Kate Johnson
Complicated. That is my life now three weeks after the raider attack. It was easy to live in Hart’s Mill while my mom was still alive, while my brother and sister were still alive. I never thought my home was anything less then safe but now I feel like I will never be safe again no matter where I go. If raiders could make it into my home while I slept there was no place they couldn’t get me. The nightmares are tearing my mind apart. My body has betrayed me and been used against me. I’m jumpy and shattered. Jane has been trying so hard to make me feel comfortable now that I moved in with her. I wouldn’t be able to make it living on my own. Having her around is a real comfort to me, something I really need right now. I don’t want to appear weak but sometimes I just have to give in and let her take care of me. Jane seems to enjoy having someone else in the house after living alone the past year and she really enjoys when we can talk like we used to but I’m not me anymore, I’m not right, I’m not strong enough to survive alone.

During the day Jane goes off and helps out with random jobs around the village while I work my day job at Mr. and Mrs. Roberts’ Trading Post. I like the socialization of the job and I’m the only one that the Roberts’ trust to haggle prices. I stuff away my feelings to get my job done every day going through items and talking to people about their days. The other villagers still look at me with their pitying eyes, and some of the children are afraid of me. Perhaps it’s the horrible scars on my arms and legs. Some resent the fact that I got away and their loved ones and friends didn’t. They will never say that to my face but I can see it in their eyes. After the attack there were a lot of people trying to rebuild their homes and their lives. Not everybody had a friend they could move in with for support. I pitied them but I still had a job to do, I couldn’t give things away for free. There were plenty of donation drives for those affected by the attacks and people could get their help there but not at my store. I mean... the Roberts’ store. We still had a business to run.

I love my job, I love the distraction, I love having an obligation to get out of bed for. The Roberts’ have always been very nice to me, like family, and I’ve always done my best to make them proud of me and Today was no different. I opened the store like usual, with Tom on guard shift. Being the main trading hub in Hart’s Mill made security a priority. We seemed to have more sob stories then usual today. It had already been three weeks since the attacks so I don’t know where the sudden influx of people looking for handouts came from. I pointed many towards town hall where they may be able to get assistance if they were still struggling after the attack. After the mid-day rush a group of three unfamiliar men came into the store. Their dusty gear and heavy packs were a pretty clear giveaway that they were trail traders with no beast of burden or maybe just some travellers.

They drew guns with a speed that I was not ready for. Two shots and Tom was on the ground. The smell of gunfire, the smell of blood. Tom wasn’t moving. My blood ran cold and my breath caught in my chest. When I could breath again I started tapping the back of my hand and counting out loud. “One, two, three, four, five.” I sat down shaking. If I don’t count, if I didn’t count, if I stopped too soon I’d have to watch more people that I love die. I can’t let all of the people around me die.
“Shut her up! Somebody fucking shut that girl up!” The shooter barked at his men. One of the smaller guys stomped around the corner sneering at me.
“six, seven, eight, nine.”He grabbed me by the front of my shirt and hauled me to my feet. He raised his grimy hand and backhanded me right across the cheek. The sting didn’t stop me from counting but my heart started beating out of my chest as I grabbed the knife at my waist. I could faintly hear the crackle of fire that wasn’t there.
“ten, eleven, twelve.”
Deep breath Kate. I could feel the sticky warm blood flowing over my hand before I realized what I was doing. The man’s sneer was quickly replaced by a surprised wince. His face is ugly no matter how he contorted it. His breath acrid just like the raiders. The raiders who took my life from me and left me with a husk. I him forward, sinking the blade in again. I couldn’t stop as I knelt on his body pushing the knife into the man’s stomach again and again. Parting flesh from itself, letting what was inside out. Blood needed to escape. That’s when I heard Mr. Roberts who had come out of the back room with his shotgun. He fired the buckshot at the two stunned men by the door. The sound rang in my ears as I stared at the world in front of me. His dead eyes stared back at me, not a raider’s eyes, not a demon's eyes just a man. now a husk of a man. I drop the knife on the ground. The smell of blood is everywhere and it clung to my hands in sticky sheets as tears run down my face.
“What have I done?” I sobbed, terrified of myself.
Who is this monster in my skin?
Mr. Roberts puts his hand gingerly on my shoulder but pulls it back quickly when I jump.
“Are you alright? Are you hurt?” he stares at me with his brow furrowed. Some of the militia start filtering into the store alerted by gunfire. I killed this man, his eyes are forever staring at me now.

Jane had been informed of the incident and came to the store so she could walk with me home. When we got inside I let out all of the pent up fear and insanity that I’d be stuffing down throughout the militia’s questioning. Screaming I fell to my knees, choking on sobs. Jane stood there for a moment before kneeling down next to me and wrapping her arms around me. If I could have transferred all of my pain and suffering to her in that moment I would have for just one moment of clarity and sanity. That knowledge, after all she’s done for me, made me feel like the most awful person in the world.

Our friendship was never the same since I came back broken but Jane always was eager to help me when she could. I know that I don’t have to hide it from her but I want so badly to be the friend that I had been before, be the person that I had been before. I didn’t want to make her life as chaotic as my thoughts were so I held as tight as I could to my veil of sanity until it would tear asunder like in this moment. I didn’t like the sadness that crossed her face when my anxiety would get out of control or when I had a flashback while cooking dinner and ended up crying on the kitchen floor. I didn’t want her to feel my pain, I didn’t want any of the poison in my brain to transfer to her. I now live in a constant state of being aware of how my mental health is deteriorating and how my body is a weakness to simply be exploited by others. I don’t want to jump every time somebody touches me, I don’t want to wake up screaming and crying afraid that I’m getting dragged out into the night to be tortured and raped. I live in constant fear that I’m fated to watch Jane, and every person I come in contact with for the rest of my life, die before my eyes just like my co-worker Tom and that man trying to rob the store.

This moment frozen and drawn out forever. A hug. A monster getting a hug, from her friend.
What have I done? What am I capable of? What if I hurt somebody I care about. What have I done to deserve this?
“One, two, three, four.” I start counting softly as I tap the back of my hand. Jane grabs it and I stop counting but begin struggling. I have to tap it out or she’ll die.
“You don’t have to do that here Kate, you’re safe, you’re home.” She reminded me. The kitchen seemed so big with us sitting on the floor. Dried flakes of blood still clung to my hands caught in her grasp. Deep breath Kate. I reminded myself. I inhaled through my nose and exhaled all of my demons slowly out of my mouth. I relaxed and she released her grip.
“Sorry.” I whisper, “I’m so sorry.”