Chapter 1: Remember
Pain flared in his stomach as cool fingers worked at the source of said pain…why was he in so much pain? He could hear voices around him but wasn't sure who was speaking so he cracked his eyes open to check his surroundings, alarmed to see that his vision was blurry and he couldn't make out a thing. Hissing in pain when he felt a quick tug where he assumed the source of his abdominal pain was, he tried to swat away whatever was tugging at his flesh only for something to wrap around his wrist, stopping him. There were people in the room, he could hear them speaking but their voices sounded distant so he didn't know what they were saying, however he was able to catch what one of the people said, the low voice an obvious sign that it was a man speaking.
He tried sitting up despite how weak he felt, wondering what was going on, who the people talking around him were, and most importantly what was that stinging sensation in his stomach? But before he could sit all the way up somebody gently pushed him back down and held him firmly against whatever surface he was laying on.
Where was he?
For some odd reason he knew that he shouldn't even be awake but couldn't figure out why. It was seconds later that his stomach began burning again as something was slathered on it and he could help but yelp out before letting out a choked cough. Pain rippled through his lower torso, making him feel nauseated as it slowly ebbed away to a dull ache. He tried to push the hand that was holding him down away in order to reach down and clutch his stomach, only for each of his arms to be pinned down at his sides causing him to panic.
What was going on?
It wasn't any better when his head was held up, his mouth forced open as he was made to drink something that burned as it made its way down his throat. He tried spitting it out only for a hand to clasp over his mouth, giving him no choice but to swallow it. What had he just been forced to drink?!
"…add pressure to the wound for me for a bit." There was that voice from earlier and he couldn't make out what else he was saying afterwards and suddenly, just like that, he suddenly felt angry…relieved, so many raw emotions but the one that dominated him the most was fear.
Where was he and what was happening to him? Struggling to free himself from whoever was holding him down he growled in frustration at not being able to get away. He didn't want to be there, wherever 'there' was. He needed…he needed…. What did he need?! He let out a loud hiss and arched his back a moment later as pain rippled throughout his stomach when he felt pressure being applied to it. Opening his eyes again after realizing that they were closed, he tried to focus on those around him and was only able to make the outline of a man and a woman. Taking deep breaths, he tried to calm himself down but soon found himself struggling against the hold of whoever was pinning him down.
"…it's going to be alright, just stay still."
He gritted his teeth and shook his head. Why did he have a feeling that no, everything was not going to be alright?
"Let me go!" he heard somebody shout and it was only a second later that he realized that it had been him who shouted. Desperate to get away, he tried pulling to one direction and gripped the surface underneath him, gritting his teeth in irritation but soon felt hands wrap tightly around his wrists and cross his arms across his chest before he was pushed down once again against the surface he was laying on.
He shook his head in panic and shouted at whoever was holding him down to let him go and when nothing happened and his pleas were ignored, he remained still again and panted. No…no…it couldn't be! He wanted to go back home, wherever home was, or anywhere that wasn't there. But his eyes were beginning to feel heavy and he couldn't help but relax against the surface he was laying on which he realized was bed...wasn't it?
"Looks like the elixir is taking effect already."
Elixir…he was being drugged? He felt his stomach flip with anxiety and tried resisting again, but he felt so tired weak that he didn't even bother anymore. He lolled his head to one side and took deep breaths, feeling his eyes watering and the stinging sensation that followed after. The room was silent and he laid completely still, his body relaxed to the point that he couldn't even lift his head up as he felt something tugging at his stomach.
There was more chatter and soon his mouth was forced opened again. He tried turning his head away and he groaned in protest, but somebody took a firm hold on his chin and poured liquid into his mouth, water he realized. He eagerly guzzled down the water, coughing when the liquid passed through his throat and soon realized how dry it had been. With a groan, he cracked his eyes open again and blinked away the tears but his vision was still fuzzy. He blinked again, reluctantly allowing his muscles to relax as he felt himself becoming limper with each passing second, his whole body feeling numb.
The elixir was finally taking effect.
He didn't fight to stay awake as he felt his eye lids grow heavier and closed them, taking in a shuddery breath before he fell into the darkness again.
