I opened my eyes again and had to blink in surprise. Where did those clouds come from? I blinked again and by then my brain finally gathered enough momentum to realize how the sun has also wandered away from the horizon. By the looks of it, I must've fallen asleep for a while. I tried to sit up to check the time and then promptly had to brace myself to stop myself from falling back down.
My head was throbbing like crazy. If I had to give it a numeric value, it was a solid seven-point-eight on the just-kill-me-already scale. In other words, it was quite pleasant compared to what I had already endured in the morning. I reached for my forehead and hissed in surprise as my fingers brushed against the big lump on it. Oh, right. I was hitting my head against the fence post.
"Why did I think that was a good idea?" I mumbled a tad wryly as I gently rubbed the bump. Actually, there were at least three of them, but they were so close to each other they might as well have been a single gigantic one. Oh well, at least this time I knew where the pain was coming from. That somehow made it more tolerable.
I couldn't say the same about the nausea though. It generally just smoldered in the background when I didn't move, only to flare up with a vengeance whenever I tried to get up. Probably had something to do with the concussion and the inner-ear canals and all that crap. I sighed and decided to lie back down, only to let out another hiss the moment I touched the ground. Right, I had a bump on the back too. How careless of me.
I rested one arm under my head and the other over my eyes and for the first time since I arrived at school I felt like my thoughts were clear. As a matter of fact, my mind felt as sharp as a freshly edged knife, at least compared to how it operated before. Strange, I thought. I didn't notice it at the time, but I was on autopilot all morning ever since...
I frowned into my forearm. Right, it all started with that headache when I noticed I was late for school. Everything after that was covered in a fine mist of dull compliance. The more I thought about it, the more bizarre my earlier behavior appeared. I even noticed how my body was moving on its own, but I just dismissed it as my legs remembering what I forgot. How dumb.
Speaking of which, was I still missing my memories? In most stories getting hit on the head again usually solved one's amnesia. If that is even remotely how it works, after my little stunt with the fence post I should remember even the future.
Nope, I was still blank. I tried to recall my mother's face but the huge pile of nothing I got in return almost made me reconsider whether I even had a mother in the first place. Wow, I had it bad. Same deal with my father. Speaking of which, I couldn't even remember his name, though I think I have seen it when I was looking at my financial papers. I should write it down somewhere once I get back home.
What else was there? Well, there was that guy... what was his name again...? It started with a ‘J' or ‘G' I think. Actually, now that I think about it, I believe he was the only entry in my phone book. Too bad I couldn't check it, as I left my phone in my bag. And my bag in the classroom.
I instinctively grit my teeth and hissed at the mere thought of the classroom, but the headache didn't come. I sighed in relief. Good, that crap was getting old anyway. Then I clicked my tongue and smiled. "Joshua! That's his name!" I let out a content little chuckle. At least my short-term memory was more or less still in working order, if a bit laggy.
There was another name though, someone he mentioned. I think I was supposed to know who he was talking about. A common acquaintance, maybe? I think her name had something to do with angels. Or engines. Or maybe engineers? Angelica? Angela? Angelina? I couldn't recall, but to my surprise, there was another thing I couldn't recall either, namely her face.
Normally this would have been no surprise, with the amnesia and all, but it made me realize that I actually had a hazy picture of her in my mind. I couldn't really say anything specific about her though. Her face was barely more than a blur, but I think her hair was brown... maybe auburn-ish? I wasn't even sure about that. What really surprised me was that, though I couldn't describe her even in broad terms, I felt pretty confident about being able to recognize her if I came across her on the street. I couldn't help but wonder what it said about me that I could remember her but not my parents...
I stretched a little. My neck was getting sore from lying on the concrete for too long, so I carefully set both my arms under my head to put it into a more comfortable position. This of course meant that I had to uncover my eyes, which once again reminded me that the sun was up pretty high in the sky. I was just about to wonder about the time when my concerns were preemptively answered by the soft chime of the bell. It was a variation on the classic Big Ben theme and it ran pretty long.
To my surprise, this fact actually jogged a memory. I pursued it, grabbed hold of it, and finally recalled; yes, a long chime meant it's lunch break. I couldn't help but smile. There might be hope for me yet.
