The prompt: What if everyone in the world lost a year of memories... the same year?
Shiloh Hunter stretched, the rough, chapped leather of his heels catching on the cotton sheets. Without opening his pale blue eyes, he took a deep breath and exhaled, allowing his mind to reacquaint itself with the universe beyond his dreams. He inhaled deeply a second time, listening to the sound of his breath as it left his body, then took a long moment to listen to the universe.
The world beyond the window above Shiloh’s head was silent. The air he was breathing was chilly, bringing with it, the realization that his feet were also chilled in spite of the pile of heavy woolen quilts that covered him. A shiver traipsed up his spine as his eyes opened to the unearthly glow of the room, testimony of snow falling outside.
Turning his head, Shiloh sighed as his eyes fell upon the dark face of his digital alarm clock next to the deck of his favorite Tarot cards. With only the glow of the snow beyond the window to light his way, he left the warmth of his covers in search of socks and his bathrobe. As he passed the end of the bed, his eyes fell to the empty space next to where he’d been sleeping.
“Where’s Rey?” he muttered under his breath as a frown marred his face. A second shiver sped up his body reminding him that he’d been in search of warmth. Shiloh reached the hook he’d hung beside the bathroom door for his and Rey’s bathrobes and his frown deepened when he only found his own there. Tugging his robe on, he collected a pair of wool socks and sat in the chair below the bathrobe hook to put them on. As he tied his robe shut against the chill of the room he left the bedroom in search of his wife.
The hall was dark compared to the snow-lit room he’d just left and only a fraction warmer. Treading through the space by rote, Shiloh entered the living room and shivered against the frosty air of the room. The glow from the snowy wonderland beyond the two massive picture windows showed him a room that was emptier than he remembered. Rey’s rocking chair was conspicuously missing, as were the entirety of the frilly throw pillows that she insisted looked beautiful all over the place.
Shiloh’s confusion deepened as he turned in a complete circle in the middle of the room. The photos on the wall were different than he remembered too. No evidence of his marriage could be seen although he was certain they’d had no less than six portraits throughout the room as well as the dried flowers from Rey’s bouquet and the champagne flutes they’d used. He looked down at his hand and gasped, his body seizing in horror. His wedding band was gone.
Staggering sideways, Shiloh collided with a plush brown leather sectional he’d never seen before and sat heavily. He plowed his shaking hands through his chestnut hair and tried to wrangle his mind into giving him tangible details of his last memories of the night before.
“Rey cooked pork chops for dinner last night… shoe leather would have been better…” Shiloh muttered as he pieced his memories together. “And the horrible cake that was dry as the desert.”
He closed his eyes, shuddering at the residual taste that rose in his throat at the memory of Rey’s pitiful attempts at cooking. A faint smile lifted his lips as he remembered eating seconds just to see her face light up.
“We watched the presidential debate… heaven help us if any of those fools make it into the oval office. Then we watched I Love Lucy reruns while she snuggled against me, cradling a stupid pillow.”
Pressing the heels of his hands hard against his eyes, Shiloh continued to work his way through the evening before.
“We went to bed. She laughed at me for drawing a tarot card, like she always does. Then we had the dumb conversation about whether the snow would be deep enough to close the roads as we snuggled, and she said no nooky. We fell asleep and then what?”
Shiloh pushed his mind to give him more but he couldn’t even remember his dreams. The only thing he remembered after falling asleep with his wife was waking up… single.
Where was Rey? Was she okay? Was she even alive? Why would she leave in the middle of the night, in the middle of a horrible snow storm, without saying anything? Something just wasn’t adding up.
He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly then blinked in surprise as a cloud of steam drifted lazily through the air, reminding him that the power was out and a blizzard was raging outside. Shivering in combined confusion and chill, Shiloh stood and began lighting a fire in the stove in the corner. He piled paper and kindling into the belly then reached for the box of matches next to the wood box. As he scraped the head of a wooden match over the rough strip on the box, a thought poked at him gently. Forcing himself to focus on warming the room, Shiloh lit the fire and began carefully feeding it bits of wood until the fire was strong and he was able to put a full-sized log on it.
