I can’t remember.
Try as I may, the slight, almost imaginative, presentiment of things being incorrect, keeps slipping from my grasp only to add to my throbbing migraine. I am the epitome of a blind man searching in the dark for a key possibly not even there. My eyes, although hefty as ever, cannot stop from broadening as my surroundings become lucid to my muddled judgment. I was strewn, as if thrown like a leftover sack, in a pile of pungent hay. Cobwebs nestled in nooks and crannies stuck in between sturdy crossbeams told me I am in a barn. Mustiness followed by undertones of the stuffy musk of animal fur gives the top of my nose an unwelcoming bothersome itch.
As the sunlight makes it first appearance through the small, barely effective cracks, the dim pallor barn is illuminated just enough for me to notice the shapes of wooden stalls. With a straining ear, I catch the faintest of nickers. From the slight tremble of my pudgy fingers I learn the first thing about myself; I am not a fan of horses. Yet I can’t shake the curiosity, almost yearning like, begging me to go put a face to the soft noise.
I stand, my body cracking until my ears ring. It was only then that I notice the clothes I sport; broadfall trousers, suspenders, and a black plain shirt. Call it intuition but I doubt I am the one that had picked out this clothing. Memory loss or not, these clothes looked as though stolen from a man in the early years. I turn my attention back to the horse; my eyes finally catch a glimpse of him. Its head hands curiously from the wooden door, ears perked to attention. He tilts his head as he catches my eyes with his own mahogany ones. He stands unmoving, not letting show even the most oblivious of twitch until I break away first. The dark bay gently, yet impatiently throws his head forward, as though to tell me I am moving to him too slowly. Sunlight settles on the white stripe marking his nose, allowing his face to look that of a younger, tender mare. He thrusts his head into the palm of my hand carefully, showing me I am not a foe but a friend. A peculiar sense of familiarity overcomes me, a deja vu of some sort but different… a second or third cousin maybe. Nonetheless, the young mare awakes memories from the back of mind, close enough to feel and dwell on but too far to relive in. The door’s tired hinges let out a soft moan, recapturing my conflicted thoughts.
“I see you’ve awoken. I’m terribly sorry about the lodge you’ve been given today, but it was either this or out in the cold.” It was too dark for me to make out anything other than her silhouette, but her voice, heavy with an accent that I could not recall, spoke with dulcet tones of cautiousness. My posture remains rigid, but I exhale the breath I am holding in.
The strong smell of burning wood fills the room, and not a moment later was the room granted with a warm illumination. The first thing I noticed was her attire; she was dressed in a plain, modest dress, keeping others oblivious to what could be under. It fell in a straight limp to the floor, while the sleeves were long and puffy. Not an inch of skin, apart from her delicate face, was shown. Her hair too was a mystery; a thick lump covered by a black prayer.
Where had I awoken?
“Dear man do tell me, has your memory been restored?” I was too far away to tell the color of her eyes, but the plumpness of her pale pink lips stood to attention.
“I.. uh.. the” I couldn’t speak! My throat is clogged with words, yet none can pass my chapped lips. I shook my head, pointing to my dry throat.
“Oh heavens! You poor thing, I completely forgot you haven’t drank in over forty-eight hours! Stay here while I go fetch you a cup of water.” She scurried away, leaving me once again alone in the depths of my thoughts and the trusting mare.
It wasn’t long until she came back, one hand carrying the torch and the other a small cup of water. Like a savage in the desert, I swallowed the water in two gulps.
“Where am I?” I winced at the harsh, rasping tone of my voice.
“Just as yesterday and the day before, you’ve found yourself in a barn in northeast Ohio, about 78 miles south of Cleveland.” She flashed me a bright smile, matching the jolliness in her tone.
“Mhm… and how exactly did I end up here?” Gone was her smile and in place took a frown, home to a crease between her two thin eyebrows.
“I’d thought you’d have the answer to that, as well as to what it is your name is…? But it seems every day you wake up more clueless than the last” Her tone of voice matched the confusion muddling my brain.
I rummage through my thoughts and yet as intricate and tangled as they are, I can’t seem to find the simplest of answers; what my name is. I know my eyes are a dark brown, tilting more towards black, even without the aid of a mirror in the room. Followed by salt and pepper hair which I kept carefully groomed. But my name or how I awoke here was a complete enigma to me. What does she mean every other day? It was my first time waking up here.
“Well your hesitance has given me my answer. As it seems to have become our ritual, I will tell you the same as I have for the past few days. You stumbled half slumbered into our territory half past 10 around a week ago. From then on I’ve awoken you every day and asked you your name or how it is you’ve came here. But not once did you know. Much to my bafflement, it seems as though every time you wake up you’ve forgotten everything from the previous day, leaving me to repeat this same thing every day. Anyways, as I’ve told you before; for now you can settle here until, hopefully, you remember. Your name, as you do not remember, has been chosen by me; Samuel. It is a very common name here in our community. Now let’s start our day.” With that she turns swiftly, and I to fumble over my own feet and quickly scurry after her.
