The Purple Scarf
Distractedly ' her fingers tracked down the side of her face and her head ached ' a dull nagging, gnawing ache that wouldn't go away. Slowly ' she dragged herself up from the snow-covered ground. Where the hell was this place ' how had she got there? This was such a crazy situation. The pain in her head worsened. 'Can't even think straight ' bloody headache! Am I dreaming ' is this some kind of weird nightmare?' But the pain in her head was real enough ' had answered her own question. 'Must be able to remember something ' anything! Can't just wake up and find yourself at the North Pole or wherever - for Christ's sake ' it's not possible,' and she shivered. Zipping her anorak to the neck - fumbled in one of the pockets ' pulling out a pair of purple mittens. It was then she realised. These weren't her gloves ' or her jacket - never seen them before in her life. Digging deep into the other pocket - pulled out a long, purple scarf and stared at it in disbelief. These things didn't belong to her! What the hell was this ' all so totally bizarre?
Suddenly ' a searing pain darted through her head - radiating through every nerve, every vein in her body and she could feel herself falling¦.. falling - into a welcomed state of delirious oblivion. Soon, the sweet, Judas kiss of sleep, fell soft on her eyelids as she succumbed, willingly, to the synthetic slumber of the unconscious ' drifting in and out of that most precarious of states between two worlds and the journey from one to the other ' even more precarious.
Even in her more lucid moments ' her surroundings seemed to take on a kind of surreal appearance. The sky, that by circumstance, she was forced to stare at - looked odd somehow ' not sky-blue but a strange sort of turquoise and a sun that reminded her of a big juicy blood orange as it sat ' perched right on the top of a mountain that blushed to admit a craving for the warmth of its dying rays. By degrees - the pain was easing, as she propped herself up on her arms and looked around. Shadows were getting long and in the half-light, the snow-covered landscape was so incredibly beautiful ' the fir trees' spiky branches, starkly silhouetted against the whiteness of the snow. Beautiful or not ' where was this place? "Where on God's earth am I? she shouted and the words taunted, as they echoed round and around her head.
Outside of her mind, it was quiet. Not a single sound. No birds, no animals ' no cars - no planes. My God ' that was it! In that one split second everything suddenly came flooding back. She'd been on her way to a business convention in Geneva ' taken a plane from Heathrow that very morning ' traffic was lousy on the way to the airport ' only just made it. Desperately, she tried to cast her mind back. Everything had been fine. Then they were told to fasten their seat-belts and 'put their trays in an upright position' ' something about turbulence ' bad weather. The plane banked sharply ' her brief-case bursting out of the overhead luggage bin - couldn't breathe ' as if something was crushing her chest - and praying - she remembered doing that. Hadn't ever really believed in God before ' but desperately needed to believe in him now. Screaming ' didn't want to remember doing that. But she did. Always hated flying ' every plane she'd ever boarded ' was convinced it would crash. In her mind - she'd lived this moment a hundred times.
In an attempt to rationalise the situation - she tried to start thinking about things logically. Someone up there was surely looking out for her - she'd been extremly lucky, to say the least. Just where this place was - she couldn't be sure - or how far from Geneva, but there was bound to be a coordinated search well underway by now. Hopefully they'd find her before nightfall ' otherwise didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell. Can't have been the only one though ' must have been other survivors? Anyway - even in the worst-case scenario ' why were there no bodies -no belongings scattered around. And what about the plane itself? There was no wreckage ' no smell of aviation fuel ' no nothing. Only her. It just didn't add up somehow. None of it did. That chap in the seat next to her's - nice he was ' an insurance broker going to see some prospective clients. She'd quite fancied him ' reminded her somewhat of Brad Pit ' in a vague sort of way. Then there was that rather annoying woman ' said she was some kind of photographic model - nauseating she was - so full of herself. A shiver ran through her as she imagined what could have happened to them - made her blood run cold.
