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A short story By Jack Bush
The shattering glass echoes into the night. Sally jerks awake at the sound; bolting upright in bed.
What the hell was that?! Sitting perfectly still, she strains her ears for anymore signs of life from the house. She hears nothing, but dread begins to tug at the back of her mind. As quietly as she can, she swings her legs out of the bed and slips her feet into her shoes on the floor. With the rest of her clothes already on, she makes her way to the bedroom door, gently rocking her feet on the floor, heal to toe to make as little noise as possible. Pushing the light button on her watch, Sally sees that its 3.37am. Realizing she’d been asleep for almost an hour, she curses herself for forgetting to check everything before relaxing. Idiot! See, this is what happens! Her hand reaches for the light switch in the darkness, but she stops herself. The less attention she draws the better. Sally puts her ear to the door and again listens for a few seconds. Silence is the only thing to greet her. Grabbing the knob with one hand and placing a firm palm on the wood, to counterbalance, she slowing pulls open the door a few inches and peers into the darkness of the hallway beyond. The house has become silent again. The only noise to be heard now is the blood ringing in her ears. Sally slowly ventures into the hallway, the carpet beneath her feet cushioning any disturbance her shoes might make. In front of her, she can just vaguely make out the banister in the dull light, as it curves downwards, leading to the ground floor of the house. For the moment, the banister is her goal. Baby steps. Just get there without drawing any unwanted attention to yourself, and we’ll cross the next bridge when we come to it. With hands out in front of her in case she should bump into anything on route to the banister, Sally takes small steps towards it, forever keeping her senses alert for the slightest noise from below. And it doesn’t take long to come. The distant sound of scraping glass meets her ears. Whoever had done the breaking had decided to clear it up, and didn’t care who they woke up. This was not a good sign for Sally. As her hands finally found the banister, more concern was beginning to etch its way into her face, as she peered down into the darkness below. At least with the lights still out she has the cover of darkness on her side, so the element of surprise was still in her favour. For the moment. Steadying her nerves for what may come, Sally slowly starts to descend the stairs. She suddenly remembers a time when she was 8 years old, dressed in only a Winnie The Pooh night gown, and had discovered her father wearing a Santa Claus costume in the middle of the night, trying his best to be quiet, but the alcohol in his system denied him of that simple task and flared his rage upon seeing his daughter looking at him with bewildered eyes. He had dragged Sally back to her room that night and behind her closed door, and smelling the Whiskey on his breath, he had taught her a lesson she would never forget.
And she never had. Christmas had lost all its values for her after that, and her father was never quite able to look her in the eye again. Whether it was disgust or regret he viewed her with, she never found out. He died in an accident not long after that, leaving Sally and her mother alone to fend for themselves and do what they could to survive. And Sally did just that. Survived. She was never one to lie down and die, and give up when the going got tough. That just wasn’t her style. Ever since that Christmas Eve, Sally knew that some thing’s needed to be fought for and she would never cower in a corner again. And tonight was looking to be another one of those nights for her to prove it to the world, once again. As Sally reached the middle of the staircase, she found it strange that her past had came back to haunt her tonight. Maybe it was the noise in the dead of night that had triggered it off, or maybe it had always been there, simply hiding, just waiting for the right time to make an appearance and remind her of her roots, remind her what she used to be made of, almost mocking her present with the past. But at 24, that 8 year old little girl was long gone, and what remained now was an empty shell of emotion of what once was. It was then that Sally’s feet reached the bottom of the staircase. Peering into the gloom of the open-plan living room, the first thing to catch Sally’s eye was the strip of light coming from under the kitchen door at the far wall. That’s where the perpetrator in the night was dwelling. The kitchen. Her internal night-vision was starting to level out now, as she began to move forward she could tell most of the things around her; Widescreen television, glass coffee table, which she managed to shuffle round without bashing into, a stereo system over to the right, so many things that could be taken. They belong to me! With no more than reaching distance from the kitchen door, Sally remembers all the hurt and pain that has gone before in her life. The heartache, the tears and the mental anguish; some of which can never be dislodged from her psyche or erased from memory. But now she had Mark. He cared for her, and had always given her the respect she needed. The respect she deserved. Sally had earned it. But sometimes, the agony of the past is all she can feel in her present. However, Sally knew one thing for sure; she was never going to let it manifest itself in her future. No more would she be a victim. Over the years Sally had become a survivor, and she wasn’t going to let whoever was behind this door change that. Of course the thought of calling for help had been her first choice, but she didn’t want Mark to think of her as the frightened little girl that she once was, but only of the fighter she now is. Sally gritted her teeth, threw caution to the wind, and rising a foot, kicked the kitchen door wide open. The naked man looked up at her.