The next time he woke up he could barely feel a thing; his whole body was numb and he didn't know if he should be relieved or worried about not being able to feel any pain. He cracked his eyes open and this time he could see more clearly though there was still fuzziness at the edge of his vision. He blinked a few times before glancing around, and from what he could tell he was in a room with shelves of herbs, medicines, and salves lining most of the gray walls. The smell of herbs assaulted his nostrils and he wrinkled his nose in response. It didn't take him long to figure out that he was laying on somebody's bed with the covers pulled up just below his chin.
Where was he?
He took in more of his surroundings before his eyes landed on a bowl on the nightstand next the bed with what looked like a rag thrown over the edge of said bowl. There was a window on the wall adjacent to the bed with the curtains drawn open enough to let in a sufficient amount of sunlight and he could see through the crack in the curtain the vibrant yellow, orange and pink that signaled that it was either sunrise or sunset. He laid there for a while before finally attempting to sit up and paused, sucking in a breath as he watched the room spin around him for a moment before lying back down and closing his eyes. He had no idea why he felt so weak, or where he was for that matter.
A while passed and seeing as though he couldn't get out of bed if he wanted to, he slowly began falling back to sleep and just as he began entering dreamland again the door to the room opened. He opened his eyes again and blinked before glancing over to the direction of the door to see a man who couldn't be any older than twenty-seven with neatly combed dark hair and eyes to match walking over to the bed.
"Oh, so you're awake." the man said and it took him a few seconds to realize that that voice sounded somewhat familiar. Was he the one prodding at him earlier? "How do you feel?"
He didn't answer and watched as the man reached over and pulled the blanket down to his waist, revealing the fact that he had no shirt on and gauze was plastered onto his stomach. At the sight of the fabric he lifted his head up to get a better look. He then turned his attention back to the man and licked his lips, feeling how dry they were.
"Who are you?" he demanded, eyeing the man warily. Here he had just woken up in a room filled with medicines and he was obviously wounded. He furrowed his brow in confusion, wondering how he had acquired the wound in the first place.
"My name's Valentin." the man began, watching his reaction closely. "My sister found you bleeding in an alley not far from here and basically saved your life. Had it not been for her curiosity you would be dead. At the moment you're in my clinic, and believe it or not you've been out for four days."
"Four days?" he repeated tiredly. For some reason being told that he was out for four days didn't really seem like a big thing or maybe it was just that he was too tired to care. He licked his lips again and let his eyes droop a little as they began feeling heavy again. "You're a doctor?" he asked, surprised at how raspy his voice sounded and how dry his throat felt.
"Yes," Valentin nodded. He watched as the man slowly peeled away the gauze and revealed a stitched up gash about the size of his index finger, noting that it was red and inflamed. How did that happen?!
"What happened to me?"
"You should know the answer to that…shouldn't you?" Valentin looked up to meet his gaze and frowned when he didn't receive an answer before placing the gauze over the stitches again, eyeing him as he did so. "Your wound is a bit infected, so I really think it would be best if you just rest for now…." he trailed off upon noticing his confused look and studied him for a while.
Before Valentin could speak again, the door opened and both looked over to see a young woman with hair as dark as Valentin's tied up into a bun and light brown eyes peeking into the room; Valentin let out a deep breath and waved at the woman, gesturing at her to walk over to him.
"Graciela…." he began before turning to look at him again. Valentin remained quiet for a moment, considering what he was going to say before finally speaking. "What's your name?"
He frowned, feeling a little uneasy about telling Valentin his name.
"It's Alexander." he answered hesitantly, the name casually rolling off his tongue.
"And your last name?"
Alexander opened his mouth to answer before pausing. His last name. His last name was…. He groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose as he laid his head back on the pillow and closed his eyes. His last name…he had a last name; he knew he had one but couldn't remember what it was. What was his last name?!
"I don't remember." he finally replied, shaking his head. Why couldn't he remember? He knew that it was there in the edge of his mind, and he was prepared to say it, knew how it would also casually roll off his tongue but couldn't remember what it was.
"Do you know how old you are?"
He opened his mouth to reply but again paused when he realized that no, he didn't know or at least couldn't remember how old he was. Again the answer was there in the back of his mind but life before he couldn't produce an answer. He shook his head.
"Do you have parents? Siblings? Any family?"
Alexander opened his eyes and looked over to Valentin and Graciela. Again the answer was there but he couldn't remember what it was. Despite not remembering he couldn't help but feel saddened, as if there were no way he could reach his family yet angry at the same time when there was an overwhelming feeling of abandonment.
"I don't know." he answered, slightly surprised at how indifferent he sounded.
