Already in the cellar, Llana heard the door slam shut. She crawled by her nails and bloodied fingers, deeper into a dark corner, and curled up in a ball. She knew by the slam of the door, he was drunk and angry again, but the old broken boxes around her would perhaps offer some protection. Muffled shouts, foul words, the sound of pots being broken--each served to fuel her fear. Hyper-vigilant, she knew each distinct sound and how each reflected his fury. Please, just for once, please. Footsteps stomped unsteady, up the stairs. Oh God, please let him pass out tonight, I can’t take any more.
She waited. A few seconds of hopeful silence passed while she held her breath... She jumped at distant sounds of furniture being kicked. His footsteps sounded loud again, down the stairs, his infernal kicks at everything he could. The carpet and floorboards between them muffled the curses and obscenities, but she knew by his fury what the future would bring. Finally, the sound--the cellar door violently kicked open; and fury-etched words. Words she now, unfortunately, understood.
Fear expanded beyond all bounds. A fear few could understand. Raw fear, devouring her, piece by piece; again and again. Please not again. Not again. No...
Then her world started to fade as his lantern illuminated the darkness.
As Llana’s past world faded, a new one came into being. A lush green meadow surrounded where she stood. A nearby river sparkled in the warm sun and beautiful woods stretched to distant hills. Memory flooded back to Llana. The Lower World. This is where I am safe.
As she expected, Anzu - a black panther and her protector - soon appeared and nuzzled up to her. “Good to see you Llana. We were hoping to see you again soon.”
“It’s good to be here Anzu - but you only see me when he beats me, and I wake up with an aching and bruised body. So why’ve you been hoping to see me?”
“You’ve passed age sixteen now, so you are a woman now, not a little girl.”
“No, that cannot be, I’m still ten or eleven, and not old enough.”
Anzu chuckled. “Trying to get out of it now are you?”
Llana lowered her head and pouted. “I guess so. I’ve both dreaded and waited for this day to come. Now that it’s here, I feel scared. Is the Lady Dark Knight around?”
“Llana! Do not even use that name, you must banish her from your thoughts or no good will come of it - especially today.”
Llana knew what was going to happen today. Many times in her life, she had been hurt so badly that part of her soul split off -a fragment - and ran away, to here, a part that could not take the pain any longer. Confused and frightened, they each stayed stuck in the moment they split off. Usually, the rest of Llana got pulled along, the part she was now. But her soul had become much fragmented now, and she needed to find the missing parts. This was what scared her. She knew she needed to integrate with these fragments of herself that remained frozen in torture to regain her full strength.
The panther looked at her through slitted eyes and spoke sternly. “Later. Let’s go and find the missing parts first.”
“Wait...” but Anzu walked away, tail swishing behind, and after a few seconds, she followed him.
Anzu led the way to each missing part, already knowing where each hid. The first, a three-year-old found hiding in the back of a cave. That was when Albert had first bought her from her parents, who had too many mouths to feed.
Anzu coaxed her gently out, leading her to Llana who stood in the cave entrance. The little girl ran to Llana and embraced her. As she did, she sank into Llanas body.
Llana welcomed her and took her pain, though unprepared for the result.
Memories flooded over her as she remembered that day with perfect clarity. She collapsed to her knees, hurt, frightened, confused - horrified with the memory of Albert roughly dragging her to his cart, of her screaming, but only seeing the backs of her parents as they walked away.
“Anzu, no... I can’t do this, it’s too painful.”
“Remember who you are now Llana. You are no longer that little girl. Focus on now.”
Llana screamed but forced herself back to the now, and the pain quickly passed, though Llana shuddered with the remnants of the memory.
The dark knight appeared on the horizon. Fortunately Llana did not see her.
Next, a girl about six, digging a grave so that she could bury herself. Anzu stopped her, and talked with her. She turned to look at Llana, her eyes sunken black, skin gaunt - she looked dead. Llana braced herself as her younger self walked towards her, but she stopped, staring up at Llana, expressionless.
“Will you promise me that Albert will never be able to hurt me again?”
Llana looked in desperation to Anzu, who simply nodded. “I promise, no matter what, he will never hurt either of us again.”
The girl, still expressionless, walked into Llana and Llana welcomed her. And then she was on fire, a fierce, intense, beyond the pain-barrier burning. It consumed her entire being, but she fought hard, gritting her teeth, to return to reality. Eventually, she made it.
Llana looked at her arms and legs, felt her face. Unharmed. “What the fuck was that?”
Anzu looked at her sadly. “You don’t want to know.”
Another, now slightly older banging on a non-existent door and screaming ‘let me out’ continuously...
After this third part of herself was integrated, she vomited and collapsed to her knees. “I can’t do this Anzu, no more, please stop.”
“Ah, Llana. Yes, it is difficult - but look inside of yourself. Do you not also feel a wholeness build, and with it, strength?”
Llana spat out dregs of vomit, “Fuck off! You’re kidding me. I’ve had enough!”
“Getting angry are we?”
“Screw you and shut up. I’m done and I need some fucking water.” Llana stood and walked to the nearby river and scooped handfuls of water into her mouth. She undressed, and jumped in. The cold invigorated her body and cooled her hot blood. Ah, this feels good, clean cool water, I feel alive again. She swam to the other side and back. She rubbed her body and for the first time noticed her breasts. My Breasts. Oh my God, look at my breasts. I am sixteen. She ran her hands across her arms and felt muscles. Yes, I am stronger.