This is not my child.
That was all I could think.
“Honey?” said my husband. “Is everything all right?”
“Who is this?” I said, staring at the little girl I’d never seen before, standing in my house, dressed in my daughter’s clothes. “Where is Liza?”
My husband gave me a worried look, and the girl-who-was-not-Liza looked positively terrified.
“What do you mean?” said my husband. “Are you feeling all right?”
Why was he evading my question? Why couldn’t he just answer? I took a deep breath, tried to remain calm.
“I’ll be all right,” I said, “as soon as you tell me where my daughter is.”
My husband frowned, and the little girl’s eyes welled up with moisture. My husband placed a protective hand over her shoulder, and leaned down to whisper in her ear.
“Go on upstairs, honey,” he said. “Mommy’s not feeling well.”
The girl wasted no time in doing what he said. She clutched her schoolbooks to her chest and barreled past me, rushing up the stairs. I heard the door of my daughter’s room slam. The look on my husband’s face was a mix of pity and restrained anger.
“You haven’t been taking your medication,” he said. “Don’t try to deny it, I can see it in your eyes.”
I waved my hand in a dismissive gesture.
“I don’t need them,” I said. “They make my mind all fuzzy.”
The anger on my husband’s face became less restrained. Well-etched frown lines beneath his lips deepened.
“Do you remember what happened the last time you said that?” he asked.
The suggestion was enough. A swarm of shattered and confused images flooded my mind, like the wave of nausea that comes before vomit. My husband screaming, covered in blood.
Look what you made me do! he was shrieking. Look what you made me do!
I felt the floor tilt beneath me, and before I knew what had happened, I found myself falling backwards into my husbands arms. Hot tears were streaming down my cheeks, and my body convulsed with violent sobs.
My husband gently brushed my hair and whispered in my ear.
“Shhh,” he cooed. “It’s not real, honey. I promise that it’s not real.”
I silently nodded my assent. I let him carry me up to our bedroom and lay me gently down on the bed. He walked over to the dresser where he kept the cocktail of drugs that I took every day to maintain my sanity. I swallowed them gratefully.
Soon my mind was going fuzzy, I could feel myself becoming a pliable zombie that could be told anything, made to do anything.
Of course I knew that it was wrong, that that girl was not Liza. I knew that it wasn’t me who had been driven insane by our daughter’s death, but my husband. I knew he had kidnapped that girl when she was a toddler, and brainwashed her into believing she was Liza.
But, most importantly, I knew that if I didn’t take my pills, if I shattered his precariously built illusion, that he would kill the girl and start all over again.
Just like he did the last time.
Credit: Like is Strange Me Too (author)