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Pain. A dull thudding in his head that grew louder as he neared consciousness. The sun was shining down on him, sending rivulets of sweat down his cheek. Irritating, he thought to himself as he occupied the darkness of his mind. Gravel under his face, dust flowing up his nose with every inhalation. Every bone in his body hurt, his eyes hurt though he hadn’t opened them yet, his fingers hurt though he had not moved them except for the involuntary twitches associated with dreams. Where was he? The question brought him hurtling out of his half dream, half consciousness like the blast of a bomb. With a start the man lurched up to a sitting position, and squinted his eyes in the bright afternoon sun. God, how that hurt. His mouth was dry and tasted of dirt, he was shocked to notice all the dry blood that caked his hands. What had happened? Where was he? Who was he?
Turning in slow staggering circles, the man noticed the battered wreckage of his pick up truck. It lay at the bottom of a steep mountainside, hardly recognizable as anything that was ever driveable. With aching steps he limped over to it, and placed his hand on the crushed hood. With out warning a memory of himself, sitting at the wheel screaming as he went over the edge of the road, flashed before his eyes. He tore his hand from the vehicle as if it were as hot as the sun. He did not like that flash back. The terror he saw in his own eyes was to much for a man such as himself. A man who thought himself fearless. Angry with his lack of memory he looked up the mountainside at the climb back to the road. He knew he was strong, but in top physical condition he would have been hard pressed to make such a monumental achievement. No, he would have to find another way.
Following a valley that ran along the base of the mountain the man searched his mind for any kind of information it held. He was surprised to find very little memory at all. He must have really hit his head hard. He could not remember the term used for the condition, but he knew it meant that you had lost your memory and sometimes you never got it back! He didn’t even know his own name. A picture of his wallet flashed through his mind like a thunderbolt, and like a thunderbolt it was followed by a searing pain that lanced through his head. He had to sit down, and with out ceremony plopped down where he stood and tried to catch his breath. He fumbled around trying to remove his wallet from his back pocket, finally succeeding, and suffering the consequences of his efforts, as another freight train rampaged through is aching head. With some concentration he was able to focus his eyes enough to see the picture that was neatly tucked away in the plastic display leaflet. Another lightning bolt seared his brain, he could almost smell the burning meat. As a memory of his smiling wife approached him and placed her arms around his neck, and her lips upon his own. The pain was too much, the darkness closed in, and he toppled over into unconsciousness.
When once again he woke, the sun was just setting down behind the mountain, and the tall grass swayed silvery in the evening light. The memories he had received since he first woke up by the wrecked truck came flooding back and once again he was assaulted with the lancing pain in his head. With infinite care he removed the picture of his wife from his wallet and slid it into his back pocket, making sure that he did not lay his eyes upon it. He had that memory, he did not want to risk any more unnecessary pain. The pursuit of his memory was killing him. He once again opened his wallet and pulled his driver’s license from it’s fold in the wallet. Jonathan, was his name, and with that piece of information he once again crumpled to the ground in agony. Staggering to his feet, he decided his memory was not important to him right now, what was important was finding a way out of this valley and to a hospital.
At the thought of a hospital, an image of his wife screaming on blood soaked sheets, shattered his focus on reality and he lay on the ground gasping for breath as he watched the memory of his first son Andrew being born. After some time, he pulled himself to his knees, and with his forehead resting upon the ground begged over and over again for, “no more, make it stop, no more”. He knew it wouldn’t stop, the memories would come flooding back faster, and faster until it killed him. His only hope was to make it to......... he silenced his mind before he could finish his thought. No more pain, no more thinking, just walk until someone helps him. With a limping gate, he followed the valley farther down, down, always down. He had not the strength to go up.
It was dark now, no idea what time it was, but the moon was up, and he was freezing. He sat huddled against a tree shivering, he needed a fire, and immediately a fire raged in his mind. He screamed at the pain, as a memory of a camping trip with his wife, his son Andrew, and his second son Jamie sent him into spasms of agony. The pain finally dulled and without sitting up he reached into his jeans pocket and removed a black lighter from within. He laughed, he laughed like he was on the brink of madness, his head pounded with each outburst, but he laughed all the same. He reached into his other pocket and removed a pack of cigarettes, with shaking hands he removed a cigarette, placed it between his lips, and lit it. The light from the flame was intense, but the pain that lanced through his head was comparatively dull. Weakly he crawled around gathering weeds and sticks, etc. with which to build a fire. Once he had it going it did little to warm him, but the slight comfort it provided was enough for him to doze off too.
