The Wrong One

Disclamer: This tale is dark and Violent. Read at your own risk

Now

Suddenly, inexplicably she’s there, Sophia Ivette Langstrum, in all her glory. She’s changed since I saw her last, yet time has been kind. Gone is the scared little girl I found hiding in a basement. In her place, is a fine looking, Raven haired young lady whose youthful adorableness has transformed into adult attractiveness. She’d turn heads dressed as a Puritan, so it’s no surprise that the slutty, pig-tailed, “school-girl” look turns heads. But I know a secret.

In fact, I know everything about her. How she walks, how she talks. How she thinks. There’s not a decision she could make that I wouldn’t anticipate. So, I know that the outfit isn’t for the boys whose eyes she catches and pants she stretches. oh no. This outfit is for her. A reminder that she is indeed a woman now and not some kid playing dress-up. And who could blame her? Said kids are everywhere tonight, vying for the “best” candy so they can have bragging rights in the morning. Kids she’d secretly love to join.

So yes, Sophia looks like an adult, dresses like an adult and even acts like an adult, but I know the truth. Deep down inside, hiding beneath the costume wearing costume, is the little girl I knew.

I’m not the only one who sees, but by the time I notice, it’s too late. Sophia makes a fatal mistake: leaving her drink unattended in a club. She expects her friends to watch, but they’re either too far gone or too distracted to notice a little something extra being added to the only non-alcoholic drink on the table. Ten minutes later, the designated driver is feeling a little strange.

Unfazed, a friend uses their ride share app. No one is in any condition to notice that their driver arrives much too quickly. Luckily for them, only one target is in the SUV this night, and she has the farthest home to reach. Poor little Sophie is fast asleep before they reach the second house.

When her night began, Sophia had dressed to impress. The man changes that. The outfit she’ll wake up in is much more juvenile and gives her an air of an innocence she hasn’t had in years. I should know, I was there when she lost it.

She must have surprised him or met his criteria before he was ready because the room she’s left in, is nowhere near suitable for the child she’s dressed as.

She’s placed on a bare mattress, and an equally bare lightbulb flickers dimly overhead. Obviously, the man expects her to be out for quite a while. He’s wrong.

My touch is gentle, soft and light, a tiny nudge easily ignored, but it’s enough. Sophia stirs.

Sophia’s head feels funny. The thoughts and impulses are there, but it’s like they need to travel through knee-deep snow to get anywhere. She remembers snow, the feeling of crunchy white powder under her boots, making snow angels, snowball fights. She likes snow. Wait, why was she thinking about snow again? Right, it feels like her thoughts are slogging through it.

She needs something to focus on, something to guide her mind. She shifts position and finds what she’s looking for. Her clothes feel… off. She could have sworn she left her apartment in a white cotton blouse, a size too small, and plaid jumper that was much too short. She’d matched her friends, hadn’t she? Hadn’t they all gone as naughty school girls? Sophia is certain they had, and that makes the two-piece, fleece pajamas even more confusing. At least they’re warm.

That was another thing, why was she cold? Where are her covers, her quilts? Even in October, she’d normally have several layers of bedclothes. Now it feels like her mattress is completely bare. Is it laundry day?

Ugh. Why is it so hard to think? Why does everything feel so heavy? Why can’t she get her thoughts…does her underwear feel thicker?

Sophia slowly slides her hand into her pants. Plastic greets her, warm plastic. Her eyes snap open, the blizzard in her head dissipating before the onslaught of adrenaline. Sitting up, she pulls down her waistband, already knowing what she will find, but hoping she is wrong.

Whether the diaper is the largest size offered for children or the smallest infantilized adult size, Sophia can’t tell. It fits her and it’s wet and that’s what currently matters. With a deep breath, the diapered college student pulls her pants back up and stands. There must be a logical explanation for what’s going on.

Clearly, her decision to be DD hadn’t played out. Her fuzzy memory and blizzard mind are more than enough evidence to support that, and the absence of a hangover isn’t too much of a problem since she has a high tolerance for pain. So, now that she has a likely cause for her condition, it’s time to decipher her location.

If her dampened undergarments are the children’s variety, a theory she really hopes is true, Sophia’s choices narrow down considerably. Only two of her friends have kids and only one of them is remodeling their home, the safest explanation for Sophia’s Spartan surroundings. Therefore, she must be at Anna’s.

The story plays out in Sophia’s mind. They’d gone out to the Halloween party at a local club. Someone, probably Teresa, had convinced her to try some specialty cocktail that hid the alcohol a little too well. A couple more and Anna, responsible mom, and friend that she was, would have revoked driving privileges. A ride share would have been summoned and Anna would have insisted everyone come home with her, her house being the largest. On the way there, Sophia, ever the lightweight, probably made a mess of herself. Tipsy herself, Anna would have reacted like a mommy and cared for her unfortunate friend as if she were one of the kids.

