The Forgotten

I lay still for several moments as I tried to judge whether I was still in the midst of a dream or truly awake. My utter exhaustion, and my sense that I had not slept at all, decided it for me. It was impossible, I thought, to be this tired in a dream. The smell of instant oatmeal and coffee reached my nostrils, stirring my stomach and driving me from bed. I found Meredith in the kitchen, sitting at the small table eating the oatmeal she had prepared.

 

“Coffee’s on and there’s more porridge. Might be cereal too, if that’s more your thing. Eat quick, we don’t have much time.”

 

I nodded, not bothering to reply, my mind still mired in a fog. After I had finished with my breakfast she handed me a toothbrush and toothpaste, still in their packaging. I stared at, wondering how she could have known to bring it with her yesterday.

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The Forgotten

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? Continue reading

The Forgotten

My words hung in the air, the silence growing uncomfortable as we both avoided each other’s gaze, unsure of how to proceed. After the momentary relief of my confession, the need to carry on with the poor charade I had attempted now obviated, my unease returned in full force. My future was now tied to Meredith, and a precarious future it was with the specter of the Seeker looming on every horizon, and I had no way to tell whether the trust I had given her was earned.

I’m going to make some tea,” she said. “Would you like some? This could take awhile.”

Sure,” I said, glad for the distraction. It was good to have something in my hands, something to do, otherwise I kept twitching my fingers, touching them together in weird patterns to get the feel and sense of them. Nothing about them felt like my own. While Meredith was making the tea I wandered about the apartment, picking up books off the shelves and glancing at them. All of them were about various religions, origins and histories, anthropologies and comparative studies. The words became a blur after a time.

When the tea was ready we sat beside each other on the couch again, Meredith curling her legs underneath her and wrapping both hands around the steaming cup. We were near enough to touch one another and her closeness felt deliberate, an attempt to establish a rapport with me. I told myself I was being unfair, that it was just my own discomfort, the totality of my confusion, which made me suspect her of manipulating me.

This isn’t the first time this has happened,” Meredith said, blowing on her tea. I felt my hands tremble at her words, my whole body seeming to go cold.

When was the first time?” Continue reading

The Forgotten

Meredith was the first to move, releasing her grip on my arms and plucking the button from my neck. She returned it and the one she wore to her jacket pocket while I rubbed my throat, the cold gradually receding from my skin. I was giddy with relief at our apparent escape and had a thousand questions, but Meredith’s face was marked by a coiled sort of anger that warned me from asking any of them just now.

Nightfall approached, the sun low in the sky and the shadows long, by the time we left the apartment building, slipping out the back into a taxi Meredith had called. She sent the driver on a circuitous route, watching out the back window for the entire trip, with the same grim expression on her face. When she was satisfied we had not been followed she directed him to an apartment building called the Ivanhoe, an older brick building in a neighborhood I thought was close to where I lived. Each floor, I noted as we ascended up the stairs to the fifth, had a slightly unpleasant odor in its hallway, all of them distinct from the others somehow.

The apartment that Meredith brought me to was cramped and narrow, filled with ornate antique furniture too large for its rooms, forcing us to navigate with care in order to move about the place. There were shelves heavy with books, some of them very old, and the air was heavy with the smell of them. Everything here seemed to run counter to the person I had met that afternoon, it had none of Meredith’s care or precision.

Seeing the look on my face, Meredith said, “It’s a friends. Someone they couldn’t possibly know, so it should take them awhile to find us again.”

How long?” Continue reading

The Forgotten

Meredith dragged me along as she ran, pulling my arm so violently I feared my shoulder might fly from my socket. Behind us I heard a cry in a strange accent, a word I thought I knew, though I could not place it. I whispered it to myself as I tried to keep up to Meredith and she glared at me furiously, yanking even harder upon my arm. The sounds of pursuit grew nearer as we ducked around a corner and into a broad alley, weaving around trash dumpsters. One of the pursuers—the man with the goggles, I was certain—uttered a command and somehow I knew they were splitting up to cut off our avenues of escape.

I began to say something, but Meredith silenced me with a glance. Directly in our path were two cooks in stained white jackets outside having a smoke break and Meredith headed for them with me in tow. They glanced up in surprise at our rapid approach, their astonishment soon replaced by fear as they saw the man behind us in pursuit. Their conversation silenced they watched us, open-mouthed and frozen in place, as Meredith blew past them, carrying me with her. She threw open the door leading into the kitchen, with such violence it almost rebounded off the wall to hit us, and we plunged within before either cook had time to recover and do anything.

