I honestly don’t remember how I got to that house. It is such a blur at this point, and I honestly only remembered plotting my escape from the moment I learned what that place was. All I remember is waking up groggily, alone in a room; for some reason, I don’t understand why I didn’t panic. Some instinct inside told me to remain calm. The room had six twin-sized beds in it. It looked like a boys’ room, but only because I could see posters of sports-related icons. As I gained consciousness, I realized how unfamiliar everything was. I noted that the room was lit only by the sunlight streaming in from the two windows close to the ceiling. They were out of my reach, but I could tell there were bars on the outside.
However, obviously startled, I sat up. I was lying in a bed myself. There was no one in the room, but I could hear someone talking in the room next to this one. I tried to get out of bed, but realized that my ankle was cuffed to the iron frame of the bed. I began to panic, and I tried everything I could to get out of the cuff. I was making a lot of noise, but I didn’t care. I also didn’t scream. I am not sure how, but I knew automatically that it would do no good. I was sweating and couldn’t breathe, and I didn’t even notice the figure standing just inside my peripheral vision. I didn’t feel his presence until I realized that someone was touching my back.
That was when I screamed. I jumped to the side, but then I realized that this person was a small boy. He had to be about 9 years old, and he just looked at me curiously.
“Where am I? And who are you?” I whispered loudly. I didn’t want anyone else to hear me, because I wasn’t sure who else was lurking in the house. When he didn’t answer, I whispered a little bit more frantically, “Why am I here? Do my parents know where I am? Was there an accident or something?” The boy just sat there staring at me, and all I could do was pay attention to my pounding chest and the strong nauseous feeling I had. Something was wrong, but I had no way of knowing what it was. Had I been kidnapped? I mean, obviously I had been kidnapped, but why did I not remember how I had gotten here? How did I not remember who it was the grabbed me, and how did I not even remember the last place I had been before this? Everything before this moment was a completely wiped from my memory.
Finally the boy spoke up, “Mother and Father brought you here to live with us. You are lucky, too, since it is close to Christmas. Our new brothers and sisters always get the best gifts.”
“What the hell do you mean ‘Mother and Father’? I don’t know who you people even are!” My voice was now above a whisper. It was steadily getting louder until I was almost yelling. “I want to know what the hell is going on!” I struggled against the handcuffs until it sounded like the frame of the bed was going to break.
The boy looked frightened, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to be out of this bed and out of this house. Another boy ran in when he heard the racket I was making. In all my efforts to get loose, I really didn’t pay attention to him until he yelled at me to shut up.
“Now, if you’re quiet, transitioning to living here will go a lot more smoothly. If you keep being loud, Mother and Father might have to convince you to understand.” The older boy said this in a stern but calm voice
This boy was much older than the first. He looked to be about 16, my age, and at first I thought that he was my kidnapper. No, that doesn’t make sense, I thought. Kids don’t kidnap other kids. Besides, how would he have gotten me here without me remembering any of it. I mean, he is my age, so there can’t be anyway that he would be the one to do all this… right?
He looked very forlorn when he said these last words, and I noticed him rubbing his right shoulder with his left hand. Now, I had seen enough crime television shows to know that being calm and talking to the crazies who held me captive would be my best bet to escape, so I spoke up, “Okay, well can you at least explain to me where I am and how I got here? And who are Mother and Father?”
Instead of answering my question, the older boy grabbed the younger and led him out of the room, saying only, “Don’t worry, Mother and Father will explain everything to you when they get home. No one else will be visiting you until then.”
He and the young boy stepped out of the room, closing the door behind them. I realized then that it was the only door, the only exit, out of the room. For the first time since I arrived there, I soaked in every detail of the room I was in. It looked like all the beds were occupied, seeing as how there were little trinkets on every shelf next to the beds. There were worn shoes littering the floor of the room, but it was otherwise neat. Suddenly, I remembered that the young boy had said that Christmas was coming soon, but that didn’t make any sense because I had just celebrated Halloween with my friends. There was no way that I had lost almost 2 months of memories.
I looked down at my clothes and realized that they were not mine. I typically wore simple jeans and a t-shirt, but I was wearing really elaborate pajamas. These seemed to be made of silk, and they were a dark, royal blue. This was my favorite color, but I never had clothes this nice. Was it just a coincidence that they knew my favorite color, or was there something more sinister going on. I decided, though, that I would play along until I could figure out a way to get free. I sat in the bed for about 5 minutes worrying over these things.
A door closing in the distance interrupted my train of thought, and I braced myself. Instinct told me that I was about to meet either Mother or Father. I clenched my fists under the blankets that were provided to me, and I felt a cold sweat start creeping up my spine. I heard what sounded like a classroom of voices greeting this stranger as they entered the house, I was even more confused now, but I refused to let it show on my face. I heard footsteps approaching the door to my room and smaller footsteps and voices right outside the door. I braced myself.
