Femina wonders if Adam and Eve found it as hard being driven from paradise as she does, considering they did not know what to expect in contrast to her. She is after all back to where she lived before, where the world is fenced in with bars not framed by palm leaves, where dissension and doubt rule, and where peace and harmony have little opportunity to unfold. She has not found freedom despite the happiness she experienced. It was just another room in the house where she is caught in.
On her return she had to look for a new place to live and was lucky to find something quicker and even better than expected. It is a very nice place for her and Gordon, a house with two floors and a room under the roof, which will be particularly well suited for her to work in, away from distraction. It will also serve as a personal space to retreat to. Oddly, she finds it quite important that she has such a place. To be fair, there is also a room for Gordon that he can utilize for his own purposes, and there is still plenty of room for them together, and an extra one for guests. Nobody will feel cramped in, even if they have visitors. The best is the very affordable rent, due to its location, out of town, away from all the action but just to her liking. She is pleased to be able to afford it, should she have to bear the costs alone. Obviously she has her hesitations sharing life with a man again. On the island she still had her own hut and Gordon stayed with Allister. But nothing is the same now, and who knows what the future will bring. Naturally, the living arrangements are not the only things to ponder about. But no matter what she thinks, nothing is certain, so why speculate?
While she awaits Gordon, she works hard on her final papers and makes substantial progress. She can feel at ease that they will be ready at the required date even if she slows down her efforts.
The reunion is a happy event; all doubts are immediately dispersed. Both feel as close to each other as before and it is as if they had never been apart. And then there are his eyes, mirroring the waters of the atoll. Femina only needs to dive into them and she is back where the sky, the sea, and the white sands and green palmed island were the universe. So it is no surprise that they have again happy times together, filled with fun and joy. Skiing in winter,- the mountains are not far, travelling around in summer to new places they want to see and yes, work has been banned into the background, though not altogether put aside. After all, she needs to finish, not only for the sake of it, but to earn some money, particularly as her savings won’t last for much longer.
But at the moment all is well. Femina has in fact begun to believe that her happiness is independent from her life’s circumstances which basically remain unresolved, having neither regained her memory, nor having found a way out of the house. For a long time now these two problems were ignored. Neither did she want to pursue them nor did she see a reason why she should. What for? The inaccessible old knowledge does not keep her from living, nor from accumulating new material; her brain has obviously enough space for both. And she has not been in the hallway for a while either. Why indeed? She knows, she is still in this house but it has obviously and just as well room enough for living. Maybe she has resigned to her predicament, maybe she is just too happy with what she got and there is no reason for wanting something else. Double standards and disunity continue to exist, but why bother, one can get used to anything, particularly when happy.
It seems Femina is still riding high on the wave of good fortune. But the winds are changing. Silently messengers of calamity come knocking on her door. Their attempts to gain her attention fail. She believes there is nothing to worry about the little unusual things that have been happening as she always finds an excuse or explanation. Then bad dreams appear. They linger on even after waking. Though she does not remember what she dreamed, a brooding gloominess covers her mood like a heavy blanket under which melancholy wants to make itself a home. For some time the mornings with all the bright light can dispel the dreariness, leaving Femina wondering but still not concerned.
Then the nightmares start. Sometimes she is crudely woken, sometimes she is crying in her sleep and Gordon has to wake and comfort her. The dreams are usually about being hunted down and she tries to escape but is hindered by disabling heaviness in her legs or, an abyss opens right in front and the mob is about to jump on her. And the fears she experiences in her dreams no longer stay there. They stick to her like a leech. Something is within or after her which she cannot explain. Neither could anyone else, including Gordon. He believes they are just bad dreams and they will disappear as well as they appeared. He takes her into his arms and consoles her, which of course helps for the time being, but it does not last, and she is very aware of the fact that he cannot possibly grasp what she feels. Nobody could. Feelings after all belong to the owner. They cannot be put into somebody else’s body, they cannot be explained or satisfactorily described, and Gordon can never feel the same way as she experiences them. Of course, rationally he can share her fear, but never emotionally. She has to deal with it by herself, no matter how much he loves her. Searching for all kinds of possible explanations she comes to the conclusion, that being driven out of paradise, was the beginning of a vengeful wave that has now caught up with her, making her pay for all the happiness she has been and is experiencing. Did she not doubt that she would ever be happy in this house? Now that she is, she is given the bill.
