“Wake up, Kev,” said the voice that had been talking to me for as long as I could remember, a voice that told me many things, things that often disturbed me, things I often forgot. It claimed to be me, my own voice, but I didn’t quite believe it.
It often told me I would know everything if only I could remember, although I rarely remembered it telling me that.
I rolled out of bed, my eyes barely open, changed out of my pajamas and went out to the kitchen. My mom had prepared breakfast, my favorite, French toast, berries and bacon.
“Are you excited, Kev?” said my mom as I sat at the counter.
“Excited?” I said.
“You’ve forgotten, haven’t you?” she said.
“I guess.” I forgot many things, my conversations with my parents and others often full of reminders. I forgot names and faces, places and events. Sometimes I forgot who I was.
“It’s your ninth birthday, Kev. Don’t you remember? We’re having a party.”
“Oh, right,” I said.
The voice told me I was forgetting something else, but wouldn’t tell me what. Sometimes the voice spoke in riddles or dropped hints, and usually when it did, things happened that it claimed I should have known would happen. Sometimes the voice claimed that these things had already happened before, sometimes many times before, although it never explained how that could be possible.
“Uncle Joe is coming. So is Aunt Helen,” said my mom, sitting beside me at the table.
That perked me up a bit. Uncle Joe gave the best presents. He had given me a model airplane on my eighth birthday that I had taken apart and put back together many times, maybe an infinite number of times. Aunt Helen also gave great gifts, though they were often strange. For my eighth birthday she gave me a clear cube about three quarters of an inch on a side. When I asked her what it was she said, “I don’t know, but it’s yours.” Sometimes when holding the cube, sometimes when I had thoughts about who I was or what I was doing, the cube would vibrate or pulse. I kept it with me at all times and would often sit with it for hours seeing which thoughts would elicit a response. The voice had told me many times over it would save me one day.
I finished breakfast and left the house to go out to my fort, a small hut my dad helped me construct out in the woods behind our house. As I left the house, I saw my dad on a ladder, wrangling with the same testy gutter he had been wrangling with for weeks.
“Hey, Kev,” said my dad.
“Hey,” I said.
“Going to the fort?”
“Yeah,” I said, not stopping to talk.
I had named the fort Uthio and imagined it a tropical home on a distant ocean world, the most beautiful world in the universe, my refuge from the dark lord, B24ME, an evil robot bent on my destruction. Inside the fort were a small table and a chair, and on the table lay a journal and some colored pens. I often wrote in the journal, often after the voice told me to write something in it.
I sat down and opened the journal, turning to a random, blank page. I very rarely turned to pages I had written, primarily because I knew there were things in that journal I did not want to read, things that I knew I would find disturbing. The voice would often complain about this, telling me that I would never remember things, important things, unless I read the journal entries I had written. Most of the time I ignored the voice, an annoying presence that wouldn’t leave me alone.
I picked up a red pen and wrote, “Today is my ninth birthday. Having a party. I don’t know who will come. Do I know anyone?”
“Write ‘Beware of Clive,’” said the voice.
“Why do you always tell me to write that?” I said, not writing the words as instructed.
“Because you need to remember it,” said the voice.
“Just write it. I’m sick of reminding you.”
I wrote, “The voice wants me to beware of Clive.”
“You should have written, ‘I want me to write beware of Clive,’ or just ‘Beware of Clive,’” said the voice.
“Whatever. I wrote it,” I said.
“Something is going to happen today, and I can’t stop it,” said the voice.
“What is going to happen?”
“Something terrible, but you are going to be okay.”
“So, you’re not going to tell me what?”
“I don’t remember what, but I know it will happen today.”
“Great. Maybe you shouldn’t have told me anything. That way, I wouldn’t have to worry about it.”
“I think you’ll find, dear Kev, that knowing ahead of time will save you from terrible things.”
I wrote, “The voice is annoying and I wish it would go away.”
“Not nice,” said the voice.
I wrote, “I guess wishes don’t come true.”
“Brat,” said the voice.
“You are going to meet Clive soon,” said the voice.
“I’m not sure, but you will.”
“I don’t know if I believe you. Most of the things you tell me will happen haven’t happened.”
“Well, they will happen. In fact, some have already happened. Is that right? It is probably right. Some have happened and others might happen. Some might happen again,” said the voice.
I flipped back through the pages of my journal, not heeding the warning in my mind, and found an entry that read, “He says I will be on a deadly game show. B24ME is evil,” and read it out loud.
“That happened and will most likely happen again,” said the voice. “Beware of the blue cube.”
“I think you’ve told me that already,” I said.
“Yeah, but you need to write it down so you don’t forget.”
“Well, I’m not writing it. Go away.”
I found my page again and wrote, “Who are my friends?”
This time, the voice said nothing. It had departed, but for how long it would be gone I did not know.
I continued writing, “Do I know Clive? If not, when will I meet him? Should I beware of him, or is the voice playing a trick on me?”
I paused for a moment, trying to remember other things the voice had told me, remembering something rather odd. I remembered the voice telling me who Clive was. I couldn’t believe it, putting my pen to paper and writing, “Clive is,” and then pausing, pausing because I couldn’t remember who the voice had said Clive was.
