CONTENT WARNING: The following story contains material that may be harmful or traumatizing to some audiences.
She paid for her crimes tonight.
The night comes in like a cloak. Flecks of light flicker in their illumination, their glow intensifying as the sky deepens from blue to black. With no city lights to compete with, they pop up like freckles on summer skin and crowd out the backdrop of darkness. She stares at the sky but she doesn’t see.
She lies on her back in the soil. Tufts of grass protrude through the spaces between her fingers like she’s holding hands with the Earth. Rocks and stone bite into the flesh of her back and thighs but she doesn’t feel it. She can’t.
To the untrained ear, the night is quiet. But if you were born and raised on this land like she was, you’d hone into the language of the dark. A breeze moves through the canopy and leaves bristle against each other. Trees groan in their sway, annoyed in their disturbance. An owl hoots. Scurrying critters snap twigs and punctuate the night with their breaks. She is surrounded by noise but hears nothing.
The smell of the forest is pungent with existence– and the stink of decay pierces through it. It is in this harmonious display of life and death where it’s understood one cannot live without the other. Everything will find its beginning. And everything will find its end.
Except she didn’t find her End. It came for her, stalking and hunting and demanding justice.
She was only 12 when the End came and plucked her from the side of the highway. The End, wearing the skin of a man tall and wide enough to eclipse the sun– becoming his own kind of night–
“Need a ride home,” he asks through a rolled down passenger window.
–the End, with the scrape of calloused palms and the stench of old sweat–
“It’s no problem for me– headed that way anyway.”
–the End, cloaking his hatred behind the kindness of a smile–
“Can get you home in no time.”
He punches her in the back of the head and her world is an explosion of lights and blurs. Consciousness ebbs away in chunks. The pain is loud and her fear sharpens its edge. Her head lolls from side to side and blood is running from her forehead to her eyes– from her nose to her mouth– from her chin to her neck–
He claws at the hems of her shirt, her jeans, her panties, and tears them away like tissue paper. Knobs of fingertips wrap around her wrists and clutch at her thighs. They knead dimples into bone. She tries to curl, to draw her knees into her chest but she is splayed open and stretched taut. The weight of him will crush her, each rib bowing to the point of break.
“I’m sorry,” she rasps. She is guilty. She sees that now.
A tearing. A scream. The End is splitting her in two and she is too brittle– too frail– she is splitting into a million pieces. She is cracked open and all the evil in the world floods inside with every thrust.
“Just getting what you deserve, you fucking Indian.”
His hands close around her neck, smothering the savage out of her. She knows what happens next, begs for it to come. Because if he doesn’t blot out what’s left of her existence then it will only be a matter of time before she does it herself.
A final breath. Her spirit peels away from her dead body and she knows she has atoned for her sins. He opens the door and tosses what’s left of her clothes out, boots what’s left of her body out. She is a flurry of gangly limbs in the tumble. She tumbles still as he speeds off and is swallowed by the night, dust and stones coating her naked body.
And so here she lies– on her back in the dirt, staring blindly at the sky.
The body of a 12 year old girl whose only crime was being Native.
I feel your words – like a gut punch. That visceral feeling of anger and inaction. We can all do better. Thanks for your honesty – it is not falling on deaf ears.