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The Singer Elizabeth Hunter 2022/7/22 11:38:20

A tractor. The name popped into his mind before he had a chance to catch the source. Snatches of knowledge kept bubbling up, unpredictable and elusive. Disconnected from one thing to the next, he realized he knew the name of the tractor and what it did but had no idea what language the man was speaking. And some instinctive part of him knew that he should know. Knew that if he could just find some of the language written…

Malachi blinked, ignoring the old man who ushered him to a chair by the workbench. He didn’t even notice when the farmer walked out; his eyes were glued to the paper on the table. He grabbed it as his heart began to race. Letters and characters always made sense. He sat down in the old chair and traced his hands over each one, learning its shape, letting his mind unlock its secrets.

The curve of an S, like a serpent in the grass, hissing its tongue.

The circled perfection of the O.

The slashing strength of the V.

His mind drank them up like a beast deprived of water. The letters turned into words, the words jumped into sentences. And as the meaning of the letters crept into his mind, Malachi felt a surge of power. The shouts on the other side of the wall began to make sense.

“…looks hurt, not dangerous.”

“…no head wounds. …if he was attacked? Do you want…?”

Malachi glanced at the front of the paper. Then at the date. He understood the date, even if it didn’t make sense. The year seemed wrong, but then, what did he know? He read the headlines.

Protests Spread to Ankara

Economic Forecasts by the EU Favorable into 2014

Tourism Down in Istanbul for Summer Months

The letters soothed his mind, ordering the chaotic thoughts that tumbled and twisted. More pieces fell into place. He was in Turkey, in Anatolia, where he had been born. But it was hundreds of years later, and he knew his family was no longer here. But others were, and he needed to find them. Others of his race would be able to help him. Perhaps they would know why he couldn’t remember anything. Did he need to go to Istanbul? Part of him latched on to that idea while a darker whisper warned him to avoid that ancient city.

Where was the woman? He continued flipping through the newspaper, and every picture jogged different memories. Rush-hour traffic in Ankara. An airplane crash. Charts showing the ebb and flow of commerce. His brain registered it all as he read, but nothing pointed him toward the woman. Nothing jogged the memories he was so desperate to find.

Malachi looked up when the barn door opened. The old farmer and his wife stood side by side, the man concerned, the woman obviously suspicious.

“Thank you,” Malachi said softly, not wanting to frighten them. “I must have been… I’m not sure. I may be in shock. I don’t know how I came to be in your field.”

The old man blinked. “So you are Turkish? We thought you might be a tourist who was robbed. Who are you? What happened?”

“I… I’m not sure, exactly. I know my name is Malachi, but my memory…” He frowned and rubbed a hand through his hair. She’d told him he needed a haircut. He cocked his head at the bubble of memory. “I’m remembering more and more. But nothing makes sense. I was born here, I think.”

“Tell us their name. We will find them for you.”

“No… no, they’re all gone now. I just… I need to find—”

“Who?” The farmer’s wife spoke. “Is there someone we can call for you? Perhaps we can take you to the hospital in Polatli? Your name is Malachi? What kind of name is that? English? You don’t look English.”

Malachi shook his head. “I don’t need a hospital. I feel fine, just confused.”

The cave. There was a place with many caves. A place he and the woman had been. They’d been safe there. He remembered the feeling of safety. Was the woman still in the caves?

“But if you don’t remember anything, then shouldn’t you see a doctor?” the farmer asked. “That is not normal. You are a young man. Perhaps there is some illness in your mind that—”

“I need to find a place with caves,” Malachi said, standing abruptly, suddenly confident in his destination. He heard the farmer’s wife gasp and her eyes widened as she glanced down. Malachi realized the sheet he’d tucked around his waist had fallen off. Clearing his throat, he reached down and wrapped it around himself again.

The farmer only looked amused. “With caves? A place with caves? There are caves all over Turkey.”

Malachi’s heart sank. “I remember being in a cave. I have this memory of my…” What was the human word? “Wife. My wife and I. There was a house in the caves.”

The old woman cocked her head. “You were living in a cave with your wife?”

“I think so. Or… we were staying there. There was a bed and… a desk. A washroom, even. I… I don’t know more than that.”

They exchanged a look, and the old woman shrugged. “Cappadocia, maybe?”

“One of the cave hotels?” the farmer asked. “Perhaps they took a holiday.”

“I can’t think of any other place. Who lives in the caves these days?”

“Cappadocia?” Malachi said, searching his mind. There was a faint memory… Yes. His father had gone to Cappadocia to study when he was a boy. There were scribes there—

He took a quick breath as another bubble of memory rose. He was a scribe. That was why the letters spoke to him. He was a scribe and others of his kind were in Cappadocia.

“Yes,” he said in a more confident voice. “In G?reme. I have people there. People who will pay you if you bring me back. I need… I need to find her. I think she is there.”

The farmer’s eyes narrowed. “Are you sure? I still think it might be a good idea for you to visit a hospital. You can always call them—”

“No.” Malachi realized the farmer was talking about using the telephone. “I… don’t remember any telephone numbers.” The more he searched his mind, the more he remembered. Odd things. He had crystal-clear pictures of his childhood, but couldn’t remember his mother’s name. He knew he wasn’t human, but also knew he couldn’t tell the humans what he was. He could picture faces, but not in context. He’d traveled the world—he knew that—but he wasn’t sure if he could drive a car. It was as if he’d been put back together from pieces, but too many of them were missing to create a clear picture.

And he couldn’t remember her name. He desperately wanted to remember her name. Remember more about her. But other than a few brief memories, his mind was silent.

“I have a friend who could take you,” the farmer said. “He has a truck going to Kayseri tomorrow. I can ask if you can go along.”

“I don’t have any money to pay…”

The farmer shook his head. “I can sense you are an honest man. I know these things. You will pay him when you get there. Or send money back.”

The wife’s raised eyebrow told Malachi she was more skeptical, but she didn’t argue. Instead, she said, “I will get you some blankets. You’re welcome to sleep on the cot over there.” She pointed at the corner where a small pallet lay. “Are you hungry?”

He nodded. His stomach had been aching since he woke. “I don’t remember the last time I ate.”

“I’ll get you a plate then. Osman will bring it out after he’s called Ibrahim.”

“Thank you.” Malachi sat again. “I cannot thank you enough. I promise I will repay your kindness somehow.”

The woman’s voice softened. “I hope you find your wife. Sleep well. I’ll send extra blankets. The nights are getting cold.”

He slept deeply that night.Malachi dreamed he was running in a dark forest. He knew he was searching for her, but no matter which way he turned, the paths all led to dead ends. He could hear her crying somewhere. The sound almost brought him to his knees. She needed him. She was as lost as he was, but so far away.

He heard her whisper it again. His soul raged in pain and anger, and Malachi knew he would hear her his whole life. She would call and he would answer. He belonged to her as surely as she belonged to him.

When he woke,the sky was still black, but he was more determined than ever.