This must be rock bottom. On a scale from one to ten today must fall within the sub-minus negative range. Although I have no reference point it sure feels like the lowest point a man can achieve and still be walking. I have no reference point because I can’t remember a damn thing prior to this morning.
I run a replay of what I can remember for the tenth time.
I’ve come off my bike. The accident must have knocked something loose in my brain as my memory retrieval apparatus is ballsed up. Teasingly, only bits and pieces are coming through. Worst still, the circumstances and activities that are returning are not at all flattering or comforting.
Constant recapping reinforces what little I will accept as fact: due to an aversion to exercise, instead of propelling my bike using my energy, I’d hitched a free ride by hanging onto the back of a police van. The cops probably took exception to my liberty and had slammed on the brakes causing my head to break off a securely mounted wing mirror. Then there was a bit of furious pedalling to outrun a thrown truncheon and the two irate cops.
It’s around this point stuff gets a bit blurry.
The injury presumably occurred earlier this morning; it’s going on for evening now. I partially remember I’d made it to my work place and spent the intervening hours... hmm, taking a nap!
Prompted by my concentration I groan as another packet of information pops up obligingly.
Christ. I’ve been sacked.
Caught sleeping, or more likely passed out from the head injury, in a cupboard. Special circumstances notwithstanding, it appears I do this regularly. Although normally I’m canny enough not to sleep through almost an entire shift.
Insultingly, I’d been ejected from the building by a cleaning robot. Not even allowed to retrieve my street clothes, which explains why I am dressed in garishly coloured work gear. I bet they take the cost out of my last pay.
Adding another layer of anxiety, my bowels are pressuring me to be emptied. The urge incentivises me to ferret out answers to questions such as: where the hell am I?, where do I live? Significant and basic information that I cannot access. These difficulties build to the point where I just want to let my sanity loose with a wild scream.
But I don’t. I hate embarrassing myself.
I hinge my hopes on the chance this amnesia is a low level anomaly that will correct itself shortly. Either that or a brain haemorrhage will drop me in the street. My head hurts even more with these speculations. I raise a disassociated hand and touch the bloodied wad of paper towel taped to my head wound. It’s like trying to control a computer game character with an un-calibrated joystick. This crude doctoring has no attached memory of how bad the injury is. Sometimes it’s best not to know. However, it feels mushy so I stop prodding at it.
Some lost memories have come home to roost by themselves, others need prompting. I can’t tell if this is a good sign. Maybe the brain damage is not terminal. With my luck it will only be crippling.
I am wandering aimlessly towards the city centre, stopping for moments of introspection on deserted streets corners. Behind me the industrial zones with their guard dogs and handlers who’d moved me along with threats of violence, melts into the smog.
Up until now each rest break hasn’t felt like a time penalty. I don’t know who might be expecting me, at any particular place, at any specific time. But it’s defiantly darker now, and a fear of after-dark mischief-makers rises. I need a destination. Anywhere will do so long as it isn’t here. Move! Lacking other options the massed skyscrapers, seen intermittently between identical high-density housing blocks, draw me onward.
Pedestrian numbers suddenly increase as distant shift-change whistles call workers from their storage units. A flood of grumbling humanity spills from doorways and exit tunnels until the sidewalks overflow. Car-free parking lanes fill with this shambling mass of muttering, spitting, coughing people. My slow progress obstructs a hundred people before I am cursed and bumped and pushed by irritated men into the centre of the road.
It’s a small blessing that I am not run down. But, judging by the litter of pebbles and dirt underfoot, few vehicles have ever rolled through these back streets.
A few distant, fast moving dots rush by high up on the sky-way lanes, whisking home executives from a hard day changing figures on their Tri-Dem’s.
Fellow pedestrians hurry by me with single-minded purpose, disinclined to acknowledge the strange lump shuffling down their street. Even though my stained, bright orange overalls, emblazoned with a huge, yellow sun glyph stand out harshly against their muted winter clothing of black, grey and brown. But they are well-versed in trouble avoidance. And I most certainly look like trouble.
Exposed skin on my arms tells me it’s too cold to sit or lie down; preferences that are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. Also, a prevailing premonition of great danger is riding on the coattails of my discomfort. I attempt to pass it off as ridiculously melodramatic, yet the feeling is unshakeable and mounting.
Forgetting the unfriendly, bustling bodies around me; an easy enough task in this state; I turn my thoughts inwards again to speed along the recovery of memories and to keep my protesting feet moving. Walking long distances is not something I would normally subject my unfit body to by choice.
