I've been working.
The Rape of Innocence
This was clear as crystal in his nightmare.
There were children laughing and shrieking on a playground outside a tall school building with darkened windows puncturing the red brick façade, and a high sloping roof with dormers. There were trees bordering it—elms and cottonwoods with bare, tangled branches that seemed to shiver under a thin cloak of snow, and there were green and dappled-white firs, too, that looked quite warm somehow. The schoolyard itself was deeply covered in snow, except where the children played; shoveled roughly there into mounds in a wide circle outside the doors, and beaten down beneath the swings and gleaming steel slides and ladder-like monkey bars. He could see his fingers hanging through the links of a fence so high that the top rail vanished in the lead-gray air, and he watched the children running, screaming, throwing snow. The coat he wore had short arms, and the ends stopping well above his thin wrists were threadbare and spotted with stains. He wanted to go inside and play.
A man stopped beside him, towering over him, and the child grasping the links of the fence immediately felt his presence, feared him instinctively, but there was nowhere to run. No gate leading into the schoolyard as far as he could see in either direction, and he sensed that if he bolted an iron hand was set to grab him anyway. He peered up with dread into the face. White puffs of hot breath came in even bursts out of a mouth that dragged down the lined and sunken cheeks. He had no nose, this man—or if he did the child saw only two bullet dots set between vicious, glowing eyes. He glared at the children on the other side of the fence, and even though his body covered in a cloak as ragged as his own touched him, the child knew the man’s attention was focused like a hawk’s on the carefree quarry protected by the fence.
A young girl with long, raven hair looked up and noticed the child standing at the fence. She left her swing and the anthill of other boys and girls and walked with tiny steps in his direction until she reached the ridge of dirty snow where she stopped. A smile had graced her pretty face until, he could not help but notice, her eyes shifted upward to the figure standing beside him, and then a look of fear greater, even, than his own descended over her. She turned and ran back toward the other children. He watched her. The man watched her, too. The playground was empty, suddenly, and dead quiet, and sheets of white had begun to fall that made it almost impossible to make out the building in the background. She stopped when she saw that she was alone, like a terrified roe finding itself surrounded by wolves in a blizzard. Her legs, covered with white stockings, jerked left, then right, then left again. Finally adrenaline and instinct thrust her body into motion. She bolted through the thick cloud toward the doors and disappeared in the dense mist.
The man stood motionless, glaring. Now his steaming breaths came in deeper, closer bursts, and he grinned, but the boy had no idea why at first.
A moment passed.
He felt the vise of the man’s fingers on his shoulder, and finally heard a low voice that perfectly suited the face.
“Stay put you little fuck.” And then he moved away, down along the fence to an opening that hadn’t been there seconds earlier. He stepped though.
The young girl reappeared, and the boy could see the terror more clearly, now, with every step she took. Steps that faltered and wound up leading her back to where she had started. She froze. The man walked steadily through the drifts of snow as if the ground was dry until he reached the plowed walkway a dozen feet from the little girl. He glanced back at the boy, whose fingers tightened on the links, and then he turned and approached the trembling girl. The boy screamed. He recognized the girl! He knew her—the clear memory of a house built high in a tree. A thatched-roof porch and a bamboo railing. Her hand in his as they sat cross-legged and threw twigs and fallen seeds through the wide gaps of the rail. Her laughter.
He knew the man, too—the horrible thing was his own father—and he knew that the little girl would soon die.
(c) Patrick Sean Lee-2010