I saw my death flash before my eyes. I watched as the scorching flames encompassed my surroundings. The thick smell of smoke coated the inside of my throat and filled my lungs. The smell of burning flesh rose into the polluted air as I felt every part of my body incinerating. I fell to the floor feeling completely defeated as the monstrous flames grew stronger and more horrifying by the minute.
Every second I felt the agonizing pain as third to fourth degree burns permanently bruised my skin. I tried to scream at the top of my lungs, but no noise erupted from my burnt lips and infected lungs. Burnt to a crisp. All I could see was smoke taking the place of oxygen as the walls crumbled around me. My once tan skin now blackened as the heat devoured me entirely. With one last gasp of air, all life abandoned the remains of my dead body. Motionless. Lifeless.
I woke up in a cold sweat drenched from head to toe. My heart thumped quickly in my chest as panic flooded over me like a tsunami. I gasped for air the same way I did as I was being engulfed by the ferocious flames. I promptly sat up in a soaked bed trying desperately to calm my racing thoughts and pounding heart. My amber colored hair was saturated with body secretion. Sweat dripped slowly down my face as I regained consciousness. I then realized that I had absolutely no idea where I was.
The room looked as if it were a teenager’s bedroom with posters of boy bands plastered on the teal walls. Next to the bed sat a wooden desk with paper scattered on the surface. The people on the posters were strangers to me as was the room I was located in. This room couldn’t belong to me.
A woman entered the room with swiftness and concentration. She was a mystery to me as I tried to figure out how I knew her. I tried desperately to unlock the hidden keepsakes, but it was to no avail. She was a stranger to me.
“Naomi, you’re going to be late for school! Hurry up and get ready!” Naomi. What a lovely name. I couldn’t quite grasp that this was somehow my name as she stared at me waiting for some sort of response. I saw her eyes widen as she noticed my frightened expression and damp body stare back at her. “Honey, what’s wrong? Are you ok?” her tone transformed from aggravation to sympathetic as she quickly sat down next to me on my bed. I slowly scooted away from her terrified of what she was doing or who she even was. I felt completely lost.
“Get away from me!” was all I could muster as tears spilled down my cheeks, terror filling my words with emphasis.
“What do you mean, honey? It’s ok, I’m here for you,” she tried to place her hand on my shoulder, but I jerked away before she got the chance to make contact.
“Stop! I don’t know who you are,” as this sentence left my mouth, I saw all life fade from the woman’s eyes as confusion plastered her broken face. She stared deep into my soul as she tried to grasp the words that had come out of my mouth.
“Honey, it’s me,” she reached over again as I quickly got off of the bed. As I stood, so did the fearful woman. “I’m your mother, of course you remember me. Right?”
Mother. A word so confirming of her identity, yet she still felt like a stranger. I was supposed to remember her, but I still saw her as if I were meeting her for the first time. How could I not remember my own mother?
“I don’t remember you, I’m sorry. I don’t even know where I am.” I uttered through my shaky voice. A blanket of tears clouded my vision as small raindrops cascaded down my cheeks. I made a run for it out of the bedroom door, leading into more unfamiliar territory.
To my right was a prestigious kitchen decorated with chestnut cabinets as well as brilliantly sculpted tile creating the foundation of the room. To my left was an open living room with a dark brown leather couch placed precisely in the middle of the room with a matching colored lounge chair resting to the left of it. To the right of the couch, a cushioned recliner holding a daunting man was faced towards the large television hypnotizing his oblivious eyes. The dining room table sat near the kitchen in front of the tall window panes holding special places for people to enjoy meals together. If only I remembered who those places were for.
I darted past the living room, turned right, sprinted through the twists and turns of the kitchen, and eventually found my way to my escape from this foreign place. I heard the woman behind me screaming a random name loudly as she chased after me with shortness of breath.
I hurdled out of the door, the open garage allowing me to fully escape with little to no obstacles. I sprinted as fast as my legs could carry me as my lungs screamed for air. My weak calves burned as I used up every ounce of strength and energy I had to fuel the swift movements providing the getaway from the unknown.
I eventually lost the woman in my speedy escape and ran down the road until I reached what I hoped to be the end of the neighborhood. I now had to choose which path to take. As I looked both ways contemplating which path was best, my heart practically beat out of my chest and my body was sweating even more than before. Before I could begin running again, a loud ringing noise rattled my eardrums to the point of my whole body collapsing under the pressure.
My throat burned as loud, shrill screams left my mouth. My hands clasped tightly over my ringing ears hoping to ease the pain. Everything faded to black as my eyes tried to see past the darkness. Another memory.
I was sitting in the comforts of a living room I didn’t recognize. The cushioned seats supporting my body as I heard little children playing in front of me. After one glance, I knew those children were mine. Even though I couldn’t see their faces because they faced away from me, my mind told me they were mine.
They sat in front of the television with trucks and cars held tightly in their tiny infant hands. A kid’s show was displayed across the screen, excitement lighting up their innocent eyes. It was dark outside, close to bedtime as their tired faces became heavy with sleepiness. I felt an arm wrap around my shoulder pulling me in closer. Even though I had no idea who was doing that, it felt right. Safe.
I looked over to see a beautiful woman with auburn curls delicately placed on her head. Soft freckles kissed her alluring face as she stared into my eyes. A shade of bright blue kissed her pupils as they sparkled in the moonlight, pulling me in with every second she stared into me. I felt complete. She was my person.
Her lips met mine as sparks flooded throughout our bodies. Every second felt like a dream. She pulled away, staring at me with happiness illuminating from her smile.
