I Forget Myself in This Wondrous Night
rating: +79+x

Mr. Smith, Smith, the last piece grounding himself to the world, trudged through the smoldering hallways. Smith had little idea of where he was going, only knowing that he had to find the door leading out. There were signs, though most were of little use, having turned to ash or been damaged to the point of uselessness. Broken lights had made navigating around obstacles difficult. The only reason Smith continued walking was for whatever door he could find leading out of the site. He would welcome it.

"105 BPM. I'm doing well, Smith. Just keep walking forward, Smith. This was where I went towards one test. It was near some cafeteria. Cafeteria means close to the exit, Smith. Please, Smith. Whichever exit I find will work, Smith."

Mr. Smith stepped over a body, muttering the directions Smith was taking into Smith's tape recorder. Anything to keep Smith aware.

"Doors at the end of the hall. Left or right. Didn't hear any gunshots come from here, Smith. Right door seems less damaged… I'll take the right one, Smith…"

Smith opened the door and continued, navigating blindly down more hallways. After a continuous fifty minutes of walking and talking to himself, repeating his name, Smith found a door at the end of a hall. The scent of food lingered. Smith had finally found the way out.

As Smith approached the door, he took his pulse again. 120. Smith took a deep breath to relax a bit, and tried opening the door. It was locked. He continued to jiggle the doorknob. Nothing.

"Hello? Is anyone there!? Please, my name is Smith, and I need to get out of here! Please, it's Smith!" Smith could hear someone's idle conversation beyond the doors, but nothing to indicate anything about him. "Please, I need help! My name is Smith, my pulse is 120, and I need help! I'm locked in here!" Smith banged his fist on the door, on the verge of tears. "Please, open the door for Smith!" He could hear the conversation stop as he heard footsteps approaching. Smith's heart raced, as he muttered a prayer to the recorder.

The door opened as a lady1 looked out into the hallway. Her confused look belied her serious posture, and glazed over him as she peered out into the hallway and back at Smith.

"Are… are you okay? You don't look all that well, Mister… uh…"

"Smith! It's Mr. Smith!"

"Um…" The woman blinked. Confusion permeated her face, gradually shifting into half-emotions. The two looked at each other. Smith kept repeating his name, wanting to stay visible. After a minute, which turned into hours for Smith, terror swept over her face. Smith panicked.

"Maggie, we have a big problem. Probably a Code La—"

Smith charged past her, lightly brushing her aside as he bolted for the door across the cafe. No one followed Smith. The only sound being made were his footsteps. By the time he got to the door and swung it open, he took one last look back at the room.

Everyone had gone back to talking with each other.

The night sky was calm, with the lovely moon and shining stars guiding Smith's way down the desert stretch of road. Smith had no idea where he was going, or if it was the right direction. All he knew was that he had to go somewhere, anywhere. It meant progress, and it meant a silver lining.

"It's alright, Smith. I'm gonna do just fine. Pulse dropped back down to 100, and I think I'm heading north. North is always good. I got it, Smith. I'll walk the whole road if I have to. It's… it's fine, Smith. Besides, I always loved watching the night sky, didn't I, Smith? Something to look up at during construction."

As Smith walked down the road, a band of coyotes took notice and followed him. They had seemed curious, observing and staring intently at him. Smith continued talking to himself, afraid and nervous, but as long as he kept walking steadily, all the coyotes did was travel besides him and observe.

"I don't know why they aren't attacking me. Shit, I didn't know animals could see me. Just get a hold of myself. Just keep walking, and I'll be out of here. It's okay, Smith. They'll help me find what I need."

Smith and the band shared the rest of the tense walk into town.

"Welcome to… it looks like it's fading. Population: 2,084. I wonder if I count as enough of a person to add onto that, Smith."

Smith turned back to look at his new companions for affirmation. The band had slunk back the way they came, to the visible horizon. He sighed, continuing into the city. Though the streetlights were on, the roads were empty. Smith took out the fully-recorded tape and put it in his pocket, replacing it with yet another. He pressed record before deciding to continue on, needing to find any indication of where he was.

Navigating the town wasn't terribly difficult. It was mostly comprised of residences, and everything was close enough that walking didn't take a long time. Trouble came with Smith's legs as he had walked almost non-stop for the past five hours. There was little time to rest, though the urge was becoming increasingly tempting. Despite this, there was not a single resting area to be found.

On the verge of collapsing, Smith spotted a bench nearby. He sighed with relief, making his way up the road towards it. Just after starting his detour to the bench, his vision quickly grew brighter. The lights around him were blinding, and he had no idea how to react. He felt frozen in place. It brought back —

That's when the truck horn blared.

