Chapter FourShe woke up, and instantly wished she hadn't. Waves of pain ran through her, starting at the back of her head and undulating down her spine. This wasn't good. This wasn't good at all. She braced herself to open her eyes again, and did so, more gently this time, letting her eyelids control the amount of light coming in. Through the narrow crack she allowed herself, she took in her surroundings.
To her left, several items of medical equipment: a heart monitor, each ping like a hammer blow to her distorted senses. A crash trolley, defibrillators ready to restart her heart if required. A drip, attached to the vein on the back of her hand. She looked to her right. Unimaginative but inoffensive furniture, in the sort of colours designed not to excite anyone. A plastic bag seemed to be closed in a cupboard door. Maybe her clothes were in there. And all around her, the plastic screens like shower curtains that give patients the illusion of privacy, at least until a nurse or doctor feels like barging in.
She was obviously in a hospital. Why was she in hospital? She opened her eyes a little wider and the pain came back with a vengeance. Her head felt like a Napalm Death drum solo. There had to be a connection.
She tested her body. She could feel her feet, and by rubbing one against the other, she could at least confirm that she wasn't paralysed. She looked down at her arms, and apart from the drip in her hand, she didn't seem to be injured there either. She reached up, careful not to disturb the tubes and wires attached to her, and ran her hand through her hair. And the scream that resulted brought a nurse with a very worried expression.
“Good evening, Miss Frackowski,” said the nurse, relieved that the screaming had stopped. “You've been in the wars.”
The woman in the bed looked at her. “Frackowski?” she said. “Who is Miss Frackowski?”
“I'm sorry,” said the nurse. “I didn't mean to be so formal. Do you prefer Dorota? No problem. You've had an accident but you're in the best place now. I'll go and tell the consultant that you've woken up.” She smiled reassuringly, the muscles working from long experience, and slipped through the curtain, pulling it closed before her.
The woman in the bed was confused. Who on earth was Dorota Frackowski? Was it really her? Had she lost her memory?
She ran through as much as she could remember about the day. She had been walking along the road, under the scaffolding, when she felt like the skies had fallen in. Maybe Chicken Little was right. No, that couldn't be right. Chickens barely have a nervous system. They couldn't be right about anything. She tried working backwards. What was she doing before that?
She remembered pasta. Spaghetti carbonara in a little cafe, sitting outside somewhere. She could still taste the bacon. Bits were still stuck in her teeth. She remembered a woman on the next table, having a very agitated conversation in a foreign language. Other diners gave her such disapproving glares that she had left, to pursue her argument elsewhere.
The woman in the bed considered this. And that's when it struck her. She wasn't Dorota Frackowski but she had stolen her handbag, left behind while its owner screamed in Polish down the 'phone. Shit. This wasn't good. This was a nightmare.
She tried to move her head again, and once more, the white hot pain coruscated down the back of her head and neck. But a bit of pain was better than a lot of bird. She pulled the drip from her hand and reached behind her to unplug the heart monitor. She was an avid fan of medical dramas and knew that unsticking the pads first would change the tone from bleeping to whining, and that would attract a lot of attention. She sat up in bed, and bit her lip to prevent herself from screaming again. Her head really did hurt, and waves of dizziness, a tsunami of pain, crashed over her.
She had been right about the location of her clothes in the cupboard, and she put them on, trying as best she could to keep quiet. With the stoicism born of necessity, she put on her shoes, took several deep breaths, and slipped between the curtains to find a way out of the hospital.