Lost by Terry Cummings

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She was alone now. It was over. Among the branches, the birds sang, their lives disturbed momentarily by the deafening screech of worn tyres as a sombre grey car sped away from the woodland.

Her eyes were clamped shut, but inside her mind blinding images flashed and faded repetitively, images of horror that should never be witnessed let alone experienced by a girl of her years. The images brightened further still, with dreadful clarity and detail, forming patterns, taking sequence. Now sound flooded her mind synchronising with the pictures. Then the inexplicable happened, the images and motion inside her mind took on another dimension - feeling. Now it was happening all over again. Soft caresses, numbing punches and moisture, sticking all over her body. The inescapable tongue, the battered waist deeply bruised, broken fingers twisted and snapped, and oh God my God the excruciating pain swelling within her. The images blurred and all sensation was lost. The brightness faded, a pounding at the front of her head filled her world, took over her soul and then...

Everything was black, her body yet to feel pain, her eyes yet to see light, a soothing, comforting heartbeat echoed through her tiny limbs, she was unborn and suspended inside her mothers womb, she could feel no pain, know no emotion. She was at peace.

Then the screaming arose from nowhere, grasping her dormant mind and shaking it awake, cramming its pitch into every corner of her soul, pushing her mercilessly into reality. Her eyes opened wide. It was night. Her mind hadn't yet allowed what had happened to be fully recallable, had locked events into a deep memory vault and had thrown away the key, so she for some time wouldn't know why or how she had arrived where she had. All she was aware of was that she was naked and cold, and as she moved, the pain seared her hands and thighs. She had had a nose bleed and solidified blood on her cheeks cracked and flaked as she screamed. She struggled for consciousness and barely won.

She looked around her. She was lying on a snow coated forest floor and she was being watched. The shadows crept near her, sliding around the trees. An owl hooted its presence in the branches above. She shifted uncomfortably and looked behind her, sensing danger at every angle. Her chest heaved painfully and she began to sob despairingly. Her eyelids became lead and she slipped into unconsciousness once more.

When she awoke it was morning and birds sang joyfully above her, chasing between the branches of twisted elm then soaring upwards as high as she could see. Cold leaves stuck to her skin, the dew making them a part of her shape, across her leg a spider crawled but she did not feel it, it scampered away into the long grass, a demon in her past childhood.

She was completely numb below the waist yet her upper body hurt with the slightest twitch, her arms had turned a shade of pale blue and she could feel patches in her lips. She shivered uncontrollably, the icy dew on the leaves had retained heat - enough to keep her alive for a few hours acting as a precarious insulator, but she could not take this cold for much longer.

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