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Science Fiction

Reality hit him like a splash of cold water in the face. The floodgates opened, abrupt consciousness threatened to drown him. He came to his senses, disoriented by his surroundings. He looked around. What had just happened? What had he been thinking about? Why did he feel weird, and why did he suddenly have a pounding headache?

He closed his eyes and rested his head on his hands. He couldn't understand why his brain felt so strange.

Just think, he told himself. It didn't seem so hard when he phrased it that way. Think.

My name is Newt. There, he had his name. But why had it been so hard to recall? Why did he have to put in a conscious effort to remember his own name? Had he been brainwashed? Had his memory been wiped? It didn't quite feel like that. It felt like he had just dozed off for a minute and woken up.

Where am I? That first question was easy enough to answer. Newt opened his eyes and looked around. He was in a bustling coffee shop. He was sitting at a small table by himself, next to a floor to ceiling window that spanned the entire length of the wall. On the other side of the glass, people hurried along the sidewalks, dodging each other and the occasional blockage. Cars inched along the road in traffic, and skyscrapers pierced the clear blue sky. New York City. He didn't know how he recognized it, but it felt familiar. It felt like home.

He turned his gaze now to the objects sitting on the table in front of him. The cup of coffee caught his eye first. He took a sip of the still-warm liquid. It tasted good. I like coffee. It was a comforting thought. It was such a small part of him, trivial, really. But it shaped him, it defined him. It reminded him a bit about who he was, and any fragment of direction is worth something to the lost.

He placed the coffee cup back on the table, next to a computer. The laptop was open to a blank document. He wondered why the document was blank, but that was a question he could deal with later. An answer that would come with time.

He had answered his first question. He knew where he was. Now, what was I doing before I woke up? How did I get here?

The longer he thought, the easier it was to remember. Some moments were vivid, some were hazier.

He remembered laying in bed, staring at the ceiling after he woke up. He couldn't recall what he had been thinking about. After that, he remembered watching tv, though he couldn't remember what show had been playing.

He remembered getting on the subway, walking from the underground station to the coffee shop. He remembered talking to the cashier at the shop, picking up his coffee from the counter. He remembered sitting down at the table and opening his computer. In his mind, the document that popped up had a few sentences on it. The person in his mind deleted the words on the page, and that was it.

Plenty of odd things stuck out about the events that had transpired in his memory. He didn't seem like the type of person to watch tv in the morning, so why had he? Furthermore, it seemed like he had traveled from his apartment to the coffee shop to open his computer and stare at a blank document, which was odd. Why would he take the trip just to delete some writing? That didn't make sense. And then there was the timing. Based on how much memory he could reach, it should have been late morning, early afternoon at the latest. But he checked the watch on his wrist, and it read 6:42.

Things were getting more and more suspicious by the second. In a situation where he felt so disoriented and out of place, Newt did the only thing he could think to do. He did what felt normal. What would I do? It was a weird question to ask, and an even weirder question to think about.

He glanced at the computer in front of him. Just placing his fingers on the keys felt natural. I like writing. He started typing. Why do I like writing? He decided it didn't matter what he typed, as long as he was doing what he felt he would normally do. I like writing because I enjoy translating life experiences into words.

The natural feeling of his fingers on the keyboard calmed his jumpy nerves. After typing a few sentences, he stopped. It was now 7pm. Newt figured he should head home, even if he didn't totally know where home was. Closing his computer and cleaning up his stuff, he got up from the table he was sitting at. He tucked his computer into the backpack at his feet and slung it over his shoulder.

For some reason unbeknownst to him, he felt compelled to approach the counter on his way out of the shop. There was no line at the counter, so the barista was staring at her phone.

"Hey," Newt said, approaching the counter. He rested his mostly-empty coffee cup on the table. The barista looked up from her phone. "Nice weather, huh?" He gestured to the window, where the low sun was scattering beams of golden light across the room.

