“My favorite journey is looking out the window.” ― Edward Gorey
Windows to the Past
Dominika Aristov paused to catch her breath. The glow of the lamp highlighted her image in the window. Domi gazed off into the darkness and saw the picture of the Polist River near the village of Zhilino where she lived. The river cut across the valley below her second-story room she shared with four other girls. She spent most of her free time looking out the window watching the river make its way down the valley.
She thought one day she would go to the road and catch a ride to Staraya Russa near Lake Ilmen, find work, and wait for life to find her. How far she’d traveled from that dream. Ivan and the Black Dragons had given her life she could never dream of before. Domi didn’t want to look back and feel all of that pain again.
Ivan saw Domi grow silent, staring into the night kept at bay by the lamp in the garden.
“Come, dear. Sit down with me and let’s figure this out. You don’t have to tell me everything. Let’s concentrate on those things you feel important to how you went from Russia to Korea and here. Somewhere in your past is the answer to why we are here together.”
Domi sat down next to Ivan. Perhaps it was best if he knew more about her past. She never talked about her past when they met. Ivan accepted her at first sight and never hesitated a moment in captivating her mind and stealing her heart. Domi looked into Ivan’s eyes and touched his cheek.
“Are you sure you want to know?”
“Yes. Nothing can change what we have together now. It can only add light to our future.”
Domi remembered riding with her captors to Estonia and a large estate. Everything passed by like a waking dream. She remembered a doctor with a green dress under her white lab coat. The doctor examined her every few days and told Jade, the woman who helped abduct her, what to feed her and what medicines to give her.
She soaked in a tile bath sunk into the floor of a room covered in the same green tile from floor to ceiling. The heated bath held an aromatic liquid that reflected the green hue of the tiles and light on her skin. She soaked in the slick fluid then Jade or two Estonian girls massaged the coating from the bath into her skin. Afterward, she showered and repeated the process in the evening.
“Someone always attended to me. I have no idea what my abductors did or why.” Domi’s voice trailed off as more visions filled her mind.
“I wonder if it’s the same as the bath you and Lee use. You also use the healing massages. It almost sounds as if you were in the hands of the Dragons since the beginning.” Ivan engaged Domi, pulling her along through her thoughts.
“They seemed different from the Dragons we know now. The theme of colors for the house and the people there all seemed green, unlike the Black Dragons who use black and red. They never talked about one minute of my past or my parents. The orphanage or my abduction was never mentioned either. They seemed only intent on my health.”
“Did they ever tell you any reason for what they were doing with you?” Ivan led Domi back to that period in her life with his questions.
“Everything seemed so out of focus,” Domi replied.
“Jade always wore green, like Imperial Jade jewelry. She only said that they wanted to save me. I was in danger at the orphanage, and they had to get me out of there. That day was their only chance, she said.”
“Did you feel endangered?” Ivan asked.
“The gymnastics coach and the male orderly at the orphanage took a particular interest in me. They used me for their own pleasures, and I felt my life slipping away. I couldn’t bear it. I don’t think I could have lived through it anymore. That was the only thing I wanted to escape that I feared.” Domi dropped her head down and avoided Ivan’s eyes. She sensed his hurt from her confession.
Tears welled up as Domi recalled the men’s laughter at her agony and harsh treatment. She felt again how they forced themselves down her throat and slapped her for trying to resist. She choked back the sobs of that lost and traumatized girl. The pain of remembering them entering her below took her breath. They pulled her hair and head back so hard it forced them into her. There was never enough time for her body to heal before they were at her again. The reality of her trauma came back to her. Domi inhaled a stuttered breath and tried to go on.
“Did you have the sensations during the abuse?” Ivan searched for small hints of what Domi’s life was like.
“Yes. I tried to hide it. Sometimes, when the men did things to me it overwhelmed me, and I couldn’t stop it. It encouraged them to do more to me than I could take. I just shut down and pretended I wasn’t in the room anymore. When they didn’t get any reaction from me, they would hurt me more.”
Ivan could see this was too painful for Domi to talk about now. It was enough. He decided to move on.
“You said Jade checked you to see if you had these sensations or any mutations from the epigenetic treatments you received as a toddler.”
“Yes. Jade gave me a drug that paralyzed me, but I was still awake when she did it.”
“Domi, how could she know you had these genetic nucleotide treatments from your father and the intense sensations that came as a result of this treatment?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think Jade knew at first. But, when she checked me on the path and gave me the massages later, I felt it. I tried to hide it. She could tell. She felt it too. It was intense with her.”
“Did you bond with her like you did Lee?”
“Yes. Jade’s attention and my sensations felt good, and I began to feel stronger. She was gentle with me after that day in the wood. I sensed she was looking after me. I always felt frightened. I didn’t know what they wanted from me. Jade and the others were never hostile to me. I wasn’t used to that. I wanted to run away but was too afraid to try. I just did what they told me.”
“Were there others like you there?” Ivan could see the patterns develop that seemed similar to the Black Dragons, but they didn’t have green color as a symbol of their society. Ivan wondered if there were other secret societies like the Black Dragons or if this group was an enclave of the Black Dragons. A chill ran down his spine as he thought about the possibility that this underground trafficking in young females to the Dragons for experimentation was a global effort.
Domi looked at Ivan. Her eyes were wide and distant. He could see she remembered something that gripped her mind like the talons of a bird of prey.
“Yes. There were other girls.” Domi recognized what she recalled and knew what it meant.
“They were all young with no parents or family, like me.”
Domi recalled her time in Korea at the school she went to after her rescue from the orphanage and the evil men that abused her. The faces of Lee, Gloria, Jasmine, Khulan, Jade, and Faith all smiled back from her memory of them. Although her Dragon Sisters became the salvation she needed, Jade’s loss still felt bitter. She loved her Dragon Sister for saving her life and being the first person to show her kindness. Domi sat on the edge of the bed and cried harder than she had in years.