“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 disturbed me, things I often forgot. It often told me I would know everything if only I could remember. It claimed to be me, my own voice, but I didn’t quite believe it.
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.
“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 once told me 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 I had a small table and a chair, and on the table lay a journal and some colored pens. I often wrote in that 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. I put my pen to paper and started writing, “Clive is,” and then paused again, 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 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, 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, thought 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 the driver and another guy unloaded two ponies, leading them out into the front yard. Both of the guys unloading the ponies had black t-shirts imprinted with red maple leafs. Printed on the backs of the shirts were what I presumed were their names, Bob and Doug. 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 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.
“Really?” I said, remembering having this conversation before, but thinking that not possible. Déjà vu to the infinite degree, it seemed. .
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?
After a while, we all sat down to lunch, another 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.
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.
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, perhaps to protect me, 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.
That night, I stayed with aunt Helen at her house. Uncle Joe stayed with us.
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 anything. 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 thought it strange that I would leave it behind.
I moved in with my aunt, although I would have preferred to live with Uncle Joe on his farm. Sometimes, I wondered where my parents were, or more precisely, wondered who they were, but most of the time I didn’t think about it. The few times I asked my aunt about any of it, she simply told me my parents lived in heaven, a place she said all good people went to in the afterlife.
All of my friends, the friends I didn’t usually remember, would come over to play, but all of them had been instructed not to mention anything about my parents or anything else I might have forgotten.
My aunt, a strange lady by all accounts, did her best to take care of me, but she had problems of her own. I would often hear her talking to herself, often saying things like, “Why can’t it end? Why can’t we all do something else? Why can’t he remember?” She had taken to drinking and often drank too much, often saying things like, “Do you think you are going to figure it out, Kev?” or “I would tell you, but you would just forget. You’ll never remember. You’ll never win,” after a few drinks, even if I said nothing to prompt her.
We would go to movies, often movies too mature for me, would go to a nearby park to feed the ducks, and would sometimes go on adventures to distant places, places Aunt Helen told me I had been to before. Aunt Helen did quite a bit with me and showed great love for me. That said, I can’t say I was unhappy. In fact, I think I was happy, although at times, I felt more than a little confused and more than a little concerned for my aunt.
Summer came, the school year finished, and Aunt Helen sent me away to camp for the most of the summer, my idea, although I knew not why.
There I met Clive, one of my bunkmates. A tall, thick, brown skinned boy, nine years old, Clive lived in Hawaii. He and I immediately hit it off, spending all of our free time together.
Clive liked to play games, and had made up a game called The Show. I was the contestant on The Show, a sometimes-unwilling contestant, given that the challenges on The Show usually led to injury. However, I always healed and healed quickly, which often led to Clive saying things like, “Do you get it?” or “Is it sinking in yet?”
On the last day of camp, Clive thought up a strange challenge, one he called, “Choke Hold.”
“So, you sit there and I’ll get behind you and put you in a choke hold. All you have to do is break free and you win,” said Clive.
“What if I don’t break free?” I said. Clive was much larger than me and I knew I stood no chance of getting free.
“Then you die,” said Clive.
“Tell you what,” I said. “How about you go drown yourself?”
“Funny. Are you going to play or what?” said Clive.
How many times had I broken my arm that summer, only to miraculously heal? Three times, I thought. I had also broken my nose and my shinbone, had split my skull open and punctured my abdomen after falling on a pointy stick. Each time I had healed in a matter of seconds and each time I forgot the pain and eventually the injury.
“Fine, I’ll play.”
Clive got behind me and put me in a chokehold, squeezing as tight as he could. I punched and kicked and tried to scream, but he would not let go. Eventually, I blacked out, saw a flash of light and then found myself on the ground, staring up at Clive, seeing a sick grin on his face.
“What happened?” I said.
“You tell me,” was all he would say.
On our last day at camp we exchanged numbers and email addresses. Clive told me he would be attending a private school called Baker, a school not far from my home, in the fall. I told him I would try to get my aunt to send me there.
I never forgot who Clive was that entire summer, although I could barely remember the names of any of the other kids I met while at that camp.
