Sunday, March 18, 2012

chapter one (in editing)

She floated in the pleasant mid-world of darkness somewhere between asleep and awake, a sensation of floating in cotton wool pervaded her entire being, her body numb, little more than a dull awareness. Deeper shadows danced beyond her eyelids, mere hints of movement beyond in the waking world. Sounds buzzed irrepressible almost but not quite identifiable, and an alien but unmistakable smell of disinfectant permeated into her consciousness enveloping the world beyond. She was at peace... reluctant to re-enter the world, but knowing she must.
Slowly she became more and more aware of the bustling activity around her. A half memory tried to rise within her mind, some unpleasant errant and insistent thought, hovering just beyond the verge, attempting to be known, battering on the window pane of her existence like an incessant infuriated insect. Unable to focus on it she scowled as she mentally batted it away, annoyed at the intrusion into her peaceful state."A while longer" this drifting mind pleaded longingly to its self. The world of the waking though has a relentless habit of dragging you, kicking and screaming into it however reluctant you may be.

She dreamily focused on the myriad of sounds around her (still unwilling to commit to truly awakening and opening her eyes) enjoying the peace she was feeling. Two muted voices could be heard drifting through the haze of half sleep, the accents were rich in brogue with the never ending rolling R's and only a hint where the T's should be. There was something strangely reassuring and soothing in the down to earth matter of fact manner of tones, distantly familiar some how. Was she home? .

Musing distractedly she mentally translated the conversation as the tones wove on outside her private world. The mind absently constructing images to go with the voices she heard. She could almost see them in her minds eye, or more, rather who she fancied they 'Should' be, motherly souls, the female consciousness decided, of the kind that's all bosom, and grins from well weathered good natured faces. Slightly plump perhaps with short but wild salt and peppered hair. The type that's generally named Mary, or June or some other rather dependable sort of name, always ready with a hankie, or an occasional band aid, which ever was needed most at the time.

They were (it could only be described as) clucking over her..."Poor wee soul" one sighed, her accent dripping with the scent of heather and the texture of hessian. The drifter christened this one Mary, the deep dependable tones continued with an air of empathic resignation "Aye.. she'll be in a world o'h hurt when she wakes so she will" said the voice (comments not exactly encouraging her to arouse from the twilight) the brogue of the native land still full and rich "Its as well she's the way she is then" said the second, the accent only slightly more faded, but slightly richer with earthier tones, suggestive of bracken and burlap, this one had to be a June thought the drifting mind wryly. You could hear the dependability in these tones too, but it was coupled with a sense of geniality bubbling up ever so slightly from under the surface.

"Aye, am guessing yer right at that" the (should be) Mary sighed. "Shes only a slip o'h a thing really, canny be mair than... ohh its difficult ta say really considering, but surely got to be in her... 20's perhaps?". "Could be, could be" the 'possible' June replied, "Did they find out who she is yet?" The drifting mind idly eavesdropped. The two immigrants continued in their lilting tones, though the drifter moved sluggishly further away as an odd cold sensation tingled in an arm, that until now, she was only vaguely aware she possessed. She could feel it spreading and growing as she was floating, spiraling, deeper into the velvet darkness of unconsciousness that cradled her in its loving arms as the voices continued to murmur indistinctly in the distant world of the waking.

The voices in actual fact belonged to two middle aged and distinctly different women, who were in fact called Irene and Isobel. Both did indeed have graying hair but there (as is often the case) the similarity to what the mind imagined ended. Irene was rather tall and wiry with a pinched but kindly face, her blue gray eyes sparkled as though she could see the punch line of life that others could not, and her brown/gray hair was strictly pinned back into a sensible bun. Her tone was hushed into conspiratorial tones "They may ne'er find out who she is unless shes a mind to tell em, an by the looks o'h her it may well be something she'd rather forget." "Aye Rene, poor wee soul does look as though shes been through it fer sure" Isobel agreed.

