Thursday. I wake from a fitful slumber, feet cold, face hot. As I inch feet to steal the warmth behind my knees, red digits flutter in my periphery. 9.29pm. Late. I'm late. Legs tangled in sheets prevent a successful leap from the bed and I plunge, head first, into the bedside table. Corner stabs temple. Shards of pain to the power of three. Underneath my eye, a vessel starts to twitch. One hand has twenty fingers. That's not right. I'm late...
'Are you alright, love?'
Fingers of cold bone jab one hot cheek. Three outlines of a blurred figure enter my vision. A thousand tonne fog rests on my head but it's only air.
'My head hurts.'
'Pfft! I've known pain far worse.'
'And you are?'
'Name's Emily Davison. Come now, you're late.'
I spin my body out of its circus tangle and off the bed. Vision follows two seconds later. Liquid muscles and jelly bones quiver as I heave myself up onto feet that don't feel like my feet. Hand seeks out the pain bleating relentless in my temple. Contents of stomach don't feel safe. I clutch my side, as if that will help.
The four walls of my room have broken and dispersed. A white descends to curl around me, a whisper to my flesh. I follow Emily along a floorless corridor of fog.
'Where are we going?'
She smiles. I gulp. We reach open nothingness. A woman strides out, her neck held rigid by a high white collar. The sternness of her nose is intimidating.
'Wait. I know you. You're-'
It's official. I am late. For my check-in at the Bethlem mental institution.
A ballot box slides out from the white. A pen drops from nowhere. A voting form appears crumpled beneath the painful twist of my fingers. Empty boxes loom, waiting to be ticked. Tick me. Tick me. No! Tick me. Emily creeps forward.
'I didn't throw myself under that horse for you to stand there.'
Emmeline glares at the pocket watch in her weathered hands. Red digits flutter. Pen hovers. Mind quivers. Somewhere, Big Ben chimes ten but I'm not watching the news. My heart leaps. I fall.
'You're too late. You've missed your chance. I'm terribly disappointed in you.'
I'm faced with the pointed stare of two suffragettes and their suffering. Pain has found a beat and plays like dirty hip-hop in my head. I sink into the fog and drown in it.
Thursday. 9.45pm. Wake face down on floor. Spine jarred; feet, thighs, knees tangled upwards against the edge of the bed. Temple aches. I heave myself up onto feet that feel like my feet in a room that looks like my room. Stagger over to my calendar. 7 days to go. Not late after-all...