PART 1: Memory
Suddenly, the world tore open and dropped someone back in it. However, there were some clear issues with his reentry; as he landed, he found it very painful. And, as he lied on the ground, he discovered that the world was a lot colder than he remembered. When the second thought entered his mind, he soon realized that he had made it up entirely since he could not remember a single thing; not of where he had been for ten years or of where he had been before it.
He took several minutes to gather enough strength to push himself up off the ground and then proceeded to cough so violently he almost fell back down. He looked around himself and established the only thing he owned was the chain he was wearing with six stones of varying colors lying lamely around his neck. He glanced at it momentarily and when it offered him no answers, he looked upward; he was in the middle of a slightly elevated circular platform with three stone surfaces about waist high surrounding it. His muscles tensed as he thought for a moment he was part of some kind of ritual, but there were no people in the area, at least not that he could see, so he relaxed and got to his feet.
Everything seemed ancient and overgrown with dead vines so, although he couldn't figure out where the light was coming from in the area reminiscent of a cave, he was unimpressed with the presentation of the world thus far. He took a step forward but stumbled over his own feet, catching himself on one of the table-like pillars. Peering curiously down at the surface, he observed a strange indentation in the shape of a sword in the center with symbols around it he couldn't read. He didn't bother to try and understand what it said, and sorted out his priorities, deciding it was more important to find other people first.
Once he mastered walking, he started to meander in the only direction he could find. The cold was starting to irritate his bare skin so he wrapped his arms around himself, but it didn't do him much good. The ground was hard, stone and cold, not to mention quite dirty, and he often stepped on things that were sharp and didn't treat the soles of his feet very well. He passed to gigantic stone doors that were both open wide with their individual markings as well, but he chose to find warmth before anything else.
His teeth began to chatter as he saw a brighter light ahead of him. It became more difficult to move his feet forward but his incentive grew as he felt the air become much warmer and reached the light.
The stone pathway ended just as he reached the end of the tunnel and was thrown headfirst into the light. He tripped over the dirt and fell to the ground, unable to open his eyes as the sun beat down, warming him from the outside in. For those few instants, nothing felt important anymore; he didn't care who he was, how he had gotten where he was or what was going to happen. He was glad to finally be warm again.
He didn't know how long he lied at the mouth of the cave because he was too apprehensive to open his eyes since the light was too bright even when he kept them closed. The only move he made was to make himself more comfortable by shifting the necklace so he wasn't lying on top of the jewels.
With his ear pressed against the ground, he could hear the sound of things coming from far away. It sounded larger than an animal, so perhaps it was a carriage. As he considered the possibilities, he wondered why he knew about things like carriages and animals, but he didn't remember easy things like his own name. It seemed almost as if he could only recall the bare minimum of what it was to be a person. Still, even though he heard something approaching long before it reached him, he didn't bother to move and hoped it just left him alone.
However, just as it reached him, it stopped moving. He continued to lie still as he heard the soft sound of a horse confusedly tapping its hoof as hurried and concerned footsteps rushed towards him. Then, after only an instant, he was glad the person had stopped because a warm blanket was draped graciously over his body. Before even acknowledging the kind gesture, he instinctively grabbed the ends of it and pulled it closer to himself.
"Are you all right?" The soft, unassuming voice of a young woman echoed in his ears. It sounded impossibly loud at first and made him wince, though he knew her intent was not to hurt him. He felt her delicate fingertips graze his cheek as she tucked his loose hair behind his ear and then rested her hand on the back of his head.
She repeated her question and the sound was not as unbearable as it was the first time. Still, he didn't know if he remembered how to speak so he kept his eyes shut and curled his body until he was smaller and the blanket covered him entirely. The woman put her hand on his shoulder and rubbed him slightly, and then she suddenly let go of him, and he could hear her walking away.