Shorter but no less capable looking Isobel was of the type that exuded bustle, the type that 'got things done' usually in the most efficient manner possible.(Isobel's body fitted to this efficient mindset. Just enough bulk as was needed for strength to get things done). As they chatted away they worked efficiently, to do the deeds that need be done. The soft clank of a bucket was drowned out at times by their banter. Occasionally pausing for somber reflection amidst their never ending chores.

Whilst the two women were undoubtedly Irene and Isobel, you could almost feel as though, hidden below the surface, they both had a secondary name and shape hovering inside them as well. Names and shapes that they "should" of been. Isobel paused in her dusting and nodded towards the only other bed in the small room "Theirs another coming in later" said Isobel nodding towards the remaining  vacant bed "There's a'ways

And then, finally, the eyes of the drifter opened. Ghosts of memory's stirred her soul as though a breeze was blowing them away, dissipating them before she could catch a full glimpse. A sensation of running, a hint of pursuit, of fear, all faded as awareness gently aroused her. It was dark, a deep velvet darkness that shrouded you reassuringly within its folds. At first she wasn't sure her eye lids had cooperated, but slowly as her eyes adjusted, she could make out faint shadows and the even fainter light.
She turned her head, yes there was definitely an outline of a window that way. Drapes were drawn but just a touch of light ebbed sluggishly out from the edges of the folds. For now that was all she could make out. Turning the other way she could see a door with the promise of a light hinting out from behind. It seemed to her as though she was floating, disconnected from things. Everything looked wrong, all most fuzzy. Silence permeated the space, cloaking the world within its cape. The scent of hospitals heavy in the air as she blinked trying to focus her eyes, rubbing at them she sat up, or more (as it seemed to feel) floated into a sitting position. She felt almost disembodied as though in part she was still drifting in her dreams. For a second she even wondered if she was a ghost, then shook her head at this foolish fantasy.

Swinging her feet over the bed she either stood or floated up, it was difficult to tell which. She headed first to the window (her head swimming as the world tilted) unwilling to face beyond the door for now, wanting time to collect herself, to anchor to this new state of being. She had almost reached the window when a voice erupted out of the darkness. "So you came back then?" she flinched and span around (arm poised in the air) as she felt her heart race out of her chest, searching for the source of the voice (that she was sure, damned well nearly did turn her into a ghost).

 Taking a deep breath she peered around the room in confusion " Er... so it would seem... where are you?". "Over here on the chair, sorry to startle you" the voice en-toned in a texture of no nonsense thick woven cotton. Startle was the understatement of the year she'd bloody near just had a heart attack... still she shrugged, at least she was in the right place for one. It wasn't that the voice was menacing, far from it, it sounded like every ones favorite grandmother... it was just rather... well it had been very sudden and completely, absolutely, unexpected.

In the corner of the room a shadow arose, detaching itself from the deeper surrounding gloom. Moving towards the window, it swept back the drapes with a swish. All this really did was illuminate the outline of a shape that brought to mind a roughly built snowman. "I didn't mean to intrude but iv been, as it were, sort of watching over you in a manner of speaking. It just didn't seem right you being on your own and all," the voice emanated from the shape in smooth soothing kindly tones, hinting at apples, and honey, and the possibility of cookies to come.
The newly aware patient allowed herself to sink onto the edge of the nearest bed. She wondered distractedly if there was some unfinished knitting now residing on the chair from which the woman had arisen. A shiver crept up her spine whilst struggling with the some what disturbing thought of some unseen stranger watching her as she slept. Unbidden dark thoughts tried to struggle to the surface again, she shook her head clearing them away certain that they were not connected to this... watcher?... this...good Samaritan?... what ever she was.
Struggling for a reply all that could be managed was a rather lame "ohh... em thank you... that was very...hmm kind of you" she said vaguely as she peered around, the now, moonlit room. Of the two beds, the one nearest to the door held a shape or rather an undistinguished mass heaped in the center, the head was swathed with bandages, just a hint of a wisp of hair peeking out from under them. What was showing of the face was swollen and bruised. Shadows danced as lights blinked rhythmically on various monitors around her. The newly awakened figure shook her self, feeling waves of empathy, for the wretched soul who lay there. Sorrow welling up from within her washing over her very being in sad reverie.

