The first all-new serial of STARTING POINTS week… every Wednesday for the next two months will have a new chapter of IMPERMANENT RECORD, so start here and enjoy the ride!
In another universe, you’d be watching IMPERMANENT RECORD on the CW, as it originated one day on a two-hour commute home from Comics, Toons ‘N’ Toys as a requested television pitch. There have been few periods of time in my life more creatively fertile than that drive.
1 (of 9)
Everything was normal at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Patrick’s Vale, South Dakota at 1:45pm on November 6th.
At 1:46pm, that was no longer the case.
It was like waking up from a faint, was the first thing the boy thought as his head cleared. It was resting on something cold, which he quickly identified as his school desk. Had he fallen asleep in class? That would be unusual for him… he usually paid attention, even in history class.
As he sat up his vision finished adjusting, the little sparkly bits fading. Looking around, it quickly became apparent that he wasn’t the only one who had blacked out. In almost every seat in Room 214, kids were rubbing their eyes, looking around with confused expressions, and in a few cases, picking themselves up off the classroom floor.
Mrs. Keene herself had passed out if her awkward attempt to get to her feet without making an embarrassing pose was any indication. A shattered piece of chalk sat in several pieces a few feet from where she had been standing.
“Is… is everyone all right?” Mrs. Keene asked, but there was a gradually unfolding look of confusion on her face.
“I think…” started the girl in the seat next to the boy, pointing at another girl in front of her, who was still on the floor and bleeding from her forehead. “…she’s hurt.”
“Who’s hurt?” asked Mrs. Keene, still looking out of her depth.
The girl who had brought it up opened her mouth to answer, but there wasn’t an answer there to speak. The boy tried to remember the name of the bleeding girl himself and realized that he couldn’t. Nor could he remember the name of the girl next to him. Or the boy on his other side, come to think of it, which he couldn’t.
“Mrs. Keene?” the girl next to the boy, who he had started identifying as “the girl with the short blonde hair and the two earrings in her left ear” asked. She sounded terrified.
That’s when the boy in the corner seat with the curly black hair and similarly colored long-sleeved t-shirt started screaming.
“K… kids! Everyone calm down!” Mrs. Keene said with a surprising amount of authority considering how lost she looked.
Screams started coming from other classrooms, and a girl with long red hair ran to the door and out into the hall beyond. Everybody seemed to be coming to the same realization that the boy had.
He didn’t know who he was. He couldn’t name any of the kids in class. He couldn’t remember which ones were his friends or which ones bullied him. He couldn’t remember which girls he wanted to ask out or which ones… well, actually he could tell pretty quickly which ones he thought were cute. He just couldn’t remember it.
“Who am I?” shouted a muscular kid in a letterman jacket with long sandy hair. “Oh, God! I can’t remember!”
The question seemed to open up a dammed river of similar terrified inquiries and suddenly everyone was panicking.
Mrs. Keene was doing her best to maintain order, and the boy suddenly realized that this whole time he still knew who she was. The teacher had pulled out a seating chart from her curriculum folder but as she looked down at it, she was frowning more, not less. The boy looked down at the open book on the desk in front of him and flipped it over, thinking it might have a name on it. On the brown supermarket bag paper that covered it he recognized his handwriting… but it only said “US HISTORY” and “Mrs. Keene” and “6th Period Rm 214.” Nothing useful like a name or home address despite ample space to have written them.
The boy realized at that point that no one was going to be able to answer his question. His hands reflexively went to his pockets. Usually he counted to four: wallet and keys on one side, phone and iPod on the other. He knew he carried those things, but when he checked, only his iPod was present. Hoping it might still have some kind of identifying name or mark on it, he pulled it out. It was playing a song, almost three minutes in. He must have started it just before whatever happened… happened. The stubbly doe-eyed face of Bruce Springsteen looked out at him from the cover to The River, the Boss’ 1980 double album. To the right of the image was the name of the song: Jackson Cage. The boy had rated the song five stars and left it playing on song repeat.
“Okay, kids, everyone calm down,” Mrs. Keene was saying. “Does anyone have any identification with you? Check your phones for pictures… if anyone has Instagram, can you pull that up?”
The boy raised his hand.
“Yes, uh… you.” Mrs. Keene pointed at the boy in lieu of calling him by name.
“Maybe we could just pick new names until everything gets figured out?” he suggested.
Mrs. Keene’s face brightened and she nodded. “Good idea… let me see here…”
A moment’s browsing in her upper left desk drawer found Mrs. Keene what she was looking for: a half-used pack of “Hello, My Name Is” stickers. The teacher handed them to the petite choppy black-haired scene girl in the desk at the front by the door. “Pass these out,” she said to her, before raising her voice to address the class.
“If you can’t find anything on you identifying yourself, just put down a name you like,” Mrs. Keene instructed. “Hopefully whatever is happening isn’t going to last too long, so don’t worry overmuch about what you put down. It’s only going to help us identify you during this… this crisis.”
The stack of stickers landed on the boy’s desk, and he tore one off before handing them to Short Blonde Hair Two Earrings. She smiled wanly and muttered thanks.
Pulling a black gel pen from the inside of the desk in front of him, the boy wrote the name he had chosen in clear block print under “Hello, My Name Is.”
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.