She opens her eyes to the darkness, and finds that she can see.
Not well, but then there’s not much to see in this cramped wooden box. There is something she has to do, if only she can remember what it is — and who she is. She searches her memories but finds only fragments, slipping away like the last moments of a bad dream.
Time to wake up.
She places her palm on the surface above her. Feels nothing. She straightens her arm and the wood breaks.
Pushing through the dirt is harder, but not much. Her body had been a healthy one before, must have been, because now it is easy to use.
She tries to remember what she used to be. There are only scraps of memory in her mind. Daydreams in a classroom. Laughter at afternoon basketball games. Nights at home, and shouting.
Above the ground, the light from the stars stabs at her eyes. She’s been in the dark too long. By her feet there is a stone. There are words on it. They should mean something. They remind her that there is something she needs to do, but whatever it is, she can’t do it here.
Drunken laughter draws her attention away from the stone. Shadows stumble past the gate set in the far wall. She can’t see the shapes clearly, but she can hear the voices, the laughter, the attempt at song. Nobody looks into the cemetery. Nobody sees her watching them, caked in dirt, wondering why her hands have clenched into fists, why she can smell alcohol. She can smell nothing else.
She waits until the sounds have faded before climbing over the gate and heading down the street.
Her body knows where to go. There’s no need to think as she walks past the school, past the park, down a street all the way to the end. She can remember walking this way, every day after school. Coming home, hoping, praying, that the house would be empty.
It seems empty now, dark and cold before her. She turns the doorknob and it breaks off in her hand. This body is stronger than it used to be. Starlight fills the rooms with slant-edged shadows. Her feet stick to the floor. Somewhere, someone is sobbing. Walking further into the house, she reaches a room. Was this hers?
There’s a tangle of sheets on the bed, a mess of books on the desk, photos on the shelves. One or two show a young blonde girl, smiling between a man and a woman. This one shows the same girl in a school uniform. In another, a group of teenagers smile broadly.
She opens the closet door — pulls it off its hinges — and rummages. In the corner, under a pile of socks, is her diary. She skims through the pages, but the words blur. They don’t matter. There is something she had come here to do. This isn’t it.
The sound of sobbing is closer now. She drops the diary and goes looking for it. Heads to the basement.
It’s a bare room, rarely used, concrete floor, concrete walls. No door, just a set of steep narrow steps across from her bedroom. Concrete steps. She remembers falling down those steps, fast and hard.
Now she walks those steps carefully, although this time, falling wouldn’t be so bad.
There’s a pile of rags on the floor. No, it’s a man. Sobbing. Crouching over what could be a bloodstain. She smells alcohol, and clenches her fists.
It takes a while for the man to lift his head and see her standing on the steps. Takes even longer for him to find his voice. ‘Crystal?’
She mouths a word but no sound comes out. She tries again, forcing the sound out her throat. ‘Dad.’
He tries to stand but stumbles and falls. There’s a bottle in his hand. ‘How…’
She’s at the bottom of the steps now. It’s all coming back. He had been drinking, again. They had argued. Again.
More words to force through her throat. ‘You hit me.’
‘I didn’t — I didn’t mean —’ He manages to stand.
It had been the first time he’d hit her. She had tried to run back to her room. He had followed, and…
‘You. You pushed me.’ Down the steps, onto the concrete floor. Now she raises a hand to her head. Is that a crack, in her skull?
‘It was an accident!’ His back is against the bare concrete wall. ‘I hate myself for what I did, you have to believe me, I didn’t want this. Please.’
She closes in. He hits her with the bottle and it shatters. She reaches out but he kicks her feet from under her and runs past her and up the steps.
As she stands, she sees that there are gashes in her flesh from the broken glass. It makes walking harder, slower, but not impossible.
She follows him up the steps and to the front door. It’s hanging open. A trail of blood droplets goes down the driveway and onto the road. He must have cut himself. It will be easy to catch up.
But first, into the kitchen. There’s a meat cleaver hanging on the wall. She takes it.
She remembers now what she came to do.