Part 1: The Sounding
Part 2: The Blank Slate
Part 3: The Infinite Jest
Part 4: The Third
Part 5: Portals
Part 6: The Dream Reader
When Jester opened the portal, it took a moment longer for her to find it than the rest. I wasn’t sure if it was harder to find, or if she was simply hesitant. The hole in the world finally appeared before us.
“Good luck,” she whispered as I was about to step through.
I stopped. It sounded like she was dismissing me. “Aren’t you coming?”
She shook her head, her waterfall of fiery hair waving elegantly behind her. “No. This is a journey you have to make on your own. Only you can decide what it means.”
Her cryptic response made my chest tighten as I tried to puzzle out what it could mean. Here, in this world, it could mean absolutely anything. And though I had only just met her, I didn’t want to leave her. “How will I find you again?”
“I’ll wait here,” she promised. She waved good-bye, sporting a hopeful little smile.
Steeling myself for anything, I stepped through the portal. When I emerged into a new room, I had trouble getting my bearings. The ceiling and floor were black with a sprinkling of dim stars. Turning on the spot, I saw that little square images formed a patchwork quilt all around me. The colors within each square were shifting, some slightly, others more dramatically.
What were they?
Squinting, I was able to see people were moving inside each one of them. It was an endless patchwork of people’s lives. Everywhere I looked, there was a different scene. As I approached the nearest wall of pictures, I saw a young man walking down a hallway with an armload of books, an elderly woman reading a book in her backyard, a young child toddling across a toy littered floor. Not only were these people, they were perfectly ordinary. Were these real people back in the world I’d come from?
“None of them have any clue I’m watching them.”
I turned and was startled to see a short man. He was also bald like the others I’d seen upon arrival, and he wore the same uniform, but he didn’t even stand up to my shoulder. “You watch all of them?”
He nodded. “It’s a big job. My official title is Dream Reader. I spend most of my time trying to make sense of the named in the world. It’s amazing to see how having a name settles people down. Having an identity lets you overlook the absurdity of it all.”
I looked at this man, and I suddenly felt exposed. If he watched everyone in the world going about their lives, that meant he might have also seen me. That would mean he knew more about who I was than I did. What could he have seen? Even I didn’t know that. “Why am I here?” I asked, my voice rendered unstable by nerves.
The little man looked up at me, and his eyes seemed to pass straight through my body. “Another part of my job is to track the people who lose their names. I can only pay so much attention to everyday people, but it’s important to track the ones that are deemed ‘insane’ by the named. Most of nameless are hospitalized or are heavily medicated. They don’t cause much trouble beyond that. Only a few make it as far as you, and those are the ones I need to study in more detail.”
I felt like I was shrinking. Though this man was so much smaller in stature, he seemed larger than me. He had access to my past, and I didn’t.
“I know how you lost your memory,” he continued. “I watched the footage of your accident several times. You should be amazed that your body survived that impact.”
“What caused it?” This was something that the police were never able to determine, and my memory loss only hampered their investigation.
Those words hit me, and it took several moments for the meaning of them to really dawn on me. “What?”
“When you first arrived, you heard someone say you were unhappy in your old life. That is what you might call an understatement.”
He didn’t need to say anything else. Even with my memories gone, I couldn’t mistake the tone of his voice. “You mean I was trying to kill myself?”
“We see that sort of thing a lot around here, if it makes you feel better.” He looked around the room, eyes touching thousands of people with one quick scan. “The world as you knew it was a crazy place. You weren’t the only one who tried to opt out.”
My head was still spinning. “Do you know why I did it?”
The Dream Reader nodded. “I do. I watched the highlight show for your entire life after your little stunt turned you into one of the nameless. It would be dangerous to tell you, though.”
“Any detail surrounding the accident might trigger more memories to resurface. If were to happen, we’d have to finish the reprogramming and send you back. Otherwise the memories of your old life would plague you and contaminate this life.”
That was it. I had to make my decision based on an extremely limited amount of information. “So I can have this, where I can go anywhere and see anything, but I’ll never be able to know about my past life. Or I can go back blindly to a life that I wanted to leave in the first place. That’s not really a difficult choice.”
The Dream Reader nodded. “And judging by what I’ve seen of you, you are making the correct choice.”
I laughed. “I guess since you’re like God in this room, I should be relieved by your endorsement.” And truth be told, I was.
Now the little man laughed. “Oh no, I’m nothing like God. You’d never believe me if I told you what God was like.”
I nearly choked. “What?”
Part 7: The Deity's Bedroom
Part 7: The Deity's Bedroom