Remembering How It Started


October 1883 Darcie Sherbourne meets Lord Percival Valerian. February 1886 She dies.

Late Fall 838 A young Darjeeling woman of the aristocratic caste meets a Rakshasa prince, becoming engaged weeks later. Early Spring 839, day of her wedding, she dies.

There were memories floating around, still unbound to a life, still as of yet unidentified in time. Some, more terrifying than others. Thick, rusty chains and screams echoing in a damp, stone dungeon, somewhere, sometime in Paris. The sounds of sheep bleating in the morning mist, before the heat of the day. Yards and yards of raw silk bundles stretched out before my bamboo cane in Japan. The sporadic memories that welled out of me all started from a single spring.

Late summer, 2006, a small community college in Ohio, a woman recovering from a tragedy sneaks into a special lecture for an advanced comparative religions class. Dr. Kaga, a world renowned expert on religious meditation, PhD in Cognitive Psychology, was speaking on internal alchemy, the Taoist practice of developing the mind and spirit for immortality. He led the half full lecture hall in a series of breathing techniques which left most of the students becoming very sleepy and yawning.

I, on the other hand, had collapsed in the back of the room, not to be found until after all the students had left and Dr. Kaga was collecting his things. He had heard my cell phone chirping. He had kindly helped me into a nearby chair and assured my panicked husband Dan that I would be safely sent home.

“Do you remember what happened?” he asked me.

“I’m sorry?”

“What were you doing when you collapsed?” he asked politely. He reminded me of someone I knew. But that would be impossible. Maybe someone I knew from a movie or television show. This was before I knew of my pasts.

I touched the back of my head, feeling for a bump. “I was doing your breathing.”

“Would you mind showing me? Those techniques are not known for causing young ladies to faint. Perhaps you were not exhaling properly.”

It was an odd request but as I was a student on scholarship taking a few summer courses and sneaking into much more expensive talks, the least I could do was humor him. So I began to breathe and black closed in on me once more.

When I came to, I was on my back again, this time with my legs raised up in the chair I had been previously sitting in. When I tried to sit up, Dr. Kaga gently pushed my shoulder back to the floor.

“I’ve called an ambulance. They should arrive shortly. Have you had a head injury recently?”

I broke out into a cold sweat. “Please, please no more doctors.” I agitatedly kicked the chair away and tried to get to my feet.

Relax,” he said.

I want to see no more doctors,” I hissed back.

He started and sat up bolt straight in his seat. I stopped struggling, realizing that I felt awful, my head was splitting open and nausea welled up. Purse strap wrapped around my wrist, I clamored to my feet, forgetting my backpack, and made a quick exit to the nearest bathroom, just outside the lecture hall. I threw up in the nearest toilet and then spent a few minutes chilling my fevered brow on the outside of the bowl while it flushed.

Feeling marginally better, I made my way to the sink, rinsed my mouth out, and then splashed my face with some water. I popped a couple of breath mints into my mouth, and then fished my makeup bag out of my purse. As I searched for my powder, Dr. Kaga opened the door a crack and called to me.

“Is it ok to come in?”

“Yes.”

He stepped inside, walking with great quiet and care toward the sinks to stand just behind me. I’d made it to applying lip gloss before he uttered another word.

“Do you remember anything you said while you were under?”

“Excuse me?”

He took a measured step towards me. “I don’t want to alarm you. Nor would I like you to faint again. Especially since I cancelled the ambulance request. But you were not speaking English before. It was Japanese. Do you remember that?”

He stood close, just behind me. I think he was readying himself to catch me if I fell again.

“Don’t be ridiculous. I substitute teach Spanish at the school sometimes but I don’t know any other languages besides that.”

He caught my eye in the mirror in a way I’ll never forget, his whole demeanor becoming calm and soothing, like a confessor or a priest. The palm of his hand touched the middle of my back, not with pressure, but just touching there, offering support, understanding, solace.

I felt a panic rise up.

He said something in what I assumed was Japanese. But it sounded foreign.

I shook my head.

“May I?” he pointed to my makeup bag.

I nodded, not even knowing what I was giving him permission to do. I just stood there, his right hand against my back, his left digging in my makeup bag, my left hand holding the lip gloss cap, my right holding the gloss halfway to my parted mouth.

“Sometimes, it’s better to let other parts of the brain work on a problem for awhile.” He brought out the eyeliner pen, the kind with an end like a little paintbrush. He took off the cap and handed it to me as I set down the lip gloss cap in the sink.

He stretched my left hand with the eyeliner pen out and touched it to the mirror while my eyes were riveted to his face. He was humming. Or maybe singing. I could almost make out the words.

“Did you really cancel the ambulance? No doctors are coming?” The eyeliner pen moved against the mirror as he stepped back, just his right hand still on my back. My head turned to follow him, my body remained straight forward.

He had the kindest eyes and a very nice baritone. His lips started to move into words and he seemed to finish a verse before assuring me. “Yes, no doctors.”

My right arm dropped the gloss into the sink and rested there.

“But you’re a doctor.”

“Not that type.”

“I suppose you’re going to tell me I’m crazy too.”