Yeah, that’s what had happened. Anna was probably making coffee in the kitchen, pretending not to have a headache and ready to embarrass everyone with their drunken escapades.

There is just one problem: The door is locked.

Sophia twists the nob again and shakes the door, just to make sure. Yep, it’s locked. She goes to the window. Surely, she can escape from there. Except there isn’t a window. Curtains have been hung over what had been a window, but the portal itself is long gone, replaced by unyielding brick.

Reality comes crashing down, like a gavel at sentencing. Sophia is trapped in a windowless room, dressed like a toddler, and has no memory of the previous night. It’s abundantly clear what has really happened.

Sophia’s breathing and heart rate quicken, her eyes narrow, sweat brakes out all over her body and her stomach starts to churn.

This wasn’t happening, it couldn’t be happening. Not to her, not after all she’d been through, all she’d survived. This was some sort of nightmare, it couldn’t be real. It just couldn’t.

In desperation, Sophia throws herself upon the door. Banging and screaming with all her might, she utters three very fateful words. “Somebody, anybody help!”

“Well, it’s about damn time.”

My voice stops Sophia’s panic attack cold. No, it can’t be. Slowly, Sophia turns and with wide-eyed shock watches the one person she’d never expected to ever see again, step out of the shadows.

“Vindicta?”

It feels good to hear my name again and a smile raises the corners of my mouth. “In the flesh.” Having a voice again, feels good too.

Sophia isn’t too happy to see me though, which is strange. She did call me here after all. “No, no not you.” What, did she think I was responsible for this? I give her an incredulous look. “Yes me. Did you expect to be in trouble and not have me show up? Sophie, you know better than that. I made you a promise.”

I’ll never let anyone hurt you again. The words echo in both our heads. We were both very young when I said them, but I meant them as much as I mean them now.

Sophia pulls herself up to her full height, which isn’t much, and shakes her head. “I appreciate your commitment, but you need to leave.”

I snort. “Fat chance, Sister.”

“You’re not welcome here.”

“Story of our lives. You remember what it was like, bouncing from Home to Home.”

Sophia just doesn’t get it. I’m not going anywhere, especially not while she’s in danger. Still, I admire her persistence. She tries one last time, her frustration starting to show. “You don’t understand. I don’t need you anymore.”

I can’t help but laugh. When I catch my breath, I indicate the room surrounding us. “Clearly you do, or have you forgotten who got kidnapped.”

She finally snaps. “Oh, for heaven’s sake! You’re. Not. Real! You’re just some childhood fantasy I invented so I could have a friend.” That hurts. After all we’ve been through, everything we’ve done, she denies I even exist? My hand snaps out before I can stop it and the slap reverberates around the room.

Shock slowly spreads over Sophia’s face as her hand comes up to touch the red mark on her cheek. There is a moment of silence, undercut by the soft sound of fear adding to her diaper. Finally, I speak. “I’m as real as you are, Sweetie, and I’m sorry I had to hit you for you to remember that, but it couldn’t be helped.”

Her legs give out and I lower her back onto the mattress. She swallows and with her last ounce of courage, mutters: “I’m not talking to you anymore.” It’s just making things worse. She doesn’t add the last part, but I know she’s thinking it. I sigh. If she wants to keep believing this is all in her head, fine. I’m still going to take care of her. She is my sister whether she likes it or not.

“That’s okay, you can just listen. Your… well, our captor is only expecting one, sound asleep, little girl. So, that’s what we’re going to give him. You pretend to be asleep and I’ll get him from behind. He’ll never know what hit him.”

Sophia’s eyes widen, and she pulls away. “No, I know how you deal with problems. I don’t care what they’ve done or plan to do, I’m not going to let you kill them. There has to be some other way.”

That’s not how you felt last time. Apparently, I’m thinking out loud, because she stiffens and half-heartedly says, “That was different.” I look at her. “Oh really?”

“Yes.”

“Well, looks like a trip down memory lane is in order.” I lean over and kiss her on the cheek. “Good night, Sophie. Sweet dreams.”

14 years ago

Sophia blinked, trying to remember the dream that had awakened her. Try as she might, the little girl couldn’t come up with an explanation for the fear that was already fading, washed away by the warm glow of her nightlight and finished off by the soft fur of the newly christened Sir Pouncealot, an adorable black and white plush tiger that was the seven-year-old’s constant companion.

Her blinking began to slow, the calming atmosphere allowing sleep to creep back into her body. Then the light above her bed came on.

The harsh, brilliant-white wash banished sleep for the next several hours and momentarily blinded the poor girl. She’d had the unfortunate luck of looking right at the light when it came on, causing tiny light orbs to dance behind her eyelids. “Oww.”

“Oh, sorry sweetie.” Came her Aunt Kathy’s comforting and apologetic voice. “I keep forgetting the light is right above your bed.” Sophia heard her Aunt come over to the bed and turned toward the footsteps before slowly opening her eyes. The spots were still there, but they were fading. The older woman smiled down at her. “You’d think after a month I would have learned.”