He was surprised with his immediate feelings when she had left; he felt betrayed, lost and lonely without the faceless and nameless woman kneeling beside him. He let out a deep breath, producing a faint sound that was close to a word that resembled, "Hey."
"Don't worry," she said. Her voice was too far away, and he called out to her again. Just as he did, he felt her hand on the back of his head, lifting him up slightly. He allowed her to manipulate him so his head was resting on her lap.
Her hand lightly touched his lips, and then there was something cold in their place. He turned his head away, but she held it in place and said quietly, "It's all right."
He could understand her words, and he had inexplicable trust in what she said, so he stayed still. The water from the bottle soaked his lips and dribbled down his cheek, but he drank as much as he could until he needed to breathe again, so he turned away. She seemed satisfied with him, because she ran her fingers through his hair and placed the bottle next to her.
There were a hundred questions she wanted and needed to ask, but he couldn't even open his eyes so she knew he couldn't answer. She also knew it was important for him to get rest someplace that wasn't on the ground in the middle of a field, but she wouldn't be able to carry him back to her carriage, though she did have room for him to lie down.
"Can you walk?" she whispered.
He didn't know how to respond to her. He wanted to tell her he could, but he couldn't figure out the proper way to do it. Though he was gracious for her hospitality, he suspected he wasn't normally the person who accepted help from others too often because of the way the pit of his stomach was feeling.
Instead of verbally responding, he let go of the blanket and put his hands on the ground. He pushed his body up and started to get to his feet, and she followed, holding the blanket over his shoulders, perhaps out of her own embarrassment. After he was standing, he took the blanket back from her and held it on his own. She took him by the arm and led him several steps as he blindly followed after her.
"Step up," she warned.
Still, he lightly bumped into a wooden carriage that was a little higher than his waist. After establishing where it was, he climbed up and allowed himself to drop lazily onto the surface, once again lying on top of the necklace that uncomfortably dug into his chest. She rearranged the blanket on top of him and asked him to roll over. He did, and when he was finished, she placed her hand over his eyes.
"It's dark in here," she said. "It's covered. You can open your eyes."
Though he had her hands over him, he was still cautious with allowing himself to open them. Finally, when his eyes were about halfway open, she began to move her hand away, and he squinted up at her face peering down at him. It was impossible to make out her facial features, but he could see she had long brown hair that still hung over her shoulder even though she had pulled it back. Her dress was blue and her skin was very pale. Aside from an arrangement of colors, he didn't know much about her but, with each passing moment, more details came into focus.
She stroked the corners of his eyes to stop him from squinting. He eventually relaxed his eyes and she smiled. As the lines around her face became more defined, he tried to decide whether she was pretty or average or not pretty at all, but he couldn't remember another woman's face so he had nothing to compare her to. However, her green eyes did seem very pretty to him, so he decided she must be a good looking woman.
He blinked several times and fully settled his eyes on her.
"Better?" she asked.
He began to feel guilty for not being able to respond, so he opened his mouth cautiously, and she leaned in with an interested expression to see what he would do.
"Yes," he said finally.
"You can speak," she observed, sounding almost proud of him.
His own voice surprised him. For some reason, he expected it to sound much different. A piece of him thought he should sound younger like a boy instead of the grown man voice he had produced.
"My name is Megan Vale," she said. "What's yours?"
"Megan," he repeated.
"That's me,"' she nodded. "You?"
He kept his eyes fixed on her, and then slowly began to shake his head. "I…I can't…"
Concern filled her face as she leaned back. "It's all right," she said.
"I can't remember," he told her.
She bit her lip, unable to form a stable opinion of what he had told her. All the while, he could feel himself become upset to the point in which tears began to form, suddenly realizing just how serious it was that he couldn't remember his life or anything about it. Megan had turned away for only a moment, and when she faced him again, she discovered the tears in his eyes.
"No, no, no, no," she said gently, immediately wiping the tears away. "Don't worry about it. You need some rest. I'm on my way to Market City. You can stay there until you feel better."
