She woke up to the living room floor completely covered with coagulated blood.
Sunlight. Where was it? The girl longed for sunlight. Her fingers reached out and they trailed the floor. Let me catch the sunlight.
Her eyes still nearly closed, they quickly adjusted to the dimness of the room. Out of habit, the girl’s hand went to her head, where she pressed on it gently, searching for any signs of bumps. Her arms caught her attention. No new bruises. She thought. No broken bones. She sighed in relief and began looked around, waiting for her eyes to land on something familiar so she might begin to distinguish where she could possibly be.
But her breath quickly caught when she noticed a masked man sitting on a scratched wooden chair, his hostile brown eyes glared at her. “Don’t. Move.” He said lowly, pointing a pistol directly at her chest.
It was the way he held his arm that she concluded that he had an aim that couldn’t miss even if he tried.
She didn’t gasp, she didn’t ask how he seemed to have grabbed the gun out of thin air. She simply froze in place and waited for him to lower the gun. During that time, she suddenly realized all she was wearing was a large T-shirt and second-hand shorts that she had found under the mattress one day.
Her eyes slowly met his and she couldn’t suddenly breath. She realized he scared her. It had possibly been only a few minutes since they had met and he already terrified the crap out of her.
She gulped, then quickly looked away.
He cocked his head, looking at her for a moment as if contemplating why she wasn’t screaming in horror by now. “Look at me.” He said harshly, stuffing the gun into the back of his pants.
She obeyed and tilted her head up, used to being ordered around. She brushed the pitch black hair out of her face and met his gaze. In spite of his fierce glare, her eyes never wavered away, but her lips trembled. “What’s your name?” He said quietly.
“I d-don’t know.” She stuttered. Her voice broke as if she hadn’t talked for quite a while. “But I think...I think..people used to call me Sorelle.”
It was a beautiful name, he thought. The masked man looked at her, his eyes analytical. In the silence, Sorelle was given the chance to look at the man more carefully.
He could’ve only been 17 or 18, but his eyes gave away the traumatic events he had been through already. She could tell that he was tired as if he had stayed up the entire night watching her.
And it seemed that he had, for his eyes had bags under them and they looked at her cynically with every movement she made. “Sorelle.” He mused, fiddling with the gun that was suddenly once again in his hands, “What a beautiful name.”
She blushed and she could not help it, no one had ever directed the word ‘beautiful’ at her. It was a rather pleasant feeling that spread through her cheeks and she wondered if she had ever felt this flushed.
She then let her hair fall around her face, creating a curtain that she pretended cut off the man’s piercing gaze.
The silence grew until it became almost unbearable. They both watched the dust settle in the dank room until Sorelle found herself asking, “What’s your name?”
He drew back slightly if he was shocked that she talked without being prompted, he gave no sign. He narrowed his eyes. “No one knows my real name.” She drew in a breath, “But you can call me Thiago.”
She nodded, muttered something about weird sounding names under her breath and continued to stare at the blood-stained wood.
There was nothing more to say, and the silence stretched out once again, until the girl lifted the shirt up to her nose to block out the metallic smell of dried blood that lashed at her nostrils.
Something struck her and she wanted to hit herself for not asking it before. “What….what happened here?” She could only guess that something hadn’t gone someone's way for the room to be this unusually bloody.
She had come to realize that she was in the room she nicknamed the ‘Abattoir’. Where her father had used it for slaughtering people.
He had also used it to beat her.
The walls were thick. No one ever heard her screams.
No one would care anyway.
“A rebellion.” He replied. He said the words slowly as if he’d never once spoken that neglected word. “A rebellion happened here.”
She didn’t look up, she didn’t dare move, that explained the blood on the floors and the blood that stained the couch. “A rebellion?” She repeated softly, “What do you mean?”
She couldn’t help it, she had to say it. “He’s not my father. He may be related to me, but to me he will always be the leader of this stupid gang. ” Sorelle said sharply, then clapped a hand to her mouth and her eyes widened at her reckless outburst.
“Fine.” He said. “The big boss,” He hesitated, “He was going..to kill..someone.”
“For no reason.” Bile rose up in her throat, and she wanted to bend over and throw up. Her insides twisted and her throat fought to not close up in horror. “He was going to kill your sister.”
His eyebrows raise in surprise. “You remember?”
“I was talking to her. Before….I helped her escape.”
He stood and walked towards her. She flinched.
It felt like they were reenacting her worst memories.
“Where is she now?”
