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Authors: Kitty Thomas

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Tabula Rasa

BOOK: Tabula Rasa
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Tabula Rasa

Digital Edition
Copyright 2016 © Kitty Thomas
All rights reserved.

Digital Edition License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not
be resold or shared. If you did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for
your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Respecting the hard
work of this author makes new books possible.

Publisher's Note:

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents
are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons living or dead,
is entirely coincidental.

Neither the publisher nor the author endorses any behavior carried out by any character in this work of fiction or any other.

For M.

Tabula Rasa
Table of Contents:

Chapter One

At some point, right before my memory clicked off, the nightmare
fairy must have paid the world a visit. When I opened my eyes, it was
twilight, or dawn. I was so disoriented it was hard to tell which. I
woke in a pirate ship.

Wait. Let me start over.

It wasn’t an
actual
pirate ship, though that might have made
more sense to my addled brain. It was part of some theme park ride
that had been separated from the rest of the attraction like a
wandering child lost from its mother.

The boat was big enough for about six adult tourists, each with a
couple of sticky-fingered children in tow. The sides came up around
me like a giant cradle. Given that the edges were rusted out, that
idea didn’t create the serene feelings you might imagine it would.
The ship was laid at an angle, almost on one side as if a violent
storm had tossed it out of the artificial sea and into the middle of
a jungle ride on the other end of the park. The trees around me were
thickly overgrown with kudzu vines.

I reached to touch the top of my head, feeling for a bump or cut, but
nothing, just smooth forehead and long hair.

I sifted through my mind to recall the last thing that had happened,
but I came up blank. I tried to pull a familiar face out of my memory
bank, but there was nothing. It was like going to the ATM only to
find you’d somehow been wiped out overnight. And the bitch of it
was, you couldn’t even remember what your balance was
supposed
to be.

I mean I knew stuff—general stuff. Like ATMs and pirate ships and
amusement parks in a vague sort of way. I had basic concepts and all
the tools with which to create a story of a life, just none of the
actual details. It was like nothing had been written yet. I was notes
on scraps of paper and pub napkins—weird little observations,
images, scenery waiting to be formed into a coherent whole.

The sun sank a few inches lower in the sky, unlocking the mystery of
what time of day it was. My head throbbed in echo to my racing
heartbeat as if my heart had somehow decided to relocate to my skull.
Why couldn’t it have been dawn? Everything was easier to cope with
in the light. Even though I knew nothing else, somehow I knew that.

Why couldn’t I have stayed unconscious just a few more hours?
Something—call it a sixth sense or generalized paranoia—told me I
didn’t want to face what was out there at night.

I squinted into the dark bottom of the ship, looking for an unlikely
flashlight. I had no supplies, no flashlight, and I had no idea where
in the hell I was or how I got there.

“Hello?” I called out. I was unsure if yelling into the eerily
non-fake jungle was a good thing or not but night was fast
approaching, and I had a feeling some creepy crawly might eat me if I
didn’t find more reasonable shelter. And dear God, please let me
have been out here with someone.

I closed my eyes and hoped for some Amazon chick who knew how to
navigate nature in all its many surly moods to just pop out at me
with a giant machete and a friendly smile.

Pounding footsteps darted through undergrowth and brush, moving in my
direction.

I shrank into the corner of the ship, unsure if I wanted whatever or
whoever to find me now that I’d made my presence known.

“Elodie?”

The voice was male and urgent. Was that me? Elodie? I rolled that
word around in my head a bit.
Elodie. Elodie.
I wasn’t sure
if that sounded right or not. Did I look like an Elodie? I was struck
with the sudden disturbing realization that I couldn’t remember
what I looked like. Was that normal with amnesia? Did I have amnesia?
Shit, for all I knew I’d come into the world fully formed in an
amusement park pirate ship five minutes ago. It sure felt that way.
Or maybe I was an alien sent here on some arcane fact-finding
mission. At this point there wasn’t a lot I could objectively rule
out.

The man burst out of the foliage, breathing hard. “Elodie, thank
God you’re awake.”

I remained frozen in the corner, watching him. There was no internal
memory jog, no mental spark. I mean, he didn’t look like a serial
killer or escaped prisoner or anything, so that was something. Just a
regular guy. Athletic. Tan. Good looking, but not absurdly so. Nice
voice. If this guy was on my side, I might be okay.

Were there sides here?

His eyes held worry as he approached the edge of the ship. “Do you
remember what happened?”

I shook my head. I was afraid to tell him I didn’t recognize my own
name, didn’t know what I looked like, didn’t know him. He might
not take that well. If we had some sort of involved relationship,
that is. I’m not sure how I knew men could be weird about stuff
like that, but somehow at that moment it felt really true.

“I was afraid to move you,” he continued, oblivious to my total
lack of back story. “I told you not to climb on the ship. It wasn’t
stable enough.”

“I-I’m sorry,” I said. My voice croaked, and my throat felt
like sandpaper. I felt as if my mouth hadn’t formed words for
thousands of years.

“Can you stand? We need to get back to the castle.”

The castle?

The stranger’s eyes narrowed. “Elodie, what do you remember? Be
honest. You’re safe here.”

We must be using different definitions of the word
safe
.

“Well?” he prodded.

“Nothing. I don’t remember anything.”

“What do you mean you don’t remember
anything
? What’s
the first thing you remember?”