Inside we were met by a shout of anger from another cook and a stunned shriek from the waitress we bowled over as we dodged through the galleys. By the time I noticed the scalding heat hitting my face, we were already out of kitchen, emerging to find ourselves near a bar. A couple, with their arms slung over each other as they leaned against the counter, glanced up at our sudden entrance. Again I noted the long delay before the surprise registered on their faces. Was time moving slower for me, each instant fuller than the last?

I had no time to think about that for Meredith did not pause, flying around the bar, shoving aside anyone who came near our path, and it was all I could do to keep up with her. The staff was slow to react as well, only moving in our direction when we reached the entrance to the place. By then shouts and cries began to arise again from the kitchen and a low murmur of consternation erupted, cut silent by the door swinging shut behind me as we returned to the street. Here Meredith paused for a second to get her bearings, glancing left and right. My face felt hot and my pulse echoed loudly in my temple. I could not seem to get enough air into my lungs. Continue reading

The Forgotten

The Cafe Beano was a coffee shop on the corner of a busy avenue not far from the apartment building, a place I was convinced I had been before, though no memory would come to me. Yet I knew where it was and could picture its cluttered interior, with tables and chairs strewn about seemingly at random, could smell the bitter coffee and hear the chatter of the menagerie of people gathered within its walls. It was the specificity of these memories that seemed the strangest of all to me. Why could I recall with exacting detail everything about the Beano, but not remember having been there or anywhere else in this city, wherever it was? It was if someone had planted the memory whole within me, but left aside all the context, all the things that made a memory personal. This recollection could have been anyone’s, just as I could be anyone, and that was what bothered me most of all.

Meredith might be able to help there, I reasoned, as I walked back through the park to the coffee shop. All those things which had seemed so significant earlier—the couple talking, the movement of the light through the tree branches, the damp smell of the earth—I noted now in a glancing way, giving them no real thought, my mind on how to proceed with Meredith. Did I reveal to her that I had no memory of who I was? Could I trust her with that information? Best to wait until I better understood what she wanted and go from there, I decided.

I had a sudden moment of panic as I stepped into the Cafe Beano, glancing about at the faces of those sitting at the tables or standing in line for coffee, and realized I had no idea what Meredith looked like. If she was already here I would have no way of finding her—how had this not occurred to me before, I wondered, feeling my face go red—and there would be no hiding my memory loss from her. Realizing there was nothing else for it now that I was here, I went and stood in line, fidgeting and glancing about to see if anyone in the place was trying to meet my eyes.

As I waited a slim woman, with hair that wavered between blond and brown, depending on the light, pulled tight into a dancer’s bun that peaked atop her head, came alongside me and said in a quiet voice, so unlike the one she had used on the phone, “I’ll get a table at the back. Get me a latte.” Continue reading

The Forgotten

I crawled from the bathroom, choking back sobs, my whole body shaking with fear and revulsion. I wanted to peel off this skin, cut off my nose and lips, all of my face. Perhaps beneath it all was the person I was, not this simulacrum. But who was that exactly? I had no sense, no idea of where to even begin. My mind was blank, my thoughts as unfamiliar as the face that stared back at me, though they tantalized at moments, almost seeming to be my own. My instincts had returned me to this place, it was all there somewhere within me. For now I remained a foreign country to myself.

When I had recovered from my shock enough to get to my feet, I went to the kitchen to see if there was anything to drink. I fumbled through the cupboards haphazardly, my search of the apartment only moments before already forgotten, and came across a bottle of rye and some packets of chai tea. I opted for the tea, not trusting my stomach with the alcohol, though the thought of oblivion was tempting. I found the kettle and filled it with water and plugged it in, spending a few anxious moments waiting for it to come to a boil.

A phone began to ring as I waited for the tea to finish steeping. I located it in the bedroom atop a dresser amidst a scattering of detritus: loose change, receipts, and sunglasses, all stray pieces of a lost life. Looking at the display I saw a name and a number and, while I tried to call forth from my memory any details about the Meredith whose name appeared there, the call went to voicemail. The name did not seem familiar to me, but the number was a local one. How I knew that I could not say, but a quick search of the cell for its number showed the same area code and I thought it likely that my instincts were correct again. Continue reading

The Forgotten

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. Continue reading