Note: This is a story I made way back for a Nokia Contest. Nope, it did not win. But here it is.
“Here it is ma’am, is there anything else?” He smiled.
“None, thanks” The lady smiled back.
He nodded his head once and turned away from the table. On his way to the counter, a bald man called for his attention. He stopped and smiled at the man, waiting for his request
“Uhm, excuse me Pier, can I have a refill please?”
“Right away Sir.”
He approached the counter where his co-worker is getting ready to exchange shift with him.
“Hey man, the guy on table 8 needs a refill”
“Okay, I’m on it. By the way, boss called. Swing by the main office before you go home.”
“Did he say why?”
“Nope, but it looks urgent. Maybe you’re getting fired?”
“You wish!” Pier nudge his friend on the rib and went straight to the door leading to the backroom.
The small room behind the coffee shop holds one comfort room on the far side. Three lockers on the left side, a bench, a small television and the locked door of the manager’s office on right wall. he removed his aprons and hang them on the pole among the others’. He stretched and yawned as he sat on the bench momentarily. Gaining a little bit of energy, he opened his locker. Pier started to unbutton his working clothes when something stopped him from his tracks. Sitting inside his locker was his gleaming silver nameplate.
He went out of the backroom. With his body bag hanging from his shoulders, he scanned the coffee shop. The man was nowhere to be found. He approached his co-worker now tending the cash register.
“Hey man, where’s the man on table 8?”
“I don’t know, maybe he left already. When I was about to go to his table for his refill, he’s wasn’t there. Why?”
“Nothing. Thanks. Gotta go.”
“Kay man, see you.”
The morning sun shone on him as he went out of the 15 story building. Though he know that it is possible how a frequent customer can memorize their names, he still can’t remove the incident from his mind. There’s just something odd about the whole thing.
He entered the parking lot and went to look for his motorcycle. It wasn’t there. He was sure where he left it. He left it there everytime.
“Sir,” He approached the security guard. “I parked my motorcycle here last night, now it’s gone.” He said.
“Can I see your parking ticket sir?”
He searched his bag and gave him the little white paper.
“This is your parking ticket five days ago sir.” The guard said as he gave the paper back.
“What are you talking about?” He examined the paper. It was indeed five days old.
“How can I leave my motorcycle here for five days? This is not making sense.” He mumbled.
“Okay. If a vehicle is left here for days, where do it go then?” He asked.
“If its ticket is only for a day, and it is left here for a day or more, we usually contact the owner. If no communication has been established, we tow them.””
“Okay. You know what, I’ll just return here later and sort this out. I’m in a hurry” He said to the guard as he put the paper on his pocket.
Pier was sitting silently in the office still annoyed with his motorcycle when the boss arrived holding two cups of take-out coffee from the shop. Pier was thinking of anything he did. He can’t remember any problems or complaints. Come to think of it.. he can’t remember anything…
“Please, have some coffee. We have a lot to talk about” His boss interrupted his thoughts.
“I insist” he added when Pier was about to refuse.
Pier reached for the cup when a woman suddenly burst inside the office. She stopped momentarily as both men stare shockingly at her. “Don’t drink that!” He pushed the cup away from Pier’s hand spilling it all over the floor.
“Let’s go!” She grabbed his arms and yanked him out of the door.
“What are you doing??” He tried to reason with the woman, but it was too late, and she was too strong for him to protest. She pulled him three floors down the fire exit. Finally the door to the ground floor opened and a car was waiting for them outside. The woman pushed him in and sat beside him and the car zoomed away.
“Am I being kidnapped? I don’t have money. I don’t even have a family for your ransom. I think you have the wrong guy.”
“Shut it! Have I pointed any gun at you?”
“But… Please. Stop the car. I don’t know what’s going on here.”
“Pier, trust me.”
“But I don’t even know you!”
The driver was glancing at them in the rearview mirror. Pier was scared but more than that he was confused of everything.
“Listen, if you just tell me….”
“Stop the car” the woman said and the car halted.
“Listen,” She said. “The doors are not locked. But, if you feel that somehow, you are supposed to be here, you want to be here or you feel that you need to be here. Then we shall continue our trip. What would it be Pier?”
“How did you know…”
“What would it be?!” The woman yelled.
“Okay! Let’s go.” Pier said nervously and the car started again.
The woman was looking out of the window as Pier observed around the car. There was only the three of them, the woman have no guns, or at least no visible ones. The man driving weighs more than him and he isn’t sure if he is armed or not. Not that he thinks of escaping because the woman gave him a chance to go, and he did not take it.
