As Basia reached for consciousness, something in the back of her mind told her to stay in the blissful, peaceful darkness enveloping her. She sensed nothing good would come from being awake. She fought, trying to remain asleep, but the force working against her won.
She blinked a few times, then tried to rub her eyes, but she couldn’t. Was she paralyzed? Anxiety began to seep in, so she forced herself to take slow, deep breaths. She wiggled her toes, then her fingers.
No, not paralyzed. But why couldn’t she move her arms and legs? Pressure on her wrists and ankles told her restraints held her down. If only it weren’t so dark; if only she could see something, anything, maybe she’d be able to figure out where she was. She was trapped, in complete darkness, with no idea where she was or why. Panic took hold, and she screamed until her throat was raw, then continued screaming until she slipped back into unconsciousness.
When Basia woke, sun shone through the window. She looked around, taking stock of her surroundings. She was in some sort of hospital, though the other bed in her room was vacant. Silence permeated the building. Every time she’d been in a hospital to visit someone, the halls were filled with noises – doctors giving orders to the nurses, the beeping of various machines, the moaning of patients. Even in relatively quiet areas there was always noise. The hum of fluorescent lights, a TV with the nightly news, a daughter reading a book to her elderly father.
Sometimes, when Basia’s head became too crowded, too much noise from the world scared her, inducing panic attacks. But now, the complete silence of this strange hospital was more terrifying than anything she had ever experienced.
Basia hoped she could remain calm enough to remember why she was here. She’d been doing so well; it had been weeks since her last attack. She’d worked too hard, for too long, to return to having multiple attacks in a day. If she was ever going to have a normal life, she had to be stronger than the anxiety.
But what was normal about waking up, strapped down to a bed in an abandoned hospital? She shouted for help, her throat still sore from screaming so much the night before, but she had to try to get someone’s attention, had to find someone who would set her free. Why was she restrained? Weren’t restraints for crazy people, people who were a danger to themselves or others? That wasn’t her. Sure, sometimes the panic attacks made her feel like a danger to herself, but they were never anything that truly warranted restraints.
She realized there was a saline drip in her arm. The bag was nearly empty though, and how long would a saline drip really sustain her anyway if she didn’t have real food and water? She had no idea. And couldn’t the site of a needle puncture become infected if the needle was left in too long? It seemed as if that’s something she’d overheard a nurse say when her mother was in the hospital all those years ago, but she couldn’t be certain. That was an uncertain time, which had led to an even more uncertain life.
Basia tried to move her arms again but made no progress. Next, she wiggled her feet around, hoping for more leeway there. But there was no room to try to force her foot out. She was trapped.
A loud rumble from her stomach told her she needed to eat. It hadn’t even been a full day since she’d woken up in this place, but how long had she been there before that?
Are you sure you want to know the answer? a voice asked.
“Who’s there?” Basia called out.
No one answered. Maybe she had imagined the voice.
Basia tried to think about the last thing she could recall, hoping to find an inkling of what had happened to her. She remembered working the closing shift at the restaurant, where a coworker had once again been taunting her about her panic attacks. She’d had another that night when a customer complained to her manager about her poor service. It hadn’t been Basia’s fault the cook screwed up the order, but the customer didn’t care. He couldn’t see the cook; Basia was an easier target. He was obviously the type of person who belittled other people as a method of making himself feel superior. That didn’t ease Basia’s mind though. She was only thankful she had made it to the break room before completely losing it.
But what had happened after that? She wracked her brain, trying desperately to remember. Sometimes, with a bad panic attack, she didn’t remember what happened for a short while during and after. Had that been one of those nights? Surely, no one from the restaurant would have let her go home in that state.
Yes! Now she remembered. It had been a mild attack, and she had gone home as usual. But try as she might, she couldn’t remember anything after that. When had that been? She had no way to find out.