My name is Ben Caxton. I am 35 years of age. My birthday is on the 27th of October. I know this information because it is written on my driver's license. I am a police officer, a detective in fact, my badge says so. There is a gun in my pocket and I know how to use it. I am wearing gray pants, gray vest, blue shirt, gray tie, dark overcoat, and brown hat. Other than this, I am sure of nothing.
I am a tall Caucasian male, with blue eyes and light brown hair, or so my mirror tells me. There is a card with the name of a man, a time, date and address in my pocket. I listen to it carefully.
I have disassociate amnesia, or so the woman at the reception desk tells me. She hands me something. I stare at it. It is a small translucent pill bottle with a white cap and a very complex looking name on it filled with tiny capsules. It tells me to take one a day as needed. I listen. Pop one in my mouth and swallow. It tastes beautifully.
The person who calls himself doctor asks me how I am feeling.
One word. Numb.
He asks me how I've been doing. I say surviving. I don't tell him about the fog, I barely know him. He frowns. He asks me if I remember anything. One memory. One memory I have a good hard grip on.
There is a field of grass; endless gray grass with gray flowers. There is a swing. I'm a small boy, in striped gray shirt and gray shorts. I run to the swing and jump on. I call for my mother to push me. She's taking too long. I start myself. I push myself harder, rocking my legs back and forth wildly, going higher and higher. I see a cloud in the sky. It's so close. I reach out my hand to grab it...and let go of the chain. And I fall.
The earth mockingly scrapes my knee, laughing at my feeble attempts to escape its hold. I cry. My mother arrives. She asks me why I started without her. I say, "but mommy, I wanted to touch the sky." She replies, "oh honey, you can't touch the sky, it's too far away. Look, the clouds are too far gone." Somewhere in the distance a woman laughs.
It's a very important memory; keep it near my heart often.
He seems displeased. Like I care what someone I've never met before thinks of my problems.
"Well, same time next week?" He hands me a card. I take it.
I find myself at a diner, sitting in a booth opposite another man. He says his name is Jack Shade. He wears a porkpie hat. I've always liked porkpie hats. He starts talking about the "good ol' days", when we were both rookies on the force. He laughs. I laugh when he laughs. Trick I learned in a class of human interaction.
Nod your head when someone is talking.
Smile and laugh when they do.
When they say something, and their eyes light up, look shocked.
When they look sad, look sad too, say, "Oh, I'm sorry."
Ask how they're doing.
Good class. Funny, the things you remember.
I ask how he's doing. Says same shit different day. Laughs. Laugh with him. Continue talking and laughing about "good ol' days". I don't tell him that I don't remember the "good ol' days".
He takes a picture out of his pocket, says he found it while scrounging around his old ends. It's an old picture of two rookies looking happy, joking around. I stare at it wondering who they are. There's something written on the back. I smile. I say thanks and stick it in my pocket.
The man called Jack Shade is fun to be around. I wonder if I've ever met him before as I pop a delicate capsule from a bottle into my mouth.
Files strewn over desk, askew, covering everywhere and everything. Small triangular object is hiding under mess. Its name is "Ben Caxton". I sit down and put my hand through my hair. I start with the top file.
Name: Jeremy "the face" Stenson. Serial killer. Has trouble with conforming to normalcy, changes jobs, apartments, names to keep things new. Changes facial features and clothing style to feel different, must enter into relationship as soon as makes new personality. Cannot stand to let old personality live, or anything connecting to it. Soon gets bored, kills identity and anyone in relationship, and moves on to next identity. Switches too fast and too often to catch. Known victims include Katie Shultz, Samantha Perkins, Elizabeth Gregory, Deborah Caxton, Colleen Stevenson, and Ashley Jade.
There is a small note attached to the report which I don't understand:
"Listen Caxton, I know this one's personal, but don't get worked up about it. You can't let it consume you. Don't let it turn you into a monster like him. -Commissioner Travist."
The words seem tangible, why can't I make sense of them?
There's a pill bottle in my coat pocket. Long and arduous name. Don't know what arduous means. Instructions say take one as needed. Pop two into mouth and disappear into the fog.
I'm in a receptionist's office. She hands me a pill bottle. I stare at it. Confusing name. Filled with white capsules. Pop one in mouth. A card tells me to go in and talk to a man. He asks me how I'm feeling. For some reason I want to keep him happy. I say just fine and dandy. He smiles. Tells joke and laughs. Laugh. I don't tell him about the fog. Why should I? I just met him.
I'm standing on a street corner. I feel around in my pocket and I find a picture of a man and a woman. Happy, smiling, laughing.
She's pretty. More than pretty, beautiful. Dark wavy hair, beautiful eyes, and that smile, I could stare at that smile for hours. It's a minute before I realize I'm smiling back at her. I feel something in my throat. Close my eyes. Cover them. Something flashes through.
Dead hand holding photograph
I open them again and find tears. I turn over the photo and look at the back.
I feel someone's eyes on me. I look around and see a man staring at me. I shout at him, say what are you staring at. Runs away. Put photograph back in pocket. Find pill bottle. Pop in mouth. Doesn't taste as beautiful as I'd expect it too.
I'm sitting in a diner across from a man. He says his name is Jack Shade. He laughs about the "good ol' days" about when we were rookies. I laugh with him, something I learned in a class.
I tell him I don't remember the "good ol' days". He looks somewhat hurt. Says, "Well, I wouldn't expect you too." I don't particularly like his bowler derby.
I take a pill bottle out of my coat and pop one into my mouth. I grimace at the taste.
He asks me how the medication is going. I say fine. I don't tell him about the fog. Don't know him that well.
The receptionist shakes a pill bottle at me, as if trying to wake me up. Futile attempt really. I snatch it from her hand. It tells me to take one as needed. I turn my back and take three. Don't know why. A card tells me to go in and meet someone.
Smiling idiot. Feel like knocking his teeth out. Not sure why. Laugh. Fine. Fine. Laugh. Exit. Seems cocky for someone I don't know.
A large man walks up to me and clasps his hands on my shoulders. He says, "How are you doing son?" I look into his large saddened eyes. I tell him not too good. I wonder if I should tell him about the fog. It's as if he already knows.
Says, "Listen son, I know it's hard, but you have to let this thing go and move on. You're a good man and I hate to see it eat you up like this. If you ever feel like talking, you know where to find me."
He seems so sad, as if losing a friend. I look sad too and nod my head. I learned it in a class. I wish I knew what he was talking about.
It's dark. Smoke billowing from my mouth. I'm standing next to a telephone booth. Just standing there, looking around for something. A man in a black coat and scarf walks by and stands next to me. He doesn't look at me but just shifts his eyes around and shivers.
He says, "Ya got the stuff?"
I say, "Refresh my memory."
"The dough ya smart-as dick."
Slang for money. I fish around my pocket. There is a large wad of cash. I hand it to him. He seems to know more about it than I do. He starts talking.
"Ok, detective, the guy you're lookin' for, he's close. Real close. When he uh...well y'know...don't really wanna remind you about it, but anyways when he did it...he couldn't move on 'cause there were still two connections. Ya see, he didn't know about her, that she was married and all, let alone to a dick. So right now he's floatin' between identities until he can cut off the last connections..."
"Spell it out for me."
"You! He's waitin' ta off you ya moron! Listen, I'm only doin' this 'cause yer a good fella and ya helped me out with the guy and the thing that one time, but listen...have ya had any recent talks with any long lost buddies lately?"
His eyes open wide. I raise one eyebrow as if shocked. Something I learned in a class.
"I'm just sayin' detective, watch yer back."
"You said there were two connections, who's the other one?"
He looks surprised and starts to open his mouth, but whatever he is about to say is silenced by the gunshot. I see him fall, then I see a man with a pistol. There's a gun in my pocket and I know how to use it. I pull it out. He runs. I run after him.
I don't know who he is or what he's done, all I know is he shot someone and everything inside me tells me to run him down. He pushes through crowds of people and ducks into a movie theater. I go in after him, carefully, quietly. I know not to rush.
It's dark. Too dark. Can't see a thing. I look around but all I see is endless blank faces, faces I don't know. Could be any one of them. I squint my brain to remember even the basic outline of the gut, but it all blends together and fades away.
Useless, futile. Put the gun away. Then I hear a child's voice, screaming for his mother...and it's not in my head. I stare at the gray screen. It falls apart.
A child in a striped shirt and shorts jumps on a swing. Pushes himself harder and harder.
Try harder and harder to remember anything different, anything at all...
He puts his hand to the sky, trying to grab the clouds.
I put my hand through my hair, grab a great clump of it, breathing heavily...
And he falls. And he cries.
I sit in the aisle and cradle my head in my hands...
Mother comes running. Asks why he didn't wait for her.
