One step, and then another.
Never growing tired, never feeling anything. Weightless, emotionless, just an endless walk to nowhere. To everywhere. Everywhere, and nowhere, and back again.
He had no name, no identity, no body. No real reason to even know he was a he at all. Just there. Nowhere. Everywhere.
Days, weeks, months, years, centuries. Endless time that was gone in a blink and yet took forever to happen.
But then...slowly...a light.
Not really a light, more of a glow. One that started to spread. But somehow, he knew that he had a choice. He could keep walking into oblivion, into the warmth, and be free of pain for all time.
But he could stop walking. He could stop in this place that was beginning to form in his mind. And something there was beckoning him, drawing him.
He knew that if he stopped, there would be pain. There would be fear. Sadness.
But he also knew that whatever it was that was calling him needed him.
He stopped walking.
Jamie opened his eyes, calmly realizing that he suddenly had a name. An identity. He still didn’t have a body, but he could feel it there. It still existed.
He still didn’t know who, or what he was, or why he was there. But the world was beginning to take shape. Awareness was taking root.
When he started to walk again, it was along a busy street. He didn’t know why he knew what a street was, since as far as he knew, he’d never seen one. There were simply things in his mind that he knew that he knew.
More and more awareness began to form, but with it came the loss of his weightless, emotionless state. The first emotion he remembered was fear .
The people around him moved around him, going about their lives, but no one looked at him. He was standing right there. If he looked down, he could see his own body. But when he tried to talk to someone, he couldn’t find his voice, and they acted as though he wasn’t there at all.
He kept trying, kept trying to speak to them, kept trying to touch them. He would stand in their path, and they did not walk through him, but always around him without acknowledging that he was there.
Soon, a voice started to form. He could hear it in his own ears, but those around him did not.
In desperation, he stood in the middle of the street. Fast-moving carriages raced around him, leaving him unharmed but panicked and helpless.
He stood there and screamed to the top of his lungs. He screamed and screamed until he could no longer force any more sound from his chest.
He thought that his throat should burn from the effort, but it did not. Nothing hurt, but nothing felt good, either.
Giving up on reaching out to someone, Jamie continued on, finding a new emotion. Hopelessness.
He didn’t hunger, but appetizing-looking food had no taste. He didn’t thirst, but when he was able to get his hands on a bottle of whisky, it turned to air in his mouth.
He was starting to regret his decision before. Perhaps he should have kept on going into oblivion. Free from this horrible place in between.
After an indeterminate amount of time, Jamie found himself one night on the steps of a monastery. He felt like it was a place he should be, but it stood empty. Nothing but a place people visited during the day and held little boxes up to their faces while they looked at it.
But as he stood on those steps, he found a new feeling.
The pain resonating in his head made him feel weak, but there was nothing he could do about it. It was then that he realized for the first time where he was.
It confused him, because he didn’t think that was right. He shouldn’t be there . But...where should he be?
And the place itself was wrong. What was that big tower? Was that there before?
Jamie knew, in his mind, that he was a person. A man. Or at least, he had been, at some point. He knew he’d had a place. A family. A life. But he didn’t remember any of that. And he didn’t know how to get back.
So, he kept on. Floating. Existing. Being.
He was walking along the sidewalk, choosing to be entertained by the way people mindlessly skirted around him by deliberately getting in their way, and there ahead was a little boy, being helped out of one of those carriages.
There was nothing remarkable about the child, but something caught Jamie’s attention anyway.
And as he watched, that little boy turned his head, looked up directly at him.
And he smiled.
Jamie gawked in disbelief. Had it been a coincidence? But no one had looked into his eyes in...well, Jamie didn’t remember that ever happening.
The excitement was a new feeling, one he clung to as he followed the boy and the woman leading him, into a large brick building.
Jamie couldn’t take his eyes off the boy. Not only because it would seem that he had seen him...but there was something else. Something Jamie could name, or define.
The woman sat the boy in a large chair and then walked away, to where there was a man waiting. They spoke in hushed whispers, looking over their shoulders at the child, and Jamie hovered closer to them to listen, curious.
“...a father in the states?”
