As it turned out, I was actually a pretty boring person. Or at least, that's what my apartment told me. It wasn't like I could speak from experience.
It's such an overused trope. Just thinking the word makes me cringe.
"Oh no, Doctor I've lost my memories, whatever shall I do?" Cries the busty patient to Dr. Gorgeous, prompting eyerolls from every person on the planet because that's not how that works. Except when it does.
Ugh. Been there, done that a thousand times, right?
But let me tell you, there is nothing quite like waking up covered in blood, wearing next to no clothing and clutching a broken cell phone. The guy who found me probably didn't have a very fun time either. Passing out and waking up in an unfamiliar hospital takes a close second in the super fun life experiences competition, though.
"The brain is a tricky thing, it's possible you may remember some things spontaneously or following a trigger, but it could be that you never remember anything," the very sympathetic doctor had told me right before I'd been discharged from the hospital. He'd been a nice enough guy, even his antlers had looked apologetic. That hadn't changed the part where he had told me I was basically screwed and there wasn't much I could do about it.
So here I was, in what was my apparently spectacularly boring apartment.
There were half open boxes all over the place, so it could have been that I'd only just moved. Or I was a serious slob who couldn't be bothered to unpack.
Judging by their contents though, I was probably a recent arrival who also had really boring, milquetoast taste.
A recent, boring arrival who had no friends.
Despite being a Nokia brick, the phone I'd been found with was too damaged for it to be repaired, and its adventure in the river had ruined any chance of salvaging its SIM chip and any information that would have been on it.
I wasn't sure I wanted to know what the fuck I'd been up to, to break a Nokia phone that badly. It had almost looked like there had been scorch marks on the back of it, the plastic warped like it had partially melted and then hardened again.
Several nurses had been kind enough to run my name through every online database they could find, but while my name had generated a few hits, none of them had been in reference to me specifically. I suppose that was the consequence of having such a generic, average name. Someone really should have told my parents to give me a more unique name in the event of me losing my memories in a city where it seemed like no one knew me.
So I was a technophobic, boring loser without any friends with a boring name, a boring apartment and not much else.
Luckily in my pocket I'd had a wallet with my driver's license, a bus pass, a debit card and a coupon for a waffle house, so I'd been able to find out where I lived (I must have updated my license right after moving, seems I was the fussy, organized type) and I'd be able to get free hash browns next time I got waffles, provided I could find wherever Flo's Spot was.
Opal, one of my nurses, had been kind enough to set up a facebook page for me, so theoretically someone I knew might find me eventually. Though, after digging around in my half dozen open boxes, it seemed I didn't even own a computer.
That would have to change. Though I guessed I'd probably first need to find out how much money I even had. Did I even have a job? They'd be in for a surprise if I was supposed to have come into work in the last two weeks. At this point, I would have welcomed an angry employer hammering on my door if it meant finding a connection to my past.
I didn't appear to own much of anything, it seemed. The small three room apartment still felt practically spacious due to the lack of furnishings, despite how narrow the rooms were.
In my sparse bedroom I had a spindly single bed, a cheap dresser and a cracked mirror. I rummaged through the dresser without much hope. I was wearing donated clothing from the hospital, and they were ill-fitting. What I owned wasn't much of an improvement.
I had three pairs of pants; which included a pair of thin sweatpants, and two pairs of worn jeans, both grey, one with a small hole in the knee. The next drawer yielded some really tragic, threadbare underwear any sensible person would have thrown out and replaced long ago. The final drawer was hard to open and I had to press my feet the edges of the dresser while I yanked backwards to pry it open. The contents weren't much of a prize: a single gray hoodie, four boring button down shirts, all white, and a blue t-shirt.
It was only marginally better than what I had on, but the pants would at least not be too short like the donated ones I had on were. It was kind of hilarious how much of my ankle were showing in them. I chose the t-shirt and the jeans without the hole in them. If I wasn't completely broke I'd definitely have to go shopping.
It seemed being an amnesiac was only improving my fashion sense. It was a pretty shitty trade-off, in my opinion.
The bathroom was a tiny room off of the bedroom. There, I found cheap soap, a dull razor and bargain-bin shampoo, no conditioner. That seemed kinda odd to me.
