I wasn’t sure if I was healthy and well, or sick and hurt. I wasn’t sure what or who I was. I wasn’t sure of my body, or how I came to be in it. How I came to be here, standing on unsteady legs on a beach in what I somehow knew was dawn light. So I reached for certainty, for the being – the woman, my brain prompted – before me who had been concerned enough to stop and check on my well-being. That must mean that she knew who she was, where she had come from, and where she was going. She must know that she was human, and be unafflicted by a sense that she was not quite familiar with this planet.
The woman’s hair was not unlike mine, except that it was dry. Without questioning the logic of how I knew it, I was aware that she was one sex of this species, and I was encased within the body of the other. I found I was immediately attracted to her face. It caught and reflected the morning light. It suggested openness even as I guessed that my own face, of which I still had no clear physical conception, was one which had the air of being closed off, craggy like a rock.
‘I – I don’t know how I got here. Or who I am. Where I am, even. In fact – this is going to sound strange – I don’t even know how it is possible for me to talk to you.’
I must have mumbled the last sentence, because the woman ignored it. Perhaps she had understood nothing at all of what I said – it sounded strange enough to my ears.
‘You’re dangling a leash from your ankle. You must have taken a knock – to the head, from your surfboard. Don’t you know you shouldn’t go out on the waves late at night with no-one else around? Let me have a look. You’ll have to drop down a bit for me to see.’
I dropped to my… haunches and the woman took a step forward, taking a handful of my hair and checking the scalp underneath. Her hands moved through my hair swiftly, methodically. When her fingers touched the shell of my skull, I could feel their warmth. Unconsciously I pitched forward, my face meeting more warmth in the form of the soft clothing she wore. Unhurriedly she moved to the side, evading further moments of contact.
‘See anything?’ I said, knowing as I did that I was able to corrupt this language, abbreviate it, and be understood.
Her hands kept exploring a while longer before she said ‘No’. One or two more unmethodical back-trackings followed before she stepped back and looked me over.
‘You don’t remember anything about yourself, or how you got here?’
I rose, considered the question, and said no. ‘Nothing.’
‘What’s your name?’
No name that might be mine came to me. The woman pursed her lips and moved hair from her eyes.
‘I can’t see a cut or a bump, but you must have amnesia or something. We should get you to a hospital.’
‘I don’t want to go to a hospital,’ I said hastily, as images rolled through my mind of my body on an operating table subject to the examining whim of some clumsy human doctor equipped with the crude implements of a backward medicine, universally-speaking.
‘You must be from down under to judge from your accent.’
My brain’s linguistic prompting process had so far provided me with every verbal eventuality, thought or spoken. I must have spent many years studying this language to the degree that I could speak it without arousing suspicion of my… extraterrestrial nature. But ‘down under’ had me stumped.