by Nicholas P. Snoek
It's Saturday afternoon. Jack is in the barn, cleaning pig pens, when Rosie comes running in. "Victor, you have to come quick. There's a long distance phone call for you. It's from India!"
"From India?" Who on earth would be calling him from India? "Okay, I'm coming. Are you sure it's for me?"
"Well, at first they asked for Mom and Dad, and when I said they're over in the slaughterhouse, they asked to talk to Jack Schuurman. Isn't that funny?"
Trotting off down the path, Jack says "Yeah, that's funny!"
"Hello. Hello, this is Jack."
"Yes? Hello. You are Jack Schuurman?"
"Yes I am. Who's calling please?"
"Just a moment."
Another voice, "Hi, Jack. This is Brother Andre. I'm in Calcutta, and I have to verify my destination for customs and for our tickets. Would you tell them where you are so they can figure out what I need to do?"
After some confusion and misunderstanding it's finally established that Brother Andre and Jack's mother are flying to Canada, and with some stopovers they should be arriving in about two days, so sometime Monday afternoon.
How about that! Jack is going to meet his mother, his real mother! After all this time.
How is he going to handle that? What will he say to her? Does she speak English? Probably not. Probably Brother Andre will be translating back and forth. What will she say? What sort of person would she be? That will be strange.
It's later in the day, Saturday. Jack and Leda are in the back of the Spiets family car. Dad and Mom and the young pair are in Bernon for some Christmas shopping. There was a fresh snowfall last night, and the roads and sidewalks are buried deep. It's still early winter, quite mild, and the snow was wet. It has blown against buildings and signs and stuck there, making a very white world.
Dad is just starting to enter an intersection. Marie interjects "Siem, I think you're supposed to stop here!"
"Is that right? I didn't see..." BANG !!
Jack feels a sharp pain in his head. He leans forward, holding both ears, groaning.
He mumbles "Mom, what's happening?"
There's a girl with her arm around him, with a worried look on her face.
"You hit your head on the side of the car, Vick. A car slammed into us in the back. I guess Leda's head hit your left temple and the doorpost hit your right one. We're on the way to the hospital now so they can have a look at you."
"I'm okay, I just have a headache."
Her name must be Leda. Why is she being so cozy? Why did Mom call him Vick?
Mom looks at him. "Well, we want to be sure." And she turns to the front again.
Leda softly, "Victor, are you sure you're alright?"
Jack looks at her with a frown. He doesn't know this girl! What should he do? He can't just tell her to back off. And why is she calling him Victor when his name is Jack?
Let's see... quietly "Look, you seem like a very nice young lady, but I'm sorry, I don't know you. Could you just give me a few minutes? I'll be okay. Give me a little time."
She takes her arm away. Her eyes are wide and terrified, and they start to fill with tears. Jack is astonished. She must feel very close to him, to be hurt so badly by the gentle words he spoke. Doesn't she understand that he doesn't know her?
No, of course not. To her it must seem he has just changed into someone else; metamorphosed right before her eyes into some other person, a person who does not know her.
But he knows Mom and Dad, and he knows himself. Except he thought his name was Jack. Mom called him Vick, and this girl called him Victor. How can that be? Does he have two names?
Older memories. The collision must have impaired his memory. Not totally. So not permanently either, probably. What a unique situation, sitting there without part of his memories, not even being sure of his name.
He turns to the girl beside him. Softly "Don't worry, okay? I've had a blow to my head and I've got partial and temporary amnesia. My memory will come back, and I will know you then. Don't worry about me. I'll be alright."
At the hospital they peer into his pupils, bang at his knees with a little rubber hammer, and take X-rays. The doctor asks Jack his age.
He's not sure. Well, in case they need his consent for anything, he might as well be twenty-one.
"Twenty-one I guess."
"You don't know?"
"Yes, I'm twenty-one." This doctor does not believe him. Does he have better information? Why does he look at me like that. I should know how old I am!
"Okay. You've had a blow to your head, and you've got partial and temporary amnesia. You'll be fine; just get a good rest. There's a slight concussion, but nothing to worry about."