After a few minutes trying to recover the memory, I gave up, realizing I would not remember by trying to remember. I almost never remembered things I tried to remember. Frustrated and in no mood to continue writing, I decided to go back to my room.
As I left my fort, I noticed two small cubes on the ground, a red one and a black one. I picked them up and examined them. The red one had no markings of any kind. The black one had a small blue button and a digital display that read, “2005,” which happened to be the current year. The two cubes were identical in size to my clear cube. Who had left these cubes on the ground? Had I? “What are these cubes?” I said to the voice. I received no answer.
I pressed the button on the black cube once and let go. Nothing happened. I pressed it twice and nothing happened, and then, figuring it was just some useless toy I had previously discarded, possibly something Aunt Helen had given me, I put it and the red cube in my pocket.
I returned to my room to continue work on my airplane, now almost completely disassembled. How many times had I taken it apart and put it back together? It seemed like an infinite number of times, though I knew that wasn’t possible, or at least not probable, although I harbored some amount of suspicion that I had, in fact, taken it apart and put it back together a near infinite number of times, a strange thought for a young boy to have, perhaps, but the thought I had.
Some time later, my mother called out to me. It was time for the party. I went into the kitchen and saw my mother and two kids I recognized, although I couldn’t put names to their faces. Of course, they knew I wouldn’t remember and had a little fun with me, claiming to be Smelly Pockets and Dung Beetle. We went outside and started a game of pig. Soon after that, the rest of the guests arrived, including Uncle Joe and Aunt Helen.
A truck pulling a horse trailer pulled into the driveway, and two men, both wearing black t-shirts, each imprinted on the front with a red maple leaf, unloaded two ponies, leading them out into the front yard. Printed on the backs of the shirts were what I presumed were their names, Bob and Doug. I looked at these two men for a moment, wondering if I had seen them before, in a different age, but not so distant a place, and then abandoned that thought, dismissing it as just another artifact of my chronic memory problems.
I looked at the ponies as one of them relieved itself on the lawn, and in that moment, I saw that event played over and over countless times. I then turned and looked at my parents who were chatting with Uncle Joe and Aunt Helen. How many times had they had that conversation? What were they talking about? Was it the same every time? Uncle Joe saw me and waved for me to come over, which I dutifully did.
“Kev Kev Bo Bev,” cried Uncle Joe reaching out to give me a hug. “How you doing, buddy?”
“Good,” I said.
“Just good?” said Uncle Joe, a playful frown on his face.
“Better than good,” I said. “Are those men going to clean the poop up?” I pointed to the men who had brought the ponies.
“No, you’re going to have to clean it up, Kev,” said Aunt Helen in her serious silly voice, the voice she used when she made some wisecrack or when she had been drinking. In this case, I assumed that she had been drinking and that this was, in fact, a wisecrack.
“Really?” I said in a not so serious way, but also seriously considering the memory of having this conversation before, thinking that not possible, although possibly likely.
The party commenced, all the kids taking turns riding the ponies, the other kids chasing around in the yard or playing basketball. I took my turn on one of the ponies and was immediately bucked off. How many times had I been bucked off that pony?
Some time later, we all sat down to lunch, my favorite, barbequed chicken and rice. Some of the kids had hoped for pizza, a regular enough offering for a birthday party, but I didn’t really like pizza. Well, I liked pizza. In fact, I really liked it, but I had this strange memory that haunted me, a memory of a birthday when I had pizza at my party, during which my parents died, struck down by a fallen satellite. I knew this was absurd, of course. My parents were alive. However the memory of their death was something I couldn’t ignore, and the memory of having pizza on the day they died was also one I couldn’t suppress. Do you understand? Perhaps not yet.
After lunch, my mom brought out the cake, candles lit. Everyone sang the obligatory song, and then I blew out the candles, forgetting to make a wish when I did. In all of the seemingly infinite times I had blown those candles out, had I ever made a wish? I thought not.
I heard something and looked up, just in time to see a large object falling from the sky, trailing a long contrail of smoke, fast approaching and heading our way. I remembered something and froze, unable to say the words that might have made a difference.
Seconds later, the body of the airplane crashed onto our next door neighbor’s house, and the tail of the plane landed on my parents, who had been off to the side talking, killing them instantly. Images of this event in an infinity of forms flashed through my head, and then my mind shut down.
What followed, confusion, chaos, screaming people and, eventually, police cars and fire trucks, was lost on me. Uncle Joe and Aunt Helen had taken me inside my house to protect me from the ghastly aftermath of this calamity, and were doing their best to reassure me that everything would be all right, although I didn’t understand why they were acting this way, given that I had completely forgotten what had happened.
The next day, I still didn’t remember what had happened, and didn’t remember my parents. Uncle Joe and Aunt Helen didn’t tell me what had happened, nor did they tell me anything when I asked why I would be living with Aunt Helen going forward. Despite the fact that I had completely forgotten my parents, I had not forgotten my home, and I thought it strange that I would leave it behind.