Sophia smiled back. “It okay I was…” the smile turned into a frown. What was the word? Daddy had insisted she learn English even before he and Mommy had to go away, so she knew there was a word that fit. Unfortunately, her mind kept giving her “Ootamatu”, stubbornly refusing to think in anything other than Estonian. She was in America now, here she needed to speak English and spell her name with an “S” not a “Z” and a “ph” instead of an “f”, so it should have come easily. But, the word continued to escape her, so she gave the definition instead. “Not known in coming.” Wait, that didn’t sound right.

Seeing her frustration, Aunt Kathy provided the most likely solution. “Unexpected?” Sophia brightened instantly. Yes, that was it. “Jah, I was unexpected.” The little girl scooted up her bed as her Aunt sat down. “That’s right you were unexpected…an unexpected blessing!” Without warning, Sophia was assaulted with a barrage of tickles. The little girl was unable to do anything except dissolve into a fit of giggles. For a moment all was right in the world.

“What the hell is all the noise about?!” And then it all came crashing down. Sophia’s laughter died in her throat and everything suddenly became very serious. The door to the rest of the house banged open and heavy footsteps came down the stairs.

Aunt Kathy shooed Sophia off the bed. “Quick, go into the bathroom and start the water running. I’ll be just a minute and then I’ll come help you clean up, okay?” Sophia nodded and hurried off obediently. Uncle Jabez was angry about something and it wouldn’t be good to be near him until he calmed down.

The bathroom door had barely closed before her bedroom door followed the upstairs door’s example. The door was heavy and the sound of water hitting the bottom of the tub was amplified in the small space, but that didn’t stop the little girl from trying to listen. What she could make out wasn’t much and included words she didn’t understand. The tone however, was something she understood perfectly. Uncle was definitely unhappy.

Deciding that getting ready might help him feel better, Sophia began to undress. She carefully folded her pajamas and placed them on the toilet. She shivered slightly as the cool air brushed her bare skin. The chill wouldn’t last as the bathroom would warm as the water did, but she was reminded of home and that was nice. What wasn’t nice, was the state of her underwear.

Just hours before, the lavender sleep pants had fit her snuggly and had boasted a collection of snowflakes. Now they sagged slightly, and snowflakes were nowhere to be seen. Above their empty place, a familiar Princess/Queen gazed smugly back at her. She knew that the look was one of confidence, but right now it felt like the animated heroine was saying “I knew you couldn’t stay dry.”

With a huff, the offending garment was sent sailing into the trash bin. Everyone assured her that it wasn’t her fault, that she’d grow out of it eventually, but it still annoyed her that she not only fit into a garment meant for babies, she also used it like one too. The fact that just two years ago she was wearing training pants full time, failed to register. In her mind, seven was far too old to be wearing anything other than regular underwear all the time.

Her shame now hidden in a bedazzled canister, Sophia started into the tub. The water was plenty warm enough and she didn’t want to feel icky all day. She couldn’t figure out how to get the water to stop going down the drain though, Aunt Kathy had always been around to help before. Perhaps it was the pull thing on top of the faucet? Nope, that just caused the water to come from above her head. Luckily, Aunt Kathy arrived to save the day before Sophia got water everywhere.

Ten minutes later, the little girl was dressed and munching half-heartedly on a breakfast pocket in the back of Aunt Kathy’s car, securely fastened in a car seat featuring the Princess that shared her name and pouting between bites. They were on the way to school and the morning’s fight had left no time for anything other than a microwaved meal, but that wasn’t why Sophia was upset. Nor was her distress caused by the car seat. Both were facts of life she couldn’t avoid.

She was upset by the fact, that despite being dry all day every day for two whole years, she hadn’t been allowed her “big-girl” panties after her morning bath. Instead she sported a pair not unlike the one awaiting trash day in her bathroom. Aunty Kathy had tried to cheer her up by pointing out that they had her favorite Princess on them, the same one that graced the car seat, but that just made things worse. The reason for this transgression? Aunty Kathy didn’t want her to have any worries on her first day at the new school.

Once she was at school however, Sophia understood the reasoning behind her withheld panties. First grade was very structured and bathroom breaks were not on a per need basis. You went as a class, did your business, or tried to, and once the break ended, that was it. It didn’t help that her teacher knew she was struggling to learn English, and assumed that she was trying to get out of class because it was too hard. By the time the spelling section ended, Sophia didn’t need to go anymore.

Her teacher had been told, via note, about the situation and while the rest of the class went to lunch, Sophia was quietly sent to the nurse. She went again after “quiet time”, having joined most of the class in napping and a final time before car pickup. After her first true accident, Sophia had decided to at least try during every break, her only hiccups being while she was sleeping and playing on the playground respectively.