..."Oh don't mention it lass" the voice brought her back (thankfully) from her empathic reflections. "I'm Agnes by the way, just in case you don't recognize me like this...i expect your feeling a little confused, a little out of it but not to worry that's perfectly normal under the circumstances." Agnes moved from out in front of the window, the moonlight now illuminating her kindly smile. Confused wasn't the least of it thought the now fully awake young woman wryly, Alice must of felt like this as she tumbled down that bloody rabbits burrow. "Just a bit" she managed weakly.

It struck her that she better introduce herself to this Agnes person . "I'm..." she paused " I'm..." well this was rather stupid she was damned if she could remember her own name. She stood up looking around hopelessly, feeling panic starting to rise, what the hell had happened to her. "Ohh..." tones rumbled soothingly from the formidable shape of Agnes as she bustled forward and took a hand patting it vaguely, and at that second the world seemed to lurch. Everything blurred then refocused she had the strangest feeling that things felt different, still wrong but in a different way.

The concerned old lady lead her gently to the chair in the corner (surprisingly lacking in unfinished knitting) "Its like that is it... it happens that way sometimes love don't you worry though it'll come back to you, don't stress yourself over it." she felt obliged to allow herself to be seated by this managing figure. "Your names Sharona dear." "Oh..ummm thank you" her mind raced wildly. Alice, she thought, seemed a much better fit of a name. Sharona seemed so... well so... normal, not in the least bit fitting in the circumstances.

"Are you sure that's my name?... it doesn't feel quite er...right" "Oh yes quite sure, we've met a time or two" Agnes paused and seemed to feel the need to qualify this... "before i mean". Before what exactly? Sharona (or possibly Alice) mused.  "Where am i exactly?" she asked hoping that that might shake loose some hint of a memory."Your in a hospital love" Agnes revealed rather obviously, her voice that was beginning to feel something like a woolly blanket to the soul (you kept expecting her to hand you a hot water bottle and some warm milk) which oddly enough she knew should be soothing, but right now was (rather irrationally) beginning to slightly irritate her. No body could be that sweet surely?.

Smiling ironically at the reply she tried again... "Yes, i kind of worked that bit out" she stated deliberately... "But what i meant is what hospital exactly and where?" Sharon asked meticulously hoping to illicit a slightly more useful answer. The light dawned on the kindly well worn face "Ohhh i see yes... well its St James memorial in Nine Wells " the well meaning woman beamed a smile at her as though she had just imparted the wisdom of the ages. "Oh .. i see.... um.... thank you" Sharona sank deeper into the chair.

That name sounded familiar at least, vague images arose in her mind of a vast rambling building or rather a collection of them on the edge of an even more rambling old town that wound its self over and around numerous small but steep hills, bordered on all sides by a flat, if slightly squishy, landscape. The trouble was the images all felt slightly wrong and foreign, not connected to herself... like she was merely a visitor. It didn't help stir up the silt of her memory in so far as who she was, how did she get here or, for that matter, who this strange grandmotherly apparition was in front of her.

Sharona's head swam... it felt full of cotton wool, she was fairly certain that she'd been asleep for some time, but for all that, she didn't feel the slightest bit refreshed, drained possibly... confused definitely... a little scared perhaps but certainly not refreshed. Agnes distractedly prowled the room, almost as though she was inspecting it, she watched bemused half expecting her to run a finger across a metaphoric mantelpiece to check for dust