Three days after returning home, Uncle Joe flew up to Connecticut in his airplane and brought me down to Macon, Georgia, to his farm. I had vague memories of that place, and of a nearby park. I remembered an abandoned farm across from the park and a girl, although I couldn’t remember her name.
On the first day with Uncle Joe, he took me to the park and played with me. He brought a remote controlled helicopter that we flew, although I crashed it a few times, eventually breaking it beyond repair. The whole time, I had my eyes on the barn on the abandoned farm, but for what reason I did not know.
The next day, I went to the park by myself. In the center of the park stood a large wooden fort. I climbed to the top of it and stared out at the abandoned farm, perhaps expecting someone, soon seeing a young girl poke her head out of the half-opened barn door.
I saw her come out of the barn, running toward me. I knew her, but did not know how and wondered if I would ever know.
She stopped at the bottom of the fort and called out, “What are you doing up there, dummy?”
I fell in love.
She wore ratty, torn and soiled jeans and a dirty white shirt. Her shoes were mismatched and untied and she had a big grin on her face. Her black hair looked like it hadn’t been brushed in months and she had two missing front teeth.
“Waiting for you, I think,” I said, knowing full well that that was what I had been doing.
She climbed to the top of the fort, gave me a playful punch on the shoulder, and then said, “You don’t remember, do you?”
“That’s okay. You will eventually. So, are you going to ask me to marry you?”
“What’s your name?” I said.
“I don’t think I know you well enough to tell you that, Kev,” she said, the grin still on her face. “So are you going to ask me to marry you?”
“Um, will you marry me?”
“Not like that, dummy. You have to get down on your knees.”
I dropped to my knees and asked again. Her face turned serious, and she said, “I accept.” She leaned down and gave me a kiss and then pulled me up to my feet.
“Why don’t I remember you?” I said.
“You don’t remember many things,” she said. “Do you want to go somewhere far away for our honeymoon?”
“How about Uthio Minor?” she said.
“Where is that?”
“Far, far away. I can take us there. Of course, if you remembered, you could take us there, but you don’t.”
“I guess I don’t remember a lot of things,” I said.
“I know, Kev, but you will.” She grabbed my hand and for an instant, the world distorted.
We appeared on a wide beach, hundred foot tall palm trees lining the shore. Off in the distance I saw a hut of some sort, perhaps an outdoor bar. I saw a creature behind the bar, bug-like and dark. Nearby, I saw a house with a thatched roof and bamboo walls. The girl led me to the house and took me inside.
I remembered this house and had vague memories of living in it, but living in it while older. I remembered children playing in the house with an older version of me, and thought I was remembering some strange dream.
“This is our home,” she said.
“Where are we?” I said, an unnecessary question, given that I did know where I was. I just couldn’t believe it. How was this possible?
“Uthio Minor,” she said.
“Is this a dream?”
“No, dummy. This is our home. Come on, let’s get some green tea,” she said. “Maybe that will help you remember.”
She led me out of the house and down the beach to the hut, which was, in fact, a bar. We climbed up onto two stools. I looked at the bug-like creature that was staring at me.
“Hey, Kev,” it said.
“Uh,” I said.
“He doesn’t remember, does he?” said the bug-like creature to the girl.
“Not one thing,” she said.
“I’m Brok,” said Brok.
“You’re a bug,” I said.
“I’ll have you know, I am a Belethian,” said Brok.
“Okay,” I said, thinking Brok looked like a cross between an ant and a cricket, although his hands, all six of them were quite like a human’s and his feet, which I saw when I peered over the edge of the bar, looked much like those of a bird. Odd.
“Green tea?” said Brok.
“Yes,” said the girl.
Brok prepared two green teas and delivered them. “So, how long are you staying?”
“I don’t know,” I said, looking up at the sky, noticing two suns hanging high and a moon hovering on the horizon.
“We’re not going to be here long,” said the girl.
“Where are we?” I said.
“Uthio Minor, the universe’s greatest paradise,” said Brok.
“Yeah, but where’s that?”
“About thirty-seven billion light-years from Earth,” said the girl.
“I don’t understand,” I said, although part of me did understand, and the voice told me to try to remember this place.
“Have a drink. Maybe that will help,” said Brok.
