“Don’t worry, you’ll make friends once you’ve settled in.”
“Don’t forget to work hard, we know what you students are like, out all night.”
These words fell on frightened ears as her parents left her. They left her, in the hall of residence in a nameless, faceless block in a city she didn’t know and she was afraid.
It was bleak, it was dark, it was autumn and she longed for the golden days of when she was at school. The city was brutal, it was dark and it rained. She didn’t know where she was or she felt to be so tenderly abandoned. She was not equipped for this!
The gentle county of her youth, her kind teachers and thoughtful friends, the lessons, the plans, the routine, these were things she understood.
Scornful tutors mouthed incomprehensible words in echoing lecture theatres and people laughed. She couldn’t eat, she didn’t know how. And yet, and yet, she was touched with kindness as others saw her and were drawn to this sad, lonely girl, “Alice of the Otherworld” as the darkness called her.
“Here, come out with us, have a drink, you’ll feel better!”
The tall, dark, boy laughed like a maniac with knives in his eyes and pushed the glass towards her.
She drank; and was transported. Down and down she fell, tumbling down a smooth golden tunnel that smelled enticingly of childhood and weepingly of home.
When she opened her eyes, she was lying in a field. The day was golden, and dusted with sunshine, the old oak tree she reclined against felt warm and comfortable, as comforting as her bed at home.
She sat up, and her hands touched grass, grass that slithered through her fingers as soft as silk and warm as blood. A winged rabbit fluttered by, its delicate wings etched in green, flushing pink as it startled at her presence and shied away.
And as she looked, and looked again, what at first she took for flowers, beat their wings and flew away in a chattering flock and she heard the swallows singing at home as they prepared to fly to Africa.
She sighed and laid down again. This was not home, but it would do, the echoes were familiar and some of it was comforting. She drew this atmosphere around her, like her duvet at home, and shut her eyes.
“Ally! Ally! No! Ally, wake up! You bastard, what did you give her?”
The dark youth smiled uneasily and slid away, as her head lolled and a trickle of thin, yellow vomit escaped her smiling mouth, while the one who would have loved her grabbed his phone and cried.