Not Enough Memory
By Nojh Livic
“Here is what I don’t understand,” Amon began, waving his hand towards the assembling crowds. Hasim used an infinite amount of willpower not to roll his eyes at his friend, mostly by focusing his attention on the crowds. The stadium was filling in quickly with over three-quarters of standing room filled in under a half an hour. Amon and Hasim had been one of the first inside and were therefore accorded a prime view of the stadium floor, after the eram, who used the three rows of benches ahead of them. The eram, unlike the masses of terum, had the luxury a guaranteed unobstructed view of the coming proceedings and therefore were less inclined to rush to their seats when the doors opened. This left Amon a nice clear view of the floor where a blue orb was set into the ground inside a huge inscribed circle. It pulsed slowly and rhythmically with light.
“Don’t you think?” Amon finished, turning his attention to his friend, only to find him staring at the floor below. Amon smacked Hasim on the shoulder. “Hey! Don’t stare!” the older man hissed quickly. Hasim shook his head and turned away slightly.
“Sorry. I got distracted,” Hasim said even as his eyes began to slide back to the floor. Amon grabbed his shoulder and turned him around to face him, much like most of the others in the crowd were doing. Eyes averted looking directly at the gleaming orb emitting light up towards the open sky of the stadium. Those who brought their children were having to keep them from looking as well. They all, however, felt the allure of the light.
“Exactly. We all trundle in here like camels to an oasis, knowing we’re denied the pleasures of the light. There’s no point. We might as well all stay home. None of us will be chosen,” Amon ranted. Hasim noted his friend was drawing a few looks from those behind him. He gave his friend a meaningful look, nodding. Amon didn’t take the hint. “Yet worse, you and I are near the head of the pack. At least the ones in the back won’t feel it as badly. You know I hear they measured width of the power. That the only reason why there are seats from this point on is that one doesn’t have the strength to stand so close for the length of the ceremony.”
Amon was trudging very close to heresy and was now drawing looks from a few of the parents in the crowd. Hasim jabbed his friend in the stomach once, hard. Amon, who was taking in a breath to say more, had it knocked out of him. He would have tumbled forward if Amon hadn’t caught him. They leaned against the diving stone railing that kept them from the eram seats. “Careful my friend. There are words reserved for drawn curtains,” he advised the older man. Amon seemed to nod, although he might have simply been gasping for breath.
Hasim patted his friend on the back and spared a quick glance towards the light again, disappointed to find that enough of the eram in their blue robes had taken seats to block a good view of the stadium floor. He grew both excited and nervous as the number meant that the ceremony would start soon.
“I will recall it this time,” Hasim vowed quietly, more to himself than Amon. Amon, who had mostly recovered his breath, didn’t bother to hide his disdain filled eye rolls. Hasim understood. Nobody remembered the ceremony. This would be his fifth attendance. He had resolved to remember everything that happened, rather than the vague dreamlike memories he had from prior visits that everybody experienced. Everybody’s accounts varied save for the sense of overwhelming calm and peace, as well as the longing to find that calm and peace again.
“Your memory techniques?” Amon asked. Hasim only nodded.
“You know you almost feel entranced not a few moments ago. Where were you memory techniques then?” Amon asked.
“I wasn’t prepared,” Hasim admitted. Most of the benches were full. A hush was slowly settling over the crowds.
“Well better start. Here come the priestess,” Amon pointed towards the glint of silver appearing in the gaps between the blue robes of the eram in front of them.
Hasim held his breath and began to focus. Unlike the others of the crowds in the standing room, who turned their backs to the ceremony, he remained looking forward like the eram. He concentrated on letting his eyes unfocused and slowly let out his breath, trying to direct his attention out and around him while keeping focusing on taking long deep breaths. He would reme-
Great lights so bright they blinded him twice over. He felt pain in every inch of his body. Pleasure too but only as a light salt to the sweetness of the pain. There was agony all around him; cries both human and inhuman echoing through the stadium. Escape was all he could think of. He walked. He pushed. He ran. He jumped. Nothing changed but he knew he was making progress. Red filled his vision, then silver, then blue. The screams where omnipresent but further away now. The chanting was closer. There was warmth but greater pain.
Then there was clarity.
He knew not the creature before him. It denied all words of description he had been taught. Around it were the priestess, their robes discarded, prostrate in a circle around it. He stood just inside the great circle but outside of it were the masses. Light streamed from every direction, a multitude of flowing colors, from the crowds that he had been apart of towards the creature. If it had something resembling an orifice, he was unsure, it used it to feed upon this light, while other parts of its anatomy writhed across the floor to touch not just the priestess but the eram in the seated benches before it.
