Ralph woke up to the routine sound of his alarm clock. He groaned and threw himself out of bed onto the floor. He brushed his teeth, changed into his school uniform and ran downstairs.
‘Mom, can I…” He began. His mom looked at him, her face twisting into a mix of shock and fear, and let out a scream louder than any Ralph had ever heard before.
“Who are you and why are you in this house?” she yelled.
“Mom… this isn’t funny,” Ralph replied.
“Is this a joke to you? Answer my questions!”
“Uh, earth to Mom, I’m your son, Ralph Corvo.” Ralph said anxiously.
“We have never had a son and I don’t know who Ralph Corvo is, so you have 5 seconds to get out of this house before I call the cops!’ she shrieked as she ran at him with a large wooden spoon. Ralph grabbed his backpack off of the kitchen table and bolted out of the door before she could hit him.
He ran until he got to the bus stop where he noticed the bus pulling away. That’s weird, he thought, The bus never leaves until everyone is on it, unless a person is sick or excused from riding the bus. As the exhaust dissipated and the fumes followed, Ralph noticed someone sitting down at the bench that marked the bus stop. As he approached, he recognized the figure by her loud sobs as Haley Barlow, a girl that rode on his bus. Haley had always been very quiet, very fragile, and easy to break, so when she was having a bad morning or someone said something, even the smallest thing to her that she didn't like, Ralph had grown accustomed to hearing her ear-drum breaking wails. Impossibly, the sobs were louder than ever. Curious as to what the cause of her tantrum was, he walked up and sat down next to her. Immediately the sobs stopped.
She looked him right in the eye and said, “Who are you?.” Why is everyone pretending they don't know me, Ralph thought.
“Haley, it’s Ralph. I sit behind you on the bus. What’s wrong?” he asked, and patted her on the back to comfort her.
After a moment and a sniffle, she said, “Oh yeah. Ralph. That’s right. Sorry.”
Weird, he thought. He decided to give it one last try. He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and called his best friend Marshall who was probably at school by now. Come on Marshall, pick up the phone! he thought grinding his teeth together and waiting for the beeps to cease at the sound of Marshall’s voice.
Finally came a response, “Hello? Who is this?”
Ralph felt a wave of relief, “Oh thank god Marshall, what’s going on? No one knows who I am anymore. Please…”
Marshall abruptly cut him off, “Calm down. Now, who is this?”
“This isn’t a joke! I, Ralph Corvo, your best friend, woke up this morning and no one knows who I am. I need your help.” Ralph responded angrily.
After a moment of silence came Marshall’s answer, “Listen buddy, I don’t have a best friend named Ralph. In fact, I have never had a friend named Ralph. Anyways, I’m going to class now, so bye.” Ralph heard Marshall’s phone hang up. He let out a long groan and thrusted his phone back into his pocket. Ralph froze. He thought his mom was pranking him and the fact that Haley temporarily forgot who he was, was also weird. But now with Marshall saying he never had a friend named Ralph, Ralph knew something was horribly wrong. He felt nauseous and he had to close his eyes to stop himself from falling over. He wanted to scream and cry and punch things until they were normal. Suddenly he felt an unpleasant calmness.
Then it hit him: He wasn’t Ralph Corvo anymore.
He sat down and took it all in. Overwhelmed by everything he broke down and began to cry.
“What’s wrong with you?” came Haley’s voice, who was apparently over her little fit. Ralph didn’t feel in the mood to talk about anything so he just ignored her. Haley continued, “Fine, I’ll tell you what happened to me. I woke up this morning and I was late so my parents had already left. I had to run here, but then I missed the bus. My parents are going to kill me. Your turn.”
“No one remembers me,” Ralph muttered.
Haley laughed and said, “What do you mean?”
“My mom doesn’t know who I am, you forgot me for a second, and the same with my best friend. I don’t know what’s happening.” Ralph told her. Just then a car pulled up and stopped right in front of them. The front window rolled down and the face of an old man with white hair popped out.
“How come you kids aren’t at school? I bet you missed the bus,” he chuckled, “I remember when my kids did that. Almost every other day.”
