1. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
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    Manchester, England

    Winners Exclusive & MarmaladeQueen Short Story Contest 103: Amnesia

    Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Oct 26, 2011.

    Exclusive - Droste (An Adaptation)


    Do you know how a creature survives?

    Set up a hunter in the woods against an imposing, hulking Grizzly bear for the first time. He gets slapped around, slammed against the trunk of a redwood, okay …three redwoods. If he’s lucky enough to crawl away from the encounter on his own strength, the hunter will return.

    More people.

    Better tools.

    In other words, this hunter adapts. He remembers the pain he felt and doesn’t want to experience that ever again. You see? He adapts, he survives.

    He thrives.

    Now, imagine a creature that can take away your ability to reliably adapt as a human being. Not directly but, indirectly. This is a creature that could distort memories through direct contact of its’ own secretions into the bloodstream of its’ prey. Inhalation of its’ pheromones (or any deep scratch wounds) leads to immediate short-term memory loss. A bite? The worst case scenario would entail a severe case of amnesia. This amnesia would then cause depression, even, dementia with the possible development of obsessive compulsive disorders.

    Imagine getting that scratch and then, almost immediately, losing your short term memory.

    No, really. Imagine.

    Getting that scratch and then almost…

    --Immediately, losing your short term memory. No? Really imagine, getting that scratch and then almost immediately, losing your short term memory.

    Instead of the hunter leaving to return with allies and ammunition, he’d leave …only to come back moments later to the same spot where he’d fought the Grizzly bear. Why? Well, he’d have forgotten ever facing it. In fact, should he lose his short term memory again, he’d be doomed to repeat the very same mistake. This will happen over and over.

    All the while, this hunter gets weaker and weaker with each encounter. So, how does this hunter survive now? He uses the evidence around him to deduce his current situation. His scratches. His shortness of breath. If the hunter has an extensive knowledge of zoology, he could create a composite of the (already forgotten) creature that has just attacked him. If he’s good enough, he’ll be correct.

    If not, then it will mean a slow, dehabilitating, torturous death.


    These autumn hued, skeleton-esque apparitions stand; no… slither at roughly seven feet tall. They have the most twisted, porcelain constitutions, but their “faces” especially. The top of their heads would be oriented one particular way, in one direction, and then…

    --Abruptly, the midsection of their “face” would wrench and jerk in an entire different orientation. Wait, I’m sorry. That doesn’t quite make sense, does it? Why would they have “porcelain constitutions” when they’re crimson hued? Well, let’s figure this out together. A creature’s structure is always predicated by is function, right?

    A creature’s function is, ultimately, survival. This much will never change, and so this is the best place to recover our train of thought. Survival.

    Anklowraiths. Do you know how a creature survives? Set up a hunter in the woods.

    Against an imposing, hulking Grizzly bear for the first time; he gets slapped around, slammed against the trunk of a redwood. Okay, three redwoods. If he’s lucky enough to crawl away from the encounter on his own strength …the hunter will return. More people. Better tools.

    In other words, this hunter adapts. He remembers the pain he felt and doesn’t want to experience that ever again. You see, he adapts. He survives. He thrives.

    Now, imagine a creature that can take away your ability to reliably adapt as a human being…


    MarmaldeQueen - For Mary

    I’m dedicating this to a lovely Irish lady called Mary who I met a few years ago when I spent eight days in hospital on an orthopaedic ward. Mary had Alzheimer’s and spent much of her time wandering about the ward and getting into other people’s beds since she couldn’t remember where her own bed was. Nor could she remember the way to the toilets. The nursing staff were neglectful and even cruel to her, leaving it up to us other patients to try to care for Mary. The nurses really did say “Mary, Mary, Quite contrary,” to her and she had enough comprehension to know that they were being mean to her. To this day I feel angry at how Mary was treated.

    I know nothing of Mary’s history since she was unable to really talk to us. Her accent was from the West coast of Ireland and she was a lovely, gentle character. In the eight days I was there she had not a single visitor, and I can only guess at her story or why she had ended up so alone in the world.

    I feel this is far from my best writing, so I’m not particularly expecting any votes. It was hard to capture Mary in words, but I wanted to try.


    Mary eased her legs over the side of her bed and shuffled into her slippers. She grasped her walking frame and slowly raised herself to standing. She looked across the room, saw the sun glancing off the building opposite, the dust dancing in the light, the smears on the floor where the cleaner had swiped his mop.

    “You’re in hospital, Mary,” said the nurse for the nth time.

    “Oh yes,” said Mary with her soft Irish lilt, but it meant nothing to her. All she knew now was that her bladder was bursting and she set off across the sea of beds to find somewhere to relieve herself.

    She was sure she’d found a toilet before, but where? She hesitated when she reached the corridor, and then turned left. Left was as good as right. There were walls full of writing that she couldn’t read, corridors cluttered with trolleys, commodes, medicine cabinets, overflowing laundry bins, a hoist with a piece of paper stuck to it. People walked up and down, talking, not talking, rushing, dawdling. None of them were faces she knew.

    “No Mary, not that way,” called out a voice.

    Who had said that? Mary stopped. Turned. There were so many beds, and so many people. Now she couldn’t work out where she had come from, any more than she knew where she was going to.

    Someone came up to her any took her hand. “This way, Mary.”

    Ah the bliss at last of sitting on the toilet, the piss torrenting out of her. Mary sat there for a while after she’d finished. It felt safe there. Familiar. Mind you, they didn’t have flush toilets like these when she was a child. Twelve children in a two-roomed cottage with a single cold water tap and a privy at the bottom of the garden. Until the measles. Then there were only nine of them and she would cross herself as she passed the little grave on her way into Mass on a Sunday. Just the one grave since they’d all died within a week of each other.

