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April 26, 2018

The Waking

Old Woman with a Muff by an Unknown/National Gallery of Art
Fiction: The Waking

She sits with her back straight in front of the three-legged contraption. This thing will capture her true self. That is what the young man have told her. She have doubts but she wants to see what she really looks like. But she is not here to capture her youth. She is here to capture her future.

Yesterday morning, Anna Rose woke up with a headache. She was uncertain of the cause and dismissed it. While she was splashing water on her face, she peered up at the looking glass and saw an unfamiliar face staring back at her. At first, she thought she had imagined it but as she wiped her eyes with the towel and as she leaned close to the glass and stared into the violet-grey eyes, she knew the old woman was her. But the woman was at least 30 years ahead of Anna's 31. She wanted to scream but then what was the use? She thought of all the possibilities of how this could happen but nothing came to her.

All day, she wandered about the house and dared not look into any reflecting surfaces. When she shivered, she almost thought of it as yet another shock she must accept. It was early July and there was no reason for her to be cold but she was. She put on layers of clothing and then sat by the opened windows where the sunlight enveloped her. Not wanting to leave her room, she stayed put.

Hungry drove her to the kitchen where she ate a loaf of bread and some preserves that she had saved for winter. She had not the heart to bake or cook anything. She returned to her room and crawled into bed. But as she wondered what shall be done, a chill entered her room. Instead of closing the windows, she pulled the sheets and quilts tight around her. She tried to sleep but her eyes remained opened. The shadows on the ceiling seemed to mock her. They moved with such agility, such youthful motions.

She traced the grooves on her face. They were soft but they did not feel like they belonged to her. The rest of her was more or less the same shape. The sometimes aches when she lifted an arm or a leg didn't bother her. Even her gray hair caused her no alarm. It was the 30 years that she had lost that caused her to distraction. She madly wished those years back.

Anna had been quite resolute to have her own way. After she inherited her Aunt Pat's estate, she moved out. She refused to go to family gatherings and parties. She did whatever pleased her and that meant she did everything alone. She had no servants and she had not acquainted herself with her neighbors. If she have a housemate, perhaps that person might have comforted her. But she was alone and she hated it.

Anna watches the young man fidget with the knobs and dials of the contraption. He glances up and gives her a subdued smile. When she came into his studio, he have been kind and even gentle. When she shivered, he offered her his black scarf. She wrapped it around her head. Perhaps it made her matronly. The young man then had brought out a brown hand muff for her cold hands.

The young man tells her the camera is ready. "Must I smile?" she asks him. He lifts his black eyebrows and replies with, "No, madam but perhaps you should not look so grim." The young man dips his head under the cloth and holds up a small black device in his hand. She imagines what he might say or do if she tells him she has been only 31 just a few days ago. Would he believe her? Would he have treated her differently?

"Hold still, please madam," he says. Oh, how she wishes she is young again. Perhaps this young man might have flirted with her. She almost laughs at the thought. "Look into the lens, please madam." The young man sounds patient. Anna spreads her lips and hopes it is a smile and looks into the lens. A bright flash appears and it almost blinds her. She blinks away the spots in her vision.

A grasp escape from the young man. Anna rubs at her eyes and focuses on him. He is looking at her with an opened mouth and wide eyes. He walks toward her with a thin sheet of paper in his hand. He smiles and offers the paper to her. Anna takes it with her wrinkled hand.

The face in the photograph is young and she have a pleasant smile. Anna stands up. Her legs aches and her back feels like pins are stuck to it. But she is delighted. She have not lost her youth. It have only been hidden. She asks the young man when the photograph will be ready. He stares at her for a bit and then he replies,"It will take a week to enlarge it." She smiles at him and says, "I will be back in a week."

On the way home, she decides to visit her family after five long years of absence. Perhaps they will hate her. Perhaps she will hate them. But she would not lose 30 years, not now, not when she have finally waken to life.

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Story idea came from Christine: 'I woke up and I had aged 30 years.' Thank you Christine.

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