Haley shot straight up and ran towards the car. “Mr. Townsend!” she exclaimed, turning to Ralph, “He’s my neighbor.”
A confused look came across Mr. Townsend’s face. “Young lady,” he began, “My name is Mr.Townsend but I don’t think we are neighbors. You must be mistaking me for someone else.”
“Yeah we are, my parents Paula and Richard live right next to you and your wife on Atkins Drive.”
“I know Paula and Richard, he said, “But they have never had a kid.” Ralph felt his gut sinking. He tried to look away before she realized it but he wasn’t fast enough. Their eyes met for a moment and he knew right away that she realized what was happening.
“It can’t be…” she said, almost whispering.
“Well… I’ve got to go to work now,” Mr Townsend said, and pulled away. Ralph saw him mutter things to himself as he drove away. He was sure it was about he and Haley being crazy. Oh no, Haley! he thought, If she can’t handle missing the bus, how will she handle this?” He looked up and saw her crumpled on the ground, convulsing as the unmistakable sobs began again.
“Does this mean…?” she began and then faltered, overcome with another round of crying.
“I think so,” Ralph said quietly. Ralph let her calm down while he thought of what to do. I don’t know what to do next, he realized, Without knowing what is going on, I can’t really figure out what to do to fix it. Also, we probably won’t get any help from other people because they don't know who we are and they’ll think we’re just crazy.
He thought for a while and once the sounds of Haley slowed into deep, calm breaths, he said, “You okay?”
Haley sniffled and murmured, “I guess so. I’m just…I’m just so confused. It’s so weird. I don’t think it could possibly be a joke.” Ralph couldn’t agree more.
“Something is seriously wrong,” he said, “And we need to fix it.”
After some talking, they decided to head over to the police station. It was a block away from Haley’s house so afterwards they could go there to rest. When they got there they told the secretary sitting in at the front desk that they needed to talk to an officer to see if they could find anything that would help them. When she asked what the help was needed for and they explained, they got the answer they feared of getting the most, and wanted the least.
“Gosh! You children expect me to believe something like that? It is not okay to come to a serious place like the police station and play a prank on us. Please leave and come back when you have a real issue.” She exclaimed after half-heartedly listening to their story, “Shoo! Go on!” With two heavy sighs Ralph and Haley left the building.
“Wow. That did not go the way I thought it would,” Ralph said glumly.
“What, did you expect them to push a button and have everything of back to normal?” Haley said sarcastically. The rest of the walk to Haley’s house was silent.
When they opened the door Haley’s mom, a retired waitress, stood at the sink, preparing a meal.
“Mom!” Haley cried and ran up to hug her. She had just wrapped her arms around her mom, but then quickly stopped.
“Wait! Don’t touch me! I’m cooking with onions and they’re all over me. If you touch them, your allergies will act up and you’ll be miserable.” her mom said.
“You…you…remember me?” Haley stammered.
“Of course I do silly, what kind of question is that? You’re my daughter!”
“Never mind, this is my friend Ralph,” Ralph waved, “We are going to go upstairs and…work on some school work.”
“Okay. Love you sweetie. Nice to meet you Ralph,” her mom replied as they ran upstairs, “Shout if you guys get hungry and I’ll make you a snack. Ralph and Haley were in Haley’s room by then. Haley fell back on the bed and sat there for a moment in shock. Ralph just sat in a rocking chair and said nothing.
“That was certainly weird!” Haley broke the silence.
“I know,” Ralph said shrugging.
“Wait a minute!Maybe this means my family will remember me!” Ralph said hopefully, “Let’s go to my house and see!” They agreed to bike back to his house and check. As they came to the bottom of the staircase, a man Ralph recognized as Haley’s dad from school events came through the front door.
He saw Haley and yelled, “Honey! Who is this girl in our house?” Haley ran up and hugged him as he said this. Once he finished, she quickly backed off shocked.
“Oh hey Haley,” he said out of nowhere.
“Why did you just ask who I was?” said Haley sounding hurt.
