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The Amnesiac

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The boy needed air. The humidified air of the hospital bogged down his lungs, making them feel like sacks of heavy, wet stones. He ran out of his room, down the stairs, out of the hospital; air, air, he needed air! He ran onto the street. Cars honked at him, but he kept running. He ran until the roads ended. He ran into the forest.

He breathed the air; God, he loved it! He looked around himself. The pine trees stood there as testaments of time, they looked like marble statues with snow lacing their branches and their grayish bark. The trees towered above him; the smallest twigs were three times his size! When the wind blew, the entire forest turned into a blizzard, the gallons of snow falling off the branches. The boy sat in the snow. He had forgotten to wear shoes. He only wore socks that had rips in them from running. He walked for a while and the socks soon became soaked and his feet burned from the freeze. He screamed. He jumped onto a tree and held the trunk. The trunk was filled with divots and holes that he could easily grab.

He stayed there for hours. As soon as he became bored, he forgot everything and wondered why he was there, only that his arms hurt. He felt the pine needles beat against him. They smelled good.

He was in a house made of wood, pinewood. An old woman sat on the ground with a dull knife and a piece of wood. Her hair was long and white, but she was muscular and had tattoos. “Knife’s too dull,” she murmured. Chunks of wood were scattered about her. A fire crackled behind her. Two pieces of wood were tied to her feet. “Too damn dull. What are you here for? Got me a better knife? Thanks, boy.” She took the knife from him and began whittling. “Much better.” The woman handed him the old knife. “Throw it into the fire.” The boy threw it into the fire. No, the knife didn’t take away the smell of the pine, the warmth; it just seemed to make the place brighter. The woman kept talking and talking, but he couldn’t make out the words anymore, it was disappearing.

It was cold. The boy gripped the tree. The snow hit his back.

“Pinewood,” the boy said to himself. He smelled the tree. “Pinewood,” he said again. He pulled the bark off the tree. He put it on his feet and kept it on by pushing his feet against the tree. He tried pulling off more, but he fell into the snow.

His eyes opened. The sun was rising. He was soaked and his body burned. His arms were sore, but he didn’t notice. Why was he here? Where was he? Wasn’t he in the pinewood house watching the knife in the fire?

He stood up. His feet hurt and they bled. Two large pieces of wood lay next to him. He took off his socks, put the wood pieces on his feet, and tied them to his feet using his socks. He didn’t sink in the snow anymore. He walked around. He left a pinkish trail behind him.

The boy looked at the sky. The sun blazed high in the sky now and the snow reflected it.

He was hungry. This was a new feeling, but he knew instinctively that he needed food, but what was there other than the pine trees?

“I’m hungry,” the boy said. Yes, that was the word for it. Hungry. Hungry. Hunger. Hunger!

“…Coyotes hunger for things like that, so no meat in the traps!” the old woman said. It was summertime and they were in the woods. The old woman put leaves and berries in a trap made of grass. “Rabbit meat, have you ever tried it? It’s good. Might be a little gamey for you, but you’ll like it.” The woman handed him berries, leaves, and grass. “You try.” The sun shone off the waxy leaves and grass and the berries smelled good. “Climb the tree and tie the ropes to that branch up there.” The tree was huge! He held onto anything he could, any divot, any bump, until he got up to the branch. His heart beat and he felt too light, like the wind might carry him away. He reached the branch and tied the rope to the branch. He felt adventurous and proud. He went back to the ground using the rope he tied and he got brush burn. He tied the grass to the rope. This took him the longest because his hands still hurt from the brush burn. He weaved the grass net and put the leaves and red berries in. The woman told him they would wait for the rabbits to come. They climbed the tree and sat on the branch. The world was his, he could see forever and ever. At night, a rabbit came and got caught in the boy’s trap. The woman lit made a fire using a match and made a makeshift spit. The boy ate the leg of the rabbit. Some parts were white and fatty and the other parts were gamey. The woman squished some berries on top of it and ate it that way. The boy copied her. It was tart and delicious. The moon rose over them.

The boy blinked. He was hungry. The sun was high and the trees loomed over him. “I’ll eat rabbit. I’ll catch it, just like that woman taught me to.”

The boy began to look for leaves and berries. The boy walked and walked but could find nothing. Finally, he found a giant lump of snow. He touched it and snow fell off of it. Underneath was a bush full of berries. He brushed off the rest of the snow. Some of the berries were black and shapeless, but a few were still the red orbs like in his memory. Some of the leaves were still green as well. He plucked the leaves and berries and walked away.

There was no grass though. Where did the woman get the grass? Wait…

The boy stopped dead in his tracks. What was he doing again? Why was this in his hand? He could vaguely remember something…

“No!” the boy said. He stomped his foot. Snow flew around him. The memory escaped him. His eyes burned. This was the first time he had become truly aware that something was missing, that he kept forgetting everything. His eyes burned. “Dammit!”

“…Dammit!” the old woman said. They were in the pinewood house. The fire crackled and the boy held a mug full of hot water in his hand. The woman’s sleeves were rolled up and there was a tattoo that said H.A.M. in pink letters, the color of a pig. Under it, the year 1945 was printed in large letters. “They would do anything, those Hairy Assed Marines! Matter of fact, while I was flying them to a new station, they asked me serve them! Expected me to be housewife in a warzone!” the woman laughed. “Yeah, that’s what we called them, me and my friends! Damn them, those men!” The old woman shook her head. “But somehow, I thought it would feel good to fight in the war! That I would be supporting feminism or something! Nope. It was just watching people die, and staying awake wondering if you will be next.” She shook her head. “Thank God it’s over!” They didn’t speak. The fire crackled. “But I’m rambling. Caught some rabbit the other day, let’s cook it over the spit!”

