Through her hazy vision, she saw someone wearing white leaning over her, eyes smiling at her and then shifting to something on bed. Moments later she felt gentle squeezing on her right arm.
She screamed, and then started thrashing. Bedcover was thrown to the floor and she made to yank her IV line before the bewildered nurse recovered from her shock and clamped her down.
“Relax madam” she said in between pants “you are in a hospital! Calm down”
The woman would none of it. Her eyes were wild and her voice was going hoarse. “Leave me alone! Please, I beg you in the name of God. Don’t do this to me. I will die if you do this”
The door opened and two nurses rushed in, followed by a doctor. The nurses helped hold the thrashing woman down while the doctor pushed in a sedative and within seconds the woman was limp.
“What happened?” the doctor asked the nurse that had been in the room with the patient.
“I came to measure her vital signs, and she opened her eyes as I was inflating the cuff of the sphygmomanometer and started thrashing about, attempting to remove her IV line and run. She was also pleading with me not to harm her or she would die”
“She is still re-experiencing the trauma” the doctor replied, a middle aged man, moderately built with a receding hair line.
“We need to keep an eye on her and might have to sedate her for the next twenty four hours”
He took the patient’s notes from the nurse and scribbled into it before handing it over and leaving the patient’s room.
It was dark. She had no idea where she was or how she had gotten there.
“Hello” she called out “anybody here?”
There was no answer.
“Hellooooooooo” she shouted, still no answer.
Feeling the walls with her hands, she stood up and inched forward lifting her legs higher than necessary for fear of hitting her legs against any object. The wall was smooth and cold, just like the hard floor beneath her bare feet.
“Stay here”. It was the voice of a child, barely above a whisper, whimpering. It sounded familiar, and brought back memories of her childhood.
She had been afraid of the dark and could not sleep without the light on. Many a night she would sneak into her parents’ bed in the middle of the night. Her mother hated that but her father had been more tolerant.
She called softly to the child. “Hi, what is your name?”
There was no reply.
She called again “are you scared?”
“Yes, and you should be too”
‘Not anymore’ she thought wistfully. Her mother had made sure she wasn’t afraid of the dark. She had sneaked into her parents’ room that night as usual but things had turned out differently.
She had woken in the middle of the night to pee and it had been raining. Lightning streaked across her room and she thought she saw a man in her room. She had run out of her room and gone to her parents’ room.
She had heard noises as soon as she entered her parents’ room and had been afraid to move further. After a moment she had recognized the voice as that of her mother groaning and muttering ‘Oh God’, moments later she screamed and then the room was quiet. That was when she had proceeded to her parents’ bed and climbed in.
“Mummy, why were you screaming?” she had asked, and she felt her mother stiffen. Moments later, her father burst out laughing.
“How long have you been in the room?” her mother had asked. When her mother had learned that she had been in the room earlier and heard her muttering ‘Oh God’, her mother had been mortified and had escorted her back to her room, her cries notwithstanding. That night, her mother had locked her inside her room.
She had cried for a long time and eventually had fallen asleep. Since that night, she had stopped being afraid of the dark. It was years later that she knew what had happened that night to make her mother so mortified and angry.
She spoke to the child. “I am not afraid of the dark, there is nothing to be afraid of” and when the child did not reply, she added “where are you? I will come meet you”
“Over here” the child responded.
“Okay, I am coming, and then I will find a way to get us out of here”
“No” the child said, voice trembling “it is safer here”
“Do you know something I don’t?” she asked inching closer to where the voice was coming from
“There are bad people outside and they will hurt us”
“Do you know them?”
She decided on another tactic. “What’s your name?”
“What a lovely coincidence” she exclaimed
“I am Vivian too”
“I know” came the child’s reply
A chill ran down the woman’s spine and she felt goose bumps cover her arms. She felt that she had heard that voice before, even knew who was speaking but she couldn’t place it.
“How do you know my name?” she strived to maintain an air of interest rather than fear. She didn’t want to give away her inner turmoil.
