I'm sitting here waiting. It's been about five minutes, maybe, but it feels as if it has been hours. The room's so quiet I can hear the clock ticking, but the sound it signifies is meaningless. I'm drifting disconsolately in my private universe of confusion, waiting for it to be over. Waiting for what to be over precisely? The nightmare that I'm currently living? Perhaps. But then I'll face an eternity of regrets, in one way or another. There's a hideous queasiness welling in my stomach as my terror mingles with my distress. I can't concentrate on my book. The words keep dancing across the page, forming their own incoherent sentences. Then there are my hands, which don't seem to know what they should be doing: from my lap to my face to my hair to fiddling with my jewellery. If they weren't attached to my arms, they'd be a circus act of their own.
My brain is in a constant state of scatter. Attempting to focus on one specific activity or train of thought is impossible. My mind wanders from thought to thought, but always brings me to the same question: 'How did I wind up here?'
'Here.' There's an interesting concept. The 'here' of my present physical location or the 'here' of my situation? The two are linked; flawlessly combined, in fact. Without the one, there wouldn't be the other. If I weren't in this state, I wouldn't be in this place. I'm here all the same, although I never imagined this. But who would?
Waking up that morning I just thought that I had a hangover. I opened my eyes and shut them again immediately. The weak winter sunlight was enough to sear through my eyeballs. I laid in bed pretending that my head didn't feel as if a baby rhinoceros were learning to tap dance in there, or that moving a little toe would make me feel sick. Instead, I tried to calculate how much I'd drunk the night before to induce a hangover of such monstrous proportions. I'd bought myself a pint. Rachel had bought me a pint. Then what? I couldn't remember. I knew that I'd arrived late and Rachel had left in a hurry; I'd stayed, sitting at the bar to finish my drink. I hadn't eaten all day, but to not recall anything after two drinks, that was very peculiar. Still, I'd managed to get myself home and into bed. Nothing that terrible could've happened.
The rest of that day passed in a haze of orange juice, ibuprofen, a hot bath, and an all-pervasive ache. Every single muscle felt wearied and trying to process a task more complicated than running a bath made my brain collapse under its own functionality. It was almost as if I had cotton wool between my ears. I was troubled by a nagging doubt concerning the missing hours after Rachel had gone home, but apart from not remembering anything, nothing seemed to be wrong. It would take another six weeks before I'd realise exactly how wrong things were.
As I looked at the small blue cross growing more definite on the pregnancy test I felt my blood begin to run colder and colder through my veins. My breathing became erratic and before I knew it I was hyperventilating on the floor. My knees were no longer capable of bearing my weight. Were there any tears? Maybe. Probably. I couldn't tell because my entire body was numb. The cold stone floor was an irrelevancy. That I'd clenched my fists so tightly I'd drawn blood from my palms with my nails I noticed only later. Very suddenly, I was living in a nightmare.
Just like a nightmare, I was utterly alone and completely isolated. I was carrying a baby whose father I didn't even know; this baby wasn't conceived in love, but by deception, by force. But who would believe me? What credibility is there to my story of a night without a memory? In my dreams I'm haunted by visions of events from that night. They're only ever fragments, and like shards of shattered mirror scattered on the ground they're too slight and too sharp too piece back together. There is no knowing if these are recollections surfacing from the forbidden depths of my memory or if my imagination is implanting gruesome fallacies before my mind's eye. But there is always a face twisted into a wicked grin, bearing down on me. That's when I always wake up, barely able to breathe and feeling cold all over, but drenched and lying on soaked sheets.
My world comprises two halves: the reality of carrying a baby I don't want and the spectre of how this baby came to be. I'm not sure how to bring them together again.
So that's how I came to be here, sitting in a waiting room with only the ticking of the clock and my confused thoughts for company. Waiting for my name to be called, waiting to end a life that's barely begun so that I can make an attempt to get on with mine the best that I can, waiting to assume a burden that I'll carry for always.
This isn't even horror, this is terror