I took a sip of the tea and gasped. This was not green tea. It tasted like…what did it taste like? Something like maple syrup mixed with jet fuel. I heard laughter, familiar voices, and then a woman’s voice.
“Welcome to The If Only You Could Remember Experience,” said the woman. I looked around for the source of the voice, but only saw Brok and the girl.
“It’s all in your head, Kev,” said the girl. “Just relax.”
In that instant, an infinite number of lives passed before my eyes, all my lives, each different, but somehow the same. I remembered and forgot countless times, sometimes possessing infinite knowledge, sometimes not knowing who I was. The moment passed and I found myself sitting cross-legged in the kitchen of my home in Connecticut, a home I had forgotten. I saw a woman standing near the refrigerator, talking to a man. Something told me these were my parents, although I did not recognize them.
“Where’s Kev?” said the man.
“Oh, he’s in his room, taking apart his airplane,” said the woman. “Why don’t you go see him?”
“In a minute. I’ve been thinking about something.”
“I think we should change Kev’s name.”
“Why would we do that?” said the woman, turning to face the man.
“Don’t you think Kev is a stupid name? Don’t you think we should name him Kevin?”
“What’s wrong with Kev?”
“I don’t know. It’s not a real name. It’s an abbreviation, if anything.”
“Well, it was your mother’s dying wish that we name him Kev,” said the woman.
“You and I both know she was drunk when she said that. She must have meant Kevin.”
“I don’t know. Why does it matter?”
“It’s just a stupid name. Anyway, maybe we could name him Jeremy or something else.”
“That would just confuse him, dear. Anyway, if you feel that strongly about it we can have it changed to Kevin, but I’m still going to call him Kev.”
“Okay,” said the man.
I blinked and found myself back at the bar, now staring at the girl.
“Well?” said the girl.
“What?” I said.
“It didn’t work,” said the girl to Brok.
“What didn’t work?” I said.
“You’ll figure it out eventually,” said the girl.
“I don’t understand what’s going on,” I said.
“I can’t tell you,” said the girl. “You have to figure it out on your own. The rules are the rules, after all.”
“What rules?” I said.
“You’ll see,” said the girl. “Do you want to go back to the park?”
I thought about that before saying, “Is any of this real?”
“In a way,” said the girl. “Maybe we could go somewhere else. I haven’t been to Bela Feck in a while. You’ve been there before, but you don’t remember.”
“Okay,” I said, now in a haze. “What’s it like?”
Once again, the world distorted, and then we appeared on the deck of a super-massive platform in the middle of a vast, green sea, a giant, pale blue sun setting. On top of the platform rose skyscrapers miles high. I saw aliens of various shapes and sizes roaming around, ignoring the two Earth-children in their midst.
Strange kite-like creatures floated above, green and yellow, and I could smell mint in the air. “How are you doing this?” I said.
“You should know, Kev. It’s sad that you don’t.”
“We are on another planet,” I said, mostly to myself. “We can breathe here.”
“Well, not all worlds are like this, of course, but there a millions upon millions that are. There are many places we can’t go, places beyond strange. I’ve seen many of them, but only when protected by containment fields. Some day, I’ll take you to Galthinon, if you don’t find it yourself first.”
“Containment fields? Galthinon?”
“Yeah, they a very useful when you’re in some places. As for Galthinon…well, you’ll just have to see for yourself. Too bad you can’t remember.”
“Who am I?” I said struck by a strange doubt, feeling the clear cube pulse in my pocket, and wondering if I would ever find out.
“You are. Doesn’t that tell you enough?” said the girl. “You hungry?”
“Sure,” I said, my belief that this might be a dream taking hold of me.
The girl led me to a small building on the edge of the platform. On the pale red wall facing us, I saw a gray square, and an opening. She placed her hand on the gray square and then reached into the opening, pulling out a small cup filled with something that looked like crushed green ice, handing it to me along with a spoon. She got one for herself and brought me over to a yellow bench.
I scooped a bit of the green ice onto the spoon and tasted it, surprised to find it tasted much like lime and cherry mixed together. “Is this safe to eat?”
“Yeah, of course, dummy. Do you think I would try to poison you?”
“What is it?”