“NOTHING!” I shouted. Did he need flash cards? Anxiety crowded
out my ability to think and behave rationally. It felt like bugs were
crawling on me. Maybe they were. I smacked at a spot on my arm. It
was getting dark fast, and the wildness had clearly overtaken this
place. I’m pretty sure I don’t like wildness. I thought suddenly
that I should start a list of these things as they occurred to me,
but I didn’t have any paper.

“What do you mean nothing?” he said.

Come on universe. I couldn’t be stuck out here with somebody smart?

“I don’t know who you are or who I am. I don’t remember
anything about my life!” It came out a little more dramatic than
I’d intended, as if there could be a low key way to deliver this
sort of information.

“Is this one of your jokes? Because I can tell you, if it is, it’s
not funny. I was scared out of my mind when you wouldn’t wake up.”

“How long was I out?”

“A few hours.”

“I t-think I need to go to a hospital.”

“That’s not an option.”

A chill slid down my spine. Maybe this guy
wasn’t
on my
side. Hell, how did I know he hadn’t beaten me over the head with a
broken tree branch in the first place?

“Don’t look at me like that. I didn’t mean it that way. Let’s
just get back to the castle. We have electricity there. I’ll
explain it all to you when we get back.”

I stared at the hand he offered. “How do I know you won’t hurt
me?”

He took a deep, measured breath which didn’t reassure me at all.
“I’m not going to hurt you. I’m your husband. Trevor.
Everything is going to be okay.”

I flinched when he reached into his back pocket as if he might be
going for a weapon. But it was just his wallet. He pulled out a long
thin paper and handed it to me. It was deeply creased from being
folded and kept for so long. There was barely enough light left to
see, but it was a strip of photos from a photo booth. Trevor and a
woman.

“She’s pretty,” I said absently, staring at the blonde girl
with brilliant blue eyes.

He laughed. “There’s no conceit in your family. You’ve got it
all.” Off my confused expression, he continued, “She’s you.
That was our first date.”

“Oh.” I handed the strip of pictures back to him, feeling
suddenly awkward.

He put them in his wallet and stretched out his hand again. “Elodie?
We need to get inside. It’s not safe out here after dark.”

“But, how do I know that’s really me?”

“There’s a mirror in the castle. You’re going to have to trust
me. What’s the worst-case scenario?”

“You’re a psychopathic killer?” I said, not sure if I was
kidding.

He rolled his eyes. “And if that’s the case, you’re screwed
anyway. Now come on. I’ll explain everything when we get home.”

***

I felt so weak, like my legs had forgotten how to work right. Was
that the adrenaline and fear? I had to lean against Trevor and
half-walk, half-hobble. The castle rose out of the center of the
destroyed theme park, shining like a beacon. It was the only building
that had electricity. The dilapidated shops and rides along the way
lay in ominous shadows as if they might spring to life and attack at
any moment. In spite of myself, I clung more tightly to Trevor’s
hand.

“The castle runs on solar power. It’s the only thing here that
does, but it’s got everything we need for a while,” he said.

What had happened to this place? Why were we even here? I was afraid
for us to get inside the castle to find out. Whatever it was, it felt
like something... apocalyptic.

“Just a little farther. It’s safe inside.”

After helping me out of the pirate ship, he hadn’t let go of my
hand, and I hadn’t pulled away. I needed help navigating the
unpredictable terrain. I was almost afraid to tell him how weak I
felt because I didn’t need him to think I was dead weight. His hand
was warm and solid. It was the only thing that kept
me
solid.

The castle was enormous and the main hub around which all other
things had once revolved. The bottom level was some kind of medieval
fairy-tale themed ride. Spiral stairs and an elevator on one side led
up to the second floor, which had what were once restaurants and a
couple of gift shops. Trevor led me up the steps, past the main
restaurant, and to another set of stairs. On the third floor were
some hotel-type rooms and an office. A final staircase led to the
tower, which seemed to be where we were going.

I couldn’t get over how weak and wobbly my limbs felt. It was
starting to seriously concern me.

I pulled my hand out of his as we reached the final staircase.
“Please, just tell me why you can’t take me to a hospital.”

I knew already. I just didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t know
the details yet, but I knew. It was only morbid curiosity that kept
me playing dumb.

He sighed. “I don’t know if there
are
any hospitals
anymore. Definitely not any close.”

“What?” I was getting the hang of this
dumb
thing.

“Just come upstairs. If you really can’t remember anything, I
think you need to be sitting for what I have to tell you.”

The tower was a fancy suite with a large living area and bedroom that
were all one large circular room. There was a connected master
bathroom off to one side. Or it
had
been fancy at one time.
Now it was just as abandoned and broken down as everything else.
Trevor gestured toward an overstuffed chair next to a window. I sat,
unsure I wanted to hear this.

“You don’t remember anything?” he asked again as if still
hoping this was all some game to me. I must be wacky that way.

“No.”

“But you remember what the world was like
before
, don’t
you?” The word
before
held more gravity and weight than the
rest of his sentence, more gravity than all the other words he’d
spoken to me so far.

“Before what?”

“You know about the world in general?” he asked.

“I... I mean, I guess. Sort of. I think.”

Trevor seemed skeptical. He sat on the edge of the king-sized bed
near my chair. It creaked and dipped under his weight with a great
resigned moan of springs.

“Elodie, the world is gone. More or less.”

He’d only gotten the first sentence out and already I felt the
tears burning behind my eyes. I might not remember my life, but the
implications for anybody’s life were already surfacing.

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