October 31st, 2019
That lady gave me this journal to write in. I have no idea what’s going on or who I am, but they seem to and it kind of irks me that they’re withholding information from a full-on amnesiac. Amnesieite. Whatever. I have amnesia and apparently I keep forgetting every morning, so she told me to start writing about my day in here. In case tomorrow me is reading this, it was a painful death in our own mind as I forgot about my own existence and became you. Have fun!
We’re in Providence, Rhode Island. I’m writing this in a pretty broken-down hotel. Whatever I’m wearing right now has either been on my body for over a month or I’ve just been rolling around in puddles of dirt and viscera. There’s a big bloodstain on the sleeve of my undershirt that might have gotten there a couple of days ago. I’m going to go buy a pair of nail clippers from the drug mart across the street when I stop writing because I’ve got some serious witch nails going on. I have a ring on. The exterior is dirty but the inside is clean. It seems they just weren’t the one for me. I’m selling it for the nail clippers and an hour at the laundromat.
I woke up in this room with her sitting at the tiny wooden desk. She was typing something up on a laptop before she noticed me. She’s the six foot four one with the long brown hair and carrying a silver handgun; you’ll recognize her, future me. I was understandably freaked out, seeing as I’ve lost every tangible personal thought, and asked for her name out of politeness. She didn’t give me it, so I’ll call her Susan. She asked me for my name and I genuinely couldn’t tell her. That’s an experience I hope no one ever feels. But she seemed pretty nonchalant about my horrifying situation, apparently because she’s been protecting me for the past week. Protecting me from what, I have no idea. She told me that not only did I get rebooted, it also keeps happening. She bought me this journal to “jot down my thoughts.” I’ve only been awake for about an hour and a half, and yet here I am.
I wasn’t able to get much out of her, but then again, I didn’t really have the courage to ask. Susan looks like she could beat me up to within an inch of my life with an arm tied behind her back. She held the gun at her side- not holstering it or keeping it in a bag, but holding it. I seriously hope it’s because we’re being actively hunted down. I couldn’t help but feel like a werewolf turning back from a hunt to find themselves tied in a trapper’s lodge. Her whole demeanor told me that I was a prize she had won, that she knew she held all the power in our relationship. Her finger rested on the trigger the entire time she talked.
Susan told me that sometimes I get glints of memory. In the past week, I’ve drudged up that I was born somewhere in the southwest. Also, I went to college in Indiana, I have a collection of Terry Pratchett novels, and my mother’s first name started with the letter M. Oh, how far we’ve come. The only useful thing to come from that is actually the Terry Pratchett thing. First, it means I had good taste in literature. Second, it means I have a home, somewhere to keep a collection. The ring means I was married (although I appear to be pretty young). I probably had some debt still clinging to me after college, so I may very well be evading a debt collector as well. And my mom’s initial means I know what her name is, which means I’m… not adopted. I’m really running low on information.
She told me to stay here until she returned.
I’m really scared. I have no idea what’s going on. I have no idea who I am. I’ve never even seen this handwriting before today. What if I was a huge dickhead? What if I did something crazy and that’s why I’ve forgotten everything? What does Susan have to do with it? What is she going to do with me? Nothing good. I need to get out of here.
— — —
Okay, I need to give myself a name. It’s a weird feeling not knowing where you came from, but one’s name is such a fundamental part of their identity that not having it is like having a hole in your body. I don’t care if I don’t have an identity, I need a name; if not to give myself a self to call mine, then to conceal my past. How about Johnny Doe? Or is that too close to Johnny Depp? I’m living the reverse of Groundhog Day, so how about Llib Yarrum? Anti-Bill? Nega-Murray? God, I’m just trying to distract myself from a bad situation. Mohammad Wang combines the most common first and last names to make a very uncommon full name -it’ll work.
My name is Mohammad Wang. It feels so wrong and yet feels so right. All right, I’m going to go take a shower and make sure everything’s in proportion.
— — —
All good. I checked and I may have a tattoo on my back. I don’t have a camera, so I’ll have to ask Susan. The water coming off my body in the shower was a visible effing brown. I’ve been covered in shit for who knows how long. My teeth are yellow and my tongue is swollen. Swallowing is hard, maybe from dehydration. The hotel shower water tasted like I was nursing off the tip of a stalactite purely from how mineral-ly it was.
So, now, I lay and wait. I hope she brings food. I’ve scoured the room for any of my belongings. There’s a duffel bag with straps bound by a metal lock at the foot of the queen bed in the room. Something, or perhaps somethings, jagged and angular form points and protruding edges from within. It doesn’t seem like I could pick it up, let alone roll it over. What clothes are out are scattered on the desk Susan was typing on. They aren’t mine. There are a pair of soiled boots in the bathroom that are on the verge of total uselessness. I guess those are mine.