"Get outta my way, ya goddamn stray!"

The truck swerved around Smith as his body reacted out of instinct and stumbled to the ground by the side of the road. Despite the near-death experience and sudden transition from feet to floor, the sweet relief of resting after all the walking prevented Smith from fully processing the situation. All that left his mouth were groans of pain as he blankly stared at the truck, now pulling in reverse to his side.

"Shit, are you OK? Jesus, ya don't seem so well. Come on, let's take ya to the hospital."

He could feel the tape recorder in his hand, and feel himself being picked up from the ground, but couldn't process it, nor process being slung over the man's shoulder.

It wasn't until until he was slapped in the face that he could recognize his new, current location; in a truck starting down the road next to a man2. The man glanced over at him occasionally with a look of worry.

"At least ya seem responsive now. Don'cha worry, I'mma take ya to the hospital. What's yer name?"

"Oh, it's uh… it's…" His name. He couldn't remember his name now. He felt on the verge of a panic attack, slowly forgetting himself. This couldn't happen already. He searched for the tape recorder, trying to turn it on quickly, he still had to have it with him, he had to remember his name, he couldn't afford to forget already, not when he was already trying to find —

The button clicked.

" — is Smith. I've been walking around for ages, trying to find a hospital, or some kind of government office. I can find it, Smith. Pulse is 110, not too bad. It's —"

Smith stopped the tape recorder. Smith regained a grasp on it. Smith. Smith. Mr. Smith. Smith could keep remembering.

"Smith, eh? Pleasure to make yer acquaintance, Mr. Smith."

"Same to you. I know this sounds weird, but can you keep calling me Smith at the end of your sentences? I… have a thing."

"Kinda weird, but if it helps ya then sure, Smith. Name's Jude. Sorry for runnin' ya over back there. Ya looked like a stray for a second. Musta been the night that doesn't make ya look all that human." Smith could feel his heart skip a beat at the sound of that.

"Y… Yeah. I guess. Listen, can you drop me off at the next town? I'm looking for something and it's kind of urgent."

Jude gave Smith an odd look and turned back to the road. "You lookin' to pass out again, Smith? Especially with whatever yer condition is, you can't go around walkin' all willy-nilly. Whatcha lookin' for anyway?"

Smith thought on what to tell Jude, continuing to mutter his name. Smith. Smith. Smith.3 There wasn't much Smith could say that didn't make Smith seem crazier than he already appeared. Smith looked outside, trying to focus on the world around him. The streets seemed much emptier than he had remembered. It was preferable. After some thought, Smith faced Jude.

"Trying to find my wife and children."

"Huh, that so?" Jude turned to face Smith, his eyes developing that glaze Smith recognized easily. Even so, he smiled at Smith. "What's the wife's name?"

"Eve. That's what I remember, anyway."

"Well, good luck with that. I know how it feels to long after yer family." Jude transferred a cigarette from his shirt pocket to his mouth, grabbing a lighter and lighting the cigarette in one fluid motion. He turned down his window to let the smoke out, quickly flashing a grin to Smith.

"Sure, why not. I'll drop ya off once we get into town, but get someone to look after ya. Don't want the wife to yell at'cha for lookin' like shit. Ya probably know that, but it's a rough feelin'. I sure do!" Jude chuckled, looking bemused by his own statement.

Smith didn't respond, turning back to look outside. It was nice to have company, at least, however short it'd remain.

It was thirty-three minutes after Jude spoke and fifteen seconds after seeing the very edge of a new town down that road that Smith heard a car fast approaching. The sound stuck out the most; it was too close to have been on the other side of the highway, and though Smith sat comfortably in the truck, the vision getting brighter tipped him off at what was happening again.

Smith could see the people in the car, unaware of what was happening. There was a man, a woman, children in the backseat. They had all looked familiar, someone he could recall in his memories, but he couldn't quite place it. For a brief moment, he could have sworn it was —

"Can't this dumbass see me? The Hell's his —"

By the time Smith recognized what was going to follow, the world had muted itself. Every second slowed down to an hour. He clenched his teeth, gripping his hands to the steering wheel recorder as the truck swerved, and his body thrashed against the seatbelt4, and the truck tipped on its side,




He woke up on pavement, staring into the sky. The stars were beautiful, and inviting. A thought fluttered through his mind for a brief second.

I wish I could take a journey up there and discover them.