“Not sure, but it’s good. I call it Goog.”
“Goog,” I said, taking another bite. “Is it nutritious?”
“Doesn’t matter. Eat anything you want. You’ll be fine.”
“You know, I’d think I would remember if I had been here before,” I said.
“Nah, you forget things all the time. You really should destroy that black cube of yours.”
How did she know about the black cube? “Why should I destroy it?”
“You have a tendency to lose your memories when you use it.”
“Use it for what?”
The girl looked at me, a sad smile on her face. “I want to tell you, but now is not the right time, Kev.”
I pulled out the black cube and looked at it. As I moved to press the button on it, the girl stopped me. “Not now.”
“Why?” I said.
“You should only use it when you really need to,” she said.
“I don’t even know what it is,” I said.
Later, we went to the top of one of the skyscrapers. From the top, we could see other platforms in the distance, immense structures with skyscrapers as tall as the ones on this platform. Flying ships moved to and fro, some landing on our platform, some going to distant places.
“I like coming here,” she said.
“It’s beautiful. Are there other places like this?”
“Well, Hithatios is somewhat like this, although the buildings aren’t as large, and the sky is yellow there. You have to use a containment field there. Can’t breath the air.”
“How many places have you visited?”
“I’ve lost track. Far more than I can count, but my favorite place is Uthio Minor. That is our planet.”
“Yes, Kev. We are the only ones who live there. Well, right now, anyway.”
“What about Brok?”
“He lives on Travet.”
“Is that a nice place?”
“It’s different. I’ve only been there once and that was enough for me.”
“I know I’m going to wake up soon, so I want to thank you.”
“Kev, I can say with absolute certainty that you are already awake, even if you don’t believe it.”
“Maybe we should get back,” said the girl.
“How much time has passed?” I said.
“Back home, no time will have passed. I can bring us to any time we want to go, except the future. To the relative future, yes, but the true future hasn’t happened yet.”
“What does that mean?”
“What year do you think it is?” she said.
“It’s two thousand five.”
“Wrong, dummy. It’s three thousand, thirty-seven, Earth time.”
“How is that possible?”
“You’re living in the past. You’ll see soon enough. Anyway, we’re in three thousand, thirty-seven right now. When we were on Uthio Minor we were also in three thousand, thirty-seven.”
I tried to understand, to make my confused brain accept things, but I found myself in a haze. “You’re really not going to tell me what’s going on, are you?”
“You’re going to figure it out. Anyway, it’s against the rules.”
“What rules? What are you talking about?”
“I can’t tell you. I’ve already said too much.”
We returned to the park in Macon and played for a couple of hours before the girl left. She said she had to take care of something important, and disappeared right before my eyes.
The next day, I went to the park, waiting for her to return. She showed up, as I was about to leave.
“Sorry I’m late,” she said.
“I didn’t think you were real.”
“Oh, I’m real. You might be too,” she said.
I didn’t ask for an explanation, knowing it was pointless. “Maybe we can go somewhere else today,” I said.
“Not today. I just stopped by to say hi.”
“Couldn’t you have just gone back in time to when I first came here?”
“I can only come to you in your present, not your past, Kev. You explained it to me once, but I have to admit, I didn’t understand a word you said.”
“But, you said this is the past.”
“It is my past, not yours. Well, it is your past, but not the way you might think.”
“I know, but I don’t really get it.”
“How much time do you have?”
“Only enough time for this,” she said, giving me a kiss and then disappearing.
I returned to Uncle Joe’s and we spent the rest of the day on the airstrip he had built on one of his fields, flying remote controlled airplanes.
“Uncle Joe, can we go to a jewelry store today?”
“I want to get a ring for the girl.”
“The girl in the park,” I said. I hadn’t told Uncle Joe about the girl.
“Okay. We can do that. What’s her name?”
“I don’t know. She won’t tell me.”
Uncle Joe laughed, “Girls are difficult creatures.”
On my last day in Macon, the girl appeared at the park. She apologized for going missing, but didn’t tell me where she had been.
“I didn’t think you were coming back,” I said. I had spent every day at the park waiting for her, only leaving the park when Uncle Joe came to get me.
“Don’t worry, Kev. Even if you’re lost, I’ll find you, although you can be hard to find sometimes.”
