It felt like hours before I fell asleep. Outside the room I could hear Meredith pacing about the apartment and, though I did not hear her voice, I was certain she was speaking with someone. Why I should feel this way I could not say, but it was of a piece with the rest of the inexplicable day. Multiple universes. Seekers. Hidden Societies and secret wars. I had no idea who I was, what city, or indeed what world, I was in and each of Meredith’s revelations offered no solid ground on which I could stand.
The crux of the matter, it seemed to me, lay in Meredith’s identity and her relationship with me. Friends of convenience, she had said. Acquaintances. What did these things mean and why did I continually feel she was lying to me? All that she had told me to this point fit the facts as best I understood them and she had saved me from the Seeker. I was under no illusions as to his intent, or his otherworldly nature, after our encounter that afternoon. Still, I could not bring myself to trust her. Who was she and why was she involved in my life?
If I could only remember something of myself. It was strange to me that I knew the fundamental laws of this world and had an understanding of how things should be here, yet I knew nothing of these other universes. Meredith had told me I came from another universe, should I not have the same basic understanding of it, of all of this? Nothing made sense, nothing seemed right, and I had no idea what to believe.
Sleep came to me eventually, but my confused state remained, pursuing me into my dreams. In them I was being hunted by hundreds of insect-eyed men. They were everywhere I turned and no matter where I tried to hide myself they could see me. One moment I was in a forest of dandelion-like flowers, their heads white with long, spindly seeds that rattled in the wind. The next I was deep underground, in a vast empty complex, my footsteps echoing down the metallic corridors. As I scurried through these strange places, twisting and turning, doubling back on my path, the army of Seekers always discovering me regardless, I found myself wondering if these places were real. Were they a part of the other universe that I had been to before?
My endless flight came to an end at my apartment. I went from room to room, rifling through drawers and lifting up furniture, knocking on the walls to see if false panels existed. Soon I was in a frenzy, tearing apart my bed and the cushions on the couch. Nothing was revealed, nor did I have any sense of what it was I was looking for, only that it was somewhere in the apartment. At last, exhausted by my efforts, I collapsed to the floor and began to sob. I had to remember, my very life was at stake, but I could not. What had happened to me?
When I had cried until my eyes ached and my throat was raw, I gathered myself and went to the bathroom. The face, puffy and red from crying, that looked back at me was not the one I had seen this morning. I stared at it, trying to memorize every contour, but the visage dissolved as soon as it took form in my thoughts. Growing frustrated by my inability to remember I looked down at the sink, trying to steady myself, and when I looked up again my true face was gone and the face staring back at me was the false one I had seen that morning.
I reacted to this with fury, slamming my fist into the mirror until it cracked and broke, rendering my countenance into ghoulish carnival forms. A trail of blood flowing into the sink alerted me to the cuts on my hand. When I held it to my eyes I could see the white of bone and nearly fainted. I reached out to steady myself on the sink counter, the pain from my hand bludgeoning me, sending the room spinning. I lost all equilibrium and fell to the floor and into darkness.
A hand, gentle on my shoulder, stirred me awake. For a moment I did not remember where I was but, as I blinked my eyes open, I recognized, in the dim light of the dawn coming through the shades, the bedroom of Meredith’s friend. I rolled over, expecting to see Meredith, only to be brought face to face with the Seeker, his strange eyes two pits of blackness in the shadows.
I tried to scream but no sound came from my throat. The Seeker made no move to seize me, merely considering me, his head cocked to the side. His manner, like a scientist viewing a specimen, left me unable to react as I awaited the scalpel’s edge. When at last he stirred it was to gesture toward the door for me to go. I did not move, still paralyzed by his sudden appearance, and he gestured again, uttering the same phrase he had earlier whispered to the air, while we remained hidden from his sight.
I recognized the words, yet their meaning escaped my conscious thought, dissolving as my true face had dissolved before the form grew solid. They seemed to break the spell I was under though, and I climbed from the bed and went out into the main room, only to find I had somehow returned to my own apartment. I felt confused and thick headed. I was certain that the bed and the room I had just been in belonged to Meredith’s friend, yet here I was in my own place again. The Seeker prodded me into the living room, not giving me time to sort through my confusion. There he gestured for me to sit in a chair facing out to the balcony, while he sat on the couch alongside.
“It is good to see you again.” The voice came from behind me. It was a calm, unemotional voice. A man’s. I tried to turn around, but was unable to. The chair had seized me, holding my neck and arms in a vise, though no bonds were visible to my eyes.
“Still looking, I see,” the voice said, with a hint of amusement, and I followed his unseen gesture and saw my apartment in ruins from my earlier futile excavations. Where had I heard him before? Try as I might I could not picture his face.
“You should have known you could not defy me,” he said, and I imagined him shaking his head, almost in sorrow. “A price must be incurred.”
This infuriated me for some reason and I fought against the invisible bonds in a frenzy. I had my mouth open to reply when I awoke to find myself in the bed I had gone to sleep in, the sheets tangled about me.
This is the seventh part of The Forgotten, a science fiction thriller. A new section will be published here every Thursday.