TOPICAL DIS/ORDER, FICTION
A M N E S I A
by MERCY FERRARS
I REMEMBER A MOMENT before the days were clouded by Amnesia. I remember the day my father married another woman. I remember my mother’s grip becoming tighter, so tight that I was afraid she would crush my fingers to dust just like that. I remember how, when he promised himself to someone else, her hands lost mine. I remember looking at her … a beautiful, stubborn woman with such big, dark eyes. She pressed her long fingers against them without making a sound. It was just a second, just the flash of a moment.
I REMEMBER SITTING IN HER LAP THAT NIGHT. I was young. I was an eleven year old girl who couldn’t understand her pain, but something about the way my mother had pressed her hands against her eyes stuck with me. She stroked my hair when I softly muttered her name. She smiled at me. I lifted my small hand and slipped it into hers. Her lips trembled ever so slightly as she replied, “In some things, the end is already in the beginning, my girl. And sometimes that’s what makes things so beautiful: Their mortality.” I remember how she took me into a tight embrace and how her heartbeat echoed so loudly inside me that I thought it filled me completely. “Our love was extraordinary because it was doomed to die, and if I had the choice, I would live it that way again.”—“But what if it hurts?” I objected. “It is worth it,” she whispered. “It’s called living.”
I had spent my life wondering whether broken love could be mended when I saw my parents drift apart, from secret dances in the moonlit kitchen to becoming strangers, violently and abruptly fighting for divorce. I dreamt of my parents finding their way back to each other like a glued-up vase. I refused to see it then, but a fractured vase still exposes its porcelain fragility even after it has been reassembled. Even with the finest glue and the hands of a ceramist, it reveals the truth in the cracks between the pieces. And the whole world could pretend the vase preserved its shape and call it a vase, when it had become both lacking and abundant of its own shape. A love returned can never be what it was when it first blossomed. For something happened to it that changed its face and cracked its skin. Love now has history carved into its surface—replacing the innocence of its incipience. Occasionally, however, we would get lucky enough to be fused with gold. Once in ten lifetimes, our fates weave us into one like kintsugi, a Japanese tradition which honours the re-joining of broken parts for their incompleteness, their change, their fragility. But when love runs through our hands like sand, how do we know whether we are an ordinary vase or Japanese ceramics? How do we dare to leap?
All my life, I had dreamt of love:
to coalesce, with the poignancy of kitchen dances;
to burn up a sun just to prove my devotion.
I gave myself to him before I even knew him.
In the shadows, love was but a blow to the head,
a blade to bleed by
lustfully craving for an a m n e s i a of the heart.
One—“The End of the World”
The world collapses in on itself and I have never seen anything more magnificent. Here I lie, on rain-soaked asphalt. My hair is wet and dotted with leaves. My eyes numbly stare at the sky exploding above me. Blue crashes into red. I watch the flames assault my lungs with stinging fumes and burn my flesh with their heat. Every piece of burnt skin, every bone charring, every fragment of me dissolving into ash exudes purity and novelty. Every second that holds its breath, on this collapsing planet where time no longer flows, seeps into my flesh and runs gently over my skeleton. I am the junction where space and time converge. It starts to rain, but the flames rage on unimpressed, sweeping over the houses and the forests, burning all life they find. Deer scream and cats whimper, people cry, and all around me I feel the patter of feet, of all the creatures running about in confusion, in a desperate attempt to escape the end of the world.
Yet, … me. Peacefully I lie there on a steaming road, and the world still collapses. Against the odds, I find this spectacle so hypnotising that my gaze locks onto the illuminated sky, regardless of the raindrops gathering on my eyelashes. My lips are slightly parted, I hardly breathe. It is silent around me. I feel only the vibration of sounds, but do not hear the sounds themselves: everything is so still, as if I were watching a mime. Strange, I think. Actually, the end of the world is just another day. No angels and no devils, no armies of heaven to carry me away on their white steeds. No big last words. No desperate thoughts. The end of the world is just a day like any other, when the world’s anatomy chose to turn itself upside down. No reason to panic. Even in the end there is beauty.
The image flares. It is not because of the flames.
I feel a delicate crack running through this world. Something that has its origin in me and spreads out in waves from my body. A crack that splinters the world. How is it that I cannot feel any of this? Shouldn’t I be screaming in pain, shouldn’t my heart be quivering in panic, shouldn’t I be dying? The images shift more and more as my heart remembers these words. “Even in the end there is beauty,” and the emotions slap me in the face, they overrun me with their shields and their swords, they are invincible, unassailable as they slaughter me, I gasp for breath, I see a mouth brush against my shoulder, muttering an apology, I see the flash of blue, and still lie on my back, now with my eyes wide open. I see the rain pour down on me, and suddenly every drop hits me like a hurricane. I see fireballs flying. I hear the explosions, they make my ears bleed. I lift my burned hands, attached to burned arms, and I see the blood dripping from the holes the flames had carved into me. I look down at myself and I’m drenched in blood. Something about this situation I can’t understand.
