I walked away from the fire as quickly as I could, my head a dimly swirling mixture of anger, embarrasment and grief. I felt like i knew no one else in the world, knew nothing of myself and I didn't know where to go. I had my ID back, but no keys, and no money. For a few brief bright moments I thought there might be some cash in the jacket. There wasn't. I tried to think of friends I could go see, but no names or faces came swimming up. It slowly became clear to me that not only could I not remember what happened during my episode, but that my life before that seemed vague and tenuous. I knew my name, where I lived. I thought I must surely know people, have friends, ex-girlfriends. It felt like I did, but I could recall no names, no faces. I felt very, very bad for myself.
So much so that I didn't think to open the envelope until after an overlong bout of self-pity and near-tears. The faintest spark of expectation in my chest, I bent the tabs holding the broad brown folder shut, and when i tipped the opened envelope towards my eye, I saw the friendly corner of a fifty dollar bill. The dollar was taped to a piece of neatly typed paper, which was itself taped to a smaller envelope. The paper was high-quality, making an almost musical noise as I took it in hand and read the words on it: Go get some food and a cup of coffee before opening the second envelope. Yours in Discordia, Harold.
As I read the name Harold I felt my whole being convulse slightly, and feelings stirred low in my gut like a plume of river bottom mud lifted by the dredge's blade. The name seemed to ring in my mind, increasing its share of my consciousness exponentially. But no face sprang up before my inner eye, no memory of familiar movement and sound, just a deep, deep disturbance that I could not put a name to, or a reason behind.
Presently, my stomach grew tired of all these headgames, and grumbled loudly and long, as if to say, "Forget woozy feelings and take the man's advice! We've got money - Feed Me Now!". I almost swooned from a sudden onset of utter hunger. Head up like an herbivore ready to dare the open plain, I scanned the streets around me for predators or food. Nothing hunting me that I could see. Suitable foilage? I craned my neck to the left and there it was - a shabby chinese joint. But its half-lit neon dragon beckoned to me warmly, a benign and noble creature returned from Nirvana to guide the lesser beings of this plane on to the true path of steaming dumpling duck sauce fried rice paradise.
For a period of time, I remember only a stream of impressions. tinkling door chimes, sailing slowly past open pans of a buffet's bounty, sliding into the booth with the split in the seat's skin, spilling soft stuffing that tickled my back as I sat. After that no visible or audible memory, just taste and delight.
I came to myself just as i burned my tongue drinking too-hot tea. The monster that had woken in my stomach was sleeping now. My chopstick hand ached and vague memories of many, many plates still circled in my head as I opened the smaller envelope. I breathed deeply and read:
Well, you're in it now, aren't you? I imagine you have your papers with you. Can you read them yet? Do you remember? Lori knew how to read them. I wonder if she taught you. If she did, I wonder if you'd remember. Do you, Thomas? Are you still Joshua Thomas, or is the Other already ascendent? When you ask yourself about yourself, think on this: A scientist prepares an experiment and observes it from beginning to end, seeking for success and excluding the rest of the world from his focus. But an artist prepares an experiment and releases it into the world, knowing that the world itself will tell him if his experiment is a success. Both seek a representation of truth, both cultivate the leap of intuition. Knowing this, think on yourself, and the silence that surrounds you. Which was it that made you, a scientist or an artist? Which are you yourself? When you remember, come to see me. For I have been in the wilderness, and I have prepared a place for you. You have no idea of your own value.
Yours in Discordia,
I sat back, the tiny tea cup falling out of my hand onto the scratched platic table. It wobbled twice, sharing its tea with the table below before settling. And then, like a gunshot inside my head, I remembered: A bare room, lit by a naked bulb hanging from the pocked ceiling. A woman is standing before a man who sits in a chair. His arms and legs are bound by ropes that cross behind the chair's back. Neither one of them is moving, nor is anything else in the room. The woman is immediately familiar to him, but he can recall no name for her. The man has a scraggly growth of beard, and sits with his head slightly cocked. An expression that is almost a smile hovers on his mouth, but leaves his wide open eyes untouched. With a lurch I realize that it's me in the chair. When did this happen? While I was gone? But if it did, how am I seeing it from the outside, and why do I look nothing like how I see myeslf in the mirror?. I suddenly realize that I can not feel my body, and with this realization my perspective shifts wildly around the room, showing me the same scene from countless angles sequentially, and then superimposed simultaneously. My soul shrinks from this onslaught of perception, but I am not afraid, and I imagine myself in a particular corner of the room. I don't know how I know to do this, but as I do, most of the views that had assaulted my mind dim out and I am left seeing in way that is not quite like normal sight, but which I can at least understand. The figures in the room suddenly begin to move and as they do I know two things with a deep certainty. I know that it is not me that is animating my body, but something else, something vast, something that has crammed the tiniest part of itself into my body and mind. It is the thing that had taken me, that always takes me when I go away. This scene must have been during my fugue. I knew this, and with the same certainty I knew the name of the woman who stood furious, before my tied-up dopplegaenger. This was Lori.