“I have something for you,” I said, reaching inside my pocket and pulling out a silver ring with a single, small amethyst. I knelt down and put it on her finger, seeing tears come to her eyes. She dropped down to her knees and kissed me.
“I love you, Kev. Some day you will truly understand that. I hope it’s soon, dummy,” she said, punching me on the shoulder. “You’re it.” She jumped up and sped off into the park.
We spent the day chasing each other in the park, laughing and screaming. I remember everything now, but I remember that day more clearly than any other. At the time, I knew few things, but I knew I loved her more than anything else.
Finally, we stopped to catch our breath. I knew it was time to leave, but didn’t know how to end things.
“You could visit me in Connecticut, you know,” I said.
She paused before saying, “We’ll see. You’ll probably forget me anyway.”
“I’ll never forget you,” I said.
“Kev, you’ve forgotten me countless times. You will forget me.”
I swore I wouldn’t forget her, but had already forgotten her by the time I reached my aunt’s house in Connecticut.
While I had been away, aunt Helen arranged for me to get into Baker, the private school Clive would be attending in the fall, the school I had begged to attend. Before Baker would accept me I had to go through a series of tests, so my aunt drove me to the school where I spent several hours being interviewed and tested. The next day, the school accepted me, noting that I had scored higher on my tests than any other student in their history. In fact, I had perfect scores.
I moved into my dormitory a week later.
For whatever reason, I remembered Clive, and counted myself lucky when I found out I would be rooming with him.
Clive and I had the same classes and always sat next to each other. He liked to pass notes to me in class, notes that detailed all of the challenges I would face on The Show. Some of them were ridiculous, like “survive in the vacuum of space,” and “battle Excretorian ants,” but others I knew were challenges I would really face, like, “keep Clive from suffocating you,” and “jump out of a two-story window.”
I survived his challenges, always harmed, but never permanently injured, and Clive always said things like, “You just don’t get it,” and “Are you terminally stupid?”
Every now and then, I remembered a girl, a nameless girl, who may or may not have been real. She was in my dreams, both waking and asleep. I heard her voice. Sometimes, I felt her kiss.
Toward the end of the school year, my aunt agreed to have Clive stay with us for the summer, so Clive and I made our plans, Clive focusing on creating challenges for The Show, and me focusing on finding other things we could do. I told him about my fort, the one thing I truly remembered from my past life.
A new family had moved into my old house. They had no children, but, despite that, had not taken down the fort, knowing my story and happy to let me play there.
Summer came and Clive and I went to my aunt’s house. We spent most of our time playing in the fort. Clive helped me fix it up a bit, and we brought some toys over. Clive said having just a journal and some pens would be too boring.
I knew the journal was mine, but I never peeked inside. If I had, I would have learned quite a bit about myself. If I had, I would have remembered the voice. I would have remembered my parents, and I would have remembered the girl and Clive. But, open it I did not.
“New challenge,” said Clive.
“What? What are you talking about?” I said, having completely forgotten about The Show.
“See that tree?” said Clive, pointing to a tall pine tree. “You have to climb up all the way to the top.”
“You’re going to regret this,” said the voice. I looked around, wondering if someone else was near. “I’m in your head, dummy.”
“Who is this?” I said.
“What?” said Clive.
“Not you,” I said to Clive.
“You don’t need to speak out loud,” said the voice. “Just think. Anyway, don’t climb the tree.”
“Why not?” I thought, wondering if I had gone mad.
“Trust me. You don’t want to do it.”
“Well, are you going to climb or what?” said Clive.
“One second,” I said to Clive.
“Who are you?” I thought.
“I’m you, you moron. Don’t you remember?”
“No. What are you doing inside my head?”
“I am saving you from a world of pain,” said the voice.
“Kev, climb the tree,” said Clive.
“What are you talking about?” I thought.
The voice didn’t answer. I turned to Clive, forgetting about the voice, and said, “What do I get if I win?”
“Your life. Anyway, you only win a prize if you win all the challenges,” said Clive.
“How many challenges are there?” I said, wondering what kind of game we were playing.
“An infinite number,” said Clive. “Climb.”
