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Ruthless Empire
Author: Rina Kent

Part I






Age eight



There’s freedom in chaos.

When my father used to say that, I didn’t understand it much. Ironically, that piece of information remained in my head, floating around like a fact.

My father is a businessman. There shouldn’t have been any room for chaos in his life, and yet, he thrived on it.

He knew that humans are chaotic by nature and that nature comes before nurture.

That’s what the books say. I didn’t understand them at first, but after the kidnapping, I returned a new person.

One day, I was coming home with my two friends, Aiden and Xander, and suddenly, everything turned black.

Masks were shoved over our heads, and then we were separated. I remember the darkness so well. It’s not only about seeing the colour black. It’s about breathing your own air and thinking you’ll suffocate on it. It’s about freezing until you can’t feel your toes or your face.

The darkness isn’t just a sensation. It’s a phase of being.

That’s what the therapist Mum took me to has been saying.

Were you afraid, son?

Did they hurt you in any way?

Touch you?

I answered no to all. It’s the truth. The kidnappers didn’t do any of that.

They didn’t scare me, hurt me, or touch me. They just left me…alone.

It was a silent type of chaos. You can hear it in your head, but you can’t see it with your eyes or feel it with your skin.

It’s a deep suffocation that slowly but surely takes hold of you.

I didn’t tell the therapist that. He wouldn’t understand.

No one does.

Because no one knows what happened once the kidnappers released me on a deserted road. I didn’t think about removing the bag that was strapped over my head — even though my hands were free.

I didn’t think about my parents or home or my friends.

I didn’t think about asking for help, even though that’s the most normal thing anyone would do.

I did none of that.

Instead, I stood there, pulled my hands apart and drowned in the silent chaos all alone.

It was liberating, black, and so still. Nothing ruined it or interrupted it or ended it.

Constant silent chaos.

It was maybe hours or days — I don’t remember.

Unlike Xander, I didn’t fight to find my way home. He walked for hours and days until he finally returned.

In my case, some passersby stumbled upon me and called the police, who eventually sent me home.

I remember the tears in my mother’s eyes, one of which had a purple bruise on the lid. I remember her embrace and how she held on to me sobbing, her voice echoing around me like a vice.

She was glad I’d returned and that I was safe.

I didn’t hug her back.

I couldn’t hug her back.

I just stood there, and while she cried, I thought about the chaos I’d left behind and if there was a way to bring it back.

Chaos is the only thing that makes me stop and stare. It’s a pause button to my brain.

Not everyone likes chaos, though. I figured that out when my father took me to the therapist doctor because I didn’t cry.

I couldn’t cry.

All of a sudden, crying became something redundant. When I was younger, I cried while I curled in a ball in my bed.

I slammed my hands against my ears and pretended the shouting voices from outside weren’t real. They were like the bogeyman.

What young me didn’t know was that the bogeyman would never show up.

Our own house monster did, and he didn’t stay still. He didn’t keep his hands to himself.

Whenever Mum’s screams echoed in the house, I made it my mission not to go out there. If I did, I’d only worsen the situation. She’d try to protect me and that would get us both hit and with bruises.

If I had bruises, Mum would hide me and not let me play with my friends until they were gone.

I don’t know why I cried back then. It was useless anyway. None of our tears stopped him or made him pause.

We were just his things that he treated as he saw fit.

Being a successful businessman with an empire under his belt gave William Nash the name and the status. No one saw the monster behind his smiles. No one suspected his drinking habits or his firm hand that he didn’t hesitate to use.

In public, he held me in his arms and doted on us. In private, he snapped the moment we said a word.

I learnt silence before I learnt talking. Silence gives you room to think, to plot. Talking only gets you in trouble.

After I met Chaos, I stopped crying, amongst other habits like wondering why Mum and I were stuck with him, or if I’d done something wrong by being born.

Chaos taught me many things, and the most important of all is: you have to start it yourself.

You can’t wait for chaos to happen.

Dad is a master of chaos. He causes it every day. Every night.

It ends with Mum curled into a ball and placing ice to her face. She doesn’t want me to look at her when she’s like that. She does everything in her power to hide it — makeup, baking, smiles.

Lots of smiles.

She’s inside now, hiding, crying.

I’m not.

I stand at the edge of the pool, staring down at all the red.

Chaos in its truest form.

For the first time since that day I returned home, I take a deep breath. A long breath.

I can breathe and it’s not black. I can see and it’s not the darkness. I can feel and it’s not nothingness.

I don’t know how long I stand there, watching and trying to remember what he said.

You’re a monster.

He thought I was a monster.

Maybe I am.

I turn around like a robot, my body heavy and rigid, and leave. Not only the pool area, but the entire house.

Our mansion disappears from sight, but the scene in the pool keeps playing in the back of my head like a film.

The red.

The hand.

The gurgles.

And then…the silence.

You’re a monster. He said something after it, but…I can’t recall. I was too caught up in the chaos to remember.

It’s late afternoon, so the dusk is orange and bright on the horizon.

Not knowing where I’m going, I stand in the middle of the street and watch the sun’s slow disappearance behind the buildings.

Soon, it’ll be dark. Soon, it’ll be chaos.

My feet carry me to the nearby park. It’s usually empty around this time because mummies take their kids home. It’s a small park with tall trees and dark green benches similar to the one near the pool.

Maybe if I sit here and think about the park and the darkness, I won’t think about the pool.

I should’ve brought a book with me.

I’m about to go back and get one when I notice a small figure huddled by the bench at the far end of the park underneath a large tree.

She’s wearing a pink dress that has so much stuff at the bottom, making it twice her size. Her shiny, golden hair is tied in a long ponytail by a butterfly. The same butterfly is on the belt that surrounds her waist. She’s hugging a doll that looks just like her and is even wearing the same dress.

That girl always does stupid things like that.

Silver often comes over when I’m playing with Aiden and Xander, but I don’t like her.

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