The Demon and the Magician
Part 8: Lost
“Watch it!” the man yells as I jump off to the side, falling backwards into a puddle of murky brown water. The man throws his arm out the window, throwing me the bird before rushing off in his large black sedan. I don’t bother to lift myself up out of the water—the rain has already soaked me to my core. Instead, I just sit, looking around me as people rush back and forth, their bodies immersed in technology, connecting them to and severing them from the world at the same time.
“The nineteenth century was so much kinder to me,” I say softly, standing up and continuing to walk down the cold concrete sidewalk. My shoes, slick and black, shine under the soft gray light that filters down from the sky. Lifting my left hand to my face, I look at the dark black scar: there’s been something different about it for a couple centuries now. Granted, it still works just fine; but something about it nags at me, begging me to remember what happened.
The cold water begins to bother me and so I decide it’s time to get out of the rain. I run my hands over my clothes, the water running off as I step backwards under a small awning. Geneva has changed since the war, but the people haven’t: some are rude pricks, and others are as kind as can be.
Behind me is a small glass door, an “Open” sign glowing warmly through, welcoming me inside. Opening the door and stepping through, I see the familiar faces of the owner light up.
“Konbanwa, Miyako,” I say softly, smiling as the water falls from my body and onto the old wooden floor.
The old woman’s eyes lift up to look into mine as she smiles warmly and walks over to me.
“Dear, you look like you fell into the ocean,” she smiles, reaching up to kiss me on the cheek.
“Something like that,” I reply nervously as I push the heavy wet hair out of my eyes.
“Marcus!” she shouts as a young man with dark black-blue hair appears from the storeroom door. “Can you please grab a couple towels for this young man?”
“Sure thing,” he answers. His dark black eyes lock onto my soft green ones as he smiles.
“How’ve you been, Marc?” I shout to him as he walks upstairs.
“Busy,” he replies, his voice echoing down the hallway. “Clyde has me jumping through hoops to please the government, but so far everything is working out for the better.”
“That’s good to hear,” I answer as Miyako hands me a small cup of steaming hot tea.
“This will warm you up, dear,” she smiles. “So, tell me, what are you doing back in Geneva?”
“I don’t know,” I answer, lowering my head as I grip the cup with my cold hands. “I just felt that I had to come back here for some reason.”
“Spirits,” she says softly.
“Possibly,” I answer. “It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.
“Do you actually believe that?” Marc asks as he returns, tossing me a soft blue towel.
“Of course,” I smile, running the towel over my head. “I’ve had more than my fair share of run-ins with spirits, beasts, demons, even gods.”
“Right,” Marc says sarcastically, returning to the register as he sits down on the tall wooden stool. “Well, I suppose anything’s possible.”
“You have no idea,” I grin, wrapping the towel around my shoulders. “Do you mind if I go upstairs and get out of these clothes?” I ask, gesturing towards the stairway in the back of the store.
“Go ahead,” Miyako smiles.
“I might have an old shirt or something you can wear,” Marc says. “Just check the floor.”
“He doesn’t put his clothes away,” Miyako adds, punching Marc playfully on the shoulder. “Such a messy young man.”
“Clyde usually does it, but he’s away in Paris right now.”
“Excuses,” I smirk, walking up the tired staircase as the wood sighs beneath me, creaking gently with each step. Halfway up are two small doors: on the left, Marc’s room; on the right, a small bathroom. Turning to my right, I slip into the bathroom and close the door, looking into the mirror at my tired face and exhaling slowly.
“Hopefully they won’t be too suspicious,” I say to myself as I hold my hands in front of me, the palms glowing a soft green as a wave of light slides over my frame, my black suit fading away into a soft green t-shirt and jet black jeans that cling loosely to my legs. I dry my hair slowly, rubbing the towel through it until it no longer plasters itself to my face.
Tossing the towel aside, I open the door and walk down back downstairs: the room is darkened, save for a soft lamp that glows next to the register. Mark sits, counting through the money, the door behind him opened slightly.
“Miyako says that you can stay here tonight, if you need to,” he says as he places the money back in the drawer, locking it safely away.
“That would be nice,” I reply, sitting on the counter and turning to face Marc.
“Alex,” he says, looking at me with his rich black eyes, “are you okay?”
“I wish I knew.”
Silence fills the space between us as we sit for a moment, the sound of the rain pattering against the glass fading away into the background.
“I think I’ve lost someone,” I continue hesitantly. “I don’t know who, I don’t know why; but I can just feel it.”
