Piers Anthony

The January Special Guest Writer is Piers Anthony

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piers anthony

Forget Me
by Piers Anthony

Fonda was frustrated. The TV signal was flickering and fading, just when her favorite program was about to come on. She couldn't afford cable or satellite, but had inherited, when she rented the apartment, the connecting tower with the rotating antenna. Usually she could get the signal back by rotating it just slightly, but this time the signal remained elusive. Something about the layered atmosphere as the evening cooled, refracting the beam. If she let it be it would probably find her neck of the woods again in an hour or so. After she missed her program.

So she played with it, using the dial to rotate the antenna this way and that, searching for the elusive beam. Sometimes the station would flicker on momentarily in passing, then escape again, with no sign when she turned the antenna back to the spot of the flicker. “Anal sphincter!” she swore royally as it teased her and flitted away once more. “Clog it to Hades!”

Then something odd happened. The room seemed to divide into two, not side by side but nestled closely together so that she stood in one while overlapping the other. But the other was ghostly; she could see though its objects, such as the TV set and the adjacent bed.

In fact, when she reached out to touch them, her hand passed right through their surfaces. They were ghosts, or maybe holograms, more apparent than real. They disappeared entirely when she squinted. But that wasn't right. It was her own small lonely room she was seeing in all its details.

So where was she, then? She looked around, and saw a similar room, only bare of furniture. No TV, no chair, no bed. Just a scattering of incidental objects strewn across the floor like the toys of a neglectful child.

They looked somehow familiar. She went to the nearest and picked it up. It was an oblong colored wooden block with a hole in the top and another on the side. Near it lay several small wood cylinders of different colors, and a small mallet.

Now she recognized it. She didn't know its name, but it had been a childhood toy, long forgotten until this moment. The cylinders got hammered into the upper hole, and came out the side hole. She had been quite fascinated by its mystery.

She sat down on the floor, her knees raised, not caring that this lifted and spread her skirt so that any nearby boy could see all the way up her legs. There were no boys here to leer. She set the block firmly before her, took a red peg, picked up the mallet, and hammered the plug into the hole. Bam bam bam! It went down until its end was level with the top of the block. No problem; she took a blue block and set it on the red one, and pounded it in. She winced slightly inside, remembering how she had lost interest in this toy when older and a friend had remarked how it paralleled sex, with pegs jamming into holes. It was an unkind parallel that the toy really did not deserve, but she had not yet been old enough to properly handle such a naughty notion. Now the wince was partly for herself; she should not have wronged the toy by ever thinking of it like that. She resolutely kept pounding.

A green peg came out the side hole. And there was the mystery: how could a green peg come out, when she had just hammered in a red one? As she grew and aged she had figured it out: there was room for several pegs in the curving tunnel through the block, so that it was always a different one coming out. No mystery after all. At such time had she had a child of her own, she would make this toy available; it was fun, and did not deserve to be forgotten.

A child of her own. That started a separate chain of thought. To have a child, she would have to get married, and to get married she would need to get a boyfriend. There was the rub: she was nineteen, two years into college, and she'd never had a boyfriend. It wasn't that she was prudish; she knew exactly what boys wanted from girls, and she could handle it. But no boy had ever showed sufficient interest.

She got up, leaving the toy forgotten again, and walked to the mirror. That was in the other chamber, slightly offset from this one, but the displacement was only an inch or so and she could see the six foot tall wall mirror clearly enough. Her image in it was foggy, but as she concentrated it clarified until her full ghostly image was framed. She was definitely a girl, in fact a young woman, with short curly black hair, even features, and all the girl parts in the right proportions. She stood five two, weighed a hundred and ten pounds, and had good legs. Just what any boy wanted to get his grubby hands on. So why was she alone?

Alas, she knew the answer. She had the features of a woman, but not the ambiance. The semblance without the vital spark. She might as well have been a doll. Boys looked right past her, hardly aware of her, as though she were part of the background scenery. When she was out of their sight, they never thought of her. She was a living wallflower.

Could she do anything about it? Such as catching a boy's hand and setting it on her bottom? That would get his attention! But was that the kind of attention she wanted? Ladies of the evening got the sexual attention of men, but neither their respect nor commitment. It was purely a passing thing. That was not the way she wanted it. First the commitment, then the hand on bottom.

Her name, Fonda, meant “profound woman.” Why couldn't some man see her that way? She could be such a good girlfriend, if only.

She sighed. That was as far as her frustrated internal dialogue ever got. She could not take it father on her own. It would require a man to do that. She just had to hope she found the right one before she got too old.

She looked around. There was another old toy: a little model trolley car. She remembered how she would wind it up, and then it would trundle along a few turns of the wheels, then pause, and the driver would rotate his little handle to open the door to let the invisible passengers in and out. But it had gotten broken from rough play, so it no longer ran properly, and then forgotten.

In fact all her old toys and dolls were here, scattered across the floor, as if they had followed her in life, hoping to be noticed again. Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy. Her first little trike. So many others. She had not treated them well, and regretted that now.

However, she had something more urgent to ponder at the moment. What was this place with the old memories? How had she gotten here? And more important yet, how could she get out? She tried to touch the TV, but her hand passed through it. To sit on the bed, and that she could do, but her misty body made no dent on it. She was in effect a ghost, able to play solidly with her old toys in this realm, but not with her contemporary ones in the other realm.

