Sama - Best Detective Novel Ever!

Patricia Moukarzel

“Every important work of literature begins with a quote.”

Dr. Remi Ingman
Day One: New Beginning

I don’t feel like myself: the first thought that comes to my mind as I open my eyes on a new day. The only thought, I soon realize, as my memory seems to have been wiped clean. I’m lying on my left side, away from a window that should be letting the light of day in, but it’s dark outside. I make out a desk in the far corner of the room, but nothing on it stirs my memories. I don’t seem to recall anything about who or where I am. It doesn’t bother me. Nor does the dead body lying next to me. I sense its presence, weighing the bed down and sure enough, when I turn around, there it is, staring blankly at the ceiling, stark naked. I shield my eyes and mutter a “Sorry!”, seemingly out of modesty. Apparently, I’m a prude.

Then, finally, a new thought: Who the hell is this woman? I wonder what she’s doing in my bed, but not how long she’s been there because from the smell of it—or lack thereof—she’s a new addition. I feel… hungry. I force myself out of bed to look for something to eat in what I now know is a one-room apartment. What you see is what you get. The fridge—which is bigger than I thought it would be—is next to the window. There’s nothing there, so I’ll have to think on an empty stomach. I wonder if I’m a cannibal, what with the fresh corpse at my disposal. I don’t find the thought appealing, so I let it go.

Another thought: I should uncover the dead woman’s identity. If nothing else, so that I can clear my name when the police retrieve her and book me for murder. Because yes, the woman was killed, throttled, if the nail impression marks on her neck are anything to go by. Did I choke her to death? Even though I have no clue who the corpse belongs to, I can’t help but wonder if I knew her—loved her even—back when I was still myself. Was this a crime of passion? Was I the type of person capable of homicide? Was it the guilt that reset my brain, taking my regrettable act with it? I don’t know, and that’s alright. I don’t really care. I search the desk drawers for any items that would clue me in to my identity, or if I even live here. But the apartment is as empty as my mind. No wallet or phone in sight, and the pantsuit I’m wearing has no pockets. I’m getting bored with all the mystery. I shower—because of course, while this cursed apartment has no food, it’s got all-you-can-eat toiletries. No mirrors though.

It’s probably best because, my dear, let me tell you, you look as bad as you feel.
I look around for the source of the voice, before realizing it’s coming from inside. I’m tempted to answer My Brain with a “Look who decided to finally show up, and for what? To make superficial comments about my looks?”—but I remain quiet, because It sounds so authoritative that I don’t think I’m strong enough to take It on. I get back into the formal clothes I woke up in, throw the corpse a polite “Bye! Make yourself at home!” and head out.

I check the individual mailboxes aligned on a wall in my building hallway. One of the boxes for my floor doesn’t have a name tag. Mine? I guess someone didn’t want to receive fan mail. Or maybe hate mail.

The building is in a city. I don’t recognize it either. It’s dull and noisy. Light still hasn’t graced us with its presence, yet the street is already crowded as if it were the middle of the day. What time is it anyway? The need to obtain this information overtakes me, until I’m brought back to the unpleasant present moment thanks to a suitcase-wheeling pedestrian who rams into me; even though I’m standing by the building exit. Another sense assaulted. What’s left? Not taste. This dreary city has ruined my appetite. I start walking with a sense of purpose, maybe this way my mind will know where to go. I end up even more lost in an even more dreadful part of town. But then someone yells “Doctor!” at me and I’m about to agree that yes, I do need one, when the shouter gets closer, shakes my hand, and asks me what I’m doing away from the clinic this late in the morning. I ask the stranger what kind of doctor I am, hoping she will play along, or brush it off as a joke, and what do you know, she tells me. It doesn’t surprise me. I used to know this person, and I got the feeling that she would humor me. That it was some sort of an inside joke, even. And so, I learn I’m not really a doctor doctor, just a head doctor—a shrink. The joker states it with glee, happy with her wordplay, while I can’t see the humor in mistaken identities. I hate to break it to you, but you’re not exactly known for your sense of humor. Still refusing to engage My Brain, I push my luck and ask the comedian where my pseudo-clinic is. She gets even more giddy and gives me exact directions to the hospital where I allegedly do the head shrinking.

The hospital is bland and soulless. My Brain tells me all healthcare facilities are like that—Its exact words are: They’re all as blah as your face—and I’ll have to take Its word for it. Still, I start to wonder at this point if I’m capable of finding anything remotely… good. Not that it matters, it’s all the same to me. I realize I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask my guide for my name, so I roam the halls waiting for someone to recognize me. I start feeling the pangs of hunger again, but without my wallet I can’t buy anything. At least I still remember how the world works.

A woman in a nurse costume is headed in my direction. She smiles at me, and My Brain immediately provides me with a way to get some information out of her: The sucker has a savior complex. If you appeal to her compulsive need to help, especially with the disheveled hobo look you’ve got going today, you can make her sing like a magpie. I take a moment to marvel at my knowledge of humankind. Was it all residual information from my former life or am I that skilled a therapist? I accost the costumed lady and feed her a surprisingly quick lie about being too hungover to remember where my office is. She pats me on the shoulder with watery eyes, makes me promise to seek help and escorts me to my clinic.

The clinic is morose but I’m starting to get used to this general tone of life. Unsurprisingly, the office is also devoid of any items, save a desk, a chair, a notepad, and a pen. Next to the office door, there are six plaques with therapist names on them. None ring a bell, so I pick the one that sounds best: Alex. Alex is reliable, trustworthy. Alex has it all figured out. I can be an Alex.

