When I woke up the next day, it was nine in the morning. Given how much I had struggled in the darkness last night when I was in the toilet, I was surprised at how much light poured into my room from the bedroom window. Cocking my head, I saw Karen sleeping beside me. Being blindfolded, she probably wouldn't be able to figure out whether it was day or night. Since the bedroom door had been closed and locked throughout the night, the room was rather humid.
I remembered being awake until about two in the morning last night, so I was surprised to be waking up at nine in the morning because at a minimum I had seven hours of sleep, and usually I woke up eight hours after I fell asleep. Karen probably fell asleep around about the same time I fell asleep, which was a little after two o'clock. The little girl would probably sleep for a little longer, maybe until ten or eleven. I heard somewhere that small children needed more sleep than older teenagers like me, but I'm not too sure whether this was true or not.
After unlocking the bedroom door, I poked my head outside and listened carefully for any noise that may indicate whether my parents were still home. I heard nothing for twenty seconds and so assumed that nobody was home except me and Karen.
I walked back to the bed and took some scissors from the bedside table. The scissors were sharp, so if I wanted to I could cut Karen up. I placed the scissors in my pockets and then carefully picked Karen up from the bed. She was in a deep sleep. Even as I moved her around a little she didn't wake up. If she did wake up, she wouldn't be able to see anything because of the blindfold. The little girl didn't have my underwear in her mouth this morning. I figure she learnt now not to make any noise and even if she did make noise I could silence her with my t-shirt. Karen's arms and legs were still tied up with rope, although by now she was probably used to it.
Carrying a little girl down the stairs was more difficult than I first imagined. Firstly, since I held a child in my arms, I couldn't see my legs and couldn't check to see whether the foot that I brought forward would land on the steps. Just one misplaced foot could see me tumbling down with the girl.
I was pleasantly surprised to find the sun beaming down on me as I entered the backyard. The sun's rays were warm. Still carrying the little girl, I pushed the fence door open and walked into the park, arriving at the path that Karen usually took in the afternoon. I then walked into the bushes, the ones where I found Karen before. When I found a clear field of grass that was bordered by plenty of vegetation--so there was little chance anybody could see what I was doing--I laid Karen on the grass carefully. After pulling out the scissors in my pockets, I started cutting the ropes on her hands and legs before cutting off her blindfold. I scrunched up the ropes and cloth before burying them into my pocket. Karen slept peacefully on the grass under the warm morning sun. I took one last look at her before walking away back to my house.
When I arrived back in my backyard, I closed the fence door and sat around the backyard for about an hour. I was waiting for Karen to wake up. The fence dividing my backyard from the park had holes in it that were perfect for spying. Every now and then I would look through this hole to see whether Karen had woken up yet.
At about ten o'clock I saw Karen through the eyehole. She was walking out from the bushes. She arrived on the path and looked very confused, as if she didn't understand what just happened to her.
She continued down the dirt path, walking as she always did, in a wandering unfocused manner. Her steps were small, almost little baby steps. Perhaps she was feeling weak.
When the little girl was about twenty meters ahead, I opened the fence silently and followed the little girl.
Before long, Karen found herself on the pavement after walking out from the park. She walked along the pavement for about a minute before stopping, turning around, and then walking back the way she came. As she walked back I found myself walking towards the little girl, and as she came closer and closer to me I could see the worry on her face even though she was aware of my presence. When I walked up to her, I spoke to her.
"Hello, little girl," I said. "Where's your mom or dad?" I hoped to God she wouldn't recognize my voice. I kept reminding myself that she wouldn't because I never actually spoke to her in my natural tone.
The little girl looked forward for a moment, as if hesitating to look upwards at me. When she looked upwards, she briefly made eye contact with me before breaking it again. She put her hands together, fidgeted with her fingers, and then brought her face back down and stared at the pavement.
"It's okay if you don't know," I said, trying to sound very kind. Naturally I'm a kind person, so that wasn't difficult. "I'll walk you over to the police station now. It's near here. I promise they'll find your mom and dad for you."
