This was originally written for the Blogbattler’s January 2020 writing prompt ‘bucket’. In the end, I went with a different story as I had several challenges with this one. It started as an exercise in free writing I’ll let you try and guess which bits those were 😉 Anyway, hopefully, I’ve managed to edit it into something that might make sense. It’s still a little bit odd, even by my standards. (~1000 words)
Memories so sweet, so rich. Memories sustain me in the darkness. The night may be long, but my pantry is full.
Light, too bright, even for closed eyes. Sounds too loud, footsteps, sliding metal bolts. The groan of a heavy door. A breeze as a shadow flicks past. Activity, indistinct, but for a clang of metal. Neck hairs bristle at a breath too close. A muted scream, through lips that refuse to move. Crusted eyes open to an exploding supernova. The sting of tape ripped from dry lips. The long gasping breath, past a desert-lost tongue. Coughing, wheezing as instinct ignites, as the body remembers.
Finally, fresh memories.
Where am I? We were at a restaurant. Where is she? I’m trying to move, but I’m bound to a chair. A chair designed to restrain. It’s a cell! I’m in a cell. How did I get here? I can just make out the walls beyond a blindingly bright spotlight. I’m not alone.
“Ah good, you’re awake.”
I try to speak, but my mouth is dry, my throat painfully parched. How long have I been here?
“Hang on,” says a voice. I can hear movement. “I’m sorry, I’m a terrible host.”
A tall figure steps out of the shadows, dressed in a white lab coat. He offers me a glass of water, holds it to my lips, and I drink it down thirstily. “There you go. Better?” asks the stranger before disappearing back into shadow. He returns a moment later with a chair and places it opposite. Sits down and picks some lint from his pants. I watch the thread drop to the ground. Enough of this shit! “What the hell is going on? Who are you? Where’s my wife?”
“Calm now,” says the stranger, holding up a hand. “Shh.”
I’m seething, but there’s something about his tone, a terrible calmness that makes me pause.
“Very good,” the stranger smiles. “I’ll answer your questions directly, but I need you to understand, they’ll be the only questions I’ll be answering. You will need to remain calm.”
I nod. Anything for some answers.
“To your first question. I’m afraid Mr Roberts you have something you shouldn’t.”
“Whatever it is, you can have it,” I bumble.
“Naturally. I know if you could give it to me, you would. That’s what makes this so difficult.”
What is he talking about?
“To your second question, My name is Dr Darrow. I’m a specialist.”
“A specialist in what?” I growl.
“Tsk Tsk,” says Darrow, waving a finger. “Now, to your third question.”
Standing up, he straightens his lab coat. “I want you to know, Mr Roberts. I’m not a monster, I do have some sympathy for your predicament. If there was any other way…” He walks up to the chair, spins me around. There’s a table, sitting upon it an upended metal bucket. He steps around the table. “Just for once, I wish there was an easier way.”
“I don’t understand! I -”
“I’m so sorry,” says Darrow, giving me a pitiful smile. With that, he removes the bucket.
It takes too long for me to comprehend what I’m looking at it. It’s impossible, unthinkable. My world comes crashing down. My eyes are wide, but I don’t want to see. All I can hear is the blood rushing through my ears. My heart is pounding, nausea washes over me, a sickening wave. From the table, dead eyes stare back at me. My wife! The rush of blood is replaced by a high-pitched scream. My scream.
My sweet memories burn. The spark from one lighting the next. All lost in searing anguish. My pantry is ashes. All is poison to me. I cannot stay.
“Okay, steady,” says Darrow, leaning over me.
My hands are free and they wrap around his throat. “You monster!”
“She’s ok,” he gasps, struggling to break free. “Look!”
I look past him to the table. She’s smiling at me, winks as she ducks down through a hole in the table. As she stands, she’s carefully pulling dull contact lenses from her eyes. Throwing Darrow aside, I rush to embrace her, smell her. “Oh S…“ I can’t remember her name. I know her. She’s my wife, but I can’t even recall when we got married. There are fragments. I see her reflected in a shop window. A snowball fight in the snow. She’s laughing. I don’t know why. Everything is jumbled, crumbs. I stare into her familiar blue eyes. She’s no stranger. I love her but I don’t know her name, something starting with S. What is it? “I can’t -“
“It’s okay,” not Steph says. “You’re safe now.”
“I’m sorry,” says Darrow, putting a hand on my shoulder. “I’m sorry we had to put you through that. It was the only way to sour the milk, so to speak. We were almost too late.”
“Please, what’s going on? I don’t understand!”
“It was a parasite, honey!” not Susan says.
Darrow turns on the room lights. “A nasty one. A few more hours it’d have devoured all your memories.” Nodding to not Sarah. “You can thank your wife. If she hadn’t spotted it, got you to the hospital in time, well …”
“I don’t remember,” I cry, shaking my head.
Darrow picks up a vial. Within it, something wriggles. “It was a big bugger, well-fed. There will be some permanent memory loss, I’m afraid. This bug is greedy, targets synapses with the most connections. The important ones. You both understand what I’m saying? It may be difficult.”
Not Sofia holds a hand to my chin, turns my head to look at her. She smiles, it’s all there in her eyes. “It’ll be all right, Doctor. We’ll figure it out.”
I’m not so sure. “I d-don’t know your name!”
Not Scarlett puts a finger on my lips. “It’s doesn’t matter. You know how you feel.”
I do. I nod. Pull her close and weep for what I don’t remember in her eyes.
“The kids will be so happy to see you again.”