He stood transfixed, taking all of this in. He was not alone. Where were several other fellow terum who had made it to the circle. They too stood looked around in confusion. One he recognized. The woman who had taught him the memory techniques. He opened his mouth to call out to her.
Then the creature touched him.
-ber. Hasim screamed. The rest of the people around him were shaking their heads as if trying to shake grogginess from their minds. Several startled and back peddled away from Hasim. Hasim clutched at his head. There was no calm. There was no peace. No fuzzy memories. He remembered the pain. He remembered it all. And all of it pained him.
“Hasim? You’ve been chosen?” Amon asked worriedly, reaching out to touch his friend who was wildly looking down towards the stadium floor now. The eram and the priestess were gone, as was usual. “Hasim? What’s wrong?” Amon asked, grabbing the younger man’s shoulders. The orb too was dim, shedding no light. There was no sign of it. Hasim broke the older man’s grip and leapt over the stone divide, into the forbidden place of the eram and towards the circle. Amon reached to grab him but it was too late. “Hasim!” Amon yelled.
Hasim ran for the circle, tugging at his robes. He could feel where it had touched him. There was not just a numbness but an emptiness so profound. His robes fell away as he entered the circle. Already the guards of the eram were filling into the floor, spears pointed towards him but he gave them no mind. Those who looked directly upon his chest actually hesitated a step.
He was marked. His skin a horrible pale stain of asymmetric design that resembled nothing natural. Hasim touched it and felt nothing, not even the tips of his fingers. What was worse he could feel the mark growing. Not across his skin but down into it. He had to stop it.
“Hasim!” Amon yelled again, as if he could scream some sense into his friend from afar, but Hasim realized that his voice was too close. He turned to see his older friend had followed him to the floor of the stadium. He was also yelling to warn him of the guard who brandished a spear and charging at Hasim. By turning around he showed his disfigurement to the charging guard. The guard’s eyes bulged at the sight and he stumbled back involuntarily. Amon too, being several strides away, halted his run with a skid, staring.
“I have no heart!” Hasim screamed up towards the darkening sky. It was true. He could no longer feel his heart beat nor his lungs filling with air. He was numb on the inside and the feeling only grew. As if to assist his claim, the guard who had stumbled back gathered his courage and thrust the spear forward. A solid blow driven into where Hasim’s heart should have been. Instead the spear struck the pale mark and was swallowed, no blood spewing forth. The tip and haft simply sunk into the man impossibly far, not merging from the opposite side.
The guards fled then. The few spectators in the stadium who had the willpower to stay now too found their courage fleeing them and left to chase it. Only Amon remained, kneeling in the sandy floor strides from his friend. Hasim looked at Amon sadly. Amon stared blankly at his friend, his mouth agape.
Hasim carefully pulled the spear from his breast intact, his the mark unmarred. He was numb now, from the neck down. He knew he would be dead. His body might yet remain animated but that which made him Hasim would cease to exist in moments. “Good bye, my friend. Please, do not remember,” Hasim said to Amon, then turned and fell head first upon his spear. His body and the spear clattered to the ground, spraying blood upon the orb.
Amon continued to stare in shock, only barely registering his friend’s suicide, or that the orb beneath him had begun to glow. In that blue glow he reme-
He felt the pain and the pleasure but he did not scream like the others. He felt it not as they did but as he would around them. Their pain and their pleasure radiated from them. Beside him his partner and friend screamed the loudest. He always screamed the loudest. Unlike before he was flailing. The eram had taken notice and were removing him from the stands, carrying him to the circle where it stood. He couldn’t look at it. He knew that if he did, it would notice him and he would feel the pain the others hand. He had to pretend. He had to shake, writhe, and worship. It was the only way to survive.
-bered, his own repressed memories surfacing. “No,” Amon whispered, defiantly climbing to his feet. More guards had appeared, as did several priestesses. The guards kept their distance but the silver swathed women were hurrying towards him. Each step he took strengthened his resolve and he covered the strides between himself and his friend’s body easily. He grabbed the haft of the spear and pulled it free. The tip was stained with Hasim’s blood.
“No!” hissed the closest woman as he held the spear in two hands above his head and pointed the tip down towards the orb. Up close it glowed brightly and while it held his attention, his anger and fear kept his wits from being absorbed by its false promise.
He thrust the spear down. The orb shattered. Amon knew nothing more.