The Fall of Vivian Taylor
It started with an open window.
On the ledge, pigeons sat lazily, enjoying the warmth of sunlight in the April afternoon. Throughout the room, there was nothing but silence. Objects stood still and neat, as though someone had tidied up moments before. The bed sheets were smooth and white and the table next to the nightstand held a vase filled with dark blue flowers. Outside, the world shifted in time and space.
Sunlight lost its glare. Slowly, the sky changed to a beautiful shade of pink and blue. The pigeons had left, and now the only sounds were the ones of passing cars on the street ten stories below. The sunset cast shadows everywhere, and still the clouds in the sky billowed in brilliant colors. Suddenly, unexpectedly, a figure shuffled into the room.
The woman was wearing a white robe and her long, waist length brown hair was damp and wet. She walked as if in a trance, gazing towards the window with a longing expression. Her hazel eyes appeared to fill with sympathy as she surveyed the open window. Her lips quivered.
This is an illusion. It has to be. I can’t be seeing this.
She lifted her hand up, stretching her slender fingers towards the window sill. She brushed the white wood and inhaled sharply.
It feels so real.
The voices began to fill the room. Like the echoes of a full stadium. She could hear them overlapping, rising in tone and drowning her in noise. She shut her eyes as if in pain and withdrew her hand from the windowsill. Night was falling now, and the pinkish tinges in the clouds melted to a dark shade of grey. The moon hung low. And still the woman stood, controlling her breathing.
“Stop doing this to me,” she whispered, opening her eyes. “Just stop.”
A breeze rustled the soft curtains that bordered the window. And then, a new voice filled the room.
“Just do what you came here to do.”
The woman flinched. But she composed herself and took a step forward. She looked out the window and down towards the road. She swallowed.
“I c-can’t,” she stammered. She took a step back. “I can’t do it.”
Silence. And then—
“Just trust us.”
The woman’s heart beat a new tempo. Could she really trust in this? She wanted to. But her doubt was holding her back. What if…what if it didn’t work?
She slowly crawled out of the window and stood out on the ledge, shivering. She looked down at the street below and her stomach dissolved. Another breeze rushed past, fluttering the bottom of her robe.
Do it, Vivian. Don’t think about it.
Vivian trembled. She wanted this all to be a dream. She wanted it all to disappear as she closed her eyes. And when she opened them, she wanted to be away from this place. Anywhere but here.
But the voices started again and this time they sounded angry, agitated.
Vivian clenched her fists, feeling her sweaty palms. The sound swelled. It grew. It consumed.
“Okay,” she said, submissively. “I’ll d-do it.”
She stared down at the street, watching the moving headlights of cars. Dizziness overwhelmed her. For a moment it appeared as though she was going to change her mind. But then her foot stepped forward and she drifted off the ledge.
She was falling. Falling into something not quite like air. Her body drifted downwards like an arrow, and she could feel the wind wrapping around her. But then the atmosphere changed, and the air melted into liquid. Sparkling lights danced in the dark blue water, twinkling around her in bright white. The waves rippled, washing over her skin and the warmth that came with them soothed her racing mind.
Vivian had never imagined she could feel something so incredible. The water was now shifting and changing, until it held the feel of soft clouds. White silk. Her arms swam through tangles of sheets, and her heart raced faster than her mind now. Everything was simply…fluttering. The wind had slowed her body down somehow. And when she inhaled, she could smell scents that calmed her.
Rose petals fell upon her now. She was standing in the middle of a forest. Sunlight was breaking through the leaves overhead. And it was then that she noticed the leaves were black.
The black leaves fell. As did the rose petals. Everything was silent. The trees did not shift. The thin rays of sunlight cast themselves upon the forest floor, illuminating the soft earth. Vivian looked around her. Looking down, she gasped. She was wearing a beautiful white dress, with ruffles near her waist. Beneath her bare toes, she could feel smooth dirt. She breathed in slowly, unsteadily.
“Where are you?” she asked, looking around.
There were no voices. No sounds. Vivian felt oddly alone and abandoned for some reason. Her memory was fighting to recall something important. She should have been meeting someone here. Shouldn’t she have been?
The rose petals drifted. Together on the forest floor there were thousands of spots, black and red. Vivian walked forward on them, her white dress trailing behind her.
