**TRIGGER WARNING** This story, once again, is a horror/thriller story, with strong abuse themes. Reader discretion is advised.
Also, I posted previously about the possibility of a story involving a plague, but this is a different story. Hopefully I will be done with that one soon as well, but it is still a work-in-progress. PLEASE, feel free to share if you enjoy this story, and let me know what you think in the comments!
“It’s not her fault. She’s not all there.”
“I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard that. I know it’s not true, but I let them believe it. No way I’m talking. Not again. Hell, it’s what got me here in the first place. I opened my mouth to get her to stop and she wouldn’t. I did what I had to.
But what these people don’t seem to realize is that sometimes, mute is a choice. I used to talk. But she ruined that. I’d talk, and she’d beat me. So I stopped. Olivia never seemed to put that together and now she’s dead. In my case, mute was brilliant. I didn’t talk, I didn’t piss her off, she didn’t go off on me.
No, my being mute doesn’t mean that I’m not all there. Mute doesn’t mean disabled, or stupid. Mute meant survival.
“Azalea.” My nurse says my name as she enters my room. I turn to face her, but when I meet her warm brown eyes, I snap away. She’s here to get me to talk. Of course she is. That’s all she really cares about. What happened that night. That’s all anyone in this damn place cares about. I guess I can’t blame them. I suppose I’d be pretty curious to find out how and why a fifteen year old mute girl killed her mother.
“Azalea, please,” She says. Her voice echoes off the cold walls, but I refuse to face her. “Please look at me. I just want to talk to you.” Her voice sounds nervous, almost genuinely concerned. My eyes flit to her, but when I see the clipboard in her hands, I whip back to my indifferent position.
She makes her way to my bed. The springs creak as she sits, and the papery blankets crinkle. “You don’t have to talk. You don’t really even have to listen. I can’t force you. But maybe if you know a little more about me, you’ll be more willing to tell me a little bit about you.” I roll my eyes at her attempts. She pauses, as if she expects me to speak, then continues. “Well, my name is Shelby Parker, I’m thirty-seven years old.” I attempt to zone out, but I’m not able to today. I’m forced to listen. At least I can finally know my nurse’s name.
“I have a husband, his name is Neil, and three kids. A set of twins that are two, Lucy and Lincoln, a boy and a girl. Then there’s little Olivia. She’s four.” I cringe at the name. A memory forces itself forward.
It’s late. Olivia and I sit at the table eating a frozen pizza. It’s all I could make at that age. I’m eleven, Olivia is seven. She babbles on while she eats, talking enough to make up for my lack of speech. Suddenly, the back door slams open. Olivia’s eyes widen in fear and she clutches my arm, knowing what’s coming
“Girls,” Our mother yells. Her speech is slow and slurred. She stomps into the room; her eyes are glassy, her hair’s disheveled, and her cheeks are glowing red – a sure sign that she’s drunk. Then again, when isn’t she drunk?
“You’re eating without me?” She says, sounding indignant. She reaches for Olivia, who holds a piece of pizza. She stumbles when Olivia pulls her arms away from her grasp. She slams into the table. I bite my lip, knowing what’s coming next.
“What the hell? You little bitch!” She yells in Olivia’s face. I put my arm over Olivia protectively, praying that she won’t speak.
“It’s mine, Mommy. There’s more right there,” Olivia speaks, her brown eyes are wide and innocent. I clench my jaw as my mother lifts her hand. She grabs Olivia’s chin.
“Look at me,” She says softly. “Look at me!” Olivia flinches and slowly meets her eyes. “If I want yours, I’ll take yours.”
Olivia slowly hands it to her, and she snatches it out of her hands. “That’s much better.”
As Mom takes a bite, Olivia relaxes, but suddenly she whips around and hits Olivia so hard that she falls out of her chair. She hits the floor with a sickening thud; tears stream down her face as she rises and runs to the living room. I jump to my feet and follow her, hoping I can protect her, but knowing I won’t intervene. Bruises are already forming on her arms and face. Olivia jumps behind the couch – her normal hiding place – and begins to assess her wounds. Besides her bleeding nose, she only has bruises. Most of them are old. Mom went on a rampage last week, leaving poor Olivia almost entirely black and blue. I hardly remember what happened. Mom punched me fairly early on in the night, and I drifted in and out of consciousness throughout the remainder of her escapade.
“Olivia! Get your ass out here!” Mom screams at her. She looks at me for guidance, but I’m at a loss. If she goes out there, she’ll be beaten. If she stays hidden, Mom will just get madder. When she finds her, her punishment could be even worse. I wish I could help my sister, but I’m not able to hold off our mother. I shrug in response. Her eyes are filled with a hurt understanding, and her expression along with her tears pierce me with pain. Slowly, she crawls out from behind the couch. I can see her bruised arms shaking.
