The whir of the engine, so sleight I had to strain to hear it over the sound of the other cars on the road, was a comfort as I fled. It felt familiar, a sound that had formed the background to a thousand memories, and seemed to quiet the cacophony of thoughts, filled with memories that jabbered and capered about, each demanding my attention. The contradiction inherent in the comfort—how could this car, with its engine from another universe, be familiar to me?—was something I could ignore while it eased my anguish. But for how long? That thought too was there, lurking beneath these spiraling recollections, these multitudes I suddenly contained that seemed to be fighting to burst free.
I am David Aeida, I told myself, repeating it like an invocation. All of the rest, my garbled memories, the absent knowledge that the High Regent and even the Seeker believed I possessed, would sort itself out given time. Hadn’t the woman told me it would come with time? Meredith had as well. The memory of her false embrace arose in my mind, demanding my attention, though I tried not to think of it, to not replay the moment again and again. Though the memory had no context, it felt like an open wound each time I returned to it, and yet I was compelled to.
Could I trust her now? Who else did I have to trust? She was of the Order, as was I, and, in spite of the embrace, she was the only thing resembling an ally I had.
It took me some time to determine where I was as I drove, but eventually, as I followed the flow of the traffic, I spotted the ocean gleaming in the sunlight and a bridge spanning the bay leading back to downtown. There were mountains behind me to the north and at last I remembered where I was. Vancouver. The Lions Gate Bridge. After the bridge came Stanley Park, a forested peninsula spidered with paths, all of which gave the appearance of leading deep into some world apart.
I pulled off onto some street in the west end of downtown just on the park’s edge, leaving the car there and returning to the park on foot. Before I left it I did a quick search to see if there was anything of use. In the glove box I found what, at a glance, appeared to be a flashlight, though its weight and the feel of the material told me otherwise. There was a small, thin button along one side of its length that could be pressed into the object to activate, though I did no such thing, not wanting to attract any attention. The center console held a tiny box, no bigger than a wallet, with a few wires that extended from it. It looked as though it were a very small voltage meter, or something of this sort, though the box itself had no gauges, or even a switch or button that suggested how it worked.
I studied both tools carefully, unsure of what they were, hoping to spark some memory. When none came I slipped them both in my jacket pockets, thinking that I would ask Meredith what they were when I found her. The thought surprised me, nearly causing me to stop in the middle of the street as I walked away from the car. Was that my plan? Find Meredith. I remembered her words to me the day this madness had started: friends of convenience. Now memory told me otherwise.
I pushed those tangled thoughts from my mind as best I could and made my way to the beach where the sea wall path that wrapped around Stanley Park began. It was filled with people out for a stroll or a jog. I heard at least a half dozen different languages spoken, the strange voices and phrases seeming to mimic the babble of my own thoughts. The sun and the sea air seemed to restore me, at least physically, each step no longer an effort requiring concentration. I began to feel more of myself.
After half an hour or so I began to feel hungry and dizzy, so I found a bench and sat down, watching the passersby and, beyond them, the waves crashing against the sea wall. The rhythm of the sea, the pulse of earth, lulled me and I found myself drifting into sleep and had to shake myself awake. I could not let my guard down, even in this idyllic place. No one had followed me from the building as best I could see, but there was no telling how long the confrontation between the Seeker and the High Regent would last and who would emerge triumphant. Whoever did, they would certainly come looking for me. And I knew of nowhere to hide.
That last fact told me why I had to find Meredith, even if I could not trust her. So long as I was compromised, filled with these disordered half-memories, there was no chance I could fend for myself against the likes of the Seeker or the High Regent. I needed her, as terrible as it was to admit it. Worst of all, I had no idea how to find her in this vast city.
As I mulled these thoughts, the memories which had continued to bubble beneath the surface of my consciousness, evaporated and the void descended upon me. The terrible silence that followed, the ache left by the absence I could almost trace in my mind, landed like a blow. I had to stop myself from crying out, from rising to my feet in panic.
The woman’s face returned to me, calm and gentle, and I could feel her hand upon my arm as she whispered to me, “It will come.”
I am David Aeida, I told myself, trying to breath, trying to stop my hands from shaking. I am David Aeida. It no longer felt true.
As I tried to contain my panic, to stop myself from shaking, or crying aloud, or worse, a voice from on the pathway called out, “Hello David.”
I looked up, terror wrenching my stomach, and saw Meredith looking at me, waiting for me to say something. When I did not reply she walked over and sat beside me on the bench, neither of us looking at the other, our eyes instead on the sea as it crested upon the land.