He was underwater.
He must have been, because all of the voices he heard above him were muffled. Low. Barely audible, and quite unintelligible.
The boy felt numb. Numb to the world around him, numb to himself, numb to the talkers, numb to his own identity. Who was he? Where was he? Why couldn’t he see? He felt as though thousands of tiny needles had sewn and pinched his lids tightly shut, and the thought of attempting to wrench them open, even a crack, was mortifying. What if he tore off tissue, damaged nerves and veins, and then was unable to shut his eyes, ever again? What then?
These thoughts drove the boy deeper into seclusion, all the more a recluse from the dark and distant outside world.
“Hey, HEY!” A strong, masculine voice filled his ear suddenly; it had the effect of a megaphone.
The boy flinched, ears practically twitching with sensitivity. Whoever yelled must have seen, because the boy sensed hesitation, then a quieter, “Sorry. It’s just… you okay? Can you try opening your eyes?” Strong arms were lifting him up into a sitting position– he was lying down?–and another equally worried-sounding, deeper male voice said, “Can– Can you open your eyes?”
“You don’t appear to be blind,” said the first voice; the boy detected a hint of amusement in the tone. “So why don’t you open those peepers, and…”
“NO!” The boy thrashed blindly, flailing his limbs about. He couldn’t see, but he could hear, could feel, and perhaps that was enough…
“Hey, hey, hey! Calm, down, kid, I’m not trying to hurt you! We just found you lying in the middle of our woods unconscious, and thought–”
The flailing stopped. The boy’s curiosity overtook his fear, and all in a single abrupt motion yanked open his eyelids.
They were not stitched together, after all.
Light nearly blinded him; he fell back onto earthy, leaf-ridden ground, shielding his face from the novel, unwelcome intruder. The one voice’s owner stood over him, half blocking the sun’s vicious torrent of pinpricking needles. He looked not much older than the boy, mid to late teens, perhaps? He was broad shouldered, hair shaved off the sides of his head, topped with a mop of straight dark brown hair. He had a small, rather short goatee, which he now stroked, crouching low to the boy’s level, as if to better inspect him, bright blue eyes locking his in almost a challenge.
The voice that had come from the boy’s side, the one belonging to the man who had helped him sit, was a much older man with graying dark brown hair; the physical similarities made the boy instantly realize the twosome were related– most likely parent and child.
“How did you get here?” the man asked him. “Why were you out? What happened?”
“Easy, Dad. Give the kid some space. He looks like he’s been out for a while.” When the other boy spoke, his tone was brotherly, bantering.
The boy squinted. “I don’t recall asking either of you for help. And anyways…” he shrugged, “I don’t remember.”
They both jolted in alarm. “Your– Your parents?” asked the man. “They must be worried sick. Do you remember their faces? Names? Where you live, what your house looks like– anything at all?” The boy clenched his eyes tightly shut, starting to wish they’d never been opened. Anything better than interrogation. The only thing ingrained into his mind, into his memory and being, was the forest, the vague shapes of trees, the faint memory of being carried, the scent of… blackberries. Blackberries, rosewater, and pine. He clearly recalled being near something that smelled like that, that it couldn’t have been the forest’s scent, but everything was all blurred; a picture his mind refused to clear, a language it couldn’t– no, refused to– interpret. “Nothing but blurs and shapes of blurs. Then… dark. Lots and lots of black darkness.”
Eyes still closed, his arms encircled his legs, drawing them in tightly, close to his chest. He ducked his head, pinning it downward, towards his stomach. “I was lost in the black, felt like I WAS the darkness, but I– I was drowning in it. Terrified of it. I can’t explain it. I know I had to get out, to get away, but each time I tried…” He fought down a sob in his throat.
“Hey, hey… Chin up, it’ll be okay.” He felt a hand on his shoulder, and risked a brief peek. The other boy was eyeing him sympathetically. “Do you.. remember at least your name? Something we can call you?”
The boy lifted his head, slowly, defiantly, chin out firmly. He scanned his surroundings, taking in everything the way a dehydrated body soaks up every last drop of moisture. He closed his eyes, trying to recall, to remember. Something. Anything.
Brief images flooded his mind’s eye, but he had no idea what they were, what they meant. It was like trying to put together a puzzle with several pieces from several different puzzles. Nothing made sense. Woods. Running. Birds. Sky. Muscles flexing. Falling. A feather. A golden bracelet with pink fingernails. Dim light, accompanied by that same scent. Leaves. Then dark. Dark, dark, dark…
His eyes flashed open, images fresh in his mind, without any understanding or meaning. But still there– a mystery waiting to be unraveling. His mind not giving him any answers, but clues. Little snapshots.
Like a camera.
Like a Kodiac camera.
The boy shook his head, small dreads swishing around his skull. “Kodi.”
“I want you to call me Kodi. Like the Kodiac camera.”
The man glanced worriedly over at the other boy, then back at “Kodi”: “Are you sure you can’t remember your name, son?”
“I can’t,” snapped Kodi, suddenly bristling, “and I’m not your son, old man.”
“Easy, there,” chuckled the other boy, finally extending a hand to help Kodi to his feet. “My old man’s technically the one who FOUND you, after all. I’m Guy, by the way. Nice to meet you.”
Kodi at last recognized the other boy for who he was– not a threat, but a friend. Equal. Brother, even. “Same.” He taking Guy’s hand, Guy hauled him to his feet.
“C’mon, let’s get you outta here– the woods isn’t always safe at night.”
“You’re telling me. ”