She couldn’t move. Did she even know what that meant? She lay staring at the back of her eyelids. Mostly blackness. Floating in nothingness. With a ticking. A voice came to her. A man’s voice. A low, measured murmur. It came. It went. The ticking remained. She stayed in this blank space. Her world. There was only this, nothing before.
Then one day, she woke up. It started with a breeze across her face. The awakening of her senses. The twitch of her fingertips, then her eyelids as they fluttered open. The sheer white drapes swelled from the window. Reaching into the room toward her as she lay still, neatly tucked under a cotton blanket. Her arms at her sides on top of the covers. She blinked. Where was she? She didn’t know this place, but she knew the names of the objects in the room, even though they did not exist in the blackness. The ticking. She searched for it and managed to turn her head. She saw a nightstand, the brass alarm clock and a glass of water. Condensation was forming on the outside of the glass. A droplet gathered and trickled down the side of it.
She realized how dry her mouth was. Instinct brought motion to her hand. Her fingers curled, then her elbow bent. She watched the hand lift to the nightstand. The pale fingers wrapped around the wet glass. She lifted it and tilted her head slightly. The water poured out of the glass onto her face. The cold was shocking. She choked and sputtered. The glass fell from her hand and landed on the floor. She laid back on the pillow as she coughed and tried to breathe. Her inexperience had caused her to inhale the water by accident.
As she laid there trying to find the calm she had experienced in the darkness once again, she heard another sound. Approaching thumps, then the door latch clicked. A man entered.
“Amelia?” he said quietly, but welcoming. “You’re awake.” She tried to respond, but her throat still felt dry. He shushed her with the smallest sound. He picked the glass up from the floor and refilled it from a pitcher. He opened the drawer of the nightstand and pulled out a spoon. The man settled himself on a chair next to the bed and very carefully spooned droplets of water into her mouth. She managed to finally swallow it. Like a hungry bird she accepted more and focused only on working her throat.
“Where,” she managed to croak. The voice was rough. It didn’t sound like her or did it? She wasn’t sure. The man set the glass on the side table and took her hand. She flinched.
“Don’t speak,” he said smoothly, “You are at home, Amelia. Do you remember?” Amelia looked around. Did she know this place? She shook her head.
“Do you know who I am?” he asked. She shook her head. She didn’t know him. She only knew the blackness.
“My name is Alastair. I am your husband.”
Amelia tugged her hand away. She didn’t know this man. Or did she? She studied him. His expression dismayed, but controlled. He did not want to upset her. He wore a collared shirt, the buttons were undone at the throat and the sleeves were rolled up his fore arms. His hair was neatly combed and parted, but a few sections were beginning to droop onto his forehead. He leaned over and picked up a book from the bottom shelf of the nightstand.
“I believe we left off on Chapter Five,” Alastair began as he opened it. He looked down at the page and started to read.
‘Who are you?’ said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, ‘I-I hardly know, sir, just at present – at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’
‘What do you mean by that?’ said the Caterpillar sternly. ‘Explain yourself!’
‘I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, sir,’ said Alice, ‘because I’m not myself, you see.’
Amelia listened as he read. The intonation was familiar. It was the voice. The voice from the darkness. It calmed her. Her eyes drifted closed and she found the warm comforting darkness.