The Red Reasoning
By Joshua A. Spotts
You are human. You are defined by your emotions. The shadow figure whispered in Rachel’s ear.
Blink…blink…blink…Rachel fought back her tears. She stood with her back against the cold wall. Her step-father paced in front of her. Her arms drew her two little sisters close. They laid their little blonde heads against her hips.
“You are useless!” Her step-father glared holes into her soul.
The shadow figure picked at those holes. He is right, but you can show him otherwise. Let your emotions go. Let the hate give you power. Stop suppressing it, Rachel. Don’t you remember your ninth birthday?
Rachel bowed her head. She blinked faster. Her fingers tightened on her little sisters’ shoulders. She bit her lip, stopping only when she felt the taste of blood on her tongue. She whispered, “Never again.”
“What?” Her step-father stopped pacing in the middle of his tirade. He turned toward her, took two loud steps forward, and roared in her face, “You don’t talk back to me!”
Rachel shook in fear. “Yes, fa…” she couldn’t bring herself to say it.
“What’d you say?” Her step-father shook her.
One of the little girls rushed forward and kicked her father in the leg. “Don’t hurt Rachel!”
Rachel’s step-father threw his daughter, his own flesh and blood against the wall. The little girl slid to the ground, curled into a ball, and cried. She suppressed her wails to sobs, fearing that her crying would anger her father more.
Don’t let him do that, Rachel. You can stop him. The shadow figure hissed in Rachel’s ear. You know where it is. Just three steps, you can shoot him. You can end this, my child.
“I’m not your child.”
“What do you mean?” Rachel’s step-father raised his fist. After shaking it at her, he pointed to the girl on the floor. “You’re not my child? Hah! I married your mother! I feed and clothe you. You’re just as much my child as that pitiful thing is.”
“I am not yours and never will be.” Rachel said through clenched teeth.
Now! Show him your independence now!
“Go to you room! Take those whelps with you.” Rachel’s step-father gulped down a long draught of whisky from a tin flask. “Go now before I change my mind and decide to give you bruises to show off at school.” The step-father laughed, coughed, cleared his throat, and then took another drink of his whiskey.
Defy him! Do it! Free the little ones. It is the right thing to do. The shadow figure whispered. Its voice was calm. Its voice was beautiful. Its long fingers rested on Rachel’s shoulders, seeking to comfort and manipulate her. She shook it off and guided her little sisters upstairs. Before she reached the top she glared through the shadow figure at her step-father.
The pink walls were dull. The paint was chipped and peeling. The whitewashed floorboards creaked underfoot. Rachel sat in the corner. Her arms hugged her knees to her heaving chest. She watched a starving mouse gnaw at the edge of its hole.
Her eyes snapped shut as grey claws dug into the side of the mouse’s head and pulled it from its hole. The cat with fur like fire stood over its prey. The grey claws retracted and the mouse tried to scurry away. The cat leapt, biting down on the mouse’s neck. She wasn’t a patient creature and did not play with her food.
Rachel glanced at her little sisters. She sighed. They were still asleep. She had sung them a soft lullaby. But her heart had not connected with its sweet words. The shadow figure lurked in the room’s corner, watching her. It was a patient creature and always played with its food.
The shadow figure glided across the floor. It curled its long fingers around Rachel’s wrists. It glanced at the little girls and something growled within it. It put its black lips close to Rachel’s ear. It panted. Why are you burdened with these things? They are his spawn. Why do you…love…? The shadow figure choked on the last word.
Rachel sat there on her bed. She was silent. The crunch of bones cracked through the still air. The cat purred, finding joy in the death of another creature.
The whitewashed trimming, greyed and yellowed with age, around the wooden door shook as Rachel’s step-father lumbered down the hallway. A beer bottle crashed against the door and was followed by a laugh as the footsteps continued on. The shadow figure whispered, look at me, my child.
Rachel turned her tear stained face toward the shadow figure. She wiped her hands on her torn jeans. Her blue eyes looked into the shadow figure’s red ones. She shuddered as it cast images into her mind.