Before long there was a quiet rattle from the direction of the stairwell and the door to the roof opened without a creak, letting the students pour outside. Well, ‘pour' might have been too strong of a word. It was more ‘half-hearted meandering' than anything else. They arrived mostly in ones and twos, with the occasional smaller group every now and then.
Though I wasn't exactly surprised by it after my mad dash through the school grounds, the way they completely ignored me still made me a bit uncomfortable. Maybe people lying on their backs on the roof with huge bumps on their heads were a common sight around these parts? No, I sincerely doubted that. They weren't just uninterested or ignoring me, they simply looked through me like I wasn't even there. Hell, one girl actually almost stepped on me until she twitched and swerved to the right in the last moment. She didn't look at me even then.
I wasn't in the mood to tempt fate and get trampled by accident, but all my attempts at getting up were vetoed hard by my viciously spinning vision. In the end, I reached a compromise by placing my arms under me and only raising my torso a little. I probably looked pretty stupid, like a fully clothed sunbather, but I honestly couldn't care less even if I tried.
From my brand new vantage point of about... let's say, thirty centimeters off the ground, I took a better look at the steadily increasing number of students occupying the roof. Most of them did nothing even remotely interesting; or anything at all if we were at that. There was this one guy in particular who was just standing by the fence and stared into the distance with unblinking eyes. He was motionless to the point where if I could have moved I would have walked over just to make sure he still had a pulse.
Not too far from him sat a girl eating a sandwich. Or at the very least that's what it looked like. Sure, she kept raising it to her mouth from time to time with mechanical motions, but the sandwich just didn't seem to get any smaller no matter how long I was looking.
"For Christ's sake girl, take a proper bite!" I murmured under my breath and to my shock, she suddenly looked over to me. For a few moments we looked each other in the eye as I wondered whether she actually heard what I said, but then she blinked once and returned to her food as if nothing happened. Well crap, that was unnecessarily intense. Though... on a second look, maybe she ‘was' taking bigger bites?
Nah, it was probably just my imagination. Moving on, my next objects of interest were the pair of boys sitting on a bench not far from where I was lying. What made them remarkable was not what they were talking about (it was something about the local soccer team), but how they were talking about it. Saying that their conversation went in circles really felt like an understatement, as they literally repeated the same ten or so lines over and over again. It really made me want to get up just to walk up to them and see if I could jog them out of the loop, but before I could even try, my attention was drawn by a loud voice.
"There you are!"
The new voice entering the fray made me twitch; cutting through the murmurs I was focusing on like a hot-knife-analog through the butter-analog. I followed it to the source and I found Joshua standing by the stairwell's door with a disgruntled look on his face.
"Hey, Josh." My voice sounded more strained than I intended yet still better than I feared it would be. The dubious look on his face only got worse as he walked over to my sprawled body.
"What the hell happened to you?" He sounded half concerned and half outraged, especially after he took a good look at my face. His pale skin seemed to glow under the noon sunlight, which made the furrows on his forehead even more prominent. "First you babble about amnesia, then you nearly collapse and now I find you on the rooftop like this! Please tell me you are really sick, or I swear to god I will kick you."
"Kinda," I answered weakly. "Could you help me up first? My legs are in a rebellious phase."
The look on his face was still critical, but he helped me to my feet without a word, and I even managed to stand on my own without collapsing again. We were making progress!
"What happened to your forehead?"
"I had a bit of a disagreement with myself and used one of the fence posts to accentuate my arguments." Joshua's face twitched in a little grimace.
"Let me guess. You won."
"Of course I did," I smiled as I plopped down onto one of the benches. Joshua followed my example soon thereafter.
"So, about your amnesia..." He suddenly sounded a bit less collected than before. I couldn't blame him; it wasn't a sentence anyone would have expected to say.
"Oh, that?" I waved a hand. "I still can't remember squat, but I'll manage."
"You are serious," he stated rather than asked. That was good; it meant I had no more convincing to do. I looked him in the eye and nodded sharply. "Damn, that's messed up."
"Tell me about it," I surprised even myself by how cynical I sounded. Standing up probably made the blood rush to my head.
"What did the nurse say?"
"What nurse?" The critical look returned to Josh's face in an instant following my reply.
"The school nurse, who else?"
"Oooooh, that nurse..." I nodded sagely. "I dunno. I didn't see her."
