Monday, January 14, 2008


I wrote this about 2 years ago now, and I've been wanting to dust it off. It was locked away in a file format I can't access on my Mac (Microsoft Works), and I finally bothered to find a file converter -- the fantastic Zamzar.

A pat on the back goes to the first reader who figures out what the "hospital" actually is.



"I dreamed that my name was Valerie and that I worked at a department store." I said. My doctor looked back at me in silence, his dark eyes held no expression. I continued. "I was sorting out old clothes that didn't belong -- they were vintage, from the 50s and 60s. I had to climb on a huge shaky ladder and get them down from the very top displays. For some reason I was wearing a lot of brown lipstick. Doctor, could it be that I really did work at a department store? I seem to know an awful lot about displaying clothes."

"Most likely not." My doctor thought out loud. "The sorting and extraction of old clothes merely represents your desire to find your memories. The lipstick says that you are hiding something."

I thought for a moment. "But maybe my name is Valerie. It would be a start. It would be worth looking into wouldn't it?"

"No. Dreams are seldom that expository." It was the first name I had come up with in the week since I was found, shivering and naked, with a thick layer of dirt caked under my fingernails. I somehow just showed up at the hospital. That was the first of what I could remember. It was one week of therapy and recuperation and I knew nothing about who I was. But my name was Valerie, I felt certain.

An hour later, after another unsuccessful attempt at hypnosis, I found myself padding down the corridor back to my room. The floor was cold -- I wish they had given me a pair of shoes to wear but the doctors thought they were unnecessary. The only garment they gave me was a thin gown. As I walked I ran my fingers against the smooth wall. At about the height of my hip there were words embossed in the surface that ran the length of the corridor. I knew I could read -- but my amnesia was so complete that they just looked like garbled symbols.

When I got to my room my door was open as usual. There were fresh linens on the bed, and a meal waiting for me. Out my window, a sloped skylight in the ceiling, it was night-time. There was a sea of stars in a perfect moonless night, just like every night. The doctors never woke me during the day and I hadn't seen daylight since I arrived at the hospital. A fragment of memory surfaced. The Sun - I remember the Sun. I remember a brilliant light shining down on me -- I felt joyful, vindication? It made me feel as if I could fly, weightless. I don't know. I just wish I could see the day again.

I ate my meal alone on my bed. Whatever I was eating was bland, rubbery, and cold. When I was finished I curled up in the sheets. There was a faint smell of damp and mildew, the cloth was harsh and stiff. A few minutes later the sleep doctor showed up with another needle. I held out my arm as was required by the routine. I watched my reflection in his large eyes as he slowly pressed amber fluid into the crook of my elbow. It was required that I dream some more.

"Doctor, I'd like to go outside. I feel cramped in here."

"You can't go outside." We were in the therapy room.

"Why not?"

"It's not safe." I stared at him suspiciously. "Tell me about your dreams."

"I don't want to talk about them anymore."

"We need to find out who you are."

"My name is Valerie."

"No, it's not. I told you that wasn't your name."

"Why not? If it isn't. it might as well be."

"Tell me about the dream you just had."

"I didn't have a dream."

"You're lying."

"I refuse to dream."

"You can't, you will always dream."

"Maybe the answer isn't in a dream. Maybe it's outside."

"Forget about the outside. Your identity resides within you. I am going to place you in regression."

When I got back to my room there was no meal waiting for me, just two doctors, a needle, and a rectangular swath of stars. The next day I retold a dream about gardening, had another unsuccessful session of hypnosis and when I returned to my room a bland meal was waiting. Clearly I was being rewarded for my cooperation.