“What are you doing, hiding? You think you can get away by hiding? God damn, you’re stupid. You know that?” Mom taunts her. I clamp my hands over my ears, trying to block her out.
“Stop it!” Olivia screeches. “Stop hurting me, Mommy!” I freeze. She can’t play into her game! When she responds, she gets hurt. I hear the heavy footsteps of my mother as she lumbers across the room. When she hits Olivia, I can hear the impact. It sounds like she’s hit her in the stomach, thankfully. A blow that hard to the head could easily kill her.
“Why can’t you be more like your sister? Quiet. Respectful,” Mom says, suddenly calm. Despite her intoxication, she knows what to say that will hit Olivia the hardest. “Why?!” She slaps her. I listen on, tears streaming down my face, as a volley of blows hit Olivia. It seems to go on for hours, when in reality it couldn’t have been more than twenty minutes. Then, abruptly, it stops.
“Are you done talking back?” Mom speaks softly, sweetly. Please, Olivia, I think, please don’t say anything.
“No, Mommy, I’m not gonna be quiet. Azalea’s too scared to talk, but you won’t do that to me.” She speaks with a wisdom that sounds utterly foreign coming from the mouth of a seven year old. But I know as soon as the words leave her mouth that she’s issued herself a death sentence.
“That’s it,” Mom yells. She delivers blow after blow until Olivia’s screams are reduced to a low, persistent moaning. “Maybe that’ll teach you to shut your mouth.”
A soft whimper escapes Olivia’s lips, but Mom’s too far away to hear, thankfully.
I wait until I hear Mom’s door slam shut to go out from my hiding place. I crawl over to Olivia’s battered body.
“Azalea,” She whispers. She goes to raise her arm, but it looks to be broken. My hand reaches for her face, for the little heart-shaped birthmark underneath her ear, but I don’t dare touch her. With all of her bruises, it would only hurt her more. “Keep quiet. She’ll only hurt you.”
I hate the fact that she’s obviously so much braver than me. I hate the fact that she seems infinitely braver than me. I hate the fact that I’m watching my baby sister die, and I can’t do anything about it.
I lay my head beside her face, close enough to feel salty tears run down her cheek. Or maybe it’s my own tears. I can’t be sure. Everything is a blur. This isn’t real. Is it? It can’t be. My sister isn’t sitting next to me, dying from some unseen internal injury. I keep telling myself that. It somehow numbs the pain, if only a little.
“Azalea,” She gasps. Her breathing grows more and more strained. She reaches for my hand and grabs it, her hand shaking terribly. “I love you.” I take a deep breath.
“I love you. I’m sorry,” I whisper, my voice hoarse from the lack of use. Her eyes widen and a small smile tugs at the corners of her mouth. She takes her last breath with this smile on her face.
When I come back to reality, my face is streaked with tears. I go to wipe them, hoping that Shelby didn’t notice.
“What’s wrong? Was it something I said?” She asks. Her eyes search mine, and for a second I consider speaking. But I decide better of it. I shrug, the first sign of communication I’ve shown since I arrived in the hospital. She looks shocked, but masks it quickly. She jots something down on her clipboard, then stands and leaves the room.
I curse her for making me think of my sister. Over the past four years, I’ve slowly been able to convince myself that Olivia’s death was her fault. Mom acted like she didn’t exist. The next morning, Mom took her body and buried her. I don’t know where. We were homeschooled with no other family, and living on a farm in the middle of nowhere. No one knew Olivia, so no one questioned it when she was gone. With Mom pretending she didn’t exist, I forced myself to believe that it was her fault. She talked back. She knew better. I told myself that over and over again until it finally sank it.
Shelby reenters the room, pulling a white haired, old man behind her. He smells faintly of antiseptic, and has a stethoscope wrapped around his neck.
“Hello, Azalea,” He says. His voice sounds paternal, but in a practiced way. There’s a cold calculated edge to it. “I am the psychologist that has been studying your mental state.” The way he speaks hints to the fact that he knows. He must know that my being mute isn’t involuntary. “Mrs. Parker tells me that you showed signs of communication. Of course, this changes things. We had been under the impression that your speechlessness was because of mental disability. Especially because upon further medical examination, we found no damage to your vocal chords, or to the segment of your brain controlling speech.” He sounds angry.
I fight it, but a satisfied smirk tries to work its way to my face. Big doctor getting shown up by a mute teenager? How can that be?
Shelby stands uncomfortably in the corner of the room.
“Well this is a good sign, isn’t it?” Shelby asks, her voice uneasy. She looks at me, but I don’t meet her eyes. She looks to the doctor, and he gives her a disapproving look.
“Maybe. It’s just one shrug though. It could mean nothing,” He replies. I continue my stony, emotionless gaze. The doctor waits a few more moments, then exits the room without another word. Shelby looks at me, exasperated.
