PLEASE NOTE: This story contains some adult situations, some mild violence, and one scene of graphic violence. Reader discretion is advised.
I THINK, THEREFORE
Do you remember the first moment of your life?
I do, but then most people suffer from the inherent deficits of infancy when they are born, whereas I had the special indignity and privilege of being thirty-six years old at the time.
I admit that I did soil myself. In this respect I am on par with a lot of other people, though my insides were not stuffed with healthy black meconium but rather the still spicy remains of a sumptuous meal enjoyed shortly before the beginning of my life.
And to be entirely truthful the first first moment is hazy. I was lost in a world of synaesthetic fire, pawing out at the incoherent jangle of sudden perceptive barf that stabbed in at the amorphous horror that was quickly coalescing into my sense of self.
I was released into a blazing light, and then I fell down.
It was bliss. There was a world of smooth coolness firmly beneath me and a world of warm, blurry fog above me. I felt very peaceful. I could have lived a life splayed out like that, seeing nothing and understanding none of what I heard -- currents of air, chirping birds, approaching footfalls, shouts of alarm. It was all a wondrous symphony of inexplicable and awesome stimuli, now that I'd managed to throttle the input a little by lying face down.
That's when the apes came. They rolled me over and wiggled their lips at me while they grunted. I thought it was beautiful and magical.
With the benefit of hindsight I recognize now that they were people, just like me. They were my fellow travellers. They had rushed over because I had collapsed as soon as I stepped out of the gate. What they wanted to know was, "Are you okay?"
In reply I smiled serenely and reached out to touch their sparkly, wet-looking eyes. Funny monkeys!
"I think he shat himself," concluded somebody.
There I was, not two minutes old, lying on the polished floor of the travel terminal, a crowd of cooing strangers gathering around me, their periphery being pushed aside by concerned authorities and their minions. I was the subject of some excitement. That much was clear even to me as I drooled and hummed, dazzled by the sun.
An auspicious start, wouldn't you say?
That was five weeks ago now. This morning the nurses brought me a cupcake with five little candles jammed into it, and sang me a silly song. "Happy Birthday, Simon!" they cheered. "You're five weeks old!"
I blew out the candles with all the aplomb and dignity the situation warranted. "And yet I don't feel a day over a month," I said. "The secret is eating your greens."
We all had a good chuckle. They're an easy laugh, at the hospital. Nice people.
Doctor Pent strode in after them, and made a bit of a show of thumbing through my chart and nodding to himself. Then he sat down on the end of my bed and put his hands in the pockets of his labcoat. He made small talk for a few minutes and then slipped out this diary. "Simon, I'd like you to start keeping a journal."
"I think it might help your memory."
"You mean I might remember everything again?"
"Well, I think it might address some of the issues we're still seeing with your short term retention. You've suffered a very unique kind of brain damage, Simon, and the entire structure of your memory has been rattled. It's not just the big picture, it's the details."
"I see," I said. "So this journal is to be a new facet of my treatment?"
"Not precisely," said Dr. Pent, shifting in his seat. "Frankly, we've done just about all we can do for you here. As soon as you feel up to it you're to be released. We've arranged transport back to your home where your family will meet you."
"Is that expensive?"
"Your insurance company is taking care of it."
After a moment he touched my sleeve. "Simon?"
I was staring out the windows across from the row of beds, watching birds flicker and twitter across the branches of a budding tree. "You must understand I have mixed feelings about all this," I said, chewing the inside of my lip. "This ward is all I know. My family are strangers from my point of view." I turned to him. "Isn't there some way I could recover my memory before meeting them?"
Dr. Pent sighed. "Simon, we've been over this. This isn't a matter of recovering your long-term memories -- they simply aren't there. I can't explain what happened to you when you crossed that gate, but I do know how to interpret crystal-clear brain tomography. As far as long term memory is concerned, you have the mind of a baby."
"Yet I recovered my speech!" I pointed out. "And I know things -- like what flowers are, and that you need to water them. I didn't learn that here. Doesn't that mean there's something there?"
"And yet you had to re-learn how to voluntarily control your bladder," said Dr. Pent heavily. "Five thousand years of medical science and the human brain continues to surprise us."
"Great," I grunted. "Do it up as a paper and transmit it to the journals."
He put his hand on my shoulder. "I know this is all very hard, Simon. But you have to trust me. There are people that care about you. They'll help you rediscover your life."
I snorted. "Makes you think, though."
"Is it really my life?"
Dr. Pent stood up slowly, and patted the diary on the bed. "Put it in the journal, Simon. Take the time you need to figure out what you must -- but don't make them wait forever."
I nodded. He gave me a tight little smile and walked out. I turned the diary over in my hands.
Hello, my name is Simon. Or so they tell me. I've lived my whole charmed life in a friendly ward in a white hospital by the delta. I don't know anything about anything, but everyone here is very understanding and the food is amazing. I'm talking to a blue plastic diary sitting in the palm of my hand, charged with the task of coming to terms with leaving this place to travel lightyears across space to assume a life I've never known.
How am I beholden to the man who lived that life?
Am I not a sovereign human being, capable of making my own decisions? I may be only five weeks old, but I'm an adult. I seldom wet my pants anymore, and with the help of the nurses I've learned to recognize the boundaries of personal space. To whom does my destiny belong, if not me?
Furthermore, this journal is stupid. Forget it.