What if I’m in some human trafficking ring. What if this is it. What if this whole journal business is just a bunch of bull she’s given to a deranged person to steel their nerves while she goes off and talks with their buyer. The door isn’t locked. The windows are open. I could just go. I should just go. I’
— — —
Bonnie came into the room just as I was writing. I lost my train of thought… and my opinion about ditching her. Susan’s name is Alex Bonnie Flowers. She came back into the room with a plastic bag slung over her shoulder as she fiddled around in the waist of her pants to produce the handgun again. She gave the bag to me and sat on the bed at my side. An eyeglass repair kit, a toothbrush, a pack of ballpoint pens, and a packaged sandwich. I didn’t realize how truly hungry I was until I laid my eyes on that thing. I pried open the packaging and tore it into halves. I passed one to her and practically fit the other into my mouth. She didn’t eat.
Between mouthfuls of American cheese and ham, I asked: “So you’re going to sell me to the highest bidder. Some psychopath with a Dunbar number of one and a platinum toupee needs some company. That’s how this works. I’m at least going to be a sex slave with a sugar daddy, right?”
She didn’t change face. “You’re not going anywhere. I’m keeping you safe.”
“By dangling that gun in front of my face?”
She was holding it even as she rested her head against the backboard.
“Do you know how many times you’ve asked if I was going to sell you?” she asked to the ceiling. “Often. A majority of the time, you ask. It’s unbelievable how frequently you circle back to human trafficking.”
“Okay, but is that so unreasonable of a conclusion?”
She sighed. “No, I get it. I understand that you think this is a ploy or a prank or something because you’ve told me so every single day for the past week. But this is not a joke. This is serious, to the point that I can’t keep assuaging you and repeating answers over and over again. Keep writing to yourself in that journal. If not for your sake, then mine. From now on, I’m only answering your questions once. Never again. Let me just say, you are very inquisitive.”
“I’m glad it’s over. Now, have you remembered your name?”
“Nothing. I have no idea what my name is. Call me Mohammad Wang.”
“Sure. Mo, there’s something you have to write down for yourself in the future.”
“Mo I like.”
“Fantastic. Look, keep this in mind, because this is the answer to the question you always ask by the end of the day. We are being chased. I don’t know by who or even what, but I suspect that you did before you lost your memory. I have an interest in keeping you safe. It’s my job. I’m getting paid thirty-six dollars for every hour you stay alive. There’s a penalty should anything happen to you, not just death. Torture, capture, broken bone, toe stub — all that irksome stuff is money down the drain. We have constant tabs on your condition. You are incredibly valuable, just in a different way for me. My paycheck rides on you and I’m the only thing keeping you standing. So look alive and stay close, commission.”
I folded my hands. I knew it was late in the year, but I could feel a radiant heat building under my sides. Everything felt itchy.
“What is going on,” I said outwardly.
“I don’t know,” she answered anyway. “You’re a very interesting customer and a weird one at that.”
“Who are you? If you want me to believe that you have any interest in keeping me safe, tell me who the hell you are, Susan.”
“Okay, first, my name isn’t Susan.” She forcibly took my hand and gave a single powerful pump. “Splendid to meet you for the ninth time, my name is Alex Bonnie Flowers. Go by Bonnie. That is what people know me as and that is what I’ve been told to tell people my name is. It’s also what you’re going to tell people my name is if and only if they ask. Bonnie is from Nova Scotia and has a degree in law from the University of Massachusetts. Bonnie has a certain uncommunicative younger cousin who she keeps by her side at all times. And Bonnie is not only capable of rendering a human being’s arm into an unrecognizable pulp within five seconds of picking on her, but she also only ever speaks from personal experience. Got it?”
“You scare me.”
She shrugged, gun held firm in what was otherwise a very loose expression.
“Bonnie’s an intimidating woman.”
“I guess that if I ask who you work for, you’ll tell me it’s classified or something. Too big for my mortal understanding, because of course it is. This is a young adult fiction novel I’ve found myself in or this is just an incredibly vivid dream.”
“Well, one, it is classified. Maybe you’ll learn what it’s called someday. Wishful thinking. And two, I’ll pinch you if you want.”
“Whatever you say, Mo, that’s probably a ten-dollar infraction anyhow. And you’re right, that name does have a ring to it. You can eat that half, you know.”
I snatched up the other half of the sandwich and, with a lump welling in my throat and a sense of disparity clouding my locus of control, ripped that thing apart.
