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Simon of Space
A novel from Chester Burton 'Cheeseburger' Brown
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Simon of Space, an original novel by Cheeseburger Brown, photo-illustration by Matthew Hemming

CHAPTER 2
FORGET ME NOT


The prettiest nurse in the whole ward is named Randa.

She isn't the youngest nurse and it's fairly certain she isn't the sweetest, but there is an air about her that penetrates her calm and efficient manner, relaying forcefully that she is every moment a woman. The infinite crispness of her pleats cannot hide the truth broadcast by the musky, visceral reality lurking beneath. It grips me.

I tried to explain this to her after I had again succumbed to the powerful adolescent urge to palpitate her behind while she was changing sheets. "I've had a brain injury!" I cried, hiding behind my arms.

"You'll have a brain injury," she promised darkly.

She turned to leave. "Listen," I called. "Can I ask you something?" She paused tolerantly so I asked, "Has what happened to me ever happened to anyone else before?"

She arched her brow. "Only in the movies, honey."

...Which is when it first dawned on me that somebody could doubt my condition. I realized that my five long weeks of delightful and engaging life have been sheltered from the smell of distrust -- a funk radiated through the flickering eyes and clenching fingers of my fellow apes. Falsehood...what a novel concept!

I wondered: could I detect incredulity in others? Is my condition a joke?

I hopped out of bed and made for the day room, a man on a mission. The corridor to the common areas has differently coloured stripes running along the floor which branch off to the cafeteria, the nurse station and the washrooms. In my first days of life I was fascinated by the stripes and their bold hues, and I gave them secret names I am too embarrassed to reproduce. They had a magic significance to me as guides to every outpost of import.

My paper slippers shuffled loudly across the shiny floor.

The day room was quiet, and somehow lugubrious despite the shafts of silvery sunshine washing in through the wide windows. Some patients were playing chess, or chatting listlessly. Some cried. Others minced their fingers and hummed fugues, or stared at the walls. We are a colourful bunch, we in this hospital's ward for cerebral trauma. The turnover is high so there's always somebody new to meet.

The wandering arm of the cafeteria staff stepped up smartly. "Would you care for some sliced pears, Mr. Fell?"

"What are pears?" I asked.

"Fruit," replied the robot smoothly.

"Well, fruit is a food," I admitted. "Okay, hit me."

I took my cup of sliced pears over to the window where Jessem sat, staring at the glimmering delta valley below. Jessem has lost his ability to retain short-term memory entirely, which means any conversation with him need begin with a certain amount of preamble. But he's an insightful guy, so it's usually worth it.

"Hello," I said. "My name is Simon. We're pals. You've often complimented me on my dry wit, and I've often complimented you on your penetrating mind. I once made the nurses bring you buttered toast in the middle of the night when you were crying over a nightmare you couldn't remember."

Jessem nodded slowly. "Okay. Please, won't you sit down?"

"Thank you." I adjusted my robe and crossed my legs. "Jessem, have you ever heard of someone losing their memory after being transmitted through a hyperspatial gate?"

"Why, sure," he said, smiling and looking at me with wide eyes. "Who hasn't wondered about it? Is it really me that walks out of that gate halfway across space, or it is just a facsimile of me loaded up with my memories? Do I die when I'm transmitted, and is somebody else who thinks he's me born into my place?"

"Wondering is one thing," I interjected, "I'm talking about it happening."

"Haven't you ever been to the movies, Simon?" asked Jessem. "It's the oldest gimmick in the book: hyperspatial amnesia. It's the premise of probably half of all opera and at least a third of all narrative pornographies."

"Yes, my good man -- but what about in real life?"

Jessem shook his head. "Maybe it's happened somewhere, sometime. I've always thought it was just an exercise for philosophy subscribers." After a moment he hesitated, and then offered his hand out for me to shake. "I'm Jessem, by the way."

"Yes, I know."

"And you are..."

"Simonithrat Fell. I introduced myself earlier."

Jessem sighed, and returned his gaze to the window. "There's something wrong with me, isn't there?" he asked the glass.

"Yes," I said.

He sighed again. "It's horrible, I think."

I couldn't finish my sliced pears. I came back to the ward, walked around in circles for while between the rows of beds, and then espied this diary. I picked it up and tossed it from hand to hand while I mulled over the fact that my predicament may be ridiculous.

I considered the diary, its single green light winking at me patiently. I cleared my throat and said, "For posterity then: the true account of the first living man to actually come through a hyperspatial gate with neither history nor identity...without being a member of an entertainment guild. Chapter One."

Outside, birds chirped. "Chapter One," I said again.

I lay back on my bed. I put the diary on my chest and closed my eyes. Taking a few deep breaths the first thing that comes to me is the lingering perfume of Nurse Randa's oil on the post of my bed, speaking in fading puffs against the tang of the metal.

Which, naturally, made me horny. And that's pretty much when you came in. Ah, me.

...I really cannot see the point of persisting in this insipid journal. How shall I dazzle the ages tomorrow -- a report on my breakfast? Idiocy.


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