Her was Alessandra. Nobody knew her last name because no one ever cared to ask. She was 22 when I met her, or should I say… rescued her. Now wait a minute before you offer praise for my kind deed, for many a soul has this young girl encountered yet was never even offered a crumb from the master’s table. So I did what so many other’s had a chance to do, but never cared enough to. She deserved it long ago; to be saved from a life of undeserved terror, neglect and disdain.
It was a cold and rainy Fall evening on the winding mountain passes of Santa Cruz California. The landscape was a beauty to behold and if you have never visited Northern California, then add it to your bucket list. I admired and respected the majestic quality of this place as I hoped others did. Picturesque views like that of a postcard in a land of permanent vacations.
My name is Lucas Heston and I am a 45 year old business man from Duluth Minnesota. I am divorced 3 years and I am married to my work. But I am not important here, Alessandra is. This story is about her; a story that is out of the ordinary. I hope I can tell it in a way that changes you, because it changed me. I hope in some way it changes you.
It was 5:00pm Friday and I had just finished up at the convention, my employer having sent me there to sharpen my trade skills, goal… making him more money. Hey, it was the nature of the beast I thought. This was my fifth time here in Santa Cruz. I loved it here and I always made my way to the boardwalk every time I visited and I always had a great time. Eclectic cuisine and colorful people that had some of the best weed in the Nation. It seemed as if everyone here was in a non-stop comedy where laughter and smiles where the status-quo. Panhandlers even begged with a smile and a nice gesture. Maybe they were onto something here.
I made my way through the droves of California dreamers and I could see how once you were here, it was hard to leave. I rented a bike and cruised the boardwalk in the bike lane slowly. Off in the distance I could see some ominous clouds forming offshore. Surfers paid no mind to the impending threat and surfed onward. I rode up the mountain road taking in all the scenery, enjoying the sense of freedom I felt. I breathed in the fresh air, a breeze that was seasoned with a hint of salt from the Pacific Ocean. I Always loved to hear the ocean off in the distance when I rode here and the familiar flavor of the air comforted me. I seemed to miss these small nuances even more every time I left.
My hotel was a frogs jump from the convention center and I had mentioned to Malcolm at the bike rental shop that if I didn’t return before closing time that I would just pay double and bring the bike back before I departed. It started to sprinkle a little and I felt an urgency to make it to the hotel before it got any worse. I pedaled hard and fast swerving through twists and turns like a ballerina in rhythm. The clouds were now overhead and the darkness they brought was eerily somber, mingled with a touch of uncertainty. A feeling of anxiety washed over me like warm molasses on a scoop of ice cream, encompassing me. I shivered.
Up in the distance I noticed off in a shallow washout what looked like a body. I squeezed the brakes on the rental bike and it let out a low whine as the pads met the aluminum wheel and water before stopping me completely. I got off the bike and hurried down the embankment, the shape now becoming more identifiable the closer I got. It was a female, her hair a disheveled mess of neglect. The rain came down in sheet-bursts. The landscape down this ravine was fast becoming a muddy mess. I slid down, half falling with purpose.
“Madam!” I said anxiously. “Madam are you okay!?”
I slid in next to her and I could tell she was alive, her whimpers giving it away. There were some scratches on her face and her arms had some bruising on them.
“Let me call 911 for you…you need help!” I said felling dutiful.
I reached into the small pack on my waist for my phone, the rain now only drizzling lightly.
“NO!” She yelped suddenly, grabbing my wrist.
“Let me help you! What are you doing in this ditch like this!?” I asked with sincerity.
“Just help me get out of here sir…PLEASE!” She replied skeptically.
I helped her up and made it back topside on the bridge. She walked with a slight limp and I offered her my arm for support. We walked in silence and I could see my hotel about a quarter mile past the bridge. I walked the rental bike in one arm and a strange woman in the other. Darkness had crept in by the time we made it to the hotel and the rain was now a fine mist, more like ocean spray.
“Are you hurt?” I asked as we sat on a bench that overlooked the beach-front.
“I am ok.” She replied, wiping the rain and the tears away with her hands.
“Why were you laying off the side of the road back there?” I said, perplexed.
“Do you have somewhere I can wash up?” She asked ignoring my question.
“Yes…certainly.” I answered and then said, ” My name is Lucas…and you are!?”
“Alessandra.” She answered coyly.
“Nice to meet you Alessandra.” I said with an air of uncertainty.
“Thank you for helping me sir.” She said reaching her hand out.
All I remember from this point on is Alessandra’s hand reaching up and covering my eyes. I could see her laying on a bed, my viewpoint as if I was watching from above, unable to move or speak. It was Alessandra, but younger, I would guess around 13. I saw a man come into her room and approach her. The only light in the room shone through a gap in the curtain was from a distant street lamp outside. Alessandra lay still, riveted by the fear her perpetrator brought with him. I watched in horror as he raped her, his moans of pleasure masking the cries of pain, innocence stolen, lost forever. I wanted to scream out in protest but I was paralyzed by a force I could not explain. I didn’t want to watch anymore and when I could’nt stand another second I was transported to another place in time.
