This story is by Raymonda Rice and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
Claire could feel her chest burning. Her body was fighting for oxygen but she would not slow down. Her feet pounded against the ground as she ran faster and faster. She paid no mind to the sting of branches hitting her in the face as she dashed through bushes and jumped over fallen trees in the dense forest.
The morning air held a bit of chill, and she was wearing nothing but a pair of white, linen pants and a tank top. Her feet were bare, covered in mud from the wet soil of the ground. She had run over sharp rocks and crossed cold rivers.
There was but only one thing on her mind: escape.
Claire sat on the bed in her room, throwing her teddy bear up and down. The eggshell colored walls were decorated with posters of celebrities and cartoon shows that she liked. Her clothes were scattered about in a messy fashion.
The laptop was literally for show. There was no internet connection, but the laptop did have a few games that she could play. There were art supplies stashed away in one corner of her room and a bookshelf in another.
These things were meant to make her happy, but Claire didn’t care much for things. Things were unnecessary. Instead, Claire liked to spend time inside her own head. And today, she tried visualizing her parents. But every time she tried to remember what they looked like, she could only see blood and the gaping hole in the center of their heads.
Claire swore she could hear the echo of gunshots ringing in her ears like church bells.
Even though it had been years, she could never wipe the vision of their dead bodies from her mind. It was funny how still the dead were, and how quickly they became cold and stiff. The dead were such ugly things.
Claire glanced at the clock. If things were to go as planned, then it was almost time to make her escape from the mansion. As punishment for her continued defiance, she had been sent to play with one of the elites of society. He was a dirty, old man that still liked young girls.
The thought of his wrinkly, old hands sliding between her legs and his menthol breathe blowing across her neck nearly made her gag. The Organization knew how much she hated these types of things, and so often passed her around as sex toy to the various clients.
Claire had been a prisoner of the Organization since the death of her parents. She was given to Viktor – her handler as they called him. He was the one responsible for overseeing her “education” and ensuring loyalty to the Organization. She didn’t know why Viktor was chosen to be her handler, or even how he came to work for the elusive Organization.
In fact, Claire didn’t know much of anything about the Organization except for the fact that her parents were involved. Despite not knowing the group’s ultimate goals, she did eventually come to realize that it was comprised of various government agencies, a network of scientists, and wealthy people with too much time and money on their hands.
There was a knock on her door, followed by the sound of the lock opening. The door was pushed gently opened, and the old man stepped in.
“Claire, dear. Did you look over those college applications?”
“No, Daddy,” Claire pouted. She scooted on her bed and patted the space next to her, “It’s not fair. Why do I have to leave you, Daddy?”
The old man grinned. “You sure know what to say to make this old man’s heart flutter.”
Claire noticed that he was alone today. “Daddy, is that man going to come today? I didn’t like the way he looked at me, like he wanted to do the things you do to me.”
“Oh, don’t you worry your pretty little head about that.”
“Really?” Claire asked, looking hopeful. She climbed into the man’s lap. “Cause only Daddy can do those things.”
“That’s right. Only Daddy.”
Claire giggled. “Daddy, can I do everything today?”
“You want to do everything?”
“Yes,” Claire said, smiling. “Please Daddy?”
The old man laughed, delighted to hear his precious Claire so excited. “Very well. You’ve been a very good girl lately.”
He reached under her shirt, squeezing Claire’s breast. “Stop it, Daddy! That tickles!”
“Let an old man have fun, won’t you?” he laughed.
“Of course,” Claire smiled sweetly. Before the old man could even blink, Claire grabbed a nearby pillow and smothered it over his face.
The old man tried to use his hips to buck up and throw her off. When that failed, he gripped her arms in a desperate attempt to pull her away. The more he gripped and scratched her arms, the harder she pushed down on the pillow.
It seemed like hours passed as he struggled desperately to pull his sweet Claire off him.
She kept her eyes closed as she suffocated him. She made sure to commit every muffled scream to memory so on those days when living was just too much, she could have something joyous to reminiscence over. She felt almost orgasmic as his struggles grew less and less until finally, there was nothing but stillness.
Claire stood up and turned towards the door. Now, it was time to make her great escape.
It was Seth who found Claire.
The Organization received word that Claire had escaped, and Seth was immediately dispatched to find her. Whenever Viktor was not immediately available to reign Claire in, the Organization would send Seth. It was because of that he got to know Claire, and in some strange way, he formed an attachment to her. So, it was only natural he would have no difficulty in finding her.
Although, if she hadn’t fallen into a hole in the forest behind the estate, she might have managed to escape far enough to make it rather difficult to find her.
