Passing through

by Claire

Once the screaming stops Millicent takes in her first and deepest breath. Other sounds flood in and she absorbs them as though they are nourishment. There is a crackle from the logs in the fireplace, the whistle of a kettle from another room and the clack and rattle of a tram in the distance. Next she opens her eyes just a little and is able to see the sun as it pours through the window and hits the crystal decanter on the side board, causing a hundred tiny shattered lights to dance across the wall. In the air motes of dust are illuminated as they traverse the sun’s rays, suddenly visible in their teeming masses. Next Millicent notices the smells, there is the scent of beeswax and musty velvet mixed with woodsmoke.

Someone has placed a pretty little flowery cup on the bedside table with what looks like a tiny bag of tea in the saucer. Millicent has never seen such a thing, somethings here are reassuring and familiar, but many others are brand new.

In the same way Millicent is at once both known and unknown to herself. Something assured and ancient seems to sit deep in her chest but she senses newness tingling at the ends of her fingers and toes. Millicent wriggles a little and changes her perspective.

Looking up she sees her mother's face for the first time, flushed and dewy with perspiration, wet strands of hair stuck to her forehead, she smells of blood and flesh and eau de cologne. She feels herself rising up as her mother takes her to the breast. Millicent latches on immediately, as though she has done it many times before, which of course she has. She feels the soft skin against her cheek and tastes the warm sweetness of her mother’s first milk as it slides down her throat. The tingling at the edges of her increases and becomes like flames spreading through her arms and legs.

For now she can remember what she was before. A young woman with calloused hands in a tiny shared room at the very top of a big drafty house. Her memory of this now is mostly smells - carbolic, ham fat, grass and dust. That life was hard but incrementally superior to the one before. This new life seems already to be better, it’s certainly warm and smells good. As she drinks, the new life subsumes the old, the sensory memories from before begin to wain and there is a moment when she has the perfect balance of insight, knowing where she came from and where she is. After the milk though Millicent feels heavy sleep coming like a wave to drown her in the here and now. When she wakes there will be no remembrance, only blurry and blunted awareness and the long process of learning and re-learning. Just before sleep hits Millicent hears her mother’s voice for the first time.

"Hello little Wendy. Welcome to the world."