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The small boy was lost in the depths of the huge tester bed. The room stretched out around him, full of mysterious shadows that seemed to move for no reason at all. His nurse had begged his father for a night light and for once his father had acquiesced – for whatever reason. Hannah was sure it wasn’t to ease a small boy’s fears, and the sense of abandonment he’d had since his mother had left; she wasn’t sure exactly why José Aguilar had agreed, but she had taken her victory and scuttled back to the room with it.
His father had said there were no such things as monsters, only monstrous people who ought to be horse whipped. You have to be a man in this life, he’d said, and quit believing in monsters under the bed or in the closet. The boy wasn’t too sure about that; surely the closet door had opened just a bit more? Why would it do that, if something hadn’t caused it? And Hannah had gone to her own bed, so what was left but monsters?
The shadows moved closer, swelling and shrinking as if to mock his fear. The vast expanse of the room, the high ceilings lost in a blackness that seemed to press down upon him, the knowledge that he was alone and lonely, almost broke his nerve. He wanted his mother.
He huddled into the pillows, trying to ignore what his mind was telling him had to be true. His mama had always sung to him, it was a comfort when he was feeling scared or alone. She had a true contralto and she could conjure up beautiful castles and brave knights; he knew it was so even if he couldn’t understand the language she was singing in.
Now as he remembered, he began to hum. He closed his eyes, sliding down until he was lying flat and the hum became words, gaining in volume as he put all his concentration into it. The words were made up, special words, words that conjured his mother. His high, pure voice filled the room and in his mind the knight fought the monsters and the beautiful princess, who looked a lot like his mama, held out her hand and smiled at him. He didn’t see the thickened shadow detach itself from the others and glide toward him.
The song ended in a cry of pain as his arm was grabbed and he was pulled to the side of the bed. His eyes flew open as he began to struggle. His father’s red, angry face glared back at him.
"I’ve told you "no singing’! Real men don’t sing, and you will be a man one day. You stupid mongrel! Perhaps you need help to remember. Turn over."
"Silencio! I will have silence from you! She tried to make you the fairy, the weak one, but she left you, didn’t she? Even she thought you not worth the taking."
The small boy began to cry as he slowly turned over on his stomach, flinching as his father roughly pulled down his pajama bottoms.
"The bitch," José muttered, slashing the dog whip across the rounded buttocks. "The fucking bitch – leave, will she? Now you will be a man and not a woman’s lapdog!"
Excitement rose in him as he continued to whip his son. The boy covered his mouth with both hands, trying to remain silent, but when he turned his head to one side and saw the man’s excited face, he began to whimper. He could never afterward say if it was from the pain or from the shock of his father’s actions.
José began to breathe heavily. He was not a man who indulged himself with exercise and his arm was beginning to weary. The child’s eyes – her eyes – looked up at him in terror; it only fanned him to greater effort. When the screaming began, he gave a great shout and one last slash of the whip, before turning and leaving the room. Leaving the child to the shadows and his pain.
The small boy, hysterical with fear, wet the bed.
Cas gasped as his eyes flew open. He was drenched with sweat, not the healthy sweat of hard work, but the sour sweat of fear. It infuriated him that he still had these dreams. It infuriated him that his father still had so much control over him.
He swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat up, rubbing his damp face. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a good night’s sleep. Wearily he got to his feet, looking around the dingy room with distaste. He’d wash himself down and then get on with his travels.
Somewhere, somehow, he’d outrun his father. He didn’t know if the bastard was still looking for him, but he wouldn’t take the chance. He would lay low and work as he could and continue to put distance between himself and California.
He only wished he could put that distance into his soul.
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