“I didn’t say anything. What’s wrong?” Haley just stuttered for a second and then told him that they were heading to Ralph’s house. Ralph was so confused he sat down on the steps to keep himself from freaking out. What just happened, he wondered, her dad didn’t recognize her at first, but a second later he did. What is going on!!! Why doesn’t anyone recognize me? He felt sick and jealous at the same time. Haley shook him out of his daze and they left the house.
As they biked to Ralph’s house, they didn’t talk. They both knew what the other was thinking and didn’t feel like talking about it. When they arrived at Ralph’’s they hopped off their bikes and dumped them on the driveway. Ralph raced up to the door and grabbed the knocker. he hesitated for a second and looked around him at his surroundings that he knew so well, but apparently, since that morning, didn’t know him back. The peeling black paint of the tree house his dad had built for him, the goldfish pond brimming with life, and the knocker, a wonderfully carved lion face. He had admired it as a kid. He would run his fingers along the metal hair as if he was petting his own pet lion. He snapped out of his little dream and let the knocker fall back down. It hit the door and released a roaring knock. He heard some shuffling in the house and his heart started beating twice as fast. He knew that it would be his sister opening the door, being the only one home, as her school was on a break. The knob twisted and let out a shriek of twisted metal.
The door swung open, his sister’s face popped out, studied them both, and before Ralph or Haley could say anything said, “No solicitors. Sorry.” Ralph opened his mouth to say something but the door slammed and he stopped. Astonished he turned around and sat down on the steps. Haley sat down next to him.
“I’m sorry Ralph.” Haley said.
“You don’t have to be,” Ralph replied with a surprising charm in his voice, “If the same thing happened to you, you know, being forgotten and stuff, and then everyone is starting to remember you again, than the same thing can happen to me. We just need to figure out what you did differently that I didn’t do.”
“You’re right! There is probably something that triggers them to remember us and we just need to find out exactly what it is and then do it.” Haley said excitedly.
They brainstormed all of the ideas that they could until they were interrupted by a car pulling into the driveway. Ralph recognized it immediately. He sprinted towards it. When the man got out and saw Ralph running at him he yelled and ran in the other direction. Ralph saw him whip out his cell phone, probably to call 911 to report a stranger running at him.
“Dad! Stop!” Ralph screamed. His dad stopped running and turned around for a second in confusion. This gave Ralph the opportunity to catch up.
In a rushed and confused voice his dad said,” You’re not m…” Ralph cut him off with a huge hug.
“Hey Ralph,” his dad said.
It hit Ralph like a train. He heard a click in his mind and it all fell into place. Pictures and events popped up in his mind faster than he could register them. He felt a wave of excitement rise up through him and escaped his mouth as a victorious yelp of glee. He raced back to Haley and tried to tell her his discovery. Everything came out like his mouth was a blender. A big mess.
“Wait!” Haley shouted over Ralph’s excited yelling, “Calm down and slow down. Then tell me what happened.”
Ralph took a deep breath an then started, “When I started chasing my dad he didn’t recognize me. But then when I grabbed him, all of sudden he knew who I was. I got it right at that moment. Think about it, what triggered your mom to remember you? It was when you hugged her! The same thing happened with your dad! And you too! You forgot who I was until I patted you on the back. It all makes sense now!” Haley smacked herself in the face.
“How did we miss that?” Haley said in disbelief.
“Who knows?” Ralph yelled, still excited from his discovery, “Let’s go test it!” He raced inside the house with Haley right behind. His sister was on the couch watching T.V. Ralph ran up and playfully punched her.
“Remember me now?” he said with a grin. He already knew the answer. He ran back outside laughing with glee.
As he ran out, heard her say, “Jeez, you’re so immature Ralph.” He couldn’t care less. He had his life back!
Haley spoke up, “Alright Ralph, I have to go get everyone to unforget me. Thanks for the help. Good luck!”
“You too,” Ralph replied. She waved and then grabbed her bike and turned away. She rode down the block.
All of a sudden the bike stopped. Haley called after him, “Stop by some time and give me that bike that you used back.”
Ralph responded, “If I don’t forget.”