She became aware that the older woman was not only talking to her but was also now peering rather perceptively at her, with a piercing bright blue gaze ".... First time out often gets you that way, tired are you?. Feeling like the stuffing's been knocked out of you?. Don't worry it gets easier" she said as she moved closer back to the chair. Sharona looked longingly at the inviting empty bed, tired didn't begin to describe it she wasn't even sure she could make it to the bed. "Perhaps i should just sit here a while" she hinted in what she hoped was a polite invitation for Agnes to leave, kindly though the woman was and nice of her to watch over her for sure but she emanated a sheer vitality that was draining her all the quicker. She wondered absently if perhaps they should alert the nurse that was, undoubtedly, out in the hall somewhere to the fact she was awake.
(Although she surmised wryly to herself, that may be a very temporary state.)
She was rather surprised when the bustling figure of Agnes answered what she had until now presumed to be the unspoken thought. With a final pat to Sharona's hand Agnes drew herself to full height "Them" she sniffed dismissively as she ran a finger along the windowsill "they don't got the sense that god gave em. Those out there don't see beyond their own nose and will just upset you more, for now best to leave em be love. They wont pay you no heed anyway, you just rest and get yourself together a bit, get used to your self as it were. Little steps at first" she advised.

The world had shunted again as Agnes spoke, things swam in and out of focus, had she not been seated Sharona was sure she would of fallen. Things seemed to be fading around her as the old woman spoke but it seemed as though she was now far away in a tunnel somewhere, she could hear words but couldn't quite understand them now. Blackness swam in again to claim her... she didn't resist.
Who knows how long later, a door banged shut. Sharona's eyes flew open as she flinched awake, her body automatically poised for flight in an instant. There was the traditional brief second of who am i, where am i, how did i get here,  as the mind tried to take stock of the current situation. Sharona shook her head, two out of three ain't bad she guessed wryly as her memory re-ran her last waking moments. They were no less confusing the second time around
It was day, the glaring bright light shining through the opened blinds told her that. Now if she could only turn those amazingly deductive reasoning skills to figure out who she was. She smiled and looked around the decidedly uncheerfull room. The bed by the door still held the misshapen mass of the poor soul who still seemed to be asleep, or possibly (if you took into account her appearance) blessedly unconscious. Some one else evidently had been into the room at some point as the other bed was crisply and neatly made up in the traditional strict hospital manner that would make any military personnel jealous. You could definitely bounce a coin off of it (possibly a small tank too).
Who ever it was must of considerately decided not to disturb her rest in the chair.
There was no sign of Agnes, Sharona was unsure if this was a blessing or not. It would be nice to see a familiar face in this somewhat strange waking world. Although she pondered if the few minutes that they had met really qualified as making her familiar. Either way as things stood Agnes at least seemed to be familiar with Sharona, more it would seem, familiar with Sharona than Sharona was with her self. The thoughts them self seemed to tire and confuse her more. She shook her head in an attempt to clear it. That strange disconnected sensation persisted. She felt as though part of her was missing, and whilst she reasoned to herself that indeed huge bloody great lumps of her life appeared to be missing, a nagging errant though told her there was more to it than that. Theoretically she should be scared, but in actual fact all she really had the energy to muster was a quite, reserved curiosity.
The door half opened and a small child popped her head into the room, owlishly wide eyes looked around the room her gaze settling on Sharona. A mass of blond curls framed the face, then shining blue eyes blinked. The eyes seemed older than the child, they seemed to hold wisdom beyond her years yet coupled with a curiosity that only an innocent could hold. Then suddenly she was gone. The head darting back out into the hall within the space of a second and the door closing softly on the now empty space. "Wait" Sharona called, even though she knew it was to late, the child had gone.
Curiously she rose, something inside telling her that she had to talk to the child. Some deep unconscious recognition perhaps. Sharona swept through the door into the vomit beige hallway beyond. Door after door lined the hall in their curious moldy bread shade of green, well worn tiles covered the floor, in what she supposed was meant to be a marble pattern. People busily went about their business paying her no
