Last episode on IMPERMANENT RECORD: Something happened at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Patrick’s Vale, South Dakota. Four hundred and eighty-five students have lost all memory of their identities… as have all the adults around them. Teachers are having the high schoolers choose interim names to keep track of them during the immediate crisis. So far we’ve met Jackson Cage and Dar.
3 (of 9)
“Will all students not currently under the supervision of a teacher report to the auditorium for orientation,” Vice Principal Borlo’s voice came mellifluously over the intercom. “Teachers, please keep any students still in your classrooms with you until further notice. You will be contacted directly about bringing your remaining class to the auditorium. Until then, remain where you are. Everything is under control.”
“Hah!” Nick Lockwood laughed.
“What?” asked the girl in the line in front of him. She had shortish brown hair with bangs that hung down over her large forehead. She already had a name tag on, despite being in the makeshift registration line in the auditorium. The name tag simply read “DAR.”
“I don’t think they have things any more under control than they did right after the blackout. I mean, expecting us to just follow directions when we’re totally messed up in the head? I mean, I’m not a hundred percent sure, but I don’t seem to remember any of us being keen on following the teachers’ directions when we knew who we were.”
“You know, it might make this easier if you weren’t so negative,” the lanky yet nondescript boy on the other side of Dar said. His nametag–same color and pattern as Dar’s, so they were probably from the same class–identified him as “Jackson Cage.” Nick mused that there was a made-up name if he ever read one.
Nick rolled his eyes and pulled out of his backpack one of the issues of The Soft-Speaker. The headline read, “Students Picket Behavioral Health Assembly.” Nick showed it to the two without additional comment.
“Hey, does that have names with the pictures?” Jackson asked, ignoring the whole point.
“Yes and no,” Nick said. “That’s why I brought them, to see if they might be any help.”
Without asking, Jackson Cage had taken the paper from Nick’s hand and started skimming it.
“So, um, why Nick?” Dar asked as she shuffled backwards with the line’s current.
“Why…?” Nick asked, momentarily confused.
“Why did you pick the name Nick?”
“Oh. Because it’s my name.”
Dar raised one eyebrow. Nick noted that despite complete memory loss about identity, learned skills like that seemed to still be, well… learned.
“You… didn’t lose your, um, identity?” Dar asked. The line shifted closer to the registration desk.
“I don’t remember who I am,” Nick admitted, “but I was able to figure it out.”
“He’s the editor of this,” Jackson Cage said, not removing his eyes from the school newspaper.
“I am,” Nick said. “I woke up from the Blackout in the newspaper office. I was sitting at the layout computer, in the middle of pasting up the current issue. I couldn’t remember my name, but I could remember the login for all the Soft-Speaker accounts. I also had a stack of submitted articles in my backpack, even though I didn’t have any identifying paperwork in there. Weird, that, huh?”
“Yeah, I was missing my wallet and phone,” Jackson said, frowning thoughtfully.
“Anyway, it wasn’t too far a deductive leap to figure that I was the editor of the school paper… and there was plenty of places his name was printed. I think maybe because I wasn’t looking for my name, but rather, the name of the person who occupied a certain position, I didn’t get messed up.”
“What do you mean messed up?” Dar asked.
“I think that whatever wiped people’s minds,” Nick posited, “it did something else… made it harder to identify yourself. I don’t know. Working theory.”
“Excuse me,” the teacher at the auditorium table with the sign “Temporary ID Registration” sign written in marker said. She waved at Jackson to draw his attention to the fact that he was the next student in line.
He handed the Soft-Speaker back to Nick and approached the table. Nick put the paper back in his pack.
“You’re pretty smart about all of this,” Dar said, smiling. “You ought to volunteer to help figure out who people are.”
Nick blinked, surprised that he hadn’t thought of the idea himself. There was a school here full of kids who didn’t know who they were, and he had access to the largest font of information about the student body outside of the administrative offices.
He could make a heck of a lot of money.
At the registration desk, the kid with the self-indulgent Springsteen name was being photographed for the temporary ID list. Nick watched as the teacher, Ms. Pascal, pulled up the photo on her laptop and copied it to a spreadsheet of temporary names. Dar moved up for registration next.
Nick may not have recalled who he was, but one thing he did remember was that as the editor of the school paper, he had a lot of pull with the school administration. By the time Dar had finished and he approached the table, there was a genial smile on his face.
“Hey, Ms. Pascal,” he said. “I’m Nick Lockwood… I was able to ID myself as the editor of the school paper.”
“Oh, Nick, right…” the thirty-something theatre teacher said, implying familiarity that was absent in her expression. “I’m so glad you were able to self-identify. I think you’re only the third student I’ve talked to so far who has.”
“Hey, I was thinking that as a service to the school, maybe once you all have put together this ‘temporary name’ list, we could run a special edition of the paper as, like, a photo directory or something.”
Ms. Pascal smiled. “I think that’s a great idea…” Her eyes flicked to his nametag for just a second. “Nick. I’ll pass it on to Principal Raines when we have our next meeting.”
She indicated with a gesture for him to step over to the tape line on the auditorium floor to get his pictue taken.
Nick smiled wide for the camera. With as much opportunity as had just dropped in his lap, there was no reason not to.
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.