I may be a twenty-first century girl, and I may be a little bit of a rebel, but there are some clothes I don't wear outside the clothes--outside of my bedroom, even. Among them I count a pair of shorts that I often wear instead of pyjamas. They're blue, a sort of turquoise colour, and they're about four inches long in total. Now you can see why I don't wear them outside and haven't done since I was twelve. But I wear them to bed, you see, and that was my downfall...
I woke early, about eight o'clock. The room seemed strangely cold and I slid out of bed straight away, to search for clothes. But my feet didn't hit the rug which covers the blue lino of my floor, and I didn't see a white built-in cupboard or a laptop lying open on a desk. Instead, I saw a completely different room, one that I'd never seen before in my life.
It was bigger than my room at home. The bed was iron, with twisted metal posts and proper bedposts. There was no desk and the wardrobe also seemed not to exist. Instead, there was a curtained off area and a wooden chest. I assumed that was where clothes were kept.
The floor was plain wood, but sanded so that it was smooth. The walls were pasted in some horrid, old-fashioned wallpaper, and the curtains were equally granny-like. Comfortingly, however, the room was lined with bookshelves. Though I recognised few of the books I was glad to know that I would have something to read, wherever I was.
I walked over to the door and was about to open it to holler for somebody and find out where I was when it opened before I even reached out for the handle. A woman was standing there, dressed in a floor-length black dress and apron.
"Good heavens!" she exclaimed, looking me up and down. "What on Earth are you wearing? And what is that thing on your wrist?" I looked at my arm; the only thing I could see was my watch and that was ordinary enough. "Have I seen you before?" she asked suddenly.
"No," I stammered. "I'm--I'm Elizabeth. Where am I? What is this place? How did I get here?"
She tutted. "Another one with no memory. This is the workhouse, girl. You're here until you get a job or someone takes you off our hands. As for how you got here, I'm assuming you turned up on the doorstep, half-starved, like most of the other wretches here. Although you don't look half-starved..."
Feeling affronted, I looked at my body. True, I was no skeleton, but I wasn't fat either. Most of my flesh was solid muscle, developed during dance training and my cycling trips three times a week. "The workhouse?" I had suddenly caught her words. "But workhouses don't exist any more. They got rid of those donkey's years ago."
"I don't think they did," she said. "In fact, I hope they don't, or I'm out of a job and it's onto the streets for me. Now hurry up and get changed, and come down to breakfast. You're late already, that's why I'm here." In History classes I'd heard horrible stories of people being beaten and starved in workhouses but this one seemed relatively humane, at least for the moment.
"Are you this nice to everyone?" I said, trying not to sound rude.
"Oh, good heavens, no," she laughed. "But you're something slightly special, I reckon, because they asked me to get you ready to meet our visitors today. Who knows, perhaps you'll be the one." I didn't have the faintest idea what she was talking about, but didn't want to say anything. Instead I walked over to the chest. She smiled and left the room, leaving me with the clothes.
Clothes I didn't have a clue how to put on. Clothes that looked to me like they came out of the same textbook which had told me about the workhouses ... and gave me a horrible feeling I knew where I was. Or rather, when I was, because whatever had happened there was no way this was the twenty-first century.