Darkness envelops me. An empty, weightless sensation reminiscent of forever is all that I feel. I am falling. Lost. 93,000,000 miles from the sun.
I awaken, my dreams chased away by a rippling, crimson glow: it is the morning sun, warm against my closed eyelids. I open them, blinking against the radiation bathing the room in soft tones. Next to me, a huddled form shifts beneath a thick, formless mass of linen.
She is my partner. My wife. My daughter slumbers also, in the room beyond. The day, my life floods my thoughts and the fantasies of night fall away, into oblivion.
Some time later I am tossed against the beaches of an oceanic humanity. The city is my hive, drone, my station. The state of alienation lies within an alien nation that perceives reality through media-encrusted eyes. Hyper-consumption and love of self define the time.
Just do it. Here today, gone tomorrow. No fear. Quick glimpses of life’s diversity crease my brow.
A portly gentleman reeking of whiskey brushes past, mumbling, “Buy low, sell high. Buy low, sell high. Buy low”
A woman, her voice trembling, speaks to another. “He doesn’t deserve me. And that’s why I’m cheating on him.”
The rush of sensory data is overwhelming and I am disoriented. I stumble, prevented from falling only by those around me, bearing me along in a swelling flood of discontent. Amoeba-like streamers of traffic branch off into office buildings and subway tunnels as other tendrils of the great beast regulate the flow while maintaining the unforgiving pace.
My body is on autopilot and I allow my legs to disengage from the main artery, bearing me to my own impersonal prison. I shuffle through security in a daze, drop my keys in the bowl and raise my arms for the man with the metal detector. I pass through the foyer and find myself standing before a bank of elevators – five on either side of the receiving area – each busily humming up and down the building, depositing drones by the dozen upon their respective floors.
The hall is wide and stately. The floor beneath consists of irregular marble tiles that gleam with the reflection of the ambient light.
Cologne, perfume and other odors permeate the air, a viscous soup of pheromones, sending unconscious signals of distress and delight. I intercept further snatches of conversation. There is laughter, disagreement and confrontation.
“He’s going to make the offer. If he doesn’t, we’re dead.”
“If he does, he is.”
“Did you see the game last night?”
“That bastard owes me, by god.”
“I got so drunk at the party that I don’t even remember buying the first drink.”
“Of course these are designer shoes. What did you think?”
“He must be crazy. Or lost. Staring into space and eavesdropping.”
The last stated directly before me. A wizened black man stands there – between the elevator and I – dressed all in gray. He wears gray shoes, socks, pants, shirt, a coat and bowler. He reminds me of old, black and white photographs of ancestors long passed from this plane of reality. He stares up at me with eyes like smoldering coal and I stare back at him, aware that he is aware of me. His voice is thin but captivating.
“Well? Is that all you’re going to do? Stare all day? You don’t have time for that. You must find yourself. Life doesn’t rewind!”
At a loss for words, I stumble over the few that come to mind. “Excuse me? What did you say?”
“Life doesn’t rewind! There is only one you and you are he!”
“What? What did you say? Who are you? What do you want from me?”
He ignores three of my four questions. “I’ve come to help you.”
“Help me to do what?”
“To find yourself.”
“I’m sorry, but I’m not lost.”
“Are you certain?”
I pause, lured by his question. My life is what it is, what the lives of most people that I know are. Each day, hour, minute, orchestrated.
Each night passed tossing and turning, comatose or drifting in a drug-induced stupor.
I shake my head as firmly as I can. “Yes, I am certain. I know where I am and who I am. I am not lost.”
He smiles knowingly. “I see. Would you mind telling me where you are, then?”
“I’m in this city, on this block, in this building. Talking to you, when I should be going to work.” I can tell that he is not impressed with my wit.
“Not exactly. You are wrong and I am right. You are lost and I will help you to find yourself.” He promises, dusting off his jacket and chuckling in satisfaction.
I look around to find that the hall has emptied and the elevator banks stand idle. Their occupancy lights stutter seductively. I shudder as I envision myself boarding one of them and find that I cannot. At this realization, a sudden lifting of a weight barely acknowledged is effected and I feel lighter, more buoyant. For a moment, I teeter upon the edge of something but stumble and fall back into nothing.
I glance down to find the little man grinning widely.
“You see? Already you are remembering.”
“That you are lost! What else? Come!”
With that, he turns, his heels clicking and walks away, daring me to follow. I pause momentarily, burdened by the realization of unlimited possibility. An intense deja vú magnifies the moment and I envision paths of probability branching into the unknown as my myriad choices become one. I follow him.
Lost. Part I