attention. Nurses, orderlies, the odd cleaner and what she presumed from the lack of uniforms were visitors milled or strode down the corridor, the hum of voices drifted around with a quite echo quality. The effect was somewhat like being in the middle of an ant colony, or a beehive. Each person seemed to be totally disconnected from the rest, and yet was efficiently getting on with its own task as quickly as possible amidst the bustle.
Politely and gingerly she touched the arm of a passing elderly gent. Sharona asked "Did you see a small child?, which way did she go?" she spoke some what hurriedly (fighting that familiar lurching sensation). He looked at her with a startled surprised expression as though she was an unexpected but not unwelcome alien. She looked past him just in time to catch a glimpse of the retreating figure of the child. She was turning into another corridor about 10 doors down, half skipping half running.
Sharona took off after her, weaving her way through the crowds, eyes peeled for another glimpse. Again she had the oddest feeling of being Alice in wonderland, neon strip light after neon strip light passed over head as she ran through a warren of disinfected halls. She was wondering whether this little girl was her white rabbit when Up ahead the child stopped and turned around. Sharona cautiously slowed down, not wanting to frighten the girl. The child stood quite calmly, clutching a small brown slightly ragged teddy bear in one arm. An open but shy smile crossed her face as Sharona got closer, then with a giggle, she span around and raced off again.
Sharona swore under her breath as the child was once more lost out of sight. Looking around she realized it would be easy to get lost in these maze like corridors, she could only just about remember the way back as it was. Turning she headed back to her room at a more dignified pace than she'd left, wishing as she did that she'd taken note of the room number.
She randomly opened door after door, The rooms were all utilitarian and all the same (two beds, a comfortable overstuffed easy chair in one corner, and a less comfortable hard backed chair by each bed), and all or rather most had either one or two occupants recumbent on the beds, all were (it seemed) sleeping, a varying number of wires and tubes seem to extrude from them hooking them to a variety of sinister looking machines . Occasionally one or two additional figures were in the room presumably visiting, some would look around curiously at her as she muttered a brief apology for intruding. Most would simply ignored her. The staff seemed to ignore her too, rather lax security in this place she thought, it would seem just about any body could stroll around at will.
"Excuse me" a voice called out from behind the door of the room she'd just looked in upon. A figure emerged from the door way. Sharona turned towards the voice "I'm really sorry, i was looking for my room, i eh... seem to of forgotten the number" she explained slightly embarrassed. And that was when the thought struck her... Oh... My... God!!! she thought as realization hit her like a runaway freight train...
Hospital!, I'm in a hospital, a bloody hospital, I'm a patient, that means, she looked down at herself, yep she was in a gown, Oh My God! she repeated, iv been running hell for leather around a hospital wearing a gown with my ass hanging out the rear end, the thought dawned on her in horror. She was more than slightly embarrassed now, she felt mortified, she stifled another oh my god as her hand flew behind her in an attempt to ensure the gown was closed. Shuffling around so her back was against the wall she could feel the mother of all blushes rising to her face.
All of this seemed to pass totally unnoticed by the voice, or rather the figure belonging to the voice. "Oh that's OK, no problem, i was just wondering if you needed any help was all". Caught in the throes of humiliation all Sharona could really do was murmur "Er... thanks... no its OK... its around here somewhere" wishing fervently that she'd never left the bloody thing. She inched along the wall trying not to expose herself any more than was absolutely necessary and grasped at the next door. Peering in over her shoulder she recognized the figure on the bed. "Ahh see i found it" she called out gratefully and darted in. Swearing at her own stupidity she stalked over to the chair and sank down into it. She could still feel the hot flush radiating from her face.
The door swung open and the figure from the hall entered, the deep ebony of her skin receded behind the broad bright white smile beaming on her face, it was distinctly possibly that all you would remember about this figure of a woman was the smile, the features all seemed secondary to it every thing else faded into the back ground. "First time is it?" she asked Sharona. "Excuse me?" thoughts were swimming confusingly in her mind, she felt as though she should in theory understand the question. "Its the gown you see, sort of a give away."