The sunlight began to fade quickly. And still Vivian walked. She pushed her way past the hundreds of trees and the moss covered rocks. She passed a narrow stream bubbling with running water and piles of broken branches. The air was still and quiet. Not even birds were chirping.
“I was wondering when you would show up,” came a soft voice from behind a tree. Vivian jumped.
From behind the tree stepped a young man. His black hair lay flat and some strands fell in his face. His dark blue eyes were gazing at Vivian as though he had not seen her in a long time. He was dressed in a black sweater with jeans. Vivian also noticed he was barefoot.
“Where…am I?” she asked, staring at her new company. The man shrugged and looked up at the black leaves floating down.
“I thought you would remember,” he said, walking forward. “It’s only been a couple months, Vivian. Do you not recall what this place is? Who I am?”
Vivian shook her head. The man was close now, but she did not feel threatened. In fact, she almost welcomed him. He stopped about a foot from her and looked down with a thoughtful gaze. A couple of rose petals fell upon his shoulder.
“The Illusions affected you, didn’t they?” he asked gently, reaching to pick a black leaf off of her dress. “What did you see? Tell me the truth.”
Vivian swallowed, her mouth slightly dry. What had she seen?
“I saw a room,” she replied. “And then a window. I climbed out of the window because they kept telling me to—”
“Who kept telling you to?” The man’s eyes hardened.
“The voices,” said Vivian shakily. “They were everywhere. Hundreds of them. They…wanted me to jump off the ledge. They told me to trust them.”
“And did you jump?”
“What did you see then?”
“I just felt…wind. And then I was in water. It changed into white blankets and then I was here.” Vivian looked around her at the darkening forest. “What is this place?”
The man’s expression softened. “You don’t remember, then.”
Vivian shook her head. The man touched her cheek with his hand. His fingers were surprisingly warm.
“We must get your memory back then. It’s the only way to help you.”
“But you still haven’t told me where I am. Or who you are for that matter.”
The young man smiled, showing white teeth. “My name is Cyril,” he said with a small grin. “You should already know this. But it must be the amnesia. Listen, we need to get out of here. It is dangerous at night. I know a path out of the woods that will lead us where we need to go.”
Vivian’s head was spinning. She was so confused, it wasn’t even funny. She tried to remember this place, tried to remember the man’s face in front of her. But she could not. Her eyes gazed around her, scanning the dark trees until they locked back onto Cyril’s inquiring blue ones. She exhaled.
“Okay,” she agreed. “I will follow you if you lead the way.”
Cyril smiled again, taking her hand. The rose petals had stopped falling now, and the ground was littered with them. Through the tree branches above, Vivian could make out the moon, full and white and glowing. She breathed in the forest’s scents again and followed Cyril with her hand in his. She didn’t know why, but she trusted him. She felt…safe.
Together they walked along a narrow, dirt path covered in black leaves. Vivian’s dress trailed along them, kicking them up into the air. They must have been very light, Vivian thought. It wasn’t very long before Cyril led her through a crowd of trees until they opened out into a vast field.
Vivian gasped. The moon was large, and it hung low in the velvet sky. The open space above her was scattered with millions of stars, twinkling in what appeared a very dark shade of purple and black. The field in front of her stretched all the way to the horizon and was filled with black and white flowers. Her eyes went wide and she felt her heart hammer.
She had never seen anything so beautiful and she let go of Cyril’s hand. He grinned as she stepped forward and reached down to pluck a white flower from the ground. The petals seemed to open slightly at her touch and she cupped it softly in her hands. A breeze whipped past and the flower drifted off with it. Vivian watched it go, glowing in the bright moonlight. She looked back at Cyril.
“What is this place?” she asked in shock.
Cyril laughed quietly. “Amnesia is such a funny thing. It stops you from remembering even things you’ve seen hundreds of times before. Come with me, we must keep moving.”
He took her hand and they walked along the edge of the field, with Vivian’s dress aglow. She couldn’t take her eyes off the field and she felt excitement build inside her. Never had she seen things like this before. Never.
And so they walked. Vivian’s trust in this stranger kept her calm and content. Together they slipped past more trees and more landscapes with the night sky above them dripping with light and clouds. Still they walked, and still they moved, simply a black and white silhouette drifting among the fields and hills. And still Vivian stared around her at this new place, this world filled with sadness and beauty. A place filled with serenity and warmth. A place she wanted so badly to call…