As far as mornings are concerned, this particular one wasn't so bad… once you overlooked the splitting headache, the whirling nausea and the loud screaming of my alarm clock apparently hell-bent on waking the entire neighborhood. Aside from those things, everything was just peachy.
For a few seconds I only grumbled, but then I actually woke up properly and I hit the -OFF- button with a swipe of hand fueled by the righteous fury of the sleep-deprived. After a long yawn I groggily sat up in my bed. Then I promptly fell back down with a soft thud.
“Goddammit, what the hell was I doing last night...?” I mumbled while cradling my aching skull, and for a moment or two I almost felt relieved that I couldn't remember a thing. At least it spared me from the unavoidable onslaught of shame I knew was coming the moment my memory decided to start working properly, though I could make some educated guesses. It probably involved booze, and based on the white-hot axe of agony planted between by lobes, a lot of it.
In the end, I just lay on my bed for the next five or so minutes. I buried my steadily pounding head deep into the wildflower-scented pillows and delighted in whatever momentary relief a stray cynical thought could offer. After a while, conscious thought finally reasserted itself into the driving seat of my grey matter and my mind’s eye was soon flashing with warning lights like my brain was a misshapen Christmas tree.
I somehow managed to get myself back into a sitting position through sheer force of bafflement and began to gently massage my temples, if only to keep the steadily rising sense of panic in my belly in check. I couldn't remember a thing. Not just last night, I couldn't remember the day; or the previous one if we were at that. I could feel the cold sweat trickling down my back like miniature icebergs.
“What the...?” I mumbled and then shuddered as the aforementioned panic began worming its way into my head all the same. Whatever happened to me had to be drastic, as for a split-second I had a hard time recognizing my own voice. That was a sensation I could definitely live without ever experiencing. It might not have been the creepiest thing ever, but it was definitely up there.
I forcefully shook my head and sprang to my feet.
“Right, I must still be half asleep or something. Let's wait about half an hour, then I will have a reason to panic.”
Following that rationale I decided to get a cold shower. If that wouldn’t wake me up, nothing would. I threw the door of my room open and rushed towards the bathroom. I quickly realized, to my considerable relief, that I could find my way around the spacious family home with the utmost familiarity. If nothing else, my functional memory seemed to be in order.
With that in mind I opened the bathroom door and looked at my surroundings. A modest shower, a sink and a shiny white washing machine tucked away in the corner surrounded by blue tiled walls and floor. It was a simple and fairly typical setup as far as bathrooms were concerned but at the same time it felt distinctly odd. I let my brain wrack itself over the source of the abnormality while I peeled myself out of my fancy blue pajamas. By the way, I do mean fancy. It seemed like they were made of silk or something just as smooth and they fit me like they were tailor-made. Hell, they might as well have been as far as I knew (which, considering my memory-deficit, wasn’t particularly far). They also seemed brand new, a tiny bit of observation that finally jogged the rusted cogs of my brain just as I was about to take off my briefs.
It just didn’t feel lived-in. The bathroom, I mean, not my briefs. Everything was squeaky clean. No, what is even cleaner than ‘squeaky’? Whatever it was, the bathroom was it. There wasn’t even a speck of dust on the floor or a hint of scaling on the sink. It was like a daily cleaned room of a high-class hotel suite. It simply didn’t agree with the homey atmosphere of the rest of the house. Or… did it?
I pulled my underpants back up and tentatively glanced back into the corridor from whence I came. It wasn’t as readily apparent, but on closer inspection it appeared to be just as disturbingly clean as the bathroom… Oh well, there must be some kind of rational explanation for that; I concluded with much less of a solid logical foundation than I would have liked. But back on track; I was supposed to get a cold shower. I could think all about the quality of the house service once I shook off my current confusion over the huge empty plot where my memories were supposed to be.