And in the midst of all this noise, I hear the big clock strike twelve and shred the world into a thousand pieces.
In the moments after the end, I witness the world rearranging itself. Matter falls apart, finds its way back, forms itself into new pieces, I see a thousand puzzle pieces solidified in the air, sparkling tiny diamonds of things long lost, and they begin to move, swirl, cling to each other. The sun shines through black clouds and reflects in even blacker waters, it ricochets off my encrusted arms. I am dead, I must be. Puzzled, I straighten up and gaze into black alleys, past black houses and matter untouched. Everything is new, waiting to be inhabited, like a canvas waiting to be painted. Nothing has existed before this moment. A hand touches my cheek and, dazed, I look down at my bloody fingertips. I am back in the vacuum, where nothing lives but apathy. I try to stand up, but the rapid movement makes me dizzy and I feel a sharp ringing vibrate in my ears. It seems to be the soundtrack of this world. The lament of a world that has yet to be lived.
I don’t ask how I got here or why I am the only witness to this spectacle. There’s glitter and sparkles everywhere and if I didn’t know any better, I’d think it was all so beautiful that I could ignore the goosebumps on my arms. Because I’ve never seen anything like it—because it must be a dream—because blood means I’ve been hurt…
It is only a whisper of a word, but the sky vibrates from it. The sky vibrates and the feeling spreads to the houses that surround me. It’s just a voice, but it ignites every bone in my body and it suffocates me until my heart starts to race frantically, and I know, I know that I am reacting to something that is only just beginning at the edge of this world. Born in a distant place, but anchored deep within me. My heart races and suddenly the earth thunders. I spin in circles, in confusion, desperately trying to hold my breath, but my heart keeps pounding and, gasping, I brace myself against the pillars of an old building. I look down at the black floor, I stare into a puddle in which I am not reflected.
As if I did not exist.
“Skye,” four letters and my whole skin is on fire and I’m in flames and a million storms are raging inside me and something breaks, so quietly it screams and I shatter and I scream and suddenly the world starts to shake and when I look up I see the stone crumble to dust under my hands. Cracks start to spread from my hands across a wall and in rhythmic sync with my heart the building starts to collapse. I kneel on the ground and touch the earth with both hands and the ground beneath my feet just breaks away. I jump to the side and watch a deep hole open up in front of me. I start running, staring at the sky, waiting for him to say the word again. I am waiting for that voice to tell me who I am. Why is this world so empty? Why do I leave nothing but destruction in my wake? I walk through silent, grey streets that fracture where I had just been, a million particles of dust just floating in the air, while I duck to avoid falling stones. I turn a corner and I stop, rooted to the spot, and my heart stops for a beat. I could swear the world went pitch black for a second. It’s like someone just turned the light switch off. And then my heart starts beating again, slowly, delicately, and it becomes bright around me again. I walk slowly towards the statue that is in the middle of a huge square in front of me. The sky is still vibrating and it is getting louder. Like divinity in a heart that contracts and recoils—pulse after pulse after pulse. I walk past shattered windows of crumbling buildings, shattered window panes that reflect every fragment of this beautiful, dead world, except my face, except me. My fingers leave no imprint in the inch-thick dust that covers the surfaces. I come to a stop in front of the statue. Tilt my head. I walk around it once. It is a detailed image of myself. In the distance I hear thunder and it seems to beat in rhythm with my anxious heart. It comes closer. My world seems to implode as I try to understand why an image of myself carved in stone stands in a lonely place in a lonely world.
“Skye.” I am trying to locate the source of his voice, but it seems to come from everywhere and nowhere. It seems to vibrate within myself, and at the same time sit in every element of this world. “Skye.” I spin once in a circle and jump backwards, startled. I almost brush against the back of a boy or young man. He is kneeling in front of the statue that looks so much like me and has placed his hands on hers. He doesn’t seem to be bothered that I bumped into him—in fact, he doesn’t even seem to notice. Maybe I really don’t exist.
“Skye,” he whispers again, and something in me rears up, screaming I am here, I am alive, I am HERE, LOOK AT ME, LOOK—
He puts his hand on her heart and the statue sheds a tear.
I think my vision deceives me, but as I get closer to it, I see the statue weep under his touch, it cries silent, quiet tears and a sigh seems to escape it and I
I kneel beside him and place my hand on his back, when I notice the tattoo of a tree sprouting flowers. It stretches down over his right shoulder along his shoulder blades. He does not react to my touch.
