I walk through the forest. It is a deep, magical green. I take off my shoes and feel the wet grass on my feet. I hear the birds chirp and the critters rustle in the bushes. The sun is rising and golden rays are beaming through the trees.
I am covered in mud, ash, and blood from the previous night. I try to ground myself, but the fear is still coursing through my veins. I can feel the dried tears on my face. I close my eyes and imagine myself back at home in bed just waking up. But there is no more home anymore. It burned to the ground and I’m glad.
I still feel the heat from the fire. I can still hear the screams of the others. I am the only survivor, at least I think.
I stare at the house. Flames burst out the windows and doors. I can hear the screaming. My heart is pounding out of my chest. Tears are bursting out of me like a tsunami. My breathing is shallow and fast. I wish that I was in there instead of them. I wish that I could trade places with them right now. They are trapped and dying. And here I am fine, not doing anything but just standing there sobbing.
The sirens come closer. I run into the forest. I don’t know why I run, I just do. Nothing can stop me right now. If they find me I’ll need to talk. Talk about the Preacher.
“I’m fine,” I say to myself. “I have to be fine!”
The guilt overpowers me and I fall to the ground. At this point I am too tired to even cry. I just kneel there in silence. The sun is in my eyes, I squint. A figure walks up to me without saying a word. He sits in front of me and stares into my eyes. I feel uneasy now. He just keeps staring. It has almost turned into a staring contest.
He finally breaks the silence. “Who are you?”
“Ash... My name is Ash,” I stutter.
“I’m Finn. Did you survive the fire?”
“I’m not sure…” I answer truthfully. I feel dead inside. Part of me died, part of me lived. The Church died. I’m almost grateful. I’m almost dead inside. I’m almost sad, almost happy. I don’t know what I’m feeling or even who I am anymore.
“What do you mean?” he asks curiously.
“I mean I’m not sure. I think part of me died in that fire.”
“Let me get you to the shelter for the survivors. He was a madman.”
“Yeah…” I say.
I’m at the shelter now. All the other kids are covered in burns and blisters. I’m the only one that got out. The Preacher was a horrible man, I was the only one to see it. He took me away from my home. He took my chance at a normal life away.
I’m not sure what made him kidnap a bunch of kids and torture them. He forced us to call him Preacher (yes with a capital p). Just thinking of what he did to us makes me begin to tear up. I wipe away the tears, but I need to hold myself together.
What he did to the girls and I was monstrous. If he isn’t dead already, I’m going to kill him.
My name is Ash, I’m dead inside. I’m one of the girls that survived the Preacher. The Preacher was a monster that claimed to know God. I hate the Preacher. He’s in jail now. I send him letters. Listing all of the things that he did. I write about what a monster he is. All so that he knows.
Sometimes he writes back. He says how I should’ve died in that fire. The fire that he started. He’s right, I should’ve died along with the others. But I’m stuck here. If I’m forced to stay here I’m going to make his life a living hell.