Her first conscious thought was the pain. It was white-hot and swept through her in waves that caused her skin to prickle with endurance. The sweat didn’t break until the pain reached her toes, where it offered her a moment of relief, before returning to the back of her head and pulsing, in readiness for its next, nauseating journey.
Were it not for the pain, she considered, she actually felt rather content. Her whole body was pleasantly heavy and relaxed, like the after-effects of far too much red wine. Vaguely curious of the sensation’s origin, she half-heartedly attempted to raise her leaden right arm, but found it wouldn’t budge. The limb was definitely there, she could feel its presence, but moving it was like trying to travel upwards through a vat of golden syrup. It made the little hairs on her finger-backs bristle with a cold feeling, like the precedent of pins-and-needles. Trying again, with more conviction this time, she found that raising the arm a fraction of an inch at her side caused it to be immediately sucked back down as her strength failed her.
Clarity inching further into her consciousness, she attempted to turn her head. Ow…! The pain became really quite severe when she moved her neck. She tried instead to open her eyes, to establish her location, but found it impossible to force them beyond a fraction of a millimetre. Straining her eyelids caused a violent stab of agony and a subsequent aching behind her eyes. It was definitely more comfortable to leave them shut. In fact, the less she tried to move at all, the more comfort her condition allowed her. A wave of fatigue swept through her, but she fought the urge to sleep. No matter how tired, immobile and drunken she felt, human curiosity demanded she explored her surroundings.
She flexed her fingers beside her thigh, caressing a seemingly padded surface beneath her. It was foam of some sort, perhaps? Her fingers slid over the cold cotton that covered the…of course, a mattress! That made a lot of sense, she was obviously hurt…she must be in bed, in a hospital. Beneath her was a foam mattress covered with a sheet. Satisfaction and pride spread through her chest, warming her from the inside out. Despite her injuries, whatever they turned out to be, she was still of sound, sharp mind! A hospital explained the quiet too, and the cotton resting on the backs of her stirring fingers and tickling her chin. She was in bed, and covered by a sheet.
A hospital…? What happened? The last thing she remembered was driving. I must have had an accident. There was that other car, too close behind me. Headlights filling the mirror…
She stretched her fingers a little further now, sliding her hands across the mattress, and made contact with the bedrails. It was a long time since she’d lain in a single bed. It seemed narrow…cheap! Barely room to roll over! I’m definitely in a hospital! The surfaces beneath her fingertips were smooth and solid, cold to the touch. Full bed-guards?! I’m in the ICU?! How badly am I hurt…?
Gingerly, she moved her neck again, just a fraction. The same astounding wave of hot pain shot through her body, churning her stomach as its violent stabs overwhelmed her. She gritted her teeth and breathed it away, sucking in deep breaths of warm, stuffy air. Why are hospital wards always so damn stale?! Surely it’s healthier to open a window!
When the pain reached her feet and passed for an instant, she regained enough focus to continue methodically assessing her condition. I can feel my neck…it hurts like Hell, but I can feel it. That means it can’t be badly damaged, right? And I don’t feel a collar, so it mustn’t be serious…probably whiplash…I bet that idiot hit my bumper! …He did! I remember…ran me off the road! She tried to shrug her shoulders a little, testing her whiplash theory. Ow! It hurt enough to bring tears to her eyes, but at least her shoulders moved relatively freely. The longer she was awake, the more the heavy, drunken feeling seemed to be receding.
She wiggled her fingertips against the sheets beneath her again and found herself able to lift her hands off the bed, raising them at the wrists just long enough to graze the surface of the bed-guards with her knuckles. She thought her face might have smiled then. I can feel my arms! And they don’t hurt! …Okay,…what about my legs? She stretched her feet, extending them at the ankles until her toenails reached far enough to scratch the cold panel at the bottom of the bed. My toes! I can feel my toes! Everything’s okay…neck, arms, legs, everything works! …I must have banged my head when he made me crash, but apart from that… Oh God, how long was I asleep?! Do my family know I’m here? I need to let a nurse know I’m awake…
She tried again to open her eyes, but even with the fog in her limbs lifting, her eyelids refused to co-operate. Attempting to force them open caused yet another wave of the sickening pain that beat in her head to pass through her body, bringing bile into the back of her throat. She spun wildly inside and the nausea weakened her, dragging her ever closer to sleep. She resisted, lying perfectly still, and waited for it to pass. Okay…I need to keep my eyes shut. Maybe I can shout for a nurse instead?
“Hello…” What was intended as a word, escaped only as a dry, whispered breath. “Nurse?” she tried again, but her voice remained only a weak rush of air. My throat’s so dry! Once they know I’m awake they’ll bring me water...I’ll be able to speak then.
Finding herself with no alternative, she tested the heaviness in her limbs again, lifting her hands off the bed from the wrist. If she focused hard, they moved more easily now. I think I can do this. She rolled her shoulder. Ow! Alright then, maybe just from the elbow… Taking another deep breath of the stale air, she raised her right arm slowly off the sheets from the elbow, and tried to wave it at her side, banging her wrist bone on the bed-guard with a hollow clunk. Ouch!
She raised the arm a little higher, sliding her knuckles up the smooth, cold bed-guard, and searching for its top over which to wave. I wonder how I got here? Did the guy who hit me call an ambulance? As her hand reached the top of the solid panel, her right thumb was the first part of her to know there was a lid on the narrow box…
She opened her mouth and tried to scream, but still, no sound came out.