It wasn't until the sound of a car passing by inches from his face that he realized where he was and what had happened. He stood up quickly, the pain searing through his legs. It didn't matter though. He was searching for his tape recorder, not being able to find it. Surely he must have protected it, it must have been there. But there was no tape recorder, there were no tapes.
No records.
His stomach dropped.

"God, no, no no no… Okay. Alright. This is not a big deal, I can remember my name. It's… shit, what is it? Come on, why can't I remember my own name already? It's…"
"…what is my name again?"
He turned around, looking at a man climbing out of the wreckage of a truck. The lights in his head turned on again.

"Smith! Right, right. Okay. I just need to remember that. Smith… I can keep remembering this, I know I can. I'll press on. This town has something, I'm sure. Pulse… 130. Deep breaths, S… Smith."
Smith. Smith, Smith, Mr. Smith. It was Smith.
Smith trudged into the town, consciously making efforts to move one leg after another. A wave of panic started to creep over him again, so he looked up at the town ahead. The streets seemed more active during the night, even though no one had taken any efforts to walk over to the scene of the crash. He had known what that meant, and turned back to look at the crash.

The trucker made no effort to look for Smith, nor did anyone make an effort to help him.

Despite Smith's reaffirmation to himself, no one on the streets regarded him for more than a curious second. Any glances met would show confusion or worry before looking away, people continuing on like normal. He expected this, though it didn't make the panic of inevitability abate. The most consolation he got from this was no one making a scene or being frightened from his presence.
It couldn't be said that he was still Smith any longer.
"Hospital… just need to find a hospital, Smith…"
It kept slipping from his grasp now, more quickly than before.
The town was harder to navigate than the previous one, resembling more of an urban city than the rural setting Smith last passed through. Many buildings looked the same to him, and streets seemed to converge back on themselves. With no map and no solid point of reference, he found himself lost, wandering randomly. His legs continued to burn, repeatedly requiring him to stop and rest.
The name no longer had meaning. It no longer sounded like a word.
A giant hospital sign greeted Smith as he turned a random corner. Relief washed over him, as he dragged himself into the hospital. The pain lessened now, and he could feel it just within his grasp. The end of his journey, a resolution to what he was seeking. Here, he'd get some kind of a break.
It kept sounding like a burden.
The automatic doors opened for him and he stepped inside the hospital's ER, looking for someone to speak to. He found a desk that wasn't busy and headed over there, speaking to the lady behind the desk.
"Smith". It weighed him down.
"Hello? I need help really urgently." The woman didn't look up.
He knew it, but didn't want to admit to it.
"Please! I need help! My name is… is… it's Smith, I think! Please, can you see me? Can you still understand me? Am I present with you? I'm Smith. I need your help. Please…" He banged on the glass repeatedly, shouting "Smith" over and over. Eventually, the woman5 looked up, her eyes looking past him.
He didn't want to acknowledge it.
"Yes? Can I help you, mister?" Her lips pursed, and she seemed to focus in on him a bit more, as if analyzing the situation.
And he knew what acknowledging it meant.
"Please, I need help. I need to know if my wife is here, or if you know where my wife and children are. Their last names are Smith."
"Smith… okay. Can you give me their first names, so I can look them up?"
What good was delaying the inevitable?
"Right. It's… it's, um… Um…"
It was then that he had recognized it, long after his wife was gone.
"Sir? Are you alright? You don't seem well." His breathing became labored, and his body shook.
A sense of understanding started to form inside of him, at that moment.
"Sir? Who… who are you? I'm going to call security."
It was the sound of someone he loved who had gone away.
He bolted outside, not bothering to look back at the woman who had picked up the phone. The adrenaline surged through him as he dashed through the people milling about, out of the doors, onto the sidewalk just off of the hospital grounds. He stopped, panting and sweating heavily. It was too much to take in. He stared up at the sky for longer than he could parse, searching for those stars that gave him comfort a short while ago. They had faded.
And it didn't matter.
"I can't be gone now… do I have to lose it now? I was so close." No one replied, nor did anyone spare him a glance.
It was then that he smiled and accepted it.
"What's going to happen now? Where do I go from here?" He tried to recall the name of someone he knew before, someone close. It couldn't be recalled. There wasn't much concern over it fading, though. Now it felt natural.
Whoever the person was, he was sure they weren't too fussed over it.
He tried to bring up a response to himself, and found the words stuck in his throat. There was nothing left to say, nothing more that he could reconcile himself with.

He picked a direction and walked down the road, the stars having faded, the night turning into morning.

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