Suddenly, the car stopped in front of a house.
Pier doesn’t recognize the place, but he knows that they are not far.
“I would just like to talk to you. After this you are free to go.”
He just stared back at her. He isn’t sure what’s inside the house. What if there are gunned men inside? What if she’s just a bait?
“Okay” Pier answered.
They went out of the car.
“Please sit down. Want some coffee?”
“Uhm.. no thanks. Can we just get to the point?”
The woman stopped midway to the kitchen and went to sit across him.
“That’s it?” Pier said when the woman added no more.
“You really don’t remember do you?”
“Let’s pretend I don’t. Tell me everything.”
The woman let out a sigh and looked straight into his eyes.
“You’re an ex agent Pier. Four months of training and four months of undercover.” She was talking fast now. “Some big project happened. You found something and the next thing, they removed your memory.”
“Right.” Pier said. “Thanks for telling me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ve wasted enough time” Pier was about to go but the woman held his hand.
“It’s hard to believe. I know. But tell me, Are you forgetting a lot of things recently? Is there anything not adding up? Anything at all? If there is none, sorry I wasted your time. Feel free to go.”
Pier paused. He sat down and the both of them returned to their original position.
“This is absurd!” Pier laughed “Okay, let’s pretend there is. What is it that I found? And how can one remove a memory??
“What you found out, that’s what I wanted to know too. They removed your memory primarily through hypnosis, brainwashing and drugs. Yes, the coffee you were about to drink a while ago was drugged. Five days ago, they employed you. Everything was running smoothly. It is effective but you go into remissions, like today. This is a big agency Pier, nothing is impossible.”
“The coffee shop?? It’s part of the agency? What about the other workers??”
“All the workers are like you. Ex-agents. The coffee shop you’re working at is also known as the ‘clinic’ to us at the office. Secretly we call it the ‘refuse’ – garbage bin.” She lowered her head. “That’s where they put the agents who are dismissed. They are drugged and brainwashed until they are finally released.”
“That’s impossible. Don’t they have any family?” Pier asked.
The woman’s face was sad. She knows that the question is really meant for himself.
“That’s the first requirement to be an agent. No families. You don’t have any relatives left Pier. None of us do.”
Pier did not talk.
“I know this is too much for you. I understand that you don’t believe anything I said. But believe me, I wouldn’t want to burden you with this. If you don’t want to remember that’s fine, I would love that! But us, the agents that are still on the job are in trouble. Something is wrong and you’re the only answer. You are the only one that could help.”
“What agency? Who are you? Why are you doing this? Why do you know all of these?”
“I know you have a million questions, but that would have to wait.”
“Because we are going to run again?”
“No. Because I am hungry”
“Are you serious?”
“Look, Marshall and I have been looking for you for days now. We’ve haven’t had decent food since we ran away. We have till dawn before we move to phase two.”
“Phase two? Wow. It’s either I am dreaming right now or I am trapped in a twilight zone or you are a crazy woman and I have no idea why I am still here. If it wasn’t for… what’s his name? Marshall, I wouldn’t believe you are even real.”
“Yes, you might think that. Maybe I am crazy. But what about this, maybe you’re the one who’s crazy? You are strapped in a corner in some asylum and I am just a nurse who’s about to give you shots?”
Pier’s face became blank.
“Relax!” The woman smiled, for the first time. “I am kidding! That would be an easy way out wouldn’t it?”
“Don’t you ever suggest something like that again.” Pier’s stomach suddenly rumbled and he remembered that he still hadn’t had breakfast. “Okay, I agree to food but you will answer everything I ask while we eat.”
“Deal.” The woman answered and ran to the kitchen.
“For starters, we sweep the black market clean.” Leah said as she chewed her sandwich.
“We have certain groups. Different areas of expertise and trainings. Different assignments. You and I, we had worked together. After one assignment, they had suddenly released you. And it’s not by-the-books. I knew something was up”
“Wasn’t it usual for somebody to be released?”
“Well. There are rules. Might be that he’s old, he resigned, fired or he’s just a temporary pawn”
“Temporary Pawn?” Pier puzzled.
“Well, it’s complicated. Anyway, you don’t fall into any of those categories.”
“How would you know I wasn’t fired?”
“You can’t be fired. We just uncovered a big assignment that everybody’s been following for years, if anything you should have been promoted! Besides, they post a list of people who are sent to the clinic in case we bump into them”
“Well, how do you know that I didn’t quit then?”
“Well… You wouldn’t. I just know you wouldn’t” Leah looked away.