With that sorted out, there’s nothing left for me to do but lie back in my reclining chair and wait for my next appointment. Meanwhile, I lament the absence of even a landline in this godforsaken office. Not that I would have known who to call, but it’s starting to seem like someone doesn’t want me to have any means of communication. But wait, the notepad. I find its flavorlessness insulting to the eye but leaf through it anyway, until I come across a note right in the middle.

“Don’t do it.”

What an uninspired quote. Then, I realize it may be a warning. Don’t do what? Don’t remember? Don’t forget? Don’t starve to death? Oh, right, the dead woman. It probably means don’t kill the dead woman. Well, it’s too late for that now. Let’s not dwell on it. I don’t give much thought to the confirmation of sorts that I just got about being a murderer. My Brain sneers: Shocking revelation… not! I can’t find it in me to care. And so, I go back to reclining and waiting.

No one comes in for what feels like hours. Which reminds me, I still have no way to tell the time. I abruptly get out of my chair to go look for any time telling machine, to no avail. How can a whole building exist outside time? Aren’t medics busy people? Isn’t every second valuable when saving lives?

I retreat to my newfound lair and stew in my indignation about the mismanaged hospital until my screaming intestines let me know that I’ve worked long enough. I decide to call it a day. Two floors into my elevator ride down, a woman joins me. She gives me a courteous smile. She doesn’t know me, she’s useless. My Brain disagrees: You idiot, if you can manage to trick her into liking you, she will give you food. Up until now, people have been bending over backward to please me because they knew my former self. But here, meeting the well-mannered woman for the first time in both my lives, I’m not sure I can get her to do my bidding. I still try because what do I have to lose. I contract my zygomatici in what I hope comes across as a friendly facial expression. She doesn’t react. I must make a bigger effort. I try looking at her. She’s objectively attractive. I tell her as much and next thing I know, her lips are on mine. I let her kiss me, then after a beat, I kiss her back because I don’t want to be rude. And because I want to eat. The ding of the elevator effectively ends the make-out session, then she says the most beautiful words I’ve heard all day: “Wanna grab a bite?”

During my many free waking hours today, I tried coming up with different scenarios that would explain my current state or absence of one. Alien abduction, psychotic break, government conspiracy… I stopped at vampirism because it made me thirsty. Me not taking her question as an invitation to drink her blood disproves that theory though. And right now, all I can think about is having a tall drink of water to prepare my dry throat to receive the long awaited, highly anticipated food.

The restaurant is… actually not that bad. Maybe it’s the thrill of finally getting to satiate my hunger, maybe it’s the objectively beautiful woman on my arm. Either way, the venue is not cold, and the atmosphere is not a drag. If anything, the staff is overly friendly; especially the man behind the corner bar, who has the audacity to wave at us. I consider waving back with my middle finger, then remember I am in the company of a woman. I am nothing if not well-mannered.

I don’t even bother pretending to care about what my date has to say, and instead grab the menu as soon as the waiter—who didn’t wave so he’s alright by me—hands it to me. I order the first thing I see, a big fat double decker burger. As soon as I do, my hunger evaporates. I don’t feel the need, nor the desire for food anymore. I still intend to have the meal, to keep up appearances. But now the pretty woman is back to being useless and I don’t have to keep playing the interested party. From the way she holds my hand and my gaze, she seems to perceive the dynamic shift. She tells me she knows me, but my relief is short-lived because she means that she knows my type, whom she dubs “the lost souls.” I sure hope the other lost souls she frequents are that way figuratively. Because actually being lost to yourself is… a lot of work. I feel fatigue set in, and our food hasn’t even been served yet. Still not having the faintest idea what time it is, I surmise that this will be a long night. I wonder if my corpse is worried about my long absence. I briefly consider introducing my new fling to the supposed love of my life. I don’t find these thoughts helpful or amusing, but I think them all the same.

The new girl drops me off at what seems to be my apartment—no one else has claimed it yet, and even if that happens, I intend to declare the right of “finders keepers”—whose location I somehow still recall. I must have a strong visual memory. I don’t invite her up, too early to show her the skeletons in my closet. Because yes, I decided, somewhere between the intermittent sips of water I had, that I would keep her around. To get some sense of normalcy. Having a girlfriend will be good for me. She kisses me good night. The kiss doesn’t linger, so it isn’t unpleasant. I take it to mean that she too considers us a couple now. I want to tell her to take a chill pill but remind myself that I could use a girlfriend for unremarkableness purposes.

On my way into the building, I get pushed once again by a suitcase wheeling lady—the same from this morning? Both times I looked at the suitcase rather than the person attached to it, so I’ll have to wait for the next shove to find out.

Back in the tiny apartment. My corpse hasn’t moved. But her smell has worsened. Her way of exacting vengeance on me the only way she can. “I have now accepted my crime, forgiven myself for it and chosen to move on with my life,” I tell her in a solemn voice. “Don’t hate me. And if I didn’t kill you, I promise I won’t hate you for making me believe otherwise. Let’s just go our separate ways amicably. Of course, you can stay as long as you want. I don’t mind the stench.”

As my head hits the pillow, one last thought: With any luck, tomorrow my memories will all be restored. Life will go back to normal. My corpse will be alive again and so will I. My Brain’s bout of laughter at this lulls me to sleep.
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