Is this what death was? Complete numbness swallowed by blinding white light? How could this have happened?
It wasn’t silence ringing in my ears; it was an actual ringing, loud and high pitched. As it slowly faded, so did the numbness and light. That’s good, I wasn’t actually dead.
Even through the blurring, I could see I was outside. I stared up at the night sky and took a breath that burned my throat and lungs, leaving a residual taste in my mouth that felt familiar. Had I been screaming?
The more the trees in my peripheral came into focus, the more I started to panic. Things should have been coming back to me, things like why my body had gone numb, why I was outside and screaming, and why I couldn’t remember my own name. Who doesn’t remember their own name?
I closed my eyes and forced a breath. The more my panic built, the less focus I’d have to figure out what the hell was going on. Starting with my senses, I put the scene together.
I knew the metallic taste must have been from screaming. The smell outside was a mixture of fresh air and sweat. Okay, the sweat was me. Was that from the muggy heat or something else? If my legs felt sore just laying here, had I been running?
Stop asking questions, start with the facts.
I turned my attention back to what I could feel. The grass was short underneath me as I started to wiggle my fingers. I already knew my legs were tired, but now I could feel the sting in my left arm, throbbing with each pound of pain from my headache. It was time to move back to sight.
My arm was heavy as I reached up into the sky. If the moon hadn’t been so bright, I would have attributed the sight as a trick from the night. But this wasn’t a trick.
Blood, a lot of blood, was running down my forearm and dripping from my elbow onto my clothes and the grass. The headache must have been messing with my head. The sticky mess seemed too dark, even in the night, but it was probably because I had never seen so much before. Well, I was just guessing since I still couldn’t figure out why my memories were still missing.
I fought to shove the questions out of my already pounding head, taking most of my energy just to keep from shaking. I had to keep working my way up to the answers, but it wasn’t going to help if I couldn’t keep myself under control. With a few breaths to build confidence, I sat up off the ground to get a better look around me.
Things just kept getting worse. I ignored the backpack sitting next to me because not ten feet away was a man’s body. His jeans were ripped and his body contorted in a limp pile. There was a brief moment of relief that washed over me before I realized what that meant. I was relieved he was dead. I was thankful to watch the blood pool from his head and seep into the cracks in the rock underneath him.
What kind of person was I? Was I running with him? Was I running from him? Was I chasing him?
Had I killed him?
Fear rolled back through my body as I gripped my hands into fists. There were still no memories to help me figure out what was going on. I had to steady my breath again. It was getting harder to keep myself from completely breaking down.
I pulled the backpack closer in the hopes of finding answers. It had to have been mine; the pink and blue checkered print was too girlish for that man. I tried to keep hope alive as I unzipped the floppy compartment to pull out the contents.
First, a map with the edges torn off to show an in-depth depiction of a town and forest situated to the side. There was a small gap in the trees, perhaps where I was now, and between the town and forest edge, a scribbled red circle. There weren’t any building or clues as to what could be there, though, just empty space. Was that where I was going or where I was running from?
I kept digging through the bag, pulling out an extra set of clothes, a worn book titled The Magicians, a big key hung on a thick wheat chain necklace, and an iPod. Just before the battery died, I pulled the date and time from the screen — 1:45 in the morning on August 18.
Still no real answers, but the circle was the best lead I had. If I wanted to figure out who I was, the best chance I had was following what I found. There weren’t any people around to help me figure out who I was. If there were, I don’t think I’d know them anyway since I was still digging through an empty head.
As I put my hand down, bracing myself to stand up, I felt something cold and smooth press into the palm of my hand. I picked up a shiny black marble, well, half marble, split perfectly down the middle. How could something be cold like this in the heat of the summer?
If there was another half, it wasn’t around here. The grass was too short to hide it anyway. I shoved the half marble into my bag and looked back at the man’s body, lifeless and pale. The panic was starting to build up, but I knew I had to keep it together for as long as I could. It would be best if I didn’t get caught here with no memory and a dead body. I needed answers and I needed them fast. That left me with only one option. I oriented myself on the map and headed toward the red circle near the town of Forest Hills.
The map led me up a long and winding driveway. Right where the red circle had directed me, I spotted a small cabin tucked within dense trees. It was dark and hard to see as I cautiously approached but it looked like the roof had caved in from a tree that had fallen against it.
My hesitation was growing about what I was getting myself into. It wasn’t likely that I would have run from a place circled on a map, but why would I be running to this exact place? The cabin itself certainly looked uninviting as I walked up the path. The weathered cabin creaked as a slight breeze rustled through the trees, sending my heart pounding harder in my chest. If I had any other clues as to what was happening to me, I probably would have avoided getting any closer, but I needed answers and this was the only hope I had.
I walked up and onto the porch, surprised that the weakened wood was stable under my feet. The way it looked, my weight should have snapped the rotting boards but they barely creaked. The door in front of me seemed out of place compared to the rest of the old house, strong and clean as if it was brand new. Just a second ago, I could have sworn it looked just as rotten as the porch, but since it was dark and I was exhausted, I just assumed it was my eyes playing tricks on me.