So I stepped through the door again, turned right and then promptly froze dead on my tracks. There was a face I didn’t recognize staring back at me from the mirror over the sink. It was that of a teenager, a high-school student at best. His face was reasonably attractive, though I am the first to admit I am not a good judge of these things, and the short brown bed-hair on his head was sticking out in so many different and altogether unlikely directions it brought an Escher-painting to mind. I instinctively reached to the top of my scalp to comb through it with my fingers, only to freeze mid-motion as the realization finally sank in: It was me. Me. I was looking at my own bloody reflection and I couldn’t even recognize it!
I stood there dumbfounded for the next couple of seconds. “All right…” I finally muttered as I let my hand down. “I am going to freak out now…”
“Leonard Dunning,” I rolled the words around in my mouth as if tasting them. “Leonard… Dunning…”
It still felt strange even after several repetitions. The name was both familiar yet subtly wrong at the same time. Worst of all, it was my own. At least according to the student ID card in my hand, that is. I threw the piece of plastic onto the pile of related papers and documents and sighed as I wrung another glassful of cold water out of my wet hair with the fluffy blue towel draped over my shoulders.
After my initial discovery of my reflection I allowed myself four and a half minutes of freaking out, most of which I spent running around in the house screaming from the top of my lungs. It was a strangely liberating experience, I had to admit. Maybe I should do it from time to time just for kicks. But back to the point; after the initial existential crisis I somehow still had the presence of mind to force myself under the cold shower, which finally calmed me down and gave me a number of insights. First and foremost: Never take a cold shower ever again. Secondly: Especially never take a cold shower with your underwear on and without any spares at hand. Finally: If I had the time to panic, I might as well use that time more constructively.
So I did just that. First I proceeded to explore the entire house (after getting a dry set of undergarments, of course) and made a number of discoveries.
Discovery number one: It was a relatively spacious family home with two floors, three bedrooms, a living room, a pretty big kitchen, and the already explored bathroom. There was also a garage, but I couldn’t find the keys for it so I couldn’t say whether it contained any vehicles or not.
Discovery number two: I was completely alone in the house. I didn’t even need to check the rooms to conclude that, as there was no way anyone would have ignored my incoherent screaming, but I did so anyway just to be thorough. I couldn’t find any signs of anyone living here aside from me. The other bedrooms besides my own were also furnished and the beds were set, once again giving a certain high-class hotel vibe to the place, but there were no actual signs of habitation. On a side-note, I found a couple of enframed photographs in the living room, but none of them showed any actual people. In fact, they looked like stock photos someone found on Google and then slapped them into some fancy frames that were lying around.
Discovery number three: The fridge was stocked. Wieners, beans, sliced ham, fruit, extra-pasteurized milk, et cetera. It was like the residents were preparing for a zombie invasion. Hmm. Maybe that’s the reason why there was no one else around? They were eaten by zombies. Housemaid zombies that cleaned up afterwards. Elementary, my dear Watson.
Jokes aside, being reminded of the fridge made the soft grumbling of my stomach slightly more pronounced. I sighed wearily as I stood up, throwing the damp towel onto the arm of the sofa and proceeded to grab some light snacks and a bottle of coke before returning to the table with my papers.
Right, the papers. There were a few discoveries related to them as well, only one of which was my apparent name. Leonard Dunning; I repeated in my head again and I still couldn’t shake the sense of a distinct oddness out of the back of my skull. But moving on: I also discovered that I just turned seventeen, my blood type was AB negative, my apparently missing mother’s maiden name was Jane Doe and I was just starting my second year in high school. Speaking of which, I was apparently enrolled into Blue Cherry High, which sounded just as silly on second reading as it did on the first.
I also found some bank papers, according to which I had an account with over two and a half million Jen on it, with a monthly income of eighty thousand more apparently transferred from my missing father’s account. I would have been pretty happy about this if I knew anything about how much that money was worth. For now I guess I will pretend I am rich until proven otherwise. Woohoo.
