Author : Paul Cosca

The sedatives were beginning to wear off. She breathed in deeply and was met with the smell of sawdust. It triggered a memory (playground?), but it was just a flash. Immediately, she felt a *click* in her head, and her thoughts were back to neutral.

It was dark. She felt the sawdust all around her. Was she packed in? A sharp note of fear rose in her mind, and instantly there was another *click*. Her muscles relaxed. She was packed in. But that was okay. There wasn’t anything wrong with that.

There were voices, muffled and distant at first, but getting closer.

“How long were you going to keep her in this goddamn box?” the male voice (father?) said. There was a strong *click*, and she was confused at the tears running down her cheeks.

“I wanted you here. Besides, she’s fine in there,” the female voice (NO) said. Another *click* and her fists unclenched.

“This doesn’t bother you?” The male voice was angry.

“I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that at all. You’re putting words in my mouth and I don’t appreciate it. Of course this bothers me. Of course. But this is a solution.” *click* “We agreed on that.”

She heard the fingers running against the box. “What will she be like now?”

The female voice was bright and crisp. “She’ll be just like she was in the good times. Like we always wanted her to be.”

“I just want her to be my daughter.”

“She is. Why are you talking like this? You’re talking like a crazy person.”

“Our daughter was a person. You don’t pack people in boxes. You don’t—”

“That was for her own protection. She had a long journey, poor thing. And I’m sure she’d like to come out now. Wouldn’t you like to see her?” The female voice was high, almost (mocking?) *click*. Even with her eyes closed, she could see spots of darkness blooming and fading. Her head hurt. The voices dropped to a low murmur and she retreated back into her own head.

There was a memory, something small and emotionless. She’d been young (she remembered yellow shoes that lit up and *click*) and she’d walked by a house on her way home from school. In the front yard was a small dog, a yappy thing with white spots. He had a long leash tied to the branch of a tree. And even though he had all that room to run, he ran full speed again and again to the end of the line, and every time he hit the end, his head snapped back and he made a strangled, screaming noise. And that dog did it over and over and over and she knew that she was just like that, straining at the edge and being strangled again and again and

*CLICK* She gasped. The pain was intense, but momentary. She felt her pulse pounding in her ears, but it was slowing now. What had made her so upset? The muffled sound of her own crying was strange to her ears.

“You calm now?” the female voice asked.

“I’m calm. Do we just…undo the straps?”

“That’s what they said. There’s going to be a bit of a mess with the sawdust.”

“Sawdust. Jesus Christ. What the hell is—”

“You said you were calm.”

“I’m…” the male voice sighed. “I’m calm. I guess. What the hell is in there?”

“It’s the same beautiful girl that left us. Only she’s better now.”

“Better. God, Samantha. I’m so sorry.” *click*

There were sounds of scraping against the box, and she felt the sawdust shift. The front of the box fell away, and light came streaming into the darkness. She wanted to laugh. She wanted to cry. In the end, she did nothing. And that was okay.

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