no longer an exclusively vicarious one.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Fractured Listless. Chapter 1

‘“If that there King was to wake,” added Tweedledum, “you’d go out – bang! – just like a candle!”’
- Lewis Carroll
Blink.
It is raining like never before. The heavens open and Leshala looks imploringly up at the vengeful sky. It seems like it only ever rained on her, and she ducks her head and keeps walking, resigned to her fate. The slow and rhythmic thud of the waves washing against the shore keeps her mind from dwelling on her unknown past, and she barely even notices as she walks straight into a door. It seems out of place, this grey door in the middle of a beach-side walkway, but she is curious, so she opens it. The room inside is small and devoid of much furniture, but it is clean and dry and warm. Confused, Leshala looks inside then outside, and she slowly walks around the door. There is no room behind it, from the outside, but as she looks in, she feels the warmth and cosiness of the impossible room seeping into her bones. Barely hesitating, Leshala chooses the obvious option. She steps inside and hears the door click shut behind her. Whirling around, it also becomes obvious that she has just walked into a trap. No escape. She is locked in.

Blink.
Leshala slowly peels her eyes open. They feel pasted shut, as if she has not slept long enough to wake again. Or maybe as if she has slept too long...
She blinks to try and clear the gummy feeling in her eyelids. It is dark. So dark, but this is how it always is, isn’t it? Finally obeying her, her eyelids fly open. She sees nothing, and there is only oblivion reflected in the vacuum of her eyes. She seems surrounded by mirrors like in a horror show, distorting space and time themselves so that even the most ordinary sound of silence seems like a rumble from the depths of uncaring hell. Leshala is engulfed by its enormity, lying there alone. But there is another sound here, besides the ringing silence of nothingness. She hears the slow drip of an untightened tap in a nearby room.
Drip...drip...drip...
The echoes ring clear in her mind, the only real thing here in this place she knows inside and out, but cannot remember at all. Oblivion is replaced by chaos and confusion and Leshala looks around her, eyes flicking left and right.
It is not so dark after all, she thinks, not here in this place of musty shadows and sterile, bare walls. Perhaps it is a hospital of some sort? But what is she doing here? The thought brings her back to herself. Back to the broken being lying on a tangled sheet on the scuffed linoleum. She swallows, trying to tell her body to wake up. Waiting for it to respond, her other senses slowly creep back to unwillingly join their master. Her nose wrinkles as she smells an odour, something that reminds her of another place, another time, and people long gone from her life. People who would never have even heard of the kind of place she is trapped in now.
She sighs, long and heavy. Something has happened... something big, something bad, something that altered the way she viewed life forever. If only she could remember...


There, thought Josephine, as she snapped the laptop shut and tucked a plastic stylus into the dim recesses of her bag. The old woman had asked for an introduction to a “story detailing the emotion of loss”, and she would get it. On time. Even if it killed all the poor students who were forced to give up their last waking minute to obey her crazy-brained whims and fancies. Mumbling under her breath, Josephine almost missed the whispered call for her train stop. Glancing out the window, she saw only the dark wall of the train tunnel, but shifting her head to an uncomfortable angle, she saw that she was at the right place. She jumped up and dragged her bag along, one strap swinging idly beside her and slapping against every other person in the carriage. She managed to escape just as the doors were closing in on her, just before she was trapped in the metal can that was the train. Ignoring the mild looks of disinterest from the other departing commuters, Josephine trudged up the steep stairs and fought the oncoming crowd to get in line for a ticket turnstile.
If her ticket got stuck again, she muttered darkly, someone was going to have to take out a large chunk of real estate on the shores of the Styx for her.
She glanced around and saw an orange-vested train guard absently push open the gate. Strategically sidestepping the growing, jostling queue, Josephine slid behind an old woman in a drab grey dress who smelt a bit like dishwashing liquid, and followed her out, flashing her neon-coloured school pass at the nail-chewing guard.
It was bright outside, the hazy red that was the precursor to yet another above average temperature day. She blinked to accustom herself to the light and stumbled on.
She had known that she would be too early. It was either too early or too late with her train, and while she usually chose the stress-relieving option, old Hatterfield had insisted almost a thousand times that everyone be on time today. So here she was. Almost a full hour early, bags under her eyes, and with nothing so much as a crumb in her belly.
She made a beeline for the hot bread shop.

