This story is by Patricia Garcia and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
My time on earth is limited, I can sense it. As I look among the faces, the faces of fear and wonderment, I can’t help but think, this is the end. They stare at me, all of them, their small heads, their teary eyes, dirty blood-stained cheeks. All of them, wondering what will happen next, bestowing upon my shoulders the biggest responsibility. Should I run?
One Week ago
I’ve spent years of my life running, running from something. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never done anything that police would chase me for. I’ve stolen here and there, but nothing too noticeable. I’ve bought some blow, fucked a prostitute, here and there… nothing too big. I’ve traveled. I’ve backpacked throughout Europe, Mexico, and now I’m backpacking through South America. I always go back to my home, my country, but I can never stay. There’s nothing there that makes me stay. The need to find oneself, the need to experience, the human necessity to fuck, women, men, blow, ecstasy… Need I say more? My living circumstances consist of shady places. This shady spot is no different, I could smell piss and feces. There were men and women, some shooting up, others sleeping, and then there were the ones that were getting randy.
“Hey papa, you want some of this?”
There in front of my face stood Marcela, the house female that everyone shared. Her teeth were stained, well, the ones she still had. The smell that came from her was revolting.
“No hon, not today. Maybe tomorrow. I haven’t gotten any blow.”
“Ha, well, your loss papi. You know where you can find me.”
She backs away from me as she scratches her crotch and hawkes the greenest loogie I’ve ever seen in my life. I kept walking to my designated space. I have my own water bucket, granted, I think someone keeps peeing inside of it. I don’t do hardcore drugs, that’s not me. I stick to the white powder and the alcohol. I’ve come to accept that I’ll probably die of cirrhosis of the liver inside one of these dumps, with herpes on my junk, or worse.
“Who the hell are you?” I yell at what seems to be a ball of rags. All I could see was the dirty blonde matted hair and grimy hands. Lifting its head, I could see that it was a young girl.
“So, didn’t you hear me? Who the hell are you? What the fuck are you doing on my side? Don’t you know the rules?”
She stared with vacant eyes that seemed to be imploring, imploring help, imploring…
It had been a couple of days; Marti and I were eating soup. She loves eating bread, so I got her some bizcochos from the only bakery still open in this part of town.
“Marti, there’s more where that came from.”
“I know, I’m just… I’m… hungry…”
“No, you think there won’t be anymore, but you’re going to choke on the biz kid. So, now that you’re talking. What’s your story? How come you ended up in this dump?”
Silence. She hesitates, she opens her mouth, but ends up taking a huge bite of the bizcocho. I guess that’s my cue…
“Ok, I’ll start. I’m in this dump cause I followed a woman down to these parts of South America. She was hot, wild gal, always wanted coke, and not the soda. I mean, maybe I shouldn’t be talking to you like that. How old are you anyway?”
A kid must learn about sex and drugs sometime, right? I mean, she lives in this dump, I’m pretty sure she’s done or seen some crazy things.
“I’m twelve… I know about stuff… I’ve never tried any of it. I see how it makes people, all funny, and then they get sick… I don’t want to get sick.”
“Yeah, you’re right kid, you’re a smart one. Look, I’m not going to be here for a long time. I need to go.”
“Where are you going?”
“I don’t know. I just can’t stay in the same place for that long.”
“Can I come?”
“No… no… no, kid. Where are your folks? Where do you come from kid?”
She stops eating, looks down and again, those vacant eyes… imploring. Fucking shit, what the fuck is her deal?
“Look Marti, you’re an ok kid, I just do my stuff alone. Plus, I’m pretty sure someone will be missing you, if they aren’t already.”
“No one’s missing me. I don’t have anyone. “
“Look, I know sometimes it feels that way, but I’m pretty sure your folks must be worried about you.”
“NO… no, you don’t understand. I ran away from Monte Negro.”
If you took every single horror movie and put them together, you’d get, Monte Negro the town’s orphanage. Encircled by rain forest, wild animals, and there amidst slabs of concrete stood what can only be described as Transylvania’s Castle.
“Oh, so you really don’t have anyone.”
I said as I sat next to her. I’m not really into this sappy shit.
“How bad was it?”
Maybe I shouldn’t have asked this since it seemed like all hell broke loose. She started to tremble. Her little lips quivered.
“It’s not just me…”
She rolled up her sleeve and showed me what was supposed to be an arm yet what stared up at me was a hideously disfigured scarred mess.
“The older girls are sold, while we take the beatings. We’re videotaped as they beat or rape us. There are boys too who go through the same. I was able to escape a few days ago, but my friends got caught.”
“I’m sorry kid.”
After some silence, Marti asked, “Do you have any children?”
I didn’t want to think about them. I didn’t want to… I left to find myself, I couldn’t with them being there, reminding me of the person I used to be, the person I hated.
“Yeah, ahem… I have two little girls, I mean, they’re not little girls anymore. More like young ladies… I haven’t seen them in over ten years.”
“Why? Why??!?!?!?!?!? You’re a nosy little fucker. You can’t stay here, well, on my side. You need to go somewhere, find your own corner.”
I don’t know how long I was asleep, it must’ve been a few hours, when the door opened and a little girl, unrecognizable, her face seemed to have caved in, black and blue bruises, she was being carried by Jack, another American on vacation, trying to find himself. Marti seemed like she was picked up by an invisible force.
“Valentina!!!” Marti screamed.
“M-a-a-ar-tt-i-i…” The little girl could barely speak. I drifted back to sleep and was awakened by crying and whispering. I could hear the little girl saying, “I don’t know what happened to her. Marti, coughing, it’s a good thing you got out when you did. They’re holding Lucia in one of the rooms, locked. I could only hear screams and crying…”
“You’ll be ok Valentina, don’t talk anymore. We’re safe… I think. I saw one of the guards walking around near the bakery.”
Before I had time to think, I got up… “What do you need?”
After two nights of planning and colluding with the girls we decided it was time. It was late at night… it didn’t seem like anyone was awake. The castle stood there, like a devil’s trap in unholy land. The guys there were notorious for their “good” deeds, walked around like fucking priests in town. I was told not to hurt anyone, to open doors and make sure the kids got out, safe and sound. There were around thirty kids, locked. There were two floors. The “priests” and the head honcho slept in the first floor, in a sealed hallway that no one other than staff could enter. Marti’s idea was great, except that these people would continue to hurt kids… I needed to end it. Making sure that no one saw us, I unlocked the first sealed door…easier than I thought. We started upstairs, freeing every child. I told Marti to take everyone out while I cleared the first floor. I made sure the hallway leading to the priest’s rooms were locked and couldn’t be opened from the inside. I found more children and freed them, some were in shackles. I could see Marti leading everyone to safety, I had to do it now. I took my matches out and lit the floor on fire where I had poured gas. I ran as fast as possible with the girls running ahead of me. Approaching the sound of joy, I saw Marti and her friends. I’d never seen her smile in the week I’d known her, yet, there it was, as bright as the sun in such a dark night. Slowly everyone began to turn and look at me, these kids, young boys, girls, looking at me with hopeful eyes. What have I done…