Archaeologist, librarian, genealogist, EU official…now a writer. Still digging.
Working title: The Acrocorinth Incident (this is the 4th attempt at a title, probably not the last)
Based on a true story.
Previous (unpublished) novel: ‘Love in the Time of Rebellion – a story of 1798.’
‘Madame, madame, are you okay?’
Kate opened her eyes to see two women staring at her, one kneeling on the step beside her. They were older than the earlier visitors – in shorts, tee-shirts, caps and walking boots. Suitably attired for a day in the sun, on a mountain, backpacks sprouting bottle holders and phone pockets. They looked worried.
‘Thank goodness, she’s alive,’ the standing woman breathed.
‘Can you hear me?’ the kneeling woman said. She had an American accent.
Kate nodded. ‘Yes,’ she whispered. Becoming aware that some explanation might be welcome to her audience, she added, ‘I fell, in the spring.’ Waving her hand towards it, she said, ‘I banged my head.’ She gingerly touched the lump growing there.
‘My name is Angie,’ the kneeling woman said. ‘I’m trained in First Aid. Is it okay if I feel your limbs?’
Kate nodded and the woman felt quickly along her arms and legs for fractures. Then she smiled at her and gave her a thumbs up. ‘Given the bang on your head and how weak you are, you might have concussion. You have a gash on your shoulder, though it’s not bleeding much. A few abrasions, too. And you’re soaking wet, so hypothermia is a possibility.’ She turned to her friend. ‘You got a spare pullover or rain jacket, Sally?’
Rummaging in her backpack, Sally produced a rolled-up raincoat and handed it to Angie, who unwound it and wrapped it around Kate.
‘What’s your name?’ she asked.
Then she held up three fingers. ‘How many?’
‘What day is it?’
‘Eh, Tuesday?’ She frowned. ‘I think. Hold on. Eh, no, it’s Thursday.’
‘What nationality are you?’
Angie looked at Sally again and spoke quietly. ‘Do you know who the President or Prime Minister of Ireland is?’
Her friend wrinkled her nose and shrugged.
‘Never mind.’ She looked at Kate.
‘It’s Mary, one of the Marys.’
‘Do you think we should get an ambulance?’ Sally asked. ‘I have the emergency number in my GSM.’ Angie nodded and Sally punched in the 112 number.
Kate closed her eyes again and, through a haze, heard scraps of the conversation, some in Greek, some in English. Was she nauseous? Could she stand? Negative to both questions, having made a feeble attempt to rise. Head spinning, she slumped down into a sitting position again.
‘Okay,’ Sally said into her phone, nodding. She hung up. ‘They’re sending an air ambulance. It will be here soon. I said we’ll stay with you.’
‘Oh my god,’ Kate said. ‘An air ambulance? Is this really necessary?’ Yes, you dope. Someone shoved you into the water. Shoved. You. Into. The. Water. She shuddered. What?
Angie patted her hand. ‘You can’t walk to a hospital,’ she said. ‘Or even back to our car. They can’t reach you quickly on foot, so I guess it has to be a chopper.’ She grinned. ‘Lucky you.’
‘Thank you,’ Kate said, ‘thank you both.’
‘No problem,’ Angie said. ‘We’re stationed here. US Navy.’ She reached her hand out to shake Kate’s. She smiled. ‘You’re in good hands, don’t worry now. We’ll take care of you.’
Kate smiled and nodded, as it seemed the polite thing to do in the face of this overwhelming care. She wasn’t used to it. Great, she thought, first the Irish Diplomatic Service, then the Greek police, now the U.S. Navy. Where will this end?
Holding on to the two women, she struggled to sit up. Five minutes later, a helicopter sounded in the distance, and a murmur of approval around her.
What are Greek hospitals like? she wondered. Hopefully not sixteen hours waiting in A & E, like in Dublin. Will the rental car be okay, parked here? How will I get back to collect it? Never mind. A fog of tiredness crept into her mind, and she closed her eyes. She realised she was still shaking from head to toe, quivering like a jelly, despite the warm sunshine. Her damp shorts clung uncomfortably close to her bottom and her wet hair straggled around her face.
Angie reached out to move it, saying, ‘May I?’ She delicately tidied the damp mop back, tucking it behind Kate’s ears. A motherly touch.
Sally handed her a bottle of water. ‘Here, you should drink this. It’s unopened.’ She unscrewed the cap. With a wobbly hand, Kate took it and drank several mouthfuls.
She watched, holding her breath as the helicopter approached, hovered overhead and landed fifty metres away. A uniformed crewman jumped down from the door and ran to them. He squatted beside her.
‘Hi,’ he shouted above the noise of the rotors. ‘Are you in pain?’
She nodded, pointing to her head.
‘No. I’m cold.’
The crewman spoke into a mouthpiece which curved from his ear to his mouth. He smiled at Kate, she stared wordlessly back. A flurry of hand signals and shouts passed between the Americans and the Greeks. Kate, clutching her wet backpack, couldn’t make out any of it under the deafening roar of helicopter blades. Everyone else seemed to know what they were doing, though. With Angie’s help, she got to her feet.
Air, wind in her face, noise. As she reached the chopper door, the crewman lifted her into the machine. The smell of metal, fabric, his strength. Safety. Someone slammed the aircraft door shut.
‘Stay where you are.’
She was happy to comply.
In what seemed like minutes in her vague state of mind, they were landing on the helicopter pad of the General Hospital of Corinth. An ambulance took her from the aircraft to the entrance of the A&E.