Karen kept staring at the pavement as she digested what I said. With the new information processed, she looked back up at me and made eye contact with me again, as if trying to figure out if I was trustworthy based on what my face looked like. She brought her head down and stared into the distance. Aware that I was looking at her and awaiting a response, the little girl nodded her head.
I smiled and started walking to the police station. Karen followed me from behind.
It was seven o'clock at night and usually I don't watch television. I think television appeals to the lowest common denominator. I like to think that I'm more special than the masses, so I avoid television lest it makes me more ordinary or more common. However, tonight was different. I knew I was going to be on the news, and I wanted to see myself on TV. I had already told my mom and dad that I was going to be on TV and they really wanted to see for themselves.
I knew I was going to be on TV because, when I dropped Karen off at the police station earlier, I was asked to write up some police reports, and after a few minutes writing them I noticed a large group of cameramen and journalists waiting outside. One of the cops must have tipped off the media.
I sat on the left-hand side of the sofa while my mum sat on the right-hand side. My dad sat on his own seat to the left of the TV. It was getting dark and the lighting in the family room was set rather dim. An attractive woman appeared on the television to report the news.
"In news today, missing seven-year-old girl Karen Bakken has been found safe and well walking near a park near Heyington Station. She was found by a teenage boy who alerted police."
"Look, it's you!" said my mom, pointing to the television.
The camera focused on me as I stood in the police station. I had a bewildered look on my face because I didn't expect so many cameras around. I then saw myself talking on TV. It was odd seeing myself on TV. I suddenly felt very embarrassed.
"I found her walking along the pavement," I said on TV. "She looked lost and I heard on the news that a child was missing in the area, so I quickly led her to the police station."
My mum looked at me and smiled. I think she approved of what I said on national TV. If I had said something even slightly unconventional, I would have regretted it forever.
The reporter spoke. "Police found bruising on Karen's head, suggesting the little girl fell down or was struck in the head by a baseball found nearby. Forensic scientists and police believe she had been lying in the bushes for one or two days before regaining consciousness."
The television cut to Karen's pretty face as she lied in a hospital. A reporter's microphone had been shoved towards her mouth.
A male reporter asked her a question. "Do you remember what happened, little girl?"
Karen shook her head weakly. "All I remember," said the little girl, "is that I was in Heaven."
All the reporters and cameramen in the hospital room laughed at the girl's words.
Dad laughed. "Kids have great imaginations, don't they?"
"Maybe she's telling the truth," I said. "The baseball almost killed her."
Both Mom and Dad started laughing.
It was night. I lied in my bed with the blankets covering me completely. Since it was such a cold night I kept the blankets tightly wrapped around me, but even as I did this I could feel the cold air seeping in through the small holes and onto my body. As I lied in bed, the moonlight drifted in and made my bedroom look like the surface of the moon--barren, grey, cold, and isolated. Last night I had a little girl in my arms. I had felt warmer with her in my arms not just because of her body temperature. I had a living, breathing, and purely innocent creature sleeping with me and now she was gone, replaced by empty space, by cold air. I started to regret ever releasing her. Perhaps she was better off now that she was with her family.
But perhaps not.
I suddenly remembered what Karen told me. Her mother was dead, so she only had a father.
I woke up the next day at 11 o'clock. What was once moonlight streaming through the windows was now bright and warm sunlight. I looked outside into the park and noticed how empty it seemed. Usually during the weekends there were a handful of people in the park, but today the park was empty, which meant today was a weekday.
Turning around, I faced my bed and looked at the mess on the floor. T-shirts, socks, and jocks were heaped all over the floor. I noticed that among this mess of underwear was a school diary.
It was Karen's school diary!
Now that my memory had been jogged, I remembered having seen Karen's home address written in her school diary.
Very quickly I flicked a few pages and found her address: 46 Baird St. Baird Street was about a 20-minute walk from my house. I remembered the road because there was a shop there where I used to buy candy when I was small.
When I arrived at Karen's house I was surprised at how much of a dump it was. My house was quite a nice double-story house among many other nice houses nearby, but it was surprising how a 20-minute walk could change the surroundings so dramatically. Most of the property on Baird Street seemed to be flats rather than actual houses. The place also seemed to have fewer trees planted on the nature strips.
