Wash it all away
She felt taut — trembling like a wire that had just been flicked. Her stomach knotted with deep-seated fear. It seemed to seep into her very core, this terror. The source, though — she couldn’t place it.
A guttural, horrible cry echoed around her. Her throat ached, and she realized that the sound had emitted from her. The strain of it only contributed to her violent shudders. She was disoriented — nothing seemed to make sense. She thrashed, the whole room becoming a blur.
Clenching her eyes shut, a vision of gold, slitted eyes bored fiercely into her. It was inescapable, this terror. She felt the wet warmth of tears trace down her cheeks.
She was soon distracted from her inner torment by a weight on her arm. There was something almost painfully cold, and somehow, comforting on her feverish flesh. Then the voice, soft spoken and calm, soothed her.
There was a firm pressure; a pinprick. The stinging sensation brought a fragment of memory to mind, enough to set her into a full panic once more.
"No!" she screamed out. She thrashed more violently. There was more pressure — a crushing, painful weight, holding her down.
Then stillness enveloped her, and she welcomed it with relief. As she sunk into the dark abyss, the terror clung to her. She could not escape the vision of the serpent’s watching, unforgiving, unblinking eyes.
She opened her eyes. The world was nothing but a faintly glowing blur. She blinked. The scene before her came into focus, and began to make sense.
It was a window. Rain spattered the panes. The faint light that managed to filter through the clouds was almost too much for her painful, tired eyes. The rain, the water, stirred a fear in the pit of her stomach. A flash of a memory, water gushing from a mouth — the lips blue. She took a few, deep breaths, willing the image away.
A baby doll, tattered and worn, sat on the window sill. She blinked again, focusing on it. Bathed in the light from the window, it seemed almost angelic. It brought a slight sense of comfort, this symbol of childhood innocence.
As she studied it, her vision began to clear further. She realized its head was cracked, just above the right eye. Those eyes, they were the sort that would blink when you tilted it, and close when you put her to sleep. She'd had a similar one when she was a little girl. She had an assortment of dresses for it — still had, actually. It waited for her on her bed at home amongst an assortment of stuffed animals.
This one was stained, its clothes shabby. No, not shabby — well loved. It was was a comfort, had brought comfort to many before her.
There was a dragging sort of sound in the room. She started, tearing her gaze from the doll. Tensing, she half expected — what? Only fear filled the place in her mind where the memory should be. Something terrible. She caught sight of the source of the sound, and relief washed over her. A little nurse with a shuffling pace, came to her bedside. She let out the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.
The dark, wizened little woman smiled at her. "Doing better today, Miss Casey?"
Casey nodded. That was her name. Casey. She returned the little woman's smile, thankful for the gift she'd given her — her name. It fit comfortably, giving her a sense of realness, an identity.
"Good. I was worried you'd never come around." The little woman took Casey's arm, feeling just inside the wrist for a pulse. Casey looked around the room — tiled floor, white walled with no adornments. Curtains divided the room, and she wondered if there was anyone else in a bed like hers. She could see one empty, metal framed bed opposite hers, little else. Casey's gaze drifted once more to the window.
"The rain hasn't stopped since they found you," the little woman said absently as she slipped the blood pressure cuff around Casey’s arm. "Good thing they did. You'd have drown in that marsh in no time in your condition." The tense nausea started once again, and Casey had to fight back the urge to vomit. The rain, the marsh — the memory of it tugged at her, threatening to overwhelm her. The sense of being watched, of waiting, of helplessness.
She shook her head, fighting back the growing terror. The nurse put a hand on her arm. It was icy cold, that soft hand — soothing, in an almost painful kind of way. “Calm yourself, Casey. There is nothing to fear. It’s only the work of the venom. You’ll get through this.” The little woman’s English was heavily accented, and Casey found herself wondering what dialect she spoke.
Dialect — that thought triggered a memory. She studied languages. That was the reason she was here; her knowledge of linguistics — of ancient Sanskrit, to be precise. She had a notebook filled with notes. She carried it everywhere, planning to fill it with the languages of the world.
Casey nodded, and relaxed into the pillow. She breathed deeply, letting the presence of the nurse calm her. Her savior needed a name, she thought, and finally thought to ask. “What’s your name?”
The woman beamed. “You may call me Ahsan.”
“Thank you, Ahsan,” casey replied, exhausted from her exertions. Ahsan turned to leave, and Casey reached out, her hand trembling with the effort. “Wait. My bag; Is it here?” The memory of her pack, and more importantly the fact that her notebook was likely in it, came to her suddenly.
Ahsan nodded. “Rest first. I will bring it later.”
Sleep consumed her. Rest would have been a blessing. She was trapped. Fear filled dreams of being watched by many eyes, of drowning, and of something horrible waiting in the shadows, stalked her.
She was awoken by a commotion in the hall. Panting slightly, she was relieved to be released from that terror filled place.
Ahsan came shuffling in, frantic. “Oh, Miss Casey, they’re saying we must evacuate. The city is flooding. Do you think you can stand?”
Casey nodded, though she was rather doubtful. She sat up. The simple motion caused her world to spin, and she fell back on the bed, hard. Nausea rose fiercely in her and she covered her mouth with her hand.
“I’ll get a gurney,” Ahsan said with a sigh, and hurried out of the room. She came back with a pair of men, a wheeled bed and Casey’s bag. Casey smiled at the sight of that tattered gunny sack, threadbare and well used. Once she was seated semi-upright on the gurney, she reached over and gestured towards the doll on the sill.
“The doll, don’t leave it here...” she said, her voice still weak. Ahsan smiled, retrieving the tattered toy and placing it beside Casey on the gurney. Satisfied, and somehow comforted by the doll’s presence, she dug through her pack. Fishing out her leather bound, antique looking notebook, she flipped through the pages.
There, she found her last notes, hoping it would help her to fill in the gap in her memory. Several lines of Sanskrit were jotted down, and then there was along scratch across the paper. She would have never done that on purpose...
It all came rushing back.
YOU ARE READING
bit·ter·sweet: being at once bitter and sweet; especially: pleasant but including or marked by elements of suffering or regret. A collection of short stories I've written since joining Wattpad for various contests, challenges and publications. The...