My next target of interest was the calendar on the wall. According to it today was the first of September in the year 20XX. I would have probably been more surprised about the whole ‘20XX’ thing under normal circumstances, but for the moment I decided to just roll with it. I also glanced a little to the left without meaning to and laid my eyes upon the large grandfather-clock silently ticking away one second after the other. Looking at the time gave me a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach as it slowly sank in. It was 8:43… That meant… Holy shit, I was late!
I whirled around and my legs were ready to carry me away when my higher brain functions once again asserted themselves and I froze mid-stride. Wait just a minute... Where was I late from again?
I glanced between the calendar and the papers on the table and the answer quickly presented itself: school, of course. It was the first of September and that meant a new school year with all the studying, friendships, romances and other assorted bothers it implied. Which, as it happened, also covered all the things I didn’t feel like shouldering at the moment. I mean, I lost all my memories. I think that warrants cutting me some slack when it came to skipping a day or two. With that thought in mind I turned around and began walking towards the sofa. Unfortunately the moment my heel touched the floor a sudden headache assaulted my senses and my knees almost buckled over.
I began to curse and take another step, but to my shock and horror I found myself turning around against my will. I steeled myself and halted again only for the headache to nail another spike of agony into my hindbrain. My legs took another step and I could feel panic well up in the pit of my stomach. I had no idea what was going on, but even under the constant assault of the head-splitting anguish ravaging my senses I managed to put two and two together: Somehow my body was trying to get me to school, whether I consented or not. For a moment I felt defiant. Like hell I would obey some kind of disembodied urge just like that!
As if in reaction to my thoughts, a new spike of searing torment flashed between my ears and I nearly fell to my knees. For what felt like an eternity I was completely lost in the waves of pain and had to grab hold of the wall not to collapse on the spot. This kind of pain wasn’t normal. It was in my head, but at the same time it felt like my entire body was hurting, as if my perception narrowed into a small ball that represented the entirety of me and it was set on fire while being pummeled by a sledgehammer.
Then, right as the pain was at its most intense, a brand new idea elbowed its way to the forefront of my stunned mind: Why did I want to avoid school again? As much bother as it could prove to be, getting into contact with other people might be my best bet figuring out what’s going on. Not to mention, what’s wrong with studying, friendships, romances and other assorted bothers anyways?
Nothing, I supposed. I closed my eyes and took a step, and before I knew it I was already climbing the stairs. By the time I reached the room where I woke up (my room, I supposed) the headache all but disappeared; instead it was replaced by an intoxicating fog covering my thoughts that not only masked any residual pain but made me slightly giddy. Probably the adrenaline, I surmised and I promptly swept it right under the proverbial rug in one of the dusty (and currently quite empty) recesses of my mind. I would think about it later, I decided; for now I should focus on getting my stuff together.
First off I needed clothes. I have already inspected my wardrobes when I was looking for dry underwear so I knew exactly where to find the uniforms. Yes, Blue Cherry High apparently had a uniform code. I took out a set and laid them onto my bed. It consisted of a white shirt, a dark grey vest with matching trousers, a khaki jacket and finally a black tie. While the color-choices were fairly unorthodox, overall it looked like a perfectly ordinary Japanese school uniform. Speaking of which, I was receiving my allowance in Jens too. Was I in Japan? It wasn’t exactly the same currency, but it was close, and school uniforms were a stereotypically Japanese thing, weren’t they? I ignored the small corner of my mind that complained about how I knew about the Japanese but not my own father’s name, but I promptly ignored it and congratulated myself on the deduction. It wasn’t perfect though. For example, if this was Japan, why did the new school year start in the autumn instead of the spring? Not to mention, I was fairly certain I wasn’t Asian.
I shook my head and exhaled sharply. Later. I will think about these things later. For now, let’s focus on getting my bearings and hauling my ass to school. There I will have the entire day to ponder about things.