He was in the process of picking up some of the broken glass from the floor as they locked eyes. He was aged around early 40’s with dark hair and a days worth of stubble on his face. There was a dirty look about him and the fact of his lack of clothes made him seem even dirtier. Even his limp penis seemed to glance at Sally, as it jerks with her sudden appearance. Sally had been here once before as a little girl and had no plans for history to repeat itself. And that’s when she charged. Letting out a scream of anger and rage, she races at the man, crashing into his chest and forcing his back against the work surface beside the oven. He grunts as the base of his spine makes contact, weakening his legs and nearly causing him to fall forward; Sally being the only thing that keeps him upright. Quickly throwing her head back up, she catches the man under the chin, with a sickening thud. The man’s emotion turns from shocked surprise to dazed enragement, as the force on his chin sends his head back into a glass-fronted cupboard door, delivering even more shards to the kitchen floor. “You fucking bitch,” screams the naked stranger, followed by a yell, not unlike a warcry, as he tries to force her back by the shoulders. Sally’s shoe slips on a large chunk of glass, making her lose her footing and as sheer terror surges through her, she realizes she’s going down, with the man riding her all the way, blood now beginning to tear down his brow from his cut head. Slamming onto her back, bursting the air from her lungs, Sally has only a split second before the man crashes on top of her, sending her back to the days of victimization. And for Sally, that isn’t even an option. With lightening speed, she plunges her rigid fingers into the naked man’s stomach, her sharp nails digging into his flesh as he lands on her. The stranger shrieks and jerks in pain, as Sally forces her nails further into his soft skin, causing him to buck away from her enough for Sally to push him off, as he rolls onto his side and out of gouging range. But Sally knows that this fight is just beginning and intends to finish it while he’s on the retreat, however short her window of opportunity may be. Pushing herself up, she lunges another hand at him, fingers curled like claws and just misses his left cheek. Crawling over, she tries to mount the man while he’s still downed, but she never saw the fist coming. The punch catches Sally just above the nose and hit her square in the middle of the forehead, stunning her head back and baring her throat to the man, which he duly reaches up and grabs in a vice like grip, almost instantly cutting off her air supply. The man straightens out his arms, leading Sally closer to him, and into the position she was gunning for in the first place, but under a different scenario. She now looms above him, held only by his arms; his hands wrapped tightly round her wind-pipe. The reach of the naked man is longer that Sally’s, causing her arms to flail around uselessly and blind, as her head begins to tilt upward with the force of the pressure of her throat. As her mind begins to swim and a blanket of unconsciousness starts to swarm round her, Sally takes one final sightless swing with her hands. She finds flesh. It feels like the man’s chin. Her fingers scuttle up to find his bottom lip and Sally tries to hook her fingers under it
and pull, but the naked stranger is too fast for her. He drops his mouth an inch and her digits disappear behind his teeth. She realizes what’s about to happen just as it does. Sally’s index finger is still in the man’s mouth when his teeth snap closed with incredible force. Her scream is almost at a decibel to break glass. Sally’s whole hand feels like its on fire and the pain shooting up her arm is more than enough to dispel the cloak of oblivion that was creeping over her, as a blast of adrenaline shocks her back to reality and gives her the strength to jerk her neck out of the man’s iron grip. Now, only her finger joins the two. The man grabs her wrist and continues to force his jaws down harder and begins to gnaw at the digit. A fresh wave of pain consumes Sally, as she pounds a fist into the side of the naked strangers head, ripping the finger from the man’s mouth to reveal a raw stump and blood pumping from it rapidly. Gasping for breath and nursing her hand, Sally pushes herself to her feet while the man is still dazed from her punch. Staggering over to a worktop she grabs a dishtowel and wraps it round the remainder of her ruined finger in an attempt to stem the bleeding. Sally turns to see the man push himself to his bare feet, and she notices a shard sticking out the side of his heel, but the stranger shows no irritation by it, only the snarl on his face aimed at Sally, is his only expression. She quickly scans the worktop for a weapon and sees what she’s looking for. A row of kitchen knives stick out of their wooden sheathes, in a block of timber at the end of the counter. Just three step away from Sally. She goes for it, but the man is faster than she thought. Sally manages to get a knife out of the block, but doesn’t have the time to turn back round and attack before the man grabs her from behind, wrapping her in his arms and flinging her round, away from the worktop, sending her spinning into the kitchen door with a crash and almost sending her back to the floor, but Sally manages to brace her legs and keep hold of the knife, but before she can regain her senses, the man is charging her again, and this time she isn’t quick enough to raise a hand or use the cutting implement. The man smashes into her full forces, crashing them both through the thin wooded kitchen door, and into the living room, where they stumble a couple of feet before crashing through the glass topped coffee table; Sally’s back taking the impact, as they send splinters of razor sharp glass everywhere, including Sally’s flesh as she howls in pain. The man doesn’t fair any better, as a rather large shard imbeds itself in his forearm, slicing him to the bone. The man screams again. A scream born of pain and rage. The injuries mean nothing to him anymore, as he pushes himself to his feet, crunching glass beneath them, and pulling Sally up to join him by the lapels of her clothes, bringing her to his eye level and forcing her onto her tip-toes. Other than their separate low gasps for breath, the house is once again silent. They glare into each others eyes, neither saying a word, but both trying to seek out a weakness in the others vision. The man’s face begins to twist into a sneer of pure menace, as Sally feels the start of his erection prodding at her inner thigh.