Thusly ensconced, I return to a cut-price journey of rediscovery where I snatch at lost packets of information that float about in my brain’s back-water channels. There’s a train-smash of wreckage in here; a legacy from the wing mirror, and to some extent, a poor filing system before that.
This sifting of memories is fraught with chance re-awakenings of a past best left forgotten. Most people’s bad memories lose a measure of the original fear, pain, and misery over time. Obviously I’m not normal, as I relive horrifying events with full 3D Hypervison and sound set at eleven.
Discarding childhood thrashings, nightly silence broken by gunfire, bullies and gang fights; I wince as the cruelties inflicted on me mount up. I search fruitlessly for transcendental sexual experiences or gatherings with good friends over fine food and drinks.
There’s no evidence of such first-hand experiences.
I’m a painfully shy, guilt-ridden, overly cautious loner, who’s only source of sexual gratification is watching low resolution 3D facsimiles of the act. I’m a fat, frightened loser, so introverted that most people who know me believe I’m autistic.
And since that repels them, I’ve spent a life-time propagating that belief.
I crumple with self-pity. The excruciating insights carry an emotional cost that I cannot afford so I turn outwards. But the anguish and misery comes with me. I’m blubbering slightly in fact. My tears are accompanied by a hard-on that superman couldn’t bend. These shockingly converse bodily reactions are obviously caused by my concussion. This fact does nothing to lessen my public humiliation.
This is a poorly chosen place to rehash my life and smash my self-esteem anyway. I can do that later. But I need somewhere to crash while this swollen brain matter recovers?
Night continues to fall by degrees.
My exhaustion equals a near-dead battery, reducing an uneven stagger into a zombie-like shuffle. I barge into other pedestrians discourteously, refusing to use energy reserves to give way. Those I obstruct are forced to see my condition, and they skirt me warily, eyes widening at the strained, bandaged face before them. A worrisome, chattering wake is left behind though, as yet, nobody accosts me; and nobody assists me.
I’m suddenly pissed off. Where’s their compassion? Why will no one take me in, lay me down on a soft mattress and mop the sweat from my troubled brow?
Their heartlessness is depressing; though, if the situation was reversed, I know I’d do the same.
I squint hopefully upon the high-density tract houses around me, hoping something will be familiar. But they are uniformly anonymous so I move on.
The streets get steadily busier as the shift-change crowd becomes an intermingling of subdued day-shift and irritated night-shift personnel.
And the skyscrapers continue to beckon.
I hang onto a hazy memory of the public transportation hubs located evenly around the city centre. Everyone I see must either be walking towards or away from one of these hubs. Some lucky buggers are riding beat-up bicycles...
...so, bikes? I take a moment as my mind dwells on the scenario my traitorous memory insists that I’ve starred in. We are dubious because this body is a bit on the chubby side; and fat men have no business riding bikes; ever! Maybe I’m a bicycle thief; and I specialise in short distance thefts. Surely I’m not a fitness fanatic. I chafe, and get nasty rashes even when lying about. There’s something really weird about that accident. Something quite wrong for certain...I was doing something for someone dangerous...
Shit! Almost had it then.
I hope this partial recall will coalesce into a ‘whole’ soon. I need to find out where I live, dammit! Somewhere safe and warm where I can hunker down for a few days; with my girlfriend to pamper me! Oh, fuck it. This whimsy is swiftly dismissed. My ability to maintain a relationship doesn’t even need a mirror to remind me what I look like. Long, greasy hair of no apparent styling, jagged fingernails chewed by furry teeth, and bad breath that would strip paint off walls. No ring adorns any of these fingers either.
Definitely, sadly, single.
Damn, I really need to take a crap.
Every plodding step takes a turn at jarring a different ache or pain, so I once more lose myself in an examination of my inner workings, head down in concentration, muttering, “who am I, who am I?” like a junkie chasing down a fix.
At last the brain lock is worn down and a name erupts in my mind.
The association with my Self is heavenly. And thankfully it’s not a totally outlandish name, like Marmaduke, or Reginald. A nice, ordinary name, that’s easy to write and say. I’ll have to congratulate my mother on...
...The very thought of the woman who’d birthed me forms a dark pall which squashes my excitement like a grape under a swung hammer. Timidly inquiring after the attached memory causes it to squirt away. I gladly let it go into a dark recess in my mind where it peeks out with sharp and evil eyes.My recovering mind decides I’m not ready to be flayed afresh just yet.