"It's him, and... What do you mean you didn't see him? Where have you been then?"
I gave him a decently executed wry eyebrow-raise and opened my arms.
"You can have three guesses."
Joshua's eyebrows rose in a perplexed arc. "The roof?"
"Ding-ding. That is correct."
"But... But the roof is only opened during lunchtime! How did you get up here?"
I was about to open my mouth for yet another snappy retort, but I froze mid-way.
"That is... actually a very good question," I told him while scratching my chin. "How the hell ‘did' I get up here?"
"You are kidding, right?" He gave me a deadpan look and, to my sincerest surprise, he actually managed to look even more dubiously at me than before. "Is it your amnesia again?"
"No, no," I shook my head lightly, though it still made me a bit dizzy. "This is completely unrelated."
"Whatever," Josh leaned back on the bench and looked at the sky before returning his gaze to me. "So, what now? Are you going to the hospital?"
"I suppose I should," I replied uncertainly. That was without a doubt the logical thing to do. "Where is the closest hospital anyways?"
"That is your first question today that actually made sense."
My query apparently threw him for a loop just as he was about to sound more confident. "I suppose it's because you just transferred, so you probably don't know your way around yet."
"Wait, I'm a transfer student after all?!" I hastily toned down my unintentionally raised voice and looked around. No one else seemed to mind so I continued, "When did I transfer?!"
"A few weeks before the end of the first year."
"Really? From where?"
"... Just ‘overseas'?"
"I see..." I nodded sharply, mostly to myself, though I quickly regretted it after the nausea kicked in. Anyways, it seemed like I ‘was' a transfer student in a Japanese-style school after all. Maybe I should trust my instincts more. That said, Joshua was right about one thing; before anything else, I needed some professional help ASAP. "So again, where's the closest hospital?"
"Two blocks down the park, near the old shopping district. Big white building, hard to miss it."
I gave Joshua a sardonic glare and groaned.
"Dude, I can't remember anything! What am I supposed to do with landmarks?"
"Well, excuse me!" This time it was his turn to raise his voice. "If my directions are not good enough for you, look them up yourself."
"I..." I was just about to snap back at him, but then his words actually registered with me and I thought better of it. "Huh. I guess I will do that. Do we have a public net terminal around here?"
"A what?" Josh looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language all of a sudden.
"A PC I can use to access the internet," I clarified wearily.
"Oh, that... In the computer room, I suppose. But they can only be used during classes or by the computer club."
"Wireless network for... wait, scratch that. I don't have a smartphone." I shook my head and stood up. To my surprise, my legs only wobbled a little. "That settles it then," I said while straightening my creased uniform. "I guess I head home first, get my directions plus maybe a new set of clothes and I will go to the hospital afterwards."
"Wait, you mean now?" Joshua followed after me in a hurry as I took a beeline towards the stairwell. "We still have afternoon classes!"
"Nope, you do," I told him with a wink. "Tell the homeroom teacher I came down with a sudden case of acute something or the other and had to go home. He will understand."
"It's a she..." Josh automatically corrected me and grabbed my arm just as I reached the door leading to the stairs. "Wait, at least give me a proper cover story or Angie will know something was up."
"Angeline. She is our friend. I guess you wouldn't remember her either."
I clicked my tongue. So that's what her name was! I was so close... Anyways, I gave him a reassuring smile and carefully peeled his fingers from my arm.
"Just tell her the truth."
"But she won't believe that!" he protested with uncharacteristic vehemence. "Hell, even I'm not really sure I buy your story."
"Sorry, but that's the best I can offer. Maybe start by telling her I was kidnapped by aliens, then the amnesia explanation will sound much more credible after that."
"But you can't—" he began to speak, but the end of the sentence was lost as he lunged towards me to grab my arm again just as I was about to tumble down the stairs.
"Whoa!" I exclaimed louder than intended and for a moment I could feel my heart in my throat. "Damn, that was scary... Thanks."
He still looked at me dubiously, but at the same time, there was a hint of acceptance on Joshua's face. He forcefully exhaled and a moment later his put on a determined expression.
"You know what? You are right, you really should leave."
I smiled at him. "You see, I knew you would come around."
"And I'm coming with you," he told me resolutely, and before I could respond he pulled my arm over his shoulder and began leading me down the stairs. It was so sudden that I couldn't even muster a protest until we reached the first turn.
