The girl stopped talking. Despite the crashing of clouds and the thunder of the ocean, her voice had been the most distracting and dissonant, like listening to a symphony on earbuds in the middle of Brazilians cheering for the winning goal. A certain peace fell upon me and I felt a renewed vigor to my step. I had no destination and no map, but I was going somewhere, and that seemed something, at least.
But it wasn’t just her voice that stopped. The cold rain was lessening from a downpour to a shower to a scattering. The clouds were drifting to mists, revealing hundreds of crystal pinpricks swimming in the black night. The waves went limp, as if someone had shut off the wave pool. In less than a minute I stood beneath clear stars beside a calm shore, soaked and chilled.
This was almost more frightening than the storm had been.
I waited, trying not to disturb whatever had happened. My first thought was that when the voice went to sleep, the turmoil of the world had gone with her. It made no sense, but who knew what sort of sense I was suppose to find now? If I moved, would I wake her up and start the storm again?
What did you do? the girl asked, hushed.
“I thought you did it.”
I looked about slowly, not knowing what I was searching for. She saw it first. (I had no idea how she saw anything.) Look, there, inland. See that?
It was smoke, rising peacefully into the sky. “You think it’s safe?”
Safe? Probably not. But we might as well see what we can find. It’ll be an adventure. She sounded rather too pleased with the word “adventure.”
I began to trudge up and down the wet dunes. My pajamas weren’t meant for a monsoon and seemed to be holding at least a gallon of water, so I removed my shirt and wrung it as best I could manage before continuing. The moon shone bright upon the land, now, so I could make my way over the sand and scrubby grass well enough. A few creatures–crabs, I think–scurried away as I walked.
Since we’re travelling together, we should introduce ourselves.
“You already tried that. I don’t feel like talking.”
Tell me your name, at least.
I owed her that much. She didn’t ask to be stuck with me any more than I asked to be stuck with her. Or be in this place. Or be bequeathed a strange device by a crazy old man. I’d bet money I was in another world or dimension. That’s how these things went. For some reason, this didn’t bother me much. I hadn’t had time to think on it yet.
“Milton Henry. What’s yours?” She didn’t answer. “Come on. What’s the matter? It’s not like Priscilla or something, is it?”
I can’t remember….
“What do you mean? Amnesia? Seriously?”
I–I know lots of stuff. How the world works. Names and places–other people’s names. I have facts, but I don’t remember anything. Or, I’m not allowed to remember…. It feels like it’s off-limits, like a door your parents won’t let you open, that sort of thing. I’m trying. I just don’t….I can’t remember.” Alone on the lonely hills of sand, the emptiness and loss in her voice was worse than the previous din.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “We’ll give you a name. What sounds good?”