Reaching behind himself, Marc closes over the door and turns his attention back to me.
“Does it have anything to do with your memory loss?” he asks.
“Isn’t there a spell or something that allows you to, I don’t know, read your own mind or something?”
I chuckle softly and shake my head, pulling my left leg up onto the counter and wrapping my arm around it. “The spellmasters wouldn’t let us have that kind of power. Reading minds is a dangerous thing.”
“Certainly someone found a way.”
“Oh, of course,” I continue. “But reading minds is a curse in-and-of-itself. Those who mastered it drove themselves crazy; it’s quite the double-edged sword.”
“I see,” he says. “What about going to a memory bank?”
“And hooking up my brain to some stupid computer?” I laugh. “With half a million years’ worth of data? It’d blow my cover.”
“Yeah,” he says, almost disheartened.
“It’s okay, Marc,” I smile, placing my hand on his shoulder. “I’ll figure out a way. I’ve got plenty of time.”
Grinning, Marc jumps down from the stool and opens the door, my body floating gently to the ground as I step into the small apartment: delicious aromas greet my nostrils as I inhale deeply and smile. This small abode, filled with memories of the past, welcome to society’s unwanted, has become the place I call home.
While the rain has stopped, the clouds continue to blanket the city with their cold, bleak grayness. Once, I used to crave the beautiful sun beating down on my tanned skin; now I am only reminded that something is missing, even when the sky is filled with the sun’s radiant glow.
“Everything seems so dull today. I prefer sunny days.”
I jump up off of the couch, my eyes fixed on the window as I stare out at the gray landscape: one more memory, one step closer.
My pulse races for a moment before I fall backwards onto the old faded couch, the once bright red fabric now worn and flat, yet still beautiful.
One step closer, but nowhere near the truth. I sit in silence as a single tear rolls down my cheek, dropping off my chin and onto the blanket that lies beneath me. Loneliness overwhelms me as I pull the tangled blanket around my frame and close my eyes.
Moments—or perhaps hours—later, a soft knocking stirs me from my unconscious state as I rise up slowly and look around. The clock on the wall reads 8:12 AM, the hands ticking forward relentlessly. Again, the knocking comes, this time slightly louder. Standing up, I walk over to the small wooden door that opens off from the apartment onto the street. With the snap of my fingers, my clothes reappear on my body as I unlock the door and open it just enough to look outside: standing underneath the awning is a young man with vibrant brown hair and eager eyes.
“Clyde?” I say softly as I open the door wider. “Wow, it really is you!”
“Alex?” he says, confused for a moment before stepping forward and embracing me. “My goodness, it’s been almost a year, hasn’t it?”
“Yeah,” I answer as we release each other. Clyde steps in and hangs his coat next to the door, slipping out of his shoes before sighing slowly and looking around. “The last time I came by, you were in Spain working on something.”
“Well, I’m glad I was able to make it back in time to see you, then,” he turns and beams at me. “Is Marc here?”
“He should still be sleeping, but feel free to go wake him up. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind,” I reply.
“You’d be surprised,” Clyde grins as he sits down in an old chair next to the worn-out couch. “The last time I tried to wake him up on a weekend, he simply looked up, glared at me, and pulled the blanket back over his head. He wasn’t going anywhere.”
Chuckling softly, I take a seat on the couch and turn slightly. “So, how was Paris?”
“Boring,” he sighs. “It hasn’t changed, not a single bit, for every year I’ve been there. Always the same.”
“That’s a shame,” I smirk. “I’ve heard that before the war, Paris used to be somewhere between a vast art museum and a whorehouse.”
“Then it’s been trapped in time for a couple centuries then, huh?” he laughs.
“…trapped in time…” the phrase repeats in my head. Another shard of memory, but nothing to get from it; it quickly fades away into the mist once again.
“How’s your hand?” he asks, pointing to my left palm.
“Still fine,” I answer, looking down at the scar. “Still different, but…strangely the same.”
“You know,” he says, “I can get that scar removed. It’s quite an easy operation, and you’ll never be able to tell it was there in the first place.”
“No,” I answer bluntly. “This scar is a part of me, and I can’t lose it.”
Without my scar, I lose my control over time; he doesn’t know, of course, but it defines me. And I know, somehow, it will help me remember what happened to me all those years ago. It will help me remember why a century of my life—while insignificant in quantity, is overwhelming in quality—has been lost to me for hundreds of thousands of years.