With the coming publication of the final volume of the Sojourners Cycle, The Sojourner, on September 30, we’re revisiting how it all began with an excerpt from the first book in the series, The Forgotten:
I remember nothing but this moment right now, as I walk through this park alone. Before, there was only darkness—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 is as though all that had been left behind, scraped away, in my journey from the void to this place.
The park is the sort one can find in any city, with grass and trees, footpaths winding their way through the greenery, and benches set at intervals upon which people sit. The surrounding neighborhood is equally unremarkable, a mixture of houses and apartment buildings with not a landmark among them. There is what looks 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 have no memories. How did I come to be here? Clearly I was walking from somewhere, with some destination in mind. These facts elude me.
My perception seems heightened, my senses keen to the slightest shifts in shadow and light, a breeze the cause of astonishment. It is as though I have been denied these basic sensations for so long that a minuscule change appears momentous. A cacophony of sound reaches my ears: the symphony of leaves rustling, the hum of cars on pavement, and the indecipherable murmurs of people around me. As they pass by I am entranced by their expressions, fleeting emotions slipping across their face that it seems only I am aware of.
Ahead of me a dog barks, quick and sharp, cutting through the clatter of sound and drawing my focus. It is led by a couple, perhaps in their early fifties. I follow them as they go along the path, listening to their conversation, though it is in a language I do not recognize. He appears to be Japanese, though I am certain that is not the language he is speaking. This seems significant to me and I listen to each intonation the couple makes, certain somehow that if I can unravel this code I can understand what is happening.
No meaning comes to me, and when they turn to the left to continue on the path around the park, I keep going straight, heading down the nearest street. At the next corner I turn right, my legs seeming to remember what my mind cannot. I trust them, going where instinct leads me, trying to empty my mind of any thought. Eventually I come to an apartment building, five or six stories tall, white and sickly green colors marking its exterior. I stand uneasily by the door until I fish in my jacket pocket and find a set of keys, one of which works, so I let myself in.
The air in the lobby is very warm, as if someone had left the heat on, even though it feels like summer. There is an odd, malingering odor; old carpets and humidity, I think. The lobby is filled with fake plants and battered furniture, remnants of a previous age. There is a mailroom to my left and a man steps out from it, a clutch of fliers in his hand, startling me. He seems not to notice my surprise, giving me the briefest of glances and a nod. Has he recognized me, or is he simply being polite?
I follow him upstairs, automatically continuing on to the third floor as he steps off at the second, and find myself before room 304. I try my keys, knocking on the door as I unlock it, and enter.
“Hello,” I call out tentatively, the sound of my voice shocking me.
I ignore that for the moment, ignore the creeping sense of terror I feel at all the blank spaces around my thoughts. Instead I explore the apartment, trying desperately to find something I recognize and can cling to in this storm of the unfamiliar. I go from the kitchen to the living room to the bedroom, opening closets and drawers. There are several bookshelves and I study their contents, as well as the CDs and movies spread out on the floor by the television and stereo. None of it stirs anything in me.
As I feel panic begin to seize me, my throat constricting and my hands going numb, a thought occurs to me and I go into the bathroom. I stand 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 fall to the floor. I am numb everywhere, the blood seeming to leave my body. I clench my arms around my chest and shiver.
There is a voice repeating something over and over. At first it startles me, and I wonder if someone has followed me, or if I turned on the television somehow, but then I realize it is my voice, that my mouth is moving, my tongue and lips forming these words. It does not seem possible. None of this is possible. I know nothing of myself, not my name, who I was, or what I am doing here, but I know, with a certainty so absolute it terrifies me, that the person returning my gaze in the mirror is not me.
The Sojourners Cycle: