On the window ledge.

Submitted into Contest #130 in response to: Set your story in a nameless world.... view prompt

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Fantasy Drama

Vibrant daffodils sway gently on the spring breeze. Mirthful laughter rises from the courtyard nearby. I sit on a sculpted bench, knees pulled to my chest, bare toes curling around the cold stone. The sun warms my pale skin, I haven’t felt this warmth in so long. I should be happy. But I don’t remember how. Fluffy clouds dance carelessly across the clear azure sky. The breeze, soft and delicate like the etiquette of fine ladies, tugs at my golden hair. I grimace, swiping at the strands caught on my lip in annoyance.

“43!”

I hear a voice calling my number. A number, that is all I am. At least to them, that is.

I see 76 skipping towards me. She is happy. Her bare feet slap the roughly strewn cobblestones, a smile gracing her sun-kissed features. Her blue cotton sundress catching around her knees as she dances my way.

“43!” she gasps, as if puffed from her brief jog through the yard. “You’ll never guess!”

“What?” I sigh, silently willing her to leave me to my thoughts.

“I found a squirrel!” she all but squeals in her excitement. Her face alight with child-like glee. This girl fascinates me in a way I can’t quite understand. I know nothing of her past. No one knows anything of anyone. I barely know who I am. Or who I was.

“Come, I’ll show you!”

I reluctantly stretch my legs and stand. Small green shoots and moss tickle the underneath of my feet as I follow 76. I feel weary, perhaps the drug they gave me has yet to wear off completely.

We pass under a tall oak tree; the wide branches and delicate leaves shift slightly with the rhythm of nature. It is peaceful. I inhale through my nose, drawing the fresh air deep into my lungs. It tastes sweet, like fields of wildflowers and sunshine.

76 stops abruptly, I almost bump into her.

“There.” She murmurs, her voice hushed and soft. I turn my gaze to the end of her outstretched finger. A small squirrel perches on a tree limb above, its delicate whiskers twitch nervously as it nibbles on an acorn.

Serenity.

That is how this moment feels. Just me, her, the squirrel, and this blissful sunshine. For a minute I forget where we are, that our names are now numbers, that we are trapped in this forsaken place. I am at peace.

I hear voices to our left, my eyes wander from the squirrel to see the disturbers of our peace. A couple stroll mindlessly past the pond, their voices are loud, though I can’t make out the words. I don’t know their numbers, nor do I care. I only know 76, 24 and 33.

My mind wanders back to when I first bumped into 24, his smile ready and pleasing as he caught me casually around the waist. I’d tripped on a step. A slight blush burns my cheeks as I reminisce those fleeting moments. What a fool I was.

33 was different, she was older, more motherly. That woman was special, her heart pure and her smile kind. I wondered at the fact she was here, how had that come to be? This place left me with many questions, ones I could never answer.

Hours pass and I find myself sitting alone on the window ledge once more. This spot is my sanctuary, the place I collect my thoughts and struggle to recall any fading moment from my past.

I wrap the thin grey shawl tighter around my shoulders and ponder over the few things I remember about myself.

My name is Savannah, like the African prairie they used to tell me. I don’t remember who they are. I had a sister, Julie… Jennifer, I don’t know. A golden-haired dog used to sleep at the foot of my bed. Pastel pink curtains. A wall of polaroids, faces blurred with time. And that heavenly feeling of sand between my toes.

I stare out the window, absentmindedly caressing the small scars dotting my upper arm from countless needles. Dark clouds billow and swell on the horizon, a sure sign of the rain to come. I touch the glass; the clear panel cool under my outstretched fingertips. I pull away, small fingerprints stain the clean window. My gaze sweeps over the yard and beyond, I can see for miles from my humble perch. Locked tight in a forlorn room on the third floor. Those walls don’t look so tall from here. Perhaps there’s a chance…

I shake my head, almost amused at the thought of actually escaping. This place is my prison, our prison.

A loud bell chimes erratically, I begin to count, 1, 2, 3…6. 6pm. Dinnertime. I extract myself from the small ledge and stand in the center of my room. The four grey walls seeming to press in on me from every side.

Click

The knob turns slowly. Clicking once more before the large wooden door creaks open. I stand motionless as a short, stocky woman enters. Her hair is pulled back severely and tied in a tight knot at the nape of her neck. A large wart nestles beside her nose, a single black hair growing out of it. Her eyes glare back at me, narrowed and harsh. I don’t like this woman.

“Come.” She orders, her tone deep and callous. I have noticed she is a woman of few words, speaking her hatred with her steel-coloured eyes.

I follow Nurse Wart obediently. Smirking secretly at the pet name I so fondly call her. We make our way silently to the massive dining room. Long tables stretch the length of the room, large candelabras hang from the ornate ceiling, the warm glow sends shadows dancing across the decorative cornice. Textured wallpaper and picturesque artworks decorate each wall, whispering tales of a life outside these four walls. I glance around, still puzzled by the beauty of this room compared to the rest of the building.