It turned out that her Aunt was right. Once Sophia got over worrying about her classmates finding out and making fun of her, it was a whole lot easier to pay attention knowing she was protected. If she couldn’t go during break, she could go during class and not miss a thing. And that’s how her days went until, eventually, her body got used to not being able to run to the potty at the first sign of trouble and fell into the pattern the mandated breaks created.

Sophia was so happy to finally get to wear actual underwear to school. Her protected run had been nice, but now that she was caught up academically, it was good to catch up fashionably too. She even went the entire day without so much as an emergency, while the one girl who had discovered Sophia’s pull-ups and decided to tease her about them, had an accident reading a poem to the class. Sophia of course was the bigger girl and didn’t laugh, out-loud, but she still felt a smug happiness.

To say it was her happiest day, would be an overstatement. However, it was definitely among the happiest and she went to bed that night positively glowing. Unfortunately, that’s when things started to go wrong.

In her excitement, Sophia forgot that she still had a little problem at night. As a result, she was awakened by a cold, clammy feeling early the next morning. Needing to prove, mostly to herself, that she was still a big girl, the seven-year-old gathered her wet things, put them in her hamper and took the thing up to the laundry room. Of course, the banging woke Uncle Jabez, who was passed out in the den. The resulting unnecessarily extreme scolding woke Aunt Kathy, who came to the rescue only to make things worse. The attention momentarily off her, Sophia tried to make her escape and that’s when disaster truly struck.

Jabez lost his unnaturally frail temper and struck Kathy with enough force to knock her off her feet. Kathy in turn collided with Sophia and they both went tumbling down the stairs. Somehow, Kathy was able to get between her niece and the hardwood steps so that the little girl didn’t even get a splinter. Unfortunately, she wasn’t so lucky.

They had stopped tumbling and Aunt Kathy had loosened her grip. It had to be safe now, so Sophia slowly opened her eyes. She was lying against her Aunt and facing up the stairs. Uncle Jabez was looking down at them with a look of pure shock on his face. The little girl turned around. Aunt Kathy was looking off into the distance, her head at an odd angle. “Aunt Kathy… are you okay?” Nothing. Not a peep, a stirring or even a blink. Aunt Kathy just continued to stare blankly away from everyone.

“What did you do?!” The bellow startled Sophia off her late Aunt. “What. Did. You. Do!” Uncle repeated, coming down the stairs. Sophia had never seen the look on his face before, but it was scary. She scampered away, but he kept coming. “Answer me!” Sophia jumped, and warmth began to flow down her legs. The look on Uncle’s face and the force of his words were just too much for the first grader to handle and English failed her even as her bladder did. “Ma ei tea

“We speak English in this house, girl. Try again.” Uncle Jabez spoke in a voice that was scary calm. Sophia swallowed and tried again. “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?” The little girl shook her head. “You killed her, that’s what. Broke her --------neck. Do understand me?” Sophia didn’t know what “fucking” meant, but she nodded anyway. Maybe if she agreed with him, Uncle Jabez would calm down and they could get Aunty Kathy to wake up.

“No, you don’t. You don’t even know your parents are dead.” Wait what? Dead? No, that wasn’t right. They were on a trip together and she was staying with Aunt Kathy and Uncle Jabez until they came back. “No, they…they on a trip.”

“No, they’re not. They ‘fell asleep’ like Aunt Kathy and they’re not coming back. Now because of you, she’s not coming back either.”

Sophia looked from her Uncle to her Aunt and back. Slowly it dawned on her. Aunt Kathy wasn’t moving, she wasn’t breathing, she wasn’t even blinking. She was staring right at them and not doing anything. If Mommy and Daddy were just like that, then…then…

Sophia started bawling.

“Now she gets it.” Jabez said to no one in particular. “Now she understands what a monumental fucked up job she’s done.” He knelt and cupped Sophia’s face with his hand. “What do you have to say for yourself, you little shit?”

Mul on kahju

“I said speak English, bitch!”

The strike sent Sophia to the floor, were she slapped into her puddle. “I…I’m…sssorry.” She said, finding the right words through her grief. Her face was pushed into the mess on the floor. “You’d better be. Now clean up this mess, while I deal with your other one.” Sophia started to get up. “With your tongue, bitch. See that’s all you are to me, a stray Kathy brought home. She was the only one who loved you and you killed her.”

Terrified of doing anything else, Sophia obeyed. She lapped up the puddle, and whatever else was on the concrete floor, trying not to add vomit to the mix the whole time. Mercy shined on her and the puddle was already mostly contained in her clothes, so there wasn’t much left for her tongue. Hoping the disgusting ordeal was truly over, Sophia crawled over to where her Aunt’s corpse lay and cradled it’s head.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.” She repeated that phrase over and over again, eventually slipping back into her mother tongue. “Mul on kahju, ma ei tahtnud seda.” That’s how EMS found her.

Now

“Why would you show me that?” Sophia’s eyes are streaming tears. “That was the worst day of my life.” I nod. “I know, but you needed to remember.”

