When I awoke next the restraints had been removed from my arms and legs. I tried to get up from the operating table and nearly fell to the floor. Two sets of strong hands seized me by the shoulders and dragged me to a chair someone had brought into the room. I slumped into it, my legs jutting out in odd directions. My body felt leaden, my mind dull and vague, and I briefly wondered if I was still asleep, but dismissed the idea out of hand. This was no dream.
Two other chairs were brought into the room and De Vroes and Osahi sat across from me, their faces grim and strained. Their assistants, the man and the woman, stood on either side of me, ready to act should I attempt anything, though it was clear I was in no shape to do any such thing. The woman was absent, I was certain, though I had been unable to get a good look at the rest of the room as they had transferred me to the chair. Now I tried to focus on De Vroes and Osahi, but my eyes kept wandering and I found myself staring at nothing, my vision a blur.
“Let’s begin,” Osahi said. He had taken off his suit jacket I saw, revealing a finely tailored white shirt, with emerald colored buttons that gleamed. I became entranced by their color, seeing in them the same line of lights that had presaged the return of my self.
Before he could utter another word I announced to the room, in a voice heavy with sleep or drugs, “I am David Aeida, sub-Regent of the One True Church, and you are holding me against my will.”
Osahi raised an eyebrow. “Well, now. Do you know who I am David Aeida?”
I stared at him, confused by the question. I knew him. He was Osahi, the Regent Dick. I wanted to say that to him, but the words were choked in my throat.
“I am Toma Osahi, High Regent of the One True Church. You, sub-Regent, are under my command, and you will remain here until you answer any questions I may have, to my satisfaction. Do you understand?”
“You are acting in contravention of the protocols of the Church, and I will not answer to you,” I tried to say, but my reply was a stream of garbled, stuttered nonsense.
Osahi shared a glance with De Vroes, who leaned forward and said, “Tell us what you remember, David. You are not well. We might be able to help you.”
That was lie, I thought. I was just suffering from the aftereffects of the drugs they had administered and the procedure they had performed on me. I knew who I was with clarity and certainty. I was David Aeida, sub-Regent of the Watcher’s Order. I clung to that singular thought through the buzzing of so many conflicting others that threatened to overwhelm me.
“How were you recruited into the Watcher’s Order?” Osahi said bluntly, dispensing with any pretense.
I stuttered something out, not even sure myself of what I was saying. The High Regent frowned, leaning back in his chair to stroke his chin. I recognized him now: Toma Osahi, High Regent, one of three who administered particular sections of the Church beneath the Grand Regent. Osahi was in charge of the evangelizing projects, so I knew he was operating well beyond his jurisdiction here. I had no need to answer to him, for the Watcher’s Order answered only to the Grand Regent. Not that I was at all capable of such a feat, even had I wanted to.
“What were your responsibilities on this world? Why did you attempt to cross over into ours? What was your purpose?” These questions came from Osahi in staccato bursts, his frustration apparent.
“Your buttons are not the light. The light is in me. It is me. When I see it I will be whole,” I said. “This is not the impossible world. It is out there to be found.”
Osahi raised an eyebrow at my ravings and turned to De Vroes. “How long will it take for him to stabilize?”
The other shrugged. “He may not. Even if he does, it may take days until we know for certain.”
“We don’t have days,” Osahi said, biting off the words.
“I know. This was always the risk with the procedure. But he definitely remembers, that much seems certain. I think if we keep at it we may learn something.”
Osahi nodded and turned his attention to me. “There is no point in trying to hide anything from us. We will find it out given time and I will ensure that we have it. Now tell me, what was your purpose in the Order?”
I shuddered as he spoke. One of the lights, still hovering, just visible, near the edge of my vision, burst into fluorescence. I saw, in an instant, an entire audience with the Grand Regent. I knelt before him, receiving his blessing and welcome to the Holy Order. He had a special mission for me, he said, one of utmost delicacy, which would require the ultimate sacrifice. I am a regent for my true body, I told him, you may do with this flesh as you must.
He thanked me and we were joined by two of his attendants, people I did not recognize, but who I instinctively knew were Acolytes like De Vroes. I followed them to an operating table. Strangely, my perspective on these events was not my own, it came from a place near the operating table, shrouded in darkness. There was something there, almost visible, but I could not bear to look.
Was this dream or memory? As I asked the question, I snapped back into awareness and saw Osahi and De Vroes staring intently at me.
“What do you remember?”