The next sad news follow. Gordon must return to his home for some urgent business. It hits her hard. For her separation always carries a finality. Not so for Gordon. Though he does not like to go and leave her back here either, for him it is only a matter of time before they see each other again. She says nothing but she will walk over the glowing coals again. It is separation after all. What comes thereafter she does not know and is not interested in, at least not now.
So it is that Femina is on her own again. Her savings have also dwindled right down. She therefore takes on a job as a waitress, where tipping provides more income than the actual wage. It will allow her to keep the life style she has. Not that she actually needs much money right now anyway, returning with renewed fervour to her paper work. The end spurt is tough but she makes it before the final hand-in date and is confident of a positive result. A few weeks later she receives the confirmation, and the date for the official recognition ceremony, which is customary in that kind of institutions. It is held with theatrical pomp and solemn speeches. Not that she cares much for that kind of thing, but she will invite Pia and Dimitri. They will enjoy it, particularly Pia, deservingly so, because she helped to make it happen with all her heart and might.
Femina sure feels for celebrating too, but more the way she likes it. Therefore she organizes a party with all the trimmings to give it the honour it deserves. She wants to celebrate her resurrection, spring time, her re-awakening to life after having been a hermit for many long weeks past. Going from one work to the other, her head in books, and the only conversations being had were with the customers she waited on. Indeed! This is another reason for celebrating, to finally be able to find more interesting sources of income.
The party is in full swing and it is sheer luck that she stands beside the phone when it rings. It is Gordon who of course hears the music and noises despite the phone being located apart from the main places of action. He is happy to hear the news of her success and heartily congratulates her. Besides, he called to give her good news too, because he will be back with her very soon, though he could not give her a certain date yet. She does not really particularly want to discuss this further and says that she is happy to hear the news but would prefer to talk about it when there was less distraction. After all, since she has no more commitments, she could easily travel to him. But before he hangs up he asks her, if she still had the nightmares.
‘Not as much,’ she says truthfully, as indeed they had lessened and all her angst and dark moods she had swept aside with work and studies.
“Good to hear,” comes through the line and she feels his relief in his voice even though he is thousands of miles away. “You see, didn’t I tell you?” he adds contentedly.
“So you did,” she answers but conceals that not all is as she would like it to be. The ill-defined fears are still there lurking in the shadows of her mind like hungry lions in the high savannah grass.
“I am coming soon,” and sending her a kiss through the ether he ends the call.
She returns to the party to mingle again with the crowds, dancing, flitting from here to there. People enjoying themselves, be it on the dance floor or having heated discussion about all kinds of things, or gathering at the buffet she has arranged, to fill their tummies and prevent the alcohol from rising too quickly into their brains, while others go just for that, indulging in far too many shots at the well-stocked bar. She is in high spirit too, without drinking too much. She is careful with the alcohol tonight, having abstained for quite some time she would be an easy victim of it.
But the night ends in tragedy all the same and has nothing to do with alcohol. That is to say Femina finally finds out what beast was on her heels, what the unknown was she could not shed; it has a name: ILLNESS.
Nobody was around when she was in the bathroom washing her hands and when she suddenly fell to the ground. There was no reason, no obstacle, nothing that could be the cause for the fall. Her legs were just giving way. It was as if someone had unannounced kicked the stilts and they had to tumble down.
Femina cannot get up. And as she sits on the floor various other incidents come back to her that she had passed over because of their fleeting nature. She remembers them, and her reaction. It was mostly frustration, because they all seemed to be due to something she could have prevented, being too clumsy, too tired, or just overworked. Now they suddenly have a very different meaning, because it was not the first time that her body was on strike: There were the things falling out of her hands, the loss of vision, even as brief as one may close a blind and open it quickly again and there were the double visions, different to the ones she could perceive to clarify content. These occurred mainly when studying where words and sentences became blurred, concerning rather the item, not the content! In hindsight it is obvious that not circumstances had been the cause of it. Everything makes sense now, even the nightmares. They had the function not only to warn her but to force her to pay attention to herself and her body. The unconscious often uses dreams to make itself heard, because the conscious mind does not listen. But Femina did not listen even then. Yes, it is her fault and it is also clear now why. She did not want to listen! She was in denial, rather suffering angst and nightmares, because they are easier to bear than the acknowledgment of having a sick body. Of what use is a motor that does not run? It has no value, except on the scrap heap. That is the reality.
