Updated version further down!
I dream of dead and dying things.
Barren lands void of life. Petals, once vibrantly hued, now brown and curled by decay. Sharp cliff faces buffeted by feral winds and stripped of all vegetation. And rising amongst it all, a giant oak tree, white-limbed and bleeding, wound with spires of thorns.
It is the ancient oak I dream of most of all. It calls to me, as if piercing the membrane of a memory I do not recall making. For almost a fortnight I have continued to wake, breathless and chilled to the bone, the metallic tang of blood ripening on my tongue.
In sleep, I feel as if I have crossed worlds and oceans, but how can that be true? I have never once strayed from the hot sands of India, nor gone anywhere without the watchful eye of my ayah, Ahdi; a woman who remains at my side so that my mother does not have to. Yet, something about this dead and foreign land is familiar. The truth of it eludes me, plaguing my waking hours.
As the daughter of a British officer, I am well-versed in the ways of social propriety and what is expected of a young lady. It is why, despite my growing fears and general unease, I have kept the truth of my night terrors close to my chest. Besides, who is there to confide in? Who would offer me a sample of kind words - a shoulder to cry on? Adhi? Certainly not. The soft-spoken Indian woman may have raised me, but she is my mother’s creature. Adhi’s loyalty is owed to her employer, the Memsahib, and not her sixteen-year-old daughter. Once again I find myself alone.
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