I woke up, with a dull pain in the back of my head and a foul taste in my mouth. I turned over and tried to drift off again, the bed gently moving up and down under me. You're still drunk, I told myself. Fool.
When I opened my eyes again the room was still dark, just as it had been in the old days when I still drank. I would be tired as a dog but unable to sleep to sleep through the night, lying awake loathing myself and vowing never to take another drop again. I lay back and grinned at the darkness that surrounded me. I hadn't touched a drop in - how long had it been - twenty years? Well, maybe I had earned it after all I had gone through.
My bowels began to growl, and I muttered a curse under my breath. The thought of getting up to relieve myself didn't appeal to me - I wasn't even sure I was already sober enough to be able to stand. I took a deep breath and lay back, trying to relax, and slowly the rumbling subsided.
My thoughts drifted back to the early years of my marriage. I had drunk quite a lot in those days, especially after Jorden was born, and my drinking had been one of the reasons why things had gone sour between Rhiana and me. She had made me promise not to touch another drop ever again before agreeing to come back to me, and until last night I had kept my promise.
I almost laughed out loud at the irony. My promise didn't matter anymore now, did it? She wouldn't mind now, being dead and all. No, I told myself as I felt tears pricking behind my closed eyelids, don't go there. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
I turned over and pulled up the blankets, listening to the unfamiliar sounds that I could hear over the sound of my too-rapid heartbeat that filled my ears. Wind, rustling in the trees in the palace gardens. The sound of running water somewhere off in the distance. The soft creaking of old woodwork. I idly wondered how old the palace was, and who had built it, realising how little I knew about my country's history.
I floated through the door of my room, into the dimly lit hallway.
I allowed my body to sink into the soft mattress. Yes, I thought. Let go. Sleep. Please.
Careful now, I told myself. This is a strange and dangerous place. I paused to take in my surroundings.
I gasped, struggling to wake up.
Where the hallway had been only a moment ago, now there was nothing. My knees buckled under me and I fell, and fell, and kept on falling until I had lost all sense of direction.
Help me, I thought, I don't want to die.
I watched my thoughts as they emerged from my brain, little specks of light disappearing into the distance. Nice, I thought, as little orange globe bobbed off into the dark. Then there was nothing, and I was alone again.
Please, somebody help me, I silently pleaded.
"Don't worry, my love," Rhiana told me, brushing my cheeks with her fingertips as she always did. "Everything will be alright." We were standing in the corridor outside my bedroom door, and everything looked as it had the night before. I took her hand and kissed her palm, as I always had. She was wearing a red velvet gown, and I idly wondered when I had seen her wear it before. Then I shrugged. I could always ask her in the morning.
I opened my eyes, and saw the first light creep in through the gap between the curtains. My room looked as it had before I had gone to sleep.
"See, nothing to be afraid of." She kissed my forehead. "Now, go to sleep."
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