“Remember what? That my Uncle was an abusive asshole or that I killed my Aunt?” She’s pissed and with good reason. She’d worked long and hard to bury that memory. I can use that anger, I can manipulate her into giving me what I want. “But you didn’t kill her. Uncle Jabez did. He was the one who pushed Aunt Kathy, not you. In fact, he almost killed you too.”

For the first time she sees the events not as a memory, but as someone watching from outside. She sees through my eyes. Abruptly her tears stop, and her face hardens. “The son of a bitch. He convinced me that it was my fault and he convinced the cops it was an accident and he got away with murder.” I smile. Yes, that’s the right chain of thought. “So, you could say he deserved to die, ‘eye for and eye’ and all that?”

“Maybe, but that wasn’t for you or me to decide. I was too young to know better, but what we did wasn’t justice.”

Damn it! It’s been too long. She’s forgotten what it was like, what he was like. Her goodie-two-shoes attitude is gonna get us killed. Why did she have to go to that shrink? Why did they have to send me away? I need to stay calm, that’s the only way I’ll be able to help.

I take a deep breath. “Then I guess our journey isn’t over.”

She tries to get away, “Don’t you dare.” But it’s too late. I’m faster, I see her dash coming. Though, it’s not like she could have gone anywhere. “Sorry Sophie, but I really need you to remember.”

13 years ago

Sophia awoke as her bus struck a pothole. Stretching, she looked around and discovered that she was alone save for the driver. That wasn’t a concern. Uncle’s house wasn’t technically on the route, so Mrs. Everson would have delivered the other kids first. Also, that meant there was no one else around to see the tiny spot her leaking pull-up had left on her jeans. She’d forgotten to take more in on Monday and had been forced to stay in her current one far too long.

She stood, the weird dream that had put the pull-up passed its limit already forgotten. As she headed toward the front of her ride, familiar landmarks began to pass the windows. Right on que, the bus slowed to a stop at the top of her street. “Thanks, Mrs. Everson. See you Monday.” The grandmotherly woman returned the second grader’s wave. “Bye, Sweetie. Have a good weekend.” As the bus pulled off, Sophia smiled. If luck was with her, it certainly would be.

Luck was indeed with the girl, for as she reached the top of the hill that shielded Uncle Jabez’s house from the road, she clearly saw that the garage door was down. The sight added a spring to her step. The only time the door was down, was when Uncle wasn’t home. That was a blessing all on its own, but today it meant a whole lot more, because today was Friday and if Uncle was gone on a Friday, then Sophia wouldn’t see him again until after school on Monday.

A whole weekend with the house to herself was a rare occurrence and Sophia was determined to make the most of it. Of course, first she would need to do all the chores Uncle Jabez had inevitably left for her. If she missed even one, no matter how difficult it was for an eight-year-old to do by herself, the consequences would be very, very painful. After all that however, the weekend was hers to do with as she pleased.

Unfortunately, Uncle had been bitten by the mean bug before he left. The spare key wasn’t in any of the usual hiding spots, so he’d either taken it with him or found a new spot. The key pad for the garage door, the only other entrance available, was far above her head; too high to jump for anyway. So, he wanted an excuse, did he? Well, Sophia would see about that. One careful application of a patio chair later and the problem was solved.

To her relief, Uncle’s truck was indeed gone. Her free weekend was not some cruel trick used to get her hopes up, it was really happening. Her spring-step resumed as she entered the house.

Mercifully, the list was short and easy to do. Uncle Jabez had probably thought Sophia would’ve been trapped outside all weekend and only made the list out of habit. Dishes and laundry were easy, she just had to put the soiled objects and soap into the right machines after a brief scavenger hunt to find any hidden “treasures” Uncle may have left around the house. He was a fan of the “you missed a spot/one” line. The dishes could air dry and the washer was right next to the dryer, so drying the clothes would be just as easy. After that, all she had to do was put things back in their place. First though, Sophia needed to clean herself.

The next morning Sophia found herself standing at the foot of her stairs, clutching a board game sized box to her chest and shivering slightly. The shivering wasn’t from being cold, it was plenty warm to be in just a t-shirt and pull-up, it was from nerves. Her chores were done, Uncle Jabez still wasn’t home and she’d been graced with a dry morning (though that had led to a frantic rush), so everything was going her way and there was no obvious reason to be nervous. Yet, still she was.

She was nervous because she wasn’t sure that the be-lettered board, whose box she held, would even work. Worse was the thought that it might work too well. She’d heard stories that supported both extremes and worst-case scenario, Sophia wished for the nonfunctioning option. Uncle was bad enough and the basement was her only refuge, she’d hate to lose it to an even worse entity.

With a deep breath, Sophia gathered her courage. Despite her current underwear, she was not a baby and since only babies gave in to fear, she was going through with her plan. Plus, it had taken months of saving and weeks of waiting to even get the thing and it wouldn’t do to let that all go to waste.

