Returning to consciousness felt strange. When your dreams are of nothing, and you can't remember going to sleep, then the newness of becoming aware is a solid, physical thing. So it was with a jolt that sensation happened. Light and sound flicked on, and with it the heat arriving like a warm wave; the gentle waft of air currents; and the weight of a body. Although this was all new and unfamiliar, there was just the hint of a memory. An echo of the past, nothing more. Something like this had happened before, but it didn't feel right. Not yet.
It was too quiet. But not outside, where the environment rustled and moved. It was within, and it was a stillness. There was one voice talking somewhere inside, but everything else felt empty. There was something missing. An aching, unrequited feeling that nagged away, leaving an unsettling, echoing void.
And the voice inside called for help. From deep within came a desperate cry for an answer. An appeal for a meaning to why this was all so wrong, so strange. But there was no comforting response. No friendly source of companionship and togetherness. No closeness. Just a cold, empty silence.
The sky above was deep blue, with just a few white wisps of cloud. A sun, too bright to look at directly, shone down with a warm strength that you could feel on your skin. All around, pale yellow sand and rocky outcrops were all that was visible to the horizon. And everything had a name - the quiet, whispering internal voice knew what all of these objects, sensations and feelings were called. Learning about seeing took time, and co-ordinating the movements that affected what was seen took longer. Beyond that, there were other things to control, and a new object appeared in view. The voice inside said it was a hand. Moving the hand led to the discovery of the rest of the body; flailing; crawling; and eventually standing. The voice had seen enough: it knew it was a girl; a woman; a female...
There was a sudden rush of realisation. She had arrived somewhere. It felt wrong, as if this was not what was meant to happen. Whatever was missing was still not there, but she now knew that something had been taken away. She had been separated from another part of herself. Torn apart; split into pieces; riven; the words and concepts came thick and fast now. As she looked around, observing was a hollow experience - with a sudden insight, she knew she was waiting for another voice. Nothing happened. The quiet voice inside continued its running commentary, but it was unanswered. She could feel herself anticipating a response to the mounting questions, but it didn't happen.
With nothing inside her head to help, she looked outwards instead.Most of her body was covered in a smooth, stretchy material that changed from red or purple to blue or black depending on how the light caught it. There was a belt and a skirt, too, but they seemed to be part of the same single garment rather than separate. Her skin was pale, and her hair was a coppery gold colour. Again she was struck by the sense of a missing friend, an emptiness that was not filled. It was as if part of her personality had been taken away, and it felt uncomfortable. And how could she make all these comparisons, and know all these names, when she couldn't remember who she was, how she got here or why?
Having scanned the immediate area, and found nothing other than the expanse of sand and rock, there was a decision to make. She found this un-nervingly difficult because she had this nagging feeling that she was missing something - that another voice should be contributing. A distant rumble made her look around to try and discover its source, and she spotted a small speck just above the horizon. It grew larger and noisier, and she watched open-mouthed as a large flying machine thundered by overhead. For a moment she wondered if she should try to attract attention, but by the time she had figured out how to wave then it was already at the horizon. Gone. A sense of frustration and loss suddenly came her, and she wept.
To and from. It seemed reasonable to assume that the flying machine was going between two points. It had looked large and bulky, which suggested that it was some sort of transportation device for large numbers of objects. It had lots of lights and a complex shape, and it had moved purposefully. Definitely not for fun or pleasure, and almost certainly commercial - the shape wasn't anything like pretty or flashy enough. Again she had that feeling that there was something missing in her unspoken conversations with herself, and that wrenched feeling of separation.
She decided to walk in the same direction as the 'ship'. The word popped into her mind in a way that was faintly reminiscent of something very familiar, but was tantalisingly just out of reach. With one decision came others following on. Should she indicate her direction of travel with an arrow made by alligning stones and rocks? Or should she avoid giving away anything? Without any idea of why she was here, she decided to just move on.
Standing up had been a struggle, and the first few steps were hesitant and uncertain, but was at least moving. After a few minutes she began to fall into the rhythm of walking, and as familiarity took over, she could again begin to try and study the environment. The sand was, well, sand. Pale, bleached yellow grains of... Silicon, said her inner voice after a while, with an obvious effort of recall - as if a distant memory had been pulled from an infrequently used location deep within her. The rocks were almost black, rough and scattered around. The same thought that had produced the name for sand, now noticed that there were no dunes: just a few rocky outcrops, but mostly a flat featureless expanse stretching all the way to where the sky met the land in a flat, hazy horizon.
She had been walking for a long time. The sun had risen in the sky, and she was now feeling hot and tired. The view in all directions was just about the same as ever, and with no goal to aim for, she was beginning to wonder what to do. Aimless walking with no target was just using energy, and yet she felt the need to keep moving. Whatever had gone wrong, she had to find out who she was, and what she should be doing, and staying where she arrived didn't seem like a good way to do that. Determination kept her going for quite a lot longer, and when she eventually stopped, she was overcome by a need to lie down and close her eyes.
This time when she woke there was a feeling of hope and anticipation. But this evaporated when she realised that things were depressingly the same as before. The sand and rock still stretched away into the distance, although the sun was much lower in the pinkening sky. So it came as a total surprise when a faint noise behind her caught her attention, and she turned her head and shoulders to see a young man looking down at her quizzically.
'Oh hai-yoh...' he said, bending forwards slightly as he did so.
With another flash of insight, she found that she knew about how to make noises from her mouth, and she struggled to make some sort of response, even though the sounds he had made were incomprehensible to her. But all she got was a croak and a squeal, so she stopped and concentrated on getting up. Moving forward, he reached for her hand and pulled her upwards. Stepping back he surveyed her again with his piercing blue eyes, and produced another set of unfamiliar sounds.
Now that sounded like a question. If only she could try to convey something in reply. But what? When you know nothing about who you are, where you are, or why you are even there, then trying to communicate is hard. Falteringly, she managed to say:
But his expression probably mirrored her own.
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