Her voice shook, “I gave her all the money I had and directed her to the little house near my mom’s destroyed garden. I told her to hide until she no longer heard the gunshots.”
He nodded, he knew what she was talking about. “She’s probably still there.” He reached for the window and jumped out of it.
He looked back at her, then at the abandoned clearing not far away. He closed his eyes and silently cursed at himself. “Come with me?” He asked, holding out his hand. “I..kind of forgot where to go.” He smiled sheepishly.
She smiled and took his hand, before leading him down to the clearing.
He cursed in Spanish, looking at Sorelle (who was now wheezing in laughter) in disbelief, how had this girl, who seemed so fragile and delicate, managed to push him over into the river? And she’s like what, fifteen? It took me way too long to get muscle. "Ah, don't worry." She teased, "The sunlight will warm you right up." She pointed towards the sun, getting brighter as midday arrived.
His pants sagging and his brown hair considerably darker, he trudged out of the river’s muddy banks, muttering curses at himself, more shocked than mad. My balaclava is wet. He thought, disgruntled, guess I’ll have to wear it like that. He turned around, “Are we almost there yet?” He asked, pointing towards the opening in the woods.
She nodded, “Yeah.”
Sorelle walked along with Thiago, who was complaining that he had a wedgie until a moderately sized house came into view. It wasn’t hard to imagine that it was once a beautiful house, now covered with mold and invaded by tiny creatures.
Sorelle smiled sadly, gesturing to the forsaken garden. “This was my mom’s old garden,” she said, her face nostalgic, “She used to take care of her flowers every spring until it was fall when the flowers would die because of winter.” She paused, unsure of whether to go on or not.
“Hey,” Thiago said softly, placing a hand on her shoulder; he felt her almost jerk away and quickly pulled his hand from her shoulder. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to,” He said awkwardly, his hand clenched and unclenched.
The tension quickly ceased as Sorelle finally voiced out her reply, “No, it’s okay.” He could hear the determination in her voice and her face was unreadable, except for her eyes, which threatened to overflow with tears. “I just never told anyone.” He nodded and beckoned for her to continue. “She...caught cancer. I was only 8, but I already understood that mom wasn’t going to get any better.It was so hard to watch her growing weaker and weaker, withering down to barely any bone. But he, the ‘big boss’, refused to help her.” Sorelle’s voice was full of contempt for him, “The little coward thought we would get caught. So I stayed, dropped out of school to take care of her. Right until the very day she died.”
She drew in a shuddering breath and her lashes became wet, but she didn’t realize she was crying until a tear hit her thigh. “After she died, the big boss blamed me. He was so..sad, and angry. The only person to understand him was dead. Dead.” she said. She then rolled up her sleeve, which showed her entire arm embellished with yellow and deep purple bruises. “He blamed me. Said I didn’t take care of her well enough. He took his anger all out on me.” Sorelle said bitterly, harshly tugging the sleeve down.
Now Thiago knew why Sorelle flinched every time he so much as made a move towards her. It wasn’t her fault, it’s was her father. A feeling of hatred rushed through him, it was all in the memories that haunted her, which was the cause of her acting the way she was now.
No one could blame her for that.
He couldn’t help it, he knew she was sensitive to touch, but he hugged her.
She tensed up in his hold, but as the few tender seconds passed, she relaxed into his embrace and her arms slowly wrapped around his waist.
“You were knocked out. So I don’t think you remembered anything.” He leaned in, his mouth near her ear, his voice barely a whisper. “But I killed your father.” His breath tickled her ear. “And every single person in that goddamned room.”
She only nodded, then took his wrist, and tugged his arm towards the house, the both of them feeling slightly happier than before.
The house was too dark and their eyes struggled to adjust. “I don’t hear her,” Thiago said, finally deciding to rely on his other senses.
“She’s probably hiding,” Sorelle suggested, her eyes darting around. “We should look around.” Her hand gestured towards the right, pointing to the staircase that had evaded their vision, despite that it was almost right in front of them. “Take a look upstairs, maybe? I’ll go downstairs. But be careful where you put your feet though, some of these stairs are moldy and you never know when it’s going to break.”
He saw no reason to disagree and began to climb the steps, the stairs creaking under his weight. “Valencia?” He whispered, “Thiago’s here.”
There was only one room. A small, almost closet sized room.
It was an abandoned, but still beautiful room, in a vintage sort of way, with lavender wallpaper peeling off the walls, showing the deep cracks that adorned the dirty confines. There was only one bed, neatly made and covered with worn purple blankets.
