I wanted to write a short piece about how Katia came to be and what her childhood was like. I wanted to write a protagonist that had been tortured to the edge of endurance, then I wanted things to get really bad for her.
In the book, Cursed, I bring in some of her history, but not the full story of it, so I thought you might enjoy reading about Katia’s childhood, such that it was.
I don’t remember much as a baby. Well, I guess no-one really does. I just remember a Lady in White always being there for me. I was a sickly baby, and as such probably hard to manage, but I remember a soothing voice and a lullaby that would send me into blissful sleep. And her smile. I remember that, too. It was nice. Caring. She would smile and then kiss me on the forehead. It would almost take away the sickness I felt.
She was the only mother I knew.
Life for me, kicked off with a stand out memory I can see as clearly today as when it happened. I was taken through a doorway from the labs and shown the most startling thing I could ever imagine.
I had thought that where I lived was all that was. I had a bedroom, the scientists, the lab. For me, that was normal. I couldn’t even imagine the wide open spaces—the colour!— of that first day I was shown the outside world. Green grass. Blue sky. I saw birds. Trees. Bushes. Flowers. The pages from the books I’d only read became suddenly alive and real.
It took me ages to take that first step through the doorway. I was used to concrete beneath my feet and the loose gravel nearly made me trip. My ankle turned on the unstable ground and I stumbled. The Lady in White was there, although by that stage I knew her as June. I held her hand like a life-line as I walked over the lab’s car-space and into the open park.
The sun was shining down. It was a warm day and my white, tanless skin started to sting. Something stirred my cheek and I held my hand to my cheek, looking to June for an answer.
‘Did something touch me?’ I asked.
‘It’s the breeze,’ June smiled down at me.
‘It feels like fingers. Big fingers.’
She smiled and laughed and I felt as though I’d done something right. This was the best day of my life so far. It was my birthday present. I was six.
I didn’t see much of my father when I was young. He come and go, give me injections that really hurt. And then I would be sick. That’s what I associated with him. Pain and sickness, so my heart hit my toes when I saw him waiting for me in the park. He was holding something small. Furry. It poked it’s head up and I gasped. A kitten!
‘This is a present for you, Katia.’ He smiled when he gave me the kitten and I felt as though I’d done something good for him. My heart sang.
I played with the kitten, kneeling on the grass. It started to purr and tried to claw my fingers and it made me laugh. It rolled and showed me it’s soft, downy white belly.
‘Thank you, Daddy!’ I said and looked up at him.
He knelt in front of me. ‘I want you to do something for me. Do you think you can?’
I nodded. Of course, I would do anything. He was my father and I wanted to make him happy. ‘I want you to save this kitten. If you can save him, you can keep him?’
I frowned. ‘I thought he was my birthday present?’
‘Yes, but presents have to be earned, don’t they. See that cage over there. I’m going to put this kitten into the cage and you’ll have to save him.’
I looked over to see a cage with a German Sheppard prowling inside it. ‘But that dog will hurt the kitten,’ I said.
‘But you can stop him, Katia.’
Before I say anything else, my father picked with kitten up and walked over to the cage. He opened the door and put the kitten inside. The dog started barking, the sound hurting my ears. I ran over to the cage, ready to yank the door open and rip the kitten out before the dog could kill it. But my father stopped me.
‘Not this way.’
I watched as the dog became more frenzied. The kitten curled into a little ball and cried out. A pitiful little mew.
‘But how!’ I started to cry, helplessly watching as the dog scuttled further towards the kitten.
‘Use your mind, Katia. You can save it. Think!’
But I couldn’t think of anything except how frightened the kitten was. The dog growled, then seized the kittens small body, ripping it in half between its strong jaws. I screamed and my father grabbed my arms, kneeling so that I was face to face with him. He was angry with me. His fingers dig into my arms, but I didn’t shout out that he was hurting me. I didn’t want to make him more angry with me.
‘Use your mind, Katia. Think that you want to save the kitten and you can. But you have to concentrate. You’ve killed that kitten because you failed. Do you understand? You failed.’
