Written for Ficathon 2012. Read everyone else's submissions - they're way better than mine.
Lost and Found
In Greek, nostalgia literally means 'the pain of an old wound.' It's a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone.
He can't remember when exactly the ache started. The feeling has always seemed to be a silent passenger in his life.
The impression he shouldn't be alone, but has always remained by himself is the eternal question he cannot answer.
Although he would never admit to it, the ache that fills him, that grows stronger every day is a yearning. For what, he does not know. For who, he cannot guess. But the twinge follows him around like an inescapable shadow. As it grows worse, as it begins to turn painful, causing his chest to ache and making it difficult for him to breathe, he finally stops spending all his energy fighting.
Once he stops disregarding the signs, once the internal wall comes down and he accepts whatever his subconscious has been trying to tell him for years, the visions come.
Dreams so real he wakes up in a cold sweat – chest heaving, desperate to catch his breath. In all his life, he never knew dreams could be so vivid. Pictures of himself dressed in armor. A great cape twirling. Sword flashing. There are brave comrades at his side – if he could only glimpse their faces… A man he cannot save. Red hair. Blood. Everywhere. Anguish. Despair. Having wanted to accept whatever truth he had been ignoring, at first he dreads going to sleep. He self medicates with alcohol and pills that numb him, keeping the horrible images away.
With no one to talk to, it takes him months to find the courage to let himself dream again. When he does, he wishes he had faced the fear that had been holding him back. That he would be as brave as his dream self clearly was. The visions force him to begin to live a life he is merely drifting through.
Until he starts focusing on the events of what he was sure was some sort of past life, it was if he truly hadn't lived. He takes up mediation and even though it feels silly, he decides to learn fencing. Through sword work and dreams and focus he comes to know his former self. His past self was confident, stoic and unflinching. He recognizes these qualities in himself and starts to grow into them.
And still the yearning remains.
Empty relationships, sex cannot fill him. These tawdry events only remind him of what he does not have.
He looks out into the night, up at the stars, into the heavens and feels a distant, remote connection. What answers did they hold? What would his former self do? Who is his past identity trying to find?
She has always been missing something. The sensation of having constantly forgot a tangible object. There, it's not her keys, her phone, or her passport. It's not her scarf or the lucky scarlet ribbon she keeps – a memento from childhood days. It's not the worn picture of her beloved cat who is currently residing with her friend Amy in Palo Alto. It's nothing concrete, just the feeling she is without.
Inescapable, the feeling follows her around the world. Throughout her travels, her studies, her various relationships, the sentiment of being disconnected refuses to relent. When her luggage goes missing on a trip to Hong Kong, she thinks for an instant this is the moment when she'll finally feel some release, but when the loyal vintage Louis Vuitton is returned, she feels nothing.
The absence follows her and she wonders if others feel the same, if friends in her life have some almost unbearable gap in their own lives. But the topic, special to her, a cross for her alone to bear, remains an unspoken situation. The relationships she does have end after a few months. Most of her ex-lovers would never admit to the fact, but the bright spark they were initially attracted to has an impenetrable wall surrounding her heart. It's a barrier they can never hope to break. Some last longer than others, but eventually they all move on – second best to someone unknown.
In the background, his television is on, volume low and the strangest feeling surrounds him during, of all things, a shampoo commercial. There is a flash of long blonde hair and the image, seemingly random, triggers something buried deep within him.
Thus far, his memories had been of war and anger and frustration, but lurking below those recollections – a feeling of warmth and passion.
Why this time and that commercial?
Suddenly tired, he stumbles to the unmade bed. Falling into a deep sleep, he wakes up refreshed – with the smell of jasmine surrounding him.
Can she be found?
He feels the need to seek her forgiveness, to be absolved of some sin he cannot remember.
For the first time in forever, he feels there's a chance that he might find what's he's been searching for.
For all her travels, it's her first time to Ireland. Upon her first breath of air after the long flight, she feels a peace that has long been missing. As the driver winds his way through the narrow streets, she falls in love with the old world sensations the country brings to mind. In this place, she feels that perhaps what she's been missing might be found. Pulling up to the cozy inn, the driver deposits her bag and drives away. Towards the end of the high season, in the middle of the week, the owners, a charming couple, inform her she is the only guest and that fact suits her just fine. Looking through the well thumbed guidebook on her dressing table, she finds a walk that looks interesting and places the book to the side. Succumbing to jet lag, she sinks into the soft bedding.
Somewhat disoriented, she wakes up hours later as the sun just peaks over the horizon. Pale morning light filters into the room. Recalling the walk, she decides to start her morning among nature. Rubbing her dry hands with jasmine scented lotion, she moves silently through the old house, then slides into a pair of red wellies near the door and sneaks out early in the morning. Looking up to the sky she notes it's early enough that Venus still holds court in the sky.
The world is covered in dew and the stillness draws her in.
The path, slightly overgrown, winds and wild roses grow heavy around her, perfuming the air. She stops, holds her breath. The flowers remind her of a memory she cannot recall.
The forest begins to close in, starts to block out the early morning sky, but still she continues, driven forward by a force she cannot name.
The destination of the tramp is nothing special – a small brook, said to hold healing properties. It's more of a distant objective than anything else – a reason to be out this early in the morning.
She expects to see no one, but still holds out hoping that she might recover whatever she's been missing could be found in the forest.
He felt silly booking the last minute ticket, paying outrageous fees and not caring. Why Ireland? He doesn't know. He thinks his new friends, long lost brothers, really, will probably laugh when they find out, but he will take their joking in stride. Finding them has been an important step, but it's not the final one.
And yet when he lands, when he sees the rolling green hills, he feels he is in the right place. For what, he doesn't know. Maybe this goddamned yearning in his body will finally be released.
He begins to walk.
Maybe he wasn't meant to find her. Maybe he wasn't meant to find true love in this life time. Maybe he can take comfort in the fact that he's found his brothers and rest with that.
He doesn't let the time of day or the weather stop him or slow him down. He's long ago given up listening to the small voice in his head that tells him of reality and that walking off into the woods in a foreign country with nary a thing is insanity. He tells the voice to be quiet and listens instead to his inner most voice – the one who showed him where the memories of his past life were. The one that told him to come here today.
He wanders – like a magnet, pulled by some unseen force.
And, like a nymph or a sprite or some other sort of fairy creature, the woman he knew he was looking for, but could never actually seem to find is there, in front of him. On the opposite side of the small stream of water, she looks radiant and exactly as he thought she would appear.
"It's you," he says.
"It's you," she answers.
She offers her hand and without hesitation he wades through the stream towards her.