The Forgotten City
night was somber at the absence of both stars and moon. No one but the rustling
of sleepy trees and leather flaps of tiny bats were there to look down at the
young teenager below. He was all alone. He walked aimlessly on an unknown path.
It was old, dusty and the asphalt was cracked with nothing to illuminate the
white haired boy’s heavy tracks in the thick snow.
He had walked down the nearby highway, opting to get himself lost rather than risking meeting anyone that might know him. He had been grumbling for the whole past couple of hours about an argument that had ensued between him and his parents. Nothing out of the ordinary, really, it was what the argument was about that upset him more.
He didn’t like it, but then again, he never did. He didn’t like it, those eyes that looked down at him with emotions that he could not understand. It wasn’t fair. He never chose to forget. It wasn’t his choice to fall into a coma and wake up with amnesia. It didn’t give them the right to ignore him. Maybe they got used to his absence during the coma, but this wasn’t fair. It was never fair.
The cold night breeze had cooled his mind already, but he didn’t feel like going back. That’s when he heard the barely audible moans that led him all the way here. Curiosity had won him over. Were these his own cries of pain, coming from his distant core, or was there someone else like him, lured into the welcoming arms of darkness?
The path was bordered by a dense forest, the melody of crickets was soothing to his ears and the distant fireflies were dancing in unison to the tune, perhaps he should have stood back and wondered how those creatures can afford to be outside in this below zero temperature, but the persistent moans kept on, sounding more and more like a little girl’s soft cries and pleads. What sort of mother would leave her child alone on such a night?
He looked up ahead and, to his surprise, he saw a light. It was low, dim, and white. Nearly unnoticeable, even in the darkest night, hidden by prickly bushes and heavy tree branches, even snow hadn’t found its way into that opening. He approached it curiously, and saw, beyond branches, an illuminated path. He walked into the mouth of the plant-made cave.
There was an old, broken and moldy sign fixed on a post. It was in the shadows, and it felt wet and chipped against his frozen/numb fingertips. With a sudden crack that broke the cricket’s melody and the fireflies’ dance, the wooden sign fell. He picked it up and came closer to the dim light that seemed to have no source. “FORGOTTEN CITY” was what it read. He walked in deeper and surely, the sensation was akin to being swallowed.
All the noise of the world died down, he couldn’t even hear his chattering teeth or the sound of his own breathing. The light became brighter, the air became warmer, but the silence was choking. As if he were deafened by these lights, silence, no sound of snapping twigs beneath his boots, nothing. Bare trees was what greeted him, but the trees were white, crystalline, almost transparent, yet they were not. They were shining statues, awing and great; they had a light that was being emitted from within. The moans of the lost girl had disappeared.
He looked around and saw another. It was a teenager leaning against one of the trees. He was staring at him with disinterested eyes; he had the same face as him, but opposite colours. His hair was black and his eyes were white while his own were the other way around, even the clothes they wore were the same, but his own was black instead of white. Black for white and white for black.
They stood and looked into mirrors of themselves. The one shrouded in white spoke to him. He saw the lips move, but no sound came. His face held an expression akin to the one that he always got at home. Disappointment? No, it looked more like…Sadness?
“Why did you come here?” The forest seemed to whisper, and then, echoes from far away seemed to repeat the words. He should have been startled, shouldn’t he? But instead he found himself unsure, unwilling, yet at the same time he felt that he could trust this person. He held his breath and clenched his fists. Should he? The forest echoed once again, but to his surprise, it was his own voice and words that were carried by the night.
“I’m searching for someone who understands/would understand.” His voice echoed, yet he stood there paralyzed and uncomprehending. The truth seemed to have slipped out of his mind rather than his mouth, a truth that he had never revealed to anyone since his awakening. He wasn’t expecting a reply, but his double’s lips moved again.
“Why?” asked the forest in its gentle yet curious voice. Those eerie, pale white and almost transparent eyes hadn’t moved away from him, they were still staring at him, unwavering. He stared at the boy in front of him warily, something had to be wrong with all of this, but then, why wasn’t he scared? Those eyes held emotions that were completely foreign to him. Sadness, confusion, concern…
“I want a place where I can belong. I want a place to call home, where I don’t need to hide, don’t need to fear.” Startled yet again by the projection of his inner thoughts, he looked up at the sky. It was almost as if his heart was speaking what his mind feared to say.
“You’re welcome here, but then there’s no turning back.” He heard the forest whisper. He noticed his double’s extended hand in front of him, there was a smile on his healthy face. Healthy. It should have felt eerie, with these pale eyes of his, but it felt gentle, warm and inviting. He took his doppelganger’s hand and with a burst of broken glass, the forest erupted in/with ear shattering screams of pain. The boy stepped back, he wanted to run, but his feet wouldn’t move. He was scared. He looked at the other, who still held his hand. He was still smiling ever so reassuringly.
The luminous forest began to move and vibrate. The trees shook and trembled as screams turned into moans and cries. The trees seemed to cry, they were morphing, their shapes changing, shapes were bulging out of them. Life began to form from the crystal white trees. Children, women, old men and more came out as specters, featureless and cold. He barely saw them at first, he had to cover his eyes from the glare of the light that was emanating from them. They were figures that shone so bright that they could blind.
He heard the same cries and moans from before, only louder, and more realistic. A small white specter rushed towards him. His body was paralyzed, but the reassuring grip of his double somehow kept him steady, kept him from falling when the small specter embraced him in its small and delicate arms. The light slowly died down, and a young girl was what was left of the shine/left behind. She looked up at him and smiled with hiccups and teary eyes. All of a sudden all of the noise died down and it occurred to him that something felt familiar. Something. There were no moans, no cries, but when he looked up, he see a welcoming crowd.
“You came for me, finally, dear brother.” She spoke and he heard the words directly from her lips, no more echoing in the forest, but now the words echoed in his head instead. Dear brother. Shock took over his entire frame, he felt himself trembling. He turned to look over at his double. He was smiling reassuringly still, his eyes holding those newfound emotions, warmth and contentment, as he seemed to fade into the shimmering background of the forest. He had left.
He looked back down at the young girl, the buzz of the crowd died down in his ears, for the only words that he could hear were the ones uttered by the young girl. She couldn’t have been older than ten. That was the age when he had fallen into his coma.
“Welcome home, brother.” She murmured to him as she hugged him tighter.
He didn’t know how long he had stayed there, a night, a week, a lifetime? It didn’t matter to him. He loved it there, everyone was accepting, everyone understood him. He found some of his lost memories, his long dead twin sister, a new family that he belonged to.
He was oblivious to his own death at that fateful night, to his family’s tears and sorrow at the loss of their second child. They had found him after weeks, buried under the snow’s warm blanket, and kissed goodnight by frozen tears of loneliness. He belonged there, between the luminous trees of The Forgotten City, where the sound of laugher and cries never ceased.