FFC 3/8/2020

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Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Brightdreamer

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Whenever the world resets, I write down the first thing I remember. My name, sometimes. Where I lived. The color of the moon – or even how many moons there were last time I could see the night sky. This time, oddly enough, it was the last meal before the change: a spicy red soup flecked with green herbs, with a slice of dark-grained bread so soft and sweet it had melted on my tongue like butter. I had been at... had it been home? Yes, it had been. I remembered the garden through the window, the worn curtains of yellow checkered cloth and the bright warbles of the gryphlets in the trees. I took my time writing about it, clinging to the memory that even now tried to slip away. Before long, the new world would wash over me, soak into me, fill me with memories and ideas that were not my own. If I didn't write things down, didn't keep my little notebook with the gold pen tucked close to my heart, I know I'd forget myself.

I'd forget that I have to find my way home, back to the first memory.

This world was a peaceful one, at least for now. I walked a road of beaten dark earth across a meadow of silver-green grass that smelled almost familiar – I wanted to say lavender, but I vaguely recall one world in which the lavender stank like scorched hair and was home to thousands of tiny stinging spiders. The sky was blue as a jewel, strung with clouds bright as pearls, with a sun that looked a little small and red but still warmed the air pleasantly. The peace, of course, would not last. It never did. Soon the fighter squadrons would roar over the horizon, or the ground would erupt with man-sized insectile diggers, or black water would drown the land, or an innocent-looking traveler would approach with a smile that bared red fangs.

For the longest time, I thought I was dreaming these worlds. How else could I explain it? How else could I go from a contented farmer working fields of blue-white corn to a half-cybernetic thief scrambling through the bones of a derelict city-sized ship in the space of a breath? How else could I find myself shooting the empty, stalking husk that had once been my wife with the last bullet on Earth, then sneaking out of my parents' estate for a clandestine date with an elf-boy at the edge of the golden wood?

But the notebook, my fragmented memory in slips of off-white paper and neat black letters, always persisted, was always there. The letters didn't change when I looked away and looked back, as always happened in dreams. And the sensations - the textures, the scents, the joys and the sorrows and especially the pain - were too real, too persistent.

Besides, I would go mad if I kept second-guessing my existence.

This world… I'd been in ones like it before, vague echoes tickling my mind. Usually the peace would last until I came to a hamlet or some other insignificant settlement: rustic, stone and thatch more often than not. Then I'd find thieves attacking, or pesky goblins chasing the cows, or a terrified old woman would demand I clear her basement of red-eyed rats, and I'd be once again drowned in someone else's memories, living someone else's life, pursuing someone else's adventure, to victory or death or simply the next blinking of the world, even as a tiny corner of myself – the one written down in my memory book, the one that surfaced in the in-between times, like now – watched and waited and despaired of escape.

Perhaps I was being tested, or perhaps I'd been cursed. I'd tried, sometimes, to fight back, to hide, to demand release – even end myself rather than waiting for the worlds to end me. It never worked; always, I'd just find myself somewhere new, someone new, with nothing but the shame of failure like ash in my mouth to show for my rebellion. There was no defying the gods, not in any world I'd been to yet. Not even in worlds that had no gods. All I could do was keep moving forward, world after world… moving forward, and remembering what I could, when I could. My notebook had a beginning, after all, and that which began must, eventually, end, somehow or another.

The meadow path wound onward. Up ahead, a smudge of smoke marked where a village stood… or used to stand. I put the notebook away, my true memories tucked safely next to my heart, and ran toward the smoking ruins, and with each step I forgot I'd ever been anywhere, or anyone, else.
 
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zanzjan

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Oooh, this is wonderfully evocative! Beautifully done! <3
 

Elizabeth George's book Write Away