The man sat on a bed in a run-down motel room, whispering over and over, “This is a bed. I am sitting on a bed. It is a bed. This is a bed.” He was desperately trying to remember; it was an insignificant thing, but he just wanted to remember something. Anything.
The thing with the numbers on it started making a noise; he jumped a bit, and then stared at it, willing it to stop. It did. He turned his attention back to the task at hand, which had been….
It had been….
He was trying to remember something. What was it? He knew it, he knew he knew it; he just had to think….
Then he was sitting on a beach, watching the sunset over the ocean. He blinked. This isn’t where he was before. He had been sitting on the… on the thing, and the thing that made the noise… did the thing. Right? He hadn’t been here.
A deep voice behind him said, “You don’t even realize what’s happening, do you, David?”
David. That sounded familiar. Something clicked in his brain, and he turned to look at the speaker as he asked, “I’m David?”
The speaker, a tall man in flowing robes, gave him a wan smile that did not reach his sad, pitying eyes. “Yes, you are David. Try to remember that. Try to remember all that you know; when you do, you’ll be able to fix this.”
David stared at the tall man, wide-eyed, wondering what he was talking about. “What do I know?”
The robed man made a sound somewhere between a laugh and a sob, and shook his head slowly. He stared at the ocean for several long seconds before replying. “You know very little, right now. But you did know many things. You knew the cause and solution to the problem you’re having now. You knew what was important in life. You knew me. You knew you weren’t alone.”
“Wow,” David said, nonplussed. He certainly had known a lot, it seemed.
The robed man continued staring out at the vast ocean, his gaze on the distant horizon. He appeared to be deep in thought. After a few moments, he said, “What is important to you right now, David?”
David’s face screwed up from the effort of concentrating. After several long moments full of deep thought, he looked up at the robed man and stammered, “I…I’m David?”
“Telling,” the robed man murmured, mostly to himself. He heaved a sigh and said, “David, my friend, I need you to hear me right now, and remember my words. Can you do that?”
David shrugged, having no idea whether he could.
“You must use your gifts. You must find a world where you can be safe, and you must find me again. Do you understand me?”
David stared blankly at him, showing no sign whatsoever of understanding, so the robed man repeated, “Use your gifts. Find a world where you can be safe. Find me again. Say it.”
“Use gifts. Find….um….”
“Find a world where you can be safe.”
“Find a world where I can be safe.”
“Find me again.”
“Find me again.”
“No, you have to find me again.”
“Find you again.”
The robed man nodded, satisfied. “I want you to repeat those to yourself, all the time. Concentrate on those instructions more than anything else.”
David nodded, and took up the new chant. “Use my gifts. Find a world where I can be safe. Find you again. Use my gifts. Find a world where I can be safe. Find you again.”
The robed man placed a hand on his head, willing the words to stay in his mind. When he took his hand away, David blinked in the bright sunlight and looked around, confused. He was alone again, huddled on a sidewalk in the cold. People bustled past, but no one noticed him. He had no idea where he was, or how he had gotten there, or where the robed man had gone. He felt like he should have control over such things, and that maybe he once had, but he wasn’t sure if that was even true. With no one and nothing to verify the feeling, it might be safe to assume he had always been tossed about like this, from place to place, with no control. He wished he knew for sure.
Desperate for something to focus on, he resumed his chant.
“Use my gifts. Find a world where I can be safe. Find you again.”
He repeated the words until they lost all meaning. He repeated them until he forgot how to say the words, and he kept trying to repeat them even when the syllables he uttered had no resemblance to the original words. It didn’t matter. He could repeat the idea. He took comfort in the fact that these words came from somewhere outside of himself, from something other than the all-encompassing sense of loss and confusion that had become his life.
He kept up his chant for nearly two decades, as he aimlessly wandered through space and time. He often couldn’t remember what the words really meant, but they somehow made him feel better.