I remember dying. I remember moving through a tunnel with a bright light. I also remember the vibrating calliope shattering the light, causing my brain to ooze through any orifice it could, leaking out my ears and eyes. I couldn’t see. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t think.
I also couldn’t hear. I felt a rumbling that I couldn’t figure out that seemed to be coming from a tree. Trees don’t speak, do they? I shut my eyes, shut out the world, tried to reboot the computer inside my brain.
It didn’t work.
At least, not totally. I was able to reboot my brain enough so I could see and hear and it made sense. I opened my eyes and the tree spoke to me again. This time I could understand the question. It asked me for my name. What was my name? Where was I? Why did I have this uneasy feeling that I wasn’t where I was supposed to be? And then I opened my mouth to answer the tree, I discovered I forgot how to speak and all that came out was a low groan.
Of course, that might have something to do with the fact that I ached from every pore I owned, even the ones in my hair. It felt as if the bed I was in was made of dirt and grass. Course, that could explain the tree talking to me.
I focused a bit harder and found a man sitting under the tree. He kept calling me ‘Angel.’ Was that my name? Some memory that refused direct acknowledgment told me no, it wasn’t my name, but it wouldn’t tell me what my name was. All that came through was “Jack.” I tried to say it, but it came out as a croak. I shook my head, trying to clear it a bit and immediately the calliope threatened to overwhelm me again, dragging me back into the chaos that finally started to make sense.
When I opened my eyes again, the man was still there against the tree. He seemed to be looking at me curiously, as if I had said something he hadn’t expected.
“Angel, I sure am glad to see you. Your daughter really misses you, and so do I.”
Angel? I’m not an angel. My name is . . . what is my name? Why can’t I remember my name? Isn’t that a fairly fundamental thing to forget? The spring sun warmed me, playing against the breeze that whispered over me into the leaves. I moved my hand, testing my muscles. The voice sounded again, softer and making a question of the single word. “Jack?”
“Did I say that out loud?” I thought.
“Okay. If you’d rather answer to the name ‘Jack’ than to your own name, I can do that. I’m really sorry that you can’t recognize me. Of course, if you’re in the park like this, you can’t be well. Are you high or something? That’s okay. I’ll help you regain your health. Let’s go see your daughter, shall we?” His hands plucked at me, trying to get me to sit up. I opened my eyes wide with alarm – that hurt – and a low moan that was half groan, half scream came rising out of me. And then I remember floating on a sea of blackness. Time had no meaning here.