“What are you doing, Azalea? I know you’re in there. Why won’t you come out?” She says, picking up her clipboard then leaving. I feel a pang of remorse for her. I don’t want her to be ridiculed by this doctor because of me. There’s something about her that stirs emotions in me. I’m not sure what it is, or even what emotions it stirs.
I sit for a while, my mind blank, until I hear the insane screams of my neighbor across the hall. He never stops muttering, and when the mutters rise to a more audible level, he gets taken away.
“They try to change us. They won’t change me. No no no. I’m staying the same,” He yells, his voice wavering, changing tones. I hear the shuffling of nurses feel, the rolling wheels of a gurney. There’s a brief struggle that I hear – I assume they’re strapping him down – then the gurney wheels away. “Shock therapy! No no no. Not shocks. No no no.” His screams slowly fade away. I stand slowly and walk to my window, looking up and down the hall. Through his open door, I see his room in ruins, which is no surprise. There are illegible scribbles all over his walls, along with a few bloody handprints. I wish I could go examine his room, read what he’s scrawled on the walls. The only word that I can surely make out is ‘DEATH’. It makes me shudder.
I shouldn’t be here. I’m not like these people. My brain is fully functional. Maybe I should just talk. Get out of this place. No. You’ll get thrown in jail for killing her. My heart races at the thought.
I move to the bed and sit down, allowing my thoughts to take over. Slowly, a memory pushes forward.
I’m four. Mom is pregnant with Olivia, very pregnant. My father is still present. It’s one of the last times I’ll see him. In the past year, I’ve adopted silence. My father’s a huge man, and he uses his size against my mother and I. Whenever my father would come home late, we would be beaten. I notice that whenever my mother tries to reason with him, he beats her more. I take note of this information and decide that I won’t fall into the same trap. He never hurts my mom enough to hurt the baby, though. That would be too suspicious.
“Why the hell is she still up?” He asks as he enters. He grabs me by the arm on an existing bruise, but I don’t fight it. Letting him get his way is easier.
“It’s a Friday,” My mother begins reluctantly. She’s still beautiful at this point, but she’s beaten down and full of sadness. “We were going to finish this movie and then I was gonna put her to bed.”
He breathes heavily and slaps my mother across the face. “God damn it, Jess, it’s almost eleven! She’s four!” He fumes. Slowly, my mother raises her face to look at him.
“I saw your work schedule. You were supposed to be off at seven tonight. Where the hell were you?” She says, her voice quiet with pure fury. She grabs his jacket from the table and smells it. “Were you with her?” I plug my ears on instinct. Whenever Mom talks about ‘her’, Dad is even meaner than usual.
“Yes. I was. I can’t stay with you anymore,” He says, tight-lipped and suddenly calm. My mother rises and leaves the room. I shrink back, realizing just how close I am to my father. My movement causes him to notice my proximity to him as well. He reaches over to me slowly; I’m suddenly very conscious of the smell of both alcohol and perfume. His hand gropes my chest, and I’m frozen in fear. I’m tempted to jerk away, but know he’ll beat me if I do. I stay stiff, unable to decide which would be a more favorable option. I slowly shift away, which results in him wrenching my arm so I’m closer to him. I attempt to wriggle out of his grip, and he punches me in the stomach. I gasp for breath and come up coughing. I spit out a mouthful of blood. He gets in one more hit, right to the side of my head, and I’m knocked unconscious.
Tears are drawn to my eyes at one of the last thoughts of my father. He left my mother for another woman, but he came back to our house every now and again for a few months afterward.
Before he left, it had been my mother and I against him, and she had been very protective of me. But when my father left, things changed. She started drinking more once Olivia was born, and she began to think that I was the reason that he left us.
Slowly, the abuse from my father was replaced by abuse from my mother. Still, I kept quiet.
Suddenly, the white haired doctor bursts into the room, and array of nurses behind him.
“Please, just give me a little more time, I can get her to talk!” Shelby yelps as the nurses surround me.
“I believe that this will be a more effective catalyst in her speaking,” The doctor says. I try to keep myself calm, but I can feel my heart race in my chest. Two nurses grab me by my shoulders and push me onto a gurney. I know better than to fight them. My head sets into the brace, and they strap the safety belt across me.
“It’s just a precaution,” one of the nurses tells me. As if that’s reassuring. I’ve watched this scene from across the hall enough times to know that I’m being taken for some form of ‘treatment’. The nurses wheel me into the hall, and I see that my neighbor across the hall sits in his room once again. He’s no longer thrashing and yelling. He sits, a blank look on his face, staring at the wall. His hands are folded in his lap, and he looks utterly reserved. Whatever form of ‘treatment’ they used definitely altered something in him. I’d seen him come and go from various treatments, always coming back the same. Seeing him so quiet sends a shiver down my spine. If they can do that to him, what can they do to me?
