I can't remember what light looks like unfiltered by the basement window.
I can't remember what food tastes like unaffected by the gray dust of the basement floors.
I can't remember what humans should look like, but I do know that I look...wrong. Not beautiful.
From upstairs, I've heard Mommy talking about so-called beauty. It's usually associated with phrases like, "Oh, you've lost weight!" or "Your hair is wonderfully long, don't cut it!"
God knows I don't have trouble with either.
But I know that beauty lies in something else. I don't want to listen to Mommy this time.
Mostly because she's the one who put me down here. I can't remember exactly how, but it has to be her because Daddy left before I was taken prisoner. The memory is carved into my mind like a knife pressed just too hard onto skin.
Daddy stumbled into the house that night, his eyes half-closed, his clothes loosely hanging onto his lanky body. "Rachel!" He called. "Come give Daddy a hug!"
I tried to run to him, but Mommy grabbed my arm, her long nails digging into my skin. "Don't go near him," she hissed. "He'll hurt you; he's drunk."
To this day, I don't know what 'drunk' means, but judging by her tone of voice it isn't a good thing. Either way, I stayed back because I didn't want her nails to hurt me any more.
"Betty," Daddy said sternly. "Don't do that."
"David, you'll hurt her." Mommy insisted, shoving me behind her. I was frightened at this point, but not enough to cry. The feeling that accompanies the word 'beauty' was there, I believe. Nausea, longing, a bit of hatred, the works.
"Dammit, Betty!" Daddy's voice rang through the hallways as he charged towards Mommy, grabbing her arm now. To this day, I still can't figure out how he got her arm to twist that way.
"Run, Rachel!" She called. I ran to the living room and buried my face in the pillows to try to drown out the sound of their fighting. A lot of thumping followed, then the slamming of a door. The next morning, Daddy didn't return.
"Mommy, where did he go?" I'd ask. "When's he coming home?"
"Never," Mommy would always respond. But I kept asking, as if it would make him come home. The question was soon answered only with the scratching of nails and physical discipline.
I can't remember anything after that.
All I remember is darkness.