Feresteh tells me about a recurring dream that’s been troubling her.
‘I think it’s because of the drugs they pumped into me in ITU,’ she says, tentatively shifting her position in the bed so she’s more upright against the pillows. Her face looks scooped, her eyes preternaturally large. ‘I was very ill,’ she says.
‘I’m sorry to hear that.’
‘But you know the worst thing about it all is the dream. It comes to me most nights, even sometimes during the day if I sleep a little. It is always the same thing. I am in the hold of sailing ship, with hundreds of girls all my age. And I realise I am being trafficked, about to be taken away across the sea to some faraway place, a place no-one will ever be able to find me. There are heavy pieces of furniture there, too, gaudy, richly decorated. And I come to see that this is how they intend to smuggle us out of the ship – inside the furniture, locked in the chests and the cabinets. I see my father and my uncle looking down at me from the hatch, silhouetted against the light. I call out to them but all they do is wave sadly, and withdraw slowly, and the hatch slides shut, and everything goes quiet. And then the worst thing. From out of the darkness comes a big blue owl. It flies low over our heads, its eyes wide – like THIS – its claws out. And it is so terrifying I put my hands up and I say No! NO! And if I am lucky, I wake up.’
She raises her chin to track the invisible bird, her left arm straight with the fingers of that hand spread, the right arm bent so the hand is level with her face. Her mouth is slightly parted, her breath coming quickly, and her eyes – her eyes are shining.