And I Will Pray No More
by Jay Wilburn
Author note: I’m dealing with cognitive issues and the possibility of more serious memory loss. I took this opportunity to explore those fears.
As the remaining colonists murdered each other below, the monk watched the starship rise on a plume of fire and smoke over the ruins of the temple. Mad screams echoed off the stones as he admired the blue hull of the escaping ship. He once knew the exact name for that shade of blue, also the name for the ship, but he didn’t remember anymore. He decided not to stress over it as he could not remember his own name either.
That ship carried the healthy survivors. Those infected and losing their minds remained below to be claimed by the planet. He had a final conversation with someone on that ship. Someone he cared about. A friend? A family member? Someone he respected and would miss if he could remember them clearly. The details about that beloved person escaped him along with whatever goodbyes and good wishes were said.
He wanted to say the illness was a parasite. Something from the planet they discovered too late. That sounded true, but he wasn’t sure of anything anymore. He decided to let that piece of his memory go without a struggle.
The monk sat with the clouds of smoke from the last of the incense swirling around him in the growing darkness of the end of the day and the end of the colony. He breathed deeply, an act of muscle memory. He expected to cough, but it filled his lungs and calmed his nerves even with the cries of violence all around him.
In his head, he recited the snatches of prayer he could still recall, knowing it would likely be for the last time. He did the best he could with the memory he had left to him.
He was here to comfort. He didn’t remember much else about himself or his past. He took comfort thinking that some people onboard that diminishing ship upon its column of smoke and vapor would remember him for a while after he was gone.
The woven mat felt good under his bare feet. He wondered if going barefoot was something he did often. If he had to guess, he supposed he was that type of person. So, he walked through the temple without searching for sandals or other footwear.
Considering memory while losing his memory was a very introspective act. He decided all of life was a game of forgetting and dying. It was a game played with time, and time did not cheat. It always won fair and square. Still, he imagined that the game could still be enjoyed even if every player and every match was lost to time in the end.
He wondered if the madness that came with the shared illness of all those left behind would take him soon. He guessed that all the incense and all the happy thoughts in the universe might not save him from that.
He still might provide comfort for those suffering with him as night drew closer.
He passed through the final courtyard and looked to the sky. He stared for a long moment before he realized that he couldn’t remember what he was looking for.
The sky was still blue, but darkening. It was a blanket of fine rich color. A very odd spread of cloud looked almost like it was rising from the ground itself. He couldn’t recall if that sort of thing were normal. That cloud took on accents of red and orange from the angling light. It accented that deep blue nicely.
He was glad he took the moment to look upon the sky again.
He stepped out through the last set of doors. Violence continued in the distance. People were angry and wild. He wasn’t sure what he could do about that, but felt he should try something.
The scattered feathers from some bird that had been attacked or eaten on the temple steps covered the ground in front of him.
Letting out a sigh, he knelt and lifted one of the feathers. He examined it closely, as if seeing it for the first time. Running his finger back and forth over it, he felt the soft barbs, ruffling them up and smoothing them out again. It was lovely. Almost magical. The barbs separate in a fascinating, chaotic way. They came back together in a fine smooth pattern of silvery color.
It was perfection. Chaos and order together like rolling waves upon a…
He lost the word, but not the feeling of the word.
He could not remember the word for this thing he held in his hand either nor what animal it came from. He was sure he had known it a moment ago, but now those details escaped. Still, the lack of memory did not dampen his feelings of joy in discovering this object and its secrets as if for the first time.
He was glad he had picked this thing up.
Taking a moment to survey the landscape in the last light of day, others were hurt and lying on the ground. He could not tell if they were sleeping or dead. He recognized none of them.
Those who still walked around did so aimlessly. They mostly stared at the ground, but appeared to have no desire to do harm if they had such desires before.
As others kept their eyes cast down, he turned his to the sky. That was such a moving shade of color across the heavens. He knew he should know the word for that color, but it escaped him. He decided not to let that upset him though. He let go of that piece of his memory and simply enjoyed the fading color of the sky as if for the first time.