I made it about two thirds of the way up the tree and stopped. The branches were much thinner up there and I didn’t think they would hold my weight. “I can’t go up any higher,” I said.
“Yeah, you can. Anyway, if you don’t make it to the top you lose.”
“What if I lose?”
“I’m not kidding,” said Clive.
I moved up a few branches and stopped again after I heard a branch crack. “Seriously, I’m going to fall,” I said.
“Keep going,” said Clive.
I made it up another two branches before the branch I stood on snapped, sending me falling to the ground, my body slamming against branches as I fell. I hit the ground and screamed. I could see my thighbone poking out of my pant leg. Moments, later, my leg returned to normal, but there was a bloody hole in my pants. How many pieces of clothing had I destroyed while playing The Show?
“What just happened?” I said.
“You lost,” said Clive, jumping on top of me and putting me into a chokehold. I couldn’t break free and soon blacked out, saw a flash of light and found myself on the ground, Clive standing above me.
“What just happened?” I said.
“You tell me,” said Clive. “Are you ready for the next challenge?”
“How about I give you a challenge,” I said, the memory of falling and being choked by Clive still in my mind, but fading quickly.
“What challenge?” said Clive.
“How about we play let’s drown Clive in the stream?”
Clive laughed harder than I had ever heard him laugh before. When he stopped, he wiped his eyes and said, “Won’t work.”
Clive sometimes wrote in my journal, although he never would tell me what he wrote, and I never read any of it. I know why now, but at the time I just thought Clive’s thoughts were better left to Clive.
Later that summer, Uncle Joe, flew up and brought Clive and me down to Macon for a couple of weeks. Uncle Joe’s model airplane collection fascinated Clive. Getting to fly some of those model airplanes on Uncle Joe’s airstrip blew his mind. When we weren’t flying planes, Clive and I went to the park, where we would play The Show, the show I only sometimes remembered playing in the past. In a five-day period, I broke my arm three times, punctured an eye, almost had my ear cut off, and fractured several ribs, all injuries that miraculously healed.
You might ask why I didn’t question any of this. At the time, I didn’t know it was something I should question. Throughout my life, all of my injuries had always healed in a matter of seconds. I had never had any serious injuries while around my family, so nobody noticed, and I never thought much of it. Of course, I knew in some vague way that other kids were not like me, but I never really saw anyone other than my parents get seriously injured, and I didn’t remember that. So, to me, the healing didn’t seem abnormal or unnatural.
On our sixth day with Uncle Joe, while at the park, the girl appeared as I was picking myself up off the ground after jumping off the top of the fort for at least the tenth time that day, all a part of The Show.
“Hey, dummies,” she said.
Clive looked closely at the girl, a strange look in his eyes, and said, “Who are you?”
“I don’t think I know you well enough to tell you that,” she said.
“I’m Kev,” I said, dusting off my jeans. “This is Clive.”
“I know who you are, Kev, you doofus,” she said.
“I knew you wouldn’t remember,” she said.
“Remember what?” I said.
“Me.” She held out her hand, showing me her ring. “Do you remember that?”
The ring looked familiar, but I couldn’t place it. “Not sure,” I said.
“You gave it to me,” she said.
“Kev has a girlfriend,” shouted Clive.
“I do not,” I said.
“I’m his wife, Clive,” said the girl.
“Excuse me,” said Clive, the strange look in his eyes now transformed into something else, understanding. “Where’s your ring, Kev?”
I looked at my bare hands. “I don’t know.”
The girl came over to me and gave me a kiss, and Clive, in his ever-cheerful way, sung, “Kev and the girl, sitting in a tree, k i s s i n g, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage.”
“Shut up,” I said, annoyed. I knew that I had a tendency to forget things, and was certain that I knew this girl, but for the life of me couldn’t remember her name. “I’m sorry I forgot you. I forget a lot of people.”
“That’s okay, Kev. You’ll remember eventually. So, what are you guys playing?”
“We’re playing The Show. Kev is the contestant. Do you want to play? You can be a contestant too,” said Clive, a wicked grin on his face.
“You don’t want to be on The Show,” I said.
“I’m sure I don’t. Why don’t we do something else?” said the girl.