My hair was kind of ridiculous. It was a silvery blond and tumbled down to my hips, nearly perfectly straight. What kind of guy went to the effort of keeping his hair so long but didn't look after it at all? When I'd been found it had been bound in a tight bun, but I'd taken to leaving it down since it was much more comfortable, even if it got in the way a lot.
Somehow, I got the impression that pre-amnesia me would have been rather irritated by this. Given how pissed off I was at pre-amnesia me for getting me into this situation, I got a petty thrill out of it.
There weren't any towels in the bathroom, so I just changed clothes rather than also bathe. I wasn't too badly in need of a shower anyways, since I'd had one the day before my release from the hospital.
Putting the t-shirt on was rather difficult, as it tugged on the line of stitches on the left side of my ribs. It probably would have been smarter to wear one of the button down shirts, but I didn't think of that until halfway through the struggle and it was too much hassle to give up by that point.
The pants, much to my relief, fit much better. I was pretty tall and kind of skinny, and the pants I'd been given at the hospital had been too short in the legs and too wide for my hips.
The being skinny thing was probably my own fault, if the kitchen was anything to go by. It was next to bare, with only a handful of spices, a miniscule amount of dry rice in a Ziploc bag and two lonely carrots.
I surveyed the pitiful lot with a critical eye.
On the one hand, the doctor had said going through my belongings would help me remember. On the other the apartment and its contents were seriously depressing. It was also kind of creepy. It felt like I was poking through a stranger's things. Or a dead person's. Either way it felt like I didn't belong and like someone was going to find me and I'd be in trouble.
"Oh screw all of this," I said and grabbed my keys and wallet from where I'd tossed them on the kitchen table and left.
Outside, I felt a lot better, even if it was raining a little.
For all that it was seriously rundown on the inside, the apartment was in a nice enough location, with plenty of shops and things with and loads of normal people buzzing by.
I stopped the first kind looking middle-aged lady I saw.
"Excuse me do you know where I can find a... uh," I pulled out my debit card and looked at the logo, "B&G Banks?"
The lady raised an eyebrow at me like I'd asked a stupid question. For all I knew of this city, maybe I had.
"I just moved here," I added with the most innocently naive expression I could muster.
Apparently appeased, the woman said, "There's one three blocks that way, on Larch Street."
Before I could thank her, she nodded politely and kept walking. As she said, I found the bank three blocks away on a much busier street.
I realized why she'd thought it was a stupid question; the bank was enormous and unmistakable. Even a complete moron would have noticed and remembered its general location.
Inside, I froze. There was a small flaw in my plan; how was I going to get access to my money? I couldn't remember what my PIN number was. I doubted there was an "I have amnesia, I swear I didn't steal this card" button.
"Are you in line?" a voice asked from behind me.
I turned around to see an impatient looking woman with impressive lipstick behind me. She inclined her head towards an open ATM. All three of her eyes were looking at me in obvious irritation.
"Ah, yeah, sorry, I zoned out there," I said and approached the machine without really meaning to.
Well, I supposed I could just guess.
I shoved the card in and then, without thinking, tapped in 6745. The screen changed and displayed the usual option menu.
I stared down at my hand. I hadn't meant to do that. I hadn't even thought of a number, my hand had just gone through the motions like it was a habit. Which, I supposed it probably was. Thank you, muscle memory!
When I'd been in the hospital, I'd found out that I could still do thing despite not remembering when I'd learned them; not only could I read and write, but once while I'd been bored listening to my doctors discuss my odd case in exceptionally doctorly words I'd folded an elaborate paper flower without meaning to.
I checked my account balance first, expecting not a whole lot to be in it, given what the sum of my worldly possessions had been.
I- that was a lot of money.
I squinted at the screen, wondering if the decimal point was in the right spot. Even I, someone with only a fortnight's worth of memories, knew that was an obscene amount of money.
Why the hell was I living in such a tiny apartment with so few belongings when I could apparently afford to buy my own country?
After another moment of goggling at the screen, I only took out a hundred dollars and shoved it into my wallet. Given my previous luck, I'd probably get mugged if I carried more.
