June 2021’s short story of the month (sorry it’s late)
It was like an echo from the past, or a dream that he was only just now remembering. He recognized everything about the room, even though he was sure he’d never been there before. He knew the paintings on the walls, could name the artists who’d painted them. The only thing that puzzled him was who was he? He couldn’t remember his own name.
A door creaked behind him.
“Who are you?” he asked the man and woman staring at him.
They quickly glanced at each other, and some secret passed between them. He didn’t know what the look meant, and the secret was apparently not his to know.
They both watched him but when they noticed him looking back, they quickly averted their eyes. They were frowning, and both had wrinkled brows.
The man was the first to speak. “We were afraid this would happen.” The man stepped toward him and stuck out his hand. “I’m Charles, but my friends call me Chuck.”
He shook the hand being offered to him and as he did, something nagged him. He knew this man. At least, he thought he did. And the woman. He knew them both. They were a set. No, that was the wrong word. They were a couple.
He shook his head in frustration. He rubbed his hands on his face. It was like all the information he needed was there but behind a curtain or hidden behind a panel he couldn’t quite unluck.
“Do I know you?” he asked.
Chuck nodded. “Yes, both, my wife and I,” he said pointing to himself and the woman, “we know you very well. We’ve all been friends since we were children.”
They looked at him expectantly, but he wasn’t sure what they wanted.
“That’s good. I guess. Can you tell me who I am?” he asked.
Chuck and his wife exchanged another one of those looks that meant something inexplicable to him.
“Well,” Chuck answered with hesitation, “we can, but we’re not supposed to.”
It was his turn to wrinkle his brow. He was confused and frustrated by this point.
“What do you mean you’re not supposed to?”
Chuck’s wife spoke up this time. “We’re supposed to let you remember for yourself. It’s one of the rules you’ve always emphasized about time magic.”
Chuck shook his head as his wife spoke. “Annie, we’re not supposed to tell him anything.”
She glared at Chuck. “Seriously, Chuck. He’s our friend. We can’t let him wander around not knowing who he is or how he got here.”
Chuck threw up his hands in frustration. “I don’t make the rules. He does.” Chuck pointed at him and stomped around in a small circle. “Perhaps we should notify the Elders.”
“No,” he said, but he didn’t know why. He didn’t want them to notify the Elders. There was that nagging feeling again. He knew even though he couldn’t recall the context of it, that he would be in a lot of trouble if the Elders were called on his account.
Chuck stopped his pacing. “So, you remember that?”
“Why don’t we take him to our house tonight?” suggested Annie.
Chuck pulled Annie aside and whispered to her. “We don’t know what he was doing or when or where he went. He’s been missing for nearly five years. That’s the longest he’s ever been gone before.” Chuck paused and looked at his friend, who was definitely listening in. “We knew this would happen one day,” he said in defeat.
Chuck marched out of the room. He said over his shoulder, “Fine. Let’s go. Come on, Reggie.”
Annie motioned for him to follow and let out a sigh of relief.
As he was following Annie out to their car, he asked her, “Am I Reggie?”
She smiled at him. She just nodded as she opened the car door for him.
He couldn’t sleep that night even though their guest room was comfortable. He crept down the stairs and into their kitchen. He hunted for something to eat, but for some reason, he couldn’t think of what the food items were called and he couldn’t remember what things he liked and didn’t.
He was standing staring at a package of bread when he heard footsteps behind him.
“Can’t sleep?” asked Annie. She took the bread from him. She placed two slices in a device and went around the kitchen gathering other things.
She motioned towards the counter. “Sit on one of the barstools.” She pointed again. “I’ll make you some toast. With butter and jelly. Just the way you always eat it.”
He paused as he was sitting. She kept letting information slip about him. Whatever “rule” there was about not telling him things, she didn’t seem to think it mattered.
He let her make the toast. She placed a plate and a cup in front of him then sat next to him at the bar and watched him eat like a mother fawning over a child.
He had a million questions for her, and he had no idea how to get the most information out of her before she would clam up.
At this point, he didn’t really feel like he had anything to lose.
“Why can’t you tell me things? And why can’t I remember anything about my own life?” He didn’t look at her when he spoke because whenever she made eye contact with him, she looked at him sadly.
“I shouldn’t,” she hesitated and glanced over her shoulder towards the stairs.
“Please,” Reggie begged. “Tell me something, even something small.”
She nodded. “Okay. I can’t imagine what it’s like to not know anything about your own life, not even your own name.” She sighed. “Okay, but it might be best if I don’t give you any specifics about yourself. I’ll explain why you don’t remember anything, but no details.” As she finished speaking, she shook her head. “No details,” she repeated.
He looked at her waiting for her to decide.
“It was always your rule, not mine,” she added.
Several minutes passed and she opened her mouth to speak a couple of times, but she didn’t say anything.
“Okay,” she said again. “You can’t remember who you are because it was the cost of whatever spell you cast.”
Reggie looked at his hands in confusion. Somehow he knew she wasn’t lying.