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The world came back to me, or rather, I came back to it, in blurry stages. First there was the noise, a steady dripping of liquid somewhere nearby. A tap, a leak? I didn’t know. The next stage was emotion – around me, in the air, lying across me like a wet blanket, the weight of yucky feelings. It took me a groggy while to identify them, they were so mixed. Some blend of grief, confusion, anger… guilt. Disbelief. The dripping I could have ignored, but the feelings were more persistent, and started to bring me around.
Awareness began to return to me, but wakefulness did not. I struggled against the overwhelming power of my own unconsciousness. I couldn’t have said how long. Indeterminate time. I tried to move. My body totally ignored my request. I tried to open my eyes. Couldn’t. I started to feel the pale, sluggish beginnings of panic. Was I paralysed? What had happened to me? Where was I? My breathing sped up.
Good – I was breathing. I was aware of my chest rising and falling, and of air moving in and out of my nostrils. I concentrated on calming down and getting control of my body back so I could get some answers.
Complex movement patterns like sitting up seemed out of the question so I moved my attention to my fingers. They were harder to isolate than they should have been, and I didn’t know for sure whether they did what I wanted when I willed them to wiggle. Something was wrong with my nerves, or with my brain, or with… I didn’t know. Was I tied up? Drugged?
I couldn’t command my own body. I was helpless. I tried again to sit up, or to roll over, anything, focusing every ounce of energy I had on throwing myself to the side.
There was a loud clatter of things falling onto a hard floor, and the sudden pitch of voices, the words tumbling over one another in my ears, making little sense.
“… waking up…”
“… is typical… mess. She’s got no control…”
“… more sedative?”
“No, she’s had…”
I didn’t recognise the muddle of accented tones but heard them getting closer, felt the accompanying concern that came with them, and my dim panic skyrocketed. I jerked to the other side, hoping to roll away and onto my feet.
My body didn’t move. Something on my other side smashed like glass. The noise terrified me, and above me, I heard something pop. A splash of liquid burst on the floor. A door slammed. Someone made a noise of fright. Maybe it was me?
“… trying to move… out as magic…”
“… in pain? Is…”
“Can’t you do something?”
I stopped my attempts at struggle. I knew that voice. My awareness of my body was so vague but I felt a firm hand close over mine and hold it tightly, warmly. My escalating fear plateaued, at least enough that when the voice spoke again, I heard it and understood it.
“Aristea,” it said, “it’s alright. It’s over. You’re safe. You’re safe…”
And my awareness dipped away once again into unconsciousness.