With that in mind, I swiftly dressed myself, though finding socks proved to be a bit of a challenge. Who puts socks onto the top shelf in a wardrobe anyways? Bah. After getting clothed I grabbed my school-bag and headed for the entrance, only stopping by the living room to get my student ID and my wallet on the way. I left the papers lying on the table. Unless my unaccounted parents would happen to get back before me (which I sincerely doubted considering the state of the house) I would gather them up in the afternoon.
I got outside and locked the door behind me with practiced motions. Needless to say, I had no idea how I knew the key was in the side-pocket of my school bag, but before I knew it I already had it in my hand. I shook my head to chase away the fog dulling my thoughts. It didn’t really help so, in the end, I just shrugged and made sure the door was locked properly before slipping the key back into its place. With that, I turned around and took my first good look at the neighborhood.
My house… Well, the house where I woke up at the very least was one of several more or less identical buildings lining the street near an intersection. They were all white-walled, red-roofed family homes with only a small back-garden and their entrances opening almost directly to the sidewalk.
Speaking of sidewalks, the hilly street was eerily silent. Aside from the distant and strangely repetitive sounds of traffic with some ambient birdcalls sprinkled on top there was nothing else to hear. Or see, if we were at that. During my uneventful commute to Blue Cherry High I didn’t encounter a single soul. To be fair, it only took me about fifteen minutes on foot to reach the school gates and most of that was spent on backstreets and the occasional shortcut through a narrow alley between two buildings, but even then I should have seen someone.
I not only didn’t encounter a single person, but I also couldn’t find any signs of life; no cars, no pets… I couldn’t even find the birds from which the calls came from. I also couldn’t see any trash or dirt on the roadside. There weren’t even weeds in the cracks… or cracks if we were at that. Normally I might have not even noticed all this, but my prior experiences with the spotless house already primed me. The city management must have been filled with neat-freaks. Or… Hmmm…. Maybe my zombie maid hypothesis wasn’t so implausible after all?
Anyways, since there was nothing to see and no one to talk to, and especially since I had no idea where I was going and instead just let my legs carry me (they sure knew the way better than I did), I decided to rummage through my school bag to pass the time. There wasn’t much to see there either. A few notebooks. Pens and other assorted writing utensils. An overdue library book titled ‘Legends of the British Isles’ with a bookmark at King Arthur and his round table. Nothing to write home about.
My final find however was quite surprising. In fact it was so surprised I didn’t even recognize it for a moment. It was a phone. One of those ‘dumb-phones’, and an older model at that. The kind you could use to clobber someone over the head with without even denting them. The phone, that is. I wouldn’t guarantee the same about the person’s skull. After some fiddling I figured out how to turn off the key lock (just who the hell thought pressing down asterisk for three seconds and then pressing the off button was a reasonable idea anyway?) I immediately looked up my contact list. It was a bit of a disappointment.
It contained only one name: Joshua Bernstein. I would have expected at least a few more numbers, like my parents’. My call history wasn’t much more diverse either; aside of this Joshua fellow, there was only one other call from a number I obviously didn’t recognize. Maybe that was one of my parents’ numbers after all? I decided to try giving it a call later. For now I simply saved it in my phone book under the name ‘Mystery Number X’.
It was around this time that I reached the school gates. I slid the phone back into my bag and took a good look at Blue Cherry High. It was a fairly underwhelming sight, to be honest; a large blocky building painted in a fairly neutral shade of blue with large white windowsills. To no one’s surprise, it also looked just as pristine as everything else I have encountered since I woke up.
I was still observing its flat, fenced roof (no doubt one of those stereotypical ones where students would go during lunch-breaks to engage in embarrassing romantic escapades) when I was startled by the clear ringing of a bell. Was the first period already over? While I mused on that question I was subsequently startled one more time as the metal gate in front of me soundlessly slid aside. I blinked at the now open gate and tentatively looked around the high white brick wall. My eyes met with those of a guy about my age. He wore the same uniform as I did except for the bright red armband around his upper arm. While his build was fairly balanced, his face was gaunt and his small spectacles made his eyes look sunken.
