I remembered nothing until that moment, as I was walking through the park, when awareness seized my being. There was only darkness before—not even darkness, something without substance at all. I emerged, whole but flailing, my feet carrying me forward before any thought or awareness had taken form. It was as though all that had been left behind, scraped away, in my journey from the void to this place.
The park was the sort one could find in any city, with grass and trees, footpaths winding their way through the greenery, and benches set at intervals upon which people sat. The surrounding neighborhood was equally unremarkable, a mixture of houses and apartment buildings with not a landmark among them. There was what looked like a school at the park’s far end, with a yard fenced off from the rest of the park and turned into soccer and baseball fields.
I had no memories. How had I come to be here? Clearly I had been walking from somewhere, with some destination in mind. These facts eluded me.
My perception seemed heightened, my senses keen to the slightest shifts in shadow and light, a breeze the cause of astonishment. It was as though I had been denied these basic sensations for so long that a miniscule change appeared momentous. A cacophony of sound reached my ears: the symphony of leaves rustling, the hum of cars on pavement, and indecipherable murmurs of people around me. As they passed by I was entranced by their expressions, fleeting emotions passing across their face which it seemed only I was aware of.
Ahead of me a dog barked, quick and sharp, cutting through the clatter of sound and drawing my focus. It was led by a couple, perhaps in their early fifties. I followed them as they went along the path, listening to their conversation, though it was in a language I did not recognize. He appeared to be Japanese, though I could not have said why I felt that was so, and I was certain that he was not speaking in that language. That seemed significant to me and I listened to each intonation the couple made, certain somehow that if I could unravel this code I could understand what was happening.
No meaning came to me, and when they turned to the left to continue on the path around the park, I kept going straight, heading down the nearest street. At the next corner I turned right, my legs seeming to remember what my mind could not. I trusted them, going where instinct led me, trying to empty my mind of any thought. Eventually I came to an apartment building, five or six stories tall, white and sickly green colors marking its walls. I stood uneasily by the door until I fished in my pocket and found a set of keys, one of which worked, so I let myself in.
The air in the lobby was very warm and sticky, as if someone had left the heat on, even though it was summer. There was an odd, malingering odor; old carpets and humidity, I thought. The lobby was filled with fake plants and battered furniture from a past age. There was a mail room to my left and a man stepped out from it, a clutch of fliers in his hand, startling me. He seemed not to notice my surprise, giving me the briefest of glances and a nod. Had he recognized me, or was he simply being polite?
I followed him upstairs, automatically continuing on to the third floor as he stepped off at the second, and found myself before room 304. I tried my keys, knocking on the door as I unlocked it, and entered.
“Hello,” I called out tentatively, the sound of my voice shocking me with its strangeness.
I ignored that for moment, ignored the creeping sense of terror I felt at all the blank spaces that my thoughts fell into. Instead I explored the apartment, trying desperately to find something I recognized and could cling to in this storm of the unfamiliar. I went from the kitchen to the living room to the bedroom, opening closets and drawers as I went. There were several bookshelves and I studied their contents, as well as the CD’s and movies spread out on the floor by the television and stereo. None of it stirred anything in me. They all seemed very typical, though I had no idea why that should seem so to me.
As I felt panic begin to seize me, my throat constricting and my hands going numb, a thought occurred to me and I went into the bathroom. I stood in the darkness for a moment, gathering myself, before flicking on the light. At the sight of those blinking eyes, that open mouth, those lips and that hair, I fell to the floor. I was numb everywhere, the blood seeming to have left my body. I clenched my arms around my chest and shivered.
There was a voice repeating something over and over. At first it startled me, and I wondered if someone had followed me, or if I had turned on the television somehow, but then I realized it was my voice, that my mouth was moving, my tongue and lips forming those words. It did not seem possible. None of this was possible. I knew nothing of myself, not my name, who I was, or what I was doing here, but I knew, with a certainty so absolute it terrified me, that the person my gaze in the mirror was not me.
This is the first part of The Forgotten, a science fiction thriller. A new section will be published here every Thursday.