In walked a petite woman who looked to be in her 40s. This had to be Mother. She had an unassuming face; she looked like a typical older woman who could be anyone’s mom. Actually, for some reason, she seemed extremely familiar somehow. She had a kind smile, but that didn’t make me comfortable around her. Her eyes showed everything that was wrong with her. They seemed like empty, black pools. I could tell that she knew nothing about my façade; as a matter of fact, she seemed pleased that I was so calm.
“Hello Zachary Donnahue. I am Mother Trish, and I want to welcome you to our home! I know you are probably wondering about the handcuffs, but Father and I didn’t want you to make too much of a fuss. We still have to explain why you are here!”
She said this last bit with a huge smile on her face. It seemed like she thought she was doing me a big favor. I was more confused than ever. How does she know my name? Did I have my ID on me somewhere? I should probably ask her a question…
“Um, Mother Trish, why am I here? Where is here? Where are my parents? Can I talk to them?” My voice shook slightly, but I figured it was probably unnoticeable.
“Hush now, Zachary. There is no need to worry about any of that. As soon as Father gets here, we will explain everything. For now I will tell you that you are safe. No harm will come to you as long as you follow our rules. You should also know that you have 11 siblings here, five brothers and six sisters. They will keep you company. Now, I will be right back with Father, so we can tell you everything you need to know.”
I watched as she scurried to the bedroom door, exited the room, and shut the door behind her. I started to panic then; I didn’t know what to expect from “Father”, and it unnerved me the way the people around here were acting so friendly. The kids were even acting like nothing was out of the ordinary! I was hyperventilating at this point, and yet again, I was pulling and jerking my foot to try to free myself from the handcuffs. Again, I was making a ton of noise, but I immediately stopped again when the door swung open with great force.
A huge man stepped in; he was bald and very red, with the scariest looking eyes I had ever seen. They scared me more than Mother Trish’s because, while hers were empty and clouded looking, his were hyperaware. They searched every inch of me, and I knew he could tell how scared I really was. Huh, I thought, as if I didn’t already seem scared with all the noise I was just making. My heart was pounding, and I could have sworn it stopped the moment he started talking.
”Zachary—it has come to my attention that you aren’t very comfortable here. That is to be expected because you don’t really know anything about ‘here’.” His voice was a deep, gravely voice that seemed to come from deep within his body. A place so deep that it sounded almost inhuman. He continued, “This house is a sanctuary for children, Zachary. We protect you guys from the world that otherwise wants to harm you. We brought you here to give you a better life. All of the other kids are happy here, so I am sure one day you will be too.”
At this point, I was shaking so badly that my teeth chattered. I knew my façade was broken, now, and I worried what would happen next.
“Now, I want you to tell me what life was like for you at home.” Father said this almost menacingly, so much so that I hesitated.
That was when I felt a sharp pain in my arm, and I realized that Father had moved up to me and was grabbing my arm so hard I thought he might break it.
“Boy, you answer me now, or the pain will only get worse from here.” He reeked of sweat and cigarette smoke. “Tell me what life was like living with your parents!” His voice was filled with rage and a malevolence so strong it was almost tangible. I knew he was to be taken seriously.
In a shaking voice I answered, “life with them was fine—”
“Why are you lying, Zachary?” He screamed this so loudly that it hurt my ears.
I started hyperventilating even more and tried to choke out an answer. I knew, again from pure instinct, what he wanted me to talk about. But how did he know? — My face was now streaming with tears, so all I could say was, “I hate my parents.”
He looked pleased and let go of my hand. “Good. Now explain why you hate them. You know I know, but I want to hear the words coming from your mouth.” His voice was so menacing that it chilled me to the bone.
I can’t believe he wants me to repeat any of this. How does he even know any of this? I took as deep a breath as I could muster and began to tell my story. I didn’t want any more pain, and I knew that my initial plan to play along with their weird game was my best bet of staying alive. “My parents are horrible people. My mom is an alcoholic; she spends half of her paycheck on booze as soon as she gets it, and the other half goes to my dad. He’s not any better. He takes the money and goes out, spending it on motel rooms. He cheats on my mom all the time, and she acts like she doesn’t know.”
“Zach, I know your parents are shit You don’t have to tell me that. I want to know how they are to you though. I don’t care how they are to each other. What have they done to you?” Father’s voice seemed to drop an entire octave. He was enjoying this. Why was he breathing so fast?
I hesitated. What exactly does he want to know? How much does he know already? Would it even be worth it to try to keep any of it to myself? What the hell, I might as well spill it all. “Yeah, they were pretty bad to me, too. Like I said, my parents’ money either went to liquor or whores, so I never had anything to eat. Whenever I went to school, I had to savor the breakfast and lunch they provided. If I was lucky, I could save some leftovers to bring home for dinner. Plus, my dad made me cover for him when he’d go out with other women. And he would hit me if I didn’t.” The little voice in the back of my head was screaming at me to escape, but how was I supposed to do that?! I was cuffed to a bed, guarded by a crazed man who was 5 times my size, and being held hostage by what seemed like an army of brain-washed children.