The morning was gray, and he woke shivering and wet from the morning dew. He was in much worse shape now. The ability to remain standing was fading, he doubted whether he had another day to live without medical attention. With extreme effort he once again started off down the valley, following its winding path to god knows where. He couldn’t here the cars passing on the road overhead anymore, his only hope was to reach the bottom of the mountain, where he knew civilization was all consuming. He reached into his pants pockets for his cigarettes and unhappily remembered how he had set them down at the base of the tree. The pain was not bad with this memory, perhaps because it was a knew one, but the gas station he bought them at soon flashed in his mind and worsened the pain.
He started to think that he was not going to make it, and then decided he did not want to die without knowing who he was and what his life had meant to him. So he struggled with his failing mind, trying to remember anything, but to no avail. He thought back to his last memories, that had caused him so much pain, they only brought on a dull ache now, but they had been recalled using trigger stimuli. The car had brought the memory of when he ran off the edge of the road, the thought of a hospital had triggered the memory of his first son’s birth, the thought of fire had triggered the memory of the camping trip he had taken with his family, and the lighter and cigarettes in his pocket. Though the risk of pain was great, he could not resist once again pulling his wallet from his back pocket.
He read his address out loud, and the image of a fine, spacious home, with huge oak tree’s in the yard filled his head with horrific stabs of pain. His eyes filled with tears as he cursed at the pain as if it were a living, breathing entity. With badly shaking hands he removed the picture holder that was in his other back pocket and looked at the people he saw held in it. Surprisingly, they held very little pain for him. Most he did not recognize, but a family picture he viewed last had a large black dog sitting at his feet. “Damn dog.” Jonathan screamed as fond memories tore through his mind, of the dog leaping into the water to retrieve a duck he had shot, barking viciously as he defended him from a raging mountain lion. The pain was intense, and Jonathan could no longer see the tree’s that surrounded him. The world was a solid red, and it slowly faded to black.
When next he woke, Jonathan had some trouble getting to his feet. His head was in constant pain now, and he staggered down the valley barely able to see where he was going. He could hear a whop, whop, whop, sound coming from above him and he looked up. A helicopter was flying low directly above him, he stared at them for a while, he could see the tiny man inside looking at him and talking on a radio microphone. He only shrugged and kept trudging on, though he wished for them to pick him up, he did not have the thought processes anymore to comprehend that they were there to help him. The pilot watched as Jonathan disappeared into the tree’s.
With exhaustion and starvation setting in, Jonathan could not keep up walking. He sat to rest for a while, and thought back to the helicopter that had not offered to help him. He remembered watching a show on TV where a helicopter had lowered a rope to a woman stuck in a canyon and pulled her to safety. Guess they don’t do that for men. The pain returned and lanced through his brain with blinding fury. Jonathan thought to himself that he had best not think of the helicopter again, it made his head hurt severely. Somewhere deep in his sub consciousness Jonathan knew his thinking structures were deteriorating more rapidly, and so he began to push onward, following the valley always downward. Time was nothing now, distance was only what he could see from tree to tree. He was a dead man walking.
Absently he picked at the dried blood on his arm, but when he noticed what he was doing, the memory of the truck rolling down the hill, sent him stumbling down to the ground. The pain would not subside, it just kept stabbing and stabbing at him, until he finally threw up. The pain receded a little, but not much, and he was beginning to think about hitting it with a rock to kill it. He shook such delusions from his head, but it was getting harder and harder to fight such urges. The countryside was leveling off now. He was near the bottom of the mountain, he could see the city just below the foothills. Leaving the valley he began to follow the small animal paths that roamed over the few fields and foothills that remained.
Every step closer was an increase in his pain. With every glance he recognized some part of the city, he had grown up here, and over his 39 years he had learned every square inch of the city. That was the gas station he favored, that was the donut shop he avoided because it was a hang out for cops. That was his favorite hardware store, that was the car lot he bought his truck from. Pain, pain, pain, he was staggering now, he had broken into a jog and he could barely remain upright. His vision had failed, he could not see anything to remember, but the memories came flooding back anyway. He stumbled over rocks, and bushes, tears ran down his face. The pain was intense, but he would not stop. At last he felt concrete under his feet and he stopped running. The pain was so bad now that he could do little more then collapse, squirm on the hard ground, and whimper. He could feel death creeping through his brain. It was like a black dye working its’ way through a white sponge. Filling in this section, pooling, and then creeping on to the next. His last thought was that he had made it home, then the darkness took him one last time.