The faces have gone and there is an emptiness in the spaces they filled. Small thoughts drift like butterflies, bounce about in no order, like puppies let out into the sun. Thoughts of tall trees, tomato plants, the ripple of voices laughing like rivers through the grass. Chairs on a verandah. Curtains the colour of wattle flowers. The press of a small hand in mine.
When she opens her eyes she is alone in a small room. The walls around her are mushroom pale and a little grimy. There are cords and trolleys and a lot of strange things she has never seen before.
I am alive. There is a heartbeat and under the blanket of this numbness there are nerves that will feel. I have met so much I cannot give words to, so many whose eyes I cannot meet. The world is a broken pot. The pieces of it cut me. I will know them. I will know them.
The door opens. A girl in a white dress and white shoes steps in. She speaks in a soft voice and there is no metal in her skin, no blood in her eyes. She brings tea and white bread with an egg and there are apples in a bowl. Red apples, and the smell of them brings a tide of tears to my eyes.
Take your time, the white girl says. I’ll be back later to check on you. She smiles, holds my eyes in hers for a moment. My lips do not move when I tell them to, or they move without my knowing. A little bit of hair peeps out of her hat. It is red. The colour of Ruby’s hair when she stands out in the sunlight, and I begin to remember picking beans up in the forest field, Onyx and Opal, the festival dinner, the faces, the blood, and the Archivist.
How is she?
You’re a relative?
No. There are no relatives that we know of. I brought her in. Manfred Miles. Eco-scout. So, how is she?
As well as you’d expect. Physically she’s got what anyone gets from spending too long exposed out in the salt. She’s still dehydrated, burnt, disoriented. Some of the burns are bad. She’s on pain meds.
Mentally – we’re not sure. We’ve dosed her with some anti-psychotic herbs to give her a break from the terrors. She’s resting quite peacefully for the moment. That may be all we can do. It might be as good as it gets. We will have to prepare her for the possibility that she may never get well. It’s quite possible that whatever sets off her terrors is part of the furniture of her own mind.
Commandant Jax wants to know when she’ll be coherent enough for him to question her.
Give it a couple of days.
In the forest field, beans climb and twine their way up their tepees of sticks, up and up. I remember how it felt to tip my head back and see the tendrils float against the sky. I can feel the snap, snap as I pick them, the itch of sweat in my hair. Hear the voice that calls to me, Sapphire, Sapphire, you have to come now!
well, it’s the fourth day (I’m a little early).