The attack passes. She can get up and walk on again, but the shock remains. Femina leaves the party and retreats into her study. People will find her, should need be. Some may even stay overnight instead driving when drunk, and she will be more able to stay in control by the morning. Now she cannot do anything else but retreat into her cave like an injured dog who needs to lick his wounds. She knows however that no matter how much licking she does she will not heal, not this illness anyway. Death has silently taken up residence in her body and now he makes it clear that he is grabbing her. But he does not want her quickly. No, no! Look how scornful he laughs! He wants to devour her piece by piece. And she? What can she do to fend him off?! - Nothing! Because medicine does not cure the illness, it just prolongs the misery. – What good does that do? – Whom does that serve?
It is this house, this building! In it there is no real happiness. It is all pretense. Yellow mica! Yes, she admits, she has sadly fallen for it. So, after all, she was right from the beginning. World of illusion! To find the truth within might be sheer impossible, if not impossible at all. There is only one thing left to do:
S h e m u s t l e a v e! L e a v e t h I s h o u s e! L e a v e! L e a v e s h e m u s t!
Femina hurries along the cold stone floor of the hallway coming to a halt at the steel door with the sign ‘E X I T’ above. She could not open it so far, nor did it open for her. Neither does it now. But she m u s t leave if she does not want to languish in here. How much time is left to find the mechanism? Who knows! But she has no time! She has to leave, before death’s cruel game begins to mar all her chances of escape.
In desperation she examines the door and its surroundings over and over again, to no avail. With nothing else left she can see only two options: Either she breaks the door open with force, or she resigns once and for all to the fact that there is no escape, except when the illness has consumed her body.
Femina lets herself down to the cold floor in front of the door. She does not know what to do. Staying? Resigning? But to stay in the house………, she cannot even think this thought without shuddering. A slow death is the worst she can imagine: Waiting until the illness has eaten her up!? If she should wait then rather here in front of the door. May be this was actually the point, to wait? She never did so and may be it was a mistake, because there could be a timer and the door opens after a certain time spent waiting? It does not comfort her. How long would she have to wait? Who knows!
She considers the other option that is to break the door. What tools does she need and how can she manage, it is a solid door after all. And she has to do it on her own. Nobody is there to help, nobody would as far as she knows. It might take heavy tools and it may take more time than she has. No, that is not good enough! But she can blow it up! That should not be a problem. She sure can find out where to get the material and how to do it. She feels somewhat relieved. Now she trusts that she does not have to suffer death feasting on her slowly.
While she stares at the door her thoughts run circles. Some make her angry, because there she was, doing well, adapting, accepting, and now that she had been even happy, the house turned into a torture chamber. It is just like it wanted to proof that she was delivered with no help, no power, no more than a ball thrown around by the forces that had captured her and kept her hostage.
Suddenly an ice-cold thought emerges just like it had been floating in nameless depth under a thick shield of ice in which her rotating mind has milled a hole so it could find a way up. But it is of no help to Femina. It makes matters worse: What is if she can break the door and can leave the house, but she cannot leave her illness behind???
Suddenly there is silence within and around her and silence in her head. It must be the herald of the one who brings silence once and for all.
A click behind her breaks the stillness startling her as if she was hit by sudden thunder. She turns around and sees a door has opened, gaping at her and tempting her to have a look or come in. It is just a white unadorned unremarkable door, she had not noticed before blending into the white wall without fail. She gets up to follow its call. Inside is a big room, all in white, even the floor-boards have been painted white. It is empty except for a brown wooden bench on the left side wall. It even has a back rest but it does not make it look more comfortable all the same. It stands there like a big brown mouth in a white face that has no eyes or nose. Femina walks in, closing the door shut behind her and sits down. So it is, her waiting-room! Waiting for the crack of dawn, waiting for the stroke of the hour. It is still night and the hangman sleeps but her wait has begun and every minute turns into eternity. She shivers. She feels so cold. The empty room stares at her with the glance of broken eyes and in the silence every cry for help dies, leaving her mouth shut and her heart empty. And yet, she is grateful for this room. There she may find her thoughts again. She needs time to think, she needs to get back her senses. Having lost all control over herself, it can never give her the answers she needs for the final resolution she is after.
So she stares into the emptiness with all her senses anchored on the lightless bottom of a fathomless ocean, keeping her seated, motionless and quiet. And there is nothing that brings help, no voice that tells her something, no thought that opens a way. Hope has disappeared and left her behind like an empty shell. She loses her connection to time. Chilling cold runs through her body until she cannot feel anything anymore. Frozen rivers, ice covered sea.