Sensing her discomfort, Pier shifted to another topic.
“How can I retrieve my memory?”
“I don’t know for sure. It’s not that they include it on the manual”
“There’s a manual?” Pier asked seriously.
“Let’s just hope it would bring a lot of help that you stopped medicating. We’ll find a way.”
Pier could not believe his ears. Everything Leah had said was like from the big screen.
“Give me your phone” Leah suddenly said.
“Just give it.”
Pier handed it to her.
“We have to reset this or else they might use it to track you.”
“Track me??” Pier was shocked.
“And here,” Leah continued. “Here’s a Sim card. That one’s clean. Use it one only when you need it.”
Pier looked puzzled but he put the things back to his pocket.
Suddenly there was banging on the door. They automatically stood up.
“Oh no. Marshall!” Leah murmured. “Hurry up and follow me!” Leah ran to the next room.
They went inside the bathroom. Leah pulled on the tub and it slid easily. Pier went over it and descended. Leah followed down and slid it close.
“Well, that was original” Said Pier.
They were running on a narrow corridor. They turned left after it forked into three and then left again in the middle of the hallway. It was like a labyrinth. After six more turns there was a door. They went in. In the middle was a table, containing two things. A gun and a key.
Leah picked the gun and handed him the key. “Don’t worry this is part of the plan. It was supposed to be tonight but something went wrong. This is a key to a safe house below a bar in Roxas Boulevard. You’ll know which when you see it. I will exit here. You go out straight through that door, grab a taxi and go there now”
“Why can’t we just go together? It’s much easier. You have a gun”
“Yes, but this is much safer and faster. I’m the one they need. You got no memories, I still have all of them. I’ll try not to die, I promise to meet you there tonight. If one of us is not there by midnight, then it means…” She was suddenly tearing. “I hope it’s not you.”
Pier was shocked.
“Please, don’t cry” he suddenly had an urge to hug her. And he did.
“Pier, in my story, I only told you half of it. We did not work together. We did not just work together, we were much more than that.”
They released each other and Pier could not believe what was happening with him. He had just met Leah, but he got the feeling that she was telling the truth.
Leah kissed his cheeks. “If all else fails, I hope you wouldn’t forget me this time”. She then erased her lipstick on his cheeks and stamped his lips on his collar. “Please don’t forget me this time?”
Before Pier could say anything, Leah rushed to his door and opened it. “Go”
“See you later” Pier hugged her and went out the door.
Leah locked the door after Pier. She heard faint footsteps as she hurriedly went to the other side of the room and through her door. There was a long corridor with two six doors each. She ran to the very last door on the left, opened it and left it ajar. She ran back on the first door on the right and went through it. After three turns, she ascended a stair into a narrow alley. Behind her was a big wall – dead end. And in front of her, a man holding a gun. He was leaning on a wall smiling at her.
Pier arrived. As he was about to pay the taxi driver he was shocked. “What?! How can I not have money??”
“Is there something wrong sir?” The taxi driver sounded defensive all of a sudden.
“Sir, I am 50 pesos short. But… I could trade you my wallet. That’s original leather. Please sir? I am telling the truth…” He begged him.
The driver hesitated. He then examined the wallet and accepted it. Pier went out of the taxi before the driver could change his mind.
“Marshall!” Leah was relieved. They kept their guns and ran towards the street. They walked slowly, blending into the crowd. “You called the bar?” She asked him.
“Yes, they said some of the guys went there. They let them search the place and when they found nothing they left” Marshall answered.
“You sure nobody’s patrolling the place?”
“Where’s the car?” Leah asked.
“Around the curb”
“And oh, did you set the house?” Leah remembered.
Suddenly, a faint explosion rocked the street. Big orange fire billowed the sky. The people went into panic and ran all around them. They turned on the next street as sirens blared in the distance.
Pier walked around the Roxas Boulevard looking for a bar he was supposed to “know”. He had walked a few meters away when four guys suddenly surrounded him. Before he could run, one of them punched him hard on the cheeks he went down. They pinned him to the ground. He tried to fight back as best as he could. “Nice to see you again Pier” A man holding a syringe was smiling in front of him. “I knew she’d lead you here. I knew you two were never part of us” He slowly punched the syringe through his arm.
He felt groggy. The next thing he knew, they were dragging him somewhere.
“That would knock almost a week from his memory and at least two from his days.” somebody said.
“Where did the girls park the car?” Another said.
Pier felt really tired, and sleepy, he could not open his eyes. The last things he heard were the fainting footsteps of the men and a loud whistle of a ship somewhere.