Valentin frowned, noting his indifference before finally turned his attention to his sister. "Why are you here?"
Graciela turned to look at her brother as he patiently waited for an answer. "I was on my way back home from the store and I wanted to check on how he was doing." she answered, feeling herself blush a little and cursing the fact that she was even doing so. Why should she feel embarrassed if her intentions were good?
"Right..." Valentin nodded before glancing at Alexander. "Can you excuse us for a second?" Valentin asked him though the young man seemed indifferent on whether or not they left him alone. Valentin wrapped his hand around Graciela's arm before walked her over to the door. He stopped and glanced over his shoulder to look at Alexander before turning to look at her again.
"I don't think he can remember a thing. He doesn't even know what happened to him so I'll leave you to explain what happened that day you found him in the alley while I tend to another patient. Just try to see if he can remember anything and I'll check if there are any reports on missing persons later. I doubt that he isn't being missed."
Graciela crossed her arms across her chest. "You don't find it strange that he can't remember a thing?"
"Of course I do, but I'll deal with that in a little while. He's fine now. He's alert. Just see if he can remember anything in the meantime."
"And if he really can't remember a thing?"
"We'll see what we can do with him later but right now see if you can't jog his memory a bit. He has to have a residence somewhere or anybody he can turn to. You care enough to know if he's alright, at least care enough to see if you can't help him in any way."
"I care enough." Graciela retorted though she was reluctant to stay with Alexander and cursed the fact that her reply didn't sound genuine enough.
"Good, I'll be back as soon as I can."
She watched as Valentin left the room, closing the door behind him and leaving her alone with Alexander. What was she to do now? She turned around and began making her way to his bed before stopping upon seeing that his eyes were closed. He was fast asleep again. She stood there, feeling slightly relived that he had finally woken up. Even though Valentin asked her to find out if he had any memory of who he was she decided to leave the room and let him rest. She walked over to the bed before leaving the room, taking the blanket which was still draped over his waist and pulled it back up to his chin. Just as she did that he cracked his eyes open and looked up to meet her gaze.
It was the first time, she realized, that she was able to get a good look at him since the day she found him in the alley. His eyes were hazel, a mixture of brown and gold; his ebony hair was unruly, a few strands sticking onto his forehead and there was a small cut on his right cheek which surely would leave behind a scar.
"What's your name again?" Alexander asked her, keeping his voice low.
"Graciela," she answered before taking a step away from the bed. He nodded his head and blinked as he tried to keep his eyes open. "If you're really that tired then you should just take a nap—"
"No." Alexander interrupted, shaking his head. "I want to know what happened to me, and I'm guessing that you know?"
"But you should really just rest."
"No...I need to know." he replied stubbornly.
Graciela bit her lip and studied him for a few seconds before letting out a deep breath and pulling a chair that was next to the nightstand close to the bed. She sat down and placed her hands on her lap, not knowing what else to do with them. That was always a problem for her. She had no clue what to do with her hands while they were idle and she eventually would end up picking at her nails.
"You…don't remember running from—well I'm assuming that you were running from somebody that day. You almost knocked me down when you ran past me before running into an alley,"
"An alley?" Alexander repeated in confusion. He stared at her and for a moment it seemed like something clicked in his mind but then he frowned and looked away. "I almost knocked you down?" he asked.
"Sorry for that…I think." he apologized and looked back to her.
"Do you remember who you were running from?" Graciela asked him. Alexander remained quiet for a moment, his brows crinkling in deep concentration before shaking his head.
"No, I don't." he answered, seemingly in deep thought.
"You ran into an alley and well, you seemed to be hurt already and so I went over to check if you were still there. Curiosity just got the better of me I suppose and I'm not somebody to forsake somebody who needs help. When I went to check if you were still there, I found you bleeding to death and unconscious. I went to get help after that and you were brought here to my brother's clinic." Graciela explained.
"That man's your brother?"
"Yes." Graciela nodded, furrowing her brows as she stared at him. "Something troubles me though. Moments before I found you a man left the alley and I really do think that he has something to do with your current…condition. Do you remember what happened that day?"
"I can't remember a damn thing!" he replied in apparent frustration as a mixture of panic and fear flashed through his features. Why couldn't he remember anything about himself? Would he live the rest of his life not knowing who he was? That thought only added to his panic and he couldn't help but feel as though there was something he needed to remember which simply added to his frustration. All he could remember was when he had woken up the first time to intense pain; everything else was a mystery to him.