She was now beyond scared. There was something sinister going on. Suddenly, a thought entered her mind. What if it was one of her captors that was mimicking a child’s voice and was taunting her, playing games with her? She discarded the thought, the voice she had heard had sounded genuinely scared.
“I heard the man calling you that” the girl answered.
“I don’t know. He kept saying ‘Vivian, I am sorry’”
She reached the other end of the room where the child was huddled against the wall. She wrapped the girl in her arms and rocked her.
Noises from beyond the room made her stop. The girl heard it too, because she could feel her tense in her arms. She stood up and moved towards the sound.
“Don’t go” the little girl pleaded
“Don’t be afraid dear” she whispered, “I am going to get us out of here”
“No!” the girl’s voice was trembling and it was filled with horror. That made the woman stop. She returned to the girl to cuddle her
“It will be okay” she cooed
“No, no, no” the little girl was shaking “please don’t go”
“No, no, no” the patient was muttering from her sleep. Then she began to move her head from side to side.
“She is waking up” the nurse standing by her bedside observed.
“No” the doctor replied “I think she is having a nightmare. She is actually re-living her experiences and if I am to take a guess, her mind is trying to block out the images from her conscious mind”
“How is that possible?”
“You see, when we undergo traumatic experiences, there are several mechanisms the mind engages in to help us deal with them. The most basic of these is called repression, where the event is buried deep into the unconscious mind and recall of it is prevented.”
“But how do you know she is trying to repress these images?”
“I am not sure but from the statements she has been uttering from her sleep. Words like ‘No’ and ‘don’t go’ could be a warning from a part of her brain where her emotions are stored to another part that is storing the memories of the event preventing a rehearsal of the event in order to relieve the distress.”
“So, by blocking out the memory, she will be able to deal with it?”
“But what kind of person does this to another human, one you claim to love?”
“Unbridled passion turns men into beasts” replied the doctor solemnly as he turned and walked away from the patient’s bedside.
The noises were increasing. The girl clung to the woman more tightly, burying her face in the woman’s bosom. The woman cuddled the girl and rocked her gently.
“It will be alright” the woman whispered to the girl.
“No” the girl said “it would never be alright. Everything has changed”
The woman frowned in the darkness. Something in the girl’s tone sent a chill down her spine. What did she mean by everything has changed? What was the girl not saying? Or was it fear that was making the girl to say what she said? She was confused.
“Why do you say that?” she asked the girl
“Because it is the truth” the girl replied
A high pitch scream shattered the silence. The girl flinched and burrowed her head closer to the woman. The woman huddled the girl closer for a moment and then told her to stay in the corner while she stood up to investigate the noise. She inched forward step by step while using her hand to trace the wall.
She reached the door and found the handle. The door was locked. She tried the handle again but it didn’t budge.
She felt a hand circle her waist and she shrieked.
“It is me, Vivian” the little girl said as she held on tighter. “Please don’t go out there”
“You scared me” the woman replied, her voice slightly trembling. “Don’t you worry, I will find a way to get us out of here”
“No” the small girl protested “we are safe in here. Outside is too dangerous.”
“What do you mean?”
“There are bad people outside. They won’t harm us here”
“Is there something you are not telling me?”
Another scream emanated from behind the door. The girl disengaged from the woman and ran further inside the room. The woman hesitated for a while, considering the words of the girl. Maybe it was safer to stay inside.
Whoever was outside could easily come inside and harm them and then they would be trapped. It was better to know what the situation was and then see if they could escape or get help. She tried the door handle again and it turned.
She called out to the girl as she opened the door and light streamed into the room.
“Don’t do this to me” the little girl whimpered
She turned towards the girl and froze.
She was staring at a younger version of herself.
The little girl was her.
She realized now why she had felt that the girl was familiar.
“Don’t go out there” the younger Vivian pleaded “close the door and let us stay here. We are safe here”
“Who are you?” the older Vivian asked in a voice that was hoarse and barely above a whisper. She hid her hands behind her back to hide the trembling
“I am you” the girl replied and moved towards the older version of herself “I am trying to protect you”
The older woman stepped back “protecting me from what?” she asked. Her heart was beating fast now. She was beyond scared.
