A Novel Beginning – Part Two

This was written for my MA: we were told to write the beginning of a story that could become a novel, and then to sketch out a plan for the rest of it. So this is the second part of my novel beginning.

Read Part One.

Two

When she wakes – as she had not expected to do – there is light and heat and the noise of people.  Somebody takes something off her head and she wonders what it was, but as soon as it is gone the splitting light grows brighter and her eyes force themselves shut.  A voice speaks but she will not listen to it.  Thoughts drift through her aimlessly, like agitated birds.  Surely no one could have survived that fall?  There was nobody.  She fell into the sea.  A jutting rock smashed her on the way down.

“Welcome back, Mrs Price.  Can you hear me?”

A face now and it is smiling.  Her body, shattered and bloody as it must be, could not possibly make anybody smile.

“Mrs Price?”

“Who are you?”  With horror she finds she can speak; her voice seems unharmed.

“My name is Helena.  I’m your Re-coordinator.  Surely you remember me?”

“No.”

The smiling face appears to have asked the same question hundreds of times before, but it does not seem to have ever received this answer.  It moves further away; the woman straightens to a standing position.  She must have been bending over.  So this ruined body must be seated or lying down.  And capable of logic.

The face returns, close, its breath delicate.  Something else appears in front of the face that is no longer smiling.

“How many fingers am I holding up?”

“I jumped.  Where am I?  How am I alive?”

“It was a Dream, Mrs Price.”

Mrs Price shakes her head and finds she is capable of movement.  She flexes her fingers, toes, arms, legs.  She expects the blinding pain of snapped bones and split flesh, but there is none; her body does not hurt her.  There is a reclining chair under her, in a bright room with other people; some walking, most sitting with peculiar headgear over their faces, twitching as if asleep.

“I didn’t fall?  Then where am I?”

“The Dream Company.”

“Where’s my family?  I almost jumped.”

“No, Mrs Price.  It was all a Dream.”

The woman kneels down in front of the chair and puts her hand on Mrs Price’s arm.  A deep frown crumples her forehead.  She tells Mrs Price to listen very carefully and try to remain calm.  This is the Dream Company, she says.  Mrs Price came here five days ago, spoke to a counsellor, manufactured her Dream and then sat in this chair for five days, dreaming it.  She says she is sorry Mrs Price jumped; the Dream was deliberately difficult.  Mrs Price created it that way.

“Sometimes it’s difficult for people when they wake up, to readjust to their lives before.  That is why I am here.”

The smile is back.  She stands up and helps Mrs Price get to her feet.  Her legs are unsteady, as if they have not been used for a while, but she is able to stand and hold Helena’s arm for support.  Mrs Price’s body is not damaged.  Far from it.  In fact she cannot remember the last time she looked like this.  If she had jumped in this condition she would probably have bounced.

Everything feels solid and this disturbs her.  Before it was cracking and disintegrating, but this unreality was certainly the projection of a disturbed mind.  It must have been real, whether or not she felt it.  She longs to believe once again that she is in the base of a vast bowl.  She longs to feel that this is the dream from which she will be woken, perhaps by the cries of seagulls, to find herself careening through salt-spray towards the surging waves.

“I dreamed for five days?” says Mrs Price.

“Correct,” says Helena the Re-coordinator.

“How much,” she begins, pauses and tries again, “How much of what I just saw was a dream?”

“All of it.”

“All?  Since I parked the car on the cliff?  Since I left my house?”

“Mrs Price?  Since birth.”

This time there is no crack.  The ocean does not fume and birds do not screech.  This time there is only solid, consuming darkness.


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