I stand up and take a few steps away from the scene.
I bury my hands in my hair and scream. I scream as loud as I can, no words, no sentences, just screams that pierce my own heart. No response. I can’t see his face. I don’t even know your name.
If only I could see his face—
Suddenly a wound inside me blazes and bleeds as if swords had pierced me. The pain suffocates me, taking my voice, blurring my sight. I clutch my heart and the thunder in the sky grows louder and louder and I sink to my knees and I exhale. Everything around me goes
and the world. The world becomes incredibly silent.
I awake in a white, sterile looking room. The brightness blinds me. My eyes zoom in and out of focus and I lose all vision. The room seems unreal. I glance at my hands. Unblemished, bloodless and clean, yet clawed tightly into the white bedspread. In my ears I hear a constant ringing that lies beneath all noise. Apart from that, everything seems unnaturally quiet, as if I was wrapped in cotton wool.
As if I were breathing in a vacuum.
Shadows flicker through the doorway, a silent spectre of figures that scurry past my room without revealing themselves. Without sound, without image. Undefined … imagined?
I fight the panic inside me. But it nests in my heart and derails my thinking. I try to recall the facts: I remember a battlefield; blood; horrible screams and numbing silence; death and life; a decaying world that glistens so beautifully it dwarfs everything else. I am in a room so bright that even the corners and edges flow seamlessly into one another. Everything is black prior to these memories.
I cannot trust my own judgement. Is one a dream, the other reality? I am a creature out of time and space, once again without context. I could be just as unreal now as I was in that strange, disintegrating world. Maybe it’s just another interpretation of the same scene, just the duplication of a statement whose words someone erased in me. My brain is feverishly trying to make sense of the texture of reality as I lie on my back staring at the white, immaculate ceiling. A space so strangely perfect and at the same time so strangely plain, as if it consisted of the world and nothingness, just the breath of a dream lived too long, or the dying of a moment, or maybe just the exhale of a person whose face you can’t remember. I feel like this is how hours go by, spent between non-stop thinking and meaningless absent-mindedness. This room must be remotely isolated from the world outside;
if there is still a world out there;
if this isn’t another sick dream. Who I am is lost to me in the ocean of obscurity. All I have are snatches of images that make no sense. I try to scan my memories, but there is nothing there, as if today was my first day on this planet and nothing before that ever existed. Can you wake up after so many years and realise that it was all a lie? But how do you identify a lie when you have nothing to measure sincerity by?
I flip back the covers. My skin looks sickly and surreal, as if no one had ever touched me. There is not a single blemish on my legs. No bruises, no scars. Nor on the other parts of my body. My skin seems like a blank canvas that someone forgot to fill.
There are no mirrors in this room. Nothing to tell me who I am.
I look at my toes and wiggle them back and forth. The movement feels like it is thousands of years old. I look at my palms. I place my hands on my chest and feel a faint echo inside me, something that tells me at least that I am really alive and that this is not the distorted, absurd version of my personal hell. I place my index finger on my lips and trace their shapes, then close my eyes and gently feel the imprint of my fingertips on my eyelids. I run my fingers through my hair. It must be shaved millimetres short because I can barely get a grip.
I must have nodded off again. This time I saw no images, nothing that stuck in my mind. As soon as I open my eyes, the steady buzz in my ears interrupts and after a short frequency of static, I hear a male voice. “I see you are awake, patient Delta. How are you feeling?”
I open my lips but no sound escapes them. I have forgotten how to speak. And I have forgotten what I want to say. I have no recollection of what I want to say. How am I feeling? I don’t know? I’m lying in a white room, with white ceilings and white walls, everything is so white that it buries me underneath, and my head is so, so empty.
After a few seconds of just staring motionless in front of me, I hear the voice in my ear again. “Are you feeling tired or exhausted, Patient Delta?”
“Why do you call me that?” I whisper. My voice sounds shaky. Weak. Broken.
There is silence for a few seconds, then the beeping noise is back. I close my eyes and take a deep breath.
“Well, what would you like to be called, Patient Delta?” I open my eyes and stare at the pristine white wall. “Any preferences?”
“What is this place?” I burst out weakly.
He ignores my question. “I’m sure we’ll find a name for you.” The voice waits for a response, but I just nod apathetically. And nod. And nod. Then, very quietly, I say, “Yes.”
I stare until my eyes begin to flicker, then I clear my throat and speak into the beeping, “Can I get up?”
The beeping disappears instantly and the voice replies, “You must be very tired, Patient Delta, I suggest you sleep.”
