Collective Amneisia

The following morning, minutes before his alarm would sound, Dan awoke suddenly and completely from an empty and dreamless sleep. He stared blankly at the still air of his bedroom. He heard the soft breathing of his wife, asleep. He remembered the shocking events of the previous day. He wished he had dreamt it all, but he knew better. The day had been so vivid. He remembered everything.

He stepped out of bed and proceded with his morning routine. The coffee stirred him. He was overcome by a wave of emotion... the same way he had felt the day before, watching that poor man die. It had felt more significant, more real, than anything he had ever experienced. He sipped his coffee and unfolded the morning newspaper. He scanned the headlines until he found the one... 

It was shorter than he had expected. He read it twice. It stated that the cause of the man's death was unknown, but evidently violent. Police were investigating it further. Dan was surprised that the article made no mention of the total darkness, or the noises he so clearly remembered. More surprising still, it said that there were no witnesses to the actual death. None at all. It sounded as if the man had simply been found lying there, already dead.

How could that be? He himself had seen the man jerking and crying in agony... coughing, gasping, sobbing... The man's breathing had slowed to a stop, right before his own eyes. Following the events of that day, he had been questioned by reporters. He had described everything to them - the widespread darkness, the painful scream, the thunderous roar and the explosion of what seemed to be the man's very life. He had seen the reporters talking to the mob of onlookers, witnesses who, he knew, had been there the whole time.

True, he admitted to himself, I have no explanation how all these things are relevant. I can't imagine what in the world might have killed that man. Still, why is this article so vague?

Upon arriving at work that morning, Dan was immediately confronted by Joseph Blake, the Police Captain.

"Dan, there you are," said the large, grizzly looking man who appeared to have been awake for a number of hours.

"Morning, Captain," Dan replied.

"We've got a bit of a problem on our hands at the moment," said Captain Blake. "We're going to need your help, since you were there and all."

"Of course," Dan said. "Captain... Why did the paper say there weren't any witnesses? There were dozens of people... Surely they told more of a story than this." 

Dan held out the small article, which he had torn from the newspaper. Blake didn't look at it. He only sighed and looked downward.

"The witnesses haven't been able to give one consistent story. They all talk about screaming and thunder and darkness, and the bleeding dying man... But no one seems to know for sure what order everything happened in. Some claim they heard a scream first, then darkness was everywhere. Others swear it was pitch black outside when they heard the scream. And nobody can explain this explosion that must have killed the guy. Or if that didn't kill him, what the hell did?"

"I've no idea what killed him," Dan admitted, "but I saw what happened. The darkness was definitely first... but it was small... and it got bigger... It wasn't just clouds blocking the sun or something natural, it was... tangible, almost. And then..." He hesitated as he tried to recall the next event. "Well... this shadow sort of... concentrated in one spot, and I was looking there, trying to see the source of the darkness. And this man was right there, and he screamed, and collapsed. And then I suppose... the explosion came after that... but... no, they must have happened simultaneously, the explosion and the scream. Except the scream must have been louder. I heard it so clearly... It was so shrill... like crying. It was more than fear... It was... death..." Dan's voice trailed off, and he was silent.

Captain Blake nodded and said, "That's basically how everyone's story goes. At one point or another they confuse themself and can't explain any more."

Dan was shaken. Yesterday he had been so purely alive and aware. He had felt purpose in every sound he had heard, every breath he had taken, everything that had happened. He had stared into the cold black eyes of the dead man, and felt drawn to him. He had felt as if there existed some deeply rooted connection between himself, the man, and all the strange occurences that day. 

He couldn't shake the feeling of regret, of disappointment. Mindlessly he prepared to visit the scene along with the Captain and a group of other officers. Ashamed at his inability to recall in precise detail everything that had happened, Dan assured himself that he would remember everything, just as soon as they arrived.

I promise, he thought, it will all come back to me the second my foot touches that pavement.

The End

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