“According to his birth record, yes. A Robert St. Germain. But as far as we can tell, he’s had no contact with the boy or his mother.”
“And the mother had no living relatives?”
“Well, that took some digging. It seems she gave her landlord the name Amelia Claude, but when the hospital took prints, she matched records belonging to an Amelia Beauchamp. She had a brother named Claude, but he died while stationed in Afghanistan, and it seems they had no living parents. There’s an aunt in London, but she hung up when we tried to contact her. I’m guessing Amelia burned all her bridges when she turned to prostitution.”
“So you want to send this boy all the way to the states on the off chance his father will take him? Do you have any idea what that will take? No matter the cost…”
“My sister is a social worker in Boston, and that’s where St. Germain is living now. She’s willing to take over seeing to his care once he’s there.”
“Fine, fine. See to it that…”
Jamie turned away from them, not really understanding half of what they were saying, and turned his attention back to the boy, hoping against hope that what happened earlier hadn’t been a fluke.
But then, when he stopped before him, the boy looked right up at him with big blue eyes and gave a little wave.
“ Bonjour ,” Jamie said, his own voice sounding strange to his ears after so long of not even bothering. Had he always known how to speak and understand French?”
“My name is Fergus,” the boy said. “Who are you?”
“I’m…” Jamie hesitated. He wasn’t really anyone. But he had a name, and for the first time in his memory, he was going to use it.
“James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser.”
Fergus giggled. “That’s a long name.”
Jamie laughed too. “Aye, that it is. You may call me Jamie, if you like.”
Fergus nodded in acceptance. “I’m five,” he said proudly, holding up five fingers to demonstrate, but then his head drooped, his eyes becoming sad. “My maman is dead.”
Jamie was a little taken aback by how casually this young child had just told him that his mother had died, but Jamie knelt down before him, covering his wee hand with his own, surprised to find that he could feel Fergus’s skin against his own.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Jamie said.
Fergus tilted his head to one side. “You talk funny.”
Jamie smiled. “That’s because I’m Scottish. Do you speak any English?”
“A little,” Fergus said, switching from French to heavily-accented English.
“Fergus,” Jamie began. “Ye can see me, I dinna look strange to you?”
Fergus tilted his head to one side. “Well, you are dressed funny.”
“Fergus,” said the woman suddenly. “Who are you talking to, sweetie?”
Fergus furrowed his brow, looking from Jamie, to the woman, and back again. “I’m talking to Jamie,” he said, pointing at Jamie’s face, his finger nearly touching his nose.
The woman looked in Jamie’s general direction with a frown, but then she smiled. “Ah, Jamie is it? Maybe Jamie would like to come with us on a little trip.”
Fergus looked at Jamie in confusion, as if he wondered why this strange man would want to go.
“Where are we going?” Fergus asked.
“We’re going to go to America! Isn’t that exciting? That’s where your father lives.”
“And...Jamie is coming?”
“Sure! If you want.”
Fergus looked at Jamie. “Do you want to come?”
Jamie hesitated. He’d been wandering Paris for as long as he could remember, but this was the first time someone had ever seen him, spoken to him. He didn’t want to lose that. Nor did he want to walk away from this lad...though why that was, he didn’t really know.
“Aye, I think I’d like tae see th’ New World.”
Fergus giggled. “If you say so. How come she acted like you weren’t here?”
“I dinna think she can see me, lad. No one can. No one but you.”
Fergus’s eyes widened. “Really? Why?”
“I dinna ken. But I think, if ye dinna mind, I’d like tae come along with you, and maybe we’ll find out.”
Fergus nodded, accepting it all the way only a very young child could. “Okay…” he trailed off, then looked out the window, suddenly seeming older than his mere five years. “Jamie? I’m scared.”
Jamie stood up and sat down beside Fergus, putting a hand on his small shoulder. “Dinna be scairt, lad. I’m here wi’ ye.”
And just like that, Jamie’s world had taken on a new meaning, a new light. He had purpose. An anchor. One he held onto happily, as new feelings and emotions rushed into him at once.
The most prevalent of them, was love.
“Oh aye, lad. I promise.”