With the stench of the naked strangers breathe in her nostrils, Sally once again recalls a long ago Christmas night. One that will never be repeated without a fight. She brings up her knee with tremendous force, catching the man with perfect precision between the legs, causing not a scream of pain, but more of a silent gasp of shock as his eyes roll in their sockets and his grip disappears from her as he crumbles to his knees; hands shooting down to cup his wounded manhood. Sally’s about to use her knee again to smash it into his nose, when the man vomits, causing her to stop, mid-attack, her leg now in limbo between the ground and his face as she looks down on him with disgust. The man grabs her leg. Totally unprepared, Sally loses her balance as the naked stranger somehow finds the strength to push himself back to his feet again, and grabbing her round the neck with his other hand, throws her backwards with a howl of rage, sending her crashing into the widescreen TV, shattering its screen and downing them both. Sally can feel that something has wedged itself into her lower back. She can feel it probe beneath her skin; touching different parts of her insides with each movement she makes. So she tries to make no movements at all. She just lays there in the bed of shattered glass and blood. For long moments there is near silence. Only the distant ticking of a clock on the wall, like an unseen referee counting them out in a fight that could see the death of them both. Moving only her eyes, Sally sees the bare feet walk towards her, leaving bloody foot prints behind them as the savage cuts to the man slowly drain him. The same thing that Sally can feel happening to her. She doesn’t have time to defend herself from the foot. With a grunt of weakening energy the man kicks her in the face, his toe-nail catching her above the right eye and opening a ragged cut which instantly begins to weep blood and turn her vision crimson. Unconsciousness, once again, threatens to join her like an old friend. The man reaches down and pulls her into a sitting position, causing her to scream in pain, as the jagged shard explores more of her insides. Sally notices the man smile at her discomfort, as he powers a fist into her face, rocking her head over to the side and causing a cracking sound to come from her cheek bone. Her vision blurs even more. A second punch flattens her nose, the bone crumbling and blood exploding from the ruined appendage like someone had let off a charge in the middle of her face. Sally is almost ready to welcome the oblivion that’s wrapping itself around her, when she catches sight of the man’s erection bobbing in front of her eyes. Taunting her like a silent reminder of man’s power. After all these years, had she become a victim again? Only one answer screamed inside her head. No fucking way! As the man begins to conjure a third punch, Sally uses all the energy she has left and reaches round behind her back and grabs the offending shard which has been causing her so much discomfort and pulls. The sickening feeling of it slipping back outside her body makes her suck in a deep lungful of air and grit her teeth until its clear of her wound. And then it is.
Sally lets her breath out and fixes the man in a stare. He glares back down at her as the third punch is let loose. Sally drops all the way down to her chest as the fist flies harmlessly over her head, and she swings the vicious shard of glass round the back of the man’s foot, slicing it through his Achilles tendon, sheering through the flesh and muscle with ease. As the blood jets out of the naked strangers ankle, an unholy bellow comes from above Sally, as the man shouts to the heavens, his head thrust back and all the pain in his body exiting through his mouth. And still, the erection seems to taunt her. Forcing herself to her knees, Sally grabs the offending penis and pushing it between her teeth; she bites down, tearing through the soft flesh with ease and only stopping when she feels the flow of blood threatening to chock her. The man gives her a final punch to the side of the head, knocking her away, with the severed penis in her mouth. As she falls back, Sally stares up at the man. He isn’t even looking at her anymore. Just staring straight ahead, at something unseen to everyone but him. As Sally spits the limp flesh from her mouth, the man begins to rock and then falls like a tree in the woods, backwards onto the already ruined coffee table. She cringes as one of the table legs enters the back of his head, and exits through his right eye. For long moments Sally sits there. Staring at what has become of the man. The latest in a long line of men who have tries to mess with her and failed. Sally can’t help it when a smile finds her bloodied face. Mark wasn’t going to believe this, that’s for sure. She knows he’ll be upset about the TV, but she also knows they can get another one no problem. And she knows he will take care of her wounds, as she looked down at the raw stump of her index finger, and at the blood that was slowly pooling around her. She’d give him a call in a while. Once she gets her breath back. As Sally lays herself gently back down on the ruined carpet, she gives a final mental note to herself. Next time you break into a house, make sure you kill everyone before you fall asleep…….