The first stop I made was at the first cell phone store I came across.
I picked out another brick phone, figuring it would be better to be prepared and not need a near indestructible phone.
"That one comes in other colours," the salesman told me when I approached him to sign up for a phone plan.
I glanced down at the phone. It was electric pink and a little sparkly. Pre-amnesia me probably wouldn't have liked it since it wasn't grey or complete shit. I kind of liked it. Mostly on its own merits. Mostly. I had amnesia, I was allowed to be as petty as I wanted towards pre-amnesia me; it was that jackass's fault I was in this situation.
"This is fine," I replied. The guy raised his eyebrow at me but shrugged.
"What kind of phone plan are you looking for? If you sign up for our premium plan, you get five contacts with unlimited texting.
"That's not necessary," I said with a wry smile. "I just want the basic thing, whatever I can set up the fastest."
Half an hour later I was the proud owner of a bright pink phone and a three year phone contract. I'd probably not done a good job of bargaining for the best deal, but with the mounds of cash in my bank account, that didn't really seem necessary.
I dialed Opal's number that she'd written down on a post-it note for me the day before.
"Hi, it's me. I have a phone again," I said. I wouldn't call Opal a friend, but she'd been sympathetic to my current predicament, and had given me her number, instructing me to stay in contact. It was a bit comforting to know that I'd have at least one contact on my new phone. Maybe I should have signed up for that five contact phone plan the salesman had tried to sell me.
"That's good to hear, I was a bit worried when Dr. Jenner said you'd been released before my shift started," she replied. "There wasn't anyone waiting for you at home, was there?"
"No, and there wasn't a phone or anything. It looks like I live alone."
"Sorry to hear that, that's really too bad! My girlfriend suggested you come over for dinner tomorrow. It's no good to spend all your time alone, even if there are people out there looking for you."
"Thanks, that's nice of her. And I'm not sure there's anyone looking for me, from what I've seen."
"What makes you say that?"
"I think I just moved here, but there's no pictures or computer or anything. I seem like I was a real hermit."
"That's too bad, I was really hoping it would work out for you when you got home!" She said, sounding genuinely upset for me. Opal was a really nice lady, I was lucky she'd been assigned to my floor the whole time I'd been there. "I gotta go, my break is about to end. I'll call you tomorrow with directions to my place, okay?"
"Okay. Thanks, Opal."
"It's no problem. And keep your chin up, I'm sure a sweet guy like you has at least one person looking for you. I'll see you at dinner tomorrow!"
I hung up on Opal, feeling a sharp pang of loneliness. It was really hitting me again how alone I was. And for all I knew, I'd never find anyone who knew me.
Several people walked by me, shooting weird looks at the gangly guy near tears outside a busy cellphone store.
Slowly, I pulled myself together. Crying wasn't going to change anything. Next stop was food; I was starving.
My phone was a brick, but it was a brick that was still capable of connecting to the internet, so on a whim I searched for the waffle house from the coupon in my wallet.
The only hit was a place a fair distance away on foot, but busses seemed a bit too complicated to attempt so I decided to just tough it out. Maybe after I'd eaten I'd be ready to attempt it for the trip back. If I was lucky it would be like the ATM and I wouldn't make a fool of myself.
I was definitely footsore and a little damp when I finally arrived at Flo's. Buying more comfortable shoes would also have to be on the list of things I'd need to get when I went shopping. Maybe I'd buy a hundred pairs of shoes. It wasn't like it would make a difference to my bank account. Seriously, was I a drug dealer or something? There was only so many ways a guy could have that much money, and it seemed to me that very few of them were on the up and up. Especially given I clearly hadn't been spending that money on my belongings.
The waffle house was kind of tacky looking in general, with its cracked pink vinyl seats and sticky looking counters, and also very nearly empty given the odd hour of the day.
"Back again?" The waitress sitting at the counter asked me. Her small iridescent wings flittered curiously behind her.
"Um, I guess?" I replied and followed her to a booth.
"Coffee?" She asked me. I nodded and turned over my coffee cup for her.
"Uh. This is going to sound kind of weird but... have I been here before?" I asked when she set my cup down. There really wasn't any less crazy ways to ask that question. Didn't stop me from turning bright red at the look she gave me.
