There was something odd about the room Wyn was sleeping in, it swayed more than usual, not just side to side but up and down as if it was breathing.
“Misha?” Wyn croaked, her throat raw, stripped clean by a chemical wash that left her thinking of lemons. She opened an eye and stared at an unfamiliar dresser, photos arranged on top, a young couple holding a baby, another of a fireman, broad and proud in his uniform.
Wyn lifted her head and groaned. She felt bruised and battered like she’d got blind drunk and fallen down the stairs, bouncing her head on every step and biting her tongue.
Lightning cracked outside a high window and the thunder quickly followed. Rain lashed the window, and something more than wind howled outside, the whine of an alarm wound up to a high pitch.
Wyn sat up quickly and immediately regretted it as bile flooded her mouth and her cheeks puffed out. Barefoot on carpet to an open door and a clean toilet. Her throat burned as she vomited into the bowl, tears streaming as she clutched the rim trying not to fall in. When she was done, she slumped in the shower tray, breathing heavily, sweat pouring from her bare skin. She had her trousers on but no shirt, just as well she thought considering the stench that was oozing out of every pore.
Her skull was cracking, pressure pounding at her eardrums. It felt like the room was moving as she sat back against the wall. Small and square with a row of assorted bottles lined up neatly on a shelf and a basket under the sink.
Wyn reached for the cord by the door, visible in the faint light coming from the bedroom window. It clicked but nothing happened, and she sat back exhausted by the effort.
“Where the hell am I?” Wyn muttered as she hauled herself onto her feet and leaned over the sink. The water from the tap came out in a trickle and as she splashed a little on her face, spitting it back out as soon as she got a taste. She took a moment to dry her face with a green hand towel hanging from behind the door. There was something wrong with her eyes besides the headache threatening to push them out. Shadows lingered at the edges shrouding her vision.
Wyn made her way unsteadily back into the bedroom, unable to shake the feeling that the floor was moving under her feet. The decor reminded her of Auntie’s bedroom, with photos on the wall and a tall dresser in one corner. Her shirt and socks were on a hanger hooked over a handle on the dresser and Wyn sat on the edge of the bed as she pulled them. They were damp but then she was used to that. The shirt had a faint whiff of smoke and Wyn coughed as she slipped it on, stiff fingers fumbling with the buttons. A deep hunger rumbled in her belly, a hand under her shirt and rubbed at the skin, bruised muscle. Unsure what to expect Wyn took a moment to steady her nerves before opening the door.
She jumped as a cat darted through the gap and shot under the bed.
“It’s alright, you’re among friends,” Clive said in his deep reassuring voice. He was sitting at a small table in a cosy little kitchen lit by candlelight. A grey-haired woman got up from her chair and offered it to Wyn.
“Sit down, dear,” Mrs Cran said doing her best to put on a smile. “I’d make you a cup of tea but the plug's not working. I’ll get you a glass of water though. I put a bottle in the fridge.”
Mrs Cran shuffled over to the counter and Clive gestured to the empty chair. Wyn sat down, turning so the wall was behind her.
“You’re Mrs Cran, aren’t you?” Wyn croaked.
“You remember me,” Mrs Cran said with a genuine smile. She set a tall glass of water in front of Wyn and left the jug on the table. “Can I get you something to eat? You must be hungry.”
Wyn drank the water and then brushed at her mouth with her hand. She could feel the liquid sliding down her throat and spreading out to fill her stomach, a coolness that worked its way into her limbs waking up long-dormant nerve endings.
“I am, but no thank you,” Wyn said in a voice that sounded strange to her. “Where am I?”
“I’ll fix you something anyway,” Mrs Cran said turning to open a cupboard.
“The girl said she doesn’t want to eat, Doris,” Clive said. “Just let her sit for a moment and catch her breath.”
“Where am I?” Wyn coughed and patted her chest. Her bones ached and she straightened her neck out with some difficulty.
“You’re in the Longsal,” Clive said. “This is Mrs Cran’s flat. I think you’ve been here already.”
“How did I get up here?”
“In the lift, believe it or not. The only hour it’s been working the last month. The lights came on all of a sudden and the next thing we knew there was a knock at the door.”
“Has Nori still not fixed it?” Wyn asked. She saw the look shared between the two older folks. There was a roaring sound that seemed to come from beneath her feet. “Has the storm dropped a power line?”
“There’s no need to worry about it, not until you’re strong enough,” Mrs Cran said. She opened a cupboard and pulled out a pack of digestive biscuits. “Eat one of these. It will help settle your stomach.”
“The girl’s strong enough, Mrs Cran,” Clive said standing up to let Mrs Cran sit in his place. He stretched his shoulders as he moved to the sink. “God knows they have to be what with the world we left them.”
“Is the building moving? It must be really windy out there.” Wyn stared down at her feet and then pushed the bedroom door open to stare out the little window over the bed. Rain lashed the glass and the window rattled in its frame. Outside was the blank face of a wall. “I have to go home. Auntie will be wondering...”
Auntie was dead, she knew she was but at the same time, she could feel her waiting, nervously watching the backdoor for Wyn to return after a shift. She’d fretted for most of Wyn’s first year on the force, unable to sleep until her child was back home and safe.
“Lift, I came up in the lift,” Wyn said rubbing at her temple. Her thoughts were shifting around, jumbling her past so that the future felt like a blanket stitched together from scraps. “Was I alone?”
