Nobody and the Other -- fiction by Patricia Jane Donato
The boy walked forward, shivering in a seemingly endless blackness. He thought he should have been somewhere else; somewhere warm and welcoming. No matter where he should have been, however, he was not there. He was somewhere cold and unwelcoming.
The boy followed a dot of light ahead of him, but it never grew any closer. It just glinted tauntingly at him as the blackness tightened around him. Other things moved in the darkness, growing closer to the boy the farther he went while the spot of light remained far away.
The boy had just lost hope of ever escaping the blackness, when he stepped out of it. His feet crunched on a strip of gravel and light glared down on him.
When the boy shaded his eyes and looked away, he found himself staring into the face of a thing. He thought it looked like a streak of light, but he didn't know what the thing was. He only knew that it was a thing and that it was there beside him. It looked back at him, but not with eyes. He simply felt it looking, the way one feels cold or warmth.
“Who are you?” the boy asked.
“Rather a what, more than a who,” the thing said in a voice with no characteristics. The boy thought he’d heard the voice somewhere before. Perhaps it was the voice in his own head, or perhaps someone else’s voice. “Call me the Other,” the thing continued. “I’m your guide.”
“Guide of what? What am I doing here? Who…” The question burned on the boy’s lips, but he stopped, afraid to hear the answer.
“You’re Nobody,” the Other said, as if it had anticipated the question. “You see, this is the place where Nobodies go. It’s called Nowhere.”
The boy frowned. How could he be Nobody when he remembered things? He remembered hundreds of faces, places, and feelings. And yet, they all felt far away and obscure, as though they had only happened in a half-remembered dream.
The boy shivered in the stagnant, frigid air. “I don’t understand,” he said, looking up at the Other. “Why am I Nobody?”
“Don’t worry,” the Other said, beckoning him forward. “You’ll understand, Nobody.”
The boy squinted at where the gravel strip became a road crowded by a menagerie of buildings. The buildings were sandwiched together and sorted out into what looked like city blocks. There were skyscrapers next to yurts, A-frame houses next to minkas, and chalets next to terracotta villages. None of it looked like it belonged, but the boy’s memories were too scattered to remember why it didn’t.
“This the Nothing, and these are the Blocks,” the Other said, ushering the boy down the road. “All the places that would have been important to the Nobodies are on the Blocks.”
They walked for quite some time along the road through the blocks. The mismatched buildings drifted in and out of the Other’s pool of light – a movie theater beside a beached fishing boat, and then by a tenement building beside a chalet. The boy caught sight of pale eyes from sunken eye sockets staring out at them, one on each Block. The other Nobodies remained silent and motionless, so that everything was as still as a tomb.
The Other stopped walking when they reached what looked like the end of Nowhere. It wasn’t really the end, though. The block bordered a wall of blackness, the same blackness that the boy had come out of. When he looked closely at it, he could make out things moving in the blackness. Things being built. Things forming. New Blocks. More Nowhere.
“This is your Block,” the Other said, nodding to the stretch of land in front of them.
The boy’s stomach dropped as he turned around in surprise. The Other’s light shone brighter now, so that it illuminated the entire, massive landscape of a preschool, elementary school, high school, and then university crammed into the Block together. There were a variety of suburban houses, a diner, a ballpark, a burger joint, a few churches, a playground, a bar, and a couple random things stuck here and there, like a tree with initials carved into it, a beaten up red truck, and an arcade game.
The boy remembered all of these things. Indistinctly, without the proper context or affection perhaps, but he remembered them.
“Oh!” the Other said. “I almost forgot something.”
It handed the boy a photo album. When he flipped it open, he found photos of people. There was a jolly looking man with a mustache, a woman looking out a window, a couple little boys playing together, a girl in a pretty dress at a party, a couple holding a baby, and so many more.
“I know these people,” the boy said, a pressure building up in his chest. “I remember them. I remember everything!” He looked up at the Other with desperation and tears in his eyes, his knuckles white as he gripped the photo album. “How can I be Nobody if I remember everything?”
“It’s quite simple,” the Other said. “You're not remembering anything. There is nothing to remember. You’re only seeing your life if you had been a Somebody. See, a number of these Somebodies in the photographs are Somebodies, but most are just more Nobodies. Not even a Nobody, actually, just plain old Nothing. Look there,” it pointed to a photo of a baby being bathed in a sink, a baby the boy remembered with an overwhelming feeling of affection. “You would have made that Somebody if you had been, well, Somebody yourself.”
“But,” the boy began, staring down at the photos and then up at the places he held onto a fragile memory of. “Why am I Nobody? Why isn’t all of this Something?”
“Oh, dear Nobody,” the Other said with a sympathetic chuckle. “You’re not alone in this Nothingness. It happens to so many other Somebodies. You see, this is where the Nobodies go, the place for the Never Born. You, Nobody, were never born.”
Patricia Jane Donato is a homeschooler going into her senior year of high school. She's working towards her dream of becoming a successful author of short stories, novels, songs, poems, and maybe even graphic novels. When Patricia isn't writing, she enjoys drawing, reading, watching movies, and chatting with her friends.