A dull, throbbing ache. A pulsating reverberation – a thousand drums and drummers drumming. Beat. Beat. Beat.
A sharp, searing piercing agony. A jagged heat – a thousand burning suns, blazing fires putting forth flame. Burn. Burn. Burn.
Pain. Nothing but pain.
Deep, pounding – a hundred hammers chiselling out a niche in solid rock.
Shooting, stabbing – a hundred needles plunging into soft soft flesh.
Pain. Dull, throbbing, pulsating, sharp, searing, piercing, blazing, deep, pounding, shooting, stabbing and screaming. Always screaming. Screaming thousands of glass needles plunging into the soft skin of the throat. Screaming hundreds of fires burning tinder-dry grass. Always screaming. Screaming. Screaming. Screaming.
I woke up screaming. Pain! Torture! Why?
“Isss a righ!” A voice – somewhere, speaking in treacle-filled words. Hurting. Too much hurting! Make it go away!
I thrashed. No more torture! Just kill me!
“Ho’ still! E’ll ‘urt ‘ersel’f” more voices, the same voice, full of fluff. And hands, hands all over me, my shoulders, my legs, holding, pinning, stretching, immobile. And pain. Blinding, stabbing, shooting, overwhelming. Kill me. Kill me. Kill me.
“Yesshh. Lea’v nw. ‘Eep.” More voices, everyone was talking in long slurred voices, the kinds you hear from people who’ve never heard a voice speak before. And they left me in my pain. Always screaming.
Cold that lit a fire, burning and sliding from side to side. I jerked, pulled sideways and back, away from the slithering cold fire.
“Shhhh, shush now. It’s all right, it’s all right.” Another voice, or was it the same voice? The cold disappeared and took – some
of the pain with it.
“Whaaaaaa-?” my voice unrecognisable, I spoke through molasses into a brown paper bag, into the depths of the earth, smothering me.
“You’ve been badly hurt child. I had to remove an arrowhead from your back. Just lie still. Susshhh now, you’re safe.” Safe. Not tortured after all.
“Ungghh,” I fought my way out of darkness that wanted to keep me, wrapped in silence, wrapped in pain.
“Well now, you’re awake. This is
good news!” A voice. A voice I knew, but didn’t know. Memory wasn’t- wasn’t what? Hands were touching me, starting small fires at every point they rested on my – my back? I was lying on my stomach and my back burned.
“Ungghh,” I tried again, I could
speak, couldn’t I? “Where?”
“Where are you?” The voice spoke, closer now and I could hear a creaking sound as someone moved closer to me. “You’re in the village of Dake, Skaya.” Dake. That wasn’t a name I recognised, but Skaya – that was familiar. A place? A country? Something. “You were found on the doorstep of the mayor’s house, bleeding to death.” The voice, I could tell now it was female, softened with just a hint of pride, “I’m skilled in some minor forms of healing. You were brought to me. And I must say, I’m rather surprised at how well you’ve healed. You’re stronger than you look.”
Well, that was good. I’m stronger than I look. What do I look like? I couldn’t think straight, why couldn’t I see my own face in my mind. Though if I’d been hit with an arrow in the back, I probably didn’t look to good. Before I could ask any questions, the voice was speaking again,
“Now, just hold still. I need to change the bandages and clean out your wound again. I’m sorry I can’t give you anything for the pain.” A soft, sad sigh, “We don’t have many potions here and I’m afraid I used all the ones I had on hand to stop you from dying on me. Now then, just hang on and it’ll be all over with soon” and with these bright words, this woman started torturing me again.
I felt very little while she removed the bandages, carefully unwinding them with barely a touch on my skin. Until she got to the very last section, which appeared – and so she said – to have stuck themselves to my back,
“Oh dear, you’re still
bleeding, that’s not good."
“Ah! Auhhh... ggnnghhh” I couldn’t help myself, it hurt!
Pain sliced through me, burning lines up and down my back. Shooting into my brain, slamming around my skull then hissing down my legs. I thrashed, unable to hold still. “Ssstop! Please! Ahhggh!”
“You poor dear,” she spoke above my head, a constant litany of sound, presumably to distract me from the agony that had apparently replaced my lower back. “I can’t imagine why anyone would do
such a thing to another person. It just doesn’t make sense.
” There was a pause and the feeling of warm breath on my face made me realise that the woman had moved and was now crouching in front of me. For the first time in days, I opened my eyes.
“Oh! The light,” she chuckled, hastening to lay a cool hand over my eyes, “yes, I imagine you’re a bit sensitive to light right now. Don’t worry, it will pass.” She moved her hand and I got a flash of pale, wrinkled skin and calm, clear grey eyes. The eyes smiled at me, before she rose again and moved back to my side. Dark brown homespun skirts swirled in my vision and I closed my eyes as bile rose up in my throat.
“Steady now,” she said, and before I had time to prepare myself, she was layering new bandages and I was thrashing and screaming. Thrashing and screaming. Thrashing til I felt blankets and sheets tangle and choke my limbs. Screaming til my voice was all but gone. Why!? Why why why? Why was I here?
“Why?” I sobbed, my voice breaking and instantly she was at my head again.
“Oh child,” she soothed a hand over my hair, “I wish I could tell you. I was going to ask you if you knew what had happened, none of us saw anything.” I shook my head, I didn’t remember anything, and that made me think – as much as I could through the blinding blanket that was all I knew.
“Oh! How silly of me! I forgot to tell you my name. I am Lydia.”
“No.” I croaked, asking her
name had not yet occurred to me. That was... that was bad? “No,” I said again, gasping the words out. “Who am I?