To take a step back, to the days following when I had lost my memories of that Spring weekend in 1994, after I had seen, or rather not seen, the Army psychologist, and after I had asked my friends what had happened, and they had told me that I ‘wasn’t ready to know what happened,’ my perception of the world became more and more confused.
I felt so very alone and confused. No matter how hard I tried in the days and weeks following to remember anything about that forgotten weekend, nothing came back. My attentiveness in the final months of class dropped off as quickly as the sheer cliffs of a mesa. My room and my writing became the only safe place and activity. My hand and pencil were the only means in which I communicated anything of importance, or substance. I couldn’t trust my friends. I couldn’t trust my drills. I couldn’t trust my own mind. It was probably the first time I experienced depression.
I awoke early on the Sunday before I was to catch my flight with a terrible urgency that made my heard pound so hard, I thought it would burst from my chest, like an Alien being born. Sweat streamed down my forehead, my mind felt powerfully alert, and my eyes darted from dresser to the closed door and finally to the open window, where a cool morning breeze filled the room. The dresser appeared to glow, as the morning light bathed it in its brilliance. The closed door was heavily scuffed with black marks towards the bottom, doubtlessly caused by Army boots and laziness. Simple, thin white curtains gently fluttered like a bride’s gown.
In that moment, I believed I had recalled a memory, and it had gone like this:
It had begun with a small, two-lane strip of asphalt that had twisted back and forth through a forest of birch, pine, and oak. I had glided down that empty road at night as though I had floated, drifted on a cloud, where my feet had never touched the ground. There had been only stars above me, and little light to drive by, but the road had looked as clear as day, so at least I had had my lights switched on.
I was driving, I had asked myself, right?
After what had felt like several minutes, overhead streetlamps had appeared on the sides of the road, and the forest had given way to a small town, or village. There had been a general store attached to a series of gasoline pumps to my left, and a local restaurant to my right. Both had been dark, with no signs of life. The following two intersections that had led to houses and various neighborhoods, had looked as still as the night’s air.
Just a bit further down the road and there it had been.
It had been simple in design, just a long rectangle with one of the short sides that had faced the road. The pitched roof had stood nearly as tall as the rectangular building with a double front door, that had been stained dark, where the outside walls had been lighter in color. A single cross had stood on its front peak, back lit by a small stage light, a harsh white. By contrast, a soft yellow glow had illuminated the stained-glass windows on either side of the front doors. I hadn’t recalled what the stained-glass windows had looked like, but a sense of generic, Catholic imagery had flowed into my thoughts.
The night air had been perfectly still, and perfectly silent. Even my footfalls had made not one single crunch as I had approached the front doors of the church. Fear and trepidation had become infused with my blood, as my heart had thrummed faster and harder with each step towards the door. My right hard had reached out for the large and ornately carved door handle. It had been then that I had noticed that the right door had been ajar just enough to prevent it from having been secured.
I had pulled and opened the door.
At the center of the vestibule, the large baptismal, which had stood about four feet in height, and a couple feet in diameter, had greeted me upon my entrance. The bright, soft yellow light had spilled forth from the nave, through an open archway. The reflective and refractive light caught within the baptismal water had glowed like liquid gold, and its light had illuminated my face as I had drawn nearer. Though the absence of any noticeable aroma, like that of frankincense of myrrh, had created a moment of curiosity in my mind, the hint of an acrid odor had stung my sinuses. I had looked beyond the vestibule and had found the odor’s source.
Within the empty of people nave, the pews had not been perpendicular to the long walls of the church but had been pointed like an arrowhead towards the baptismal. Five people in black, hooded gowns had stood in a semi-circle with their backs to me, and opposite them, behind the alter, had been a naked man, tied by ropes to a large wooden cross.
What had I walked in on? Where am I? How did I even end up here?
Those had been just the first of questions that had flooded my mind. Impossibly, my heard had raced even faster, and my body had hummed with pent up energy to either disrupt this ritual or run in fear of being pulled into it. I had chosen my action, and as if in reply, one of the five hooded and robed people had brandished a dagger, stepped forward, and stabbed him in the right side of his abdomen. The crucified man had bellowed out a horrified cry.
I had charged them without further thought.
What I had remembered next had just been a blurred fury of punches, kicks, stabbings, and breaking of bones. Once I had stopped, the slumped bodies of the hooded and robed people had all fallen around me in still piles atop of pooled blood. Tears had just begun to roll down my cheeks. My breaths had come in and out, deep and fast. An injured moan had hardly been audible over the powerful tinnitus that had overpowered every other sound. I had felt frozen in horror at my actions.
“John?” The voice had been familiar but had sounded so very far away. “John, can you hear me?”
After serval long moments, where my breaths had calmed a bit, I had raised my head to look back through the nave towards the open church doors. George and Lee had stood there in the empty nave, a look of both shock and horror upon their faces.
The tears had poured through my eyes faster.
“What happened?” I had asked my friends in all honesty, to have explained what just had happened.
That’s where the memory had ended.
Immediately, I ran to George’s room on the other side of the dormitory. Barging in while he was playing Warcraft, which he always had done early in the mornings of the weekend, I began to tell him what I remembered, careful not to leave out any detail. He listened carefully, attentively, and when I finished, as breathlessly as I had been in the memory, he smiled.
“Do you remember that?” I asked for validation of that memory to be truth. My eyes brimmed with tears ready for a fall. His pause to answer that simple question felt like an eternity. If he answered ‘yes,’ then I knew the knowledge of having killed five people would crush my soul, but if he answered ‘no,’ I’d have no idea what had happened, but what I thought I had recalled would have been just a fever dream.
“Do you believe that’s what happened, John?”
“Yes.” I answered without hesitation. “I feel that it’s real.” That was when I started to cry.
“Then it’s real.”
“But it can’t be real, can it? I killed those people!”
I began to talk louder, and George stood up from his desk, took me by the shoulders, and urged me to quiet my voice. As I calmed down, he walked me back to my room, helped me finished packing for departure tomorrow, and eventually distracted me with conversations of adventures our roleplaying characters, old and new, were going to have while we were all in Korea. Like so many of the memories with my step-father, I took that memory of that forgotten weekend, stuffed it into a bottle, and placed in on a shelf, in a room of my mind where such things were to be acknowledged and forgotten.
The plan worked fine, until Korea.