"Incoming call; unidentified number," announced the speakers in the walls.
Simon's eyes shot open. He was still standing at the front door, with his mouth agape, and beads of sweat were rolling down his face. Despite the warning, he was fiercely startled when the phone started ringing. It took him a couple seconds to get moving, but he advanced on into his living room. He edged past his steel framed furniture to the matching center table which the phone sat on. With teary eyes, he turned on the speakerphone and slumped back into his couch.
Will's voice seemed to bring him back to reality.
"Will?" He sniffed. "Hey Will."
"Is something wrong?" Will paused. "Still bummed out about your job, huh?"
Simon had completely forgotten about being fired.
"Look," Will continued. "I didn't mean to intrude, but I wanted to talk to you about that thing you were asking me about earlier. I think…anyway, I don't think we should talk about it over the phone. But you might wanna hear this…" Will paused again, and when he did continue, it was in a whisper. "Meet me outside Wilksons tomorrow around about seven. And don't use GPS."
There was a dial tone, and soon after the speakerphone turned off.
Simon sighed as he got to his feet and stretched. Will was just really paranoid. Apart from not dealing with anything specific on the phone and asking him to turn off his GPS in the morning, Will had asked him to meet at a place that, to other people, didn't exist. There was no such place called Wilksons anywhere in Morgan so far as either of them knew; it was just a nickname Will had given to the abandoned Town Park, used exclusively by them.
However, as Simon unbuttoned his shirt and headed upstairs, he couldn't help but think that Will's paranoia might be warranted in this case. There certainly wasn't any credible reason why he was having memories of a son that he otherwise had absolutely no recollection of. And although he didn't remember him, he felt an enormous amount of emotional attachment.
He reached the top of the stairs, with images of his last memory recurring in his mind. It was different from the first two. They had been sitting on a slope gazing over the city, and out of nowhere some mysterious armed men came and took Luke away. He remembered struggling to get free, until one of the men told him to calm down, promising to bring his son back.
The odd thing was that the promise did soothe him; at least, he remembered feeling relaxed, just before the memory stopped.
Trying not to think too much about it, he opened his bedroom door, but froze just as he came into the doorframe. With two backward steps, he was back in the hall. His head turned as his eyes settled on another door behind him.
Reluctance was his first feeling as he stared at that other bedroom door. It seemed to push itself from the wall toward him, almost jeering him with its presence alone. The strange thing about that door was that Simon had no idea what was behind it…not a single clue.
Almost stumbling has he spun around, his hand reached out and grasped for the handle, and turned it. Inside the room, as Simon saw when he advanced inside, was completely empty. There was nothing inside except for a sliding window and a single painting that hung on the bare orange walls. Simon reckoned that it was the sort of painting that he would own, but he didn't put it there. He stood perplexed in the door frame trying to make sense of what he'd just stumbled into, and why he had no memory of that room, and then, the memories came. They flashed as briefly as bolts of lightening across his mind in fine detail.
It was Luke's room; now he was absolutely sure. This was Luke's room. Which meant there was a Luke; which meant he did have a son. Which in turn could mean a lot of things, like his car and best friend lying to him. The thoughts raced through his mind at so quick a pace that they abruptly stopped; he passed out.
But this time when he woke up, one thing was for sure; he would remember his son.
- - -
"What are you doing with us?"
Luke became alert as he heard footsteps outside the iron cell. The others inside with him were asleep as far as he could tell, but it was dark.
The lock clanked and the door screeched as it opened.
"What—" Luke started again, but he quickly turned his face away and shielded his eyes as the light shot in.
It wasn't long before the door slammed shut and the lock clanked again. And soon, Luke could hear stirring at the other side of the cell.
"Is somebody there?"
There was no answer, but the stirring stopped abruptly.
"Who's there?" Luke asked again.
"Luke?" asked a familiar voice. "It's me; it's Mrs. Loberdale."
- - -
The sound of a crowing rooster filled the room, and inside Simons head. It jogged him awake. He sat up, using the doorframe to support his tired body. He began to think again about what he remembered.
"Luke…" he muttered.
A part of him wanted to hear Luke's sleepy voice calling out from the darkness inside, to be assured that it was all just a terrible dream. There was nothing but the simulated chirps from the house's ambience track.
He remembered Luke well now. He was just like his father, but they shared no physical features except for their eyes. He had a lively spirit; always either getting himself in or out of trouble. Sometimes he and his father would effectively switch roles, and other times, they would simply just hang out, assuming no roles with each other but simply "friends". Just like they were the evening he got abducted.