Feeling slightly better, she attempts to stand up ' then hears something - a child's voice. For a split second it goes through her mind that a child may be lying, badly injured somewhere ' but she knew there weren't any kids on the plane ' it was only a small executive jet after all, carrying a handful of business people. Frantically she tries to get up - attract its attenion. Immediately, a wave of nausea overwhelms her ' and she sinks back down onto the snow - the blood-orange sun, still sitting on top of the mountain high above her. Once more she hears the voice - definitely a little girl's. Come to think of it ' very much like Lucy's. In heavens name ' how could she have forgotten? Her own little Lucy would be home from nursery ' by now, Grandma would be looking after her - she loved her Grandma so much. David's mother was a god-send at times like these and so good with Lucy. And then there was David of course. He must be going out of his mind with worry! Why hadn't she remembered all this before? As if - until this moment, the reality of the situation hasn't hit home - blind panic sets in. 'If someone's there ' please help me ' for pity's sake. Fetch someone ' anyone! Help me ' please!' But only the silence answered.
And all the while the incessant sun, stared mockingly down ' in all its motionless orange-red splendour from the top of the mountain ' seeming to loom ever large over her helpless body. 'Bloody sun ' bloody everything. Please come back little girl! Be dark soon then there'll be no chance of anyone finding me then. I'm just going to die here in the snow!' The sun's rays still felt warm on her face though ' didn't even seem close to setting yet, which on reflection, she found extremely strange. Maybe it was her imagination, or maybe she'd just lost track of time - but relative to the mountain ' the sun didn't appear to have actually moved in ages. Ridiculous - she thought - not possible. Didn't make sense at all - but then none of it did - come to that.
A sudden gust of wind whips up the snow and she winds the purple scarf tighter around her neck. Then - much closer this time ' but still some way in the distance - she hears something. Talking - people talking! The kids come back with someone - thank God!
"Here ' I'm over here!" she shouts. Need help! Please help me!
"I will Mummy ' I promise!" the child calls out. "Daddy's here too. We've come to take you home. Hang on ' please Mummy ' we're nearly there!
"Lucy ' David! In heaven's name ' how did you find me ' how did you get here?
Over the brow of the hill she finally sees them ' the snow's so thick and poor little Lucy is having trouble ' the depth of the snow reaching almost half-way up her tiny legs. She smiles and breathes a deep sigh, as a feeling of immense relief spreads through her entire body ' almost orgasmic in its intensity. They'd be there in a moment or two and she lay back in the soft white snow and watched the sun finally setting - as if some kind of supernatural force had intervened - stopped the clock - untill Lucy and David arrived. The sun slowly disappeared behind the mountain - seeming almost to fade in its intensity in front of her eyes ' from brilliant orange, through ochre and yellow then lemon then..... white¦¦¦¦¦¦¦¦¦¦¦¦¦¦¦¦¦..
"I'm so sorry. We did all we could. Sadly, I have to tell you that your wife died ' just minutes before you got here. She was taken ill on the plane ' and an ambulance was waiting at the airport as soon as it touched down. She wouldn't have known much about it though ' what's called a cerebral haemorrhage. If you'd like to come into my office ' a bit later that is - I can explain in more detail ' if you'd like me to. I'm so dreadfully sorry. I'll leave you alone with your wife now. Let nurse know if you need anything, won't you? Hello ' you must be Lucy! I tell you what - why don't you come with me for a while - see if we can rustle up something nice for you to eat ' must be hungry after your journey I should think. Bet you enjoyed your trip in the aeroplane ' didn't you? By the way ' what a lovely scarf that is! Purple's my favourite colour too!
"Look! exclaims the little girl, "I've got mittens to match! They're brand new ' and this jacket! My Grandma gave them to me this morning. Haven't shown them to Mummy yet!
His fingers tracked down the side of her face ' felt every feature, every gentle curve and his tears fell onto her cheek ' looked like her tears. Only - she looked so peaceful ' so serene ' almost happy. He smiled and bent to kiss her. "We're all going home ' very soon now darling - you, me and Lucy. Just one more short flight ' I promise. Never did like flying ' did you? Always frightened of everything really ' even your own shadow ' weren't you?