“Tay brought you here, just in time as well. Any longer and you’d have been stuck out there.”
“Out there?” Wyn stared at Clive, searching his face for meaning. “Is Tay still here?”
Mrs Cran glanced at the wall, chipped tile under ageing cupboards. “She’s next door. I can feel her.”
Wyn spotted her boots by the door and got up to put them on. Clive and Mrs Cran straightened up but neither made to stop her. A wet towel covered the gap beneath the door and Wyn nudged it out of the way with her boot.
Water gusted in and she raised a hand to guard her face, letting go of the door to stagger into the corridor. The windows had broken inwards, scattering glass across the wet floor. Rain poured in freely, carried by the gale raging outside. Doors opened and slammed as it sought a path through. Glass crunched under her feet and water spilt across the floor to vanish under the doors to the other flats.
She looked back to find Clive standing with the door to Mrs Cran’s shut behind him, holding the handle and watching her closely. Wyn stumbled into a shopping cart and pushed it out of the way, a locked wheel scraping on the wet floor.
She remembered Tay looking down at her, talking as she pushed her in the trolley, her words lost in the storm that had raged even then. Wyn pushed it to the side and braced her hands over her head as she approached the window. The clouds were low and the rain thick, blocking her view as vast quantities of water fell to pummel the sector. At first, Wyn wasn’t sure what she was seeing, her mind incapable of understanding the changed terrain. Lightning flashed, blinding her as it hit a tower in the distance, the white light illuminating the rivers that snaked between the buildings, islands of concrete being subsumed by the emerging sea.
Wyn dropped her hands and let the elements beat her as she stepped to the open window. She pointed uselessly at the waves rolling down the streets and the cars smashing together at the junctions, tossed by the waves into second-floor windows.
“How?” Wyn asked but her words were lost in the howling storm. Clive gently took her arm and pulled her out of the rain, propping her against the wall. The wind buffeted him, but he stood his ground, unwilling to leave her alone.
“You’ve been asleep a day.” Clive had to raise his voice to be heard over the tempest. “Tay brought you up in the lift, right before it broke again. Pushed you here in that thing.”
Wyn knew he was talking about the shopping trolley, a memory coming back to her of looking up as Tay struggled with it.
“She left you with Mrs Cran and then shut herself away. We didn’t think you’d wake up.”
“How the fuck is this possible?” Wyn turned on him, anger sparking a fire in her chest. “How the fuck does a sector flood? Why aren’t you doing anything?”
“There’s nothing to be done,” Clive said in a tired voice. “There’s nothing we can do.”
“I have to get to Jena,” Wyn slumped as the strength went from her legs. “Oh god, Misha and Alex. I have to know they’re okay.”
Clive knelt by her side and Wyn cried as she fell into him. He put an arm around her, not saying anything, just doing his best to protect her from the rain.
“Tay,” Wyn gasped between the sobs. “Where’s Tay?”
“She’s in her room, but she’s not all there.”
“She’s doing this.” Wyn pushed herself up, using Clive’s shoulder for support. “She killed them. She’s going to kill all of us.”
“She’s just a kid,” Clive said as he struggled to his feet, but Wyn was running to the door.
She threw it open, slamming it into the wall. A small bathroom on the left and then a slightly larger bedroom, empty except for a solitary figure sat with her legs splayed out and shoulders slumped.
“Tay!” Wyn stormed into the room, crossing to stand in front of her. “Stop this, Tay, just fucking stop this!”
Tay didn’t respond but raised her head to stare at the window and the rain falling like a curtain outside. Her chin and neck were stained black and every part of her exposed arms and chest was covered in a web of intricate tattoos.
“What did they do to you?” Wyn asked as she knelt in front of Tay. “Talk to me, Tay.”
Tay’s focus slowly drifted back to the room, looking around her as if for the first time. “I slept here.”
“This was your room, Tay. Is that why you came back here?”
“Mrs Cran.” Tay lifted an arm just enough to point at the adjoining wall before it fell back to her side. The effort seemed to sap the last of her energy and her head slumped onto her chest.
Wyn moved to Tay’s side and bent to look her in the eye. “Are you doing this, Tay?”
“It has to be done,” Tay spoke in laboured breaths.
“How are you doing this? Explain to me what’s happening. I have to understand.”
“I don’t know. I can’t control it.”
“Who can, the Great Mother, is she controlling the storm?”
“She wanted a new beginning.”
“So, what now? We all die?”
“I’ve been trying to tell you all along, but you aren’t listening,” Tay let her head roll so that she was staring at Wyn. “I just want to sleep. I’ve been woken up so many times, I can’t do it again. I can’t lose them again, every time it hurts more.”
“Stop it then.” Wyn took hold of Tay and shook her gently. She wanted to be angry, to shout for her to stop but all she could see was a scared kid. When the black tears began rolling down Tay’s cheek Wyn knew why she was there. “I’m not leaving you, I promise, just tell me what you want me to do.”
“There’s nothing any of us can do. We’ll just forget, and it will all start again, over, and over until we’re all driven mad. The voices, Wyn, you’ll hear the voices, but they won’t be yours. They’ll belong to everyone you’ve ever loved. I can’t do it.”
“I’m not leaving you, Tay. I’m not going anywhere.” Wyn wrapped her arms around her, holding her tightly.
“It doesn’t matter, you’ll forget me, you always do.”
“Not this time, I swear.”