A girl lies alone on the cold, empty ground. She is silent for a long time. After twelve minutes of being there, she wakes up, groggy, confused and scared. She doesn’t know where she is, but believes she is alone. She is not.
Soon, she becomes painfully aware of the sky. It is empty. No sun. No moon. No stars. Of course, she doesn’t remember these things, but hidden memories are twitching in the back of her mind. She knows something is different. All there is is greyness, carrying on forever. The girl sits up, looks around. Like the sky, the world around her is boring, empty, but beige instead of grey.
As well as the general emptiness of this place, there is no weather to fill the air. No wind to whip up her hair. No warmth to bring her comfort. Nothing.
But then she sees the boy. He is sat about ten metres in front of her, watching her with a bored expression playing across his face.
He can explain, she tells herself. She begins to walk towards him, wondering how on earth she ever managed to miss him, especially considering just how small as the area is. When she finally finds herself standing before him, she realises that something isn’t right. He has lowered his head, face holding a sombre look. His clothes are old and torn, matching the cuts and bruises generously scattered across his face and arms.
She licks her dry lips hopefully, before saying:
“Hello.” To the boy. A flicker of something unreadable crosses his face, but is quickly banished. She tries again, “My name is…” She stops for a moment, thin face paling, taught with internal torment. She doesn’t know her name. She cannot remember anything, though this in particular is especially hard for her to realise. It feels like a punch to her gut. She takes a deep breath and gulps, changing what she was going to say to: “It’s nice to meet you.” and then, when he still doesn’t reply, her voice takes on a pleading tone. “Please may you tell me how to leave?”
She gives up on talking to him, instead carrying out a thorough search of the perimeters. It becomes clear that there really is no way out, and all she has to show for her time is a small pile of broken glass and some scrap metal with flaky blue paint that was scattered around. She sinks to her knees, feeling hopelessly defeated.
But then the boy stands up, revealing his huge height and skinny build, slowly stepping towards her, holding a grave expression.
“I’m going to tell you something.” He tells her with a surprisingly gravely voice. “But you’re not going to like it, and you probably won’t believe it.” She nods, then locks eye contact,
“Go on.” He pulls a concerned face and then bends down awkwardly so he can better talk to her.
“Lots of people pass through here – I am the only one to stay.” He pauses, “I can’t leave. I don’t know why.” Looking down, he continues, “Everyone else has come with clues.” He gestures towards her little pile of scraps, “Like those. But, you see, I had nothing. I just appeared here, on my own.” He takes a deep breath. “But this is about you. You can leave. You just have to think about how these things relate to you.” He stops, so the girl speaks. She has questions.
“I don’t understand. Why am I here in the first place? These things have nothing to do with me…” He smiles at her sadly.
“I think we are dead. My theory is that this is some kind of purgatory. The ‘clues’ you came with, I’m pretty sure that they will help you remember how you died. Once you do, you leave; move on to whatever is next, I guess.” The girl answers without hesitation:
“What? This cant be right?” Her voice is panicked and unsure. “I am not dead.” Her voice drops, “I can’t be…” She trails off.
“I’m sorry. I wouldn’t tell you this unless I was completely sure it is the truth.”
“You know this for sure?” He drops his head before answering,
“I’m sorry.” He thinks, “At least you have a chance though. You can get out of here. Just try to remember. Please.” He stands up straight and brushing imaginary dirt from his trousers before walking away, turning once to say: “You have twenty four hours. Then the clues disappear. All the others were gone before then. Good luck.”
The girl buries her head in her knees and sobs. She doesn’t understand. She doesn’t feel dead. And how can she remember how she died if she doesn’t believe she is dead?
She has no answers.
So, she sits and stares at her little pile of scraps.
And she thinks.
Getting bored after a few minutes, she straightens out her legs and wiggles her bare toes, allowing herself to day dream for a while.
Absent mindedly, she checks for her pulse. There is nothing. No pulse. She is dead.
But then she jumps up into the air, ecstatic.
She checked her pulse.
“My name is Emily Townsend, and I am a doctor.” She tells herself quietly, then shouts to the boy, “MY NAME IS EMILY TOWNSEND. I AM A DOCTOR!” He turns, and the moment before she falls into unconsciousness, she sees him turn and smile, genuinely pleased for her.
Her memories return and she relives her death.
There was a call to the hospital. Her daughter – Mary – had been found, knocked out on the street. She would be okay, people kept reassuring her. She had momentarily gained consciousness for long enough to reveal her name – she would be fine.
But Mary is her daughter and her mothering instincts kicked in. She ran past her colleagues trying to pull her back, to talk to her.
She ran for her car and sped off towards her daughter.
A truck came around the corner. Wrong side of the road.
She had no chance and died almost instantly.
She remembers. Now, it is time to move on.