Karen's house--if the address in her school diary was accurate--was a single-story brick house. At the front was an uneven lawn that had large bare patches of dirt. On this lawn was the front half of an old car that was starting to rust. The car looked as if all the important parts, such as the engine and the steering wheel, had been stripped off. All that remained was the rusted outer shell as well as the mess of wires all over the car. The car looked like an old Ford, although it was such a twisted mess it was impossible to tell unless you identified the badge at the front. The car also seemed to have sharp pieces of metal sticking out of it. If I child lived here I sure hope to God the child didn't play with this car.
Most houses had some sort of barrier between the front yard and the backyard--a fence or something. This house didn't have anything but plain grass and dirt. The backyard was open before me invitingly, so I decided to go have a look. I still didn't know whether a child actually lived here or not. I remembered from the school diary that I read that I was supposed to be at house number 46, and this certainly was house number 46. The number was displayed on the front door.
But maybe I had read it wrong. Maybe Karen wrote her address incorrectly. This house certainly didn't seem like the sort of house a child would live in. It was too small. It was too dangerous.
Today was a cold and windy day, so I was glad I had a windbreaker on. I all of a sudden felt the Samsung in my back pocket vibrating. My dad had sent me an SMS to ask me where I was. I looked at the time and noticed it was four o'clock. Dad had already arrived back home from work. I didn't bother replying.
As I walked towards the backyard I approached a window. I heard noises coming from this window.
I inched myself closer to the window, careful not to make too much noise. When my fingers touched the edge of the window, I could hear the noise more clearly. It was a swishy, sharp, metallic noise. It sounded like a machine or something, although this noise was far too random to be the product of a machine. My curiosity was aroused too much. I had to see what was happening inside the room.
When I peeked inside, I saw something odd.
It was a man in his forties. He wore a blue singlet and was hairy all over his body. His face was filled with the stumps of hair as if he had shaved but the razorblade he used was not sharp enough to cut the hair deep at the root. Hair on his chest was so overwhelming that it overflowed from his singlet. What was most unusual, however, was not his hair or his face. What was unusual was what this man held in his hands--a knife. He held a 6-inch steel knife in his right hand and he was sharpening it on a piece of rock that he held in his left hand. The noise I had heard earlier was the noise of friction between steel and rock.
Somebody entered the room. My eyes widened when I saw who it was.
It was Karen.
The little seven-year-old girl walked into the room quietly. As she walked in she kept her eyes in front of her, not looking at the man with the knife or anything else. Her fingers were held in front of her. She was fidgeting with her fingers. Her lips were moving. It looked like she was saying something, muttering something to herself. Even though the window was open, I didn't hear any noise coming from Karen's mouth. I could, however, clearly hear the knife being sharpened
"Karen," said the main in a very deep voice. "I think I told you not to come in here when I'm busy. Now go back to your room."
"But Daddy…" The little girl stared forward as she said this, her eyes wide open. "I'm really hungry."
"What did I tell you, Karen? Now that your mom's not here to cook for you, you're the only girl here and you're going to have to learn how to cook for yourself."
Karen spoke in a soft tone. She was so quiet I almost couldn't hear her. "What can I eat? Yesterday I got lots of food."
The man rolled his eyes and continued to sharpen his knife. "Karen, stop it, please."
The little girl started to smile slightly but just as she did so the man wiped that smile off her face. He put the knife on the table, leaned forwards towards the little girl, and slapped her face with his right hand. Shocked, Karen started crying. She ran out of the room, leaving her father alone to continue sharpening his knife.
I was scared now not only because this man was a bad father but he was also aggressive, and to make matters worse he was holding a knife. What the man did next would prove more unusual and shocking than anything I had ever seen in my life.
The man put the knife and rock down on the table on which he sat. He picked up the knife on the table with his right hand again and this time aimed the tip of the blade towards his thighs.
The man wore shorts, so his creamy white thighs were visible. The man pressed the tip of the blade against his right leg. Before long, bright red blood started to spill as the blade penetrated his skin. As the blood started to spill, the rate at which the man breathed seemed to increase. He was becoming more and more aroused by the sight of his own blood.
