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A runaway car came hurtling towards me. “It must be him…” My world blacked out before I could think anything more. The next time I opened my eyes, I found myself on the edge of an ice-made bridge. The ferocious water roared under the bridge, emitting a suffocating stench. “Hi”, a hoarse woman’s voice comes from somewhere. I turned around back and forth, trying to find where it came from, but had no clue. “Drink this, my little girl, drink this and you will be relieved,” the sound kept going. The chilling air from the water made me shiver uncontrollably. “Who are you? Where am I?” I shouted with all my strength, but I couldn’t even make a sound. “Drink it… Drink it…” The sound sounded closer this time. A crocodile popped up from the roaring water with a small potion bottle held in its mouth. The water stopped roaring. I felt something had left my body, and before I could control it, my hands reached out for the bottle. “What’s this? What is this?” I asked again. “Drink it. It’ll cure your wounds.” I took hold of the bottle and drank whatever was inside. The water started roaring again, and I felt like I was being dragged back into the river. I fell forward onto the floor of the bridge, and I started shaking violently. Something grabbed me by my neck, lifted me off the ground and threw me into the freezing waters below. After what felt like hours, everything became still once more. I opened my eyes; I was lying face down in water, not knowing how I got there or how to get out. “I’m here, don’t worry!” someone said from above. I looked up and saw a figure standing over me. He was wearing a red scarf that wrapped all the way up his arms. His white hair reached just past his shoulders. When he saw me looking at him, he gave me a warm smile. I tried to lift myself out of the water, but I lost consciousness before I could do so.
I woke up on a soft mattress underneath the warm blanket. There were two walls of what seemed like an underground cave. As soon as I looked around, I noticed a figure leaning against the far wall.
“Hello”, I called out, hoping the person would come closer to me, and show himself more clearly. “Don’t move too much”, said another voice coming from the corner. I looked back at the figure leaning against the wall. He walked closer until he was right next to me. Now that I was able to see him clearly, I realized that this person wasn’t human. Instead of a head, a man stood in front of me. His hair was completely white, and his beard reached down to his chest. He wore an open robe that revealed the fact that his chest wasn’t really a chest at all. “You’re safe now”, he said softly. “How do I know you won’t kill me?”, I replied cautiously, still afraid this man might do something terrible to me. “That isn’t my intention”, he replied while giving me a sad smile. “But I have to tell you, you’re in danger here”, he added. “Why does everyone keep telling me that?!” I exclaimed, feeling extremely confused.
He shook his head slightly. “Listen closely, child. You can’t go outside. If people find you, they’ll take you away from here and lock you up forever, in order to save their own skin”. “Are you fucking serious?! Why didn’t you say that sooner!?” Before I could start screaming or throwing punches, I heard footsteps behind me, followed by someone calling my name. I jumped to my feet and turned around. Standing right in front of me was a beautiful blonde woman in her mid 20’s. She had long, straight hair and bright blue eyes. Her face, which I could see perfectly fine, seemed kind and gentle. She smiled when she saw me and hugged me tight. “Mama! You came for me!” I said, hugging her back. She laughed, kissed my forehead and said, “Yes, baby. Yes, I did”.
The man approached us while saying goodbye to my mother and father. I knew who he was. I had seen him often enough in movies and TV shows. And although he hadn’t exactly been a good person in those movies, he always managed to win them over with his sweet personality. But this time, my father didn’t seem happy about his presence. As my mother talked to the stranger, she never even glanced in his direction. He looked worried and upset, and his hand was constantly reaching to grab the other side of the table. Eventually, after what seems like hours, my mother finally finished speaking. She went to the kitchen, leaving both me and the stranger alone in the living room. He sat on a chair across me, and I was sitting in one of the armchairs near the window.
“So you are our daughter”, he whispered, staring right into my eyes. “Yes, Sir”. “I have to admit I’ve always wanted to meet you. How old are you?” He raised an eyebrow. I thought it would be rude to lie and lied anyways. “I’m sixteen years old”. “Oh, really!? You sure look younger than that!”, he said with a laugh. “I used to work in an office building, if you must know”. “Really?”, he continued laughing. “Of course I did. That would explain why no one ever hired me”. I let out a nervous chuckle. “Sorry.”, he apologized. “No need to apologise… It’s true that I didn’t want to work. I was very young when I decided to do it. Even though I was only eighteen years old”. “Why did you decide to leave?”, he continued asking. “To travel the world and become famous!”. “Well done!”, he said happily. “Didn’t I tell you already?! I want you to be my biggest fan! You can call me… Dad!”. “Dad, huh…? I don’t know…”. I hesitated, but before I could finish my sentence, I felt a strong grip on my hand. He had been squeezing it so tightly. “Come on! It’s okay! I won’t hurt you! Just call me dad”. His eyes filled with tears. The pain in his eyes broke my heart. Tears threatened to fall, but I resisted them. “Alright, Dad… I’ll call you Dad”, I muttered, forcing a weak smile onto my lips. His expression softened instantly. “Thank you!”. We stayed silent for a while. All I could think about was how painful it would be to lose him. Then, I realized something important: I never asked what his name was, and I didn’t want to bring up a subject which could potentially lead to uncomfortable questions. So, I decided to try to change the subject. “What are we supposed to do now?”, I said while staring at the ground. I wasn’t comfortable talking about such things. “I’m sorry for everything you went through, honey”, he said. He sounded regretful. “Don’t apologise. You didn’t do anything wrong”, I insisted. “I guess not… But I hope you understand why we had to take you away.” His voice sounded sad. “Is it because of those people…?” I said, pointing towards the hallway. “We don’t have any choice but to take care of you”. He didn’t seem to want to talk about it anymore. Instead, he changed the subject. “Would you mind if I take a picture of you?” I shook my head vigorously. “Okay, then..! Stay still please”, he said while aiming a camera at my face.
After he finished taking a few pictures of me, he stood up from his seat and started walking towards the door. “Wait!!”, I yelled, standing up from my seat. He paused and slowly turned around. “Where am I gonna go?”, I continued, looking down. I saw the sadness in his eyes again. “There is nowhere else to go right now… You don’t have anywhere else to go now.” My legs started wobbling, I tried to walk to the door, but ended up collapsing again. “I told you you’re tired. Let’s get you to bed”, he said while helping me up. He placed his arm around my shoulder and helped me walk to the bedroom. “Let’s put you under the covers…”, he said while pulling the blankets up to my chin. “I can’t go under the covers. If I get cold…””, I said while raising both my hands high above my head. “Then I’ll tuck you in…”, he said while smiling. I nodded and closed my eyes.
A couple of hours later, I slowly woke up from my nap, yawning and stretching out my body. I rubbed my eyes and noticed that a couple more shadows had joined me in the bedroom. They each had their own bed beside mine, and were sleeping soundly. I watched as their chests rose and fell with every breath. I looked out the balcony again.