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Second Prize for Short Story 2014

Delusion of memories

Arka Datta

My last clear memory: freefalling!

I don’t know this place. Strangely enough, I don’t have any sense of the 'I' either.  I am either dead or just about to. Whichever, it’s not scary. Or maybe it is, and I have forgotten what scary is. The last thing I vaguely remember is cold concrete underneath. But they are just figments. I have no visual. I can’t see myself, then again, who can?

Alright, I have breasts. Woman it is! And, so it proves that I can feel myself, therefore, I have a physical presence. But I have no sense of belonging, no name, no weight, no pain, and no emotion. Maybe my womanhood is a memory. Still, I can’t say for sure if I am dead or not. I don’t know if it is afterlife or something new, something entirely unfelt before. Have I lost my 21 grams?

21 grams: the weight of the soul. I know that. That’s not a common thing to know, is it? Then maybe... just maybe I am not common. That’s two things now; I am a woman and I am uncommon. Sadly, that doesn’t help the real question. Am I dead or alive?

Alright, what else can I think of? Clearly I am thinking. So, I have a mind. Or is it better to believe that I have a brain? Brain means I am physically active. Brain means I am more than just a metaphysical existence. That’s always good news. And, wow, I know some fancy words. That confirms the second notion: I am uncommon. And it makes sure that I am a logically thinking woman. Good for me.

Then again, who is 'me?' I mean, how am I linked to the universe? I must have a name, a womanly one. A name people call me by is my primary identity, or is it? Ok, no time to be all philosophical now! I need to think. But think what, that is the question. "That is the question," where have I heard this before?

Alright, woman, is that important now? Clearly, I am thinking right now. That means my deductive processing is active. I must use it when I can to figure out the biggest question of all: am I dead or alive. My fate depends on the answer.

Let's break it down. I can touch myself- or at least can remember the experience of touch, but can’t feel myself. I have a physical presence but my body isn’t in, on, into, onto, over, or under any place. That can mean only one thing; my physical presence is in my mind too. I am imagining my body, yet I cannot see it. I can touch it, yet I am not moving. So, I remember no appearance but only my gender. I can’t touch my face, my hair, or any other indicative parts of my form. I can touch only my breasts, that too without feeling my hands. So, the touch is only a memory; the memory of my gender.

If I was only a soul then the gender wouldn’t matter. Or would it? What do I know about souls! Perhaps, I need a different approach.

Yes, I need to take the path that’s more preferable, and what is more preferable than being alive? That’s the basic need, right? That’s what the human struggle is for, and currently I am struggling. I am hunting for a name, a meaning, a something... anything that can assure me of being alive. That can be an indication that I am still, in fact, a part of the living world. If I wasn’t, if it was death, then I would surely experience the greatest acceptance of all.

So, if I am alive then all this happening in my head, not on the transition of life and death. It assures me that I don’t need to look for the bright light that leads to the other side. Not right now at least. Now I can put some pieces together. First puzzle piece is my last memory. I was falling. I don’t remember, and it’s probably not important to know, from where. And it was a long fall. I can also remember lying on cold and hard surface. What can a long fall on a hard plane can do to you? It definitely can hurt. It can break your bones and injure your head.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Yet, I am thinking logically, not clearly but logically nonetheless. So, my head injury might not be grave. Alright, that’s something. But surely I am unconscious in more physical way of things. That means my lights are out. Is it the pain that has put me senseless, or is it something else? Perhaps a pull on my nervous system?

Ok, I know about that! Who am I, a doctor? Oh, yes! That makes sense. I already have established my ability of logical thinking, and add that to the things I seem to know. I am definitely a doctor. Well, this should be easy now. Self-diagnosis, that’s what will save me. Think, doctor, think!

Oh, what was that? I felt something... from beyond my current sense of existence. It wasn’t pain or suffering, but it was some degree of definite force on me.

Again!

And again!

Voice... was that a voice? Surely I am reconnecting with my physical world.

Wait a minute! I can feel it no longer. No! No! No! No! No! Surely someone is trying to save me. Oh, I need that person to succeed. I don’t want to die. Or do I? Why am I clinging onto life? Wouldn’t it all be easier if I just stop trying?

Damn, am I close to acceptance? Does that mean I am nearing death? I need something to keep me from giving in. What if there are people who desperately need me? That’s a great reason to carry on fighting. Wait, what if someone has pushed me to die? I surely need to do something about that. Don’t people say revenge is the biggest motivation? Yes, I can’t die. It’s simply isn’t an option. All I need is a plan. If I really am a doctor then I must know the art of being alive. What I would do if I was a patient of mine, I wonder!

Alright then, to understand the course of action, I surely need to know the degrees of my injury. For how long was I falling? One second? Two seconds? Three seconds? Surely more than that would be fetal. Hmm, a three second’s fall on a hard surface, and surely I didn’t fell directly on my head. Is that possible! Oh, absolutely it is if one falls on her side. Not on my left, of course, because that would injure my heart too much to still be pumping. Falling on my right side would break my right hand, and a few ribs, and my right leg probably. The trauma can knock anyone unconscious. A neck injury is possible, with some pressure on my heart: not enough to kill me straight away but surely enough to make death a possibility. So what’s the first thing I would do to me?

I would surely check for the physical signs of the injury, and then check for my vitals. What’s next? Let’s see… I can think, that means my brain is getting enough oxygen. My lungs are fine. Then there is the possibility of internal bleeding, in which case I need prompt treatment.

Oh, God! It’s not in my hands. The voice that I heard, I hope it was of a medic. I can only pray that I am near a hospital. Oh, God!

Things are getting dark. Wait, was it not dark before? No, it was nothing before… but now it’s getting brighter. Please, please let it be my awakening.

…I am in an empty room. A white empty room. Or is it a white abyss? Shit, I am tied down on an iron chair. Should I call for someone?

“Help me!”  

There is… there is a kid, sitting right in front of me. He is staring right into my eyes. But I cannot speak. I must try harder. I must ask him if I am dead… or… or if this is a hallucination. Yes, yes, it is a hallucination. That means I am closing in to the stage of waking up, but my consciousness is getting clouded. But who is this kid that is the question. "That is the question," where have I heard this before?
               
Oh, I remember…

“To be, or not to be, that is the question…”

Shakespeare…

He died on his birthday…

Why do I remember th… Oh, dear God… my child… my little Riju!

Defibrillation worked on the third try. My heart was pumping again. In a clouded awareness, I heard more voices.

“How did this happen to nurse Roy?”

“She jumped down from the third floor window.”

“Did her son...”

“Yes, died this morning.”

“On his birthday… that’s horrible!”

There was nothing I didn’t remember.

 
 
 
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