as he wanted, as was evidenced by his visit to her bedroom not one hour later, to rape her again. He had now been given free permission to do whatever he wanted to her, and he would, on a regular basis, for the next five years.
Unfortunately, while she was a lucid dreamer, that lucidity did not apply to these dreams. She learned to endure it, much like she had endured her father. She heard the taunts of hell to come, of torture to abound, of the absence of God, his lack of love and care for someone like her. She would try to control where her thoughts went, knowing she had no control over her body, but it was as if the flashbacks to her father were part of the torture the demons were unleashing on her. She couldn’t get away from what had happened to her so many years ago, and she couldn’t separate them from what was happening to her in her nightmares. So she continues to have these uncontrollable, recurrent nightmares, with no way to rid herself of them, and nobody to talk to.
She severed all communications from her family quite some time ago, and would never again allow herself or her children to suffer at their hands the way she had suffered. Her husband, while he loves her, is obviously uncomfortable with the subject, although she believes it is because he does not know how to end her suffering, and can’t understand how parents, themselves having six children, including a foster child, could do to a child what her parents did to her. So she locks herself in a cage, keeping others at a safe distance, and never shaking that feeling that people know just by looking at her, and if they don’t know, they can sense there is something wrong with her because of what has happened.
She is used, ruined goods, and can never recover what was taken from her by the very people who should have protected her from monsters, not been the monsters themselves. So she suffers alone, pretending all is well, but quietly mourns the childhood she never knew, the gift she never had to give, and she waits every night for the nightmares to come. She craves sleep because it ends another day of pretending she is something she is not, but she fears sleep because she knows the demons are waiting to torture and rape her. The dreams sometimes change in small details, but the ending is always the same. After she has been raped and tortured, she is drugged, screaming and clawing, to hell. After a while in hell, she finally startles awake and hears her husband snoring next to her. She gets up, gets a drink, checks the doors and the children, cries, then goes back to bed, pulling her husband’s arm around her, knowing he can’t protect her if they come again. She prays, and then closes her eyes. Sometimes they come back the same night, sometimes they give her a couple of days before returning, but they always return. For eight years she endured the torture of her father, for twenty-seven years she endured the torture of her mother, and for twenty-one years now she has endured this torture. The monsters in her closet never go away.