Samira's head felt full of sand and cotton wool as she levered herself out of sleep. Her tongue had the thick, tingling sensation that meant something was wrong with her blood sugar, and she moaned quietly to herself and shuffled across the room to her desk, sheets still looped loosely around her naked body, trailing on the carpet. The first jab of the lancet failed to draw blood, but the second jabbed too deep and bled profusely.
The glowing numbers popped out in the gloom and Samira hung her head. At 251, no wonder she felt the dragging, sickly sensation. She dialed a moderate dose of insulin and injected it roughly into her thigh, a tiny dot of blood welling up there as well. Though there was no way the drug could act that fast, a sense of relief bloomed through her limbs – a trick of the mind, to be sure, but a reassuring one.
She dialed up the water to its hottest setting and climbed into the cramped shower, shivering as the spray shifted from mildly chilling to almost scalding. The heat blasted her skin, almost burning away the sensation of sickness and lethargy. Head tilted and eyes closed into the scouring flow, she stood motionless for a while.
Her mind wandered – to her empty flat in London, dust gathering on the photographs and newspaper clippings; to her father's empty house, decaying in the middle of the ravenous city; to the quiet house in Greenwich that they had occupied after their personal exodus, with the Egyptian tapestries on the walls and the English records on the stereo, the twin scents of her mother's Dunhill cigarettes and roast lamb filling the house.
She dressed and walked down to the sprawling lobby of the hotel, a confusing sprawl filled with American Express branches and tacky shops hawking fake Pharaonic memorabilia. A vague, irritating sense of nationalism reminded her that the historical souvenirs always managed to conveniently forget the intervening millennium and a half of Islamic rule.
A glance at the absurd prices at the hotel cafés made her laugh in derision as she wound her way out onto the street to start her first true day back in the city.