She didn’t know what had happened. She knew she was in hospital, she could tell that by the smell. A rotten mixture of blood, disinfectant and death. Everything was the darkest black she had ever seen, an absence of colour that made her feel that her eyes weren’t in her head anymore. It reminded her of a school trip to a disused mine years ago, where the tour guide had switched all the lights off and told them to hold their hands up to their faces. The only way she knew anyone else was there was a tiny hand finding hers in the darkness, her sister’s bright blond hair had disappeared in the gloom. She remembered thinking, all those years ago, that it must be what death felt like. No long dead relative to meet her, no bright lights and no pearly gates. There was just emptiness and blackness. She had never felt more alone in her entire life.
In the distance, she heard the wailing of a machine, protesting loudly about something. She turned and looked over her shoulder, but there was only the same inky nothingness that had been in front of her. She was aware of her heart beating against her ribs so brutally, it was almost as if it were trying to escape her body and take flight. She inhaled deeply, breathed the darkness into her lungs and knew in the back of her brain, that it was the only way to escape.
She exhaled and the light was so bright, it momentarily blinded her. She saw cheap ceiling tiles, arranged in squares with metal borders. In the corners, tiny patches of brown, damp staining. They reminded her of the foamy packing they always put in new TV’s and stereos. She had always thought one of the best noises in the world was the sound of that cracking and breaking, like a fork on an empty plate.
She saw a face out of focus out of the corner of her eye.
She felt raw panic as she realised there was something down her throat that was trying to choke her. She tried to pull it out but it was somehow tied in, stuck and wouldn’t come out. She clawed at her face, feeling the swelling round her eyes and ignored the deep voice, tinged with worry and regret, telling her to stop it and calm down.
More voices, more blurry faces, more hands on her, fingers touching her face, then whatever had been down her throat had gone. She tried to breathe, but it came in rasps and hacks that reminded her of the cough she always had after a good night out. She blinked against the light and listened as the machine calmed down to a monotonous bleep instead of the shrill alarm it had been before. She could still hear voices but they seemed so far away. The faces attached to them were all fuzzy round the edges, like supermarket photographers photos. She tried to reach out to them, but she realized she couldn’t lift her arms off the bed. They were dead weights hanging off her shoulders, useless, heavy and, she realized suddenly, very pointless. She concentrated on her beating heart, willing it to carry on. The voices were moving away from her slowly, they belonged to people on a moving walkway, only she was standing still. She watched them slowly glide away.
She closed her eyes and let them go.