A loud wail filled the house as Simon began to let it out. His head was leaned against the doorframe, gently tapping against it as his moans dragged through different pitches.
"Simon, are you hurt?" asked his house. "Did you injure yourself sleeping on the floor?"
A swear word was on the tip of Simon's tongue, but the last thing he wanted to do was explain to his house what it meant.
"No, I'm fine," he replied. "Just, stop asking me questions."
"Simon, should I go to automatic mode for twenty-four hours?" asked the house.
"Whatever," Simon muttered. It wasn't until after he said that that he realized what he'd done.
Whenever one of his devices went into automatic mode, it would stop asking what to do and just do whatever it computed was the best course of action. Sometimes, what it chose wasn't the best course of action at all; one time his car gave one of the interns at work a nasty electric shock because it computed that it was being robbed, when Simon had sent the poor guy down to get his night's work from the trunk.
He sighed and got to his weary feet. He had since stopped crying, but small sniffs could be heard as he went back into the hall and down the stairs. He settled on the couch in the living room and just lay there staring up the ceiling. His thoughts were all about what he was going to do next. One thought kept playing over in his mind; he should go to the police. Still, some part of him wasn't sure if this was the best thing. Nobody believed that he had a son; they would just pass him off as insane. Soon, he decided that before he did whatever he was going to do next, he would hear what Oddy had to say. He would see just how much of what Oddy said was paranoia, and how much was cold truth.
- - -
Will Oddy pulled his messenger bag off his shoulder and set it next to him as he sat on one of the park benches. Glancing as his watch, he sighed and repeatedly shook his right leg impatiently; if Simon didn't hurry he was going to be late for work.
Just as the thought crossed his mind, Simon's figure scaled the fence that enclosed Town Park, and approached him. They nodded at each other as he sat down.
"How are you feeling?" Will asked.
"What did you have to tell me?" Simon said.
"Right," Will said, "Well, there's this urban legend about a psychological illness where people start having memories of other people that don't exist. Rumor has it that it's classified by the Government as a level five disease, and whoever gets diagnosed with it gets locked away at the mental facility for life."
"How come I never heard of it?" Simon asked.
"Maybe there just aren't many cases of it," Will said. He stopped and stared at his shoes as though contemplating something.
"Will, I've been having memories of my son Luke, but nobody else even acknowledges that he exists!" Panic was boring out of Simon's eyes; perhaps he was going crazy.
Will didn't answer, but turned to him with a thoughtful look.
"But there were so real…" Simon couldn't stop the tears that were burning in his eyes. "No, I know he's real, Will. I just have this gut feeling. I don't have this…illness."
"Of course you don't," Will said—but his tone wasn't at all sarcastic. He didn't speak again until Simon threw him a puzzled look. "Simon, this illness is nothing but what I said; an urban legend. No, think about it; there are people who've been effectively wiped from our memories. These people with thisillness remember them…like you. And when they get found out, they disappear too! That's why we've never heard of any cases Simon! It's all a conspiracy!"
"Why would anybody wipe our memories?" Despite his question and skeptical expression, Simon was already buying into Will's conspiracy theory.
"Did you have a memory of him being abducted?"
"Yeah…" Simon replied almost in disbelief, causing Will to nod as though it was what he expected.
"That's one of the symptoms!" Will said.
"What are you saying? Somebody is stealing our kids and making us, and everyone else, forget about them?"
"I think so," Will said. "The question is why…"
Simon began to get excited. If what Oddy told him was true, then that meant Luke was out there somewhere.
"Look, Simon," Will said with a lowered voice, "You need to be very careful. If anyone finds out about you; you might disappear too."
Simon nodded, but he was thinking about how if he disappeared, then perhaps he might end up with his son.
"I'm nearly late for work," Will said. He stood up and slung his laptop bag over his shoulder. "Look, Simon, if you really want to see if I'm just some paranoid kook, and see for yourself whether you're just crazy or not, there is a way that you might be able to tell…you won't like it, but…"
"Just tell me."
"The city keeps a registry of everyone who ever lived here. Now there's a good chance that if they took the time to erase you son—Luke, was it?—from all of our minds that they would delete him from the archives too. It's a huge gamble on just a hunch…"
"Are you saying I should break into this registry?"
"No! Who do you think you are, James Bond?" Will chuckled. "You know somebody there. The registry is kept at Morgan Archives, you know, where Annie works."
Simon sighed. He really wished that there was another way.