I feel a hand press firmly on my upper back. I see Nurse Eyebrows in my peripheral, guiding me towards an empty place at a table.

I sit, two unknown faces are squeezed beside me. Their posture appalling as they hunch over their bowls, shoveling green pea soup into their mouths at a ghastly rate. I sip the green slop warily, the taste is bland, but it soothes my hunger.

I scan the faces in the room, searching for the scant few people I know. 33 has her head bent low over her soup, dark rings hang below her eyes. I sympathize her; she is a good woman. 76 is staring absently at a wall, her eyes clouded over as if in a trance. Sometimes I wonder if she’s a touch simple.

I can’t see 24 and for some reason I’m disappointed. Stupid, really. Another bell chimes, nurses flood around us, taking two people each and guiding us back to our rooms. I am grateful for each moment alone.

#

Hushed whispers and the slight scuffle of shoes against the rough floorboards echo around me. I am awake, but they don’t know. I feel my limp body being lifted gingerly onto a gurney. The now familiar pin prick of pain appears as they inject some unknown drug into my body. The blackness is returning as I feel them push the gurney. We hit a wall; someone swears softly behind me. As I fade into the darkness a memory of a beautiful woman leaning over me singing tenderly, flashes through my mind. A single tear trails down the side of my face as I lose consciousness. 

#

Pain. That’s all I feel. But I welcome it. I lie motionless, the throbbing sensation making it difficult to breathe. I never knew exactly what they did when they took us. Experimenting on us like mice in a lab. Orange juice and soggy bread sit on a tray to the right on my head. Bleugh. The thought of eating makes my stomach churn.

Minutes pass, the small clock on the wall ticks softly, just loud enough to drive me insane. I stare up at the ceiling, the bare lightbulb hanging down, water marks stain the white plaster.

I wait. Patiently lying motionless until the pain subsides, and the drug’s effects wear off. I ease myself off the thin mattress and hobble to the window ledge. I clamber onto the wide sill and adjust my nightgown to cover my legs. It’s raining today. Fat drops patter against my window, I watch as the beads chase each other to the sill. I make silent bets, predicting which one will win. The constant trickle of rain soothes me. I rest my forehead against the cold glass, longing to taste the comforting warmth of tea and honey. My gaze yet again travels across the yard, now washed afresh by the rain. Yellow daffodils totter in the wind, their jolly countenance somewhat dimmed by the low hanging clouds. I wish they were mine.

Two short, sharp raps on my door bring me from my subconscious state. How odd. I think, slipping from the sill. Nurses didn’t knock, they simply entered. I hear the distinct sound of a key in the lock. My heart quickens, stomach twisting into a knot. The door opens, a familiar face peeks in.

76.

My breath wooshes from my lungs. How? She slips inside, her hazel eyes wide and cautious.

“Come with me,” she whispers, her hand outstretched.

I don’t think twice. I grasp her hand, and she pulls me. We run. Our bare feet silently padding against the plush carpet lining the narrow hallway. I don’t know where we are headed, but I follow.

Doors fly past, windows too high to see out of. Down a flight of stairs, and then another. My heart is racing, breath wheezing through my lungs, but we don’t slow down.

We run like we’ve never run before, through one door and out another. Suddenly 76 stops. A finger to her lips, she silences me. She pulls a key from a pocket in her coat and unlocks a small door.

Icy air and rain simultaneously tumble through the door, I gasp at the sudden shock of cold. Without a moment’s hesitation she pulls me into the rain. And we run.

Up ahead I see the wall, tall and foreboding, 10 feet of mortar and stone. But still we run. We stop at the foot of the wall, I gape upwards, its stature looming before me. I turn to 76, she’s grinning at me, a thick rope nestled in her hand.

“Take it and climb,” She says, a glint in her eye, “And don’t look down till you’re at the top.”

I grip the rope, the coarse fibers tearing at my palms as I haul myself upwards, one hand at a time. Perched on the top, I look behind me, 76 is starting her climb. A quake of nerves tremors through me as I notice the height.

“You alright?” she asks, hauling herself onto the top of the wall.

“Yeah. But how?” I ask, my mind a blur of questions and awe.

76 smiles at me, her hair plastered to her forehead as beads of water drip from her chin. “I’ll answer those later but for now–” she cuts off, nodding towards the other side of the wall, to freedom.

My heart drops, fear coursing through me. I stare at her.

76 reaches her hand out towards me, a light dancing in her eyes, “By the way, my name is Valencia.”

“Savannah.” I breathe, I grasp her hand and we together we jump.

January 28, 2022 08:11

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