Light stabs through a meagre gap between the curtains. I could rise, pull them to, but the effort is more than I could bear. I turn over, hoping sleep will welcome me back.
Once I dreamed of sun slicked pebbled beaches, the scent of seaweed, frothing waves. Now sleep holds only darkness, hate filled eyes, the death of love.
I could ring the bell for the maid, have my hair dressed and coiled, my waist turned waspish, laced and corseted. I could.
My hand reaches for the stout brown bottle, my sweet butcher of nightmares.
At the mention of drugs, I didn’t think of rave culture or crystal meth or the UK’s recent ban on ‘legal highs’, but of the 19th century’s addiction to opiates.
Women particularly used a tincture called laudanum – usually a mixture of opium and alcohol – for every conceivable malady from menstral pain to diarrhea. Many 19th century literary figures used laudanum too: Charles Dickens, Bram Stoker, Elizabeth Gaskell, Wilkie Collins, Edgar Allan Poe and Elizabeth Barrett Browning among others.