Fever Diary – 12th December 20—
I ran with the lions for almost a week and can remember little except the feel of fur beneath my fingers as I clutched desperately at their manes. Eventually I became aware of the low babble of a thousand conversations mixed with the drone of helicopters and indecipherable megaphone messages. There was an odd taste in my mouth and I struggled to open my eyes, the effort fading with each attempt until finally they flickered open of their own accord and I tried to focus on a bright square of whiteness ahead of me. I could still feel the lion’s mane beneath the fingers of my right hand as I tried to bring the shadows and stark brightness into balance. Someone touched my head and breathed close to my ear. I smelt Sonia’s perfume as a woman’s voice said quietly, ‘He’s awake.’
I turned my head to the right and was elated to see Sonia looming over me, her face concerned at first, and then smiling as I started to take in my surroundings. I tried to touch her cheek with my left hand but found it was restricted by a canula taped to a vein. Glancing down at my right hand, I found it was knotted in the fur of a black dog standing docilely beside my bed. I wondered why the nurse hadn’t closed the curtains on the window as the light was shining right into my eyes. I wondered why the walls of the ward seemed to shiver slightly and it was some moments before I noticed that the window had no frame and that the scene beyond was a snow covered field, as if the meadow behind Barnhill had been uprooted and placed in Gower Street, just below the private wards of the Rosenheim building.
‘He’s definitely awake. Eric’s awake.’
Then I heard another, more guttural and familiar voice. A voice from my dreams, irritable and sulky.
‘Jorge. You mean Jorge is awake.’
I tried to sit up and found Pedro’s hand on my shoulder. Pedro from the AW. Impossible Pedro who didn’t exist and next to him, not Sonia, but impossible Emily.
Behind them, his lanky form draped across a collapsible canvas chair was Scratch who said languidly, his tanned face splitting into a broad smile, ‘George. George is awake’.
He turned to the open side of the tent and shouted out into the snow, ‘George is awake. He’s awake!’ The call was taken up by voices outside and was repeated like a thousand echoes in a deep canyon. I realised then that I had woken once again in the AW and part of me was filled with sorrow. Then I saw Emily’s relieved expression and she looked so happy that I was instantly calmed and accepting. Whatever this was, she was here with me and that seemed to be all that mattered.
Gently I grasped Pedro’s hand and levered myself up to a sitting position. A young man with curious arm tattoos passed me a beaker of water and I gulped it down, my throat raw and tender.
As details began to emerge from the murk around me, I realised that I was in a large tent and that heads were appearing round the open flap as people wrapped in colourful winter clothing gathered around to stare at me. Some of them were snapping vids on their MC’s and as I turned away to look behind Emily, I noticed a middle-aged man wearing a safari jacket training a sophisticated looking camera on me. I am in their eye again.