Our eyes met, but he only gave me a blank look, resulting in the two of us just silently staring at each other for a while. Whatever he thought of my late arrival was beyond my ability to decipher. In fact, he seemed to be completely still like a wax statue. I wasn’t even sure he was breathing. At last I gave him a small nod and, to my relief, he returned the gesture, though with a small but noticeable delay. Whether it was because of consideration or confusion, I didn’t know and didn’t care. Instead I muttered some half-hearted greetings under my breath and picked up the pace towards the main entrance.
On the other side of the wide glass gates I found another staple of the Japanese education system, the shoe-lockers. Maybe I was in Japan after all. That would probably make me a transfer student, I surmised. It would actually explain a few things, though still not enough to make any sense of my situation. While pondering so my body already took me to my locker and I put on the dark grey indoor shoes without a hitch. To nobody’s surprise the shoes were brand new as well.
I locked up my street shoes and headed for the classroom. I had no idea which one, so I just set my legs cruising and hoped for the best. Hey, it worked out for me this far, didn’t it? At this point I wasn’t even surprised anymore, but the interior of the school building was just as immaculate as, well, everything else. By the time I reached the third floor the other students have begun to pour out of the classrooms, filling the hallways with dull steps.
Looking around pretty much torpedoed my idea of this being Japan. While some of the faces looking back at me were kinda-sorta Asian, the vast majority seemed to have an amalgamation of features that made it impossible to get any more specific than ‘light-skinned’ when talking about them. Well, saying that they were ‘looking back at me’ might have been a bit of an overstatement as well. While everyone present acted like high-school students on break, there was something odd about them. Their eyes seemed to be glazed over and even when talking to someone right beside them, usually pursuing some shallow topic such as the weather, their gazes were distant and unfocused. The pinnacle of the oddness was how if I looked at any one of them for too long it felt like they weren’t really ‘there’, only occupying space. It was crazy. Or maybe I was the crazy one for even thinking something like that. Neither option thrilled me.
But back to the others… Another peculiar detail I quickly noticed was the lack of different body-types. Boys generally had wide shoulders and were about a head taller than girls. They, on the other hand, were fairly short, slim and moderately pretty. No, scratch the ‘moderately’ part. There wasn’t a single unattractive one among them.
On second thought though; if one were to take any one of them out of the context and looked at them on their own, everyone was quite attractive. Once you threw them back into the mix however they all looked like a single monotonous blob of pure indistinctiveness. I wasn’t even sure I could tell them apart if I had to.
Furthermore, while they didn’t look exactly the same, I couldn’t help but feel that the variation was only superficial. Everyone was moderately handsome, as if cut from the same mold and slightly tweaked afterward. If not for the different hair-styles and colors (which also included a number of technicolor shades as well, though I found that way less surprising than I probably should have) I would have sworn this was a school dedicated to the education of centuplets.
I wondered how I could fit this new pile of information into my zombie maid apocalypse hypothesis when my train of thought was interrupted by my legs abruptly halting in front of a classroom. ‘3-C’, or at least that’s what the sign said over the open sliding door. I finally arrived. I took a deep breath to steel myself and stepped through. The classroom was just like everything else this far; clean, unfamiliar and filled with odd people. Also, no memories were triggered either. I let out my breath in a disappointed sigh and took a closer look while still standing under the doorframe.
There was not much to say about the interior of the classroom. Rows of desks, a blackboard, a pair of storage lockers at the back… the usual stuff. There wasn’t much to say about my apparent classmates either. They looked only slightly less as uniform and vacant than everyone else, but that didn’t say much. My eyes circled around the room and I honestly felt like I could see through them. That is, until my eye met with ‘his’.
He was sitting at his desk by the windows at the far side of the room and he was looking right at me. I gave him a quizzical look in response and he suddenly smiled; the first overt human expression I have witnessed since I could remember, aka ‘since this morning’. It made me shiver with what I thought was a mix of excitement and relief. Before I even knew it my legs were taking me towards him and this time I didn’t mind their independent action.
