She opened her eyes, and saw the white ceiling. She looked around. It was a small room, bright and cozy. She was lying on the couch by the window. The sun shone through the window glass, blinding her. She closed her eyes, feeling the warmth on her eyelids, relaxing and peaceful.
The door opened. In came a man with fair hair and a thin face full of wrinkles carved by time. Mr. C—she remembered.
“You are awake.” He smiled at her kindly. “I don’t know if you’ll like this place. But you can stay, as long as you like.”
She stared at him, without a word.
“If you feel well enough to get up, you can come downstairs to join us. Lunch is ready.”
Another silent pause.
“We’ll wait for you.” He left the room, closing the door behind him.
She tried to recall what had happened, but nothing came to her mind.
She stayed, with Mr. C and his two children, a son and a daughter. The boy was a bit younger than her, in his late teens, and the girl was only eight years old. She got along well with them. Sometimes they would ask her where she came from, and about her past life. She would reply, “I don’t remember.”
Time passed quietly until, two weeks later, Mr. C brought home a middle-aged woman. Her short hair was thick and dark.
At the door of the living room, Mr. C pointed to his two children, who were reading inside, and whispered, “Here they are.”
“You sure?… They’ve grown so much!”
“Yes, they are yours.”
From behind the children, she looked up across the living room, at this woman standing by Mr. C. Her face looked familiar….
…She remembered herself standing in the hallway, waiting for her sister L. L had promised to take her to lunch but had had to go back to fetch something. She was very little and the hallway was long and dark with doors on both sides. She barely reached the height of the doorknob and the door in front of her seemed huge. It was A’s room.
The door was green and there were fine cracks in the dry paintwork. As she looked at them, the cracks started moving and mixed into the thick paint. The green color faded away. The door disappeared and left a fog in its place. She could look through it and see everything in the room. A was standing in profile against the light from the window. Her thick black hair ran down to her waist. She was clutching a young man who was holding her tight in his arms and kissing her passionately. He had fair hair and a thin face. —It was Mr. C….
A stayed, happy to be reunited with her kids and Mr. C.
As for herself, she realized that she had a sister. But where was L now?
She was fast asleep when someone woke her up, shaking her shoulders. In the dim light, she saw L.
“Get up! Quickly!” L’s voice, in a panic.
She jumped up from her bed and found herself a little child again. She was in a residence room. Her six elder sisters were dressing hurriedly. She heard running footsteps from the stairs, and screams of horror coming from the far end of the hallway. She put on her clothes as quickly as she could.
“Don’t forget your daggers. We will need them.” It was P’s voice addressing everybody. She was the eldest sister, the bravest and most beautiful of them all. Before she had a second to think, L came to fasten a knife on her belt.
They sneaked out of the room quietly and swiftly, before the horror reached their corner. They flew down the stairs at the back and ran to the side gate. While they were climbing over the fence, she heard the shouting from the building grow louder and closer. A dozen armed men came after them.
“Daggers!” shouted P.
She saw daggers flying. Some of the men fell, but the others were getting closer and closer. She drew her dagger and it cut into something. Everything turned red….
She woke up, panting. She opened the curtain. The white moonlight lit her pale face. Her heart was beating fast.
The next morning, she found A in the living room. “Do you remember me?” she asked.
A looked at her closely, trying to recall.
“I used to have the room next door to you, right across the hallway.” She added.
Suddenly, A opened her eyes wide. “You’re P’s little sister M!… You’re still alive!”
“Do you remember what happened at the school that night?”
“Oh… that night…” A closed her eyes, as if to shut out the painful memory. “It was horrible!”
For the next few weeks, she was haunted by her dreams. Whenever she closed her eyes, she saw her sisters fighting for their lives. Flesh cut open by sharp blades, distorted faces lying dead, trickling blood mixed with dirt and human hair….
