I checked my backpack a third time and made sure I had everything I needed. It was going to be one of those days. The kind of day where I was expecting to punch a centaur in the stomach, or maybe just try and eat a lunch that wasn’t tinned tuna. All the actually good food had either gone bad or been eaten by them. And by them, I actually meant… them. No one quite knew what they were, but everyone had seen what they could do. Nobody still alive had seen them but what they left of the ones who did see them gave our imagination enough to work with.
…I still say ‘our’. Will I ever get used to this? Two weeks. What do human faces even look like?
It’s been long enough that I’ve forgotten what I look like.
What should I look like? I find it hard enough to even see my own hands, if they are hands. What are hands? Should I have them?
I get confused. Where are they, our. Us. Everyone. Anyone. Someone.
I realize I’ve always just assumed I was human. No mirror ever confirmed it to me. But what did it matter if I was the only one? No. There were others. They can’t all be gone.
In the distance I saw another centaur.
I blacked out again. It seemed to happen a lot. I blame the centaurs. I did punch one, once. It might have been the best day I can remember.
I still do not know why I get black outs though. Maybe it’s them. They cause it.
I tried to recognize the place but the darkness made every place look the same. I’ve only got my maybe-hands to find my way around. Centaurs were clearly visible though. Their eyes. If those things were eyes. Thinking of them made me shake.
There were times of light. But the sun one day refused us it’s light. Not it’s warmth, just the light.
I still don’t know how it works. Mostly, it’s dark here. Light is hard to come by. I’m good at seeing without light. Or maybe I am bad at seeing without light. I cannot remember what light is, so maybe that is the problem. I can always pack my backpack easily enough though.
But from what I heard of the sun, our sun, it was nice. Warm. And nice.
I felt tired. I would sleep in narrow passages. Too narrow for the centaurs. Too narrow for them. I didn’t like sleeping. It gave me time to think, gave my mind time to wander. Wander through a field of memory landmines.
Never memory lane. That would be too easy. No, my memories, of what I always presumed were memories, would come to me, in an explosion of senses, the smell, the sound, the colours. It would explode upon me, bombarding me with every little single detail. And then leave. Only a shard, or small sliver would remain. And then, I would forget the memory.
That’s why I needed my backpack. I had to write down the memory, as soon as it happened, every smell, like the smell of wet cement, or feeling my feet walking through hot pavements, the soles of them blistering, or hearing the sound of shouting, people gathered in massive groups, children cheering, or crying. I never knew which. I still cannot remember what children look like.
However, my notes, while full, are hectic, sloppily written, hard to decipher. I can never remember what the memory was, even when reading them again.
But at least they won’t be entirely lost.
A new memory washed over me. I closed my eyes. I smell… salt. Salty air. I hear waves crashing against rocks. A voice. It spoke a language I did not understand. I did not know whose voice it was. Whether human or something else. Only the most important detail. I had loved this voice.
I had loved this voice, so, so much. Even when the memory was gone, and I finished scribbling down half remembered details, the voice. I still remembered the voice. Who were they? He? She? It? I wanted to know.
I woke up. The voice… I remembered it. I really did remember it! I would’ve laughed, cheered but I did not know how. A memory that stayed with me. That only spoke for its importance. I need to find the owner of this voice! I was about to leave my hiding spot when I saw something in the dark. Something I thought were eyes.
Whose eyes were they? What was it. Was it a centaur, or them, or… our?
I tried to focus. I heard voices. They weren’t memories and they weren’t the one I remembered. I came closer but stayed out of reach. I recognized them. The eyes. Once those eyes belonged to my friends. Then they disappeared. They took them. And here they were. And I understood. They belonged to them now. They were them.
They were them. They had betrayed me. I needed them, yes they had left. But.
How dare they.
They kept babbling on in the language I did not understand. My rage took over and I attacked them. I did not see that they weren’t alone. All those who had left me. They had pinned me down without any effort. Kept talking. Those Bastards. All these voices.
But one stuck out. A new one, but one I knew.
It. I remembered It. Them. The new one. I knew It. Somehow.
And then something clicked into place. It was…
I remembered how to scream. I remember it wasn’t them who betrayed me. I was the one who betrayed them. Forgot them. But that wasn’t really me, was it? Something had taken me. Us. Made us forget. Who we were. What our goal was. But they escaped it. Finally so did I. I remember the voice I loved. I didn’t understand what that voice said while I heard it. But I remembered the words now and remembered what they meant. I remembered what the voice meant. What the person meant to me. This feeling helped shake off whatever had infested my mind. I asked where I would find my dear friend. They attacked me still. Didn’t they see I was back? It’s me! Really me! Please!
Their voices spoke. What did they say? I was the one who did this? I let it in their minds? I… can’t imagine that. This compassion I feel for you, these are my true feelings, aren’t they?
Why do you not recognize me? Surely I do not look different? See, I am still me! See, my voice is surely the same, surely you know who I am. I am me, Our, Us, I am.
I am what?
What, what am I?
I am human, but what are you? Why aren’t we the same? Why is your skin looking so soft. Why do you only have two eyes? What are those things at the ends of your arms? What grotesque monstrosities have you become?
What do you mean I have changed? I am no monstrosity. I am still me, I am what I always was. I have not changed, mutated, become different. You have all changed.
Everyone has changed. The voice, It, has it changed?
My dear beloved friend… disfigured like you all?
Maybe… whatever has caused this, maybe it hadn’t reached my friend yet. Let me go, I have to save-
Was this pain I felt? Something of me was missing. It smelt of burnt flesh. Had they shot me? A hole burnt into me. No! My friend! I stumbled forward. Then there was a hole in my leg. I kept going on the other ones. Of course I couldn’t flee. I fell. This was the end.
I heard the voice. Questioning. Disbelief.
Voice, what has happened to you? Are you still here, still like me? Not disfigured? I wanted to turn around. I wanted to see them… one last time… no matter how they looked now. They were still my friend. My dear, sweet, beloved friend.
Stay safe, don’t let them change you.
“Are you sure… this… thing was…?”
“I’m sorry, there was nothing we could do… We took too long… We tried the best we could, but.. it was hard. Finding the people, the resources. Doing this is not easy.”
“I…” I choked on the words. I just stared at what has become of my… my beloved, dearest friend, Ouri.
With pain I reflected on the past few weeks. How I hoped there was something we could do. I listened to his incoherent ramblings while he wasn’t… wasn’t how I knew… Wait. There was something odd. While my friend dwelled in these caverns, we witnessed… no…
What were the odd sounds? The odd clicks, or maybe stomps. Where did they come from..?
Why had no one else witnessed them, or seen them…?
And where was everyone? Why was this cave, empty…
I remember how my friend reacted to unseen creatures. My friend tried to fight but always suddenly disappeared. Found somewhere else again with no explanation to what happened. For a moment I saw something. Something that could be vaguely described as a centaur.
If centaur heads were horse heads, and their legs looked like…?