After one door closes, another one always opens up. That phrase makes it sound so easy to waltz on over to the other door and amble on through. Sometimes locks exist, or the alternative door is miles away. Or there are mountains, rivers, and bridges with angry trolls blocking the path. Now that I have you in the right state of mind. Check out the story below. Is it an allegory dressed in fantastical clothes? Perhaps, but then again perhaps not.
After the Door Closes
The silence in her body was constant, a dead evergreen too cold to decay. Her body was a song without a rhythm and a broken drum. Her fingers shouldn’t have been able to move with the gaping hole in her chest. There was no blood rushing through tiny vessels, no heart to push the blood along.
But still her fingers moved.
Her legs shouldn’t have been able to carry her thin frame any farther down the aged stone corridor. Even if her heart had been where it was supposed to be, the muscles in her legs were too atrophied to be of any use.
But still her legs responded to her call.
Her mind was unraveling piece by piece. Fleeting sensations at the periphery of her reach replaced the silence of her body. A constant rumble emanated from the pressing walls, the sound the incoherent rasp of vocal cords rubbed dry after too many arguments and choked tears. Phantasms danced at the edges of her vision, his form chief among them. They swirled and lurched, driving her sanity into a corner and taunting it. They whispered how she couldn’t survive without him.
She used to be so strong before he took that away.
The thought galvanized her into action and she tore her eyes away from the hole left of center in her chest, visible as a dark patch beneath her thin shirt. With a grunt, she staggered to her feet.
She had found the courage to get him to move on. It was no doubt for the best. But now he had taken her heart along with everything else she had already wasted on him. Her life would not end there, not once he was finally gone for good. So he had taken her heart? No matter. She would get it back. A heart patched together, reintroduced, was still a heart nonetheless.
She took one step. Her foot padded softly against the ground. It was the first step of a pet after the abusive master appears to leave. The next step was stronger. The next one stronger still. Until each step slapped against the ground in defiance. They were forceful, and they drowned out the noises coming from the desiccated throats in the walls. The visions were still there, jeering at her. But they recoiled from her bared teeth and stood back as if to see what was going to happen next.
The path in front of her stretched into the darkness, a straightforward tunnel of worked stone. Torches in sconces cast flickering light at regular intervals. They were islands of light among a sea of darkness, and she swam from island to island like a shipwrecked survivor on a makeshift raft.
She couldn’t stop moving. It wasn’t long before she lost count of how many torches she had passed.
She hit the first trap sometime later. A short and jarring sound like the snap of a whip cracked into the air as a small section of the floor lowered beneath her feet. It was a pressure plate, a small off-color patch of ground placed in the dark space between two torches. Of course he would leave these, she thought. The fresh batch of bruises would be a typical parting gift.
A wooden arm swung out from the side wall and rushed towards her stomach. She threw her weight back and brought her arms up to shield herself.
The spike at the leading edge of the wooden arm slid past her forearm, less than an inch of open air in-between.
The motion left her in a quivering heap on the ground. She hadn’t expected the spike. But without a heart, could she even bleed? The thought tickled her the way sanity tickles the almost insane. She struggled to her feet and brushed the grime off her threadbare shirt. She gritted her teeth and continued, one hand on the wall for support and eyes glued to the ground.
The traps appeared more frequently from then on, a pressure plate here, tripwire there. She gingerly avoided them. A small part of her marveled at the time and effort that he must have spent setting up the traps. It must have taken hours of painstaking labor to rig it all.
And it was all for her, a last physical expression of his bastardized love.
She had accepted that love for the longest time. Simply because she thought she wasn’t good enough for the real thing, couldn’t have found it anyway.
She didn’t accept that any longer.
Time trickled slowly through an hourglass, measured only by her labored breaths and the torches she passed. She went into a trance that couldn’t hear the voices or see the phantasms, couldn’t be sure how much time had passed before she saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Even though she was walking towards the exit, the gradual graying of the light snuck up on her.
She crossed the threshold of the tunnel exit and a room opened wide in front of her. It was a large rectangular room with bare walls and a single exit at the far end. Altogether unremarkable, save for the bronze statue standing in the center.
It was a statue of him. The imposing glare and stance of someone barely holding the pieces together were unmistakable. Deep set eyes sat beneath a narrow ridge of a brow and a pile of neatly combed hair. Appearances were always important to him. The lips of a demagogue completed the picture, curled in self-satisfaction.
The sight of him, even if it was just a statue, was a physical blow to her senses. She almost fell to the ground, almost forgot that she had already found the strength to push him away. But an ache in her chest led her eyes to the object in the statue’s outstretched right hand. Cupped in the center was her still beating heart. It pulsed sluggishly in the statue’s grasp, each beat weaker than the next.
She walked forward on numb legs.
Could it be so easy?
She pulled her heart from his outstretched palm, hating the statue and its progenitor for their constant self-satisfied smile. She stared at his eyes, half-way through picking up her own beating heart.
It was the first time she noticed the fear chiseled into his form, so hard to find before.
With her heart in hand she walked behind the statue and stood there. Silent. Her heart was damaged, perhaps irreparably. Black rot wove around it in tendrils, a tapestry of his touch.
She had always prided herself on being discreet. She could keep a secret, or perhaps many more. Then he came along and she became the keeper of his secrets. She used to be so ambitious. Until he came along and forced himself to be her only goal. She used to be so capable, until he appropriated all success as his own. She used to empathize. Until he plunged her in such darkness that looking out all she could see was light in comparison.
She thought for a long moment, the kind that stretch like a held breath.
Without him, she could be all those things again. She lifted her thin shirt and placed her damaged heart back inside her chest.
There aren’t always happy endings to abusive relationships. But even at my young age as an outsider looking in I have seen a few.
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