"Right. Thank you."
Jack has a headache.
Very little is said on the way home. Leda is sitting at a respectable distance, and looks at him once in a while with a shy worried little smile. But there is no smile when she looks away. Mom and Dad watch the road.
It's suppertime. There is a young man who seems to have an interest in Winnie, and he is very friendly with Leda too. He has his arm in a cast. Jack sits beside him, and when he sees the fellow can't cut his meat, Jack quietly does it for him. That seems to attract a lot of attention; it apparently gives the others some sort of relief. And they're obviously wondering about him.
Hey. What's wrong with helping this guy cut his meat? Give me a break. Do you have to know someone to help him?
I've lost my memory, not my mind.
When bedtime comes, Mom asks Jack to sleep on the couch in the front room. The others go upstairs.
Why does he have to sleep down here? But his head hurts, and he doesn't feel like making a fuss. She probably thinks he's nuts. Leda's reaction had a strong element of fear in it, too. Maybe Mom thinks he might do something crazy to the girls. As if he would have the interest just now, when he's trying to rebuild his whole world!
Excuse me, Mom I'm just a little preoccupied right now; my libido and my exploratory drive are in bull low for the duration. After I get the Pacific and some of the continents in place I will be more myself.
Oh, I suppose you can't blame her. She likely thinks I've gone alien, just like Leda did. They don't understand. How could they? They've never been here before.
I'd sure like to know how this name thing works, though. But I can't just ask. It would sound pretty stupid. `Hey, anyone. Can you tell me why you're calling me Vick, when my name is Jack?' That would fly like a lead balloon. Or IS my name Jack; but Vick sounds kind of familiar too. Maybe Vick is my more recent name. Maybe I WAS Jack and now I'm Victor. Does that make sense? Jack would be the older memory. But why on earth change a first name? Could I have done that?
Now, why don't I feel more disoriented; more of a stranger to myself? The name thing isn't really the issue there. If some years worth of memories are in abeyance, why am I so at home with myself? Wouldn't the strivings and tribulations of the last few years have made an impact on who or what I seem to myself to be?
And if that is not part of me now, I should feel fragmented, lost. But then, I suppose if I didn't feel lost to myself at the implicit time of the memory cutoff, why should I now? It would only mean that I am now as I was then.
So that means I'm younger; my self is less mature, less developed. Getting knocked on the head makes you younger. How about that! There's your elixir of eternal youth -- a knock on the noggin!
I have my older memories. The blow to my head knocked out the later ones. How? And why? What gives the older ones immunity from that shock? Is that to do with the way the brain is shaken? Anchored at the bottom by the neck; most of the movement would be in the top, in the new brain cortex protected only by the eggshell cranium. That seems right. That's where current memories would still be under development. The trauma disturbed only the fresh and not yet stabilized buildup. Shook up the still soggy concrete.
So if the old ones survive and the new ones don't, the shorter term memories must not be stored with the older ones. Old memories are kind of stubborn about surgery and localized damage too. That's interesting. They must be dispersed somehow. Could it be a modular arrangement, with a kind of multifacet compound insect eye repetition? That way the same memory would be stored in many places, like you get with a holographic plate.
Or is it not the brain at all?
What about the mind? What part does the mind play in this?
Maybe older memories are less vulnerable because they're less dependent on any storage connection with the brain than current ones, less tied to the nervous system. Off line storage.
If the mind performs a filing or storage function, is that distinct from the Akashic Record? Is there a first and basic personal and private set of files, and a larger or second order public and objective hall of records? Is that hall of records an accumulation of such personal ones, or does it store the results of joint efforts as well, like movies and newspapers. Or maybe only microfiche versions in condensed form, depersonalizing the contents.
Is the Akashic record compossible compatible or is it even co-extensive in some way, with the Supreme Mind, or the Over-Soul? I wonder if in the spiritual realm my fourfold division of existence could have a correlate. The Akashic Hall would then be another and higher order of our Record. That's an interesting idea. What beings would be looking after all that?
Well, I'd better get to sleep, and give this banged up head a rest. Must try to remember my dreams, might be special.
