1. Remembering

"shut it"
"i'm just saying you're not going to like what you find"
"i'm not looking for entertainment"
"you don't know what you're looking for"
"i'll know when i find it"

The light reflects off the saftey catch and for a moment Anna would swear the gun has just winked at her. She's spent the last 3 years consciously trying to control her perceptions. Now, at 24, she can cope with even the most horrific travesty as long as she allows herself to perceive it as a slow-moving scene, watching it unravel as though time has slowed to point where she can control it. She only allows the most traumatic information in a piece at a time, allowing the rest to blur until she has a handle on the current horror.

As soon as she entered the room she'd had to put the gun down. The need to have it near versus the repulsion it induces in her is a delicate balance. having it so close to her, insinuating, suggesting, all the way here had made Anna's head ache. a dull throb, distracting, distorting. it had to go on the table so she can longer feel the clammy coolness of the metal, which never seems to tarnish. It was bad enough that she let herself believe it was talking to her. If it were to start wearing a smug expression as well it might interfere with her work, and there were enough real, actual people doing that without her adding the disruptive influence of an insubordinate firearm.

Anna feels guilt when she thinks about the gun. the kind of guilt you feel when you think about a wayward relative. you shouldn't hate them because they're family, but some things can't be forgiven and so you're left with the disparate emotions of unconditional love, unrivalled loathing, and guilt for the two emotions being so contradictory. The gun had saved her, saved her mother, but damned them both to imprisonment. The cold stone walls of her mother's imprisonment as much a weight on her conscience as the dark, silent prison she finds herself in, knowing she will not taste, or smell, or feel, until she serves the penance for her crime. Not the crime of killing her father, but of allowing him to remain here, to torment others as he once tormented Anna. Anna reveres and detests the gun, simultaneously talisman of her salvation from the ceaseless abuse, and the cause of her current suffering.

It's evening and the orange light through the window from a setting sun makes the room seem calm and belies the violence that still looms, like the tinnitus after an explosion. dust falls through a shaft of light and to Anna almost looks like a lazy sunday but there is a metallic tang in the air that tastes like fear and Anna can feel the bile rising. Always this contradiction - it follows her. A glimpse of normality, of happiness and absence of fear - but always there is an undertone of unspoken filth, waiting in the shadows to taint and corrupt.

Anna looks to the gun, vainly hoping for some words of comfort, or encouragement.
"are you waiting for me to rust?"
Anna sighs
"be brave Anna"

*  *  *  *  *

It's late and this time the orange light that pervades Anna's room is the phosphor of a street lamp. She is seven years old and wide awake. It's never properly dark and so sleep is a hard won prize which she nightly fights to attain. The curtains are busy with fairies and pixies, and myriad other tired clichés of things girls are supposed to like, but which are meaningless to Anna against the backdrop of a harsh reality of violence and pain, where fair folk would never dare tread - in daylight they are faded and inocuous - backlit by ancient sodium lights, the colours invert and Anna sees a hideous chorus of demons, all looking at her, accusing, judging her, blaming her for the ruckus down the corridor. "What are you waiting for?" they demand, "You know where he keeps it. You know how to use it. He taught you. You didn't want to learn but he taught you. Made you squeeze the trigger while he held the gun because your hands were too small and weak. 'A boy would be able to fire it,' he told you. He never wanted you. He wanted a boy. If you were a boy you'd protect her. What are you waiting for?"

Without even realising it, Anna has walked to her parents' room. She's kneeling on the floor, holding the box with the gun inside. It's heavy - heavier than it should be, as though it's weighed down with the enormity of the task. Anna can't work out if she's too tired, too scared, or just broken, but she swears the gun is aware of her, willing her to take it, and do what she has to do.
"are you waiting for me to rust?"
Anna gasps, and nervously slides her hand round the cool metal grip of the handle.
"be brave Anna"

*  *  *  *  *

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