My name is Flora Dane. Once I was an ordinary teen. I grew up on my mother’s organic farm in the wilds of Maine, racing through the woods with my older brother Darwin while trying to tame foxes. My mother named me in honor of Florence Nightingale; she wanted my brother and me to dream big.
When I first disappeared, my brother Darwin left college to run the social media campaign pleading for my safe return. He posted candid photos, childhood stories, anything to humanize me so my unknown kidnapper would be less likely to kill me. My mother turned in her mismatched flannels to appear on national news programs begging for my life. She wore a silver fox charm around her throat, and in seedy hotel rooms I would watch the interviews and cry, because whether she or my brother knew it the girl they once loved was already gone.
My name is Flora Dane. Once I was a kidnap victim.
Jacob Ness held me for four hundred and seventy-two days. He was a monster, a beast, who’d lock me in a coffin-sized box for days on end, then show up with my favorite TV show to prove he cared. He’d starve me, then suddenly return with piles of food, new clothes, a special trinket. Jacob broke me. Then he rebuilt me into the playmate he’d always wanted. He told me during all our hours and days together that he would be the most powerful relationship I ever had. He wasn’t wrong.
My name is Flora Dane. I am a vigilante.
I killed Jacob Ness. I put a bullet through his brain as a SWAT team stormed the hotel room and men in black armor screamed at me to put the gun down. I did. Eventually. But every night, I still dream of Jacob. The terrible smell of his breath. The feel of the blood I’ll never get off my hands. The sound of his mocking laugh ringing in my ears. So I took up self-defence. Then firearms training. Then all sorts of things you can do with chemical fire, or plastic straws, or metal bobby pins. It’s been five years now. Some people sleep at night. Personally, I hunt the streets of Boston. I look for the girl I once was – wild, trusting, naïve – and I save her.
While I grow leaner and harder and colder. My brother left the country because the sight of me hurts too much. My mother refuses to give up, even though I flinch at physical contact and no longer return her hugs. She still believes one day her little girl will return to her. She doesn’t know how much I long for the same; I simply know better.
My name is Flora Dane. Once I was a plaything for a monster. Now, I am a hunter of predators. I am a victim. I am a vigilante. But mostly…
I am Flora Dane and I am a survivor.