“Yo!” He raised a hand in a lazy wave and flashed a knowing grin. “You’ve got balls skipping the entrance ceremony like that.”
He had a carefree expression and somehow his eyes felt extremely ‘alive’ compared to the dull gazes I have encountered thus far. His short dark hair was in stark contrast of his pale white skin, yet he didn’t seem sickly. If anything he looked just the opposite, a human-shaped bundle of health and energy. He wasn’t wearing his khaki jacket and the flaps of his shirt were poking out under his gray vest in what seemed like less of a result of lazy dressing and more of a deliberate fashion choice.
“I… had some problems in the morning,” I replied tentatively and his face tensed visibly upon hearing my words. Did I know him? Judging by his tone I probably did…
“Are you all right?” He sounded concerned. Crap, that somehow made me feel guilty.
“Nah,” I answered with forced nonchalance as I reflexively threw my bag onto the desk next to his. Huh, so this was my seat. I suppose that explains how I knew him. After some consideration, I added, “Just a mild case of retrograde amnesia.”
His face went blank for a moment and he let out a tired sigh.
“And here I was almost worried for a moment,” He grumbled. “You shouldn’t joke about things like that.”
“I’m not,” I protested hastily. Now that I thought about it, breaching the subject like that really did sound like a joke. What was I thinking?
“Sure,” He rolled his eyes. “A friendly advice though; don’t try that excuse on Angie. She was mad enough at you already for skipping, don’t throw more fuel onto the fire.”
“Angie?” If I sounded confused, it was probably because I was. I really couldn’t follow what he was saying. He sighed again.
“Do you really want to keep going at it? Fine, be my guest, just let me get out of the crossfire when the time comes, okay? You already got me into hot water today; I don’t want to get any deeper. How was I supposed to know where you were anyway?” He kept grumbling until he noticed my expression, at which point he gave me an inquisitive look. I used the momentary silence to interject a simple question.
“Can I ask you just one thing?”
“Shoot,” He shrugged.
“Who are you?”
His eyes opened wide as saucers and he finally sat straight and looked me in the eyes. “You are joking, right?” I shook my head as solemnly as I could manage under the circumstances and his face went even paler than it already was by default. “You cannot be serious… It’s me, Joshua!” The moment the words left his mouth his eyes narrowed in an instant and he sent me a suspicious squint. “Wait, this isn’t one of your dumb pranks, is it?”
“The ones you are pulling all the time.”
“I wouldn’t know, I can’t remember a thing.”
He paused for a second and gave me another dubious look.
“You are really freaking me out right now. I swear to god, if you are just pulling my leg, I will punch you.”
I rolled my eyes. “I’m not a… PC?” I paused and I could feel my brows knit. “Wait, what?”
That made no sense. What was the connection between him punching me and being a computer? Suddenly a small tugging sensation in a corner of my mind got the words stuck in my throat. There was an idea embedded in that tug, something about lost memories and RAM and computers and hitting them to fix them and… That made no bloody sense! That was not even a joke, just a complete non-sequitur! Why the hell would I—?
I let out an involuntary hiss. The morning’s headache was back with a vengeance. A searing spike of agony shot through my skull and I had to grab my desk to stop myself from toppling over. I grit my teeth and tried to straighten my posture but it only made my legs shake even harder.
“Hey! Are you okay?” Joshua’s voice sounded distant. My brain was too busy processing the pain to bother formulating an answer. I forcefully inhaled and exhaled at a steady pace, trying to focus on the cadence of my breath instead of the pain. It helped a little, but in the end it was just a drop in the ocean. The headache, along with the urge to say something completely dumb kept getting stronger and stronger and with it my field of vision slowly narrowed into a grey tunnel.