The knife suddenly dropped to the table with a loud clanging noise. Now that he wasn't holding a knife, the man's right hand was free, and he pressed a finger to the wound on his leg, smearing blood all over the forefinger on his right hand. The man brought this blood-stained finger to his mouth and started sucking on it. He was sucking on his own blood. I couldn't watch anymore.
I returned back to the front yard--where the rusted car was--and found the kitchen window at the front of the house. When I looked through this window, I saw a very ordinary kitchen with white tiles and white walls. The white tiles and white walls, however, had lots of brown stains. The refrigerator door was open and as I looked through an open window, I noticed that at the base of the refrigerator was little Karen. She was looking inside the fridge, probably trying to find food for herself.
The window was opened large enough so I could slip through, but it was a close fit and as I climbed inside the house into the kitchen, I had to land softly on the kitchen sink. Karen saw me enter. She stared at me curiously before remembering who I was. She then started to talk.
"Hello!" she said, smiling again.
Very quickly I put a finger to my lips and shooshed her. "Don't make any noise." I was standing in the kitchen now, so I walked towards the little girl. "Are you hungry? Do you want some food?"
Karen nodded as she stared at me.
"I've got lots of sushi at home," I said. "Do you want to eat some?"
The little girl stared at me some more. "Okay," she said plainly, nodding just a little bit.
I put out my hand towards her. "Do you want to come with me? We'll go back to my house."
The little girl put her hands in mine. The moment her hand made contact with mine, I pulled her in. Our eyes made contact. I led the little girl towards the front door and opened it.
I turned around and saw Karen's father. He was standing in the kitchen looking at me as I held Karen's hand near the front door, which was now open. The man's right hand was completely red from his own blood. Blood flowed down his right leg all the way down to his feet. Some of it leaked on the kitchen tiles.
"Hey, you're the guy at the police station! What are you doin' with my girl?"
I grabbed Karen by the waist and lifted her, probably more roughly than I should have, and I ran as fast as I could as I bolted into the front yard. It was futile though. With a small child in my arms, I couldn't run as fast as a grown man holding nothing. The man caught up to me in a matter of seconds before tripping me.
When I fell to the ground, Karen flew out from my hands and rolled on the grass. As I looked back up, I saw the grown man over me. I saw him move quickly before feeling pain on my backside as he kicked me on the back. When I screamed, the man backed off a little and caught his breath. He watched me as I squirmed on the grass.
As I got back up, I realized I was panting hard. All that running had exhausted me.
Before I had a chance to say anything, the man lunged at me and tried to grab me. I tried to push back. The man grabbed my clothes and swung me around, but I had also grabbed his clothing and as he swung me around he swung himself as a result. Both he and I spun around for a while before I felt my legs trip over an uneven piece of dirt on the ground. As I fell, I found myself falling on the grown man, but my fall was violently disrupted. The grown man below me fell on the rusted car. His back landed against a scrap piece of metal--a sharp piece of metal sticking out from the car. The piece of metal had impaled him as he fell, entering through his back and coming back out through his left breast. Since I was on top of the man, the metal stabbed me on the right nipple, but the cut was only a quarter of an inch deep. When I finally caught my breath, I realized I was looking into the eyes of a dead man. As I got up, I looked down at the man lying on the car. Blood poured out from underneath him. The blood flowed onto the lawn.
Karen lied on the grass nearby and watched in horror. She had witnessed her father's death. I looked at her and actually took a step towards her. She changed focus from her father to me. When she saw me, she got up and took a step back.
Looking at myself, I noticed that blood was flowing from my right breast. Enough blood came out that my bright yellow windbreaker had developed a large bloodstain. Most of the blood was probably from Karen's father.
I took another step towards the little girl, desperate to get my hands on her, but she took two steps back for my one step, and as I realized that every step I took towards her actually increased the distance between me and her, I stopped completely and let the little girl run away.
A bloodstained boy chasing a child might make bystanders nervous, so I took off my bloodstained windbreaker and threw it into a bush.