/// Jack is standing behind a window on the third floor of a large building, looking out onto a keep, a grassed yard intersected by several walkways. Three people are in conversation down there, and as he watches them he suddenly realizes, he is one of them!
And at that moment he is also aware of himself standing there, talking with the others. He looks up, and sees himself behind the window. He smiles, and he smiles back. At himself!
In the window he is dressed in casual clothes, a lumber jack shirt and jeans. Down below he is wearing a college or university graduating gown and hood, all black.
He is in both places! And he is aware of himself in both places! He looks around a bit, to see if there is anything he can attribute this experience to -- some miasmic effluence in the air, some mirage condition, even any feeling of being drugged or light headed... But the air is clean and clear; the sky is blue beautiful, with clumps of cumulus cloud so bright and white it aches the eyes. Surrounding hills cascade in harmony and peace away and down from this idyllic elevated setting.
And his head is hale and whole. The others don't even notice his distraction; he keeps up his participation in oral pleasantries without difficulty. And he feels great! In both places! \\\
In the morning he wakes, suffused with a wonderful sensation of well being.
He looks around. What is he doing on this couch? Oh, yes. He hit his head yesterday, and Mom thought he should sleep down here. Foolish Mom. He's just fine, thank you. And he feels so good! What a beautiful vision...
How can a person watch himself watch himself watching himself..? Two different places. Two activities, two sets of clothes. What is that all about? He can remember the dream so well, so vividly -- the colors were so brightly clean, the air so clear! To see yourself so plainly, seeing yourself. Recursive.
So, here's an infinite regress. What's so bad about that? Philosophers dread it like the plague. But this, this was great!
I wonder if I should tell people about this dream. Or vision, really; that was no ordinary dream. A transport type of experience. Autoscopy. People would think I'm way out there, if I go talking about it. Oh hell, they think that anyway.
Hey! My memory is back, intact. I know what happened, and who Leda is, my right age, and my name being Victor. Wahoo! It's all back! I am the me I was before I lost a piece of me!
But, am I now divided somehow? Perhaps that dream is but a portent of things to come? Am I to have two personas, to go with my two names? Lord, lord, what is coming at me now.
No. I don't think so. I feel fine. I view my world in one piece and from one center. If my present state of mind is any indication I will be the solitary soul I was before. Good good.
Well. Let's go see what's for breakfast, I'm hungry. I wonder how Len felt about me, cutting his meat for him. And him a sawmill owner operator and logging boss and all. A little blue bean can set a person right on his ass, can't it?
Or a bump on the head!
It's Monday afternoon, and Jack is just off the bus. Pietje is in the yard, waiting for him.
"Vick, guess what? You've got company! They're in the kitchen with Mom."
It must be Brother Andre and... my mother! Oh boy.
Jack goes in. Brother Andre, even here, is dressed in his ko! What a sight, a ko in the kitchen in Enderbush! Sitting on a chair beside him is a black haired and dark eyed woman in a western dress. His real mother!
Jack and Brother Andre give each other a quick firm hug "Hello, Brother Andre. I'm very happy to see you!"
"Hi Jack. I'd like to introduce Cheoki." Turning and taking her hand as she stands up. "Cheoki, this is Jack."
She smiles, and looks up at her tall son. "Hello Jack."
Jack, hesitantly, starts to give her the formal cheek to cheek greeting. But she takes his hands and puts them around her waist, and embraces him warmly. Jack blushes, and grins his embarrassment. "Hello."
She's a good looking woman. Long black eyelashes stand out even against her darker skin. Starting to show her age now, around her eyes. Her cheekbones are high, a strong chin. Long black hair flowing free down her back. Square shoulders. Solid. Not as tall as he expected.
Mom fidgets a little, feeling awkward. "Well, I think I should get back to the shop. I'm going to leave the three of you for a while, if that's alright."
"Sure Mom. We've got a lot to talk about. We'll be fine."
"I'll be back a bit later to start supper."
Brother Andre "Oh, if you don't mind. I've made reservations at the hotel for Cheoki and Jack and myself. I thought it would be a good idea to have dinner, the three of us. That way we won't be causing any disturbance here."
