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Crazy & Cracked

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When Astrid opened her eyes, she could remember almost nothing. Quite literally - all she knew was her name and that she had been sailing somewhere, with some people. She could not remember neither faces nor names. Names of people and of significant places were all but lost to her. She had no idea where she set off from and she had no idea where she set off to; and she most certainly had no idea where she ended up. She looked around but all her eyes could see were woods that seemed endless. She was lying on a beach, and next to her was an almost broken barrel she used to save herself. She could not believe her luck in the damned shipwreck, but those thoughts were fleeting - it was difficult to think about luck when stranded on a piece of land she could not recognize. Initially stunned, she now started feeling fear - fear so strong it filled her chest and threatened to make it burst. She was not afraid of the place she was in, nor of anything the woods could possibly hide - she was afraid of herself. She tried so hard to remember anything at all, she could feel her mind hurt. She massaged her temples and when her hands fell in front of her again, she saw blood on them. She was bleeding from her head and she couldn't possibly have cared less. She had to remember.

But she could not, even after waiting a few hours there, just sitting on a rock trying to stay calm as she commanded herself to. It will just take some time, she thought to herself, I need to stay calm. I will surely remember. But she could not. Not even after a few hours, she could not. She felt like crying. She could cry over the loss of something she did not even understand, but she was sure she had suffered a grave loss. And she felt she could cry, if only she'd had the strength. She was starting to feel dizzy and she knew she had to do something about that if she was to survive.

The sun had set long ago. She wasn't dried up yet, not in all those layers. She couldn't care enough to take her clothing off. And now the night had fallen and it grew cold and she was still wet, shivering in the wind. ''I am Astrid'', she whispered to herself, as if to sum up everything she had put together, ''I come from the North. Somewhere north is where my home is. I don't know what home is. I know that I am young.''

She paused to place her hand on her sword-hilt. She almost caressed it like a baby - it was all she had. It was a wonder she had salvaged it, she thought, and it was just as much of a wonder it didn't sink her down. She recognized it, it was the most familiar thing to her in this new, dark, secretive environment. She remembered it. ''And I know that I can fight.''

She decided to look for a decent place to spend the night. All she needed was a bit of seclusion to keep her from the wind and from unfriendly eyes. Making a fire would be the next step, and then finding drinking water, for she knew she would surely faint and fall without some water to drink, all the while losing blood. She also knew she'd probably hit her head again and never again open her eyes. Though her survival instincts were strong, that thought appealed to her for a moment. To die would be bliss. But she never knew how to give in, that much she was aware of, that much she remembered. She simply couldn't. Her entire being was against it. She could not give up on herself - whoever she was. So she set out into the woods, with all the strength she could muster.

It wasn't long before she saw a light in the distance. She froze immediately, thinking she had hit her head too hard against a rock. Was she hallucinating? She blinked a few times, and when she realized the light was still there no matter how many times she blinked, she decided to close her eyes for a good long minute. And then she opened them. And there it still was. The light. Perhaps a torch or a few. It bewildered her - for some reason she did not know, she thought she was surely trapped somewhere deserted. But that light could only come from a human. But who could live in such a place?

Surely not anyone normal, she thought, so it was probably better for her to stay in the woods, make her own little camp. Whoever dwelt over there could have been a rapist and a murderer, for all she knew. She pondered over it for a while. She was tempted, and she was conflicted. Maybe she should try her luck. Maybe the gods held her in their favor. She did survive quite a lot. She was given a second chance. Maybe this is the gods' doings too. Maybe this light is the path upon which they placed her. The gods... she remembered them. She remembered Freyja. The only mother she had now.

The feeling in her head intensified, and she was even more dizzy, and she knew it was just a matter of time. She could not stand there and think for much longer. She could use help. She needed help. There was warmth in between her temples and it was tempting to give into it. But she refused. Feeling her knees grow weak, she moved by resting against trees, one at a time. And as she walked, for ages as it seemed to her, the light seemed closer, but still too far away. She wasn't sure she could last. But she had to.

When she reached her destination, she felt she could die right there. She had made it and it was all that mattered. It was as though the whole struggle wasn't about surviving at all; it seemed to be about achieving something, anything she could know and remember as something of hers, something that belongs to her and her life and her past. With this she was no longer an entirely blank page.

She was standing in someone's property. There was a house, and unmistakably a workshop next to it. There was cut wood and tools and Astrid was sure this was home to a carpenter of some sort. There was a small boat too, freshly made, it seemed, tied carefully so that it doesn't float away. But it wouldn't, the sea was dreadfully still now - still and sinister.

This all took barely a few moments to observe. Before she knew it, she was surrounded by darkness again.