I was given no chance to answer the question, for an alarm began to shriek, echoing throughout the building.
Osahi leapt from his chair, his face gone white, sweat forming on his upper lip. “The Seeker,” he said, to no in particular. His words seemed to paralyze the others and they all stood looking up at the ceiling, as though it might reveal the proper course of action.
“We have to get you out of here,” De Vroes said, breaking the reverie.
“There’s no time,” Osahi said, his composure returning with a shake of his head. “We’ll have to make a stand here.” He turned to me. “How many men were with him?” When I did not answer immediately he grew furious, stomping across the room to loom over where I slumped in the chair. “Answer me. Your life is forfeit here as well. How many men were there?”
“Two,” I managed to say, my voice the barest of whispers.
Osahi nodded, his eyes distant, as though he were performing some sort of calculation. “Come on,” he said, heading for the door and punching in the code. De Vroes followed on his heels and the two assistants grasped me by the shoulders to carry me out.
“Leave him,” De Vroes said. “He’s not going anywhere, and the Seeker may not know he’s here yet.”
They dropped me back onto the chair and hurried after Osahi and De Vroes, sealing the door behind them. The pulse of the alarm seemed to recede, though I knew the volume had not changed. I was simply less present, my jumbled thoughts and memories surging over my consciousness again. I seemed to be both floating and sinking into the chair simultaneously, inhabiting two distinct states of being in the same instant.
The panic I knew I should have been feeling at the news that the Seeker was here failed to arrive. It seemed a distant concern, as opposed to a particularly sharp memory of a sunlit walk down East Main Street toward downtown. I passed by a small bar called the Whip and, at a whim, stopped to have a beer. I sat on the patio watching the passersby, the girls in sun dresses, the hours slipping away.
The cessation of the alarm, and the ominous silence that followed, returned me to my present self, and I realized that I needed to escape this room, that now was my opportunity. It surprised me that they had left me unattended. The Seeker had to be here for me after all, in spite of what De Vroes had said.
This room, though, I remembered something about this room. The plastic sheeting walls and ceiling and floors, they were shields against the Seeker. The room from my audience with the Grand Regent had been the same. He could not track me so long as I remained here, but that mattered little now that he had found this building. Eventually he and the Black Robes would find their way into this room, it seemed to me. And if they did not. Well, it was not as though I wanted to remain the prisoner of the High Regent.
I tried to force myself to stand up, to no avail, my body would not respond. It seemed to take a force of will even to blink or breathe. What had they done to me?
Outside the door I could hear loud voices, sounding dim through the walls, and I ceased all my attempts to get up, my face going flush at the thought of being discovered trying to flee. Perhaps it was better to remain where I was for the moment, I told myself. But the woman had shown me the code. My thoughts were sluggish, piecing things together in agonizing slow motion. This might be the distraction she had intended me to take advantage of.
As my mind warred at itself, one thought compelling me to rise, the next to remain inert, further shouts and some muffled crashes reached my ears. The origin of these noises was unclear to me, but I thought it unlikely that it was coming from directly outside the door. I imagined a battle between Osahi, and his followers, and the Seeker, and his black robed minions, taking place from room to room above me, until one side lay vanquished, their blood staining the floors. I wondered what weapons they might be using and could not remember. Swords, revolvers. There was a blank where the thought should be.
The gap troubled me for some reason and, as I worried at it, another flash of memory blinded me. I saw myself walking down a narrow corridor, one I had traversed endless times. The building it was located in would not come to me, but I knew it was a massive and forbidding structure. A mansion or a palace. Why I was there and where I was going—those details were absent, all context stripped from the memory, leaving only this precious shard. The smell of the place, a hint of lavender and ostentation, was heavy on my nostrils now. The feel of the carpet beneath my feet and the cool recycled air were palpable to me, left here in this hot, miserable place.
As I walked down the corridor I encountered someone—a woman, whose face was obscured somehow. I blinked, trying to bring her into focus, to no avail. We embraced, a lover’s embrace, passion and desire coursing through me. But not her. I could feel her distance from me, and I understood—this was the exact moment of my revelation—that she would betray me. As we disentangled from each others arms, I looked into her eyes to see if her treachery was visible there. But her face was emotionless, masked with an expression I knew only too well, for the obscurity of memory had dissolved, and it was Meredith staring back at me.
This is the fifteenth part of The Forgotten, a science fiction thriller. A new section will be published here every Thursday.