100 Years, Part I
Unfortunately, I did not survive the Discovery.
Yes, in the greater picture, of Course, else I would not now be Penning this Discourse to you, but in the Relevant Moment, no--but no; let me Begin again, and put my Facts in order.
One thinks little of youth while one has it; the slim taut body, the unlined face, the lustre of Skin and hair. Further, one appreciates the Lies of Society when, as one approaches the dreaded age of twenty-five--surely the worst age of a woman's life, excepting perhaps twenty-nine, or Forty, the latter of which is much too old to be young, yet far too young to be Wise--one appreciates the Lies that assure one that youthful bloom has not left you. I, like other women, was Gladdened to be told by other Envious mothers that my years were not showing on me despite three sons and a fourth not yet Admitted to being on the way. Being well-cushioned from Reality by my beloved Uncles, it did not occur to me to Suspect I was being flattered. This is just as well, for in Retrospect, it is certain that I was not.
I cannot put a finger on it with Assurance, but my beloved Joseph and I were photographed on our wedding day, shortly after I turned Nineteen. I do not look at myself in the mirror now and see exactly that woman, but I think it safe to say that within a year or two of that date Time somehow lost its hold on me. Joseph was an Architect, elder brother of sorts to my Grandfather's Humble carpentry business, and his Finances assured that we had regular family photographs taken, as each son reached his first Birthday and the chances of his Survival seemed more positive. There is a Sameness about my features in the last several that I do not see in Joseph's, and in some ways I am Relieved that matters played out as they did, instead of as they might have.
In others, I am less Phlegmatic about the scenario which brought me to the unexpected Revelation of my Immortality. It was on the Occasion of my eldest son's seventh birthday that we proposed to go from the city to the Countryside, where we would visit my Uncle Herbert, whose generosity has Schooled me, and for whom our Eldest was named. Herbert the Younger was beside himself with excitement--a phrase I had never deeply considered until I watched his Vibrations of enthusiasm--at the prospect of a Train journey. His smaller brothers were caught by his Fervor, and I wished very much to be beside Myself in order to reign in four small Boys worth of Energy. Joseph was no help at All; in fact, he seemed in most ways to be simply a Larger reflection of Herbert's exhilaration, and I found myself Watching him as well as the children.
And he was a Joy to watch. If you will allow me to wax Rhapsodical for a moment, I have never before or Since seen such a fine specimen of a man. Our Sons, I am pleased to say, took after their Father, and were handsome from the day they were born, unlike their Mother, who had to grow into her own Handsomeness. Three of the four boys were Fair, and the fourth dark, like me. I fancy we made a Striking family, full of laughter and Life as we made our way to the train.
Forgive me; I Dwell on these things because what follows is singularly Unpleasant, and even now I find myself Shying away from putting heavy thought to it. But I must, else what's the point in these Missives; and so to Business:
You must understand my Recollection of the actual Disaster is unclear. The moments leading up to it stand in my mind like crystal, as evidenced by the above Longing. What I do recall is a carriage and with four fine Horses, all of them better than even Uncle Herbert could afford, and he was no Mean judge of horseflesh. Three were matched bays; the fourth, closest to me, had a magnificent Blaze above his eye, making him look like a dangerous and wild creature. In my memory, it is he who Panicked, though in fact I Know from newspaper stories after the matter that it was his mate to the other side who was Frightened by a child's firecracker. The Coachman, all but Asleep at the reins, was taken unawares, and in those scant seconds, Calamity struck.
It was a little Girl in a yellow frock as merry as the morning sunshine who bolted into the carriage's path. In Retrospect, I cannot say what possessed me to move; the child was not my own and it was my son's birthday. Surely Intellect would insist that I stay by my family's side, but then, I suppose it was not Intellect which drove me.
The mother shrieked. I can still hear the sound, soprano with terror, echoing in my ears; I can, in fact, see the child pulling free from her mother's hand in eager pursuit of a puppy, though I am not at all sure I saw that with my own eyes, and not my mind's. Little ones, with their sturdy legs and unbreakable focus, can move much more Quickly than their parents anticipate, and a woman Bedecked with gowns and petticoats and corsets is no match for such dedication. The mother had no hope.
But I, several steps the closer, did. I sprang forward and Shoved the child, sending her splaying face-down into the dust and cobblestone, her Slight weight easy enough for me to move. Later I read that her only Injury was the breaking of two Baby teeth.
Mine were more Considerable.
I remember a peculiarly clear Thought, that I was glad to have shoved her, and not scooped her into my arms as I tried to run, for Surely she would have been caught and trampled as I was. Horses are not by nature vicious beasts inclined to stomp on people, but driven by fear and tangled in harness and rein, they Danced upon me.
I can deduce that the screams I heard then were not only my own, but those of my family and of passers-by. Each shock was worse than childbirth, shattering Pain in my bones. I cannot say which broke first, my ribs or my legs, nor do I care to Speculate. All I know is that the hoof that finally clipped my skull was nothing less than a Mercy.#
I do not, as a whole, recommend Awakening in a morgue, if it can be at all avoided. It is entirely bad enough to be Killed; to survive it and find oneself surrounded by Cadavers--well, no one will condemn me, I think, if I admit my first action upon regaining my Sensibilities and realizing my companions was to scream like a frightened child. It echoed dreadfully, clanging off cold walls and seeping into the still bodies of the unfortunate Creatures around me. I truly believed one might Rise Up from the force of my cry, and I myself scrambled off the table I lay upon and hid in a corner.
Looking back, I realize that by that time, I had already made several mistakes in my new Existence.
Firstly, and no doubt most Importantly, the dead do not often scream. By the time I had put myself in the corner, two Doctors had arrived, both of them looking a little Wild about the eyes. I cannot in any fashion blame them for this, and can only be glad that in a city the size of the one we lived in, there were enough Deaths on any given day that the problem was not immediately apparent to them.
Secondly, and nearly as important, the corner, while shadowed, was not actually a place of hiding. I would have been vastly better off hiding beneath a corpse's table, where a sheet might have protected me from Prying eyes. Both of these details were lessons I learned well, and made use of later.
Thirdly, though this was perhaps not precisely an error, I had no Concept of what had happened to me. While my location provided the obvious conclusion that I was Dead, my animation suggested otherwise. I could only suppose a terrible Mistake had been made. Armed with this belief, I drew my Dignity about myself and came to my feet.
Out of the various Choices I made in those moments, that was most likely the one that saved me from a lifetime Imprisoned by doctors and Studied like a laboratory animal. For while a Doctor may expect to see a woman unclothed if he is attending her, or if she is a corpse in his care, Men do not expect women to rise up from amongst the dead clad Only in their Dignity, and that, I fear, was all I had to wear.
ytd wordcount: 62,500
miles to Minas Tirith: 15