The barista looked bored. "Yeah, I guess."

Newt was a bit put out by her rudeness. "Well, have a nice day."

"Yeah, whatever."

Newt left the shop and headed towards the subway station. As he was walking, he realized that he had left his coffee cup on the counter. He decided it wasn't worth worrying about, someone was bound to throw it away for him.

He walked down the sidewalk, passing people moving at different paces. Some were pushing their way through the crowds like their lives depended on it, some were moving at a snail's pace. Newt had been bumped into three times by the time he had walked two blocks to the subway station. Not a single one of those people had stopped or said anything, they had just kept walking. Good old New York, he thought. It felt familiar, comfortable, yet he couldn't shake the feeling that something was off.

As he walked down the stairs, Newt dug through his backpack. he found a wallet, his wallet, in the front pocket. He opened it and found a subway transit card. He swiped the card and boarded a train.

Why had he forgotten his coffee on the counter? Newt thought about it while the subway jerked back and forth, starting and stopping frequently. He didn't think he was the forgetful type. Then again, with all the weird things that had occurred in the coffee shop, anything was possible.

Of course, it could have all been a fluke. Maybe he had just dozed off and forgotten where he was for a minute. Nothing to worry about. After all, he had been able to recall what he had done in the morning without a problem. Maybe it was nothing. Maybe he was overreacting.

He got off the subway. He knew which stop to get off, but he couldn't remember why he knew. It was just second nature. He went up the stairs and resurfaced again into New York City. He walked a few blocks, first turning right, the left. He trusted his instincts. His mind knew what it was doing.

The sun was getting lower in the sky. Soon, it would disappear behind the tall buildings that made up the city skyline. It's summer. The sun sets later. It was common knowledge, something everyone should naturally know, but he couldn't get used to the information coming to his brain out of the blue.

Newt went into an apartment building. The doorman seemed to recognize him, he gave a friendly nod. He called the elevator and ascended to the fourth floor. From there, he found a set of keys in his backpack and unlocked the door to apartment 4D.

He sat down on the couch and turned on the tv. His favorite show happened to be on, so he watched television for half an hour.

After the show ended, he got up and got ready for bed.

Newt found himself lying in bed, under the blanket. He stared blankly at the ceiling. He wanted to fall asleep, but he couldn't. What happened to me in that coffee shop? Why have I been feeling so weird today?

He retraced the events of the day. He had spent a while lying in bed after waking up, staring at the ceiling just as he was doing now. He had watched tv before leaving his apartment, and after coming back as well. He had taken the subway to the coffee shop and taken it back to the apartment. He had talked to the barista, picked up his coffee, talked to the barista, left his coffee. Something odd was going on, but he couldn't pinpoint exactly what.

He fell asleep wondering what weird phenomenon could be occurring, and why he had to be the victim.

Newt woke up disoriented with a curious headache. It was the same familiar sensation he had felt the day before. After all, he was in bed, not…

He couldn’t remember where he had experienced that weird feeling. He remembered feeling the unusual sensation of trying to take in the world all at once. He remembered there had been something off about yesterday. He remembered falling asleep so close to an answer, but he couldn’t remember what that solution actually was. 

What did I do yesterday? He couldn’t recall before he voiced the question, but once he formulated the words in his mind, the memories started trickling in. 

He had woken up, gotten ready for the day, and left his apartment. He had taken the subway two stops to work. Between the subway station and work, he had stopped by a coffee shop to buy some breakfast. He had been at work from 9 to 4, with a lunch break from 12 to 12:45. After work, he had gone to the convenience store for toothpaste. He had gone home, made dinner, watched his favorite tv show, and gone to bed.

Some moments in his memory were vivid and clear, with minute details. Other parts were only vaguely familiar, foggy and unreliable.

Newt looked at the alarm clock next to his bed. It was 8:20 already. If he didn’t stop worrying about the past and start focusing on the present, he was going to be late for work. He got out of bed and went to brush his teeth.