Rubbing his hands together, he enjoyed the warmth that now blazed from the stove. As the stove began the arduous task of warming the room, Shiloh allowed the nagging thought to expand in his mind. Was his cell phone working? Maybe Rey had left a message there.
With this new hope in his heart, he left the living room, shuddering at the chill that greeted him in the hallway, and returned to the bedroom. Collecting three of his blankets from the bed, the deck of Tarot cards, and his cell phone, Shiloh returned to the growing warmth of the living room. Settling on the sectional and covering himself against the chill that plagued him, he turned the phone on. A small sigh of relief escaped him when he saw that the phone had a full charge.
He opened his contacts and began scrolling, first to the W’s looking for the nickname he’d stored for Rey the night they’d gotten married. A frown dimpled his face when he saw that “Wifey” was not there as it should have been. Scrolling up a bit, he looked for “Rey” in the R’s. The frown deepened when that, too, wasn’t there. Pausing, Shiloh pondered the situation, wondering just where Rey’s number had gone. Surely he hadn’t dreamed her. Lighting on another idea, he scrolled up a bit farther to her maiden name of Meyers. As his frown became a scowl, Shiloh scrolled up to “Hunter” and found only his family in the H’s.
“What the devil?” he growled. Snorting in resignation, he moved the list to the A’s and slowly began working his way down through the alphabet, wondering what else was missing from the list. It wasn’t until he reached the C’s that Shiloh found Rey’s picture. Next to her face was the listing of “Crazy Backstabbing Wench”.
He stared at the words for a long moment. The scowl on his face disappeared as his mouth fell open in shock while the confusion in his mind exploded into a whole new stratosphere of chaos. Unsure of whether the changes he faced were a cruel joke or if some cosmic shift had caught him, Shiloh pressed the contact. It was definitely Rey’s picture but there was no address and the phone number was in an area code he didn’t know. His hands shook as he pressed the telephone icon in trepidation. In an effort to calm himself, he began slowly shuffling the Tarot cards.
“H’lo?” Rey’s sleepy voice answered on the fifth ring.
“Rey? It’s Shiloh. Where are you?” He responded cautiously as he paused briefly in his shuffling while he waited for her reply.
“I’m at home… I…” Rey answered indignantly then drifted silent. Shiloh waited patiently, hoping beyond hope that she’d be able to shine some light on the all too weird situation. “I don’t know where I am. Was I kidnapped? Where are you?”
“I’m in Montana, at our house.”
“Then where am I?”
“I don’t know. I don’t recognize the area code I dialed.”
“I’m in a different area code?” Rey’s voice hit a hysterical pitch, making Shiloh wince in pain. He hated that tone of voice only she could find.
Shiloh heard rustling as though Rey was shifting in her bed, then dropped his phone in agony as she screamed. A deep male voice interrupted the screech and a cacophony of confusion ensued. As chaos erupted on the other side of the phone line, Shiloh stared at his phone on the couch, wary of picking it up as he held the now still deck of cards.
“Shiloh, you have to come get me!” Rey demanded in a high-pitched, shrewish voice laced with indignation and what sounded like anger at him. “Now!”
Shiloh blinked in distaste at the tone of her command as the realization that she’d been in bed with another man slammed into him, stealing his breath and bringing his thoughts into an ice-cold focus.
“Shiloh!” she screeched, her fury now palpable, causing him to jump. A card slipped from his trembling hand onto his phone, face down.
As he reached for both the card and the phone, Shiloh closed his eyes, marshaling his resolve. Whatever he was missing, it included his wife leaving him and finding someone else. With a deep, shuddering breath, he slipped the card from the phone and opened his eyes as he brought the phone back to his ear. He paused in surprise as he saw the card that had fallen from the deck.
“Rey,” Shiloh began quietly as he stared at the card. “I’m not sure what’s going on, but I know at least three things. One, you’re in a different state. Two, you’re with another man. And three, we aren’t married anymore. I think you need to figure out what’s going on, on your end, before we revisit the notion of me coming to get you.”
With that, Shiloh hung up his phone and turned it off to save his battery, just in case. He looked at the Tarot card that had fallen again and a slow smile dawned on his face while the snow continued to fall beyond the window. The feeling of everything being exactly as it should be wrapped around him like a warm blanket as he put the Ace of Pentacles on the bottom of the deck.