She could no longer have a good night’s sleep. The night frightened her. She sensed creatures sneaking around her in the dark. At any moment, they would jump on her and tear her apart. She left the light on in her room all night, but every shadow terrified her. She was extremely fearful of the big living room downstairs. She believed there were dead bodies walking back and forth in that empty darkness, with a grin behind their burning eyes and sharp teeth, waiting to attack her at the very first opportunity.
Her only respite was during the day, when she sat in front of the window, bathed in sunshine. The brightness drove away the dark and the unknown, leaving only the familiar and the friendly. She could forget her dreams and her past, and seek refuge in the present. Yet the present seemed so temporary and unreal that it felt more like a dream. She was afraid to wake up when night fell.
Mr. C was very concerned about her. He brought doctors to see her. They asked her questions about her dreams and her memories, and discussed what should be done. She overheard them talking about sending her somewhere. She started screaming.
“No! I’m not going anywhere! Not anywhere!”
She locked herself in her room and refused to see anyone. Mr. C came to assure her that she would have to go nowhere. She calmed down a little, but fear had petrified her mind and lack of sleep exhausted her body.
To help her relax and get some fresh air, Mr. C suggested that the whole family go out for dinner. She agreed.
They arrived at a chic restaurant. It was in a big hall lit by warm, yellow candle light. Mr. C and A sat side by side at the table. She sat down beside him. The menus came and everyone ordered. People talked quietly to each other. The candle light danced on their smiling faces.
She heard a voice coming from A, familiar and attractive. She turned around but saw P sitting in A’s place. She looked older now but as beautiful and elegant as ever….
She remembered that they had owned a restaurant, many years after that school night. P was, as always, the leader. She and her other sisters would help out. Many important people would dine there. P would sometimes sit with them, a gorgeous smile on her face. But nobody noticed the darkness in her eyes. Nobody knew the secret of the restaurant: before the food was brought to the table from the kitchen, a poison would be added. P had told them that these important customers had come for them and that they had to take action before it was too late. How did P know? They never questioned. Because P always knew everything, and they could always count on her.
Food arrived. She looked around the table. All the dishes had been poisoned except the ones for P and her, exactly as it should be. Everyone started eating.
“Maybe you would like my dish better.” Mr. C switched his plate with P’s. Her heart sank. P was still smiling, gorgeously, but her face turned white. She took a spoonful from Mr. C’s plate, put it in the mouth, and swallowed it….
“How do you like your food?” Mr. C’s voice sounded by her ear. She looked down at her plate and jumped up from her chair. It had been poisoned and she had just eaten some without looking.
“No!” She screamed and started running. Tables were pushed over on her way. Plates and glasses broke on the floor. She saw Mr. C after her. She ran as fast as she could, without checking direction. Lights went out. The big hall was dark. She felt cold, freezing cold. She saw the doorway at the other end and dashed towards it.
She found herself in a courtyard, in the shadow of the building. She ran around the building, seeking the exit. She came to the front where the gates were open. The sunshine was ten meters ahead. She rushed into it.
She fell down to the ground, exhausted. Someone grabbed her arm. It was Mr. C. But she feared no more. She was bathed in the sunshine, bright and warm. Nothing else mattered. She fainted.
Vaguely, she felt Mr. C and A carrying her to the car. She heard the voices of the two children, “What’s the matter with her?” Then Mr. C’s reply, “Shh. Let her rest.” …
She woke up, Mr. C’s face before her eyes. The room was bright and cozy, lit by the sunshine. Mr. C, sitting by her bed, looked at her kindly.
She stared at him. “You killed her.”
Mr. C lowered his head. After a long silence, he turned to her. “I’m… sorry…” He spoke with difficulty. “I tried my best, but… I couldn’t save her. She had made up her mind and wanted to kill everyone.” He sighed. “I’m… very sorry.”
“Where are the others?”
“They’re fine, and safe. You’ll see them very soon, as soon as you recover.”
She took a deep breath and let it out. She closed her eyes. Peacefully she fell asleep.