I awoke to pain. Aching pain spreading throughout my entire body. And darkness. I couldn't see anything. For that matter, I couldn't remember anything. Who was I, and where was I, and why was I there? I couldn't answer them. Scared, I huddled up. I remembered someone telling me fairy tales. What if I was in one of them, caught, trapped, lost? I wanted out, and I was scared.
Scared of what was happening.
What shapes our destinies?
What makes us who we are?
Is it the moonlight?
Who is truly good?
Who is truly evil?
No one. And there are no victims of luck, for Lady Fate watches us all. She cares for us as for her children, weaving the threads of our times into a beautiful curtain to hide the world when it is over. But my thread had gone lop-sided, had become a black flicker of darkness against her pattern. She is angry with me. With that thought, I fall back into a restless sleep.
When I woke up again, I still couldn't see. The darkness seemed to be pressing down again me, hurting me, trying to keep me from breathing, from living, from ruining Lad Fate's pattern. How many black threads like me were woven into her curtain, I wondered.
"Once upon a time," I thought. That made me feel better. All the stories that started that way seemed to end happily. The princess or beautiful girl always married her prince and got lots of money.
"There was a girl named-" I stopped. What was my name? I didn't know. I could invent one for myself. Briar Rose had slept, like I appeared to be doing, and I wondered if this is what she had felt like, trapped in a cocoon of darkness till her prince came.
"Rose," I thought firmly. "My name is Rose." I already felt tired again, and fell back into sleep. Voices troubled my dreams.
"I don't think she can live through the night," a man said gently. There was the sound of crying in the background.
"There's no chance?"
"About one out of ten," the voice said, coolly, professionally.
"Oh, John! Do you think we should end life support?"
"No. Not until there isn't any hope." This man's voice was rough and sorrow-filled. The professional man sighed.
"She is probably suffering terrible pain right now. I could try a pain reliever. Her lungs appear to be all right, so I'm going to turn off her breath support. The rest of the equipment has to stay in. If she makes it through the night, she has a fifty-fifty chance of fully recovering."
The voices faded away as I fought to keep the pain from taking control of my body. I gathered myself up in a tight ball of light that seemed to be fighting the darkness outside.
"She got hurt," I thought. "And couldn't remember her name. It was a curse put on her by her evil stepmother, who hated her because she was prettier than the stepmother. The curse could only be removed if she followed the directions. She had to want to wake up." I knew I wanted to wake up, I was desperate to stop the darkness.
"She had to pray for light." I had prayed long and hard already, and was still praying.
"And she had to have faith." My faith was small, but I gathered it into the light and fed it hope and prayers until it grew. And against all odds but one, I lived the night. The pain was slowly fading as the pain reliever numbed my nerves. I felt cloudy, and struggled for breath. There was movement all around my bed, nurses rushing around, the professional, cool voice giving orders. Somebody touched my forehead with a cool hand.
"My name is Briar Rose," I whispered feebly.
"Yes, yes, of course. Your name is Briar Rose, or Carla, or whatever you want it to be, darling," the woman whispered, her hand pressing into mine now, holding on as if for dear life. It didn't make sense. Why was she holding on for dear life when I was the one dying?
"Hold on, dear. Hold on," she said, her voice choked with tears. Slowly I opened my eyes. The light blinded them, but at least I could see.
"I want to go," I said, trying to pull my hand away.
"No," the woman insisted, holding on tighter. "No, you have to stay here with me."
I closed my eyes again and let my hand lie limply in hers. Slowly the cloudiness cleared and I could think again, but I still couldn't remember my name, or why I was here.
Voices troubled my dreams again.
"She can't remember her name. She thinks its Briar Rose."
"I was wondering if she would lose her memory," the cool voice replied. Doctor, I decided to name him.
"A huge trauma, a battle for her life-" he paused, letting the words dangle significantly in the air. "Do you think she'd want to remember?"
"Are you saying she told herself not to remember?"
"It's possible. Isn't there a fairy tale about a princess named Briar Rose?
"Yes. Sleeping Beauty."
"I thought so. It has happened before. After a severe shock and a battle for life, many women and girls find themselves reverting to fairy tales they'd half-forgotten, as if it's a form of protection." They faded, and I slept. But day came back to my mind as I slept.
Ara Cater. That was my name. My parents were John and Sala Cater. I had been flying in an airplane. I remembered the crash now. Everyone had been screaming that the world was ending.
Good night, sleep tight, and pleasant dreams to you. But that didn't fit with the rest of what I had been thinking. I reverted to my fairy-tales.
"Once upon a time," I whispered, as the light dawned in my eyes.