“Like what?” said Clive.
“Why don’t we go somewhere?” said the girl.
Clive had a funny look on his face, like he knew what was coming, and I almost asked him what he was thinking, but the girl cut in with, “Why don’t we go to Pooter Gorth?”
“What kind of place is that?” said Clive, innocently enough, but with a tone that hinted he already knew.
“The kind of place where you have fun,” said the girl. “Do you want to fly?”
“Like up in a plane?” I said, suddenly quite interested.
“No, like up in the air without a plane,” said the girl.
A distortion in space and time preceded our appearance in the middle of a grassy park, surrounded by low, gray buildings. A large, red sun hung over the tops of things that looked like trees, but were not, that were, in fact, sentient beings called pents, lovely creatures that hardly ever did anything unless roused, in which case, they could be quite lively, although at this time they were not terribly interested in activity of any sort, happy to observe the three children who had come to fly.
“This looks interesting, doesn’t it, Kev?” said Clive.
“Follow me,” said the girl, leading us to a small building on the edge of the park. On the side of the building I saw a shelf and on the shelf I saw several small metal disks. The girl picked one up and instructed us to each take one and put them in our pockets.
“Where are we?” I said, having forgotten that we were on Pooter Gorth.
“Pooter Gorth,” said the girl. “I already told you that.”
“Yeah, but where is that?” said Clive, now with an almost leading tone.
“About a thousand light-years from Earth,” said the girl, shooting Clive a dark look.
“So, we’re on another planet?” I said.
“Yup,” she said.
“Kev, do you think she’s an alien?” said Clive, laughing.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“I’m not an alien, you moron. Now, all you have to do is think of flying, like this.” The girl rose into the air, moving slowly away from us. I stared at the now airborne in disbelief.
Moments later, Clive floated up into the sky, picking up speed. He let out a hoot and cried, “What are you waiting for, Kev? An invitation?”
“Yeah, what are you waiting for?” said the voice.
“Who are you?” I thought.
“I am you, dummy.”
I lifted off the ground and chased after Clive and the girl.
“How do you land?” I called out after about an hour of zipping through the sky, now at least a thousand feet in the air and a little uncomfortable.
“Carefully,” called out the girl. “Think of landing slowly or you’ll hurt yourself.”
Clive floated to the ground, followed by the girl and then me.
“Holy crap,” laughed Clive. “Are you sure you’re not an alien?”
“Pretty sure,” said the girl, now clearly annoyed with Clive.
“What else can we do?” said Clive, ignoring the girl’s tone.
“Where else can we go?” I said.
“Well, we could go to Nerux. Zero gravity. Tons of fun. It’s another playground,” said the girl.
“Let’s go,” said Clive.
We appeared in a large space station, in a large chamber with a variety of floating objects of different shapes, sizes and colors, drifting in space, surrounded by aliens that I guessed were children, judging by their sizes.
“Do you think this is a dream, Kev?” said Clive.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Don’t you think it’s odd that we would be having this dream together?”
“You’re not dreaming, Kev,” said the girl, pushing off of a rotating cube toward us, bumping into me and then reaching out and giving a Clive a push. Clive drifted over to a red sphere about the size of a basketball and held on. The girl and I drifted over to a wall, and then she pushed off heading for a star shaped object. I attempted to follow her, but found myself floating toward a stationary, green cylinder. As I neared it, I reached out and grabbed it, stopping myself.
“What is this place?” I said.
“It’s a space station orbiting Neta Nexus Nine,” said the girl. Neta Nexus Nine sounded familiar.
“What’s the planet like?” said Clive. “Maybe we can go there some time if it isn’t ruled by an evil dictator or something.”
“Maybe you should go down there and find out for us, Clive,” said the girl.
I had been looking at the girl, a memory coming back to me. I knew who she was and I knew how I felt about her. I remembered giving her the ring. If there was anything more to remember, it was, at least for the moment, lost.
We played a game of zero gravity tag, a difficult game for me, much less so for the girl and Clive. Following that we returned to the park in Macon, me in a dream-like state.
“Where else can we go?” I said, filled with excitement.
“I don’t know,” said the girl. “Eventide, Blathus, Keek Snit, a bunch of places,” said the girl, looking quite hard at Clive, clearly deciding something.