He stalked off. Luckily June was there and buried me in her arms as I cried until there were no more tears.
The next day my father came to get me. In his hand was another tiny kitten. My heart stumbled in my throat as he guided me outside and over towards the cage. The same dog was in there and growled, snapping its jaws at me as we approached. I watched, feeling sick as my father placed this kitten inside the cage over the splodge of dried up blood from yesterday.
‘You know what to do, Katia.’ He stood back, arms crossed over his chest. But I couldn’t do anything and just like yesterday I watched helplessly as the dog killed the kitten right in front of my eyes.
‘Not good enough, Katia. Do you know we will do this until you save a kitten?’ He led me back inside to my bedroom. ‘I will come again tomorrow. I want you to think about how you can save the kitten.’
It was with a sick sense of dread that I went outside the third day. I couldn’t look at the small furry animal my father clutched in his large hand. He dumped the kitten inside the cage and pointed, ‘Save it.’
I didn’t want another kitten to die. I prayed to save it. To keep it safe from the dog. If it wasn’t on the ground, the dog couldn’t kill it. I wished that the kitten would be safe from harm. That it would be too high for the dog to reach it.
My head was filled with a buzzing. At first it was a little buzz, like it would feel after I’d sneezed, but then it filled every cell in my head, pushing out behind my eyes. It went down my body, filling every space inside my skin. The kitten lifted from the ground and started to hover.
The dog went wild, barking with high pitched sounds. It nuzzled the kitten but I kept concentrating, lifting it higher and higher. My knees started to tremble and a tired sickness welled inside of me.
‘Yes, Katia. Yes. Keep going!’
My father was happy with me so I kept going even though I felt so sick. My head was pounding and seemed two sized too big for my body. But I kept thinking the thought, kept my concentration on the kitten. A wave of blackness hit me and I fell to my knees. The kitten dropped to the ground and the dog pounced before I blacked out. I woke up with my father staring down at me as I lay in bed, ‘You’ll try harder tomorrow.’
I could barely move when my father came for me the next day. I was still so tired from the current of the energy that had raced through me. I didn’t want to go. I cried. I fell to my knees. Dragged my feet. Anything to stop me from going into the wondrous outside. I didn’t even want to see the tiny kitten my father held. He picked me up by my waist and hauled me over to the cage.
I watched the dog get excited as we approached. Its black, beady eyes stared with anticipation at the kitten and I was filled with such hate and anger I had never felt before. We were nearly at the cage. I didn’t want that kitten to go into the cage. Knew what would happen to it if it did.
I knew with all certainty that the dog was not going to kill this kitten. I concentrated on the dog, let my hate for it washed through me. The energy built, pounding through my head and my body. There was a loud, wet click. The dog’s neck bent at an odd angle and it dropped, lifeless to the ground.
My father stopped in his tracks, still holding me by the waist. Then he settled me on my feet. He held my face between his palms and started to laugh. A loud, joyous sound. I didn’t know what to say. How to react. I’d saved the kitten. I’d had to kill the dog to do it. But it had made my father happy. I wanted him to be happy with me. I wanted him to be proud of me. I liked it when he smiled at me, and he wasn’t just smiling. He was laughing. It felt good to hear him laugh. Even better to know I’d been the one to make him do it.
He handed me the kitten and stroked its head, ‘You did a very good thing just now. A very good thing indeed. The kitten’s yours now, Katia. You can keep him. See, you get rewarded when you do good things like that.’
I nodded and held the kitten to my chest, its soft fur brushing my neck soothed me. I glanced at the dog’s body and heavy guilt pressed on my heart. I didn’t understand quite what I’d done. Anger, hurt, guilt and happiness rolled into a ball and washed over me, through me.
Little did I know that was only the beginning of my training. Only June and the cat I named Lucky got me through those early years.
Find out how Katia deals with her ‘training’ and how she finally escapes the clutches of the labs in Cursed.