The boy gasped. “I have to catch the rabbit!” the boy said this to himself over and over again. He couldn’t find grass, so he put bark on the ground and waited. He climbed a tree. He thought about the woman. He tried remembering her as much as possible, about her climbing the tree, about her rambling. He climbed the tree little by little until he reached a branch. He wiped the snow off, straddled it, and held onto it with both hands. While he waited, he focused on his memories. He chanted it over and over every event, everything, so that he wouldn’t forget.

Soon, a rabbit came. It nibbled on the berries. The boy was excited, but then he realized something. He set out a meal for the rabbit, not a trap! He ripped a twig off the tree and slowly, silently climbed down the tree.

He moved towards the rabbit. It was eating. He was almost on its tail, when the rabbit saw him and sprung off.

The boy ran after him, but the rabbit was fast. The boy knew he would lose it. He threw the stick at it. He missed. The stick hit a branch and snow fell off the branch and onto the rabbit. It stopped moving.

“Yes!” he shot his arms into the air and ran towards the pile of snow. He uncovered the rabbit. It was stiff and cold. He began to cry. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. He felt awful. He held the rabbit in his arms. It was much heavier than he expected it to be and made him sick. He threw up. It was all acid. He ran away from the rabbit. He couldn’t eat it.

When he was away from the rabbit, he ate snow and pine needles. It hurt his mouth and his gums bled, but it was better than eating the rabbit. He needed more. He ripped the bark off the trees and ate it. He gums were a mess. He was spitting up blood for a long time. He ate more snow to soothe his gums. The place began to stink of the blood and he went away.

Night fell. The boy climbed a tree; he was getting good at it! He climbed to the highest branch he could. He saw the tops of the other trees and ravens building nests, raccoons staring at the moon. The snow glistened against the moonlight. His heart pounded wildly. The wind and snow no longer bothered him; with his new memories, he was invincible! He laughed and ravens flew out of their nests.

The boy stayed up all night thinking of his memories, of the woman. He wouldn’t lose them again, he couldn’t. He engraved the memories of the two pieces of wood on his feet. He watched the sun rise from the highest branch.

He and the woman stood outside of the pinewood house. The sun was rising on the ocean outside the house. Directly in front of them laid a big wooden bucket full of fish. It smelled like salt. “We caught ‘em all!” the woman said. “Night fish. Gotta stay up all night to catch ‘em, but it’s well worth it! Delicious little things!” The woman picked up the bucket. She brought into the house and dropped the on the ground. “Gettin’ too old for this,” she said. She rubbed her back. “Come on, help me get the spit.”

The boy smiled. He engraved the memory on the wood.

The boy climbed down the tree. He chewed on tree bark and spat it out. The bark had opened up his gums again. He ate more snow. He was happy. He walked aimlessly, never getting bored, always forgetting everything as soon as he did, but he never forgot those memories; they were always with him. They faded, but he always had them in detail under his feet.

He did this for days. Every day in the woods felt like the first, except he became sharper day by day. He could climb trees better than a monkey, ran faster than the rabbits in the forest, and he had nearly no fat on his body. Memories came less frequently though, but he couldn’t remember when he did, so it didn’t matter to him.

One day, he turned around and walked in the other direction, just because he felt like it. He saw paw prints. They went over his blood. He saw a rabbit carcass.

The boy’s heart beat. What was this? These paws? He became very frightened. He climbed up a tree. He sat on a branch and hugged his legs. He cried. This frightened him to the core; no words could describe it. The sight of his blood on the snow and the paws there, something licked it up? Something followed him? For a split second, his mind flashed back to the ocean outside the pinewood house and the woman looked at him with large eyes.

The boy swung from tree to tree from now on. He would look down sometimes and see the paw prints. He shivered when he saw them.

It was a cold day. The woman and the boy were inside the pinewood house. “The water’s gonna freeze over tomorrow. It looks really strange; the fish still swim under the ice,” the woman was telling him. She drank water from a wooden cup. Steam rose from it. The air was quite warm in the house and sap seeped from the wooden walls. It felt quite homey. The boy drank from his cup.

The boy kept swinging from branch to branch.

The boy saw the paw prints all the time now and heard growls. He went faster and faster, sometimes kept moving during the night. It began to grow warmer, now the boy saw the paw prints a red marks. Everyday was like the first day to him. Everyday his fear was renewed.

He began to come to an end of the forest. The paw prints were now always in front of him. He saw different animal carcasses along the way, including a rabbit.

The boy went to the woman’s house. She was inside. They went outside together and sat at the edge of the lake. The woman picked at a scab on her thumb.

The boy swung into a clearing. There was a large log cabin and a body of water in front of him. He felt dizzy. He gasped loudly then covered his mouth.

“Look at it!” the woman said. She pointed into the ice. “A shark. I’ve never seen them so close to shore, have you, boy?” The boy shook his head. “Why don’t you go inside and get us some hot drinks?” The woman’s scab opened and drops of blood fell on the ice.

The boy covered his mouth. Don’t move. Don’t breathe. Tears poured down his face. He heard rustling in the trees. Coyotes came out of the forest. They had bloody paws.
The boy went out of the woman’s house with two steaming mugs. The woman looked at him for a moment. Her eyes looked wild. Suddenly, she was pulled into the water.

The coyotes cornered the boy. He was on the edge of the lake.

The boy ran towards the woman as fast as he could.

The coyotes pounced on him. He ran onto the ice and broke it. The coyotes were in the water. The woman tried to get out. The boy jumped out of the water. The coyotes were drowning. A shark approached them. The shark pulled the woman in, and the boy watched, he was shaking. She was gone. The coyote’s blood stained the icy water. In that instant, the boy remembered everything.

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