Graciela frowned and crossed her arms across her chest as she leaned back in her seat. If he couldn't remember a thing then of course it would be hard to figure out if he had a residence within the city, assuming that he did live in Paris and wasn't a tourist. What if he was a tourist though, whose visit to the city went wrong? Then what? But what was most important was what would happen to him when he was finally discharged? If he truly didn't have any recollection of who he was then he might not even know where he was, and if he didn't know which city he was in then would he survive out there? Those were questions that Graciela knew that shouldn't concern her but she couldn't help but wonder. What if he had to be placed in an asylum? She didn't know what happened to the people who lost their memories if they had no next of kin to turn to. Where did they go or where were they sent?
She turned her attention back to Alexander who was staring out the window, his eyes drooping and whenever he closed them he'd open them again and blinked a few times. He obviously needed his sleep and he was being stubborn by not allowing himself the luxury to do so, though the next time his eyes drooped closed again he left them closed and she could hear him snoring softly a few seconds later. Maybe now she could finally leave. Just as she stood up and made her way to the door Valentin walked back into the room and when he realized that Alexander was fast asleep again he gestured for her to leave the room. Graciela walked out of there with her brother following her, closing the door as quietly as possible behind them.
"Were you able to see if he can remember where he lives?" Valentin asked her. Graciela paused and turned around; with a frown she shook her head.
"No, he says he can't remember anything and I think he truly does mean it. For a second he seemed scared at the fact of having no memory of who he is."
"I've only heard cases of people who lose their memory, but I never had to deal with a case of memory loss myself." Valentin brushed past her and Graciela followed after him as he made his way to the front of the clinic, passing by more shelves of medicines, herbs, and ointments among other things.
"And what do you think will happen to him when it's time to discharge him?"
Valentin hesitated for a second before answering. "I honestly don't know. I'm not one to send my patients off if I know that it's not time for them to leave yet, but who knows if he'll regain his memory or if he does then how long it will take for him to remember anything that can help him get back home? When I do think he's ready to leave, then he might just have to wander the streets himself or I'll be forced to send him to an asylum. To tell you the truth, I'm not fond of either of those choices. I never send my patients to asylums if I know that there isn't something incredibly wrong with them."
"And you shouldn't." Graciela said before realizing that her brother was escorting her to the door. They both stopped upon reaching it and Valentin turned to look at her.
"Graciela, it shouldn't really concern you. I'm the one caring for him now and I'll see if there's anything else I can do other than let him test his luck out in the city or send him to an asylum. Now just go home. I'll be there in a few hours."
"I…." Graciela began before pausing. She let out a resigned huff and nodded. "Alright, I'll see you back home." she said in a dreary tone, nodding her head in reluctant agreement.
The house was quiet when she got back home which wasn't unusual. Since it was only her, Valentin, and Isabel living in the house she had gotten used to the silence. Though in another few years, if Valentin and Isabel already had a child, the house would be far from quiet with the little boy or girl running around the place. She wouldn't dream of having a child anytime soon. She didn't think she was prepared for motherhood just yet as opposed to Isabel who wanted motherhood so badly. And just as she suspected, when she stepped into the den she found Isabel knitting what looked like white socks the right size for a newborn. For the past week all Isabel had been doing during her free time was knitting and most of what she had made were clothes for a newborn baby, leading Graciela to believe that sooner or later if her brother and sister-in-law didn't conceive that they would start getting testy toward each other much like her mother and father did when they tried to conceive another child a few years ago but were never able to.
"What did you get from the shop?" Isabel asked her as she made her way to sit on a sofa across from her. The den wasn't much of a room. It only consisted of three sofas, a grandfather clock in the far right corner, and an ornamental rug in the middle of the room, a fireplace, and a few other miscellaneous pieces of furniture. Graciela relaxed into the sofa and sighed.
"I didn't find what I needed."
"Some ink for my pen. I tried getting some from the shop where I originally bought my stationary but the store owner said that they were out and that more would be delivered tomorrow." Graciela replied. She knew that she wouldn't have needed to go out to find ink for her pen if she hadn't tried writing letters to her mother, and she did stop eventually after deciding that she should just wait a while before trying to communicate with her no matter how long it would take. Besides she didn't want to risk her father reading the letter instead and then writing her back demanding her to return home.