“Why am I so fucking valuable? You convinced me I wasn’t being held a slave by giving me a sandwich. There’s no way I’m that hot of a commodity that they pay you- what, eight fifty something?- every day to babysit me.”
“I’ll tell you what. You may not be valuable in that way, but you’re peculiar. And we deal in peculiarities. You managed to piss off our enemy. We have no goddam idea how. But we sure want to.” She rolled off the bed and, almost playfully, bopped my forehead with the barrel of the gun. “So get to remembering, Mo.”
She’s typing on her computer now. I’m writing on the bed. I’ve realized that wanting to go home doesn’t predicate on the existence of a home. It’s a feeling of needing to belong, not returning to someplace. I just want to be in a familiar place, but right now I have nothing familiar to come back to. If I really did have a home once, it would just be as foreign as this room. Probably less, actually. I’ve kind of imprinted on its random stains and nebulous odors. It’s the only thing Mohommad Wong has ever known. Whatever awaits me outside- maybe on the Atlantic Coast, maybe further north, wherever my captor will take me- is unreal, for Mo has never set foot into those waters. I’m actually kind of scared to leave this room. What if the windows out of this room are screens meant to allude to a sense of safety and freedom when in reality I’m… no, this is real. There’s no getting around it. I’m going to have to ask Bonnie to let me out eventually. Even then, there’s no getting her off my side. I’m stuck with this gun-wielding maniac. Wait, Bonnie, if you read my journal while I sleep, I didn’t mean it. You’re an upstanding gun-wielding maniac who I have grown very fond of and love to be in the company of.
Fuck. I wish I had more of that sandwich.
— — —
It feels much better to write with shorter nails. I’ve still got the ring, though. Bonnie paid. I’ll be holding onto my precious for something down the line.
It’s Halloween in Providence. I doubt this place was ever significant to me, or anyone for that matter. Our hotel runs along a channel of bookstores and window shops, buildings parting to form alleyways and windows toward the eastern black ocean. Some of the shops were not shops but empty, unrenovated rooms waiting for something to fill them, nothing but storage or additional window room for their neighbors. And even among the ones that had actual people in them, barely any had decorations. After Lovecraft, I couldn’t imagine that Providence was anything less than the horror capital of the world, but this is just sad. Cobwebs tangled into white threads by the sea and plastic pictures of jack-o‘-lanterns hung behind products was all they had to show off their Halloween spirit. No one is out on the beach or in the streets. Cars that look like they might have been made under the administration of someone who could say the n-word on live television and be cheered for it pop and rumble through the stone streets. This place is old. I hope there will be a couple kids out at least.
I think I like this holiday. It’s a weird thing to think. I’m like a baby, trying to associate myself with things around me. Does past me’s notion of Halloween have anything to do with what I think of it?, because I seem to be pretty tied to today. I’m just excited (although that may be the endorphins from the terror of knowing that my consciousness is going to die tonight and that Halloween me will never write ever again and that I am going to die because I am the mind and not the body)! I may not even like Halloween tomorrow, it being nothing more than a passing topic Bonnie might bring up or reflected by decorations not yet taken down. It’s strange, man.
When I asked Bonnie if I could go and get some things, she insisted I stay here and that she would go and get them for me. I eventually got around to her. I complained about cabin fever and, strangely, that was enough to convince her. Torture, capture, broken bone, toe stub… didn’t get the time to stretch their legs. It’s good to know I actually have influence over this pillar of a woman. That, or, it was because I told her it was because I wanted nail clippers and she showed me a frightening scratch on her arm where I had reportedly lashed at her when we met for the third time. I get that she might have an interest in declawing myself. She can’t have the gun in her hand when she’s outside. It seems like she’s uncomfortable without it, not that she feels she needs to constantly be protecting me. She kept it in the inside pocket of a puffy green jacket that she kept half-zipped up. I wondered if there was kevlar in the jacket as well.
We found a little corner shop. The gray-haired man behind the counter looked at us like we were carnies in town for the week: the Goliath and the Skeleton dual act. I grabbed what I needed and, forgetting that I wanted to pawn the ring for cash, asked if I could just give it to him. His look of astonishment intensified into bemusement. I think Bonnie could sense that I was breaking from the crowd and becoming too auspicious, so she gave him the money before I could forfeit my only remaining material worth.
Oh, I had to wear those boots. The sole in one literally fell out as we were walking back. The road is cold as shit and caked with mud and bits of ice. I asked Bonnie if we could do some clothes shopping or at least get a change of clothes for me, but she denied me the privilege. Wouldn’t a change in appearance do me some good? I’ve worn the same things for days now, surely losing my recognizability pays off for staying in public longer. She’s out of her mind if she thinks I’m going to sleep in these clothes.