“I love you,” she whispered into my ear, chills decorating my delicate skin as her touch sent my heart a flutter. I knew I loved her back with all my heart. This was my future family right before my eyes. The future lay out before me like an open book revealing the ending. However, there were not a lot of pages left.
Just as everything seemed perfect, the red hue of familiar flames filled my vision once again. With one blink, the whole room erupted into a hot furnace. The walls melted as ash filled the air. Cries for help filled my eardrums as I watched my family suffer right before my eyes. Their bodies burnt to a crisp as their cries began to cease leaving their bodies lifeless. I felt the same pain I had felt before, the new memory leading into the previous one. Nothing lasts forever.
My brain revealed my future to me one memory at a time, neglecting the past as a result. My past was now nonexistent. A faded mystery.
A bright light blinded my vision as I opened my eyes, exiting my view into the future. White walls surrounded me as I tried to move. I realized I was stuck to the chair, my limbs held tightly by thick leather straps. One strap rested just below my breasts extending past my arms while the other wrapped around my lower legs. I was completely stuck. No way out.
As all my senses woke up, I felt the pressure of two small stickers stuck to my sweaty temples. Wires stuck out the other side connecting to a monitor to my left. The information on this monitor was all gibberish to me, but seemed to interest the mysterious voice that filled the air as if God himself was talking to me. I soon realized a faint square shape that lined the wall in front of me. It felt as if I was being watched. Observed.
“Commence test 3,” the deep voice echoed as the walls shook. My ears began to ring as I felt the pressure on my temples intensify significantly. Where was I?
The whole room spun until pitch black coated my vision once again. I was paralyzed and unable to move, however, my ears were still wide awake. In my frozen state, I heard a door swing open as footsteps bounced off each side of the room.
“We are preparing her for the next test now to try and restore her memory,” an unfamiliar voice explained, sounding just like the deep one from before. “It is a risky test to execute, but we have the top specialists in charge of her recovery.”
I heard buttons being pushed next to me and a machine murmuring beeping sounds. I felt my brain being completely analyzed as I lay motionless. Unable to stop them. Unable to escape this nightmare.
I was jolted awake by a burning sensation flooding through my temples. It felt as if they were trying to melt my brain. I screamed and opened my eyes quickly to see unfamiliar faces surrounding me, flaunting their freedom.
“My name is Doctor Brecardi and I’m here to help you, Naomi,” the man reassured through square, black glasses and crooked teeth. His white coat cascaded down past his knees as he held a notepad in his hand recording everything I did. Everything I said.
“What is going on? Why am I even here?” I questioned nervously as two other people stood over me watching and analyzing me like a hawk.
“Do you remember who these two people are?” The doctor pointed to the two strangers, sadness coating their distressed expressions. I felt like I was supposed to know who they were, but sadly they were still only strangers to me.
“Am I supposed to?” As they words left my mouth, both of them broke down sobbing. I felt so bad that I wish somehow I could remember how I even knew them.
“Where did my baby go? Doctor you have to bring her back! Please bring her back. I'm begging you!” The woman cried hysterically falling to her knees. They both looked defeated.
“I’m going to perform the next test now that we’ve gotten more information about her brain function. I would like to ask you to step out into the observation room while I perform the test.”
They woefully left the eerie room, leaving me completely alone with the doctor.
“I’m going to ask you a series of questions and I want you to answer them as honestly as you possibly can. Really try to dig down deep to the depths of your mind and search for those lost memories.” He flipped a few pages in his notebook, adjusted his glasses, and proceeded. “What is your name?”
I hesitantly replied, “Naomi, I assume.”
“What makes you unsure?”
“I honestly didn’t remember it until that lady called me that.”
“Interesting...now, tell me one memory you have from your childhood. It could be any moment involving you as a little kid.”
I tried desperately to search and search for the lost memories, but they were long gone. I couldn’t remember a single moment from my childhood. It was all a mystery to me. Like it never even happened. How could I not remember?
“I’m sorry, I don’t really remember any,” I stated as he scribbled down notes.
“Do you remember anything from your past? Breakups? Traumas? Best friends? Favorite sport? Anything?”
My mind was as blank as a white canvas. All I could remember was the two memories I saw of my future. How could I not even remember my whole life?
Frustration bubbled inside of me as silence filled the room. The doctor anxiously waited for my response with his pen in hand, eyes glued to mine.
“I’m sorry, I can’t do this,” I exclaimed as I heard loud beeping noises coming from the monitor next to me. I felt my heart rate rise as I looked down at my restricted hands, watching as they began to shake. “How did I even get here?”
“When you collapsed at the front of your neighborhood, your parents drove you here to the psychiatric hospital for testing as to why you don’t remember anything,” he explained as I tried to process this new information. “Now, for the next part of the test, I’m going to attempt to transfer your memories back to your brain and see if you can fully remember them again,” He then walked over to the monitor, tapped a bunch of buttons, and in the blink of an eye, my vision began to blur as it faded to black.
The once lost memories flashed before my eyes, but they didn’t feel like mine. It felt like I was watching another reality show of someone else’s life wondering why I couldn’t be them. Wondering why their life was better than mine.
I saw a younger version of myself running around a park with childhood friends. Then the scene transitioned to a birthday cake placed in front of me with burning candles flickering as my breath kissed the tiny flames. I saw my first day of middle school, high school, and my whole life pass by in a blur until the present. Every important event in my life now revealed. Exposed. However, no matter how many times I watched these memories, they didn’t stick. I couldn’t convince my brain that it was me in those memories.
I only saw my past as fictitious.