by Eric Beeny
A New Amnesia
He just got this thing the other day. He takes it out of the drawer, unfolds it.
He looks at it, as if it is a photograph he’s never seen before. He folds it, gets on his knees and pushes it under the bed.
He goes to the bathroom, washes his hands again.
The telephone rings. He looks at it. It rings. The telephone. Rings.
He closes the bathroom door quietly, climbs into the tub. He turns the water on, the tub fails to fill. Only his back gets wet. He gets out, leaves the water running.
His feet make wet prints on the carpet. He pulls the blanket off his bed, dries off wrapping the blanket around himself.
He lies on the floor. He turns his head, looks under the bed.
“What’s this?” he says.
The lightning looks like hair. She wants to pull it to make the clouds cry.
Downstairs the house moved away. She didn’t get to say goodbye.
A letter arrives the next morning addressed to the house. She opens it, wonders how whoever sent it found out where the house lived. The house left no forwarding address.
She reads the letter. It is from a mathematician working to prove that the arcs of falling leaves can be calculated to prove that there is no such thing as free will.
The letter says that if a leaf falls in front of you while walking through a forest that it is meant to happen, that everything that has happened up to that point—you being born, you learning to walk, you deciding years later to go for a walk, you walking through the forest and the leaf deciding (consciously), at the exact moment you pass under its tree, to fall—is all mathematically predictable.
She doesn’t believe any of it. The leaf could not decide to fall if there is no free will, could not be conscious. The signature is, for some reason, illegible.
She puts the letter on her nightstand. She leaves her room to go downstairs, remembers the house moved away.
She gets a box of matches from the drawer of her nightstand, strikes one, sets the letter on fire. The big bang struck on the head of a matchstick, she thinks. She watches the letter curl into fingers of ash, a closing fist.
She lies down in bed, pulling her hair, crying leaves at the dark clouds moving into her room, gathering near the ceiling of the world.