[Based on a true story]
She staggered slowly down the road. Her clothes were torn and the dirt on her face was streaked with her tears. Blood ran down her leg. Her feet were bare and she did not know where her sandals were. She did not care. Caked blood and dirt coated her lips and teeth. She did not taste them. Her eyes were fixed on something in the distance, but she could not tell you what that thing was.
The people of her village saw her and said nothing. They glanced quickly at the vision of human suffering that limped down the street, and then they turned away. They all knew. None offered to help. They knew who had done this to her. The monsters who lived in plain sight. They did not offer to help because they know what monsters do. The people had grown weary, but the monsters had not.
Cruelty never tires the wicked.
She was 15. Not much more than a child in years, but her eyes were the eyes of a woman grown. She had seen the monsters as a child. She saw their numbers grow with their appetite for pain. She saw them take her cousin away. She sees them on the street now, they are the ones who do not look away. They are the ones laughing.
Still, she walked forward.
She did not stop until she stood in front of her house. Her gaze did not change. She continued to look ahead into the distance, but her feet no longer moved. Chickens milled around the yard in search of bugs and the goats were busying themselves with a vine that grew along the fence. Her uncle was in front of their house splitting wood for the cook fire. He did not see her.
Blood dripped off her ankle onto the bare earth.
Her aunt had sent her on an errand. It was the kind of thing she did every day though the monsters walked the street. She almost always went alone. She was not afraid because the monsters were always there. She had grown used to their presence. She had learned to avoid them, not to talk, not to catch their eyes. But today was different.
She did not know, but the monsters had been watching her. They watched as the child became a woman and the monsters had grown accustom to having what they want. On this day, they wanted her. In this land, the monsters always get what they want.
It happened quickly. It happened violently.
They were standing in the doorway of a building along the street when she walked by. They told her she was pretty. They told her to come talk to them. But, she did not acknowledge them. She did not look up. She kept walking.
That is when the monsters grabbed her and drug her inside. That is when they hit her. That is when they tore her clothes. That is when they held her down. That is when they took turns raping her. The girl fought back, or at least she tried. At one point her hand got free and she raked her nails down the face of one of the monsters. He pulled back and called her a bitch.
That is when another monster threw her into a wall. That is when he started slamming her head into the floor. That is when everything went black.
The darkness protected her from what came next.
When she awoke, she was alone. She did not know how much time had passed. Her vision was blurry and her head felt as if they were still hitting her with their fists. Her clothes were on the floor. She put what was left on them on. They were little more than rags.
And that is when she began to walk home.
Her uncle looked up and she saw the horror spread across his face. She heard him yell for her aunt. He sounded like he was very far away. Her aunt came outside the door and locked eyes with her. Everything moved very slowly.
Her aunt screamed and then everything became very loud and time resumed its normal pace.
Chaos replaced numbness.
Tears now flowed freely as the girl fell to her knees, sobbing with great, violent spasms. Her aunt and uncle were shouting back and forth at each other as her uncle scooped her up into his arms and carried her inside. Her aunt got medicine and bandages.
The girl drifted out of consciousness again until the sting of the medicine on her wounds brought her back. She had a fresh gown on and her face had been cleaned. She could see that her aunt had been crying.
Days passed. No one came to visit. Her aunt and her uncle argued in the next room about what should be done. She could tell that her uncle was very angry. She heard him swear and he only swore when he was very angry.
The girl awoke. It was a new day, but she did not know what day it was. She could hear her aunt weeping.
“Where has uncle gone?” The girl asked
“He has gone to talk to the police.” Replied her aunt “He is very angry at what the monsters have done to his precious niece. He wants justice.”
The girl knew this was not a place where justice could be found for people like her. The monsters ruled this land. The only justice was their justice. This was why her aunt was crying.
Her uncle returned later, but he did not come inside. Instead, he busied himself with the firewood in the yard. She stared at him from the window, she caught his eye and he smiled. Her uncle had always been kind to her.
She remembered the overlook on the mountain that her uncle used to bring her to. The one where they could see their house.
“Look, my little flower!” He would say to her “You can see the whole world from here!”
And she looked and realized that she could see her whole world from there. The green of the forest that wrapped around their house and even from the mountain top, she could see her aunt in the yard feeding the chickens. Holding her uncle’s hand, she knew this was all the world she would ever want or need.
If everything could have stopped there she would have been grateful. But, this is the land where the monsters lived and the only justice is the monsters’ justice. And that is when the monsters drove up to their house.
Her uncle turned to face them. She could see scratches on the face of one of the monsters. She could see her uncle’s kind eyes turn to hatred. He began to curse them as cowards and the monsters laughed. Her uncle picked up the axe he had used to split the wood for the fire.
And that is when the monsters pulled their guns and shot him.
“Do you think you can call the law on us, old man?” One monster shouted. Her uncle was laying on the ground as the monster walked closer.
“Run my child!” the girl’s aunt whispered. “Run into the forest! Do not come back. Please do not come back!”
There was no time for goodbyes. There was no time for preparation. The girl ran out of the back of the house as her aunt had told her. She ran into the forest. She kept running.
Her aunt grabbed the knife on the counter. The same knife she was using to prepare dinner. She stepped out of the door as the monster with the scratches shot her husband in the face. She screamed and ran at the monster and she drove the knife into its back.
But, this is the land of the monsters and no sooner had the blade struck its mark then so did the monsters’ bullets find her.
The girl heard her aunt scream. She heard the gunshots. She kept running.
The girl thought of the family members she had in America. She wondered if she would be safe there. When she got to the top of the mountain, she went to the overlook that her uncle used to bring her to. The one where they could see their house.
But, on this day she saw her world burning. Her house was on fire and the bodies of her aunt and uncle lying in the yard. Her world was gone. Taken by the monsters.
But, growing up in the land of the monsters made young girls strong, and so she kept running. Despite her pain. Despite her tears. Despite her hunger. She persisted.
She traveled alone on foot for weeks. She traveled north. “The monsters won’t be able to find me in America.” She thought to herself.
She found work with a family in Mexico who took her in and cared for her. But, now there was something else. Her belly was growing. The monsters were not done with her yet.
A doctor came and examined her. He offered to help her end the pregnancy. After all she had been through, surely she didn’t want the child of a monster. She refused. This child was her child and she would not let it be taken away.
She stayed on with the family and they took care of her. They were good people. They had a small farm and a store in the town and she was good help. Months went by and she delivered a daughter. The young woman would sit on the porch while she nursed, and watch the chickens in the yard. She told her daughter of her aunt and uncle. She told them of the wonderful times she had with them. She told her daughter of their kindness. But she did not tell her of the monsters.
The family told her she could make this her home. They were good people, but she knew the monsters could still find her here. She needed to keep going. She needed to go farther than the monsters could go.
She waited until the child was strong enough and the weather was warm enough to finish the journey. The family gave her money and helped her get to the border where she waited for her chance to cross the bridge. She must be very careful, because there were monsters who walked these streets as well. But, she was smart and she found a place that would keep her and her daughter safe from the bad things that walked the streets.
Her name was eventually called to cross the bridge. She was taken from there to a big building with other immigrants. They had to sleep on concrete floors that were very cold. She would place her daughter on her belly to keep her warm. She could not leave. She could only wait and shiver. These days were hard, but she knew she would soon be safe from the monsters.
Finally, a few weeks later, she was loaded into a van with some other women with children and taken to a bus station. She had her papers and the address of a relative she had never met. She was almost there.
As she waited outside, soaking in the sunshine, a man drove by with his window rolled down.
He told her she was pretty.