"Well, since you've made reservations. But you will be eating here after that, won't you? All of you?" looking around, "It gets very expensive eating out, and you're more than welcome. We always have lots."
"Yes, that'll be fine." Brother Andre assures her.
Mom goes out, motioning Pietje out as well, who was just starting to come in. She wants none of the kids in here gaping at the visitors.
"Well, Jack. Marie was saying you've been going by the name Victor ever since you came to Canada. But you've always been Jack to me, and that's how Cheoki has come to think of you."
"I think of myself as Jack too. I don't know if Mom... I have to call her Mom, you know?" with a worried look at Cheoki.
"It's okay, Jack. You call her Mom. You call me Cheoki."
"Oh, good. Okay, uhmm. Oh yes. I don't know if Mom told you. We had a car accident Saturday. I hit my head, and lost part of my memory for awhile."
"No, she didn't. Are you alright?"
"Oh, yes. Just fine. But what I started to say, when I was in that condition the name Victor was strange to me; I couldn't figure out why people were calling me that. When my memory came back I realized I had asked them to call me Vick."
"Why did you do that? Because you came over from Holland using his papers? Your Mom said something about that, but why would you decide to keep on with it. Not that I object, you know, I'm just a bit curious."
"Well, I don't know now if it was the right thing to do. If I was going to use his papers for other things too, even at school, it just seemed simpler to adopt his name and get it over with. I thought it was a sort of cutoff too, to start a new life in a new country."
"Yes, I can see that." With a questioning palm up towards Cheoki, "So shall we call you Vick? Or Jack?"
Jack "Whatever you find comfortable. I don't mind either way. I would kind of enjoy Jack. It seems appropriate, with you coming here out of my past this way. Don't you think?"
Brother Andre "Jack it will be. Good. Now, what do you say we walk back to town. It'll give us a chance to stretch our legs a bit. Cheoki and I are not used to all this sitting around, you know. And it's nice and cool out there. Okay?"
"Yes, no problem. Just let me get changed into some other clothes. I'll be right back."
Jack goes upstairs. He switches to runners and a nice jacket, and then he digs out the famous letter, folding it into an inside pocket. Then he phones over to the slaughterhouse.
"Mom, we're walking to town."
"What! Why don't you use the pickup? We can't make them walk to town. He's not dressed for this cold either."
"No, Mom. It's not like that. They prefer to walk. They're used to it. And in Bhutan, Brother Andre walked around in nothing but his ko in much colder weather than this."
"Oh, I guess so. Okay. See you later."
The three of them set off. The shoulder of the paved highway is wide enough to allow three abreast, and Jack, most familiar with this traffic (a transport truck roaring by at fifty miles per hour just three feet away can be a frightening experience for someone not expecting it) takes the position closest to the pavement. Cheoki, never daunted, walks beside him, and Brother Andre, recognizing what is happening, accepts this jostling with a quick little grin.
"Well, Jack, it's been a long time. I had hoped to get a letter from you at some point, telling me how you're doing."
"Oh, I'm sorry about that, Brother Andre. I meant to write. I thought of it often, but somehow it just didn't happen. I wasn't too sure it would ever get to you. I often wondered how you made out, finding all the brothers."
"Just fine, Jack, just fine. The bishop had written a very strong letter to the King, so things were already underway when I got to Thimphu. They gave me some men, and an order jointly from the King and some Indian embassy fellow, and with approximate directions where to go, I just went right to them.
The Chinese captain had them all working in the fields near a fort just inside the Tibetan border. He was sure surprised to see me walking about, I'm telling you. He shot me dead, remember? The way he looked at me when I came walking up to him, I think he figured I'd come back from the dead to give him a rough time about taking away my friends! Anyway, whether it was the order from the King or the sight of my ghostly face, he gave me my monks back with hardly any fuss at all."
"Wow, that sure worked out well! So everything is back the way it was, at the monastery?"
"More or less. Brother Wilfred is in charge now. He sort of took over for me when I wasn't with them, so I more or less left things that way. He was doing very well. Besides, that gave me some freedom to do a few other things, like finding Cheoki."
