Waking Beauty - Chap 14, The Beauty and the Big Sleep

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Waking Beauty - Chap 14, The Beauty and the Big Sleep book summary

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Our Waking Beauty series is about to get even more mysterious. We reach the fourteenth chapter in our Princess Talia series, in which she is taken against her will to be interviewed by a psychiatrist. She answers all the questions honestly, and Basil knows that it does not bode well for her.

Story by Bertie.

Read by Elizabeth.

Proofread by Jana Elizabeth.

Illustrated by Chiara Civati.




“Talia, don’t get out of the car. We’re not budging,” said Basil. And then he remonstrated with the driver: “I thought your job was to protect the princess, not kidnap her!”

“Mine is not to reason why,” replied the man.

“Theirs is but to do or die,” responded Basil. “That’s what the Light Brigade said before they charged into the Russian cannons. You can’t just obey orders even when they are insane.”

“I believe,” said the driver, “that the powers that be have the princess’s best interests at heart. And if I may add, I have some personal experience in these matters. While I was in the army, I saw a few things. I won’t go into details, but they say that everyone has their own breaking point and I hit mine. After I left the forces, I spent a couple of months in a place like this, and it restored me... sort of. So my advice to the princess is this. The sooner you start, the sooner it will be over, and she can get back to college and her friends, and her studies.”

Basil realised that the driver was a decent enough sort, who simply had no idea what this was all about. In fact he himself scarcely had the vaguest idea about anything at all anymore, except that when Talia was around, things seemed to get stranger and stranger, not to mention scarier and scarier.

A broad shouldered male nurse came over to speak to the driver: “We are authorised to use reasonable force if necessary,” he said in a low voice.

“There will be no need for that now, will there Princess?” said the driver. And the princess said: “No there shan’t. I will come because I have no choice, but as soon as I can, I shall complain through the highest possible channels.”

Basil clambered out of the car first. He spoke to a hard-faced woman who was dressed rather like an accountant, but who introduced herself as a 'therapist'. She told him that they just wanted to ask Talia a few questions.

“We will only agree if I can be present,” said Basil. And the lady replied that it was entirely a matter for the princess and if she wished him to stay, he could.

Basil went back to the car to confer with Talia, and she agreed to the questioning so long as he stayed with her. The greeting party of the two nurses and the therapist led them into the house and down a long corridor. Eventually they went into a room where they could sit down - always in the presence of a man in a blue uniform.

“Are you a doctor or a gaoler?” asked Talia.

“I’m a nurse,” said the man. “Would you like a cup of tea?”

“Thank you. I will have a cup of hot water with a slice of lemon in it,” said Talia.

“I’m afraid we don’t have lemon.”

“Well I’ll just have hot water then,” she replied. And the nurse went over to the drinks machine and filled a plastic cup with hot water for her. Basil made himself some tea.

After almost an hour of near silence, the interview took place in the room next door. There were four people from the clinic present, and it had the atmosphere, not of a consultation with a doctor, but of a trial, or worse, an interview for a job in a bank.

The lady therapist sat reading through a file of notes before looking up and asking: “Do you have any family in this country, Princess?”

“Just my fairy godmother,” Talia replied. And Basil could see that the interview had got off to a bad start when even the nurse suppressed a laugh by turning it into a grunt. The therapist kept a straight poker face.

“I see. Do you have any contact details for her?” she asked in a flat voice.

“No,” said Talia. “We don’t communicate in any way that you would find normal.”

“Do you mean that you hear her voice in your head?” asked the woman.

“No,” said Talia. “I’m not insane.”

“Why did you attack a stranger in a shop?” asked the therapist.

“She stole my purse,” replied Talia dryly.

“And why did you attack the wife of the Rector of your college?”

“She’s a witch,” said Talia.

“She means that she’s a bad person,” interjected Basil.

“I’m afraid,” said the therapist, “that if you interrupt, you shall have to leave the room. My questions are for the princess. Now Talia, do you mean literally that she’s a witch, or is it just a figure of speech.”

“I mean,” said Talia, “that she’s a witch. And if you don’t believe me, I suggest that you take a short trip into Oxford’s city centre, and see what is happening there right now. If you do that, you will realise that I am perfectly sane.”

“I am afraid,” said the lady, “that you are having a psychotic episode, which means that you are imagining things. We are going to have to detain you here under section 5 of the Mental Health Act. We can keep you here for 28 days, by which time, if all goes well, we shall have isolated the problem and stabilised it. Do you understand what I have just said?”

“I’m afraid that you are the one who does not understand,” said Talia.

Basil was already on his feet: “You can’t do this, you just can’t do this!” he was saying.

But they could and they were.

When he left the house, he was in such a fury that he didn’t even answer the driver who was offering him a lift. He loped off down the drive, and to the main road where he caught a bus back to the edge of the city. It dropped him off at the Magdalen roundabout because there was a road block preventing traffic crossing the bridge. In fact a deep impenetrable fog had risen up from the river, which was rather strange given that it was early afternoon and the morning had been bright and crisp.

Basil walked across the bridge and through the fog which was a true pea-souper. It was the strangest thing, but he was so wrapped up with frustration and angry thoughts about what had happened at the clinic that he was hardly thinking about it. He just edged his way forward with his hand trailing along the stone side of the bridge. The fog did not get much thinner until he was well past Magdalen College and even then he could only dimly make out the High Street. Then he tripped up over something and stumbled forward, almost falling over, but recovering his balance just in time. The only surprise about this was that it hadn’t happened sooner in the fog. He looked back to see what he had tripped on, and saw that it was the leg of a woman who was lying on the pavement. He knelt down, feeling for her head, which he half expected to be bloody from hitting it on some sharp stone. He would have to call an ambulance, and it occurred to him that there might be many such accidents and that they would take a while to arrive. He felt all round the woman’s head, but could not find any sign of injury. He checked that her neck was warm. She seemed to be alive which was a relief to him. He decided that it would be best not to move her until more expert help arrived. He reached for his phone, but he couldn’t get a signal. He would have to try and call from further up the street. But it was only a few yards further down that he found a man lying down in the same way. By the time he reached Queen’s College the air was more or less clear, with only traces of mist at foot level and he could see that all the way up the pavement people were lying down, as if asleep. In fact, he passed a man who was positively snoring. He looked inside a shop that sold college ties and saw an assistant slumped on the counter. Outside, a baby was sound asleep in his or her pram, and the mother was lying on the pavement not far away. These days, only a few cars were allowed into the centre of Oxford, even on a normal day, and the closure of the bridge had clearly hindered traffic, but he saw that a police car and a mini had crashed into each other. The drivers and passengers did not appear to be too badly hurt, but they were sound asleep. Further up, a BMW had smashed into the wall of University College.

Basil made his way back to Westerly college and found that the porter was asleep in his lodge, the rugby team had dozed off on their way to a match and were lying in a scrum on the quad, and he could see through a downstairs window that a History undergraduate had fallen asleep in her tutorial, as had her tutor.

And the strangest thing of all was that Basil was hardly surprised. “I know that at least two people will be awake,” he said to himself. “One of them will be Sally, because she is wearing Talia’s amulet, and the other will be the Rector’s wife.”

But there was somebody else that he saw walking towards him. It was somebody he had not seen before. She was tall, middle aged, and yet undeniably beautiful with high cheek bones and a dignified way of holding herself. Her dress was long and made of red velvet. He knew right away who she must be.

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