She blinked at me in confusion. "Uh yeah? A couple weeks back, you were with your buddy with the tattoos." She paused and gave me a long, considering look. "Were you really smashed or something? You seemed pretty normal..."
I'd come here with someone? That person had to know at least something about me that would be useful, if only to help me find someone else who knew me. I couldn't actually have no one in the world. That was just too depressing to even consider.
"Okay, this is going to sound ridiculous, but I've lost my memories. All of them. I had a coupon in my wallet for this place," I told the waitress. "I was sort of hoping I'd find someone here who knew me."
She frowned and her wings sort of mirrored the movement, flicking downwards and tucking in closer to her torso protectively. "You're right that does sound insane. Not in the least because we haven't given out coupons in years," she said flatly.
I fished out my wallet and showed her the coupon.
She studied the coupon and then said, "This thing is from like four years ago, its way expired."
"Look, I know its nuts, but I literally don't remember anything from before last week, and I can't find anyone who knows me," I told her earnestly.
She sighed. "I'm sorry to hear that, buddy. I only recognize you from a few weeks back. Same for the guy you came in with. Do you want me to ask the other staff if they know you?"
I nodded gratefully. "Please. Do you remember anything about the other guy?"
She frowned and tapped a finger on her chin. Behind her, her wings mirrored the motion. "Not really, sorry. It was a few weeks back, on the 7th maybe? I only remembered you because of the hair, even pulled back it was pretty noticeable. The guy you were with had a lot of tattoos, short dark hair and a leather coat. He was... mega attractive? That's why I remembered him," she said, blushing a little, and laughed a bit awkwardly, rubbing a hand on the back of her neck.
"Anything else?" I demanded, and then realizing how that probably sounded, tacked on, "Please?"
"Uh, I think he might have been Indonesian or something? I caught a few words he said to you when I got your order, sounded like stuff I've heard my cousins say and that's where they're from.
"Like I said, you guys were pretty memorable even with the crowd we get in here, but, I mean, I wait on a lot of customers here. So that's all I really remember. Sorry about that," She said apologetically.
I sighed. Well it had been a bit of a stretch to hope a waffle house could solve my problems. It was better than nothing.
"Thanks anyways. That's more than I had before," I said.
"That's rough. Can I get you anything to eat?" she asked, pulling out a little notepad.
I glanced down at the menu. At the hospital I'd had a whole lot of bland food, usually the same thing every day. I didn't even know what kind of food I liked. That was pretty sad.
"Pancakes?" I asked, pointing to the first thing that caught my eye. I wondered if that was another muscle memory thing or just pure chance. Either way, pancakes sounded pretty rad. It struck me as weird that I knew what pancakes were and could remember what they smelled like, but not if I liked them or not. Amnesia was weird.
She nodded and jotted it down on her pad. "Sure thing. It'll be ready in a jiff," she said, and disappeared into the kitchen.
Okay so I'd known at least one person before I took a stroll down memory lane and just kept going. Dark hair. Tattoos. Attractive. Possibly Indonesian. Owned a leather coat. There was probably a lot of people that described.
It was starting to get dark when I left Flo's, so I took the bus. I was lucky since there were people already waiting at the stop for the bus that would take me home, so I had people to mirror.
As it turned out, this was a good thing as it seemed I hadn't taken the bus enough for it to be a habit like the ATM. If my suspicions that I was a recent arrival were true, that would make sense, maybe.
I wasn't too excited to return to my depressing coffin of home, so naturally the bus ride only took about ten minutes.
Despite there being several people coming and going, no one waved to me when I entered my building. Clearly I hadn't gone out of my way to introduce myself. I was beginning to seem more and more like a reclusive hermit twice my own age.
Maybe I needed to be more positive. I didn't know me. Maybe I was just cripplingly shy. Or recently recovered from a horrifically contagious disease that had forced me into isolation. That was completely probably. Or at least just a probable as having actual fucking amnesia.
The lock on my front door was kind of sticky and it took a significant amount of jiggling to get it to give in and let me unlock the door. At least if anyone decided to try and break in while I was home, I'd have plenty of warning.
