Liquid dreams of cold hard surfaces and burning needles, whispers in the dark and tearing screams in harsh electric light. Strange songs, a hundred different suns whirling through a thousand different skies, stars that peered down and told of such things that made her cry and laugh. Smoky clouds a million miles wide, dust and ash and gas that would come together and burn. Things that were, things that had been, things yet to happen or not, whirling around her showing her things that she had seen before. Faces, places, terrible fires and bitter colds, scorched beauty and frozen elegance. Twisted, lapping over, merging.
Through it all, through all the turmoil and terror and wonder, one face, one voice stayed.
Gradually, the rapid flow of knowledge slowed, tapering off. Her fear mounted, not knowing what would happen when the tumbling memories came to an end. And then it did, the last thing she saw for a long while being a round, empty hold, void of everything, distorting all near it, rushing closer and closer until there was nothing at all.
She woke, a thick press of liquid against her skin – her burning freezing aching splitting skin. She jerked and thrashed, desperate for air, panicking when all the questing hands found was a soft, giving wall. A moment later, and the liquid rushed away, dragging her along with it, through a slit in the wall, spilling her out onto the floor.
She shivered and gasped at the air, dragging it in, her chest on fire. She struggled against the irresistible tug of gravity that pinned her body to the floor and screamed, the sound ragged and strange.
She screamed again before she started to cry tearlessly. Then – the face she knew, the voice that soothed the worst times, crooning to her, his hand pushing her hair out of her face, wiping the liquid from her eyes, nose and mouth. He picked her up, the rub of his clothes against her skin agonising, and carried her carefully away from the glaring room.
He walked into the adjacent room, where the lights were low and the air much warmer. Her crying diminished to hiccups and whines, but he kept talking, his tone soft and gentle. Then he was lowering her, into more liquid, warmer and thinner than the other stuff. She clung to him still, but he escaped her grip easily. She sunk to the bottom, the water coming mid-chest. He knelt beside the bath, and smiled at her when she was surprised out of the last of her tears. Gently, he washed her with a soft cloth, taking the cool gel off her, then washing her hair too, all the time talking, one word repeating over and over and over.
She didn’t understand.
He didn’t seem too upset. Once she was clean, he picked her up again, then frowned. A moment later, the expression was gone, and he set her on the thick rug on the floor, picked up a towel and rubbed her down. She was fighting against her heavy lids now, her head nodding forwards and her mind slowing. She was picked up again, now dry, and laid on something soft. Moments later, it rocked, then the bare arm of the man curved around her, pulling her against his body. He was warm and safe and his whispering voice told her the secrets of the universe in a language she didn’t know. She fell asleep, and dreamt of waking up.