He didn't understand much of what she had said, but she took his hand firmly and squeezed it with a look of sympathy on her face. Again, she assured him he would be fine, and then crawled out of the small carriage. He remained with his arm outstretched where she had left his hand as the horse began to move, tugging the carriage along, slowly climbing up over the hill where he had once lay.
His eyes stared straight ahead at the roof of the carriage as he heard Megan softly begin to hum from outside the carriage. At that point, he confidently decided she was the kindest person alive and was thankful to have met her. And, because he felt so grateful to her, he was going to be sure he was ready to tell her that the next time he was able to. Softly, he practiced speaking to himself, often repeating phrases Megan had used to speak to him until he decided they were perfect. As soon as he began, he found speaking was one of the easiest things to do, but then came the increasingly disturbing reminder that he could not remember his life or even his own name.
She had said she owned a shop in Market City, but he had no idea what Market City even was, though he did know what a shop was. Is it possible he was not supposed to be in that world? Perhaps something had gone wrong years ago. After all, it didn't make any sense for him to be in the strange cave he had awakened in.
The cave reminded him of the jewels around his neck. He pulled the chain and examined the varied colors lined in a row; green, yellow, blue, white, black, red. The jewels didn't appear special in any kind of way and neither did the chain, but he knew there had to be some kind of importance if that was all he had. There was some kind of hint to his past in the necklace whether it was through the parts of it or as a whole.
Somewhere along the lines of his contemplation, he fell asleep. He didn't even realize he had and was suddenly jolted awake when the horse came to a stop and the carriage shook slightly. He slowly opened his eyes because he knew it was brighter where he was though he was still in the carriage.
Megan was leaning inside of it, though still standing on the inside.
"Come on," she said.
When he heard her voice, he opened his eyes to see her. She was smiling again, and he felt better just to see her in front of him.
"We're at my house," she said. "No one else lives here, so you don't have to worry about weird questions."
He sat up, feeling a little disoriented for a moment before focusing on her again. "Thank you," he said plainly.
She appeared completely surprised by his thanks. "Oh, it's all right," she said once she had collected herself.
It seemed to make her become slightly embarrassed because she looked away and beckoned him to follow her. He climbed out of the carriage and kept the blanket around him as he found he was already inside. There was an entrance to her home that was the perfect size for the carriage to simply back into and apparently she had already done that.
Megan almost seemed to notice him observing the way the carriage backed easily into the house. "It's better that way," she explained. "You know, if it's bad weather."
He nodded and agreed, backing away from the carriage and then turning around to face her home. However, he was quite surprised to find it was filled with racks of clothing all over the place and on the walls. The clothes were for both women and men, and even a section for children.
"You live here?" he asked.
"Here?" Megan repeated. "This is the shop. I live upstairs."
"You sell clothes?" he tried.
"I make them," Megan replied. "Then people come by here and buy them from me and then they go off and sell them to other people." She laughed a little bit, as if explaining it made it sound like it didn't make sense. "I don't know why I don't just sell them. But that's the way my father did it, so I don't know any other way."
"I think it's fine," he commented, examining a pile of clothes.
Megan watched him awkwardly and bit her nail a bit. "You're—speaking much better now," she said haltingly.
He looked up and found himself impossibly happy that she had noticed. "I was practicing," he told her. "It's not so hard."
"I'm glad to hear that," she said, her eyes lighting up.
In response to her joy, he found himself smiling. When he did, she gave a sigh of relief and nodded her head. She went to him and led him towards a set of stairs that were in the back corner of the store.
"You go up there and you choose any bed you want," she said. "I'm going to find some clothes that will fit you and I'll bring them up in a bit."
