She started to walk forward along the corridor again what else could she do? She wasn’t really paying attention to the doors any more, just putting one foot in front of the other, the carpet cushioned her steps and muted the sounds of her movement. The lights were still flickering and the beat and the pattering echoed now, all around her. Her feet started to drag, it wasn’t just tiredness and despair that was pulling her down, she realised with a start that the carpet was becoming sodden, it was beginning to squelch under her feet like a quagmire. She continued onward, now the moisture in the carpet was actually sloshing around feet which were wet in her shoes which were moving about awkwardly as she walked. She bent down and slipped them off, carrying them as she moved forward on her stocking feet. The water level kept rising, although she’d only been walking a few minutes she was now dealing with water that was ankle deep, then shin and then almost up to her knees. Her steps were getting laboured, slower and slower, she was no longer what was thought of as young and her breath was coming harder almost a pant now. There was a sudden roaring sound out of nowhere. She looked over her shoulder and with a gasp of horror saw that a torrent of violently churning water was heading at great speed down the corridor towards her. She looked at the nearest door…..number 56, she reached for the handle, yanking at it, with a momentous effort she threw her weight against it and as it burst open, she flung herself inward, blinded and dizzy as she went, making it into the room just before the torrent could hit her.
She landed painfully on her knees, breathing hard, she looked up, more sand? No more like shingle…..she was kneeling on beach, close to the shoreline looking out to sea.
The hammering of waves onto the shingle, soothed her, her breathing eased back to normal, she unfolded her legs to sit in a more comfortable position and waited to see what would be thrown at her next. The gulls wheeled overhead screeching out their calls to each other, the surf came and went with a rhythm all its own, the shingle and pebbles rolled back and forward, and for the first time in what seemed like hours, she felt normal. She looked around, white cliffs rose up to the back of her, wooden groynes jutted out into the sea on either side of the beach she sat on, it all appeared so familiar. She was in Sussex, the memories flooded her mind. What was the number on the door again? 56 - were the numbers linked to years of her life? If so then in 1956 she would have been seven and when she was seven she, her Mum and her Mum’s latest boyfriend had gone on a holiday to the seaside, in Sussex near Climping. Her fear of water and swimming came from that holiday because she had nearly drowned. She had had to be rescued and given the kiss of life. She could perfectly recall the sensation of drowning, the terror of the water rising up over her eyes, cutting off the sight of the beach and safety. The remembrance of trying to feel the pebbly bottom with her feet and there just being more water. She had broken to the surface, arms flailing, trying to call out for help and her mouth had filled with seawater as she had sunk under the waves again and again. Just as she was coming close to exhaustion, she became aware of being hauled up and out of the water and being carried, it seemed such a long journey back to shore but that was allowing for a child’s idea of distance. They had laid her down and she must have passed out because her next and last recollection of the event was of coughing and spluttering and bright sunshine burning her eyes through their lids.
Taking a moment from her recollections, she felt the salt sting of the sea air in her nostrils. So many memories today. Things that had laid lost or dormant for years had come back to haunt her.
Unsteadily she got to her feet, real or imaginary, pebbles were difficult to walk on. She had a feeling she wouldn’t have much longer here, the clouds were scudding by at an unnatural speed as if time was on fast forward. She started to head down to the water, it felt as if she were moving slower than everything else, the scenery was reminiscent one of those time lapse nature programmes on the T.V. She reached the sea and her toes felt the cold sting of water though her torn stockings. Where were her shoes now? She watched the waves lap her feet, they’d never come back to the seaside. The infrequent childhood trips had all been inland after that little adventure. She felt she had missed out by not making the effort in her adult life to come to the very edge of the land, she felt a twinge of regret. As if by a flick of switch or by that last thought, the world dipped and swirled again and she felt the dislocation of movement, with her next breath she was back in the corridor. All signs of the water had gone and nothing else was new other than her shoes stood neatly together right in front of her.
(Copyright P Lainchbury 2012)