Munching steadily on a fruit-filled pastry of the miscellaneous ingredient kind, Josephine slowly ambled over to the lone bench in the empty park. Sitting down with a thud, she made a heap of all her school things and stretched out on the damp and uncomfortably hard concrete. Staring straight ahead, she had a back view of her school. It was a ramshackle construction, originally comprising of just two buildings – the main block and the assembly hall. Those two looked alright enough, she supposed, if you were into second rate brick monsters built to withstand an earthquake. But since then, more side buildings had been added, the school had bought over the adjacent residential plots and wonderful new demountables had been dumped inside when they had finally realised that there were not enough rooms in the existing structures. Now the school looked like some mystery maze in an amusement park, with false dead ends and deceptive reflecting glass everywhere. No wonder the poor newbies always got lost, even Josephine herself sometimes lost her bearings, and she had been there for six years.
Her mind still on neverending incarceration and torture, Josephine thought she might as well get a move on with her homework. She took out her mini PC and the chewed up stylus, her half-eaten pastry dangling from a corner of her mouth. She had had braces, once upon a time, but now her pearly whites were not only white, but in neat, straight lines, and she had been told that she might have been a shark in a previous incarnation because of her habit to stick things in her mouth when she ran out of hands.
Glaring at her innocently blinking watch, and blaming it for the time (thirty minutes of freedom left), Josephine sighed and tried to write more. After,

Then Leshala was taken aback by all the meat cleavers sitting in a row of bloody chopping blocks.
The end.

, Josephine looked around for some inspiration. Scribbling through the last few lines, her attention was distracted by a small brown snail, making silvery trails all over the pavement next to her. She moved her head a fraction, to get a better view, and as she did so, a rain of pastry crumbs fell onto and around her new friend. It retreated hurriedly, for a snail, and soon all she could see was a smooth brown shell surrounded by tiny bits of pastry flakes. The slug was nowhere to be seen, hidden and safe from all the dangers of its small world. A small frown creased her forehead and she looked back at her story, beginning to write more.

Blink.
A flash of fluorescent light, and Leshala obeys her first impulse – to screw her eyes shut. Gingerly she lets them open and peers out across the room. The murky darkness has been replaced by a sterile white light, shining from tubes in the ceiling. She looks around and grimaces. She seems to remember this place. The white walls and the feeling of confinement, they are familiar, but she can’t put her finger on the knowledge she needs, the memories that can tell her what she is doing here.
She slowly pushes herself off the cold floor and throws the sheets aside. Looking briefly around, she collapses into the only chair in the room. It rocks back, jerking her blank mind back into action, and she turns to face the humming piece of machinery on the table.
Ignoring every other bodily need, and her mind’s curious interrogation of her surrounds, she sets her fingers and types.

“Hello?”

Her fingers are slow, wandering over the keyboard to find the letters she needs. She does not know what the computer is here for. She vaguely remembers typing things in previous days, but the computer never shows any sign that it keeps any of her ramblings in its memory. Her attention is drawn back at the answer the machine has given her.

“Enter title:”

She frowns, confused at the thin glowing text. The title of what? She makes a small sound in the back of her throat and types the first thing she can think of.

“Where am I?”

The computer starts beeping and whirring, and Leshala pulls her hands off the keyboard. A little red light flashes and the machine comes to life. The black screen clears and a new page is displayed.

“Begin Weaver Program
Title: Where am I?
Enter synopsis:”

Synopsis? Frowning, Leshala decides that she has had just about enough of this. She leaves the flashing cursor and walks to the only door in the room. As she raises her hand to knock, she notices something very strange. So strange, that she holds off the knocking and incredulously examines the door.
There is no handle.
No knob, no clasp, no lock, nothing with which she can open the door. It isn’t just missing, like it has fallen off, but it looks like there was never any thought during the design to place a handle in the door. It is just another part of the wall that seems to look like a door, with a frame, but with no way out.
Leshala quickly steps back and sinks back into the thin mattress lying on the opposite side of the room. The old questions buzz around her head. What is this place? What is she doing here?

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