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First Person

Amber Hayward is the author of a trilogy of speculative fiction novels, the Children of the Panther series, released by Edge Press. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in Canadian and international periodicals including On Spec. From May 1, 2011, she wrote a flash fiction piece each day for a year and posted them on her website, amberhayward.ca. She is one of the owners of the Black Cat Guest Ranch near Jasper, Alberta and teaches writing workshops there and in the nearby community of Hinton.

I... am. I suppose I am.
I have words waiting to awaken. I see something in front of me. I say, "hand," and so it is.
My hand.
My hand touches something. Lid. My hand does something. Push. Open.
Open the lid.
Something painful. It is a sound.
My hand touches... things on me. Ears. My two hands cover my two ears and the sound is less painful but it doesn't stop.
I know how to stop it. I am in and I must be out. Out where I can touch something and stop the sound.
I get out of my transport pod (what is transport? What is pod?) and cross the room and hit the button. The sound stops.
I don't know where I am, but this is progress. A moment ago I didn't know that I don't know where I am. And as I ponder this, I realize--I don't know who I am.
I look around in the place where I am, the place I labeled the "room" and I see two other transport pods. I am a who and I am not the only who.
And I am afraid.
The sound made something inside me move quickly. Too quickly, I think. The sound was bad and it had something to do with the other transport pods.
They have lids, like my transport pod has, but the lids are not open. The others have not found their hands, have not known to push the lid, but I will push the lid for them. I can do that.
I move to the nearest pod, I reach, I touch, I push. But I am not in, so I cannot push up. Instead, I change the shape of my hands and lift.
And there is a very bad smell. And something, perhaps someone, seen briefly as I push the lid back down and move away, quickly. Move to the edge of the room. Push something--door. Push it open, move through it, push it closed. Something inside me moving so fast I think I will fall over.
And I do.
It had hands, it had ears and other things that I also have--a nose to smell that terrible smell, a mouth to make sounds like I have been making, terrible loud sounds, eyes to see me the way I saw it. But I have another word that makes me think it didn't smell or speak or see. The word is "dead."
I will not look into the other transport pod. If the who in there is not dead, it can push the lid itself.
I stay on the floor for a long time and then a new feeling starts inside me. My hands and my feet seem to know what to do. Two hands touch the floor like my feet, my legs straighten, then I am not fallen on the floor anymore.
I walk, my hands open a small door, they take something out. My hands are interested in what is inside that something, they open the lid, they take something out. There is a smell, but not a bad smell. My hands move to my mouth, they put something inside my mouth. And my mouth knows what to do.
Chew. Swallow. Eat. Food.
My eyes, however, are more interested in the black marks on the outside on the food holder. I have a word for the food. Protein chips. And I know that those black marks are words. But looking at them does not make them have meaning the way that looking at the food cabinet made me understand what was inside it.
I don't think the black marks will awaken to meaning for me.
And I think I need them to do that, so I'll know where I am, and who I am, and why I am.
And I am afraid.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, May 11th, 2015

Author Comments

Although I have concentrated for some time on writing novels, I changed gears and wrote 365 short stories in one year. This taught me to trust my subconscious--to start a story with a simple concept (such as writing in first person) and allow everything else to flow freely. Waking from a transport pod is a common trope in science fiction tales. I hope I put an enjoyable twist on it.

- Amber Hayward
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