Cath stopped running. She was out of breath, and with every laboured intake of the damp air a sharp pain pierced the area under her shoulder blade. The one on the right. Maybe she had lung cancer, but would she have been able to put such a distance between herself and Henry’s clinic running without pause, never once looking back, if her lungs were in bits? Had she been a smoker before the accident? Had there been boyfriends, a husband, a child or children, twins maybe, a house in the country or in the city, happiness and love, or hate, loneliness and misery, before all memory from before she opened her eyes in the fluorescence of the sterile hospital room had been erased?
Asked for her name by a silky-voiced doctor she had replied Cath without thinking. But that was it, that was all there was, a name without a surname. She understood now that they had thought that she must have wandered the country roads oblivious to her surroundings and been knocked over into the roadside ditch by a car. The car wouldn’t have shown any damage and the driver may not even have noticed he brushed her, may have been a bit over the limit or night blind. She had hit her head off a rock and passed out. If Jimmy hadn’t been out looking for a trio of sheep that had escaped from his farmland that night, she would have been dead by the morning.
Henry had started this morning’s session as he always did, smiling warmly as he greeted her and led her into the Blue Sky Room, but she had felt a breeze of cold air coming off him, her forearms responding with goosebumps to the chill it gave her. How stupid she had been. To think he had begun viewing her as anything other than one of his subjects. One of the many hapless souls to be manipulated into feeling good about themselves in the present moment released from the burden and responsibilities of their past and kept safe if but for a limited period of time from the fears and uncertainties of what the future may hold in store for them, a success story among the many other success stories inside dog-eared folders buried in the cabinets lining his study and whilst live, work in progress as it were, in untidy stacks on top of a massive mahogany desk behind which the man looked small, like a tiny stick figure. It’s when he rose from behind it that a charisma exuded from him, which she had found attractive and irresistible at first but could now only think of as sinister and obstructive.
“Ms Catherine White,” he had called out into the reception area. That was the name the New Agers had given her when she moved in with them after her release from hospital, Catherine White. “Cath must be short for Catherine,” Luce had said, “Don’t look so shocked, it’s a sign that you were loved in the past if people cared enough about you to call you by a short version of your Christian name. White is for clean, white slate. That’s what you’ve got, my dear, think of how brilliant it is going to be to start afresh. Enjoy and give it a go, don’t fret about what might have been your past. You’re here now with us, your new loving family.”
At the hospital, they had been at a loss as to what to do with her and she was unable to give them any information about herself. Cath was all they had, along with the location of the ditch in which she had been found and an estimation that she was – apart from the head injuries and a few broken ribs sustained in the fall – an otherwise healthy woman in her late forties or early fifties who they thought had given birth to a child at least once. Both the hospital staff and the police who had visited after she had regained consciousness and was close to fit for release had gone through the items of clothing she had been found in. Nothing was found that would help identify who she was and where she had come from. It was rather baffling to everyone at the time that there was no set of keys, neither car keys nor house keys, on her, no bus or train ticket, no driving license or ID card, no bank cards, no mobile phone, nothing. The faux leather jacket she had been wearing had four outside pockets and two inside ones and they even slit open the lining to make sure that they weren’t missing anything.
They had found one item, but had dismissed it as meaningless. In one of the outside pockets of her jacket, a chicken bone was discovered. It was thought that a fox must have had a meal of a chicken in the ditch sometime before her accident and the bone had somehow been scooped up in the fall. This particular detail had not been shared with the public so as not to distract from the serious focus on finding out who she was and to reunite her with her nearest and dearest who it was assumed must exist somewhere.
Her photograph had appeared in all the papers, locally and nationwide. It was shown in the news on RTE, even made it into Crimewatch shows. On Facebook it must have been shared millions of times and would have been seen far beyond the borders of Ireland, but in the end no one came forward and public interest had faded away.
Cath walked on slowly, whatever daylight there had been was on its way out. Soon darkness would cover everything. The nearest farm house was still a good distance away, but she had no intention of reaching it. There was a disused cowshed not too far from here, its bent and tattered shape a dark shadow against the wet grey sky.
© Ash N. Finn, 2016