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You have to be strong, Sam. You have to strong, for yourself, and for the others, I told myself in my thoughts. This is not the time.

I rose to my feet, my hands wiping away any tears that were trailing down my face. Kate moved from where she was standing, and made her way slowly to the little girl’s side. She sat next to her, and ever so slowly, embraced her in arms. The reaction was immediate. The little girl’s eyes began to mist over, and her lips to began to quiver.  And then the tears flooded forth as she began let out deep sobs.

We all remained there like that for a few minutes, until she suddenly spoke.

“It was my birthday yesterday. Mommy and Daddy had said that I could invite around Saskia and Jenny, and that we’d have a fun time with lots of lollies and cake to eat. And just when I was about to blow out the candles on my cake, someone at the door knocked. ” She paused, and raised her hand to her mouth as a deep fit of coughing overcame her. It lasted but a moment, but when her hand returned to her side, I noticed blood on her face that hadn’t been there a moment before. I looked at Kate. She had seen it as well. Coughing up blood could only mean one thing. Her lungs had been punctured.

Andria continued.

“Daddy went to go and see who it was, as he always does, and that’s when we heard loud noises and shouting. Mummy told us to wait there, and then she went to go see what was happening. I thought it was gona  be a surprise birthday present from Nana and Poppa, so I decided I wanted to see as well. I got there and saw my Daddy on the ground, and there were three men beating Daddy with metal sticks.”

She paused to catch her breath, yet I noticed her breathing was becoming more laboured.

“I first thought it was a game, but when the three men started playing the same game with Mummy, she started crying and screaming. I walked up to one of them and told them that it was not a very nice game that  they were playing and that I wanted them to stop playing now!”

Her hand rose and touched a massive swollen bump at the back of her head.

“The nasty man then hit me on the head with the metal stick. My Daddy, got up from the ground and started punching them. All three of the nasty men then started focusing Daddy in the game. It was then that Mummy took my hand, and started running to the kitchen. We got to the kitchen, and Mummy locked the door, and told us we were going to play a game of hide and seek, and that we could hide anywhere we wanted to in the house! But we couldn’t let the nasty men catch us, or the game would be over and we’d get no birthday cake. Then someone started knocking  on the kitchen door as well. Mummy went over and stood against the door and started counting, and we went to hide. I hid in the library, Saskia said she was gona hide in the cellar, and Jenny said she was gona hide upstairs.”

Another set of violent coughs overcame Andria, wracking her tiny body, and this time she didn’t try to hide the blood that came forth. When she resumed telling us her story, her voice had grown fainter and weaker.

“I hid for hours in the library. But then I got hungry and needed to go pee pee, and I thought Mummy wouldn’t make me lose for that, so I went. I went to the kitchen. Mummy was no longer there. Mummy must still be trying to find me, I thought. I went to the fridge got an apple to eat. When I closed the fridge door, there was a nasty man looking at me. He ran to me and whacked me really hard right here” She pointed at her chest. “And then he picked me up and took me to the cellar. I saw…. I saw..”

She froze, her eyes widening in terror, unable to put into words whatever horror she had seen. Kate leaned over and whispered something in her ear, but I was too far away to hear. She began to softly cry, but surprisingly she continued even though the tears didn’t stop.

“I saw Mommy and Daddy down in the cellar with the nasty men, they both looked like Grandma did when I went to Grandmas funeral. Both white, like flour and neither of them looked at me when I called out to them for help.” She let out a loud sniff “Daddy was hanging upside-down from the ceiling, cut into long slices like you cut up a birthday cake. And Mommy was on the floor, with one of the nasty men on top of her, yet his pants were on the group and I could see the nasty man’s pink bottom.”

She hesitated “They….They…. They put me on a tabl-“

“Stop” replied Kate, tears pouring down her eyes. “Just rest. Close your eyes and go to sleep.”

She gently began to stroke the parts of Andria’s hair that hadn’t been ripped out.

“Close your eyes and go to sleep, and when you awake up, it will all have been just a bad nightmare”

Andria did as she was told and closed her eyes. Her breathing grew quieter and quieter until it eventually stopped altogether.

She was dead.