"You came back quite late. It's nighttime already and I was starting to worry about you."
"I stopped by Valentin's clinic."
Isabel paused and looked up from what she was doing to finally look at her. "You stopped by to check on that young man's condition again, didn't you? Valentin's told you time and again that he would be alright." Isabel shook her head and went back to what she was doing. She didn't worry about the man since Valentin said that he would be fine, the last time she had seen him was the day that he was brought over to the clinic and treated and after that Isabel just let Valentin take care of him.
"He woke up today but Valentin and I wouldn't exactly say that he's alright."
"Why?" Isabel glanced up quickly from what she was doing with slight interest.
"Because he lost his memory."
"He lost his memory?"
"All he can remember is that his name is Alexander, and after that everything's pretty much blank. Valentin says that if he doesn't recover his memory soon that Alexander will have to either wander the streets or go to an asylum."
"If I were him I'd prefer wandering the streets." Isabel commented with a frown. "You know that an asylum isn't an ideal place for somebody who is of sane mind to be taken to, and I really do think that somebody who lost his or her memory is of sane mind with the only flaw that he or she simply doesn't have a recollection of memories. It should be a crime to take somebody who is sane to an asylum so that then they can slowly descend into insanity there just for the sake of not helping them."
"Of course I'm right."
Graciela sat there in silence for a moment, considering what Isabel just said. She was right, people did want to do away with their troubles in any way they could especially if their troubles involved somebody who needed help and they didn't want to devote their time to helping that person.
"But…what was his name again? Alexander?"
"We shouldn't worry about his him. I'm sure that he'll be just fine and that he'll recover his memory sooner or later."
"I'm not really that worried about him. I'm sure that he'll find somebody he knows when he's discharged."
"Somebody should be missing him."
"Yes, he'll be fine." Graciela nodded though she couldn't help but doubt her words.
She had heard stories about people who lost their memories and there were occasions where the stories ended badly. Then again why should she worry? Her parents, brother, and even her friends back home always said that she worried too much for her own good and maybe they were right.
Sleeping soundly was something he wasn't able to do. He'd wake up for minutes at a time before falling back to sleep before waking up again. It didn't take him long the first time he had woken up to realize that Graciela had left him alone and that the sun had set, leaving him in the dark with only the light from a gaslight outside dimly illuminating the room. He actually preferred to be alone, it was much better than being asked questions he didn't know the answer to and he should know the answers to. Why he couldn't remember anything about himself was a mystery to him, and he was determined to recover his memory. He couldn't live the rest of his life not knowing who he was. What if he had family who was missing him? Or he had a family of his own? A wife and children? For some reason that thought didn't really appeal to him. Did he have a wife and children? No. He probably didn't but that wasn't a possibility he was about to completely abandon.
Alexander shifted in the bed, pausing for a second when his wound ached before relaxing back into the mattress and closing his eyes, willing sleep to come. But sleep wouldn't come. So he laid there for a long while with his eyes closed. Listening to the chatter of people outside his window, he came to the conclusion that he was in a city. He found it sad that he didn't even know which city he was in, but he had a feeling that he was somewhere in Europe.
He laid there for a long while, awake though his eyes remained closed. He listened to the sounds outside of the room before eventually hearing the door open and somebody stepped inside.
"He's sleeping again." he could hear Valentin say. Just as he thought that the man was going to leave the room he heard a woman speak and cracked his eyes open wide enough to see Valentin's and the woman's outlines near the door.
"If you don't mind me asking, what will you do with him? You can't simply send somebody who has no recollection of who he is out into the streets."
"I know that,"
"So it would be best if you just send him to an asylum, no?"
"No, it wouldn't be. That's where those who are insane go. I'm sure that he isn't insane."
"Are you sure he isn't just faking it?"
"Alavda," Valentin said with a hint of a warning to his tone. "Don't you worry about that. The only thing you should care about as of right now is watching over him. He's the only patient here as of now, and you're the only nurse I can count on for the night shift. The others had important matters to attend to."
"It wouldn't hurt to consider sending him to an asylum. At least think about it."
Valentin let out a deep sigh. "I'll think about it and I'll see you tomorrow."
Alexander opened his eyes as he heard the door close and frowned. They were considering sending him to an asylum and the only asylum he could think of was for those for the insane. As far as he knew he wasn't insane and he definitely knew that he wasn't going to stay there long enough for them to make their decision.
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