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Starting Over

by Hamdy Elgammal

You were given a choice after you left the skin behind — you can start over. A man in a suit and a top hat clapped his white-gloved hands and all the clowns came out of a very tiny building to greet you with open and colorful arms. Congratulations, the clowns said, you’re getting a fresh disguise; now get back in.

Then you woke up in a new home, in a new skin and you said you had a nightmare about clowns and top-hats and the lives of others you did not know.

You made friends and, in time, forgot the ones from that old and distant life. You sat in front of a computer somewhere and typed for seventeen years, three months, eleven days. On the twelfth day, they had a retirement party for you (no clowns) and everyone wore a party hat and toasted a beer to your good health.

Your new wife asked and you touched the soft skin between her shoulder blades with the tip of a finger. I’m fine, fine, fine, you said. You both went about the rest of all your days.

Things faded one by one — the taste of food that filled your mouth before you gobbled it down, your lungs filling up with air when you looked past your backyard into the sky-filled spaces between the wooded trees. You forgot things. First, you forgot little things like the meaning of your life. Then you forgot important things like the little drops of rain on brown poplar leaves by the sidewalk you liked to squat down to touch and smile stupidly at.

Soon, you were just skin again.

Your back hurt. You talked into your pillow, your own breath warming your face. I could start over, you mumbled, feeling a little uppity about it already. It’s never too late.

Hamdy Elgammal is a software engineer and writer based in Berkeley, CA. In his free time, he attends writing groups and bakes exceptional brownies. His short stories have been published in The Fable Online, Easy Street, and Jersey Devil Press.

Lead image“The Laughing Clowns” (via Flickr user Bernard Spragg. NZ)