It is incredible that I have forgotten so much, so quickly. I have used my body for 60 years; I thought I knew it. Yet already it is fading like a dream. Arms, legs, where are you? What did you ever do for me when you were mine? I send out signals, trying to command the limbs I vaguely remember. Nothing happens. It is like shouting into a vacuum. Shouting. Yes, I try that. Perhaps they hear me, but I cannot hear myself. Silence has flowed over me, until I can no longer imagine sound. There is a word in my mind called ‘music’; what does it mean? So many words, drifting before me out of the darkness, waiting to be recognized. One by one they go away, disappointed.

Hello. So you are back. How softly you tiptoe into my mind! I know when you are there, but I never feel you coming. I sense that you are friendly, and I am grateful for what you have done. But who are you? You see I am becoming curious. That is a good sign is it not? What happened? You probably know as much as I do. Tell me. How much is left of my body? Don’t hide the truth. I am not afraid. If you can only get me home. Why can’t you answer?

I am sorry. Was I away a long time? Let me get a grip on myself. Please say that again, slowly. My education prepared me for any conceivable reality. I can face whatever you tell me. But slowly. Well, it could be worse. I know who I am. I think I know who I am. All my memories are trapped in the cells of my brain. And not only memories. Me.

Well, what happens next? Please say that again. I do not understand. Those are words. The eyes. They are very important. And the mouth. Now let’s see. There is something between the eyes and the mouth. Stupid of me. Of course – NOSE! There is something else, something I have forgotten. Unfinished. Not like me, the smartest kid on the block. I’m a nurse, with twenty years of service. Why do my thoughts keep going out of focus? Help me, please! Too difficult. Begin somewhere else. Ah, I know— The thighbone is connected to the shinbone. The shinbone is connected to the thighbone. The thighbone is connected to the shinbone. The shinbone…

All fading. Too late. too late. Something wrong with the playback. Thank you for trying. My name is… my name is… MaMa — where are you? I just want to go home!

words taken from “The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke”

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