The images have no color. There are only shades of gray, like ash, and each one flashes through her mind and disappears before the next one takes its place. There is a raw, harsh scream, but as she struggles through the mist the thoughts and sounds slip away. Won’t stick. What was the question, anyway?
“Where is Phillip, Amalise?”
Through heavy lidded slits she can see a man in white bending over her. His grave eyes focus on hers. “Are you cold?” he says. “You’re shivering.” The voice is deep and low and soothing. He reaches across the bed and she can feel him tucking something warm around her, binding her arms against her sides, wrapping her in a cocoon. The cocoon feels safe and warm.
“Where is your husband?” he asks again. “Think of Phillip. Can you remember?”
His face wavers before her. She cannot part her lips—cannot speak.
“Try to remember,” he says. “It’s important. Think of the cottage on the lake and of Phillip and try to remember.”
She shuts her eyes and the room disappears. In a split second a hand grips her shoulder. “Wake up, Amalise. Don’t fall asleep.”
The dark is soft, but the images emerge again and sharpen—shards of Phillip’s face—the flat smile, those high, angular cheekbones, brown eyes, protruding brow—moving, bending, twisting like reflections in a fun house mirror that slip away before you pin them down. Aound her there is sand and water.
Her heart begins to pound. The blanket constricts—no longer a cocoon. She shoves the blanket away, twisting, pushing it out with her elbows as she fights to loosen the grip. Pain knifes through her head, and surprised, her eyes fly open and she cries out.
“Careful!” His voice is strident, loud. “You have had an accident.”
The pain lingers, but she stops struggling and listens in silence. “It’s a fracture—just here, on the left side.” She feels the pressure of a touch on the side of her head. The voice turns milky now, soothing. “That’s it. Stay with me. There’s nothing to worry about, but you must try to stay awake for awhile, Amalise.” Two beats. “Can you hear me?”
There is something that frightens her. Don’t say a word.
“Where is Phillip? We need your help.”
“Phillip,” she repeats. He bends forward; she can feel his breath on her cheek. Images emerge from the dark and recede, one after the other. A lake. A pier. A beach. White bird. And Phillip.
“Phillip,” she whispers. “The beach…white bird.”
“And…? Go on, Amalise.”
Footprints. She sees footprints on sand, but they disappear into the black and she is sleepy, so sleepy.
The milky voice grows loud, urgent--Leave her alone—and another voice, harsh, impatient—Doc, doc, there’s not much time.
“Don’t push. Not now. She’s fragile.”
“She’s dreaming Doc. There’s no beach out there. Outside that clearing, we got water, we got woods, we got swamp.”
Shuffling footsteps moving away. A door opens; the harsh voice says, “I got men out there in the rain and there’s not much time; it’s almost dark.” A sharp laugh follows. “Guess we’ll have to follow that bird, huh?”
A door closes.
Dad’s voice comes—wake up, Amalise! And Mama’s voice, from somewhere far away…you cannot go to sleep…concussion…please don’t sleep!
Images explode. Phillip’s eyes, hard with sudden recognition, lips twisting, contorting. Comes again the white coat’s milky voice…don’t sleep, don’t sleep, don’t sleep…She fights to stay awake and there’s an electric hum around her now…Judge, we’re losing her…Amalise wake up…and then that harsh raw scream intrudes inside, that silent fateful scream that shatters thoughts, and voices in the room are fading, and Phillip now is pleading, pleading.
She moans, fighting the memories—willing the darkness to veil the terror. The white bird soars in the light, a pulsing light inside of her…sheets of stark and angry light that blind…Phillip loved her, loved her, always loved her… Ama, Ama, Ama. You are mine. But the voice is filled with something fierce; something that she cannot name. And then the voice shatters into glassy glittering points of light, like stars, and at last the stars wink off, one by one so that the merciful black haze, called upon, descends.
Echoes from the past, present, future, pulse and disappear.
Amalise wake up!
She’s slipping away.
But the voices fade. Here is peace—here is silence, refuge. Nothing exists; there is no space, no boundary, no time.
We’re losing her!
Forgive me… For…give… me…