It had seemed like a good idea to view the city from the highest point, which was obviously Grey’s Insurance Tower in the banking quarter. It loomed over everything like the gravestone of a king. The further you are away, the more you can see, that was my inner reasoning I believe but it was flawed. The elevators were out of course but I committed to climbing the fifty floors at a crawl of a pace, one step at a time. Physical exertion and a monotonous task helped me, like following a line underwater to the surface when you have no sense of direction.
At the top, the crisscrossed wire railings loomed higher than me, but the viewing platform gave me a spectacular panorama of the broken buildings and columns of smoke in every direction, the landscape skewered by the silver water of the winding Daedalus River. Gulls would sail and hover on the strong, cold winds from the North, some near my eye line, where I could catch the patterns on their mottled feathers. They looked like they were in the moment permanently, feeling the mood of the air, working with it to keep stable. I felt that pang of grief, that stone in the throat, a feeling of immeasurable loss, at the views of the four horizons. There is a bleakness in observing decay that infects the viewer to the bone.
I instinctively looked down at my arm, as if it were confirmation of something, and sure enough on the bruised skin was the rough scrawl of a marker, it said, ‘Trust Ezra’. I held my breath like I was suddenly underwater. The fog of the mind would phase in and phase out, and once in a while, a picture as clear as a printed photograph would illustrate where I was and who I was.
Two months ago, there had been an event, it poured back into my memory. It was like it had been jolted and spilt from a height but once soaked in, it would only remain for seconds, before it would evaporate back into nothingness. I focused on it with the lens of my intent. It had been a celestial event, a magnetic event, something bizarre from the Universe flooding into Earth from space. It had scrambled our cognition, it had swamped the patterns of our neurons to fuzzy them into disarray. The sky had danced with bright, almost excruciatingly lurid colours, a showcase of light that had to be seen to be believed. And then, all at once, we all lost our memories and we all lost our minds. I remembered for that moment of brief retrieval, where the fragment fused back into its place in my brain, that Ezra was my 23-year-old daughter. Her name was written in thick black letters on my arm below the tattered blood-stained shirt sleeve, ripped off at the elbow. In my previous moment of lucidness, I must have grabbed a thick whiteboard pen and made the message on myself, a bread crumb to follow, an anchor to secure my mind to.
Down below on the streets, way below, I could make out the tiny, twisted, scattered bodies, the gutted, upturned cars and the little, sparky fires dancing with rage. We had all of us, suffered some form of mass dementia, a wiping of memories spliced with a desire to enact our most base reactions.
Like movie zombies we tore each other and everything around us to pieces, we screamed at each other, we ran and we lashed out. I had to find Ezra before I forgot again – I could feel the thin fuzzy line of light flickering inside me, wanting to give in to an overbearing void. I had to find her. I could not remember the start of my ascent up the building, like the forgetting had followed me up the stairs and was coming for me, as I was trapped at the top.
I heard the voice first. It was a slight voice, strangely endearing. Part of my mind believed it was an auditory hallucination, it was a female voice. I turned and there she was, right behind me. She was staring at me with blank confused eyes and I noticed we were tethered together by a long thin chord, a string taken from a set of office blinds, adapted as a connection, like mountain climbers on Everest, in fear of falling alone and forever. Her dark matted hair was a mess framing her dirty face, her shiny eyes the only evidence of a lifeforce.
“Ezra…” I said plainly. The word felt foreign on my tongue, unfamiliar and as I stared at her she stepped back sharply in panic, and she screamed. It was pure terror, she did not recognise me at all. I was a stranger, a grey man, a thin-haired, broad-necked weirdo, attached firmly to her and covered in blood, someone else’s blood.
She struggled and fumbled with the tight knot in the chord around her waist, her eyes darting up every other second as if I would attack her.
The next moment, I was staring at a strange woman screaming at me. She had stretched back and pulled me off my feet and I could see she was looking for something, anything to use as a weapon to damage me.
“I think I know you,” I said, trying to placate her but my own sense of trust was waning, I could sense it, the fear, the anger, the primal instincts rising.
Two days later, I think it was, I was in a house, it was warm from a fire on the carpet, there was a cup of water in my hand, I had managed to find some in the cistern of an ensuite toilet and it looked clean. There were three dead people in the room with me. One was young, a teenager. That shocked me, the look on the boy’s face, he stared upward with still, marble eyes, like the angel of death had descended upon him from above to claim his soul.
From the state of my hands and knuckles, I realised I had killed them. Ezra was nowhere to be seen. I had lost her completely. I wondered if her absence had something to do with my missing ear and front teeth, or if that was merely the price for the struggle with this family.
I can recall these little moments now, as my memory is returning a little every day. I still phase in and out but the balance is shifting to being aware more of the time.
The cosmic storm had passed through. The sky has returned to a uniform grey. You could feel the change in the air, the change in your body as that mysterious ‘pull’ lost its grip. There were only a few of us left. We are waiting this out now, we dare not see each other up close, not until all the episodes have stopped completely. A relapse would be fatal for someone in the wrong moment. I still can’t remember much of my early life, my extended family, my house. I do remember I was the CEO of Grey’s Insurance. I used to have forms to fill out and I had a lot of money, a hell of a lot of money, but that didn’t matter. Living when your memories are in ruins means you treasure the smallest of scraps. The scraps matter.