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Waking up is not how he would describe this to someone. Whatever this is. Whatever this existing is.

And to whom would he describe it? To people? He knows there are people. He knows he’s on planet Earth.

How’d he get here, on the sidewalk, near an overhead bridge, near that immobile train over there? Upon other tracks are more dead trains. All part of an abandoned rail yard.

Less than twenty feet to his left is a bus station.

There’s a large, open field over there. A city park. Did he come from there?

Those pinpointed instants, the ticks between those of a clock’s insides, when people talk to themselves, to reevaluate and catch up with themselves, if that’s possible. That’s what he needs.

He barely mumbles sounds to produce a verbal sentence that should resemble, “Was I like that?” to question his thought, envisioning himself standing straight, legs more than shoulder-width apart, head hanging low, chin-length hair a curtain around his face …

He wants to say, “Like a crackhead or heroin addict blitzed on a street corner,” but grunts a puff of air instead.

A siren in the distance. Nothing follows – no explosion or jets overhead. He understands, after about a minute, that it’s the city’s signal, the reminder, the clearing and testing of the siren’s mouth to let any able listener know that it’s the first Saturday of the month.

And he might as well check over some other basics: the year, his adult age, the current U.S. president, the first U.S. president, the country he’s in, his name …

Check, check, check, check, check, check …

No explanation. Not yet.

Yet, there’s some hope.

Movie scenario possibilities quickly project in his mind.

There’s that episode of “The Twilight Zone” where the guy can’t find anyone because he was part of a plug-in experiment. Which gets him to The Matrix plot. Or he could be a robot. (Before going on, he scratches and plucks skin from his knuckle to bleed. Robots have bled in movies, only, he chews the fat of his tongue long enough for the concept to seem unlikely.)

No, this isn’t a virtual reality. No elaborate deduction reasoning necessary. It just isn’t.

Was he drugged? Stood up or leaned against a wall? Didn’t he sort of appear or suddenly come to his senses less than a few minutes ago?

Is he like Daffy Duck in that Looney Tunes episode with the hand and pencil messing with his appearance and sanity?

No. Nothing here is animated. Computers or videogames or virtual-reality headsets (with fully sensory body gear) also doesn’t explain his situation. “This is really happening,” as Mia belts out in Rosemary’s Baby.

So far, the movie plots are not probable. Possible, but he moves on anyhow. Because he has amnesia. That’s the simple idea. The theme. The complication. The point of his story. Multiple times a year, an action or noir-thriller comes out about amnesia. He’s living proof, apparently, of the importance of such a tale. The ingeniousness of his journey, however, is knowing everything except for how he got where he is. If that’s not unique, then it’s a Kafkaesque reality. Only, he’s not okay with the circumstances. He’d like to know why he’s here, right now, inside this moment at all.

In his head, more conversationally, he asks (no one) the name of the movie where the man voluntarily deletes his own memories. If unable to make new memories or move forward, abiding by unmade memories, what is the man’s purpose?

Perhaps, he’s not part of an experiment but a carefully calculated procedure performed by a professional. Is that the same as The Matrix plot or the tactics of the Batman villain who controls minds?

Has he undergone some type of time lapse or been subjected to a form of miscalculation. From a brain lesion? From a time machine? Returned to Earth by an alien life form?

His mouth forms the movie title Total Recall just when he sees a person cross his path. She was twenty feet above him. He’s suddenly aware of the noises coming from the street. The businesses. Echoes within buildings. Yes, there are shadows from trees and clouds and buildings.

Joy fills him like a tank of gas. He’s recharged like a battery. These particular analogies and connections are practically literal and allow him to walk faster, up the handicap access ramp, past the painted arrow indicators like a racecar.

He can walk. He is fortunate.

He can run, in fact. He inhales the oxygen. He’s been breathing the entire time without will. There is life within him and all around him. Creations – natural and human-made.

And at the top of the ramp, the woman farther out and as beautiful as he’d initially believed, he sees the city. One-story stores. Skyscrapers hundreds of yards in the distance. Cars and trucks and buses. A moving train a mile or so away.

Perhaps, he’s in Chicago. He’s seen the city in movies.

