GENRE: Fiction • Science Fiction
LENGTH: 6,782 words
Samuel O’Neil has a life most people would commit horrendous crimes to achieve. He is an international playboy, acclaimed businessman, and esteemed academic ... it seems he can do no wrong. Yet on the eve of what should be the zenith of his career, something doesn’t feel right. Certain somebody is messing with him he turns all his attention to finding out who and why.
But as he begins to unravel the mystery, he realizes he is in danger of also unraveling himself.
Last night, all he’d felt was a lonely vertigo. A vertigo he’d been compelled to throw himself into. Samuel did not like this feeling, this giddy desire for oblivion, had never felt it before in his life. This morning it felt like all he’d ever known.
He rose from the large, luxurious bed and padded across the faux-marble floor to the dumbwaiter that served the privacy of whoever could afford the $1,000-a-night price-tag. Sensing his proximity and its current load, the hatch slid silently open to reveal a silver cart which held a breakfast of coffee and croissants, both kept at optimum temperature by the dumbwaiter’s heating element. The morning’s Times lay beside the meal, sealed in a milky material shot through with veins of what looked like copper, designed to keep it cool. Samuel rolled the cart out of its enclosure.
Sitting in the lounge area of the open-plan penthouse, Samuel poured himself a coffee and, taking a bite from one of the croissants, turned his attention to the newspaper. Unwrapping it from its hermetic cocoon, he was struck by the anachronism of the ritual. He could get more up-to-date and varied information from feeds online, but he enjoyed his morning ceremony far too much to be bothered by its antiquity. In fact, the idea that his actions had been repeated by hundreds of thousands of people all throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries gave him a sense of peace, of being connected to something larger than himself. He imagined the feeling was similar to believing in God and, at the moment, it was a feeling he so desperately needed.
On the bed the woman began to stir, possibly roused by the aroma of food that had begun to diffuse through the room. He paused in his routine and tried to recall her name. He could not. Pangs of sadness flooded his system, but he quickly dispelled them as he pulled the paper free of its wrapper, unfolded it with a flick of the wrist, and took in the lead headline.
“Your life is not your own.”
The vertigo enveloped him, filled every part of him. His head spun, sank, swimming in treacle he felt himself plummet. Images and moments he’d never seen or experienced tripped and stuttered through his mind’s eye like an over-cranked newsreel.
He dug his nails hard into the plush leather of the sofa and fell back into it. He craved warmth, comfort, the sanctuary of his mother’s womb. He felt himself regressing through his life, through every stage, every person he’d ever been. His thoughts began to collect in pools, silently vocalising a question that had been struggling to break free from the murk of his unconscious since yesterday.
It was never really a question he’d ever asked himself, always being so secure in its answer that it didn’t even warrant a second thought. The question was this:
“Who am I?”