Then there was a new thought in my head, popping out of the pain-filled mist like a flash of lightning. Just say it. Just go along with whatever compels you. Like in the morning. Going to school made the pain go away. Just say your piece and it will be all over.
Right, that would work, I conceded. I could try and explain it later. Rationalize it. I swallowed hard and in a moment of weakness I opened my mouth… but then another thought rose to the surface of my conscious mind like a giant bubble and it popped with a thundering roar of indignation.
Like hell I was going to go along! No bleeding voice in my head is going to make me do something that dumb, even if that voice is mine! With a growl I snapped my mouth shut and a sharp pain blew some of the haze over my mind away, leaving me with a taste of iron in my mouth. It looked like I bit my tongue. I hastily forced my teeth apart and blinked. Joshua was still in his seat and looking concerned. Looking him in the eye made the headache surge again so I averted my gaze and shook my head.
“I have to get out of here…” I muttered with an aching tongue and he reached after me, but his words didn’t register. I could feel a faint tug on the back of my jacket but then I got loose and bolted out of the classroom, each step feeling like I was wading through deep water. I ran down the hallway and students left and right turned hollow gazes in my direction only to return to whatever they were doing beforehand the moment I was gone.
I ran and ran without direction. There was a wheezing sound in my ears and it took me a while to realize it was my own breathing. My legs felt heavy and the pain in my head kept a beat with my frantically thumping heart. By this point the initial compelling thoughts were gone, only to be replaced by an urge to return to the classroom before the next lesson started. “Screw that,” I muttered half-deliriously as I ran down another hallway. I completely lost my sense of direction and I was running for the sake of running at this point.
I needed a place. Somewhere safe. Away from the classroom, the headache and the crazy thoughts that were mine but somehow weren’t. A place like… “The roof,” I gasped for air as I stopped by the stairwell and leaned against the wall for a moment. Yes, the roof would do. There would be no one there until lunch break. I could think there without being bothered. Maybe the fresh air would help too.
I gathered my strength and began scaling the stairs two steps at a time. My legs felt weak and the pain in my head made my stomach twist uncomfortably. I pushed the sensations away and continued climbing. The roof, I just had to get to the roof… And that was when I slipped. In retrospect running up the stairs while barely being able to stand was probably not the brightest idea. I could feel my center of gravity slowly shifting backwards, but my feverish mind was still too preoccupied with thoughts of getting to the roof to register the danger. Then, just as I finally realized the direness of the situation, my vision blurred and I felt like I was floating in the air.
I didn’t even have time to be surprised though, as a blink of an eye later my back hit the hard concrete tiles and drove the breath out of me, which I barely noticed as my head also hit the floor right after that. For the first time in my life I understood what people meant when they said they saw stars. The violent bursts of light dancing on my eyelids made me forget even the pain and nausea for a moment, but it didn’t last. Instead, now I hurt even more than before.
I groaned loudly and instinctively cradled my head in my arms, which only made the nausea even worse. Now that I had a comparison, I had to conclude that my headache was unnaturally sharp to the point it made the recent blunt force trauma feel positively diffused and manageable. For some time, which might have been as long as several minutes, I kept lying on the ground in a fetal position while holding my head until the nausea subsided. Then I noticed something. There was a faint wind. Not only that, I could feel the sun on my skin.
It took some effort to get my eyes open and the sight in front of me was baffling. I was on the roof. The surprise and confusion probably amounted for a small adrenaline burst, as the pain momentarily abated and I could sit up with relative ease and gaze at the morning skyline. There was no question about it; I was indeed on the roof.
But how? Last I remembered I was running up the stairs and the next moment I was here. I shook my head, which in retrospect turned out to be a bad idea as it almost made me empty my stomach. Great, it seemed like I not only had retrograde amnesia but I also had empty spots in recent memories as well. That, or the recent head trauma made me blank out.
After sitting still for a few more minutes I carefully rose to my feet. I felt unsteady and weak and my legs were burning. I was more or less right in the middle of the roof, so I decided to move to one of the benches by the nearest corner and plopped down with a weary sigh.
