Edition 13: The Girl in the Glass Bottle by Brian G Ross
I rolled up the piece of paper tightly, until it was no larger in diameter than a fast-food milkshake straw. My favourite doll, Miss Louise, was squeezed under my arm. She couldn’t breathe, but even though she didn’t complain, I still tried to be quick about it anyway. As soon as I dropped the paper into the glass bottle, it immediately uncurled and filled the empty space inside.
Most of what I had written had been obscured by the curvature of the glass, but as I turned the bottle this way and that, I could make out some of the words. Hit. Broken. Scared. Need help. I wrote that bad things would happen if they didn’t act soon, and left my name and address at the bottom.
Miss Louise stared at me blankly.
I twisted the cap tightly—the way my stepdad did sometimes because he knew I wasn’t strong enough to open it—and threw the glass bottle as hard as I could into the water, as if that extra few inches were somehow going to take it to its unknown destination quicker.
The waves initially struggled with it, tossing the bottle back and forth on its shoulders, but then the Atlantic grabbed it and pulled it out to sea, where—within minutes—I couldn’t see it anymore.
By the time I got home, I had all but forgotten about it, and I went back to avoiding my stepdad’s stare, and pretending it didn’t hurt when he touched me.
One week later, as I walked along that same stretch of sand, I found the glass bottle washed up on the shore.
I picked it up and unscrewed the cap.
I wrote to you as soon as I could. I am very saddened to hear that you are having such difficulties at home. I am a twelve-year-old girl also, and I cannot begin to imagine what you are going through. In Japan that kind of behaviour is not tolerated. Please let me know that you are all right.
I didn’t really know anything about Japan, except that it was a long way off and it was where Hello Kitty came from. I wondered how my message had even reached her, because the ocean was over this way and I was pretty sure Japan was over that way.
But I did write back, like Ruaisu asked.
Only, I couldn’t tell her I was all right, because in the seven days since I had thrown the bottle into the water things had become much worse for me at home. My stepdad had started using me as an ashtray, and I had at least a dozen burn marks on my arms and maybe more on my legs. It had gotten to the point where I didn’t even feel it anymore.
So I just wrote the truth.
I tilted Miss Louise’s head back, and she closed her eyes. I rocked her to sleep in my arms.
Four days later, the reply washed up on that same part of the beach.
I feel terrible that these things are still happening to you! I urge you to go to the police, or maybe a family member who you can trust. I am sure they would help you. Please do not feel ashamed: this is not your fault. Your stepfather is to blame and he should be handled accordingly.
Ruaisu was right, although I didn’t feel there was anybody in my family that I could turn to. I had this sick feeling in my stomach that my mum knew all about it, but was too scared to say or do anything. She must have heard me crying, once, twice, a hundred times; and I know she had seen the bruises.
With my tongue, I felt the space where one of my front teeth used to be. My stepdad told me it was loose anyway and he had just helped it along a little.
I don’t know why I didn’t go to the police. Maybe a shock like that would have done the trick and he would have stopped hitting me. Then again, it may just have angered him even more, and next time it’d be a broken arm instead of just a busted lip.
Miss Louise looked up at me from my arms, and I sat down on the sand to reply.
Three days disappeared before I heard back.
I am begging you to please do something about your situation, if not for yourself then for those who care about you. I do not want to see you suffer this way any longer. If there is anything I can do to help you, do not hesitate to ask.
I didn’t know what exactly she wanted me to do. My stepdad was much stronger than I was, and making my mum choose between us was never going to work out for me.
He always told me if I screamed out for help, he would punish me; and if the neighbours heard and came knocking at the door asking what was wrong, he would finish with me and punish them too. I didn’t want to be responsible for my stepdad hurting anyone else.
It was best for everyone if I just closed my eyes and waited for it to be done, because sooner or later it always was, and then I would just give Miss Louise a cuddle and try to find sleep in between the nightmares. In the morning, sometimes I didn’t remember right away, until I saw the blood on my sheets, or the soft yellow bruises on my arms where he’d held me down.
I tried to sniff back the emotion as I told Ruaisu.
Two days later, I heard from her again.
Don’t you waste any tears on him! There is a gun in his bedside drawer. He keeps it there in case crack-heads or niggers come by in the middle of the night to steal his stuff to buy drugs. Take the gun and do what needs to be done. Let me know how you get on.
Your friend forever,
I had seen the gun Ruaisu was talking about. It was quite heavy. My stepdad had let me hold it once, and I could barely keep it steady. Even if I was able to get it without him catching me, I probably wouldn’t have been able to pull the trigger anyway. And if I was going to do it I would absolutely have to kill him, because if I only wounded him or God forbid, if I missed, he would never let me live to see the sunrise.
The next day, as I took Miss Louise for a walk along the beach, the familiar glass bottle washed up against my feet.
Why have you not done it yet? I am waiting. The gun is loaded.
I was scared, that was why.
But Ruaisu was right: it had to be done.
The next morning, after it was, I carried Miss Louise to the beach once more. I looked at her, thanked her for always being there for me, and gave her a cuddle. For a moment she seemed to smile back with her far-eastern eyes, but then it was gone and her face was porcelain-still once again.
I tossed the glass bottle into the water, and watched the waves pull my final message out into the ocean.
And I never heard from Ruaisu again.
Brian is a thirty-something Australian, based in Scotland. He has over one hundred publications – ranging from humour (Defenestration) to horror (Murky Depths), mystery (FMAM) to mainstream (Underground Voices), and everything in between. His work also appears in several paperback anthologies, including the Read by Dawn series, The One That Got Away, and Damnation & Dames. You can follow him at www.briangrantross.com.