Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Amnesiac

Working at the mall’s information booth is the most miserable job I’ve ever had. Besides for the unremitting noise and demophobic environment, it involves dealing with people. Stupid people. Okay, I completely understand how you could get lost in that hellhole and have to ask for directions to a particular store, especially considering that whoever designed the mall maps was an idiot. But having to give directions a hundred times a day is not fun. And then there’re the stupid people, the ones who scream that a certain store is in the mall, when it isn’t, or threaten to call the police when I won’t let them return items.

I’d just finished dealing with (by calling security on) a woman who’d been trying to make me ring up her necklace. I’d tried to explain to her that the mall contains more than one store; I am not the giant cash register for the whole thing, and by taking the necklace out of whatever store she’d found it in, she was shoplifting. She refused to believe me. As security took her away, she was still shrieking, “But it’s the mall! It’s the mall!”

I hadn’t gotten over my irritation when the next person in line, a young woman who looked about to have a panic attack, came up to the counter. “Excuse me. I don’t know who I am. Can you help me?”

I should have been nicer to her, I know. But I happen to have a rather sarcastic personality that becomes even more so when I’m as aggravated as I was. And I didn’t really think she’d lost her entire memory, or that she’d take me so literally when I said in my most official, machine-like voice, “Of course. Identities can be bought from the kiosk between Build-a-Bear Workshop and Mall Entrance 2.”

“Oh, thank you so much!!!” she beamed at me. She disappeared into the crowd before I could tell her I was kidding.

I shrugged her off as just another weirdo and forgot about her, until maybe half an hour later, a sinister looking man-well, he was normal looking enough but for the moustache, anyway, he came up and asked if anyone had come by with a weird question. “I get almost nothing but weird question,” I told him.

“This would be a girl about your age, lost her memory and doesn’t know who she is.”

“Oh! She did come here.”

“Do you know where she went?”

Even if it was just the moustache, he seemed suspicious to me, and anyway, I was embarrassed about having misdirected her so rudely, so I shrugged and told him, “She just left when I said I couldn’t help her.”

He handed me a business card and told me to call him if she came back, and left. I felt my suspicions were justified—if he’d been a friend of hers, he’d have asked me to have her call him, not just report her movements. I glanced at the card—John Smith? Seriously? But I didn’t really think she’d be back, and since my shift ended in half an hour, if she did return she’d be someone else’s problem.

But not five minutes after “John Smith” had left, a man and a woman, both in suits, came up to the booth. “CIA,” they told me, flipping their badges in my face. And—you guessed it—they asked me about the amnesiac.

I told them the same thing I’d told “John Smith”, and told them about him. They asked me for the business card, and I gave it to them, and the female agent gave me her business card and told me that if the amnesiac came back, to call her, not “John Smith” (not that I could’ve now that they had his business card).

I was still hoping that that would be the end of it, but about ten minutes before my shift ended, she came back. “There’s no kiosk that sells identities anywhere near Mall Entrance 2!” she accused.

“Of course there’s not; I was kidding.”

She glared at me. “Do you really think this is funny??? I have no idea who I am, and that man is chasing me, and the government wants me to help them, and I just want to go home, but I can’t because I don’t know where my home is because I don’t freaking know who I am!” She was halfway between screaming and sobbing, and I felt very guilty.

“I’m sorry. It’s not funny. Is there anything I can do to help you?”

She shook her head slowly. “Probably not,” she said mournfully. “I guess I’ll just have to find those agents and take them up on their offer. I guess there’s nothing else I can do.”

“They came by here earlier and left their business card,” I told her. “And so did someone else looking for you, a man with a fancy moustache?”

At hearing that, she blanched, then turned and ran. Without, I might add, taking the business card. I really should have just let her go. I didn’t want to have anything to do with the whole thing, and now I didn’t. But, I am an idiot. So I ran off after her, holding out the agent’s business card and shouting, “Wait! Wait! You forgot this!” She either didn’t hear me or ignored me. So, because I have no sense whatsoever, I followed her all the way out of the mall.

I might have mentioned that I hate the mall because it’s so demophobic. Well, I hate parking garages for the opposite reason. They always seem to be deserted, even when there are people in them; even when they’re crowded they’re full of monster-like cars, not human beings. They’re dark, deserted places, and every time I go in one I expect I’m going to run into a serial killer. And yet, I’m such a fool that I follow the nameless girl right into the parking garage.

Where the man with the moustache was waiting. Nearly as soon as she’d run into the deserted, cavern-like place, he grabbed her and shoved her into the trunk of a car.

I am proud to be able to say that I am not actually so brainless such an idiot as to run up to him, or shout, or do anything any stupider than anything I’ve ever done. Instead, I take out my cell phone and try to call the CIA agents. Of course, being an underground parking garage, there’s no reception.

So I tried to sneak out of the place so I could make the call. Unfortunately, the man saw me, cursed, grabbed something from his trunk and ran after me. Before I could find my way out of the labyrinth that was the parking garage, he was holding an object that looked like a gun from a really, really bad science fiction movie to my head. “Don’t move, or I’ll erase you’re memory!” he threatened.

I had to laugh. Seriously, a man with a sinister moustache holding a gun pretty much made out of plastic spheres (garishly colored, I might add), threatening to erase my memory. This kind of thing does not happen. Then I remembered the look of despair in the nameless girl’s face, and, despite everything, it wasn’t funny anymore. So I stood stock still, waiting.

He didn’t do anything, so after standing there without moving for a few minutes, I asked, “What do you want from me?”

He looked confused. “I don’t want anything from you. I just can’t have any interference with the testing of my invention.”

“I’m not trying to interfere with anything,” I assured him. “My shift is over and I just want to get the hell out of here and go home.”

To my complete disbelief, he let me go. And, as final proof that I am an unredeemable idiot, I called the CIA agents and told them what had happened. And really, really hoped that that was the end of it; that everything would turn out okay without any further involvement on my part. And shockingly enough, it did. Well, a couple of hours later the two agents showed up at my house to take my statement, so I had to fill out some paperwork, but everything had actually turned out okay. They’d pulled over the car, rescued the amnesiac, arrested the man with the moustache, and confiscated the memory loss gun and the plans for it. I am enough of a conspiracy theorist to not be thrilled that the government can now erase people’s memories, but better them than him, I guess.

I asked if there was a way to restore the girl’s memory. They said there wasn’t, but it would make it easier for her to assimilate into witness protection anyway. I asked if I was safe, if she needed to be protected. They assured me that she would be able to testify to the affects of the machine, so she qualified for witness protection. That is not an assurance. Then they told me that the reason he erased her entire memory was that he was testing on her, but if he did get out of jail and come after me, all he’d need to erase was the events of today. I was skeptical, but they assured me that it was far easier to erase just a few memories, and took months to erase a whole lifetime.

So, I’m writing this, just in case. Because even though I never wanted to get involved and the whole thing was pretty much an annoyance to me, I took certain risks and I deserve to get something out of it, even if it is just a story no one would believe anyway. So if I don’t remember what happened, I’ll have this, and maybe I’ll think that I’m a really good creative writer and must have written this without remembering. And maybe that will inspire me to get a better job.

Or maybe I’m actually crazy enough that, even without remembering what happened, I'll believe it.

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