“I wish I could travel the way you do,” I said.
“You can, dummy,” said the girl, turning away from Clive.
“No, I can’t.”
“Yes, you can. You just don’t remember.”
I remembered her telling me that I didn’t remember some things on some other world, but not what, and wondered if that was a false memory.
“Can, I travel like you?” said Clive, a silly grin on his face.
“I would think you would know the answer to that question already, Clive,” said the girl.
There was a tone in her words, something that made me feel like she knew something about Clive but was holding back from saying anything direct.
“I would also think I would know if I could,” said Clive. “Who knows? Maybe I can.”
“I have to go now,” she said, ignoring Clive, taking my hand in hers.
“When will you be back?” I said.
“Maybe not for a while. We’ll see.”
“What do you mean?” I said, feeling my heart sink.
“Don’t worry, Kev. I’ll find you. I always do,” she said, and with that she disappeared.
“She is definitely and alien,” said Clive. “Dude, you have an alien wife.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not so sure about that,” I said.
The girl didn’t return to the park that summer, or in any of the six following summers, but I remembered her. Many times, I cried thinking about her, praying that she would come back.
Seven years after that day, I visited Uncle Joe again, alone this time. I had just graduated from high school, co-valedictorian of my class. Clive and I shared that title. I spent a month with my uncle, visiting the park every day. On my last day there, she returned, transformed into something I cannot describe.
“You’ve grown,” she said.
“So have you. I’ve missed you.”
She smiled an ancient smile, something you would never expect to see on a seventeen year old’s face, or on anyone’s face, for that matter. In that instant I realized I had peeked into infinity, and knew I was in the presence of much more than a girl.
“Are you going to give me a kiss?” she said.
I kissed her on the cheek and she turned her head and gave me a more proper kiss. “I’m happy you remembered me this time,” she said.
“There were times when I wished I could forget you like I forget everything else, but I’m happy I didn’t.”
“Do you want to go somewhere?” she said.
“No, not really,” I said. “Maybe we can just sit on the bench.”
I led her to the bench where we sat for hours, and in those hours I felt like time had stopped, a static universe surrounding us. We talked about countless things, about her life and adventures, about what little of my life I could remember, about the universe and all of the strange places that existed within it, and about our love for each other.
“I have to go now,” she said.
“When will I see you again?”
“I don’t know, Kev. You are becoming more difficult to track. You have to stop using that black cube all the time.”
“What are you talking about?” I knew I had the black cube, and that it was in my pocket at that very moment, but I had no memories of ever using it for anything.
“I can’t tell you. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“Please tell me what you are talking about.”
“I’ll tell you this. The more you use it, the more your memories will be messed up. Time lag. So, don’t use it. Maybe you’ll be able to remember me next time you see me if you ease up a bit on it.”
I pulled out the black cube and looked at it. The date on the cube was 2013. I pushed the button once and let go, and said, “It doesn’t do anything.”
“Trust me, it does,” she said.
“Why can’t you tell me?”
“Rules are rules, Kev. Anyway, you’ll figure it out.”
She gave me a kiss and then disappeared.
I looked down at the black cube and pressed the button on it again, this time holding it down for a second. The date went from 2013 to 2012. I looked around and noticed that things appeared to have changed, but in what way I could not be sure. I pressed the button twice and held it for a second and the date went up by one.
Out of curiosity, I again pressed the button twice and held it, but this time until the number climbed to 3237 and stopped. Around me, the world had changed, although the park itself had not changed. Surrounding the park I now saw an immense city. In the sky above, I saw flying cars. In the park, I saw many people and some aliens. Nobody paid me any attention.
I forgot what I had done, forgot about the girl and her warning, and forgot who I was. I looked at the cube again, and out of curiosity, I pressed the button once and held it until the number dropped to 2013. Things returned to normal, although, at that point, I did not remember them being anything other than normal.
I had a habit of using the black cube this way, of taking myself back and forth in time, a kind of tick, something I didn’t realize I did. In fact, I had done this many times, but always forgot I had done it.
I remembered Uncle Joe and thought it might be a good time to go fly planes with him, so I returned to his farm.