He knows movies. In addition to his recent experience with jogging and contemplating, he remembers how to differentiate between vehicles. He knows these are people. He is, perhaps, lost and momentarily confused. That’s all. It will come back. Like his ability to listen and be conscious of his breathing.

His memory gap will maybe never return. He will, however, exist. Why wouldn’t he?

The brick wall of this building, the elderly gentleman who brushes by – his jacket and boney shoulder sticking his chest – the boy who says, “Excuse me,” for the thin, old man – they’re all here. As real as ever. As before. As now.

Unlike a dream, he isn’t in a fantasy. Nothing is strange.

Unable to wish away or dismiss the hole in his memory, he returns to popping into space like a bubble in reverse. The idea of hypnotization isn’t quite the answer but maybe part of a combined explanation.

If he were dreaming, and guided, and opening his eyes – no, closing them.

And he effortlessly lowers his eyelids, mid-step. He seals shut the thin skin over his eyeballs. The black alters the sounds. They are not intensified but quieted.

They, of course, disappear just as simply as the city had appeared from the abandoned rail yard.

Opening his eyes, this time, makes sense. This is consciousness and an understanding of a false reality.

It was a dream. Like a bad book. Like a bad movie.

His heart beats differently and the feelings in his face are more exact. The legs – his legs – at a ninety-degree angle also fits the situation. The chair and the pressure of his body in it is normal. Closing his mouth is familiar. Warm drool quickly cools at the corner of his mouth.

Less than two seconds tick on the room’s clock as he revisits the scenario of the dream and visually absorbs the room. From second two to second three, his brain does the astonishing comprehension for which it’s made, and he identifies and understands this to be an office. Perhaps, a doctor’s office. Not a tax agency. And that isn’t a tax agent across from him.

Second three through most of four provides him with the understanding that a man is seated before him. They are both sitting. Twin chairs. Both he and this man are dressed business casual. Both were sleeping. The man before him is currently waking.

This may be an office for a doctor, but he knows in his soul, in the depths of his being, that this room is for therapy. Possibly hypnotism. Possibly the work of a professional psychiatrist.

Was there a movie with a cannibal psychiatrist?, he barely wonders, losing the memory.

Yes, he knows where he is and that the connection to the experience of the immobile train and city came from a memory and, most importantly, here.

The fifth second includes checking over the basics – the year, his adult age, the current U.S. president, the first U.S. president, the country he’s in, his name … check, check, check, check, check, check – a residual list from the hypnotic dream, or, whatever that was that came before this.

The waking man before him has now been awake a mere one-to-two seconds himself as he, the one with the nearly-six-second advantage, checks one more point: his profession.

Which of us is the psychiatrist?, he wonders.

If I am not running the spellbinding show, he questions, what do I do for a living? What are some of my leisure activities? What are my interests? What is my purpose?

He believes he used to ride a bike.

Maybe, he thinks, I’m just tired as the sleepy guest makes eye contact – as embarrassed and startled as his awkwardly, awake-advantaged acquaintance – and says, “I think that about does it,” and rises, overlapping the other who says, “I should be going.”

Simultaneously, both men unsteadily rise from their chairs and head for the door.

The men match once again when saying, “After you,” in unison.

Exiting the office and walking the halls is mesmerizing. He’s lost but able to continue and eventually leave at the opposite end of the building. Opposite from the other man.

The parking lot holds two cars. It is dusk.

He finds keys in his pants pocket. He reaches his car, assuming the other man must have also had his car’s logo on a keychain. Otherwise, he wouldn’t know which car was his.

Or was the other man not confused at all? Was he not also lost in time, waking up in a strange office, not remembering how he got here or to the space and time from before?

The man peers over the roof of his car at the man in the distance. Neither nod. The far-off man enters his vehicle and closes the door.

He does the same. Sitting in the silence of the car, he checks over the year, his adult age, the current U.S. president, the first U.S. president, the country he’s in, his …

Panicking, he opens his mouth, wanting to scream, “What’s my name?!” but doesn’t know how to speak and no longer remembers the definition of a vehicle, or can describe the car keys in his hand, or understand the purpose of a passenger seat, or comprehend sitting, or a bike or the point in being here or where here is …

The fellowman and the car from the parking lot have left him.

Dan Jones

Author Dan Jones

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