He awoke, with the sense of disorientation that greets anyone awoken from a deep sleep. He peered around the room attempting to establish his bearings and determine what had roused him. To his right, sunlight streamed in a large window causing him to squint in discomfort. He was in a hard, narrow bed in a small whitewashed room. To his left was a small bedside cabinet, on top of which was a small clock. He noticed the second hand had stuck, endlessly giving the time as a second away from midnight. He realised at that point that he had no idea where he was. Or indeed when. He rolled out of bed, discovering he was fully dressed, in the process. On the wall behind the bed was a small, warped mirror. An unfamiliar, narrow featured face framed by unruly black hair, stared back at him with clear green eyes. A quick search of the cabinet revealed only an empty leather wallet. Alarmingly, he felt fully alert, yet had no idea who he was. Now that he was out of bed, he could see the door, set in an alcove to the left. He approached the door and paused, his hand hovering over the handle. From beyond, he could hear muffled voices. He experienced a tingling sensation across his shoulderblades. Suddenly, he turned and padded away from the door, convinced that nothing good lay beyond.
He looked out the window to see a concrete yard of cosiderable size, with a tall chain link fence in the near distance. Beyond the fenze, through a greasy yellow tinged haze, he could make out a busy urban landscape, filled with swarms of people, lines of largely stationary vehicles on the multi laned roads. Soaring towers of steel and glass loomed over the scene.
Better than through that door, he thought, still unable to explain his reluctance to open the door to himself.
He tried the window, discovering it to be thoroughly painted shut. After straining for a few seconds, he stripped the two pillow cases from the bed and wrapped them round his right hand. Mindful of any noise, he punched the window with considerable force. It flexed slightly, but otherwise held firm. Again he felt the sensation across his shoulders. He almost began to panic, then, a strange calm stole over him. He knew what to do. In three swift strides he was at the cabinet. As he lifted it, he found it to be reassuringly heavy. He almost ran at the window, hurling the cabinet with all his might as he did so. As the cabinet shattered the window, he launched himself headfirst through the wreckage. He badly bruised his shoulder in the landing, but managed to avoid the larger shards of the reinforced glass. On his feet instantly, he sprinted towards the fence. He focused all his attention on the fence, measuring it mentally. He leaped onto the fence and scaled it with an ease he found surprising. He swung himself over the top and dropped down most of the way. Attempting to maintain his balance when he landed, he staggered in to the flow of people and was knocked sprawling. People stepped round and over him, as if only peripherally aware of him. No one paused to help him. He managed to crawl out of the way after a few minutes, recieving only a mild trampling in the process.
Glancing back, through the fence, he saw a small collection of innocuous whitewashed buildings, stained grey by the smog. There was no sign of life or activity. He took a few moments to try and get a feel for the rythmn of the streets activity and then joined the flow of people, deciding that his direction of travel was unimportant as he had no notion as to where he was. The only thing he was sure of, was that he wanted to put some distance between him and the buildings beyond the fence. As he glanced about, trying to remember landmarks, he became aware of the profusion of surveillence cameras, mounted on the sides of buildings and on high poles, in either case protected by loops of jagged razorwire. He looked downwards after regarding a camera, to discover his path blocked by two men. The men were both tall and burly. Clad in black body armour and sporting numerous weapons, they had the legend ‘POLICE’ across their visored helmets.
‘Is there a problem, Officers?’
‘ID Card, sir.’ There was a noticable pause between the words ‘card’ and ‘sir’.
‘Ah, maybe you can help me?’ He showed them his empty wallet. ‘I’ve lost my memory.’
‘And your ID card,’ said one of the policemen dissapprovingly.
‘Not a problem,’ announced the other officer, ‘we’ll just take a retinal scan. Once we find you on the database, we’ll take you to where you can buy another ID card.’
Standing as still as possible while the policeman took the retinal scan, he said, ‘I don’t have any money, either.’
‘Again, not a problem, we’ll have the money electronically removed from your account after we establish your identity.’ The policeman completed the scan and entered the data into a small handheld device. The officer frowned when the machine emitted a sharp beep.
‘Are you wearing any kind of lenses? The scan must be corrupted, it’s saying there’s no match on the database.
‘No, no lenses.’
‘You’d better come down to the station with us, there’s a better scanner there.’
Three hours later found him seated in a cramped interview room at the police station. Across the table from him was a grim featured man in a cheap suit. He was collating test results on a compact laptop. The suited man stared at the computer screen for a long moment, then, his face betraying no expression, turned to stare at the other man.
‘So you have no memory?’
‘I have no memory of who I am, where this is and what year it is.’
‘Interesting. What’s more interesting, is that you don’t seem to be on any of the databases.’
He shrugged, helplessly, ‘I have no idea why that would be.’
‘I don’t imagine you would, you don’t seem to know anything else.’
‘Can you put me on the database now?’
The man in the suit looked horrified. ‘We most certainly can not! We have no way of establishing that you are who you say you are.’
‘But I don’t know who I am,’
‘Precisely! You could be anybody. You might not even be a national. Now, we can’t hold you, as we have nothing on you at the moment. I suggest you make it your business to get your memory back as quickly as possible. We will not be able to issue you an ID card as you have no identity. As such, you do not officially exist. As you do not exist, I have no problem with letting you walk out of here.’
‘What am I supposed to do?’ he demanded, ‘How am I supposed to eat? Pay for a room?’
‘There are places where the disadvantaged can be fed and sheltered, with the burden falling on the broad shoulders of the state.’ The man in the suit began to type into the laptop. ‘Just present your ID card.’
‘But you won’t give me a card.’
The man in the suit looked up, and an empty smile slowly crept across his face.
‘I believe you are beginning to get it. Well done. And good day!’ The suited man waved his hand dismissively.
Pausing for a moment to stare in disbelief at the man in the suit, he then walked outside into the city. Somewhere, he reasoned, there was an explanation for this. It was simply a matter of finding it.