One was of her mother, lying dead in the street right after she had been hit by a large truck that ran a red light. Red blood framed her limp form on the black street. In another image her step-father nursed his first bottle of beer the night after the accident. He lay curled on his bed, murmuring in his sorrow. The third image was of the scene downstairs. It depicted her step-father’s rash behavior. It depicted how close Rachel had been to ending the abuse right then and there. She watched as her hands trembled. She saw from the outside how much the shadow figure affected her. Rachel broke.
She threw herself back unto the bed, pulling her knees to her chest. She lay on her side. The sobs ripped through her, forcing small whimpers to escape from her sealed lips. Pain pushed at her ribs. She hugged herself, sat up, and rocked back and forth. Her heart pulsed faster, faster, faster, then slower, slower, slower as the shadow figure wrapped itself around her. Rachel willfully drew the shadow figure closer to her heart.
In the morning Rachel awoke with the shadow figure hovering between her and her step-father. He reached out and slapped her. “If you cry, whelp, you’ll never cry again in this house.”
The shadow figure spun around and whispered in Rachel’s ear. Stay strong, my child, bide the time. Stay here. Tolerate him. I shall deal with him in my own time.
Rachel’s little sisters stirred in the bed behind her. She stood and the shadow figure hovered between her and her step-father, her body between him and the young girls. A passion grew in her bosom. One of the little girls called out her name. A tear trickled down Rachel’s cheek, sparkling with love. The shadow figure shuddered; gaps began to appear in its mass.
Turning around, Rachel flung herself unto her little sisters. She hugged them and kissed them. Her step-father pulled her off and threw her to the floor. Rachel jumped up, turned toward her step-father, and glared through the shadow figure which began to solidify more. Yes, child. Yes, you hate him.
Rachel looked toward her little sisters, “Father.”
“What?” Rachel’s step-father turned toward her.
Time stopped. The shadow figure drew close to Rachel. It hissed. It growled. It whispered. What are you doing, my child? He is not your father.
“There is only one way to stop him.”
Yes, child, but all in time. I shall be rid of him in time. Trust me.
“Mom would want me to take care of the little ones. There is only one way for me to do that.”
Dear one, I have been here since your mother’s death. I know what is best for you. Your mother’s death was his fault. He is the cause of all your pain!
Rachel ran a hand through her bedraggled hair. “You lie. You have blinded me. Mom’s death was an accident.”
No! He caused her death!
“Mom loved me!” Rachel whispered.
Yes, the shadow figure shivered and cracks began opening in its dark essence. But he took that away from you. Indeed, my child, that part of your mother caused you more pain since her death than the joy it ever brought you in life.
“Mom loved them.” Rachel gestured to her little sisters.
Yes, yes, but see their pain at her loss!
“Mom loved Jack, my father.” Rachel bit her lip. “And Mom loved Stan, my step-father, after my father died. I also loved Stan.”
Yes, you did once. But that was long ago. Think of all he has done to you.
“Stan loved my mom and her death was hard on him.”
No, no! He caused your mother’s death! He is the cause of all your pain.
“I love my little sisters and, despite all he has done, he needs my help in this time of pain. My little sisters need me in this time.”
No, don’t say it! Think of what he has done to you! The shadow figure flickered. It hovered on the brink of banishment. Its wispy fingers clutched at Rachel’s cheeks. They did so vainly. No longer could the shadow figure touch Rachel. It roared in pain.
“I love you, dad.” Rachel spoke to her step-father. He stared at her, dumbfounded. His entire body started to shake. The shadow figure screamed as its anchor of hate was banished from Rachel by the power of love.
Rachel’s step-father knelt before her. His brows pulled together. Rachel put her arm around his neck and hugged him. Warmth surged through her body and into his. He just knelt there in shock. Rachel spoke as her two little sisters hid behind her. “Dad, I know you must be in pain. I miss her too. I want you to know that I love you and I want to help you through this pain.”
“Thank you.” Rachel’s step-father managed to mumble in between his sobs.
Copyright 2012~Joshua A. Spotts