I believe you’re still out there. Life isn’t as fair as we’d like to think; an evil such as yours can flourish in a society built to silence victims. Well, I shouldn’t call you evil, since I don’t know all of you; just the gargoyle that you revealed when you did what you did. So that’s a part of you, and it’s filth and sickness. But it’s not all of you. There’s a person behind your grinning Oni mask. Perhaps a person who goes to church, or teaches children, or helps the ailing and elderly. We’re all bad to a degree though your degree is worse than most. This is one of the truths I’ve learned in moving from victim to survivor: we are shades of evil and good, all of us.
It’s a journey, strangely, for which I am grateful. Not for you, nor the violence of what you did; the past can’t be changed, only accepted. I am grateful for the strength I have found after being shattered. I picked up my pieces—pride, love, hope, idealism—and I remade myself into a more complete, sturdier human than whatever I was before you touched me. I am grateful for my nurturers and teachers, who facilitated my healing and stood by me through this painful metamorphosis—this reconstructing of self. Because that’s what you wanted to do: break me, take away my power. That’s part—if not most—of what a predator like you desires: oppression, despotism, the siphoning of strength. Although, as survivors learn, you can never take that light inside me. Only I can snuff it, surrender it, or grow it. Whatever you had hoped to do failed. My light is mine. I am not broken.
We shall not break, as Morigan would say. You probably don’t know her, since she’s fictional and exists because my pain birthed her onto paper. Or maybe she exists somewhere, and I, as a writer, am merely chronicling her greatness. But I know her. She’s my friend and an inspiration. She’s got steel balls and a heart of fire. She would’ve bitten your dick off, I’m sure, even if you drugged her the same way as you did me. She’s a combination of my anger, pride and smarts: the aspects I’d let slip when you attacked me. Morigan usually makes the right decisions and picks herself up fast—even when she makes the wrong decisions. You wouldn’t find much of a victim in her. Or her friend Mouse, who suffered far more than I ever did at your hands. She was passed around like a soggy cloth between perverts. Still, no matter how sullied men tried to make her, she held on to her light. And later, let it shine…finding family and love. Then there’s my other friend, Lila, who managed a saintly act of forgiveness (not forgetfulness) at a crime of assault upon her. Granted, her husband, the perpetrator, was possessed by the Devil. I doubt you have the same excuse. She took her independence from her marriage and her half of the kingdom, too, as recompense. She’s patterned after my mom, which not many people know. My mom, who survived domestic abuse with the man before my father. Four women, four saints in their right, and they were the ones who led me from your shadow.
“Well isn’t that nice,” you surely mock. “You’ve surrounded yourself with illusionary friends and the ghost of your mother.”
No, you sad fool. While you reap, I’ve created. I’ve taken what you’ve done to me and made it into beautiful, grim and shining art. Voices, people, places. Heroes who stand against villains infinitely more grotesque than you. Next to Brutus, you’d seem a chipmunk scurrying at the paws of a lion. He’d swallow your tiny evilness whole. I’ve put your force of fear in perspective. I’ve reduced you to a small, sputtering psychopath. You will never be anything more.
“But you’ve written all this about me! I’m in your head! I own you!”
Not really. You own me no more than the storm that has ravaged the woods and since calmed. I haven’t written this toward you, either, though our little banter above and the title itself might be confusing. While this dialog is about what you did, it’s addressed to those who have also struggled down this path of grieving, scarring, healing and surviving. It’s not for you. It’s never for those like you. You are inconsequential once you’ve left us bloodied, wet and wounded. You become the nothing you would rather us be. You are a step—an awful, lingering step—that I had to take. And as with any ascent, you are now behind me: a shadow at my back and not one to be feared. Just the past. Just a twisted flash should I choose to recall. I won’t give you anything more.
You’ve taken me to the edge of darkness, and I’ve taken many years to crawl out again into the sun. But I’m here: a thousand threads of sunshine falling over me, life chirruping, heart thumping, friends and voices from the ether all around. Time echoes, nature sings, and the only shadows to the day are feathered and gentle. I walk on. I live. I love. I create. I dream. Through living, I have won.
We shall not break.
CHRISTIAN A. BROWN is a biracial and gay poet, author of the “Four Feasts Till Darkness” Series and a speaker against injustice and violence. His mind, and stories, go into the grim and bizarre regions where people usually fear to tread. If his own experiences weren’t enough of a rich source material for his dark fantasy stories, then the tribulations of his Métis husband have given him further insights into the plights of the underprivileged and marginalized. Christian has appeared on Newstalk 1010, AM640, Daytime Rogers, and Get Bold Today with LeGrande Green. For more, visit ChristianAdrianBrown.com.