As amusing as it was, watching Claire glare daggers at the world in the general, a part of Seth knew Claire would have much rather starved to death inside that lonely hole and rotted away without anyone ever knowing rather than to be pulled out and forced to endure the hell that was yet to come.
She was beautiful – not in the way that models are beautiful but rather, she was an ordinary sort of beautiful. Her hair, so blonde it was almost white, was full of wild and untamable curls. She was all bones and sharp edges with aristocratic features – high cheekbones and narrowed eyes with a pointy nose. She was tiny and frail and so easy to break.
The plain, dull colored clothes did her no justice. She wore faded blue jeans with holes ripped throughout them, showing flashes of pale skin here and there. The blue jeans were too big and hung precariously off her narrow hips, and the shirt – a faded, black T-shirt with big, white letters stated quite earnestly: “I gave zero fucks today.”
The vulgarity of her t-shirt clashed with her seemingly innocent appearance – but that’s the way she’s always been. Claire has always been a walking contradiction, a clash of needs and desires. She was white and black, and simply hated the color gray.
Claire caught Seth staring at her. She smiled sweetly, her teeth perfectly white and evenly spaced. It should have been a sin the way she could make him feel such an irrational desire to possess her – every inch of her – with a simple smile. “You’re quiet today.”
After a lifetime of abusers, Claire would allow no one near her heart or thoughts. She guarded herself fiercely and a few simple sentences from her could cut a man deeper than a knife.
Remember, she’s all bones and sharp edges. Being with Claire was like walking on egg shells.
She was a horrible, despicable person. Uncleaned and used. Bitter and angry. Full of mistrust and suspicion. She smelled of defeat and despair and hate. But nevertheless, she was as addictive as heroin, a tragic princess forsaken by everyone. She was so pathetic one could not simply do anything but pity her.
But Claire, if she thought for one second you were showing her pity, would gut you without a second thought.
“Viktor called. You go back to him today.”
It was blunt and straight to the point, but there was no nice way to deliver this news, no way to make it sound better than what it really was. Seth was returning her to the man that killed her family and kept her bound to him like some sort of exotic pet.
Claire said nothing. She just stared at him as if he was no better than the rest. Perhaps, in her long line of handlers, she had come to think of him as someone better. Maybe she thought she had found protection with him – but Seth couldn’t protect anyone. He was no better than the people who abused her.
She stood up. “I guess I’ll go pack my things then. It was only a matter time after my last fiasco.”
Seth had expected her to yell, to argue, to fight against him. But Claire never does as she’s supposed to do, and it would be silly to think she would start now. Even still, Seth could hear the acid-laced tone in her voice. “I had no choice, Claire.”
And the sad part is that she truly does understand – she understands that Seth is a coward and a liar. He would never attempt to free her from captivity – and the truly sickening part of this messed up ordeal is that he enjoyed seeing her locked inside a glass cage, trapped and unable to breathe without permission.
It was sick and twisted. Yet, Seth wanted her to believe that he cared, that he was different. But he wasn’t, and she knew this. “Claire!” Seth followed her into the bedroom they shared, or rather, used to share. She was stuffing her few meager belongings into a small duffel bag.
“Claire, look – I know you’re angry. I know you don’t like it, but -”
She put her finger over Seth’s lips, effectively silencing him. “It’s been fun, love. Let’s not ruin the moment with sentimentality.”
“Claire, please understand,” Seth begged. He didn’t know why but he felt like he needed to explain that this wasn’t his fault, that he didn’t want to give up her up but he had no choice. If things could have been different, the maybe… maybe… maybe what? Seth didn’t know – didn’t even understand what he was so desperate to get Claire to understand. “Viktor is…”
“The same man that killed my parents, that found me hiding underneath the bed. He is the same man that spared my life, kept me locked up, taught me how to kill, and eventually handed me over to the Organization.”
It’s funny, how she thinks herself grown up. She’s still just a child but then again, she knows more of human nature than any adult Seth had ever met. “It’s not about the greater good.”
“Of course, it is,” she replied, pulling away from Seth. “I’m all for the greater good.”
“If you had just…”
“I’ll never tell.”
And like that the conversation ends.
Claire is full of pride and she is smart. And she knows that being given to Viktor means the Organization is preparing something terrible for her – and that she will know suffering no human should ever know. But Claire is also strong. Insanely strong. And she will survive this, and no one will ever know where the scientific formula her father used to build a weapon more devastating than the atomic bomb is hidden.
Indeed – she is all for the greater good.
But what Claire doesn’t know is this: The Asylum has broken people far stronger than her.