Can't stand it...can't look away...
"But mommy, I wanted to touch the sky..."
No...mine...it was mine...I swear it was...
"Oh honey, you can't touch the sky, it's too far away."
I welcome the tears...and lament my memories...
"Look the clouds..."
...they're too far gone.
The receptionist sticks her hand out with a pill bottle. I don't feel like taking it. Agitatedly, she slams it on the desk. I take it anyway. It tells me to go in.
Some guy asks me how I'm doing. I say fine. Just fine. Says something strange.
"Well that's good. The placebos must be working out well."
I take out the pill bottle. Long name. I don't know what it means, but I know what placebo means.
"See? You're doing fine! You don't need medication! It's all in your head!"
I feel like knocking his teeth out. Exactly what I do. I rant. I rave. I tell him about the fog.
"I...can't...feel...anything! Don't you understand?! This is all a dream to me! Life is just an endless stream of consciousness surrounded by thick fog with meaningless people and events shifting around! I don't know what's going on anymore! I don't know who I am anymore! The one memory I have is from a movie! Everywhere I go everything mocks me with it's false sense of reminiscence! Even this room mocks me with its impression of a stable box! I don't even know why I'm so angry! And who the hell are you to tell me I'm fine?! Who the hell are you?!"
"But Ben...I...I'm your psychiatrist...I've been your psychiatrist ever since you lost Deborah-"
"And who the fuck is Deborah?!"
Saying the name brings tears to my eyes. I don't know why. I don't know anything anymore. I cover them, wipe them away. Throw the pill bottle on the floor. Storm out. Storm into the fog.
I stand in front of an apartment building. Wonder how I got there. Search in my coat pocket and find a slip of paper with address of building and note:
"Have info on her murder. Meet me here at eight. -Jack"
Don't stop to ask myself who this Jack might be, just walk in.
As I walk up the stairs I hear a girl scream. There's a gun in my pocket and I know how to use it. As I get close to the apartment, I hear shouting, see silhouettes of two men struggling. I don't knock, I fire a bullet. They both stop and stare at me as I stare at them. Two men in trench coats I've never seen before. One in a porkpie. The other in a derby.
"Ben! It's me Jack! We're old buddies remember?"
The other follows.
"The hell are you talking about Stenson? I'm Jack Shade! Ben! This guy killed your wife!"
"Don't listen to him Ben! He's the face! He's the murderer!"
"Ben, what the hell? You know me! We were on the force together! Both rookies! Partners! Remember?"
"Don't listen to him Ben! He's trying to trick you! You have to listen to me! I'm Jack Shade! He killed your wife! Shoot him!"
Endless stream of consciousness, endless stream of needless useless information, endless stream of bullshit. Two faces covered in endless fog.
I look around the room for anything, anything at all to remind me, to tell me what to do. A girl. Unconscious. I shout to her to see if she's ok. She slowly comes to. She looks from me to the men and back again. Points to one, tears in eyes...
"You! You killed my sister! You bastard!"
I don't know what that means.
He slaps her, tells her to shut up stupid bitch.
Information is useless to me. I don't trust fruitless memories anymore. I go with instinct. A man hits a girl. There's a gun in my hand. I know how to use it.
I'm sitting on the sidewalk, head cradled in hands. There are tears in my eyes. I don't know why. I girl walks over. She's beautiful, flowing brown hair, dark eyes, beautiful smile. She says I saved her life. Looks at me tearfully. She says I dropped a picture and hands it to me. She walks away. Wonder if I knew her.
It's a picture of a man and a woman. They are happy, smiling, laughing. I don't know them. On the back is written, "never forget". I hold the picture up and let the wind rip it from my fingers.
I check the contents of my coat. There's a police badge. It doesn't look like it belongs to me. I throw it away. There's a driver's license. Name says Ben Caxton. Doesn't ring a bell. I throw that away too. There's a gun. I know how to use it. I keep that. There's a picture of two rookie cops laughing. On the back is a message that says, "When you can't trust no one or nothin' else, trust your instincts-Ben." Good advice. I keep that too.
A man in a trenchcoat and porkpie comes over and puts a hand on my shoulder. He says his name is Jack Shade. He says I did good. Just like the "good ol' days".
I stand up and say, "I don't know you. I don't wanna know you. I don't know me. I don't wanna know me either."
He looks sad, as if someone died. Wonder who. Don't know. Don't care. Look sad as I turn away. Something I learned in a class.
I walk into the fog and never look back.