His eyes flicked to the mirror and then the most genuine smile formed across his tan, wizened face. “No, I believe you are most sane, Ms. Quinn.”

“You just met me and I fainted in your lecture. Because of breathing. Why would you think that?”

“Because an old soul reaching forward into a new life is a very rare and beautiful thing, Ms. Quinn. It should be cherished and nurtured so that it may come into its full bloom. But sometimes, it needs quiet to lose itself enough to be heard.”

He gestured to the mirror and I turned my head back to see black eyeliner arranged in a most beautiful design. And my left hand holding the pen.

“Wha—What does it say?” I asked in hush tones.

As it turned out, Dr. Kaga hadn’t known exactly either. It had taken his expert several weeks to decipher. But in the end, it hadn’t mattered too much. The dam had been cracked and Dr. Kaga had been able to help me control the damage by lowering the proverbial reservoir of water. Weeks of narrative therapy let some of the most pressing memories out while allowing me to sketch others into existence, making them available for translation.

By the time the winter had arrived and I couldn’t drive the hundred miles to school every day, Dr. Kaga and I had developed on online correspondence, sending me the translation of what I wrote along with the description on how old it was.

An expert in Japanese writing identified the early kanji characters phrased with some local Japanese spoken influence and dated it circa 410 CE. Kofun era, when it was rumored that writing first began in Japan. It was the earliest identified memory I had from all those we freed that autumn.

There were two books most important in my life. The first was the Memento, its format dictated to me when I gained possession of it sometime after all that. There were the fact pages, scribbled notes over the years. Stories and myths here and there. Then there were the more emotive pages, like Lucy and Maurice’s. But timelines, dates, descriptions of who I was when I met them, no, that wasn’t in there.

That information lay in my case notes; simple leather bound volumes of ruled paper. The first volume started as the record of my narrative therapy which I had extended to include my own treatment of vampires. In two years of searching for clients and doing what I could, two years of my own stories had gone ignored. Somewhere along the way, I’d forgotten what had kept me sane. It was the ability to let the memories out to blossom.

So I wrote an entry in my notes, one just for me, only about me. It began like this:

July 26th, 2009

Not able to divine treatment for Case #13-4, afraid this is a lost cause. The paradox of how to save a vampire may be to let another perish. Discovered today I know Turkish. Perhaps the recent memories of spices and sand came from that place. Must remember to investigate.

Realize these feelings for Case #13-5, Jesper, run deep. We have met before. God help us both stick around long enough to remember it.

And it was at that moment, I took particular notice of the Kukri that Morena had left with me. It was as if the thing held itself up and said Hi! Remember me? I picked it up and felt a queasiness move all through me. It was obviously an anti-vampire weapon. It was ridiculous to think I would have a use for it.

No, the absurd thing was that in this case I was beginning to believe the most heartfelt and profound action would be no action at all. To let the Universe have its way with me, bend me to its needs and whims.

You hear that Universe? I’m not going to fight you. You have me in an untenable position. Instead of moving a piece, I prefer to let my clock run out, force you out of hiding your purpose.

It was about that moment a cacophony of crows could be heard outside. It raised the hairs on the back of my neck so that I went over and opened the door, looking out. Under a streetlight, I could see a crowd of them fighting around the dumpster toward the back of the lot. There seemed to be about twenty of them. Almost four and twenty.

Hmm, but no pies. I put my hand to my throat and remembered that my necklace was still missing. I’d given it to Nick to give to Lucy when she awoke from her Rigor Dormitus. It seemed an age ago. It was just one week. I should call her, make sure her ears were healing.

I closed the door, went back to my desk, and a memory came back to me. When Lucy was little, she would leave me gifts on days when I had to be awake during the daylight hours. She’d hide it somewhere I could find it and wrap a black ribbon around the gift so I would know it was from her. A silver spoon. A posy of lilac. She was my dark little cherub and I could always count on her leaving me something. She’d once found a knife bayonet in the forest and wrapped it in a black lace ribbon.

In a way, I wondered if the Kukri was from her, via Morena. Except no ribbon. I wondered if she’d forgotten all about that or folded the memory away. It seemed such a small thing to remember. Like a lover’s kiss hidden behind a veil.

I wrote both memories in the case notes. Then after a quick text to Lucy, I managed to down a few bites of the food that Nick had left behind. An inscribed anti-vampire weapon. Turkish fluency. A vampire orphan.

Maybe he wasn’t responsible for the killing around here. Maybe something else was going on. Maybe there was another vampire involved.

The crows made a bunch of noise as if to argue that thought. I wasn’t in a position to know. I sighed. I hated waiting as much as I hated failing. But there was nothing for it. When one has no clear action to take, the only action is stillness.

I packed the kukri with me, tossing it into the same non-specific bag as I’d found it along with my case notes and my laptop. Back at my hotel room, I started a hot bubble bath, took as much Melatonin as was safe, followed by one of the little bottles of merlot in the mini-fridge, soaked until I felt drowsy, and slid into Egyptian cotton sheets that reminded me of nothing.

Alright, Universe, your move.

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2 Responses to “Remembering How It Started”

  1. jozdavis Says:

    How could this possibly get MORE interesting? ;0

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