Pain, and dark, and that was all, for how long, he didn’t know. But that was all he knew.
Suddenly, more pain and lack of darkness jarred him out of his restless sleep. He tried to open his eyes, but they didn’t want to. One eye opened, but couldn’t see very well yet without its partner. The other eye felt stiff, like something was holding it shut. He reached up his hand and felt it. It was stuck shut somehow, but with a little rubbing with the back of his hand, he managed to open it. He shook his head, because his eyes still wouldn’t focus on anything.
Finally, the white and blurry began to soften, than sharpen, and he saw trees. He was in a forest. So I know trees, too. He concluded. And, I must know eyes and hands and how to use them.
He was sore, and his head began to ache terribly all of a sudden. The fog in his eyes may have cleared, but his mind was taking a moment.
Finally, the pain went away a little, and he got to his feet. I know feet, and legs, too…and ground. I know much more than pain and dark. He began to walk slowly, and found that he couldn’t walk very well if he thought about it. Maybe I haven’t always known walking. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to think about. Maybe. He sighed, covering his face with his hands, and looked around, but nothing changed. Trees and ground and trees. He shook his head again, wishing he knew where he was. And that made him think again, so he had to sit down against a tree and rest his mind a while.
I’m thirsty. He suddenly thought. How did he know that? I need water. Water. What was water? Did he know that? He must know it, somewhere in his mind, or he wouldn’t be able to know he needed it. Water was first. Thinking was second. He headed off in a random direction, hoping he would find water, and wondering what he knew. And how he knew it.
It got very dark, almost as dark as the dark he knew before, but somehow, he knew it was night, and he wasn’t afraid of it. He lay down in a soft, cool bed of grass, feeling safe and frightened at the same time. It took a while, but finally he fell into what he knew was sleep.
He woke up some time later as bright, morning light flooded over him from the east. He was even thirstier now, and began searching for water again. Soon, he left the trees that all looked the same and was met with a brilliant blue sky lined with cheerful white clouds, moving slowly along in the breeze. It was a long time later, when exhausted, thirsty, and starving, he found water; a river. He knelt down on the bank and lifted water to his lips in his hands again and again till his thirst was quenched.
Then he went on again. The more he walked, the more he was amazed at how much he knew. His mind slowly cleared, but somehow, he knew there were holes. Why had he been lying on the ground?
Suddenly, he remembered his trouble opening his left eye, and he felt it again, and the area around it. When he took his hand away, there was dried blood crumbled against his wrist. He swallowed, and slowly felt his way up his face until he reached his brow and winced. He didn’t know how deep or serious a gash it was, but that’s where the blood was from. It was bleeding a little, but he was still following the river, so he stopped once more and let the cold water soothe the mysterious wound.
He went on again, and found more and more he knew the longer he went on, thinking and walking and taking in everything around him. It was all new, and beautiful, like he’d never seen grass or wildflowers before, but he had to have, somehow, even if only in a dream, because right away he knew what they were. He rested by the river which seemed endlessly long, and looked about for food. Hunger had made food something he remembered quite well, and hoped he’d be able to find some before it got dark again. He found a small bush of berries that kept him from going completely hungry, but he still wished for more. Weary from hunger and confusion, he finally lay down to rest once more, hoping the morning would bring answers.
Another morning came, and he got to his feet and went on walking again, yet another day without food. He drank from the river which still led him onward. Soon he was miles and miles from the place he’d woken that first morning. The day grew hotter than the two days before, and soon he walked beneath the trees that lined the river to keep cool. The river was inviting, and occasionally he’d stop and splash some of the cool water over his head. He found a few more berry bushes and loaded his hands with them.
He wished it would get dark and cool again, but he kept walking. Eventually, he concluded, he would come across something that would give him answers, and that was something worth moving towards.
Yet another night came and went, and he woke the same way he had the last two mornings, going to the river to drink and hoping more food would come his way. He walked and walked farther than he had the morning before, stopping fewer times and getting more and more confused.
He walked and walked, and gradually he forgot to even think about anything but walking. His thoughts repeated over and over. Where am I going? Where am I? Why do I know what I know? He grew frustrated with thought and walking, and began to run, because that, at least, would be something new. Running was a thought process in and of itself. He rested frequently but briefly. Resting meant time to think.
Finally, when sun was deep in the west, he came to what seemed like the end of the river. It spilled over a large cluster of rocks into a pool below and there it stopped and grew still. It flowed up onto the bank, slowly lapping on the bank.
Exhausted, he stumbled down the hill and dropped to his knees at the water’s edge to drink. That was when he saw something. He leapt back a little. “Ah!” he cried. And that made him stop, confused.
The noise. It had come from …him.
I have a voice, he suddenly thought. “I can speak,” he said aloud in wonder.
Then, he remembered what he’d seen, and he slowly peered over the water. There it was. He knew, somehow, it was a person. He frowned, and the person in the water frowned. He backed away a little, and so did it. Confused, he put his hand out to touch it, but it did the same.
He studied this thing. It had a face. It had eyes, a mouth, and a nose. It also had a fresh scar at the top of its forehead. It looked confused, just as he did, and whatever he did, it copied him.
“Who are you?” he asked.
The thing’s mouth moved and formed the exact same words, but it didn’t seem to make a sound. It blinked just as he did, and then it copied his puzzled, wondering face exactly. He slowly reached toward it, but it reached toward him. He pulled his hand away and tried again, but the same thing happened. Finally, he reached forward very suddenly and touched…water.
There was nothing there…but water. And the rippling image of a face.
Sudden realization made a chill run down his spine. “It’s me,” he said. “It’s me,”
And that wouldn’t have been such a bad thing to realize. It gave him an answer to what was carrying his thoughts and voice and feelings around. It was a new, amazing discovery.
What scared him, what made his heart start pounding, was that he didn’t know the face. It was indeed him, there was no doubt about that, but he didn’t know who it was. Who he was.
“I just don’t know.” he murmured. “This is who I am, and I have no idea who it is.”
The more he faced it head on, the more it hurt deep within his heart. Because he’d lost the one thing he hadn’t even known he had. Memory he was sure was missing; pieces to a puzzle of confusion; answers; his ability to think the mystery out; to discover.
All discoveries had come to an end, because this was it. This was what he’d been looking for, but it was exactly what was missing.