Please tell me who I am, I said.
The woman did not respond. She moved her hand over my face again, the sleeve of her robe cupping my chin. My eyes fluttered. For a moment, her exhaustion was evident: her mouth sagged under its weight. Then her hand moved away, and I saw that she was very old, her white hair blazing in the setting sun.
Please, I said again, looking into her eyes. Help me. Who am I?
She studied my face, her expression unchanging; her eyes were still and hard. I realized, then, that though my words rang loud inside my mouth, my lips had not moved. She could not hear me.
She turned away, and the curve of her ears was comforting, somehow. They held some meaning for me, though I did not know what, or why. I turned my head, following her as she moved, shifting my body on the slab of stone, and I saw her long fingers stretch out over another man's face. I felt my heart leap—I was not alone here. Again I felt comforted, assuaged, though for no reason I could name.
So I examined the man carefully: his eyes were closed, his body slack with sleep. I watched his chest rise and fall, his weathered face still even as he breathed, even as the woman leaned into him, her body following the lines of her hands, focused on his face. His stillness seemed strange somehow, but I did not know why, so I watched him, studied him, tried to remember.
The woman seemed deep in concentration now, her lips moving to words I could not hear. At that moment, the sun slid below her shoulder, behind the horizon, and the place where I was grew dark, swallowed in shadow. I lay back on the stone, discomfited, and I could sense others moving around me, around the other man. I was tired, and I let my eyes close as I listened: heavy robes whispering past each other, soft speech in a deep tongue, the crackle of fire, the sound of stone. I slept.
When I woke again, it seemed that I had slipped through time, had landed back where I began. It was early evening, again; the woman hovered over me, again; and still, I did not know who I was. I closed my eyes, felt tears run down my face and tangle themselves in the woman's cool fingers.
"Spock," she said, gently.
I opened my eyes, puzzled. What had she said?
"Spock," she repeated, her voice ringing inside the chamber. As she spoke, her hooded eyes bore into mine, and I knew that this word should be—was—important to me. She pressed her hand hard into my face and I felt a spark leap from her mind to mine. I saw the word clearly now: Spock, letters etched in fire, hanging in the velvet of space.
Yes, she prodded, her lips still, her voice even louder now, calling inside my head. You are Spock. She grabbed me, twisted my dream self around, and made me stare at the word, at the letters burning in the dark. You. Are. Spock, she said again, her mind joining me and the word, her body bridging its meaning and me. I opened my mind and swallowed the word whole, and sat up, shoving her away.
I am Spock, I said to myself. “I am Spock,” I said to the man who was sitting on the other slab, his face buried in his hands. He looked up at me, wide-eyed, his face cracking into a grin. He reached for me, hugged me, punched me in the arm.
"Yes you are, you son-of-a-bitch!" he said, his voice thick, his face suddenly wet. "You are Spock!" I clasped his arm, smiled at him, without knowing why, and he chuckled.
"You're never going to believe this when I tell you about it later," he grumbled cheerfully. I nodded without understanding, and he laughed again. "Nope," he said, tugging at his jacket, running his hand through his graying hair. "Not gonna believe a damn word."
Just then, I felt a hand grab my elbow; as I turned, I could sense the other man being pulled away from me. The woman was before me, suddenly, tall and elegant and ancient. Her face was haughty, her eyes hard: "It is finished," she said, her words making it so. She regarded me for a moment, her eyes raking over me, looking pointedly into my face. I do not know what she sought, or what she saw, but she moved past me all at once, her white robes sweeping the floor, the red sunlight searing a bronze halo around her head.
Strong arms took mine, moved my body after hers. Hands reached out and tugged a hood over my head, and I retreated inside it, grateful to be hidden. I did not know what lay ahead, and I feared it. This place that had held me fast now seemed safer that what might lay beyond.
All at once, the world opened up before me: I stood at a great height, a red, shadowed world below, a world of stone and rust and heat that was—home. The word came back to me in a rush, and I took a deep breath, letting home sear my throat and rattle in my lungs. I started to move down, counting the steps as I walked, taking comfort in the familiarity of numbers, in that concrete kind of knowing.
Before me, I saw the man who had hugged me slowing in front of a small group of people, stopping, then moving into their midst. I saw the woman: a long, elegant bird swooping down, sailing by the people, disappearing into the evening light.
Then it was my turn to pass them. But to me, suddenly, the people seemed...important, somehow. I slowed, echoing the movements of the man, and regarded each of them in turn. In their faces, I saw recognition; grief; joy; and something like love. I recognized these expressions, these abstract emotions, but I felt only curiosity. I wondered: who are these people to me?
Then I saw a man who was familiar to me—more than familiar, a man who was known: but I could not recall his name. I stopped, regarded him carefully, cataloguing his features. He stared frankly at me, his face open, his eyes wary. Then I remembered.
"My father says that you have been my friend. You came back for me," I said, marveling at the words, at the ideas, at the sudden sense of knowing, as they moved within me and escaped from my mouth. (My father? I thought, and sensed the movement of brown robes, dark eyes that mirrored mine, a voice I knew before my own. And where had I been, that this man would need to save me? I remembered pain, for a moment: a searing ache from which I could not escape—)
"Yes," the man said simply. His voice was calm, but his body was tense, expectant, controlled. His eyes never left my face.
"Hmmm," I said. I did not know anymore—I felt that I should, looking at him, but I did not. So I moved away. I could feel him sink as I passed, his body give way. There was something in that movement, in his body that I—
I turned and went back to him, looked down into his face.
"Jim," I said, and saying made it so. "Your name is Jim."
He smiled, and I knew that once he had been beautiful to me.
"Spock," he said, smiling, reaching for my arm. The others surrounded us—I felt them, welcomed them, but I only saw him, reveled in the pressure of his hand, breathed in the joy in his face.
Spock, his face said, your name is th'y'la.
That was all that I knew, then. But then, that was enough.