“I’m not—I just need to know what is going on. Please.”
“Look around you, dear.”
Carefully, I turn my head to the right. I see apparatus, the only thing in this room that breaks the white pattern. Metal stands, so silver it almost caresses my eyes. I follow the tubes from the machines. They end up inside me. In my arm, at my neck. Under my snow-white nightgown.
“You’ve been asleep for a very long time,” the voice says almost tenderly. “We promise you that you will be able to get up soon. Just not now. Not yet.”
The machine makes a loud hissing sound and at the same time I feel something being pumped into my veins that makes me dizzy and sleepy. I sink back onto my pillow and very slowly allow my eyes to fall shut.
A voice whispers softly in my head, “Welcome to the first day of your new life, Patient Delta.”
What do you do when you are locked in a room, far from any conception of space or time or world, in a place where there seem to be no boundaries, but at the same time the infinite white is a singular boundary?
You lie on your back on the bed, forcing yourself to think. In my case, I lie on my pristine white sheets in my state of supreme confusion, trying to remember details from the dream I had before I first woke up in this room. I fail. I feel like if I could just grasp what happened, I could find my way back to myself. I do not know who I am. My identity is as naked as my body and just as blank. I don’t even know my own name. But there’s an echo. A man, crying: “Skye.” Am I Skye? Either way, I refuse to see myself as Patient Delta, whatever that means.
I refuse to let circumstances make me into something I am not. But now as I open my eyes—it could be day, or night—I notice movement on the opposite wall. Where I was sure I was just staring at flat white plaster, digital numbers flicker.
p a t i e n t d e l t a
d a y 05
s t a t e: s t a b l e
Dumbly I stare at this information, unable to process it into anything that makes sense. Actually, I am unable to process anything about my situation into logical conclusions or meaningful information and I am not quite sure if that is intentional. Who am I to be left in the dark? How dangerous can a medium height, medium weight girl with raspy short hair be that she can’t know about herself?
A flicker in my ears, and the room is filled with a voice.
“Good morning, Patient De—”
“No,” I whisper, pressing my palms firmly into my sheets. “No.”
“No. Where am I? In a hospital?”
After a moment’s hesitation, the voice replies: “In a refuge of a kind. No one here is unwell. Our job is to make sure you are completely comfortable in your new life.”
In your new life?
“What do you mean, in my—”
“My dear, I am sure this must be a unique experience for you. I must ask you to trust me.”
“Trust? A disembodied voice in a completely surreal space? Who are you?”
“Can I show you something to gain your trust?”
I hesitate. Then I nod. “Yes.”
“Do you see the digital display on the opposite wall?”
“Concentrate on that, please.”
I stare at the flickering letters that compact my entire existence into a handful of words. Suddenly, the wall behind them seems to change. It transforms into a shiny surface that reflects something. But not me. Rather, I can see through it.
I see what looks like a large dining hall. Long rows of benches full of people sitting opposite each other, laughing, living, looking so alive that it sends a shiver down my spine. I see warm light and I want to join them. I want to feel what they feel. I bend forward and raise my hand to wave weakly. But none of them look in my direction. It is as if I do not exist, again. I stare at my feet. Then I flip back the duvet. “Can I—?”
“No,” the voice says abruptly and just as suddenly the wall changes back to an impermeable white surface. “It’s not the time, yet.”
I turn and stare at the wall without windows.
“You are strong. Normally it takes a longer period of time for individuals to heal. But you … you heal faster. That’s why I’m sure you’ll be able to move soon. But it is too early for that. We are not taking any risks.”
“I … I don’t understand,” I interject. “Please, what …”
“Be patient, patient Delta.”
And he puts me back to sleep.
Read Part II (Chapters IV—VI| Read Part III (VII—IX) coming soon
EDITED BY LARA HELENA.
A M N E S I A is a three-part short story and will be released as a paperbook and e‑book in late 2022 / early 2023. More information on www.mercyferrars.de and on Instagram (@snkllrpublications).
Mercy Ferrars is a MA graduate in philosophy and writes fiction, poetry and non-fiction essays. She is madly in love with Scotland, dogs and Bojack Horseman.
𝕴𝖒𝖆𝖌𝖊 𝖔𝖋 𝖆𝖓𝖆𝖙𝖔𝖒𝖎𝖈𝖆𝖑 𝖍𝖊𝖆𝖗𝖙 𝖆𝖓𝖉 𝖑𝖚𝖓𝖌𝖘 𝖇𝖞 𝖈𝖍𝖆𝖓𝖓𝖆𝖗𝖔𝖓𝖌𝖘𝖉𝖘 𝖔𝖓 𝕱𝖗𝖊𝖊𝖕𝖎𝖐