I awaken on a park bench slouched over like a hunchback. Starlings announce daybreak. Their sharp chatter punctures my eardrum. I’m even more distressed by the flavor of stale beer on my sandpaper tongue. Grogginess fades away with a whiff of fresh cut grass. My eyes focus on what seems like Central Park. I can’t remember my name and I think I’m lost. I rub my chin in contemplation and discover a 5 o’clock shadow, but no answers.
My thoughts are consumed by a forgetfulness that can’t be shaken off. It’s the kind of fear where you talk extra loud all alone in a dark alley to convince yourself you’ll be okay against all odds. Get a grip. Don’t give in to paranoia. I’m dizzy, from whatever I did last night, and won’t stand up anytime soon. I wonder how the hell I got on this paint peeled bench.
One hand is free and my other clings to a phone; my only salvation at the moment. Thank God. I’ll call for help. Someone will remember me. I stare at the phone. The screen is black. My mood mirrors the screen. I’m overwhelmed by my identity crisis. In the midst of panic logic kicks in. I better keep cool or end up in a psych ward.
The blue light on the side of my phone shows that it’s charged. I tap the screen a bunch of times. Nothing happens. I press the screen with a string of finger circles and it changes from black to iridescent. Stay calm. I’m frazzled and continue to poke the screen until one icon appears; the Photo Gallery. Oh, thank God. I’ll find my phone list. Numerous attempts to find the list elude me and the S.O.S. call never materializes. Damn it. If I look through the pictures maybe I can remember where I live. It must be close by if I got drunk and slept on this godawful bench.
I open the Gallery icon to the first three horizontal pictures; a chocolate ice cream cone, a six-pack of beer and a pair of high tops like the ones I have on. I swipe the picture of the ice cream cone to the left and the phone resonates with a single high pitched chime. The cone flies onto my bench, rolls down to the worn gray pavement and cracks into several pieces. A real live ice cream cone from the picture on my phone? I better perform a reality check to prove it’s not a dream, or worse yet, a one-way ticket to insanity.
My fingers wobble as I manage to scrape up some of the chocolate mess. I lift the chocolate dribble to my nose and I’m surprised by the miraculous scent of cocoa. I dab my tongue and confirm that it tastes just like genuine chocolate. Even in the chaos, I remember to check my phone and it’s still fixed on the three original pictures. Wow, I’m wide awake and my phone creates an authentic chocolate cone.
I slide the cone picture to the left and hear a loud chime. Another chocolate cone flings onto the bench, rolls to the pavement and cracks, just like the first one. Where was I last night? Did someone slip me a mickey?
I struggle to focus on a logical explanation, but a primal curiosity takes over. If I proceed in the Photo Gallery I may gaze into my forgotten life. Why am I afraid? I have a fleeting idea to try again and search for my phone list, but I do not submit. I can’t resist the temptation to scroll down to three more pictures.
My persistent fingers do the deed but I look away to avoid any shock. I muster courage and squint with my head cocked back at the next three pictures. One picture stands out from the others. I’d rather be hit by a ton of bricks than see this picture. Maybe I was hit by a ton of bricks and I’m really unconscious in an Emergency Room somewhere or maybe I’m dead. Get your head straight, damn it. My index finger and thumb quiver as I pull outward on the touch screen and create a larger version of the picture. With digital perfection I see the wicked close up.
The enlarged picture shows the scene I woke up to. It shows every detail; the starlings, the fresh cut grass, the weathered bench and me, one hand free, while the other clutches a phone. I’m compelled to understand the source of my existence. I know what I must do next.
I make numerous attempts to slide to the left the picture of myself. I fail every time because nothing happens. I’m infuriated and slide the picture of myself to the right instead. I hear a chime that is much louder than the first two chimes I heard earlier. I shudder in response to a sudden gust of wind that comes from the phone and goes right through me like an invisible force field. I look all around me and nothing has changed. Intuition twists my stomach into a firm knot. My gut feeling must be the undeniable truth. I fight the urge to faint from the horrible consequence of my action. What have I done? How many times have I created another version of myself? I collapse in distress because I know that far away in a new dimension a man awakens on a park bench. He slouches over like a hunchback and hears the sound of starlings.
C Barker lives in the Northeastern U.S., and says, “I publish a quarterly Journal on esoteric topics to help promote the work of holistic practitioners. I am part of a local Writers’ Group. I aspire to be a good science fiction/fantasy writer.”