Another scream stifled the little girl’s reply. The woman turned towards the source of the noise and watched with wide eyes the horror playing before her.
She was looking into a room where a man was trying to coerce a woman to sleep with him. The man had hugged and kissed the woman, and she had kissed him back too. Then the man’s hands had reached up and cupped the woman’s breasts and she had stopped him but he refused.
She tried to resist him but he kept on fondling her and he eventually pushed her down on the bed. Amidst the protest and struggles, he overpowered her and forced himself on her.
The woman was screaming and pleading but the man was adamant. He was past caring and was humping with gusto till he was done taking his fill. By then, the woman had stopped screaming and she lay limp on the bed with blood stains splattered on the sheets.
Tears were dropping down the older Vivian’s face as she watched the scene unfolding before her eyes. She was shocked at the cruelty of the man. What was even more distressing was the fact that the woman had trusted the man. He wasn’t a stranger to her, he was her lover. And he had done such abominable thing. Why?!
She felt a mixture of emotions washing over her- sadness, pain and anger but mostly anger. Then she saw the face of the woman that had just being assaulted.
The patient screamed.
In an instant, nurses were by her bedside, holding her down. Tears were streaming down her face and she was sobbing quietly.
“Daniel, why?” she muttered “why did you do this to me? Whatever have I done to offend you?”
The nurses looked at one another. The older of them moved closer to the patient and spoke gently. “Madam, who is Daniel? What did he do to you?”
“I trusted you!” the patient went on, oblivious to the other people in the room. “I loved you with all my heart” her voice was breaking and soon she was sobbing.
“Better get the doctor here” the older nurse turned to the younger.
“I told you not to go outside” it was the younger Vivian, her voice soft and trembling.
The older Vivian stood trembling on the spot. The little girl moved close to her and hugged her.
“He is a bad man” the little girl whispered.
The older woman nodded, arms wrapped around herself and rocking back and forth on her heels. “Yes, he is” she replied after a while. “And I loved him”
“Didn’t he love you back?”
“I thought he did. He said he did and I believed him”
“If he said he loved you, why then did he hurt you? You don’t hurt people you love”
“No, you don’t” the older woman answered
“So, he didn’t love you”
“No, he didn’t. He just lied that he did”
The woman was fully awake now. She had been in a state of delirium for the past twenty hours, drifting in and out of consciousness. Her eyes slowly adjusted to her environment, the white walls, the bedside table, the whirring machines with tubes connecting to her body and the two pairs of eyes focused on her.
“Where am I? She asked in a hoarse voice.
The nurse walked to the bedside table and poured water into a glass and handed it to her. She took a sip and handed the cup back.
“You are in the hospital” the doctor replied “you have been here since yesterday evening and you have been drifting in and out of consciousness since then. I am Dr Williams, how are you feeling?”
“What happened to me?”
“You were brought in here by your friend Daniel, he said you suddenly fainted. When you woke up at first you were screaming and pleading not to be harmed”
The mention of her boyfriend’s name triggered a flood of memories she would rather have buried deep down. She closed her eyes as the tears cascaded down her cheeks.
She shrieked at the touch of the doctor who had come to sit by her bedside and had squeezed her shoulder gently. She cringed and shifted away from his touch.
“Would you like to tell me what happened to you?” the doctor’s voice was soft and full of compassion.
The woman shook her head. Remembering was too painful and she could not get any sound past the tightness in her throat.
“It helps to talk about it” the doctor replied, still in that soft and empathic tone “talking helps you heal. It is a process and you don’t have to rush it. Just take it one step at a time and whenever you are ready, help will always be available”
He stood up to go. “Your friend Daniel has been taken to police custody and the officer in charge has been itching to talk to you. I will hold him off until you are ready to talk”
She nodded and watched him step out of the room with the nurse in tow. When the door closed after them, she buried her face in the pillow and screamed, succumbing to the avalanche of sorrow that threatened to drown her. Her whole body shook with the intensity of the sobs as she begun to accept that things will never be the same again, her life had been irrevocably turned upside down, and on her birthday.