Carefully, she removed the board from its box and placed it at the foot of the stairs that led to the rest of the house. Next, she placed the planchette in the center of the board and stepped back. The moment of truth had come.

Uncle Jabez was convinced that Aunty Kathy’s ghost had taken over the basement to the extent that he refused to enter the space for any reason. He’d tried to get Sophia to abandon her room and stay up stairs with him, but she’d quickly learned of this fear and exploited it. If she could get away, she could hide until he calmed down. Now it was time to see if he was right to fear and hope she didn’t mess up and curse her only safe-haven.

Placing her hands on either side of the triangular game piece, Sophia took a deep breath and called out. “Aunty Kathy, are you there?” Nothing happened. She tried again in Estonian, this time searching for her parents. “Kas sa oled seal?” Still nothing. Well at least she’d tried.

Suddenly, there was a sound. It wasn’t loud, but it was there. Sophia cocked her head to listen… there it was again! A quick scan of the room located the general direction, somewhere near a dusty old workbench against the back wall. Sophia picked up the planchette and headed over to check it out.

The center of the instrument was a clear crystal and it claimed, to those brave enough to try, that looking through it would reveal any spirits that might be around. The young girl held it up to her face and scanned the workbench. Nothing out of the ordinary greeted her, just dust and rust. Slowly, she tracked up to the small window that looked out over the backyard.

“Boo!”

With a shriek, Sophia tossed the planchette into the air, back peddled into the board, went sprawling onto the stairs and lay there winded and wet. She stared wide eyed at the girl currently having a laughing fit outside the window, wondering where in the world she’d come from. As far as she knew, Sophia was the only kid on her street. The only way to find out was to ask, and no one was in any condition to talk.

Eventually the laughing stopped, and Sophia got her breath back, but neither girl spoke at first. Instead, backyard girl climbed in through the window butt first and gave Sophia a glimpse of a familiar pink waistband peeking out above a pair of jeans. The new girl then effortlessly hopped off the workbench and came over.

“You okay?” She said, offering her hand. “That was quite the tumble.” Sophia took the hand and allowed herself to be helped up. “Thanks, I’m okay.” The other girl didn’t let go immediately. Instead she shook Sophia’s hand. “Cool, I’m Vindicta. Nice ta meet cha.”

Sophia giggled at that. “That rhymes.” She thought for a moment. “Hi, I’m Sophie and there’s no fee for meeting me.” It was Vindicta’s turn to giggle. “So, does that mean we’re friends?” Sophia nodded vigorously. Any excuse to get out of the house when Uncle Jabez was home was welcome and if that excuse happened to be the same age as her and living nearby, all the better.

Vindicta took on an air of mock seriousness. “Good, ‘cus I could use a change and I think you do to.” Sophia played along, placing her hands on her hips. “Well it’s your fault.”

“Touché, so lead the way?”

“Follow me to get rid of pee.”

Now

“Okay.” This time it’s Sophia who interrupts. Her eyes dance with memories of our escapades. “Okay, you’re real. It doesn’t matter if you really lived down the street in that old house, were constructed by my mind because I needed a friend or are some spirit I accidentally summoned. You are real.” She looks at me with a half-smile. “More importantly you’re a friend.”

Finally! We’re on the right track. She’s not trying to push me away anymore and she’s more open to what I have to say. Sure, she’s still searching for a different solution, but I can work with what I’ve got. “I’m more than a friend, I’m family Sophie, don’t you remember? We’re all we got.”

“Yeah, and whose fault is that?” There is no bite to those words, she says them as a genuine question. “Why didn’t we just run away? Why did we have to kill him?” Okay, so I unlocked more than I meant to. I’m losing her. “Sophia look at me. Forget the past for a minute.” I turn her head, so we’re eye to eye. “You’re sitting in a dungeon, in a soiled diaper, wearing clothes that wouldn’t be out of place on a giant toddler. This is true yes?” She nods. “I need to hear you say it.”

“Yes, it’s true.”

“Good, now we’re here because you met some creep’s profile and he just had to have you.”

“I get that, but why do you think that means he’s going to hurt me? Maybe he just needs someone to take care of.”

I look at her incredulously. “Okay, what happens when you stop being that ‘somebody’? We both know that whoever he thinks you are, isn’t the real you. What happens when you mess up? What happens if you accidentally break the illusion? What happens if he finds someone that fits the vision more than you do? If you’re lucky, he’ll doll you up and give you a special drink before taking you on a ride you never see the end of, because you fall asleep and then stop breathing.”

My words hang in the air for a few minutes and then I place my face in my hands. “Errr! Why can’t you see that I’m trying to help? Why can’t you let me do my job?” A puzzled look comes over Sophia’s face. “What job?”

“Protecting you from monsters.”

