Saturday, September 26, 2009

Daily Story 164: Stowaway

This is another that was first published at 365 Tomorrows.

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I’m weightless, then suddenly formless like the universe before God spoke to it.

I’m behind my desk, staring at a black screen. There are three bananas on the desk and no peels in the trash, so it’s probably a Wednesday morning. The desk is one at SureTech and I’m wearing a wedding ring, so it’s between May of 2004 and July of 2010. Everyone is standing up and looking around, surprised by the sudden power outage. I check the phone, but it’s dead so I just sit back and wait. I have all the time in the world.

"Tom?" It’s one of my coworkers. I haven’t spoken to him since he died of lung cancer two years ago. He looks healthy – so it’s probably not later than 2009. For a second I have trouble speaking for some reason, but then the words tumble out.

"Yeah Josh? What’s up?" I’m pleased with how casual I sound, but now I’m thinking that I should have sounded concerned. Healthy or not, Josh looks scared. Maybe he just found out about the cancer? Did he even tell me about it before it was obvious?

"Tom... does your cell phone work?" I pull it out knowing that it won’t, but I make a show of checking. Josh just nods.

"I need to step out. Maybe get a drink. I can’t get anything done with the power out anyway."

I’m at the bar across the street, and I don’t remember going there. The feeling of disorientation passes and I realize that Josh is talking to me. He has an empty glass in front of him and is holding one that’s mostly melting ice.

"I... it was the strangest thing. Right when the power went out... I don’t know, I guess it was a kind of hallucination or something, but I... it’s like all of these memories. It has me confused, I remember my... it was just that I must have nodded off or something. It was a dream, but so vivid and so detailed. It was the next three years of my life, right up to my funeral." I’m fidgeting with a cocktail napkin, trying not to react, trying to remember to breathe. This isn’t happening.

Josh and I are both back at my desk. I’m still holding the cocktail napkin, though I don’t remember coming back from the bar. I shouldn’t be blacking out. The power is still out, which is strange because it should only last fifteen minutes at the most. In the grand scheme of things that’s less important than Josh having displaced memories. He wasn’t there, he didn’t come back. He wasn’t even alive, and you can’t remember your own funeral in any case. Josh is still talking; I’ve missed part of what he said.

"So... are you coming?" We must have just gotten back, but he wants to go somewhere? I nod and stand up, and we both walk out of the suite and down the stairs into the lobby. Josh throws what looks like a full pack of cigarettes into the trash can as we walk past it.

"Let’s just hit the bar across the street," Josh says, and my stomach is a bottomless pit. We haven’t gone to the bar yet. My fist tightens around the napkin that shouldn’t be there and I pray that I’ve just lost my mind, that the consciousness transfer failed and I’m in a coma somewhere.

God forgive me, I’ve broken something.