I was allowed to return to school, but everywhere I went someone was watching and listening. In the afternoons I spent an hour with my therapist, Karen Bristle, a classy middle aged wolf with highlights in her fur. She had me keep a diary of my thoughts, and every doubt or fear was answered with a mantra I could memorize. Mantras like: I believe in social justice. I believe we have to work together to combat phobias, fake news, and terrorism. If I participate in community awareness I will feel happier and at peace. . .
Deep inside I was filled with rage against the things I had experienced and that rage searched for a focus. I blamed my father for what had happened, then my mother, the system, myself, and finally Marcus. Here, my rage was satisfied.
I had waited for Marcus to save me, and he had failed. He had failed me again and again. The heat of my anger was so hot, I wanted to hurt him like he had hurt me. I wanted to scream at him for leaving me without an explanation, for not being there when Mom and Dad died, and for not coming to get me from the asylum. Every day I waited for him to come back to the house looking for me. I rehearsed the accusations I would make and how he would turn white with shame and remorse and beg me for forgiveness.
But he didn’t come, and my anger grew.
At school I was a celebrity. Everyone spoke in hushed tones and left gifts of flowers and chocolates in my desk. My art teacher gave me a room of my own in which to “paint my feelings.” These paintings were observed daily by my therapist.
Following the party line was a familiar exercise for me, and without much planning on my part I expressed my anger against Marcus, the forest, and the Ostriches in my art.
One day in particular I painted all day without awareness of where I was or what I was painting until it was done. Then, it was as if I awoke standing in front of my own painting. In fresh acrylic I saw my own decapitated head laying in a puddle of blood, and over it stood an ostrich with Marcus’s face. I met my own eyes in the painting and screamed aloud, falling to my knees on the studio floor. It was then that I finally began to cry.
I awoke back in the hospital on a significant dose of drugs, but even through the haze, I could identify a fact on which everything else hinged: Marcus might be dead or injured. If he could rescue me, he would have. Something else then, was the enemy. Something or someone was using me, holding me down so that I couldn’t breathe or think. I needed to find out what it was.
That day I let the memories return; the actual events of my trauma. I began to sift through the programming and make mental lists of true and false events. I went all the way back to childhood, to my earliest memories, and found my way forward in time until I reached the present moment. I plunged resolutely into every dark fear in my mind until I understood the truth of it. Even the drugs couldn’t stop me. I had to know.
Karen Bristle came to pick me up at the hospital. On the way to my house she made a suggestion: I should paint what happened that day in the forest. I should paint it for the whole world to see. People must know how my brother had betrayed us, how my parents had died violent deaths, and how the wolves had rescued me. She said an event would be planned; an unveiling of the raw truth. It would make me famous and rich. It would make her famous and rich too.
A wall-sized canvas would be provided, and in two weeks the unveiling would be televised live for the world to see. A true story, from a survivor’s perspective.
For the first time in my small life I had a purpose bigger than myself. One way or another, the truth would set me free.