10 years ago

Sophia blinked, coming back to reality. She wasn’t sure which was better: the nightmare she left, or the one she woke up to. Jabez was still yelling about something, but she couldn’t hear him over the ringing in her ears. Her head hurt, and she tasted blood in her mouth. Slowly she picked herself off the floor. “I’m sorry.” The words had no meaning, she had no memory of why she needed to say them.

“You damned well better be.” Jabez slammed a piece of paper onto Sophia’s chest. “I better not see this shit again, got it?” Sophia nodded, still unsure of why he was angry with her. The slap makes the ringing worse. “YOU FUKIN’ ANSWER ME WHEN I TALK TO YOU.” The little girl swallows, forcing her brain to form words. “Sorry sir, you won’t see it again.”

“That’s better, now get cleaned up. I have friends coming over and you need to look your best.” He picked a box off the table. “Here, all your other dresses are crap. Now get.”

Sophia didn’t need telling twice. Any excuse to get away was a good one. She was down the stairs and in her room before she even looked at the paper she was still holding. It was a report card, her report card to be exact. Most of her grades were A’s and B’s but the one that had most likely set off her Uncle was a D in English.

Sophia had been dreading the day the school sent her progress home. They were being generous, letting her pass after cheating on the EOG. She’d known it was wrong, but it had been so tempting. Lauren was so smart and very bad at hiding her answers and Sophia had missed a lot of class time, mostly thanks to Jabez, that she hadn’t seen the harm in taking advantage.

Tears fell down her face as Sophia sank down on her bed. How could she have been so stupid? Of course, the teacher would have known about Lauren’s testing habits and given her a different test, it was her job to know how eleven-year-olds thought. Sophia was just grateful that the school hadn’t told Jabez what she’d done. Mrs. Ellis had simply handled it in class, making Sophia take the test again while everyone else was out playing.

Sophia didn’t want to know what the beating she would have gotten if that hadn’t happened would have been like. The one she’d just survived had been bad enough. Speaking of which, she needed to get rid of the evidence.

To her surprise, she discovered Vindicta washing her hands. “What are you doing here?” Her friend chuckled. “It’s Friday. I’m staying over, remember? You wanted to try the new sleep-pants? What, did you hit your…” The words trailed off as the other girl turned around. “Again?” There was fire in that voice.

Sophia hastily threw her hands up. “It’s okay, I deserved it this time. I, uh cheated on the EOG.” Vindicta crossed to her. “That’s still not an excuse to break your face.” She produced a washcloth and began to gently clean Sophia’s wounds. “You’ve got to stop letting him do this.”

“No one will believe me Vinny. He’s got this way with people.” Sophia winced as Vindicta hit a sensitive spot. “They believe everything he has to say.” There was a sigh from her friend as the other girl threw the soiled cloth into the hamper and took a makeup kit from the counter. “Yeah you’re right. Look, if you need me to be you for the night, I’m game.”

Sophia managed a smile. She hadn’t noticed when they were little kids, but her friend shared a remarkable resemblance. They’d used that to their advantage more than once. The last time, Sophia had been too sick to do her chores and Jabez had come home early. “I’ll be okay this time, but thanks.” Vindicta opened the kit. “Okay, but no apologies if this makes you look like a zombie.”

A few minutes later, Sophia reemerged from her sanctuary. She didn’t look like a Zombie in fact, thanks to Vindicta’s makeup skills and the dress Jabez had “requested” she wear, she looked older than the fifth grader she was. “Ah, there she is.” Jabez was being unusually cordial. “Gentlemen, may I present my niece: tonight’s entertainment.” Sophia didn’t like the way he said that last word.

“Entertainment?”

“Yes, its time you earned your keep girl.” Jabez leaned in close. “I’ve seen your laundry, you’re a woman now.” Sophia wasn’t sure what that had to do with anything, but she was sure she didn’t like the looks she was getting from the other four men. “I don’t know what you want me to do.” That got a chuckle. Not a nice once by any means, but a chuckle none the less. “Don’t worry, just do what they tell you and you’ll do fine.” Sophia felt her uncle grab her by the arm, she smelled the booze on his breath, and she knew that what happened next would not be fun.

“If they’re not satisfied, you’ll regret it.” With that, Sophia was thrown to the wolves.

Now

“No! Don’t make relive that. Please!” Sophia jerks away from me, horror plastered over her face. “Please, I beg you, no.” I pull her back, hugging her like there would be no tomorrow. “I won’t.” I stroke her back while she sobs. “I’ll even let you forget again, after this is all over.” What she says next both surprises and thrills me all at once. “Show me, show me what we did next.” The venom in her voice is delicious. “I need to see them die again. All of them.”

“Of course, my dear.”

10 Years Ago

Sophia awoke in her Uncle’s bedroom. Everything hurt, but at least the bleeding had stopped. Her throat was sore, but at least she could breathe again. She kept her head flat against the pillow and her eyes locked on the ceiling. She couldn’t look down, she was too scared.

