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It was always this way. There was always the same trepidation crawling through me, tearing all the way through my dilapidated body like a thunderous storm, not daring to stop until I was torn and broken.
Every time the fear passed through my chilled bones like a vicious wind, the silent sensation seemed to get worse. Words cannot describe how I feel in this darkness. Words do not even begin to describe the dread of being swallowed up by his malicious tongue. He has all the authority over me that he could yearn for: a king and I his partially lifeless servant. When he beckons, I come, though rather hesitantly. I am resistant to doing as he pleases, but I can’t do anything to stop him. The fingers of death are clutching ever tighter onto my soul. They won’t let go of their grasp that easily.
I’m disturbed. Disturbed by his presence, his curled fingers, and nails black as rotting flesh. I’m disturbed by the very smell of him. His sour breath; the infectious smoke that escapes in wisps from his ugly mouth. The drunken sailor on his unsteady ship—he commands the sea and I am left washing the decks, and while I wash, I desperately try to scrub away the memories of him. How he lured me into a false sense of hope. How he cared for me before turning into a monster, as if by the flick of a switch.
I can hear him now. He is a silhouette in the absence of light and yet hearing him, I suppose, is an advantage. If I were not to hear him, I wouldn’t be able to prepare myself for the ordeal. Here he comes. His cavernous footsteps increase in sound, every step in rhythm with my heartbeat. Comparing the two sounds, I would say my heartbeat is unquestionably louder. What if he can hear it? I begin to breathe quick and heavy.
The footsteps slow. I know that I am soon about to break like fragile glass. I watch as a cloud of smoke glides across the room like an elegant, grey swan. The swan greets me, the smoke clinging to my unwashed hair and clothes. The smell of burning and a faint orange glow come after.
I dig my fingers into the jagged surface of the floor. Snapped fingernails are scattered and the lines in the stone look like those on a map. Hundreds of scratch marks for hundreds of encounters with him.
Abruptly, a looming shadow casts over me. I inhale sharply and begin to tremble. Everything is silent for a moment. He is watching me. I know he is. Even without taking a glance at him, I can feel his intense eyes piercing through my skull. They are black oceans. My heart pounds so rapidly that I am afraid it is going to burst out of my chest. It begs not to be contained in such a decrepit body.
The bulky figure in front of me extends a long coiled snake and it snaps at my arm. His grip constricts me. I tense and he squeezes tighter. Pop. Pop. Pop. My veins burst. My skin, as pale as it was, is now as dry as a bone. A shriek escapes my lips. He attacks now. The walls supress my screams. His body crushes me.
"Please!" I manage to gasp. "Sss… tt… stop."
My eyesight begins to blur. A dimness presses in around me, suffocating, and the pastel-coloured walls pity me as they keep me contained. I am not able to struggle like I once used to. Now, I am just a motionless corpse. A puppet. All he has to do is pull the strings and he can make me do whatever he wants.
He eventually leaves. Even after he does, his presence still lingers in the air. Traces of his rough fingers are left on my pale skin. I curl up in the corner of the basement and close my eyes like I do every time he’s done with me. My mind drifts.
The shouting upstairs doesn’t register in my brain, the signals unresponsive. The herd of footsteps are now a stampede above me. The door to the basement begins to echo out bang after bang. Still I lie on the floor, believing that this is another one of my dreams.
The door is kicked down. Soon after, a hand touches my head, delicate. It pushes back the hair from my face and I open my eyes through squinted vision. Two strong arms scoop me up and begin to cradle me.
"There’s nothing of her."
"How long’s it been? Six years?"
The voices begin to reassure me. They sound like the voices I’d imagined in my head but this time they feel concrete. Real. At some point, the pin drops and I’m overcome with emotion, even by some that I have never experienced before. It’s all happening so fast. I want to ask how they found me after all this time, but my tongue is too rough for the words to form. Is he gone? I need to know.
The person carrying me is dressed in black and white; they offer their shoulder as a place to catch my tears. There are people everywhere as we reach the top of the basement stairs, and the sound of sirens begin to shriek in my ears.
I feel the first brush of air against my skin in…
I hear the first sweet song of birds and rustle of trees in…
I see the first streak of natural light across the sky in… I don’t know in how long, but I’m free. Finally free.