Either I was the demented fool here, or I had just landed myself straight into a madhouse, with no other option but to follow.
I wasn’t expecting the boisterous streets of New York, but neither was I expecting this. Before my eyes was nature at its most lavish. For miles that keep on stretching, to which I faintly recall overcrowded streets and abundant traffic, was neatly trimmed grass and tall, teetering pine trees. There was only one long road, as though an enlarged sidewalk, but not one car was to be seen. Instead a family dressed in old fashioned church clothes walked hand in hand, and not too far behind was a trusty mare trotting with a carriage behind it. Towering skyscrapers were nowhere to be seen, only a couple barns here and there, and if squinting hard enough, a few loitering houses.
Full of bewilderment, I spun to face the girl whose name I had not yet acquainted myself with. Dressed as she was she didn’t look even a hair odd from this place.
“What is all this? Where has everything gone?” She looked at me strangely, as though she’d never heard concerns of where it is she lives.
“I’m not sure what you mean… nothing has left or been replaced. You ask this every day, why I cannot understand.” Then like a complete whirlpool, her eyes started to gleam and all her confusion left to be replaced with excitement, “You’re from the city aren’t you?!”
“I’m from a city that I know, but where I don’t recall.” I continue to probe at my migraine, hoping it would give me my answers.
“How is it? Is the air as gross as the returnees’ state? Are the people as rude as they tell? And the clothes, is it true they show skin? What about the food? Is an obsession with McDonalds a real thing?” She chucked question after question with such rapidity I’m shocked she doesn’t stumble over her words.
“Slow down, wait what is your name?”
“Well Rosalie, you speak as though it is a whole other world. Why have you not gone to a visit as have these ‘returnees’ as you call them?” Her excitement only adds to my migraine.
“I have not yet been able to fulfill my rumspringa” Her eyes lowered, casted with obvious glum.
Rosalie must’ve noticed the confusion etched onto my face as she then clarified, “I continue to forget you don’t remember my explanation from the times before. In an Amish community teenagers from the ages 16-21 can go out and experience the real world for around two years. I’m 19 but still haven’t had the chance to go. Anyways enough of this lollygagging, we must get on with the day. You can go and fetch the newspaper while I go prep for lunch.” And that is all she leaves me with as she hastens away, oblivious to the fact I know not where the newspapers are.
Ironically I found the stack nestled between the barn's rusted doors. The dark bay wasn’t to be heard this time. With no further tasks to complete I settle myself against the barn and start to flip through one of the frayed newspapers. My eyes were only fleeting between the lines and pictures but soon were caught by a picture of a man and the words ‘missing’ above him. Frown lines took place where a smile should be and his eyes seemed hard even through the thin paper. He was dressed in a crisp, plain business suit yet he stood out from the blurred people in the background.
“CEO of internationally successful brand ‘Submerged’ Charles David was reported missing little over a week ago. He was last seen leaving his Plaza Penthouse at 3:02 pm last Saturday. Since then he’s been absent from all work meetings and has not been heard or seen from relatives or close friends. We have been told by multiple sources that Mr. David stopped taken medication for his widely known Alzheimer case and has fled in some sort of mental break down. None of this of has yet to be confirmed so for now they are only rumors. If Mr. David is seen or heard from call either the authorities or our number below.
Until next print New Yorkers.”
Like with the horse, a slight feeling of reminiscence adds another layer to my migraine, for the sake of my sanity I could not recall how I knew Charles David.
Weeks passed this way, Samuel, as Rosalie had named him, would awake with no remembrance of the day before and each Friday he’d go to fetch the paper of the week. His migraine intensified each passing day, until the heaviness prevented from all activity. Each day apart from Friday, Samuel would lie in the barn close to the dark bay. Like a madman he would converse with him, inform him of the Deja-vu that continued to haunt him. As well as the familiarity he felt for the horse.
Samuel ran his hands through the mare’s coal body, flinching as his migraine became deafening.
“Charles it’s time to go home.” Who was there? Samuel spun around but not one pin of hay had moved neither had anyone come in.
“Charles, remember.” He was hallucinating. His migraine had driven him to mania. It is not possible for a nag to speak! The migraine overtook him.
Rosalie comes into the barn, one hand holding a cup and the other a dim light.
“Morning Samuel, how are you feeling today?”
“My name is Charles.”
That Friday ‘Samuel’ did not go to pick up the news, Rosalie did. She shifted through the pages until landing onto the one she knew would wound.
“It is a day to celebrate here in New York. At 4:05 am missing CEO Charles David self-submitted himself at the New York-Presbyterian University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell. No interviews or words from Mr. David himself have been spoken but we are to have more information in next week’s copy. Stay tuned New Yorkers; Charles David is back and surly soon to be booming.
Until next print New Yorkers”
Rosalie had become fond of the strange city man, and though he had fallen back into the real worlds grip, she wouldn’t shed one tear drip.
“Until rumspringa dear Samuel.”