He squeezed the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube and dropped the empty tube in the trash can. Wait, he paused to think. Didn’t I just get toothpaste from the store yesterday? He opened every drawer in his bathroom, but there was no sign of the new tube of toothpaste he had supposedly bought the day before. He put on his watch, catching another glance of the time, and stopped worrying.

Newt left his apartment and walked to the subway station. 

He rode the subway for two stops, then got off. Just like yesterday, a nagging voice in his mind reminded him. But he rode the subway two stops every day, it was his daily commute to work. It made sense that it would be the same.

A block before his office building, Newt visited a coffee shop for breakfast. He ordered coffee and fruit. Didn’t you come here for breakfast yesterday? He asked himself as he walked and ate. You always come here for breakfast, he tried to convince himself. After all, the interior felt familiar and the barista seemed to recognize him. But something was still off.

Newt was at work from 9 till 12 without anything weird happening. During his lunch break, he walked to the grocery store across the street to buy a deli sandwich. The taste of the sandwich was familiar. Did I eat this yesterday? He pushed the thought from his mind. His brain was convinced something weird was happening, but he might have just been overreacting to the entire situation.

As he was leaving the grocery store, the tv in the corner showing the news caught his eye. Wait a minute… it’s Monday? But I came to work yesterday, didn’t I? That really bothered him, more than anything else that had happened that day. How could he have remembered going to work when he definitely didn’t go to work?

He went back to work and tried to concentrate, but he couldn’t. How could my memory be this faulty? He wondered.

At 4pm, he left work, still preoccupied by the weird events of the day. As he passed a convenience store on the walk to the subway, he remembered that he was out of toothpaste. He went inside and purchased some. That’s odd. I thought I bought toothpaste yesterday.

With a heightened sense of awareness, Newt took the subway back to his apartment, made himself dinner, and switched on the tv. His favorite show was on again.

“Hey, Clyde,” said one character, named Johnny.

“What?” Clyde replied.

“Why did the bicycle collapse?” asked Johnny.

Clyde sighed resentfully. In the most monotonous voice imaginable, he asked, “I don’t know Johnny. Why did the bicycle collapse?”

“Because it was two tired!” Johnny exclaimed, doubling over with laughter.

Newt sat straight up on his couch. He had heard that joke before.

Yesterday, when he had been watching tv. But they wouldn’t air the same episode two days in a row. That wouldn’t make sense. What is going on?

He finished the rest of his show with anxious alertness.

As he stared at the ceiling above his bed, Newt racked his brain for any sort of solution. Why had the events he remembered to have happened yesterday actually turned out to be his present proceedings? Why did he remember going to work yesterday when yesterday was Sunday? Why did it seem like he had acted identically two days in a row? And if what he thought he was remembering wasn’t yesterday, what had happened yesterday?

Why is what I’m remembering to be yesterday actually what’s going to happen to me today? 

He came to a crazy conclusion. In any normal situation, he would have discounted the idea as ridiculous and impossible, but he couldn’t disregard anything at this point.

What if… instead of remembering his past, he was remembering his future? The longer he thought about it, the more it seemed to perfectly fit his present dilemma. But if his hypothesis was correct, he would wake up the next day without any knowledge of what he had just deduced. Which meant he would have to figure out the explanation every single day. He would be stuck in an endless loop… forever.

Newt closed his eyes. The situation was almost too much to take in. This was supposed to be something that happened to a character in a story he was writing, not to him. 

For the time being, he would savor the moments in which he could remember, and not foresee. He would only have the gift of hindsight for rare moments.

So he looked back on the only day he would be able to remember in this frame of memory. It had seemed like an average day, but in retrospect, it was remarkable. Every day from this day on would be a remarkable one, he just wouldn’t know it.

October 10, 2020 03:38

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1 comment

Claire Huettl
16:10 Oct 20, 2020



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