The day was a cold one, and the leaves were beginning to fall from the trees in little clumps, like a puzzle being broken apart. Outside the window the morning frost clung to the plants desperately, against the efforts of the sun. Inside it was warm, safe.
Helen Moore was still in bed, and had no plans to change her situation, except for the fact that it was way past her normal breakfast time, and that her stomach was in a state of protest against her unwillingness to leave her bed and go downstairs to eat. She had gone to bed early, but her mind had kept her awake for several hours, until she had drifted into a light sleep at some point in the night.
She lay there in her bed for a little while, tired and limp, but as the minutes went on she decided that she would have to get up and leave the warmth of her bed.
In the corner stood her closet (a wedding gift which her brother had bought for her in an antique shop in Oxford), from which she took several mismatched items of clothing. She threw them on (after all she wasn't expecting visitors) and made her way downstairs. On the bottom floor of the house it was dark. The light switch wasn't working, so she lit a candle, and went into the kitchen. Helen walked around the kitchen aimlessly for a while before being reminded by her aching stomach why she was here. Upon opening the cupboards she discovered that they were empty, and, with a sigh of exasperation, walked barefoot back up the stairs to the bedroom to get her bag.
When she left the house the cold air hit her in a sudden, freezing gust of November wind. The street was empty, and the cars from the other houses' driveways were missing, taken by the mothers bringing their children to school. The walk to the shops did not take long, and she reached her destination within a few minutes.
As she entered the supermarket, she began to notice other customers' fleeting looks from her to one another. Behind her, people were whispering, and the man behind the counter looked up from his crossword to watch her for a few seconds, before lowering his eyes once more. Helen ignored them; it was probably just the sloppy way she was dressed today. She wandered slowly around the shop for a while, browsing the organic produce section, but as she walked towards the dairy aisle, a sudden, sharp pain shot through her brain. Doubling over, she clutched her stomach and with her left hand searched in her bag for the pills she took every morning at eight-thirty. Of course, she hadn't remembered them, and they were probably lying on her dresser at home. Helen quickly regained her composure and walked towards the counter, where she payed for her groceries. She left the shop quickly, and walked home, swaying slightly, the echo of that painful, ear-splitting sound still ringing through her head. As she reached the house, she noticed how flaky the paint was. She would have to get Richard to fix that when he got back from his business trip to Boston. Upon entering the house, she dropped the bag of groceries in the kitchen before making her way back upstairs, to the safety of her bed.
Outside, the faint yellow glow of the street light illuminated the tree outside her window, and the headlamps of passing cars cast single beams of light into her room. Helen awoke with a start. Her mind was clouded by a greyish haze leftover from her light slumber; the mist had brought strange thoughts into her dreams, but its dark tendrils were already retreating into the corners of her room. She fumbled for the light switch by her bedside table, but it wouldn't turn on. Her head was still throbbing, and her thoughts were all jumbled up, but she managed to swing herself out of bed before tiptoeing down the stairs into the living room.
Her mind was becoming clearer, and she sat for a while, enjoying the silence of the dark house. The lights still weren't working, so she lit another candle. Sitting alone at the family table, she thought of her children, Robert and Melissa, and how they were doing at University, and how she should call and invite hem over for Sunday Lunch next week, and how she should go to the Pharmacy for some painkillers, maybe some of those pills she needed to take to prevent the grocery store scenario from happening again. She chuckled to herself; how silly it had been to forget those pills!
After a while, Helen made her way back into the kitchen. The morning light had begun to cast its wintery glow over the apple tree in the garden, illuminating the kitchen. As she stood behind the kitchen counter, she noticed a thin layer of dust on the surfaces of the room. She swiped her index finger over the coffee table and noticed a greyish layer of grime on her skin as she took her hand away. Walking towards the window, she saw specks of dust and dirt stuck to the glass, as if the windows hadn't been cleaned for a while.
She thought no more of it, but began to make her way back up the stairs, when that sudden, ringing pain shot through her mind again. Helen clutched the bannister in shock, and waited for the pain to pass, before she stumbled up the stairs. She felt strange, almost like there was something else in her mind, something that didn't belong. She had to call Richard; she needed his help, now. As she picked up the phone, another wave of pain shook her, and she fell onto the ground, her fall cushioned only by a rug on the otherwise bare floor. As she fumbled for her phone in her bag, she found a small, crumpled piece of paper with a phone number printed on it. The pain wasn't stopping, and she needed help fast. Helen dialled the number with shaking hands, and sat on the floor, leaning against the bed. After eight rings, a woman's voice answered.
"Hello?" the voice said.
"Hello? I'm experiencing some pain in my head, I think I need help." Helen answered, shaking.
Silence on the other end.
"Hello? Is anyone there?" Helen whispered; the pain was dulling down.
"Oh my God, it's you isn't it? Joe, call the doctor, we need him, we've found her, hurry up Joe, this is urgent..."
Helen listened in confusion as the voice on the other end of the phone rambled on. Who was Joe? Who had they found?
"Alright, I'm going to need you to listen to me. I need you to give me the address of the place you are at right now. Can you do that for me?" said the other voice, now more clear.
With a shock, Helen realised that she didn't know an address, nor a street name or house number. She gathered her strength and dragged herself down the stairs, into the main hall, where piles of unopened mail had gathered by the door. Phone in hand, she read aloud the name of the street which the letters were addressed to.
"Good job, we're on our way" were the last words Helen heard before drifting into the grey mist once again.
Blurred shapes, a glaring white light, a man with a clipboard. She couldn't move her hands. Her eyes twitched with the effort of keeping them shut. The light was far too bright, and she wanted to go home. In the corner she heard talking. Listening in to the conversation, she gripped the sheets. They smelled clean, clinical.
"Amanda Morris, forty-nine years old. Diagnosed with split-personality disorder in 2011, unmarried and childless. She's had a history of escape attempts, but she previously never made it this far."
Something in her clicked. Amanda! How silly it had been to forget those pills...