by Jaskaran Chahal
available on Amazon
I awaken with darkness surrounding me. My body is partially submerged in shallow water and it’s aching as if I’ve fallen from the sky. I lay on my back and look up at the full moon that’s providing the only source of light. The water gently moves forward and recedes back as I slowly lift my head off the ground. Where am I and what am I doing here? The panic slowly begins to set in, as none of this is familiar to me.
I struggle to regain my strength but force myself to expend as much of it as I can to move my body. I’m barely able to stand up. I take a few steps toward the shoreline before collapsing back down to the ground and plowing my head into sand. I’m out of breath like I’ve gotten the wind knocked out of me. As I’m down on my stomach, I move my head up and notice a swarm of trees in front of me. There’s no sign of life anywhere.
Not only does everything hurt and I don’t know how I got here, but something much worse has happened. For some reason, I can’t remember anything besides my name. Danny Singh rings in my head. Beyond that, there’s no other important information at all. I give myself a moment thinking that it’s some sort of temporary amnesia. A few seconds of waiting later, my initial panic becomes amplified by a hundred. I have absolutely no memory about anything as if it’s been totally wiped clean from my mind.
“Help!” I yell. My voice exits my throat in the raspiest condition.
I start to crawl further away from the water and closer to the trees. It appears to be a vast forest. I muster all the strength I have in me for my next attempt.
“IS THERE ANYONE OUT THERE!?” I scream, with as much oxygen as my lungs can afford to spare. Complete silence. I doubt I’ll make it far if no one can hear me out here. I seem to be alone on this shore and my cries are going to waste.
I’m suddenly proven wrong as I hear a cracking noise coming from the direction of the forest. It sounds like twigs snapping under the weight of someone’s footsteps. The closer they move to me, the louder they get.
“Hello? Is someone there?” I ask in a quieter tone, trying my best not to display any fear.
I keep my head raised out of caution and on a constant swivel. A few metres away, a hazy figure exits the forest. He looks around for the person who’s been making all this noise. I quickly wipe my eyes with both of my knuckles to confirm I’m not hallucinating.
It’s a man and he notices my body laying on the shore. He then approaches me with a slow and casual stride. His attire consists of black pants, black shoes, and a black full-sleeved shirt. The closer this figure moves to me, the more I’m able to clearly see his face. He appears to be much older than me with wrinkly skin, bags under his eyes, grey hair atop his head, and a grey beard decorating his face.
My eyes rapidly move down from his pale face to his waist as he pulls out a large knife with a black handle from his back pocket. It’s sharp enough to harm me and my adrenaline rush instantly kicks in. I somehow manage to stand up on my feet again and I take some steps back away from the man. He continues to slowly move in my direction with his knife pointed right at me.
“Stay away from me! I’m warning you!” I yell. My hands are in the air and balled up into tight fists.
The man stops in his tracks and stares at me for a few seconds. He isn’t afraid of me but more amused at my defensive state. I stand my ground, shaking and shivering but unwavering. The man opens his mouth to speak to me.
“It’s alright,” he says. “I’m not a threat to you.”
Naturally, I don’t take his words seriously at all and I stay planted in place with my fists in the air. I don’t respond and I keep my attention solely focused on him in case he swings at me. He could attack at any second now but I’m not as vulnerable as he thinks I am.
To my surprise, the strange individual puts his knife back into his pocket and outstretches his hand instead.
“My name’s Peri Gramer. I can help you get out of here,” he says. He stands in his place intending to shake my hand.
I look around and cautiously survey my surroundings to see if there’s anyone else out there waiting to get the jump on me. This must be his attempt to set a trap because he’s realized he can’t take me in a fight.
“Nice try, but I don’t trust you. What kind of a name is Peri? Did you just make that up?” I ask. I turn my head toward the trees and then back at him. “I’m not scared of you. I’ll take you all on!”
“There’s no one else out there,” the man says with his hand still outstretched. “What’s your name?” he asks.
“My name’s none of your business. And I totally believe you,” I say, nodding my head.
“Believe me, it’s only us. You’re surely not afraid of a frail old man like me?” he teases. “I apologize for the knife. It was only to protect myself if I really needed to… What’s your name?”
This man isn’t budging, and he doesn’t seem to be an immediate threat anymore. I could be wrong and regret it later. I lower my guard and I slowly approach him. I outstretch my right hand toward him while my left hand is ready to swing at his face if I need to. I shake his hand while looking right into his eyes and he does the same to me.
“Danny Singh,” I say, firmly gripping his hand before letting go. I’m trying my best not to look or sound too defenceless.
My brain feels like it’s covered in dense clouds, and I still have no idea about what’s going on or where I am. I’m continuously questioning if I’m in any real danger and if I should risk everything by running away. For now, I’ll take my chances and ask this Peri person about what he knows instead.
“Where are we? I don’t see any roads, buildings, or people anywhere. How do we get out of here?” I ask.
“Oh, none of those belong here. The only way out, is in,” he says. He nods his head in the direction of the forest from where he emerged.
“What are you talking about? What’s in there?” I ask. I stare into the darkness of the forest in front of us. It doesn’t seem to be the most welcoming of places.
“The answer to all your questions and the only way to retrieve your missing memories,” Peri replies.
How does he know about that? He must’ve had something to do with this!
“What did you do to me?” I ask. “Why can’t I remember anything?”
“Don’t worry, Danny. All will be revealed to you if you take a leap of faith and trust me,” Peri says. “If you refuse, you can stay here on this shore but no one else will come to help you.”
His offer doesn’t sound too promising, and I freeze up instead of speaking any further. I try to consider all possible scenarios of what I could do next, from taking Peri’s knife away from him, to running into the forest myself, or moving along this shoreline in hopes of encountering someone else. None of the strategies in my head seem sensible enough to pull off. Peri begins to walk ahead of me as I remain standing in place.
“Are you coming?” Peri asks, standing a few steps away from the tip of the forest.
I cautiously look around me and then downward. I’m wearing a dark grey t-shirt, black shoes, and blue jeans, which I pat down to check all my pockets. I pull out a cellphone and a car key. The cellphone doesn’t turn on, as I view my dim and pale reflection in the black screen made of glass.
Dark black hair covers my head, and a stubble beard outlines my cheeks. My eyes look extremely tired, as if I haven’t slept in days. The car key is useless to me because I don’t see any vehicle or parking lot around. I’m also wearing a vintage watch around my left wrist, with a white face, silver hands, and a brown leather strap. I turn the dial and shake it around but it’s not in working condition, as all three of its hands are stuck at the number six.
Besides that, I have nothing else of value or anything that could provide a single clue as to what’s going on. There’s no one else to follow and nowhere else to go. I guess I have no choice but to follow this man and take his word for the time being.
“Alright, I’ll come with you,” I say.
Peri looks pleased and smiles, waiting for me to walk forward and catch up to him. My body isn’t hurting as much as it was when I first awoke. All that adrenaline must’ve played a role in waking me up from my dormant state and breathing a little life back into me.
The full moon continues to illuminate the night sky and there is a sense of mysterious beauty around it. Peri and I make it off the shore and as we enter the dark forest, the bright moonlight becomes covered by thick branches and leaves. I still feel like I’m going to be ambushed at any moment, so I stay alert with my eyes monitoring my surroundings.
The further we venture into this dark forest, the dimmer the moonlight is with each step. There’s nothing of interest that crosses our path until I eventually see something far away in the distance, past hundreds of trees.
coming of age