The door opened and Sophia prepared for round two. “Oh. My. God.” It was a voice she recognized, but she couldn’t quite place it. “When you didn’t come back I got worried, but I didn’t think…” the speaker was sick. Sophia hoped whoever it was had simply added to the existing pile she herself had left earlier. She didn’t want to clean up more than one later.

“Sophie, can you hear me?” The voice was closer now, close enough that Sophia could look without risking it. It was Vindicta. “Oh, thank God. I thought they killed you.” Sophia managed enough saliva to croak. “I’m okay.” Her friend shook her head. “No, you’re not.”

A small plastic tube with a red cap was placed before her eyes. “You remember what this is?” Sophia managed a nod. “Its for bees.”

“Not today it isn’t.”

Sophia gasped as her energy came back. Her brain kicked back into gear and she could move again. “Vinny? What…did they really?” Vindicta shoved a dress into her arms. “No time, we need to move before one of them wakes up enough to come back.” Sophia nodded and began to redress.

“Sophia!”

Vindicta’s head jerked toward the door. “Shit, it’s Jabez. New plan: take my clothes into the bathroom. I’m you now.”

Sophia watched from the bathroom as Jabez came in. “Time to show me what you’ve learned.” Vindicta got off the bed and knelt at Jabez’ feet. Sophia couldn’t look, so she didn’t see what happened, but she heard it. Jabez let out a screech like a dying animal and fell.

“You can come out now.”

Sophia exited the bathroom to find her Uncle rolling on the floor, clutching his crotch. Blood seeped through his fingers and dripped from Vindicta’s mouth. “You…” The other nodded. “I did, now finish him off.” Sophia looked at the knife she didn’t know she’d had. A wicked smile came to her lips.

The knife went up and down to a rhythm of a nursery rhyme. With each stroke, Sophia felt power returning to her. It was intoxicating and she found herself singing along.

One. Two. Three. Four.
Turn the body on the floor
Five. Six. Seven. Eight.
Light leaves the eyes, it’s too late

Breathing heavy, she dropped the knife and stood up. There was blood everywhere, but she didn’t care. She was powerful again. “Now what? That little knife isn’t gonna get all off them.” Vindicta handed her something else. “No, but this will.”

The first shot nearly threw the rifle from her hands. The second nearly knocked her over. The third missed her third target but hit the fourth instead. The fourth missed entirely, allowing the fifth and final shot to find it’s mark.

Blood and bits of her assailants covered the living room, kitchen, garage and herself, but no one had escaped. Her vengeance sated, Sophia stood trembling, dry firing in the direction of the last body. Vindicta took the rifle away. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”

“What about the mess?”

“I’ll clean that up too.”

Minutes later, the two stood bathed in the sporadic glow of flashing lights and the fireworks that had masked their revenge. No one paid them any mind, they were too busy trying to contain the tongues of fire that leapt toward the sky.

Sophia watched her home, no her prison burn, Sir Pouncealot in one arm and Vindicta in the other. Everything else that she felt was important, was in the book bag she wore over her pajamas and the “go” bag at her feet. She gave her friend a squeeze and whispered. “I’m free.” The gesture was returned and Vindicta made a promise she’d never break. “I’ll never let anyone hurt you again.”

Now

There’s no need for further words. Sophia is mine, I can tell by her eyes. She remembers why I’m here, she remembers that she wants me here and that is enough. We switch clothes, well outerwear, and she hides. I lie in wait.

I don’t wait long. The door opens, and I put on my most innocent expression, adding a look of fear for good measure. The man who enters isn’t ugly or scary, he looks like any number of guys you’d see on the street. That’s what makes him dangerous. “Oh, dear. You woke up to early. What a fright you must have had.” To his credit he plays off the surprise really well. “Don’t worry little one, I’m not here to hurt you. I just want to take care of you.” His smile is earnest, disarming. I don’t buy it for a second, but I play along. He is expecting drugged and pliable after all.

“You just want to take care of me?” He nods and extends a hand. “That’s right. How about we get some food in that tummy. I bet you’re hungry.” Meekly, I nod and take the offered hand. He leads me into a very spacious kitchen and sits me in a chair. “Now stay there while Daddy gets breakfast ready.” I survey the room. A wooden block with several composite handles sticking out of it catches my eye. Perfect.

His back is turned. He doesn’t see me move. “I’m really glad I found you. You shouldn’t run off like that, you made Daddy very worried.” He turns, just as I grab the knife. “Susie? What are you doing?” A wicked grin spreads across my face. “I’m not Susie. You grabbed the wrong one bitch.”

One. Two. Three. Four.
Drop the body on the floor
Five. Six. Seven. Eight.
Light leaves the eyes, it’s too late
Nine. Ten. And Eleven
This poor bastard’s not in Heaven

“Damn.” Sophie exclaims, coming up from the basement. “We need new clothes.”

Fin.

A bit different start. Would like to read more !