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The bookcase topples. Slowly at first, a wobble of uncertainty, before reaching a vital, critical point where gravity takes a hold, pulling it to the floor. Photographs, ornaments, fragments of a life, slide clumsily off, hitting the ground and smashing, before being crushed by the weight of the horizontal oak. A life swept away in a single moment.

Like a dream, or more appropriately, like waking from one. After the initial confusion has passed, after you discover what state your consciousness is currently inhabiting, when you think back to those heart warming scenarios experienced during the last eight hours in the land of nod. That sudden, gut-wrenching horror of realisation as the details and images filter away, that meaty sponge inside your skull holding the merest insignificance, the bulk washed away by the stream of morning light.
That dull ache throughout the day, the pain of certain knowledge that you were once a part of something great, but quite what you canít recall. Any attempt at hunting simply bogs you down in a marsh of confusion that are your untrustworthy memories. The elusive piece scuttles away, never to resurface from the gloomy depths.
Until, of course, you least want it to.

Imagine that feeling applied not to the unreal illusion of sleeping dreams, but to the tangible episode that comprises an entire life. To see familiar people and places, yet not know exactly why they seem so memorable. Did you happen to pass them on the street, a stranger whom your sole contact with is a fleeting glance before they vanish into memory, or are they a neighbour, a friend, a family member?
To happily saunter through life, and then awake one day to find that as the dreams slipped out, so to did you entire life. Your entire existence.

Reality merges with fact, merges with fiction, merges with fantasy. Memories, already distant, become questionable, debateable, doubtful. Did I really catch that frog in a jar when I was six? Did I read it in a book, watch it on TV, or hear it from a friend; whose face I canít picture, voice I canít hear, name I canít recall, but whose character I could easily describe. Assuming of course, that the description would be my own, and not simply memorised from some play or novel.

A whole personality shaped by unseen, unfelt, unheard, unknown experiences. Your entire life, lost, buried, sunk. Imagine that. I donít need to. If I can remember anything clearly, I can remember forgetting.

Forgetting what? The greatest human fear is now lurking in my past, in my mind. The unknown. What does that darkness store, coverÖhide? Even if I could, would I want to remember? What if Iím not who I think I am. What does that make me? Do I want to know my darkest secrets and biggest faults, failings, fallacies?
Do I dare learn about what I should already know, and in the process, learn to hate myself?
Uncovering things better left buried, things that were covered over and left for good reason.

Of course, how do I tell people this? Tell people Iíd rather not remember, that Iíd rather move on, and try and forget once more, forget that Iíve forgotten.
People will tell me things. People I donít know, donít care for. Iíve never met them. They possibly met someone similar to myself, same appearance, same voice, but it wasnít me. ďMeĒ became ďhimĒ as soon as I forgot, ďheĒ becoming a distant figure. With that in mind, how do I know what these strangers say is true? Iíve a whole past to rewrite; someone else may want to pen it for me.
Then again, maybe it was the past. The past, not my past. True only in the sense that it happened, itís fact, chiselled in stone history. Itís still only a half-truth however, it wasnít ďmeĒ who was involved; it was that shadowy damon, that one who arrived before me, yet always remains behind, out of sight. If only he could be lost in a Peter Pan moment, trapped behind a window, visible, viewable, but separate.
In all these half-truths, half lies, how do I know what to believe? Too many people ready to give me a past, too many Wendyís ready to sew my shadow back on. Not necessarily the right shadow. A million years of wars, lies and plots burnt into race memory show how trustworthy we really are. Race memory is never forgotten.

That bookcase, that catalogue of my life, with its frozen moments and sentimental knick-knacks; still lies tipped over. All those fragments from a life, those fragments of the jigsaw, handed to me by people who I thought knew the whole picture. That photo of me in my youth- taken on the beach at sunset; I havenít been there, those werenít my parents; just a handy excuse for someone to buy my confidence, trading it for what I though was a piece of my life. Those glass animals, now mere shards, belonged to my sister. Apparently. What sister? If only Iíd known my trust was worth buying, maybe I wouldíve been more cynical. But who was I to reject these ďfavoursĒ? These ďgood peopleĒ handing me back my forgotten heirlooms.

Now of course I know the past. The truth. If only I didnít. If only Iíd simply moved away, away from the unknown memories. If only I hadnít woken up at all. Once you know your past you canít escape it. Feelings, emotions, thoughts, and prejudices all flow back. Whether you want them to or not. All yours; all thought, said and done by you. Whether you believe in them now or not. If only I couldíve escaped my past, escaped the blame, the hurt, the guilt.

Some say the ďgreatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didnít existĒ. That may well be true. I know, however, that the hardest trick the Devil ever attempted was to convince himself he hadnít existed.

Today I bought a new bookcase. Self-assembly.




Comments

The following comments are for "Life After Happiness"
by N. R. Henderson

Re: Very Cool
Thanks for your kind words; this was (obviously) the first thing I've posted, so it's always nice to get positive feedback.

As for the genre, I wasn't entirely sure were to put it, but (and this probably wasn't explained properly in the story) it is supposed to be a story- about someone (the narrator) who has lost their memory (not exactly the most original premise, is it? :)) and is describing to the reader how it felt.

As for the last line, I think you're right, it doesn't really fit with the tone. My justification for it was that the bookcase was supposed to be a symbol of the narrator's "new" life which people had built up for him, and the "self-assembley" (as in a self-assembley bookcase that you'd buy from somewhere liek IKEA) line was supposed to show how he's started a new life, one which he built up from scrath himself.

( Posted by: N. R. Henderson [Member] On: March 26, 2002 )

I like it
I really liked it. I thought that you made strong use of analogies such as waking from a dream, the bookcase and maybe best of all, Wendy sowing Peter Pan's shadow back on.

Some of your generalizations were too sentimental.

I don't think the last line was so bad. It could be improved. There's little more important than the last line, which is the first thing the reader remembers of your story.

( Posted by: Seanspacey [Member] On: April 8, 2002 )

More Clarity
This a pretty strong piece, but it would have been stronger if it had been clearer what the central metaphor as about. As Stephen King once said "eventually you have to show the audience the rubber monster." You have to let the audence in on the deal--what the story is about. Even so this was good. The description of the book case is wonderful, very powerful and all in all I liked it.

Susan

( Posted by: susanb55 [Member] On: October 25, 2003 )





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