Sharona had the feeling that she was only hearing half the conversation, she heard the words, she understood the words, they just currently didn't seem to make much sense. "My first time took me quite by surprise, tell me have you met the others yet?" "Others?" Sharona asked blankly. "Yes... others... there's generally more than one you see, except for the poor souls on ward 18" Sharona's brow wrinkled as she  tried to make sense of the conversation. "I'm really sorry but I'm not quite sure what your talking about. Ward 18?" "Yes ward 18. Its where they put the poor souls, the so called 'insane', you know." with this last statement she had leaned in closer tapping the side of her nose as though she was in the know. Sharona was getting the feeling that at least one of them perhaps belonged in ward 18 themselves, but she was beginning to be rather unsure of which one.
The rather perplexing woman strode towards the bed looking down almost absently at the figure upon it. Sharona watched her blankly, her mind felt as though it was likely to implode. "Per...perhaps i should call a nurse I'm feeling... well rather unwell" The woman looked at her oozing sympathy, "Yes it can feel that way" the woman boomed "Its all in the mind though you know" she declared abruptly, her tones were matter of fact and clipped. "There's no talking to the likes of the nurses though" again the same almost dismissive tones that Agnes had used towards them, "There like sheep, just trundling along not knowing anything, hardly aware at all" she shrugged "Any way" the figure continued in a warmer manner "I'm generally in room 104 if you need anything or just fancy a chat OK, the names Martha" she held out a broad powerful hand expectantly, she seemed friendly enough, odd but friendly. "Sharona...nice to meet you" Sharona replied her voice still vague with confusion, nice but confusing as hell she thought, taking the woman's hand.
Her head swam as the woman pumped enthusiastically in a hand shake that was likely to shake loose a persons teeth. Sharona tried to focus on the here and now as she watched the woman retreat out of the door. What the hell was that she wondered. She might not remember who she was or anything about her life but she really,really hoped that that had been the most confusing conversation of it, if not then she was definitely a candidate for ward 18.
Well whether she was or whether she wasn't she decided, it was time to alert a nurse or a Dr or somebody in authority to the fact that she was now awake. Moving over to the empty bed she pushed the call button, and remembering her ass was hanging out of her gown, she turned towards the door and waited for a nurse to enter. And then, she waited some more.
No one came. Very efficient she thought sarcastically as she stalked towards the door then paused, unwilling to repeat her last performance. She looked around the room hoping to find a dressing gown of sorts.  And of course non were there. Her eyes rolled and she sighed of course that would of been to dammed easy. Oh well she thought nothing for it.
Opening the door gingerly she looked down the corridor (determinedly keeping as much of her ass as possible in the room). Spotting a nurse coming out of another room she called out "Excuse me nurse" the nurse turned and walked in her direction.
Then walked on past her, completely and totally ignoring her, "excuse me nurse" she tried again, but the woman just kept on walking till she reached a room three doors past and entered it.
What the.... thought Sharona indignantly. A middle aged man turned to look at her curiously as he walked by. Well I'm obviously not bloody invisible she thought to herself. Another nurse appeared in the hall way "Hallo nurse, hello excuse me" she hollered this time waving her arm out into the hall in the hope of being noticed, were they all deaf? she wondered. Again this one just ignored her and carried on as though she weren't there. A few bemused glances from the throng of the hall way were turned her way.
She ducked back into her room unwilling to embarrass herself any further today. What the hells going on she thought to herself, confusion waring with anger waring with panic. Curling up on the chair she tucked up her knees hugged her arms around them, and hands on her shoulders she laid her head upon her forearm in a sort of upright fetal position, eyes closed as she tried to make sense of things.

"Getting your self worked up are you dear?" Sharona recognized the voice of Agnes before she looked up, she hadn't even heard her enter the room. "Well its difficult not too" she snapped back then felt immediately guilty for snapping at the woman "I'm sorry, it just been a very confusing very strange frustrating day so far." "Ahhhh... I see" Agnes smiled sympathetically. "its just..." Sharona carried on, shed had enough, "I don't know what the hells going on, I don't even know who I am, where I come from, why I'm here. The nurses act like I'm a... like I'm some sort of flipping ghost, which i know i cant be because you see me, folk in the hall see me, even some strange old biddy down the hall sees me." she wailed.
Agnes patted her on the shoulder in a sort of manner designed to bring comfort, but it didn't work, Sharona was too worked up, too confused, too scared, her head was swimming the world was tipping and compared to life in general (that she remember that is) Alice in bloody wonderland had it dammed easy. She burst in to tears, any one would of, she thought defiantly. A thought occurred to her "What drugs have they been giving me" she demanded, as though expecting  Agnes to know.