As they wheel me down the hall, I notice Shelby watching me intently from the corner of my eye. She locks her gaze on mine, and I barely notice her nod her head. We enter a room, and I find my worst fear sitting before me. I’m getting electric shock therapy. The nurses lift me from the gurney and strap me to the bed in the center of the room. They start up the machine, strapping it onto my temples. Shelby walks to me.
“If you talk to me, you won’t have to endure this at all,” she says softly. I put on a blank face and force myself to breathe deeply.
The white haired doctor turns a dial and sends a wave of white-hot pain shooting down my spine. My eyes well up with tears, but I convince myself that the pain is worth it.
“Please, Azalea, all you have to do is speak, and this will be over,” Shelby whispers to me. The doctor turns the dial again, and I’m faced with another round of searing pain.
“We are hoping that this therapy will make you more compliant to us,” The doctor says. He turns the dial higher yet, and I find tears streaming down my cheeks.
“Please, stop!” Shelby yelps. He leaves it at its current voltage and shocks me again. I can’t handle the pain anymore. I open my mouth with the intention of speaking, but find that I can’t. My heart pounds. I can’t talk! These words resonate within me. I lock eyes with Shelby as a memory I’ve been avoiding pushes forward.
Mom’s been quiet to me recently. I haven’t been beaten in almost a week. When she comes home late, drunk, though, she mentions Olivia.
“I’m so glad you’ve never been like that stupid sister of yours,” She says, her words subtly slurred. “It’s her birthday today, you know. How old would she have been? Ten? Eleven?”
I bite my lip to keep from speaking to her. I know better than to indulge her little games. Nonetheless, her mentioning Olivia is more than peculiar.
“God, she was such a little bitch,” She says as she searches for food. “I’m so glad I took care of that problem.” She never talks about her. I can feel the anger growing inside of me.
“I’ll never forget how it felt to kill her,” She reaches over to touch my shoulder. “Aren’t you glad I got rid of her?” Finally, I can’t hold it in anymore.
“No,” I whisper. Olivia’s last words ring through my mind.
“What the hell?” She looks at me. Her eyes are fearful. She seems to have forgotten that even though I don’t speak, I still think. Out of instinct, she slaps me across the face.
“I said, no. You never deserved to have a daughter as amazing as Olivia.” My voice is raspy. My mother freezes, then charges at me. She has the same look in her eyes now as she did before she killed Olivia. I back away from her, feeling behind me for the kitchen counter. She stumbles forward and throws a punch at me. She connects with my temple, rendering my vision useless. I walk shakily away from her until the stars in my vision subside. Slowly, I fumble for the rack of knives that I know sits on the counter behind me. I kick up at my mother, sending her into a fit of confused rage. When she finally regains her bearings, she charges at me. Her hands wrap around my throat, and her eyes widen in bizarre, sadistic pleasure. I lock eyes with her, and smile. She falters for a moment, and in that instant, I thrust the knife that I hold into her stomach. She staggers backward, so I stab again. And again. And again. Until she’s coughing up blood.
And again. And again. And again. Until she collapses onto the ground.
And again. And again. And again. Until her chest ceases in rising and falling.
And again. And again. And again. Until I can no longer pull the knife from her lifeless body.
The next few days are a blur. Her punch to my temple must’ve given me a concussion, as I drift in and out of consciousness. Someone from my mother’s job shows up after she stays absent from work. The police are called, and when I won’t talk, they send me to the mental hospital
My eyes jerk open to the next shock. It’s higher voltage, draws tears immediately.
“Talk! And then we’ll stop!” The doctor yells. It dawns on me that maybe he’s the crazy one.
I can’t talk!!! I try to scream, but my voice fails me. I look frantically at Shelby, moving my mouth. She looks confused at first, but her eyes widen when she makes the connection. The machine grows louder and louder as the doctor turns it higher. It feels as though my soul is leaving my body.
“She can’t talk!” Shelby screeches, but the machine drowns out her voice.
“What?” The doctor replies furiously. He pushes the button, sending the next shock down my spine.
“She can’t talk! You’re going to kill her!” I distantly hear Shelby scream. I begin convulsing uncontrollably. My eyes threaten to roll back into my head. One more round of electricity pushes me to my breaking point. My back arches, and I begin foaming at the mouth.
“Oh, no,” The doctor yelps. The machine clicks off, but it’s too late. He’s running over to me, calling for paramedics when I take a final gasping breath and black out.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed! Please share if you enjoyed, and let me know what you thought in the comments!
**I want to acknowledge that the depictions of electroconvulsive therapy may not be accurate, but this is a work of fiction, and for creative purposes, this change was necessary.**
Stay tuned for more updates (and hopefully another story soon!)
xoxo, second sister suzie