She woke with a thud, the wind knocked out of her chest. She lay still, trying to catch her breath, her night dress was plastered to her skin with sweat. The dream had haunted her sleep again, every night it was the same.
Her days had been starting earlier and earlier each day, her mind plagued by the nightmare making it impossible to fall asleep. She was sure her mind was playing dirty tricks on her. The more she tried to create a space of harmony, the faster the dream plagued her thoughts. She had begun to accept it as part of her nights, resigned to the idea that her sleep would always be interrupted by the horrifying images.
The nightmare had started over a month ago. She knew it was her subconscious trying to work through the stress, she knew that it was trying to tell her that the facade of ‘I’m fine’ couldn’t last forever. People had already begun to question her work, noticing the dark circles that overshadowed her vibrant blue eyes.
She had been to a dream interpreter, hoping that they could help her to stop the nightmares. There had to be something she could change in her life that would stop the midnight wakings. The woman she visited had been perplexed by the messages, a dream that told the story of life and death colliding. A nightmare that pushed the life out of her every night, filled with messages from the other side. Someone was haunting her.
She had a good idea who that someone was, but she refused to divulge the information to the dream interpreter. She knew that this woman would judge her, see her as a victim, a label she had fought her whole life to avoid. The people in her new life knew nothing of her past, she felt it was better that way. She hated seeing the change in someone’s face as she told the story and so she had resolved to make a new start.
This had been her sixth move in 7 years. She had hoped it would be different this time, her past wouldn’t catch up with her. She had changed her name, wore coloured contacts and gotten plastic surgery to alter her face. This had been the longest she had been able to stay in one place and she had made a lot of friends. Her friends had no idea about her history, and she intended to keep it that way. She knew it could change at any moment but she was optimistic this time.
She walked out to the lounge room and turned the television on. There was a news bulletin blaring through the silence of the room. Her father’s picture flashed on to the screen and she felt her breath catch. This was exactly what she was trying to avoid in her nightmares, running from him as he chased her through the dense woods.
Today was the anniversary of the night he tried to kill her. He had been abusing her for years, the bruises on show for all who cared enough to look. No one ever did. She had taken things into her own hands and called the police one night after a particularly bad beating. They had turned up, looked around and decided she was lying. He was a well known man in town, a man who everyone loved. He was not a man who hurt his daughter according to them.
After he had apologised to the police for wasting their time, he closed the door and stared at her. She knew that she needed to get out of the house, he would kill her if she didn’t. She ran out the back door, through the garden and over the back fence. She felt like she was running on air, she didn’t dare to look back. Their house was surrounded by woods, she knew that in order get somewhere safe she needed to head for the main road.
She had made it to the road just as she felt his hand grab the back of her shirt. She pushed her body forward, determined that he wouldn’t win. The weight of his body caused her trip and fall onto the road, her face hitting the gravel road. She curled into a ball and prepared herself for the first blow. She felt the thud of his boot as he connected with her back, the pain radiated through her body but she steeled herself, she knew she couldn’t let him win. He kicked her again and again, the pain getting worse each time, she refused to give him the satisfaction of hearing her yell out, instead biting down on her hand until she could taste blood.
When she thought she couldn’t possibly take another blow, lights blared down the road towards her. The driver’s voice could be heard in the distance yelling at her father to stop, she didn’t know how faraway they were. She heard his boots turn in the gravel but it was too late, they had seen everything. Despite her pain, she felt a smile cross her face, finally it would be over.
Her father was arrested, their faces splashed over the local and national news programs. She still felt a prisoner despite him receiving the maximum penalty for his crimes against her and the ones they had discovered after his arrest. She knew that she had to move to get away from the staring faces, the faces that haunted her dreams. People cared now, and she couldn’t take it, she couldn’t take their pity.
Later today he would be released from prison. She had gone to his last parole hearing but her victim statement had fallen on deaf ears. She knew that this day was coming, his face had haunted her dreams for the last month. She had to do something, she couldn’t be a victim anymore. It was only a matter of time until he used his contacts to find her. She wouldn’t let them, she was going to find him.
She was going to make sure she won for good this time. He would be a missing man, that no one missed at all.