Friday, March 14, 2014

No Place Like Home

 No Place Like Home
He arrived first. Weeks later she joined him. When there wasn’t anything else to do, which was often, they sat on the floor and drew. They surmised they were in each others’ age range and that they had both been taken. No words were shared among them, not even their names. They were taken upstairs once a day for schooling and a meal and sun. Once upstairs they saw how much color they were losing, how their skin began to blanch. Their squinted at each other barely getting used to the sunlight from the windows. As soon as their eyesight adjusted to the white paper, the yellow piercing through beige shades, the tattered but muted tones of the rug they were rushed back downstairs where they’d settle back into the gray.

The woman lead them to their room, or as she liked to insist along with them calling her “Angie” that they consider this place “home.” “Home” was a dank basement that was often cool, sometimes freezing, rarely warm. It was dark and it was moist. The dampness in the air settled on their skin as soon as they returned from "school."

After a couple weeks the girl thoroughly searched their surroundings. She found rope but no chains. She surveyed the toilet behind a folded wall and the sink with the faucet that dripped leaving a rusted stain around the drain. She found clothes that were definitely not in fashion now and smelled as stale as the basement.

The only window downstairs was painted shut with glass covered in so much soot it hid the outside world. It was small enough for their heads to fit through but nothing else. Though this didn’t stop her from trying by punching at it with no luck. When the two were next brought upstairs for studies they stood in the kitchen bathed in sunlight. Once the woman locked the basement door behind them the girl screamed her head off. The girl dodged hands attempting to catch her. She ran around the space as though on fire. The girl made it past the living room to the front door when she found what the boy had the first and last time he attempted the same thing. The locks needed keys from within. Still screaming, her cries ringing throughout the house tingling the boy’s inner ear it was so loud, she sped past the woman who hunched herself down attempting to soothe, shush, and capture the girl.

The boy waited in the kitchen, and he came soon enough. The man emerged in the doorway to the kitchen as the girl, quick like a monkey, had jumped the cabinets and was on the kitchen countertops trying to get through a window. The boy hadn’t thought of that. The girl was almost successful, almost, a window pane shattered from the kick of her sneakers and the force of her will but she was scooped up easy as ice cream. Her limbs fought, wouldn’t remain still. She kicked and flailed all over the place as the man took her upstairs where her screams were replaced with a different type. It was no longer a sound craving attention, this cry was in deep fear and understanding of what was to come. The boy was shooed downstairs by the woman, who insisted everything was going to be okay. They were the same words she said to them every day.

Later, maybe hours, maybe just long minutes, the girl returned, still putting up a fight. The man stumbled down the stairs, her body thrust over his shoulder, her screams muffled with a sock. As soon as he touched ground he thrust her onto the cot beside the boy. She lifted herself up ready to shriek again but the man made a motion for his pants pocket. Even with the one soft bulb the boy saw the cord eeking it's way out of his pocket. One peek at the girl's arms he saw her long sleeves revealed hints of lacerations. The girl sat back, but there was rebellion in her eyes. The man trudged up the stairs and sealed them into their new world. 

They weren’t allowed upstairs for a while after that. Food was brought down, left on the second step, and the door immediately shut leaving them back to their solitude. Drawing became routine. The girl sometimes scratched at her arms. She hid her legs by folding them under herself. He didn’t ask how she felt, he knew the sting of the cord. He wasn’t looking to feel that again.

As they sat on the floor scratching on paper was the only sound. Their fingertips were colored from the wax of the crayons and their hands dotted with the shavings they wiped away. When the girl spoke he had to look up to consider if he’d actually heard something. Her mouth was slightly ajar. Her eyes narrowed like she’d been waiting on his answer for too long.

“What are you drawing?” she asked. He dared a peek at her picture first, it was erratic scribbles but a rainbow of them that came together like a puzzle. He looked at his. His hands framed each side of the image, one he hadn’t even realized he’d been creating in the first place. A house with a chimney, a sun peering over the place like a guardian. To one side of the house were two people, a man and a woman and in the middle of them was a tiny figure that could only be a child, their child, specifically. It was a place he was starting to forget, yet hints of it still pervaded in his memory. The car he was shuttled into to go to and from real school, not a woman making things up while they remained shackled to the table listening but not listening. Before answering he wrote the word under it then held the paper up to the girl.

She mouthed the four letter word and nodded before tearing up her illustration and starting again. “Let me show you my home too,” she said as she reached for a new sheet of paper. 
Story by: Jenn Baker
Image courtesy of Graur Codrin/


  1. Whoa, that last line--AWESOME. Love it, Jenn. But then, you probably knew this would be right down my alley:-)