The first thing I felt was the sting of pain at the base of my skull. Next came the sharp cold against my hands, my cheekbones, my neck. A fierce wind intensified it, clawing at my skin, pushing me down, holding my captive...
I must be dying.
I don't know why that thought came or even where it came from. It was just suddenly there, a weight against my chest that suffocated me. My pulse raced violently against my aching ribs like the galloping hooves of a panicked horse. I can't breathe, I can't breathe!
I couldn't scream, either. A hoarse whimper scratched my throat, but no more. Nothing that could reflect this agony inside me, this frozen heat that pulsated through my veins. Where was it even coming from? My head, my spine, my knees, my stomach, my sides, my butt, my toes... Was there anything that didn't hurt?
Sounds erupted around me, shouts of males, females, I don't know. I tried to reach out to them, but my arms remained pinned at my sides.
"Are you okay?" thundered a million voices over and over.
"Someone's coming! I called 9-11."
"Just lie still, okay? Try not to move."
Oh, sweetheart, if only I could move, I'd find your face and slap it.
One voice overruled them all. A woman's, I thought, coming from my left side. No. My right?
"Mallory! Mal? Can you hear me? Oh, get out of the way, you freaks. She's not a sideshow!
A warm hand pressed against my wrist. I could tell she was trying to be gentle, but. Ow.
"You're going to be okay, Mal. You're going to be fine."
I wanted to believe her. I wanted to feel fine.
But something about her words twisted my stomach. Not out of pain. More like out of sickness.
And it hit me:
She was saying my name.
And I didn't recognize it.
Nothing about her voice, her care for me, or even our surroundings was familiar. Why was it cold? Was the wetness against my forehead sweat? Rain? Snow? She could be a friend, a teacher, my mother for all I knew. Nothing came. No memories, no understanding of who she was, who I was. Nothing.
For a moment, I wondered: is this how it works? Forgetting who you are? You just wake up and realize you're a stranger to yourself?
I couldn't come up with an answer. A nauseating pain erupted inside me.
The crowd around me shuffled nearer as I moaned. Pity they didn't realize I'd meant it as a scream. My protective One cussed them out pretty vehemently. What I would have given to see the looks on their faces as someone with such a sweet voice used such vulgar terms to tell them off.
A sudden chill overtook me, and it wasn't from the cold. Using every bit of strength I could muster to fight against the weight holding me down and suffocating me with darkness, I opened my eyes.
My stomach twisted again.
A single thought filled me:
I can't see.