The Back Road - By Rachel Abbott


From the moment the cupboard door was slammed shut trapping them both inside, she knew something was different. It should have seemed just like every other day, but somehow it didn’t. She felt the familiar pain and discomfort - the same as always. So what was it?

The girl soundlessly inched her feet across the confined space searching for her sister’s toes with her own, both to seek and to give comfort. She had to try to make her sister feel safe. It would soon be over. But the fingers of an undefined dread were crawling up her spine.

Then her sister made a strange gurgling sound. She’d never made that sound before. It was as if something was stuck deep in her throat and she was trying to force it out. The girl silently willed her sister to stop.

Shh. Be still. Be quiet.

She rested her chin on her bony raised knees, and repeated the words over and over in her head, praying that her little sister would hear her thoughts and understand. If either of them made a noise, The Mother would be angry, and it would all be so much worse. Worse than suffering in silence.

She had tried to say that they would be good. They didn’t need to be put in here. But The Mother always said the same thing.

‘I am The Mother. You are The Daughter. You do what I say. Don’t argue. I’ve told you what happens to bad children. The Bogeyman gets them, and eats them for his dinner.’ And then she laughed. The girl was scared of The Bogeyman. Perhaps he would be even worse than The Mother.

She lifted her head slightly. A narrow crack in the wooden door let in a dusty sliver of light, illuminating a slender fragment of her sister’s face. It was white and shiny - a bit like a boiled egg when the shell was peeled away. She had never seen a face look like that before. Her sister lurched forward and bent over. Her hair was sticking to her forehead in damp curls, and she was making a noise in her throat. An awful noise. And there was a horrid smell too.

They had to be as silent as baby mice or they would get a beating. Luckily at that moment the strange sounds coming from her sister wouldn’t be heard. It sounded like The Grunter was here today. He made noises all the time - like a pig she’d once seen on the television. She hated the noise, but it was better than The Shouter. He always cried out, using words that sounded mean. She didn’t know what they meant, but he sounded nasty when he shouted them. Then there was The Moaner. She had once tried to peep through the crack in the door because The Moaner sounded as if he was in pain, but she didn’t like what she saw, so she never looked again. It didn’t stop her mind from working though, and every time she heard The Moaner, all she could see in her head was an ugly white bottom, rising and falling.

The Grunter never lasted long. Her sister was going to have to stop making that sound very soon.

The pig noises from the room outside the cupboard were much stronger and coming closer together now, and that meant The Grunter had nearly finished - he always got very loud just before the end. She didn’t have much time. She needed to soothe her sister before it was too late. She hated to see her punished. The girl tried to shuffle across the confined space, but the bindings on her wrists and ankles were rubbing on the bruises and sores and she had to stifle a gasp of pain. As she got closer, her sister looked at her through eyes that had the bright shine of unshed tears, and then her little body shook with a huge force.

The girl realised with horror that her sister was being sick - but the wide brown parcel tape across her mouth was preventing the vomit from escaping. Then she watched as the little girl’s eyes rolled upwards and out of sight leaving only the glossy white showing, and she slumped over against a pile of old, dirty shoes.

Somebody had to help her sister. The girl knew she was going to be in trouble and that her punishment would hurt, but she didn’t care. She threw herself sideways and rolled onto her back with her legs in the air, kicking