The headache didn’t seem to go away any time soon, but at least it didn’t seem to get worse either. How’s that for good news? Thankfully whatever urge was tugging at my strings was mostly absent, though I couldn’t help but find myself thinking about going back to the classroom at regular intervals. I sighed again and gazed at the clouds for a few more minutes.
There wasn’t much else I could do. I originally wanted to get to the roof to avoid the classroom and to give me some space to think. The former was accomplished all right, but I simply couldn’t think straight with the pain pulsing in my brain and coating everything in a red haze. I rubbed my forehead and then the lump on the back of my head, which had swollen considerably. It didn’t help.
But then again, why was I suffering like this. If only I went back to the classroom…
Right, there is no point to this. I wanted to think but it’s impossible to do that now. I should just go back to the classroom…
Classes are about to start anyway, I shouldn’t skip any more classes or she will be mad at me…
“I don’t even know who ‘she’ is!”
I should just get going and…
My legs were about to move on their own again, but in the last second I hijacked their movement, grabbed hold of the fence with both hands and smashed my forehead against the thick metal pole upholding it. There was a loud, echoing thud. I couldn’t tell whether it came from the pole or from my head, but either way, it momentarily filled my vision with sparks again and cleared my mind of the involuntary thoughts. The pain receded like water being tossed aside by an impact, but then it came flooding back with a vengeance.
“No!” I yelled accompanied by another headbutt. “I am not going anywhere! I had enough of this headache, I had enough of these thoughts and I had enough of this entire amnesia bullshit!” I kept shouting, punctuating my words with headbutts over and over. It was strange. The more my forehead hurt and my eyes flared, the more the headache receded. It was as if it was being pushed back one strike at a time.
Finally, on my last hit, something broke. I didn’t know how, but I just knew it. At first I was afraid it might have been my skull, but the crackling, screeching sound filling my ears was more like a trailer full of champagne glasses being trampled under the threads of a bulldozer. The world shifted around me, formless colors danced in my vision and it took all my remaining willpower to hold onto the fence, my fingers turning purple with the effort. I only distantly registered that I began emptying my stomach. The acid burning my throat was only a mild discomfort.
At last, just as the pain and nausea and noise and lights reached a crescendo, it all stopped. It was so sudden and unexpected that I reeled back from the fence and fell on my butt. The urge and the headache were both gone, only to be replaced by a different headache and a welling nausea.
My forehead hurt like hell and the back of my head was still sore but it all felt quite pleasant compared to my previous experiences. My fingers, on the other hand, felt much more uncomfortable. The way I held onto the fence etched deep marks into them and they were turning purple, sending jolts of pain through my hands any time I moved them.
“Well, that’s going to get more uncomfortable later. Joy.”
That said I still fished out a handkerchief from my jacket’s inner pocket (I think it came with the uniform) and wiped my mouth. Since I only had some snacks for breakfast, the puddle in the corner of the roof consisted entirely of stomach acid, and the concrete tiles already drank up most of it. That’s one thing off my mind at least.
I put the hankie away and tried to get up, but my legs felt like they were made of jelly. I strained for a while, but in the end, I only managed to get myself queasy again. In retrospect, I wouldn’t have been surprised if I gave myself a concussion with that little stunt with the fence post. Go figure.
I decided to lie down for a while, at least until the world stopped spinning. The concrete was surprisingly warm and, most importantly, solid. I never knew firm ground could be this reassuring. So, there I was, skipping class on the roof under the warm autumn sun. And the best part of it? There were no pesky random thoughts trying to convince me to go. It was pure bliss.
I could hear the distant ringing of the bell signifying the start of the second period, and I couldn’t care less. I felt warm and giddy and my eyelids were made of lead… I closed them and the nausea immediately receded. Ah. I think I should stay like this for a while; I decided. Just for a few more seconds…