I carefully stepped along the boards to peer in the broken window to my left. No lights were on inside and my eyes wouldn’t adjust so I couldn’t see anything. I’m not sure why anyone would be awake this early in the morning, let alone living inside this run-down cabin to begin with, but I figured I could at least spend the rest of the night inside. I walked back to the front door to reach for the handle.
Why doesn’t this door have a doorknob?
As I leaned closer, I could hear a gentle hum coming from the wood. After I pressed my hand against it, I could feel a soft vibration from underneath its surface. Somewhere inside the door, I heard a latch click loudly, echoing around me as the door edged open slightly. Despite the darkness I had just seen through the broken window, there were already several lights on inside.
“Hello?” I called. I tried to look in without actually stepping inside but the door opened further, as if it was inviting me to keep walking in.
There was a strange feeling in the back of my mind but I couldn’t quite grasp what it was. I should have been nervous that no one had opened this door for me but I barely even felt surprise. In fact, the feeling was almost familiar… I felt like I was close to remembering something, maybe something about this cabin? I just grasped at the emptiness and the memory never came.
I continued into the house without another thought. The living room was bright, clean, and organized. A small couch rested against the left wall, a mirror hung just to the right of it, and a kitchen table sat just beyond. After seeing the outside of the house, I never would have guessed the inside would look this nice. Why could I only see blackness through the broken window?
As I looked to my right, a light flicked on, illuminating a hallway. It extended deep into the cabin, with two doors on either side and another at the end, all with the same eerie smoothness as the front. But the hallway looked far too long for such a small cabin. There’s no way the hall should be that long. Actually, the cabin looked like it could just barely hold the living room I stood in. And I swear the roof looked like it had caved in from the outside but nothing inside was broken or damaged and no tree branch had crashed through the ceiling.
I shut the front door behind me and put the checkered bag on the couch, still cautiously observing the living area. Everything was clean so someone must have been here recently. Nothing seemed out of place or unorganized, but there was a stack of papers on the table. Hopefully those would give some clue as to who this cabin belonged to and why it was circled on my map. I started to walk to the table but as I passed the mirror, I was startled by the reflection I saw.
I didn’t recognize the tall girl looking back at me but she made all the same movements I did so it had to be me, right? I ran my hand through my ponytail, spinning violet-red hair between my fingers. There’s no way it hadn’t been dyed; hair wasn’t supposed to be this color. And, looking even less natural, were the fiery, almost glowing blue eyes looking back at me.
I was wearing a black shirt, soaked with sweat and clinging to me around my shoulders and waist. Blue jeans stuck to my figure, shaping down to a pair of Converse sneakers, all of which were splattered with blue ink.
That wasn’t ink, that was blood. My breath started to catch.
Holy shit. My blood is blue. There’s a giant gash on my arm and I’m bleeding blue blood.
The tears and hyperventilation distracted me for a minute as I did everything I could to shove them down. There wasn’t time for this. I couldn’t do this now. I needed to be strong and I needed to gather information. I needed a way to get my memories back. I took one final breath to gather myself and opened my eyes again.
Most of the blood was dried but there was still pain and tenderness around the wound. I focused on the reflection, examining the fresh cut on my forearm. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought it looked like a lightning strike, originating in the middle of my palm and tracing up to my elbow, little slivers of blue extending from the bolt that split in two halfway up my forearm. How had that happened?
I shook off the image of the dead man that flashed through my head and walked over to the table. Information first, panic later. On it were the papers, neatly stacked in a manila folder with an ID sitting on top. I twisted the driver’s license with my right hand so I could see it better in the light. The picture looked like the face I had just seen in the mirror… my face. How could I forget what I looked like? Was it because the eyes in the photo were green?
That must be my name but it didn’t feel right. Shouldn’t I recognize my own name? Why didn’t that trigger any memories? I studied the details of the girl on the ID. Clara was eighteen as of today, six feet tall, and not an organ donor. Probably smart since my blood is blue.
Strange as it felt, I must be Clara since that’s what the ID said. I still had too many questions and the ID didn’t jog any memories. Confusion and frustration started to build in my mind as my chest and throat tightened. It felt like something was on the tip of my tongue, like I should have known something important, but the memory wasn’t coming back.
The folder had some school documents with Clara’s name on them. No, my name on them— I am Clara. I should probably try to remember my own name. I was enrolled at West Hills High School, starting on August 28th. So I was still in high school. At least I had a reasonable start on filling in my background.
“My name is Clara Rivers, I’m eighteen years old, and I’m starting my senior year at West Hills High School. I have no recollection of the first eighteen years of my life, why I woke up next to a dead man, or how I got this cut on my arm.” I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, solid back story you got there, I’m sure that won’t raise any red flags.”
So I’m sarcastic. Finally something that felt truly natural to me. If only that would help me remember something substantial about my past.