There are no windows in this room, and not a door in sight. The room seems to be well lit, but the source of the light is as much of a mystery as my own name is. The walls are a stark white, a physical manifestation of a tabula rasa. Not a scrap of decoration adorns the room, and it isn’t silent so much as devoid of even the concept of sound. There’s a bitter chill in the air, but I see no vents that may be the bringer of the cold.
I reach for my left hand with my right. It exists and responds to my touch, numb though it is from the cold. My fingers have trouble assuming even the most basic of positions, but at least I have them. I don’t remember my name, but I remember that a human being is supposed to have fingers.
There’s a tickle lingering in the back of my throat, the kind that comes when you’re about to catch a cold. I find myself worrying more about the possibility of getting sick than the fact that I am a man who’s been wiped as clean as the exitless room he finds himself in.
If there are no windows or doors, then I’ll have to try the walls. I press my fingertips against them, and a rippling pain flows through them as I do. The outer layer of skin tears from the digits as I pull them away, the wall trying its hardest to keep them firmly attached. Any fleeting sensation my fingers had escapes as I blow hot air on them as forcefully as the wolf did in that old childhood story.
There’s something. People are supposed to have fingers, and there’s a story about a wolf from my childhood. What else can I recall?
I can’t specify why, but it feels incredibly important that I remember who and where I am. And the importance goes just beyond basic, yearning curiosity. A feeling pervades me, more powerful than the chill of the cold, and it tells me that I will die here if I do not remember.
I look down at my fingers then, and see that they’ve already turned black–victims of a frostbite that takes effect in seconds, it seems. Blowing on them won’t help anymore, but something tells me that’ll be the least of my problems. For a man with no identity, intuition is perhaps the most important tool I have.
I reach in my pockets with my blackened fingers, my movements stiff and awkward as my nerves refuse to send signals of touch from my dead digits back to my brain. As I root around my pockets for a wallet and any sign of identification along with it, a rivulet of blood trickles down my nose’s tip and drizzles the white floor beneath me.
I hurry to stem the flow, the red now mingling with the black of my fingers and the white of the floor. There is no gray here.
My head throbs with a sudden pain that distends my vision, a pang that is so strong it bypasses the usual feeling of nausea that accompanies such pain and jumps straight to threatening unconsciousness. I fight through this threat with deep, labored breaths, willing a piece of myself to return to me with each one. My body aches in more places than it doesn’t now, and the pain is blinding, but I must fight through it. I must remember who I am.
The pockets are useless; they’re as empty as the room is. I should’ve known it wouldn’t be that easy.
A tone rips through the air, blaring as it threatens to pierce my eardrums. It’s a steady tone that refuses to waver, and I know that I’ve heard it before. I just don’t know where. It doesn’t let up as I raise my frostbitten hands to my head; plug my ears with fingers I can’t feel. I move to the room’s edge to escape the sound, but the attempt is ineffectual. The sound seems to come from within and not without.
The blood still flows freely from my nose as it pools between my feet, the flow even stronger now that my fingers no longer plug it up. I walk back to the room’s center, and my feet slip as they do, as if on ice. Before I can crash into the wall, though, I steady my steps.
Even the flow of blood from my nose seems to stop for a moment as something returns to me. Ice. Crash. And the tone, too, blaring as it is. It’s the horn of a car. My car.
The walls fall away from the room, and as they do the chill which had until then been somewhat abated comes full force and attacks my skin with its icy fingers. I am standing beside myself, in an icy ditch as my car’s right front tire spins lazily. The body inside is mine; I recognize its face even though that white-walled room afforded me no reflection. I’ve been in an accident. I am hurt and I need help. But first I need to return to myself.
I fight through the nose’s trickle; through the dull ache of my fingers, hands, and wrists; through the pang of striating pain that wraps my body up in a convulsive blanket. I walk beyond the metal frame of the car and into the human frame of myself.
I cannot move. That’s what my body tells me, but I won’t hear it. I move my fingers to my pocket, and find something other than emptiness. My phone is there. I dial the number, I report the incident, and then I collapse once more onto the steering wheel. But just before I’m lulled into that sweet temptation of sleep, another familiar sound reaches my ears. Sirens.