"Is this really necessary?"
Joshua gave me a sharp look and elbowed me lightly in the side. "If I wasn't here, you would've already broken your neck. If I let you out onto the street like this you'd get run over before you even cleared the block. In fact, I think I'll take you right to the hospital after all."
I wanted to retort, but then my knees wobbled again and I decided to shut up. To my surprise, Josh didn't take me back to the classroom; instead, we hobbled down to the ground floor and then he led me to an unassuming corner of the west wing. Strangely enough, I could tell exactly where we were. It wasn't like in the morning when I just went everywhere on autopilot. Rather, I felt that the corridors were vaguely familiar, and once we walked down them I could immediately put them into a rudimentary floor-plan in my head as if I was putting puzzle pieces into their holes.
At long last, we came to a halt in front of a door that didn't seem any different than the others down the hallway, yet I somehow suspected it was the nurse's office. Josh lightly knocked and then immediately reached for the doorknob without waiting for an answer, and the moment he did so, the heavy odor of disinfectant almost slapped me in the face. Yep, it was the nurse's office all right.
"O-ho-ho! Come in, come in." The deep, jovial voice came from the belly of a cheery elderly man, or at least he looked a fair bit older than I expected. It was mostly due to his bushy white mustache and balding head. He was wearing a white coat over a brown suit and was sitting by a desk opposite the two pure white beds by the open window.
Josh carted me in and put me down onto the closest bed. "I'll go get our bags, get yourself looked at in the meantime."
"Sure," I replied half-heartedly, but by then he was already closing the door behind himself. I sighed and turned to the nurse. I knew it was shallow of me, but I was a little crestfallen when I looked at him. School nurses were supposed to be busty, mature twenty-something years old beauties, not mustachioed old men. Whatever, I suppose it was my fault for having weird expectations. I took a deep breath and addressed the man. "What's up, doc?"
At first he didn't answer, opting to just stare at me with a fixed smile. He was admittedly a lot more animate than the students, yet I still couldn't shake the feeling that there was something peculiar about him as well.
"O-ho-ho. Collapsing like that on the first day of school is very unseemly, young man. You should sleep properly."
"I did," I said in response while trying to find a comfortable spot on the bed. To think that these uncomfortable slabs of uncomfortableness are often considered to be one of the stereotypical means of high-school romantic jaunts... Just how desperate some kids had to be?
"O-ho-ho," The nurse continued with the same jovial voice as he began sorting through the bottles on his desk with his chubby fingers. "I suppose you need some cold medicine to get rid of that fever then."
"I don't have a fever."
"O-ho-ho, then I suppose you should lie down until your anemia gets better."
"I am not anemic either," I was getting steadily more exasperated by the second. "Also, stop that."
"O-ho-ho, what do you mean?"
"Your laughing. It's annoying."
"O-ho-ho, that's just the low blood sugar talking. Here, have a candy." He offered me a hard candy and, while I wasn't really in the mood, I took it nevertheless. Doing otherwise would have been just rude.
"Say, doc?" I asked as I popped the candy into my mouth. Ugh, grape of all things?
"Yes?" He looked at me with that wide, grandfatherly smile still plastered on his face.
"Do you have anything for amnesia?"
The nurse's face abruptly slackened and he looked at me with glazed eyes. "Pardon?"
"Amnesia. The retrograde kind. Do you have any advice?"
"I..." He suddenly went pale and I could swear his eyes went unfocused. "I don't understand."
"Amnesia. Retrograde. The kind where one loses their memories up to the point they wake up," I repeated myself patiently. He didn't respond, unless you count completely freezing up and refusing to even blink as a response. I was just about to get worried about the poor man when the door of the infirmary opened up again and Josh entered with two bags under his arms.
"That was quick."
"I had to run," he answered between two heaves. "Angie caught me in the hallway."
I had to wonder just how scary this Angie girl had to be, though I didn't have much time to do so as he handed me my bag.
"Can you walk?" That was a good question. As an answer I stood up and, to the surprise of everyone present, I didn't even wobble. Yay. Josh gave me a relieved nod and gestured towards the door with his head. "Good, let's go."
With that, he practically pulled me out of the infirmary, not even sparing a look at the still frozen man staring blankly at the place where I was sitting a moment ago.