Alessandra was a little older now perhaps 15 I guessed. She sat at a table as a haggard woman cooked eggs in a frying pan. Alessandra’s hands were bound together in front of her and her ankles were fastened to the legs of the chair crudely. The woman cooking would stop cooking periodically long enough to punch and slap her, screaming vulgarities an inch from her ear. She force fed her, stabbing her gums with a fork as she crammed eggs into her mouth. I wanted to scream out but my wanton desire was met with silence. I wondered what evil lived in the hearts of people capable of such things.
A series of visions and dream like scenarios played out before my minds eye. More rapes, beatings and forced drug use. I saw a room full of people getting drunk and high. A big black man used his gun to pistol whip Alessandra for everyone’s entertainment. They pushed her outside at one point and she eventually crawled under the porch to sleep, laying there broken and shamed, her only crime…being born.
Assault after assault, vision after vision the journey went on. Alessandra, from what I could tell, only knew pain and torment. Everyone seemed to use her, inflicting untold evil upon her at every turn. I saw flashes of her life, group homes, foster holmes, a baby abandoned at a fire station which I assumed was how her life of neglect began. I couldn’t understand how so many people could do such things to another human being, but right before my eyes her story unfolded.
My soul wept with Alessandra. Her tears were my tears now and I wanted to make all her fears go away, to fade into the arms of love and acceptance. She looked at me subconsciously, brutality the new normal for her. I watched in horror as so many capable souls ignored her cries for help. They saw her suffering and remained silent, her pain the entertainment for the wicked. She suffered unjustly, being treated like the trash in a human landfill… Depravity personified.
The tide of my visions changed. In a line, I could see all the people who had ever hurt Alessandra. Her rapist met his fate by going insane. He sat on the end of a soiled couch tormented by constant visions of torture and schizophrenic episodes. I watched as he stabbed himself in his jugular vein and bled out. He screamed that the devil and his demons were dragging him to hell as he breathed his last.
I saw the foster mom who beat Alessandra and tied her up being burned with cigarettes in a woman’s prison. She was being tortured and beat in a similar fashion as she inflicted upon Alessandra and I felt an overwhelming sense of satisfaction as I heard her screams for help fall upon deaf ears.
I saw the pistol whipping black man in a room full of mexicans and what I surmised from the vision, he was captured by the cartel. They beat him savagely. They yanked his teeth out of his head one by one. They snipped the digits off his hands one by one and when the pain became to much for him to bare, they would hit him with a stun gun to jolt him awake. They eventually poured gasoline on him and burned him alive.
I saw some of the people that were spectators in the life of Alessandra’s creep show, seeing the injustices and turning a blind eye. Some where going through divorces, foreclosures and legal problems. Some had become victims of rape and domestic violence themselves. Some committed suicide while other’s battled cancer or other forms of life threatening diseases. I could not help but feel that what needed to come full circle, did on these people. It was satisfying to know that some form of justice met evil at the crossroad of fate and karma.
As quick as these visions formed, they dissipated into the grey matter of my minds eye. I now found myself looking at a familiar scene. It was me running down the soggy embankment towards a motionless body. It played out just as I had lived it, except in my vision, there was a multitude of human-like silhouettes on the horizon; body-like images traced with a light of an inexplicable hue. It was other-worldly. It was as if there was a stadium of angelic spectators watching me..seeing if I would do the right thing. I did and the lights, the aura on the horizon seemed to celebrate, their hues and shifting light swirling and mingling in harmony.
I awoke startled, Alessandra’s hand slowly lifting from my eyes. She wasn’t the same person I remembered. There were no scratches or bruises on her face and arms. There was no mud on her clothes, no, matter of fact, she stood before me in pure white, her beauty to behold! She shone with white brilliance only with subtle hues and arrangements of the perfect light. She didn’t say a word to me, she just smiled as if my kindness restored her faith in humanity. I felt anxious as uncertainty washed over me, my mind racing.
The TV in the hotel room suddenly turned on. I turned to look and was shocked to see law enforcement pulling a body out of the ravine where I rescued Alessandra.
“But…” I turned towards Alessandra but she was gone. Vanished!
I finished watching the news of the girl found murdered and I knew it was Alessandra. They didn’t know who she was at this point, but I did. If I would have been a little earlier, perhaps I could have saved her. I wasn’t though. A life of misery that ended in tragedy. It wasn’t fair I thought. Justice in the next life I suppose.
I reflected on my encounter with Alessandra and I tried to make sense of it all. Did it really even happen, I questioned. I could’nt answer that question, but I did know that something extraordinary happened to me that night. I learned not to be a spectator meandering about while a tragedy is unfolding right before my eyes. Any one of us could be one step away from saving someone from the evil that people do, but we may not have the courage to do so. I say , find the courage. My true test came after the fact, but something beyond the here and now turned the tide and tested me. This time I passed.
I slept like a baby that night. I returned the bike and made it to the airport with only minutes to spare before my plane began taxiing for departure. I gazed out the window as the lines on the tarmac blurred into one solid line. In the reflection of my window, a smokey angelic image appeared. It was Alessandra. She was along for the ride. I smiled and shook my head thinking that I might be losing it. I turned to the person next to me and made eye contact. Clearly I was in this seat for a reason as the man began to sob.
“Sir…can I help you?” I asked with empathy as the lights on the horizon mingled and danced in harmony.