Fiction Friday: What’s in a Name? (August 6, 2010)

The blank computer screen glared at him. He frowned slightly and looked around at his surroundings. As if coming out of a dream, he began to recognise his apartment, and shook his head to clear it of the fog. “My name is Adam, I’m 34 and I’m a graphic illustrator. My name is Adam Westfield and I was born in Ingham, Queensland, on the 12th of March 1998.” He sighed with relief as the details came back to him.

The “flashbacks”, visions, whatever they might be, were getting more frequent and more intense. Usually there was a moment where he couldn’t remember who he was but it all came back within a few seconds, but this time was different. In those minutes of blankness, before it had all come back, he could have sworn he remembered the details of someone else’s life. Adam stared at the blank screen again and got up to make a coffee. Maybe that would help motivate him to do some work. He clattered around the small, tidy kitchen and focused on the mundane details, trying to banish the vague echoes of someone else inhabiting his head.

When he sat down at his desk again, coffee mug in hand, he noticed a new email. He flipped over to his email program and saw it was from his boss. Stress flooded him and he flipped back to the blank illustrator page without reading it. He reached for his graphics tablet but stopped as he realised he had no idea what he was illustrating. Rifling around his desk he found the brief and quickly scanned it. An older children’s book about goblins and other spiteful creatures, requiring a cover and several full page illustrations. There was a note from his boss that he ignored. He decided to do the cover first, so he read over the blurb about the book and started.

He worked for some time, getting himself into his work zone, to the point of losing track of time and hearing nothing; he was in his own little world. Finally he sat back and looked at the products of his labour. Smiling in satisfaction he got up to stretch and make another coffee. The sky outside the window was dark and for the first time he noticed how dim it was in the room. As he walked to the light switch he could hear the sound of a golden oldies tune floating in from another apartment. It was Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy”, a song he particularly loathed for its ability to wedge firmly in his head, not to mention its inane message. He grimaced with disgust and wandered back to his coffee, idly whistling the hated song and then groaning loudly. Grabbing the coffee he sat back at his computer.

The illustration still impressed him. At last he had something to send Amanda to get her off his back. It needed a few tweaks but on the whole, it was good. His mobile rang and Amanda’s name flashed up on the display. He answered it. “Before you say anything, I have something to send you in a couple of hours.” Silence at the other end. “And if I do say so myself, it is pretty damn good.”

He heard a slow intake of breath. “I hope so, Adam. I’m starting to lose faith in you.” Her voice was calm and resonant, as usual. No clue as to what was going on inside. He grinned.

“Two hours. Promise.”

“Ok, I’ll head home and keep an eye out for it.” She hung up, and he pressed the end call button. Crisis averted. Adam put the phone down and looked at the screen again. “Here’s a little song I wrote… aaargh!” Damn that song. The tune played out merrily in his head as he scrutinised the illustration. “Hang on…” he stared intently at the corner of the illustration. There was a little creature, half hidden in the undergrowth, all big eyes and sharp teeth. He didn’t remember drawing it. It didn’t look like the goblins he had drawn. He chuckled at himself. “Yeah you just drew yourself, didn’t you buddy?” Taking a sip from his coffee, now disgustingly cold, he began on the modifications.

Two hours later, as promised, he emailed the image to Amanda. Sitting back with a deep sigh, he closed the program and shut down the computer. It was after eight, and he was starving. Takeaway, he thought, and got up to check the menu for the local Thai place. Movement outside caught his eye and he stared out the window, trying to see. “Cat or possum” he muttered. He called the Thai joint and placed his order. Twenty minutes to kill before walking down there. Cracking open a beer he went out on his balcony, into the crisp night air. Sydney was a far cry from little country town Ingham. The air wasn’t as polluted now: cars were highly regulated since 2012 and most people got around using bicycles or using the mass transit system. Yet you could still sense the presence of millions of people, a teeming, swarming mass of humanity. In Ingham you were surrounded by openness, a sense of isolation. He wasn’t sure which he preferred. He took a sip of his beer and closed his eyes, breathing in deeply.

He opened his eyes with a start. Gazing down at the buildings below him, he tried to figure out where he was. Heart was beating rapidly in his chest and a smothering panic gripped him. As he ascertained that the threat was past he calmed, and noticed the beer gripped tightly in his hand. Searching the recesses of his brain he fought to re-establish himself. “My name is… my name is…” he smacked the side of his head. He put the beer down and walked inside, hoping for something to trigger his memory. The computer glowed enticingly, calling him to come near. There was a picture on the screen. He spied a grass ghoul in the corner and jumped back in terror. “My name is Jamie. I was born March 12, 1998 in Ingham, Queensland.” Heart drumming a fearful rhythm he backed away from the computer. “My name is Adam, Adam Westfield, I’m 34 and a graphics illustrator…” What was it he’d said before? Why was he so scared? “Jamie? Where did that come from?” He rubbed at his head, the start of a migraine coming on. Casting a backwards glance at the computer he went to lie down. “I swear I shut that thing down before.” As he crawled into bed, the time glowed 0:02 and his tummy grumbled, longing for a forgotten dinner. “Don’t Worry Be Happy” started up in his aching head.


Prompt: Strains of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy” floated into the room.

I found this week’s prompt hard to write from. I really wanted to set this week’s fiction outdoors, but immediately I found myself in a small apartment, in front of a computer. The prompt left it wide open, and I had two ideas but went with this one. Again, you can interpret this one how you like, obviously though there’s a tie-in from last week. I really laboured at this, I wasn’t entirely sure how it would pan out though I did have an idea. Funny because last week the story just flowed out of my brain!


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