P – a Viral Story for our time

He had woken from a dream and forgotten his name or where he lived.

At the same time, a voice in his head told him that he had just an hour to recount this information or he would be dead.

One hour. To save himself from obliteration.

He looked at the round disc hanging on the wall; a white background in a wooden frame ringed with a series of black Roman numerals going from I to XII and A Newgate written in an elaborate script with LONDON designated bold and square below. An inner ring was marked with five dashes between each of the numerals. Three pointers – or arms – radiated from a black point at the very centre of the circle: one moved as a thin black line and at a rate he could see (alarmingly). Another arm about the same length was of a more elaborate design and pointed to the XII; as did the shorter arm, of the same elaborate shape.

On the low wooden table before him was a thin black rectangle, which he picked up. On the side of the contraption was a long button and a shorter one. He pressed both. Almost immediately the whole front shone with white luminescence, words shot out, and the word Android remained in green for a moment longer.

Android, android, android…

“City black, encase the time

World full of men, who all are blind

Who walk and talk and say as one

‘Androids are we, heir to no son’

Adjust me

Adjust me

Adjust me

Adjust me…”

Androids. A memory. That was good, wasn’t it?

A memory?

The face went black then re-illumined and four white digits showed – 00:07.

A quick glance revealed they matched the fast-moving hand on the round disk which had moved past the I symbol-numeral and pointed to the second dash within the segment leading to the II symbol.

Then to the eighth dash, matching the figure 8 on the illuminated screen

8 seconds.

Now he remembered.

Analogue and digital

Hands and numbers.

Eight seconds had been removed from his life.

Nine.

Ten.

Quick.

Quickly think.

Think quickly.

That’s twelve seconds.

Sixty minutes. Minus twelve – no, thirteen seconds.

The circle. Twelve numbers. Divided by five. What did they mean?

Twelve fives equalled sixty.

Sixty seconds.

360 degrees in a circle.

Sixty into three-hundred and sixty = six.

Was this meaningful?

Could he count his life by degrees?

Or would seconds be better?

From the clock face he could count in degrees or seconds; from the rectangular square digits only time, numbers, no shape.

60 seconds. One minute. Sixty minutes. One hour. He had fifty nine minutes and forty-three seconds to remember who he was and therefore to maintain his existence, to save himself.

PHe would call himself P to save time.

P for person – and he would designate P also as the place where he lived, P from the Land of P, since P also signified people. For he was sure there were other people around even though he wasn’t aware of any right there and then.

So, for now, he – for he was sure that he could remember his gender – was P from the Land of P.

But who was he, really – and where was he?

He rubbed the rectangular screen with his thumb and a numbered grid of numbers appeared. They looked familiar. A shape.

Then the rectangular screen glowed and a recurrent sound rang out. Two circles appeared: red and green. Arrows emanated from the green disc. He pushed the green circle in that direction. A voice spoke although he couldn’t understand what it said.

‘Yes,’ he said.

‘Your package is ready for collection. At the pharmacy.’

‘Thank you . I – ‘

The back rectangle fell silent and a red button glowed at its base. He prodded at it disconsolately.

“At the pharmacy.”

The pharmacy.

The pharmacy.

Yes, the pharmacy! He remembered it. Another green symbol, in the shape of a snake. Two snakes, on a pole.

The pharmacy. Yes, that was it. The pharmacy.

They had a package for him.

What package?

He would find out.

He looked at the clockface. The fast-moving hand – the second hand – was approaching the XII symbol; the other long hand – the minute hand – was nearly on the first dash.

A minute had passed.

Fifty-nine more remained.

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