The chamber which Briar Rose was in was far too bright, blinding her the instant she opened her eyes. She had to squint to look around, but resigned to keeping them shut as they protested in pain. She felt nauseatingly dizzy, a blanket of stars dancing behind her eyelids.
The last she remembered was the sharp pain on her right index finger and the hard, boarded floor strewn with yarn rushing up to meet her. Lifting her arm, she sighed at how limp and heavy it felt – it was like when her feet had fallen asleep during those long, dreadful meetings which she was unwillingly made to join to “discuss and maintain relationships”, namely with her father and the rulers of neighbouring kingdoms.
Shaking away the weariness that lay heavy over her body, she began moving her arms slowly to ease the numbing weight. As her ears grew attuned to her surroundings, she picked up a variety of sounds: a strange, repetitive and monotonous chirping that was coming from her left side, and a small commotion outside the chamber she was in.
She pried open an eye and squinted at the finger which she had pricked, surprised to find no traces of a puncture wound or blood. Frowning, she gave a quick cursory glance at her other fingers and instead found scabs of scratches, and a deep gouge in the space between her thumb and forefinger, which was sealed with stitches. A bulky white contraption was stuck to the back of her hand, and the tip seemed to be going into her skin…
Eyes widening, she opened her mouth to call for her chambermaid when she realised that she wasn’t in her chamber. Plain walls stood on all four corners, enclosing her in a small white box. There was a window to her left, but it was sealed by glass and had vertical strips of plain paper blocking out the sunlight. Beside her bed were metal boxes, some with peculiar little flashing balls on its surface while others with black, reflective faces – one had a line that moved on its own, sketching an endless outline of sharp green mountains. It was also the source of the chirping she had heard. The bed she was in was definitely not her own, as she didn’t own nude woven blankets that were so rough, and she was sure that her bed was much more comfortable than the stiff board she was lying on.
If this wasn’t her chamber, then where was she? Had she been abducted by bandits?
She tried calling for her chambermaid again but there wasn’t a sound - her throat was painfully dry, and lodged in it was an object that felt uncomfortable and prevented her from speaking.
Did I ingest some yarn? Had they placed a torture device inside to prevent me from calling for help?
Little alarm bells went off in Briar Rose’s head as she tried swallowing saliva to perhaps lessen the pain, but her mouth was parched – all she could do was let out a helpless whimper. The object in her throat seemed to grow bigger as her throat constricted, choking her from the inside. Her mind flashed to the earthworms she once played with as a child and gagged.
Feeling around her face with shaky hands, she found her forehead wrapped in cloth and a long string-like object attached to the insides of her nostrils – it certainly was not yarn. Instead, it was rather flexible and squishy, and upon closer inspection, was transparent and hollow with liquid running through it. Panic seized her heart as she tugged at it but withdrew her hands quickly as pain blossomed. She prayed for the strings on her face to disappear - who knew what kind of liquid was flowing through it?
The door to the chamber swung open abruptly and a few men and women bustled in. Some were dressed in long white tunics that reached down to their knees and had buttons down the front, while others had murky green tunics that were shorter in length, and had shorter sleeves that exposed a lot more flesh to be called decent. The odd chirping she had heard earlier seemed to pick up on her anxiety, its chirps now obnoxiously loud and frequent.
These people must be her captors, she thought. Their way of dressing was interesting, opting for patternless clothes of few colours.
One of the ladies dressed in white grabbed her wrist and scrutinised it for a moment, before dropping it unceremoniously onto the bed. A sliver cylinder was brought close to her eye and a flash of bright light shot directly into her eyeball, blinding her momentarily. She had meant to gasp in shock, but the contraption in her throat made it a warbled whine as she struggled to shut her eye.
“It’s a miracle,” the lady breathed. Briar Rose turned to her and frowned in confusion. Blinding another person was certainly not a miracle.
At once, the group of people who had intruded her chamber began speaking, some even shouting what sounded like commands to each other. The noise was far too random and loud, with no one having a proper conversation or speaking in proper sentences. Her head spun with the foreign terms that peppered their fractured speech.
“Patient’s heartbeat is stabilizing.”
“How is this possible?”
“Patient is conscious.”
“We’ll need to wheel her in for an immediate full body scan.”
What was a "full body scan"? They spoke as if she was not there, which made her feel rather inferior.
Of course they’d ignore you, she scolded herself. These people hadn't held her at knife point and demanded for any information, which was a relief, but she wasn't letting her guard down just yet. Perhaps they weren't bandits...
Briar Rose eyed the hollow strings which were placed in her nostrils and down her throat, following the tangle that resembled vines which trailed upwards and disappeared behind her line of sight. She hoped that these were not part of an elaborate torture method she had yet to learn about.
Her worries returned to the people around her. Their language was something that she could understand; yet not fully comprehend at the same time. She noted that the way they dressed was different from the common folk in her kingdom – the men and women were dressed similarly, which was interesting. It appeared as if the women had adopted men’s fashion, choosing long, fitting trousers that were a deep, deep shade of blue instead of long skirts. These trousers were even faded and ripped in certain areas.
Although she was desperate to know who these strangers were and where she was, she knew that asking could possibly endanger herself, as well as the ones she loved. The more she looked at the people around her, the more intimidating and unfriendly they seemed. Perhaps remaining silent at this point would be a wiser choice for her.
The thoughts which were swimming around in her head grew muddled and incoherent as she felt a sudden wave of calm wash over her. The monotonous chirping which was lost under the sea of voices returned, though it was much slower now. Her eyelids drooped ever so slightly, before she gave in and they shuddered close.
No, she thought. She had to observe her surroundings and pick up as much information as possible. She pried open her eyelids, but they closed easily as drowsiness set in. The liquid in the hollow strings must be drugging me, though the thought elicited no panicked response from her drowsy state. The voices around her grew louder but somehow more warbled, and it reminded her of the time when she swam in the creek. The memory brought a small smile to her lips – it was comforting to remember the carefree days she had as a child.
No sooner had a minute passed when Briar Rose was once again pulled into the deep, dark, comforting arms of sleep, her thoughts abandoned in the abyss of her mind.