One more thing.
He smelled the faint stench of rotting flesh before he even reached the room.
It was so faint, he had almost not noticed it due to the mask covering his nose. It came from the bed, which seemed to be covering something, and Thiago stepped closer, his hand trembling, he had seen dead bodies before, but he’d never gotten used to it. The way their blank gaze stared up at him. He knew they couldn’t see, but it brought chills to him every time.
His family had been slaughtered when he was two years old, it was a true bloodfest, but he was glad to know that he never remembered any of it. All he could recall was a red haze. Everything else was left in the past, completely cast off.
He tugged his mask off his face and threw the blanket on the floor, the smell hitting him harder than before, the blankets seemed to have covered the majority of the rotting stench. He tucked his chin in and lifted his shirt up to block his nose. Ew. I forgot what it had smelled like.
It didn’t matter, the sight that met him made him completely forget about the stench.
His eyes found a girl’s body, her neck twisted at an odd angle, but positioned her head up as if he knew where he was, as if the killer knew that he was going to be right there, in that very spot, staring at the dead girl.
Her eyes were closed and her neck was bruised, her throat almost completely smashed, and her face was half covered by the pillow, but he knew who it was.
He would know his sister anywhere.
And no matter how much he tried, he couldn’t look away, despite his brain screaming for him to close his eyes or wrench his gaze away from the limp body lying on the bunched up blankets.
Strangely, his throat did not close up and he whispered her name hoarsely, calling out to her as if she were only asleep. “V-valencia?” He leaned closer, wanting the dead teen in his bed to be anyone but his sister. She had been alive yesterday...
A knock at the door shook him temporarily from his newfound horror. It was Sorelle, holding a hairbrush. She nodded impassively at the bed, looking neither terrified nor curious at the body on the bed. Instead, she quirked an eyebrow and simply asked. “Found Valencia?”
She said it in a way that suggested that she was mocking him. He gulped, turning around to fully face her instead of straining his eyes to look at her from the corner of his eyes. It was then that he finally realized. “It was you?” He whispered, his eyes starting to water. He took out his gun and pointed it at her chest, a second nature, but it was hard to focus through the tears that threatened to fall.
He took a deep breath, he knew if he tried to aim now he would miss; his arm was so shaky that he could barely keep it upright.
Sorelle’s eyes widened and she took a step back, the floor creaking. God, this place is unbelievably moldy. “What are you talking abou-”
“Don’t give me that bullshit.” Thiago snarled, “I’m not that stupid to believe you-”
“Yet you decided to trust my story about me helping her escape.” Sorelle interrupted, her timid tone gone, replaced by a hard, cruel voice that Thiago would’ve never believed came from someone so scarred and so...submissive...
He was ready to press the trigger, willing to sacrifice her confession for justice, but Sorelle surrendered, “So you finally figured it out?” She said, her hands shaking with excitement.
“Why?” He repeated, “Why? That’s the one thing I can’t figure out. You kill a 14-year-old. But for what reason?”
She looked down at her feet, “She was 14 years old. And yet, she was happier than I ever could be in 10 lifetimes.” She punched the wall, aiming perfectly, her knuckles becoming bloody almost instantly. “She was never beat by her family, she had someone who cared about her, loved her. But me? I’ve forgotten what love feels like.” She threw the hairbrush at the window, the glass shattering into a million pieces and falling onto the floor. “So when she ran out that door, I couldn’t help it, I followed her.”
She tilted her head back up, her eyes sadistic. She smirked, as if proud of herself, and Thiago couldn’t believe anyone could be this heartless, so careless about someone else’s life.
He pointed the gun at her, no longer shaky, instead he felt anger and adrenaline running through him. He would not cry for his dead sister’s life until it was avenged and brought to justice.
“Choking her with my hands, it was almost too easy... and you know the best part?” Sorelle grinned wickedly. “Watching her eyes glaze over, the life draining out of them. The sound she made...it was satisfying.” She smiled almost innocently at him, her voice dropped to a mocking whisper, “I’m glad I killed her. Your stupid, pathetic sis-” She didn’t get to finish.
A bullet had already gone through her head.
It landed neatly into one of the cracks in the walls.
Her body fell to the floor, blood rushing out of her head and Thiago fell to his knees, the hallway echoing his anguished cries.
While all Thiago could do was wonder why he could not see that something was wrong the minute his eyes met Sorelle’s.
Her true self had been hidden in plain sight.