…as in “I wonder how we’ll pay our tab?”
Today, we start a twice weekly fiction piece that is guided by voting over on my Facebook page. Yes, the title sucks. I hope you enjoy it and please do go vote on the next part of the story.
Amnesia & Magic
I woke up fast. I mean, really fast. One moment, I’m deep in a dreamless sleep, a moment later, I’m fully awake and aware that I’m in an alley and stretched out on several bags of garbage. Some instinct tells me not to move around just yet, so I take in as much as I can see, hear and smell.
Smell is what clues me in on the garbage, which I’m thinking is mostly vegetable scraps and other soft things. It stinks, but not in a way that would make you gag. It’s more like a warm wet starting on the road to compost smell.
Sight tells me this is a big pile of garbage, because burlap trash bags are piled up two or three feet on either side of me. The brick buildings on each side of the alley are seven or eight stories high and maybe twenty feet apart. By the look of them and the clotheslines stretched over the alley, I’m not in an upper class neighborhood.
I can hear traffic not far away and lots of voices speaking some Asian language. Chinese, I decide after a few seconds. Off in the distance, I hear ships sounding their horns. Near a waterfront, I’m thinking, but which waterfront?
At that moment, I realize that I have no idea where I am. Not the city, not the state, not the country. I do know I’m on the planet Earth and I’m pretty sure I’m in North America, but after that, I’m blanking out.
Then it dawns on me that I don’t know who I am, either.
If you’ve never had amnesia, I’m here to tell you that it’s strange and terrifying to have no identity or past. I try for several minutes to conjure up any sort of memory, but all I can remember is how to do things and what things were called and all sorts of things you might learn in school and a bunch of things one would learn from life experience (I know how to throw a punch that would knock out most people, but I was damned if I can tell you who taught me), but I have not one memory of a personal nature.
By now I’m having a mild panic attack, so I sit up and started breathing deeply, trying to relax. Calm down, honey, it could be a whole lot worse. You’re not hurt and it’s not raining and as far as you know you’re the goddamn Queen of England.
Well, you know, if the Queen was taller and had darker skin.
After a couple of minutes of deeply breathing in rotting vegetable air, I’m about as calm as can be expected, which is when I notice the great big book. It’s right there on my left, measuring at least 18 inches by 3 feet and bound in deep reddish brown leather. The title is stamped in silver and I’ve got no idea what those symbols mean. My memory tells me that I’m fluent in English, Spanish, French and Latin, with a pretty good conversational grasp of maybe five other languages. Whatever the hell this language is, it’s new to me. Instinct tells me this is probably somehow connected to magic, which doesn’t make me feel any better. Magic always complicates things.
I start going through the pockets of the hip length jacket I’m wearing and the first thing I find is a 9mm automatic and a spare clip. For reasons I’m not sure of, I find this very reassuring. In the same pocket is a ring that is twice as large as any of my fingers, which are long and slender and just then I remember that I can play the piano, but not who taught me. Yeah, this memory thing is strange.
The ring is solid silver, a complex arrangement of twining vines that hold a hefty sized emerald. Just touching it screams MAGIC!, so I put it in a breast pocket away from the gun. Two magical items in my possession? Not good at all.
I search a bit more and all I find is a five dollar bill, fifty five cents in coins, a sweet roll & a slice of cheddar cheese wrapped in waxed paper and a note that reads…
“You’ve had your memory wiped. Some very bad people are after you and they’ll kill you if they can, so you need to get your ass up and go NOW! Eat the roll and cheese as you walk, then go find the Big X. You’ll learn something there. Sorry I can’t tell you more. Love, You From 12 Hours Ago.
PS: Take the ring and book with you! Stay away from cats and roses!”
I know it’s my handwriting, so I’m up and off the garbage pile fast. A couple of Chinese guys are sitting in the alley smoking. They give me a look, then act like I’m not there. I’m alright with that. Carrying the book, which isn’t very thick but is still a bulky pain in the ass, I say to myself, “How the hell am I going to conceal this big thing?” and about two seconds later, the book is the size of your average paperback.
Sometimes magic is ok. Sometimes.
The alley is about 100 feet long from where I’m standing to a busy street. I eat the cheese first and realize I’m crazy hungry. The sweet roll is delicious and is gone by the time I hit the street. Now I’m not only not hungry anymore, I’m feeling very energetic, like I could run five miles without breaking a sweat. More magic, I’m thinking.
Who the hell am I that I can afford this much magic and think it’s a good idea? Am I some rich wizard? A black market spell dealer? A Fed on the FBI Magic Control Task Force? Or maybe I’m just some poor dummy who got mixed up in deep shit.
That last one tends to stick in my mind, so I’ll go with it until I know otherwise.
So I’m obviously in some deep shit concerning magic and it’s real good odds that I had my memory wiped to keep from getting found by a detection spell. And if somebody has the money and the pull to get a detection spell cast, then I’m up against either a big organization or an individual that is just as powerful. Either way, I’m screwed if they catch me.
Well, at least it’s a nice sunny day.
The street is deep into Chinatown and I walk about 4 blocks until I’m at the intersection of Columbus and Broadway, where it hits me that I’m in San Francisco. I spend a minute just standing there being kind of giddy at this sudden knowledge. Really, getting a memory back is great when you’ve lost so many.
I see a news stand across Broadway, so I cross over and check out a newspaper to get the date. June 25th, 1935. Headline says the Golden Gate Bridge will open on schedule in September. Most of the other front page news is about local stuff, with the exception of a story about a coup in some African country I’ve never heard of.
I go to hand the newsboy a nickel and I see he’s an Elf, maybe twelve years old. Like most Elves, he looks kind of sick and his mottled green skin is tinged with yellow. His green hair is thin and dirty and I can’t help but feel guilty because we humans are slowly killing this kid and his whole species. Shit!
He reaches out to take the nickel and our hands touch for just a second. A jolt runs through me and…
Ok, folks, time to go over to Facebook and vote on what comes next!