Martha Grayson woke up. The first thing she felt was the morning wind and its chill. In a second, she realized she wasn’t at home, as she was meant to be. Her eyes opened slowly due to the glare of the sun, which was just above the tree line. She could smell the humidity of the grass and could also hear the quaking of some nearby ducks. She realized, as soon as she opened her eyes, that she couldn’t move. She felt weak and overpowered by her own weight and by something in her head that acted as a restraint. Attempting to move her legs or arms hurt her but as she did, she realized another fact about her condition: she was fully dressed and covered with a big overcoat.
She inhaled slowly and exhaled in the same way. Martha did this for a while until her legs and arms became responsive and she was able, very slowly and with pain, to seat on the grass. As she sat down, she felt tremendously dizzy and very thirsty. Her mouth felt very dry and needed to drink water badly. She realized that the humidity she had detected came from the grass, which was covered in sprinkles of water. Rain had fallen the night before. And, not very far away, there was a small pond were the ducks she had heard were swimming. But then something else kicked in: she realized she didn’t know the place she was in. It seemed like a park, with tall trees all around and no people. She felt the urge to vomit but held it in order to better understand what was going on.
With the little strength she had inside, Martha was able to stand up and walk towards the trees. She stumbled against one of them but leaned on it and inhaled deeply, as if she was about to swim. Her mind was becoming clearer but only to think, not to remember. She tried but when she did so there was nothing there. She couldn’t say how it was that the last thing she remembered was lying down in bed in her Boston apartment and now she was in some park that she had never seen. Breathing slowly, she started walking and crossed a lot of lined trees until she reached a larger pong but this one had a particular shape and she realized she did know this place but from movies and pictures. She had never been there before.
Martha was standing by a pong that had the shape of a cross. She was on the point of the cross and, on the other side; she could see people walking by. It was a bit misty but she could distinguish a palace beyond the people and some stairs. Anxious, she almost ran, passing some people who looked at her worried. She reached a big fountain where many people were taking pictures and looked up the stairs. Her head felt about to explode but once again, she decided to breathe slowly and move on. Martha went up the stairs and was faced to a magnificent building. Yes, she did know what building it was. It was a palace and she was in Versailles, in France.
Again, she had the urge to vomit but contained it. An elderly woman and her husband came near her and spoke French. She had no idea what they said but the woman offered her a bottle of water, which she drank hastily and almost completely. She apologized in English and asked them where the exit was. They seemed to understand because they pointed towards the palace. She thanked them and left rather fast. She ran past some tourists and through a gift shop and a few moments after she was running down a square but she stopped suddenly, realizing she had no idea where to go. She checked her pockets and realized that she had no money, bank notes or coins. Nothing.
She decided to approach some tourists and asked them in English to help her with some coins as she had lost her husband and wanted to call him to his cellphone. Of course, the story was a fake but many people, seeing the state she was in, decided to help her and in no time she had at least five euros in her pockets. She thanked her last helper and headed for a store but then she saw a sign pointing to the nearest train station and realized it was best if she got to the city, to the embassy if necessary. She didn’t want to overthink her situation, but it had to be something the authorities of both countries would be kind enough to discuss. So she headed for the station and bought a ticket for downtown Paris.
Martha didn’t have to wait much for the train. It was almost empty, as it was too early for anyone to go into the city. Tourists were just arriving and she was the only foreigner leaving the small town. She sat down far from anyone else and, as she saw the French village and some buildings, she tried to remember. Her name was Martha Grayson. She was thirty-four years old; she had a fiancée called Michael Gregson and a dog named Larry. Her parents had died several years ago in a car crash and she worked in a back as an accountant. The last day she remembered in full had been a great one: Michael had invited her to a very nice restaurant and had asked for her hand in marriage. She had cried and they had celebrated with champagne.
But then, when she tried to remember what had happened after she had arrived home, she realized that nothing was there. Martha knew she had come home, called her best friend Ellie and then went to bed early in order to wake up early in order to go shop with Michael for their rings. But if that had happened at all, she had no idea. The next thing she remembered was waking up in that park, with different clothes that the last day she remembered. The train went into a tunnel and the lights flickered, which made her come back to reality and think about what it was she was going to do next. The smartest thing was to go to the local police and tell them she had been abducted… or something like that.
The train stopped at Invalides station, which seemed to be an interchange. Martha supposed the police would have a post there or something. But maybe it was too early or she had made a wrong turn because the next thing she knew was that she was on the street. She started walking towards an avenue and tried to talk to people but they seemed much less receptive than the tourists in Versailles. If she was correct, it was a weekday and Parisians were getting to their jobs. So there was no wonder about way they were being so aggressive and not helpful. She tried to find a cop but there were no security agents nearby. She decided to cross the Seine and look for the embassy by herself. She supposed it had to be near all the central places and she thought she was just there.
But as she crossed the Alexander II Bridge she saw someone that made her head hurt more than anything else before. It was a very blonde and tall woman and she looked lost too, even more than her. She felt she could remember her from somewhere but the memory had apparently being lost. Trying to focus on the moment, she walked towards the woman but before she did the blonde collapsed and was surrounded by scared people and then the police finally arrived. The only thing Martha was able to see was the fact that the women had some sort of foam coming out of her mouth and was convulsing before she finally stopped all movements. It was the most horrible thing Martha had ever seen.
Shocked but scared, she walked to a cop and tried to make him understand. He didn’t know English but his partner did and she asked him, or better yet, begged him to take her to the embassy. She was so worried that her head began to turn wildly and blood started coming out of her nose. The next thing she remembered was waking up in a hospital bed, as weak as before. She looked at the window and realized it was night. She was scared again, thinking she might have been kidnapped again or that maybe it was all some sort of dream or a sick joke. Then the door flung open and a young woman entered, smiling at Martha.
She sat down slowly and didn’t stop smiling. When Martha tried to talk, she was the one to speak first. Her name was Linda Hamilton and she worked with the American consulate in Paris. They had been called by the local authorities, which told them a woman who claimed to be an American national had fainted after witnessing the death of another woman. Then, Martha started telling her story and Linda didn’t stop her. She just listened and registered every word Martha said, as if she was a computer. She didn’t say a word until Martha was done and a nurse came in to check her pulse. Her heart was pounding and the nurse injected something in her IV. Martha calmed down immediately and Linda smiled again.
The woman then told Martha that they had checked her identity. She had been reported missing three days ago in Boston. The woman she had seen on the bridge, and was now dead, was a Latvian national who had died from a compound also found in Martha’s blood but in a much smaller dose. Linda told her that police were suspecting of a serial killer that worked in an international level or maybe some sort of women trafficking ring. But she assured Martha that she had no signs of sexual assault. Linda left and Martha was left alone to rest. But she couldn’t. She had been dumped by someone in a park on the other side of the world and, now that she had woken up, she remembered something more that frightened her: she neglected to tell Linda that there was a face and a voice in her head and she knew who they belong to.