A circle of cold metal chairs crowded under stark fluorescent lights. The counselor’s office smelled of old pencil shavings and broken crayons. Five of us sat there, silent, allowing the mystery to drive us further apart.
Under my breath I mumbled, “Why can’t I remember?” My eyes closed tight, as if closing my eyes would lessen my fear. I saw my grandparents lose their memory, and since I learned it can happen to anyone, it’s been a terrible fear of my own.
“None of us can,” Lia said, low. She leaned closer to me, her perfume wafted with her. A pang of guilt rumbled my innards when I realized I gave her that perfume. “We all wish we could remember.” I looked at her in time to notice she nodded toward the guard outside the door.
The police wanted answers. The forest fire had been terrible, and they thought one of us started it. None of us could remember a thing, aside from the campfire and acrid smoke.
Mrs. Perkins walked in, her glasses down to the tip of her nose, her soft permed hair frizzy with the heat of summer. “Good, good. You’re all on time. This is our last session, according to my notes.”
We nodded, straightened in our chairs, looked hopefully at the clock.
“Any of you have luck with your memory?”
The part of me that wanted to please, wanted to comply, wanted desperately to show the image that had shown up in my journal, I told that part of me to shut the hell up. Mrs. Perkins suggested we start journaling, and sharing appropriate thoughts with the group. Of course I had brought the journal with me, but I didn’t want to explain where the image came from – I had no idea.
“No one?” Mrs Perkins inspected each of us with her steady gaze. It was like we were all in high school again, and she was the principal. Lia fidgeted with her purse.
“Lia? Something to say?” Mrs. Perkins sounded hopeful.
“I…” Lia hesitated. She quickly glanced at us, and then shook her head. “I don’t know if I’ve read too many crazy stories, but something weird happened.” She dug out her journal, a hardcover that barely fit in her purse. It had a unicorn on it and turned my head so no one saw my eye roll.
“Go on,” Mrs. Perkins said when Lia paused, the journal on her lap.
“I’m not sure how I drew this, or … or why exactly. I’m also wondering if I’m the only one of the group?” She turned to a page, and it was as if the room shifted to slow motion. I had a moment to register every member’s look of shock. We all pulled our own journals out, and turned to specific pages.
All five of us had doodled the same image, used the same block letters. We kept glancing at each others pages. The note read ‘Please try to forget that you saw me.’ Each of had a sloppy image of a hairy humanoid.
Mrs. Perkins pulled up the gaudy old lady flower pin on her linen jacket and spoke quietly into it. “Success. This is the group.”
Faster than I knew what was happening, men in all black battle gear flooded into the room, and put cloth sacks over our heads. The sacks were damp and they smelled awful. It must have been something like chloroform, because I fell to the floor, so tired. I saw the faint outline of Mrs. Perkins kitten heels as she strolled from the room.