There, that had been more positive. Sort of.
Inside, I flicked the lights on. It didn't help much, given there weren't any lamps, just the ceiling light, leaving the room in partial shadow.
"I guess it's time to stop procrastinating," I said to the empty room. Maybe if I kept digging I'd find something useful, or at least get the place to stop feeling like I was trespassing.
The first thing I found was towels. They were scratchy and grey.
"Do I literally own nothing that isn't shitty and needs to be thrown out?" I asked the pile of towels. They didn't respond. Clearly I shouldn't have been released from the hospital if I was crazy enough to be conversing with linens.
Under the towels I found a hand-cranked radio held together mostly with duct tape and a prayer. Yet another point in favour of me being a technophobic old person in the body of a 22 year old.
After a few good cranks the radio came to life, spewing crackly pop music. It was better than sitting in silence, so I cranked it a few more times and set it on the floor next to me.
The next box contained a multitude of small unmarked Ziploc bags filled with... seeds? That was another point in the 'might be a drug dealer' category. I pushed that box away. I'd deal with that later.
The final box in my living room/kitchen was filled with books. Really old, boring books. There didn't seem to be a common theme between any of them. One was on medieval English poetry, another on automotive repair.
"So I'm a guy who wears shitty clothes, has no friends and spends his nights reading boring books and listening to the radio," I said, dropping a book on horse breeding back into the box. "If I get any more boring I think I'll come right back around to interesting."
There were more boxes in the bedroom- my bedroom- so I abandoned the books to go poke through those.
The first contained dishes, all mix matched like they'd been bought individually from a thrift store. Why was this box in the bedroom and the towel box in the kitchen? Clearly pre-amnesia me had some pretty weird ideas about organization. It wasn't like there were enough boxes to get them mixed up.
I found a few faded looking blankets in the next box. Useful given that the apartment was getting a little chilly and the ones on the bed didn't look all too warm.
Under that I finally hit gold. A journal, going by the title stamped in fake, faded gold on the spine.
"Bless you, past me," I said and eagerly opened it. Finally, a step in the right direction.
It was written in code. The words were utterly unreadable.
"What the fuck?"
I flipped through, disbelievingly. What would a guy who spent his time reading boring books and listening to the radio need to write a personal journal in code for?
I came to the end of the book, the last few pages unfilled. The journal on the whole looked rather worn, like I'd owned it for a long time. The different entries didn't have dates and were only distinguishable by the different colours of ink.
I tossed the journal down on the floor in disgust. And then shoved the box away too because I was just so damn frustrated. It toppled over with an unsatisfying thud.
I stood up, intent on having a shower now that I had towels. The other boxes would have to wait.
My foot caught on a piece of paper that had fallen out of the box. It was faded with age, the edges worn.
I picked it up gently and unfolded it.
My dearest Aster,
I know this is possibly the last time you will ever hear from me and sending that such a letter poses a risk for both of us, but I could not when I fear the worst is about to come.
Three days ago I fled my final safe-house. It was the last of those that I prepared before we left home, and I suspect they will find me soon. But I could not bear knowing that you thought me safe and never hearing from me again. Knowing the doubts that plague you, I feared you would think I'd abandoned you, or our cause. I've said it a thousand times and I'd say it a thousand times again: never doubt my love for you, no matter what happens, I will always love you, my dear.
Darling, I know that this letter was a poor choice for both of us, but I needed you to know how much I love you. I love your sense of morality, and your courageousness to choose to do what is right despite the environment in which we were both brought up. So easily could you have been like those monsters- so easily could I have been, if not for you.
I never regretted our choice, and I never will, even beyond my dying day, darling, even though it has meant being apart from you for so many long years. Never think that I regret it, even if it costs me my life. My only regret should the worst come to pass is that I could not keep you safe.
My love, I pray you are safe, and that the Watchers do not find you, or this letter. I have heard rumours of a safe place, and should I find it, I will endeavour to send word to you. Perhaps it might be safe enough for us to meet again.
With all my love.
I stared dumbly at the letter. I had so many questions.
The first being: who the hell was Aster? My name was Simon Jones.