    That was a long time ago. She didn’t know what had happened to the rest of them, where they were now or even where she herself was.

    “You’re in hospital, Mary,” the nurse said.

    Liam. He’d been her favourite. Always up to mischief. Then there’d been Aoife. They’d been close in age, but Aoife was always the prettier, with her red curls and green eyes. What ever had happened to Liam and Aoife? Had they died of the measles or was that Ciaran and Brigid? Caitlin. She’d died. She was only a babe in arms.

    As Mary stood up a trickle of urine ran down the inside of her right leg. There was no toilet paper that she could see. Not even the cut up newspaper they used to have in the privy. She remembered cutting up those newspapers. It was her job because she should be trusted with the scissors, being the eldest. Twelve years old, that was how old she'd been when she left school to look after her brothers and sisters. Maeve and Patrick hadn't even been born then.

    Her hands hurt where she gripped the walking frame. Arthritis. All those years of damp and cold and soft days bending double in a potato field with the poor soil of Ireland caked to your hands. You could never get it out from under your finger-nails. Peat-cutting. That had been another job that never seemed to end.

    As she walked she could feel the wetness of the urine between her thighs. What did that remind her of? She couldn't remember just now, but it would come to her in a moment. She was sure she'd remember in a moment.

    She been a nurse herself, she told the slip of a girl in the blue uniform who had come to wash her. Came over on the boat once the youngest was out of school. She’d hoped for a sweetheart back home in County Clare but all the young men got the boat to England or to America. America was better people said, but then you needed so much more money to get there, and more money than anyone ever had to come home again. Only letters ever came back from America, never people. So she worked and saved and worked and saved until she had enough money to take the train to Dublin and the boat to Liverpool and then another train all the way to London. She had no idea the world could be so big, or so lonely. Ward assistant, that’s what she was. It was hard work. They scrubbed floors in those days on their hands and knees and matron would scold you fit to die if they weren’t clean enough.

    Now where was that bed, Mary wondered to herself. She looked down the line of crumpled bedclothes and old ladies. Every step hurt her now, but they kept telling her she had to keep moving.

    “You must do your exercises, Mrs Lenahan” said the man who stood at the foot of her bed in his white tunic but she couldn’t remember any exercises. She couldn’t remember where she was or why or who these people were. It wasn’t like the old days back in Booleynagleragh where she knew everyone and everyone knew her.

    There now, Mary thought to herself, seeing her bed at last, taking off her slippers and climbing in to it.

    “No there Mary,” sang out a chorus of voices. She took no notice. She’d found an empty bed and she felt tired now. She wanted a little nap and then perhaps it would be lunchtime. Or teatime. She had know idea what the time was, but it wasn't yet night, she knew that much.

    Someone came up and put a hand on her shoulder.

    “That’s not your bed, Mary. Your bed is over there,” she said, but when Mary followed the woman’s gaze she still couldn’t see which was her bed. So many beds. Would you believe there could be so many beds in one bedroom, or so many strangers all sleeping alongside each other?

    “You mustn’t keep getting into other people’s beds,” said the nurse. Mary felt she was being told off, but she didn’t understand why. She would have liked to cry, being told off like that, but being the eldest she couldn’t cry, her Mum used to tell her.

    Back in the cottage in Booleynagleragh they’d all slept in two double beds which sagged in the middle. Boys in one. Girls in the other. Top to toe. Róisín used to wet the bed but they all just had to put up with it until she grew out of it.

    Mary shuffled back into her slippers, hoisted herself upright on the walking frame, and set off again, in the direction the woman had pointed, hoping that she’d find the right bed. Did it really matter which bed she got into? There now, she thought again, there’s an empty bed. She reversed onto to, gripping her walking frame, and lowered herself onto the bed before taking off her slippers. Red slippers. How proud she’d been when she bought her first slippers when she’d started earning her own money at the hospital in London. There had never been enough money for boots let alone slippers, back in Ireland. Boots were passed down and mended and passed down again. They never fitted properly. That was why her feet always hurt now. Someone had told her that once but she couldn’t remember who.

    “No, Mary, that’s not your bed” sang out the chorus of voices.

    What was it that all these people seemed to know that she couldn’t follow? It reminded her of when she first came to London, living in the nurses’ hostel. So many rules and regulations. No Mary, not that way. No Mary, not there. No Mary, that’s not allowed.

    “Mary, can you please get back into your own bed.” That was the cross nurse with brown eyes and brown hair done in plaits, pinned up to her head. They didn’t wear white hats any longer, these nurses.

    “You’re a good girl,” her mother used to say, as she heaved the family washing through the hand-cranked mangle or peeled a never-ending mound of potatoes for their tea.

    “I’m a good girl,” Mary told the brown-haired nurse with the cross face.

    “That’s right, Mary, you be a good girl and get into your own bed.”

    The nurse turned away. “Mary, Mary, Quite contrary,” she said to her colleague and they giggled together. A tear slipped down Mary’s cheek.

    There. At last she was in a bed and no-one was shouting at her any longer. Maybe there would be potatoes for lunch today. She could just smell the lunch trolley approaching down the corridor. Or maybe it was tea.

    Perhaps she should just go and have a look. She needed the toilet anyway.

    Mary eased her legs over the side of her bed and shuffled into her slippers. She grasped her walking frame and slowly raised herself to standing.

    “Not that way, Mary” sang out the chorus of voices.
  2. Exclusive

    Exclusive Member

    Jun 27, 2011
    Likes Received:
    Congratulations, MarmaladeQueen. Pretty good entry, if I should say so. Thanks to everyone who read mys story. It was my first contest here so I'm glad that it was enjoyable.

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