To Cheoki, "Brother Andre found you? Where?"
"In Laya, Jack, where I was born."
"Was I born in Laya?"
"No, you were born near Sombe. I was staying there with my sister. She and I left you at the monastery."
Jack is thinking about his father, but is afraid to ask. Yet he wants the conversation to go that way.
"Your English is better now than it was in the letter."
"Yes. When Brother Andre found me I went with him to the monastery. I stayed there a few months, and Brother Boniface taught me better English, so I could come and talk with you. Brother Boniface was very good and very patient to teach me."
Another side to Brother Boniface? Patience had never shown itself near him before.
"He's good with languages."
"Jack. I know you saw the letter I have sent to Brother Andre. The letter is true. That happened, what is in the letter."
Jack looks at her, with a somber expression.
"My father was an apeman?"
"Yes he was. We call them Yeh-Teh."
They walk in silence for a moment or so. Brother Andre breaks in.
"Jack, there are several different types of these night-time creatures. There is a very large, mostly vegetarian one, referred to as Yeti or Yeh-Teh, also Abominable Snowman, and in this country, Sasquatch or Bigfoot. Then there is a quite small one, known only by some local expressions, in equatorial jungles; it does not concern us very much. And then there is the most interesting of all, known as Almas. It is a creature exactly between man and animal, but physically so close to man that matings are fruitful, and offspring are fertile. In other words, biologically they would be members of the same species. Your father was an Almas."
Jack cannot get very interested in the varieties of apemen just now. He is watching Cheoki.
"What did he look like?"
"He was not very tall, not like you. But he was powerful, a big chest and long heavy arms. He was very hairy, blond and red, and he was wearing an old ko. His legs were short, and not very straight, and the left one was bent more, or it was shorter, I'm not sure. He limped. But he could move very fast."
"Did he say anything? Or try to talk."
"No. He only grunted."
"Did he hurt you?"
"I think he could very easy, but no, he did not hurt me. He wanted to take me with him, but I yelled very loud and he did not like that. So he let me go. And I went home."
The three of them walk along without talking for a minute.
Jack "Were you married then?"
"Yes. I was married. My husband was killed later, by accident in a bow and arrow competition."
"What was his name?"
"What did he think of this? Or did he ever know about it?"
"No, I never told him."
"Didn't he see you were expecting a baby?"
"I went away. I lived with my sister till you were born."
A long silence.
"And then you left me at the monastery."
Her eyes fixed on the road, "Yes."
Suppressing his emotion, "Why?"
Cheoki looks at him, her eyes filling with tears. "Jack. I'm sorry. I'm very sorry. I was afraid -- you were so hairy! I was scared of what might happen. I didn't understand. I was so afraid."
Jack feels mean. "It's okay. It's alright. I'm fine."
Brother Andre "Your life would have been very different, Jack. No Holland, no Canada. You would not have had all those experiences."
Right. Treasure those experiences.
I would have had my very own family. I would have known who I was. I would have been more real, more me. Known my real mother and father. NO... No. Well, I would have thought he was my real father.
Would have raised a lot of questions about my eyes and my hair, though. Oh, who knows. Who cares. It's all old hat now. Old straw hat. Scarecrow. Victor II.
Slow and quiet "Yeah. It would have been a completely different life. I guess there's no use even thinking about that, is there?"
"Not much. We cannot go back. There is no rerun, and no replay. All we can do is try to understand, try to learn from what happened."
Looking at his visitors, Jack tries to further fix what has been bothering him: "Was he a man, was he human?"
Cheoki looks appealingly at Brother Andre. But he waits for her to speak.
Slowly, "Jack, I believe he was human. I think he was a man, a man who had no chance to learn anything. He could not talk. But he could feel. He could feel, the way a man feels."
She has done a lot of thinking about that. Jack looks at Brother Andre questioningly. But there is no response.
The matter must remain. Perhaps he can discuss it later.
They slowly walk on to town, each wandering, wondering, lost in thought. There is so much to say. Where does one begin?