run through him

I must have been young when I saw what I saw.

I know my brother was old enough to climb into the bunkbed, but not old enough to speak as he speaks now. I know I was old enough to set the table and that my brother wasn’t, and that we both still needed my mother in the bathroom when we had baths, just to make sure we didn’t drown. We loved nothing better than to sit with our father while he watched the news and folded our laundry, knowing we couldn’t do it ourselves yet. But they trusted us to carry ourselves to sleep, and we did, sturdy plump limbs stilled, if only momentarily.

It must have been in autumn, when the air was chill. I heard the wind in my dreams. I woke to the gust of the open window and the low rustle of a man, impossibly tall, ducking through the doorway. Leather scales, fangs and horns, ripped raw face, squinting eyes, swords gleaming, green and bronze, folded wings, dripping sickly in the low light. He looked at me and his claws curled, weapons clattered. Slow dawn of terror: I was awake.

I bit my arm hard and wished for a nightmare. But no—this was as real as walking to school, as stealing strawberries from the fridge, as the mailman.

My brother slept.

In the slow seconds that followed, I steeled what little courage a six-year-old has.

I knew he wanted to take my brother. The man stepped forward, smiled.

I ran through him. He dissolved.

My parents didn’t believe me.

It is not hard to doubt a six-year-old when she says she sees a monster. Screaming, crying, terrified, insistent, Daddy kill him, Daddy he has a sword, Daddy he’s going to take Daniel. They were good. They checked. I slept with my parents that night, and many nights afterward. It was only a dream. But I was awake, and I saw what I saw.

So many years, and I still think of the moment I decided.

I could wait, or I could run. I ran.

And I didn’t run away.

© 2015 Anna-Christina Betekhtin, All Rights Reserved.

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