Though he discovered he didn't even want to leave her for a few minutes, he did what she told him. He climbed the stairs slowly as not to fall, but he didn't find walking to be much of a challenge now that he had done it a bit and he was warm. When he reached the top of the stairs, he was faced with a humble room that had only three beds and several trunks lining the walls. One of the beds looked lived in; the one furthest from the door had sheets and blankets messily draped around it so he decided that it must have been Megan's bed. The other two were both perfectly clean with sheets and blankets folded at the foot.
He hesitated only a moment and, making sure to keep the blanket around him, he began to organize one of the beds so it was suitable to sleep in. He found the task easy so, although he couldn't remember ever making a bed, he knew how. This, of course, meant that he had made beds in his life. So, despite the fact he couldn't remember doing certain things, he could still do them.
As he sat down on the bed, he confused himself with his earlier logic. He still kept the blanket Megan gave him close to him and, for the first time, he began to feel embarrassed that she had seen him so exposed. Until he had seen her look awkwardly at him, it had never even occurred to him that it made her uncomfortable, and that made him uncomfortable as well. And, as he contemplated his first meeting with Megan, he heard her delicately making her way up the stairs, and soon she appeared in the doorway with a pile of folded clothes in her arms.
"I hope these fit you," she said warmly as she went to him and placed the pile next to where he was sitting.
"You made these?" he asked.
She nodded, and then looked at the bed he was sitting on. "Oh!" she exclaimed, which surprised him. "I should have done that for you."
"No," he said immediately. "I did it. It's fine."
"Well," she shrugged guiltily. "Sorry about that. I'll let you get changed."
She started to back up out of the room but he said, "Megan?"
"Yes?" she asked.
He stood up and looked around the room. "You said you lived alone."
"I do," she answered.
"There are three beds," he observed.
"Oh, right," Megan said with a slight laugh. "My father and my sister used to live here too."
"No." Megan shook her head. "It's just me now."
"I see," he nodded.
"Okay," Megan said. "You get dressed, and then just shout to me, and we'll figure out what's going on after that."
He only nodded again as she disappeared out the door. He glanced down at the pile of clothes she had brought him and then let the blanket fall to the ground as he lifted up the shirt she had placed on top. It was simple but well tailored; green with a thin decorative stripe horizontally across the chest. He looked back at the doorway again, as if expecting her to still be there, and then quickly clothed himself with what was in the pile.
After he was finished, he sat back down and felt more like a person. He knew he was a person, there was certainly no dispute there, but now that he was clothed, he felt like one. Lightly, he placed his hand on the jewels around his neck, and then removed the necklace so he could get his first good look at it. However, his good look was not much better than his not so great look, so he placed it on the small desk beside the bed he had chosen. He ran his fingers through his hair, and thought maybe it was too long, though he could never be sure, and started to wonder if he was clean. Megan hadn't suggested he clean himself, but he started to panic that he was dirtying the clothes she had made.
He assured himself that he shouldn't get worked up over small things when he still didn't have any memory. For all he knew, Megan was a girl he had met a hundred times before. Then again, that didn't seem right because then she would have certainly recognized him. As he sat there, he became incredibly tired, so he thought he would lie down to rest for a minute or so before he called down to her.
As he lied down, he became eye level with the necklace on the table. It increasingly intrigued him as he wondered what sort of significance the six jewels had and how they could possibly explain his mysterious past. Though he wanted to know all the answers, he didn't know who he could ask to get them from.
He closed his eyes and became relieved with the darkness. The world he was in was so bright that he had to constantly remind himself to stop squinting, since it seemed to be something that concerned Megan. He opened his eyes once more to get another look at the necklace, hoping he would have a sudden revelation, but there was no difference in the way it sat, so he closed his eyes again and wondered.
Hi everyone! Welcome to part 2. Actually, based on what I've written so far, I actually like this story as a part 1 much better, weirdly. So, if you happened to click on the story without realizing it's part 2, then don't worry because it's functionable as a "stand on its own". To people who are following me or the first "Erestina", I hope you all enjoy this one even more than the first one! Leave me a review and let me know about some of your predictions! Thanks!