Chapter 25: Surfacing

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 Chapter 25: Surfacing

I was nowhere. I was nothing.

No, wait: I couldn't be nothing. I was thinking.

Was I a thought? A lost thought?

I had language. Intelligence, too. But I couldn't remember anything before a moment ago when I winked into existence.

What was I? Was I always this? Or was I something else once?

How did I get here?

I wasn't hurt, nor panicked or scared. Neither hot nor cold.

I just was.

Drifting.

And curious.

***

I just lost some time there.

I didn't know how I knew that, but there was a blank, and then I was back.

Back where?

I was still formless. Still drifting.

Should I be doing something? I wondered.

What could a bodiless brain do? I tried to remember if there was something I should be remembering but nothing came to me. There was this, and only this, and nothing before this.

It was exquisitely boring.

***

After a dozen or so blink outs, something finally changed.

At first I thought I was imagining it, because nothing here ever changed, but I wasn't.

There was a little something extra to my awareness now, something out on the furthest reaches of perception: a hint of movement.

I concentrated on it, and it gradually became clearer. Wherever I was, whatever I was, I was moving.

Should I be concerned? I wondered.

Why? Something happening is better than nothing at all.

And even if I was moving, what difference did it make?

***

Two blips later, I was granted form.

Or at least the sensory realization that there was more to me than raw thought, suspended in pitch.

I'm awakening, I thought randomly, and something clicked. That was right, felt right. I am surfacing.

While I focused on my form, and tried to make sense of the shape and size of it and how to control it, other things began to seep in and invade my senses. Rock music. The sweet, earthy, vibrant scent of summer. A feeling of warmth on my skin.

All things I remembered, but not until I heard, smelled and felt them.

Then, finally, bang! I had an identity: Mills Millhatten, age sixteen. And it brought with it everything else I'd forgotten: my family, my friends, my kidnapping, my captivity, magic, Keel, our attempted escape, that dark red, ever-growing puddle of his blood contrasting against the stark, white concrete floor as I helplessly embraced his dead weight, my sense of loss and failure so profound in that moment I'd been content to die there with him, beside him.

The back of my throat burned as raw, unabated grief razor-wired my heart. And somehow, deep down inside, I knew if I gave in to the misery now, I'd sink back under and drown. But it was so hard not to...

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