She quelled a rising panic. She had gotten here; there had to be a way to get out of here. She just needed to find it.

She walked to the apartment door, and through it. Down the hall, and through the outer door to the outside night. It was eerily deserted. There did not seem to be danger, merely emptiness.

Now she let it out. “Halloo! Is anyone here?”

And to her surprise, she got an answer. “Halloo!”

It was a woman, coming along the street. She was of middling age, with tied back dishwater hair, a full blouse, and tight pants. She had evidently grown too big for her clothing but refused to admit it. Fonda hardly cared. The point was that this woman was of this realm, and they could interact.

“Hello,” Fonda said as the woman arrived. “I'm Fonda. Where am I?”

“I'm Gretchen,” the woman replied. “We are in limbo.”

“I thought that was a dance. You know, where a man bends backwards to get under a low bar?”

Gretchen laughed. “That too. But this is another sense. It's the place of the lost or forgotten. Haven't you noticed the forgotten things?”

“I have. But I have no idea how they got here, or how I got here, or how to get out.”

“They got here by being forgotten. You got here by forgetting yourself.”

Ah. when she had been so severely distracted by the lost TV signal. “How do I get out?”

“The same way I do. By getting someone who cares about you to take your hand and pull out. The cure for forgetting is to be known and wanted.”

“Nobody knows or wants me!”

“That's your problem. Find somebody who does.”

“How can I find such a person?”

“Limbo echoes reality. Everything is the same, except that most of the remembered things are in the real world and most of the forgotten ones are in limbo. You'll stay here as long as you remain forgotten.”

Fonda wasn't completely satisfied with this. “What are you doing here?”

“I'm scouting for forgotten antiques and useful devices. It's amazing what folk leave behind.”

“Isn't that stealing?”

“Not if no one cares about them.”

She maybe had a point. “You have a way out? Can I follow you out?”

“No. My man cares only about me. He'll ignore you.”

Just so. “How do I find someone who cares about me?”

“Honey, you just have to look hard enough. Bye.” Gretchen walked on.

Fonda stood there, bemused. But at least it provided her with a way out. She just had to find the right person.

She considered the neighborhood. The fronts of the houses were faintly illuminated by the dim street lamps, and by their own internal lights. So there were people there. She would visit them. She was sorry she hadn't not bothered before to get to know the neighbors, so that there might be some who cared about her. But in the city, that was the way it was.

The headlights of a car approached. In a sudden suicidal burst of daring, Fonda stepped out before it, waving her arms to flag it down. It slowed, then accelerated as if startled. It caught her in the middle of the street—and went right through her.

She knew what had happened: the driver thought he had seen a ghost, and panicked. She couldn't blame him; she would have done the same in his position. Still, she did not like the idea of being run over, even as a ghost. She would try something else.

One of the nearby houses had several lights on; people were active within it. Fonda walked up the steps to the door, through the door, and stood before two men what were having a dialogue about cars. She could hear them, but suspected they could not hear her. So she waved her arms to get their attention.

It worked, to a degree. They glanced her way. “Is that a ghost?” one asked the other.

“Sure looks like it. But this house is too new to rate a real haunt. Must be a trick of the light.”

Then they returned to their dialogue.

They had already forgotten her! A trick of the light? Annoyed, she quickly took off all her clothing including the underwear and stood nude. “Hey, boys!” she yelled, waving her arms again. “How about this?” She made a slow turn so they could see the whole of her.

They looked again, then faced each other. “You know, that's the first time I've seen the ghost of a clothing manikin,” the first man said.

“Yeah, she'd be more interesting if her tits and ass weren't fogged out.”

All they cared about was foggy T&A?

Fonda gave it up. She dressed and departed in a medium dudgeon. It seemed her ghost appearance lacked some detail, unfortunately. T&A indeed!

What next? So far, as a ghost, she had spooked a driver into running her down physically, and two men into doing the same esthetically. Gretchen had told her that she needed to find someone who cared about her, but this was a neutral neighborhood where nobody cared about anybody. They didn't hate each other, they just were strangers, and liked it that way.

Well, she would try again. There was a house with toys scattered in the yard. That meant children. Her forgotten past included children's toys, as she had discovered first thing here. Maybe there was a way to relate.

She walked to and through its door. There were three small children watching TV. Oh. They had forgotten their toys in favor of the boob tube, just as she had. Now that struck her as a crime in progress. She sat down beside them, uncertain what else to do.

An older woman with thick spectacles, likely their grandmother, entered with a plate of cookies. She paused, staring at Fonda. “What are you doing here?” she asked. “Aren't you that coed batching it down the street?”

The woman recognized her! “Yes,” Fonda said, nodding. Maybe the magnifying lenses made her look all the way real.

“Well, get back where you belong before you spook the kids.”

Or did they? Fonda got up and departed. If only she knew Grandma the way Grandma knew her, had a sufficient relationship, maybe she would have been welcomed, and helped to return to the real realm. If only she had any friends at all around here! But she hadn't cared about them; why should they care about her?

Fonda paused for a tear. There was that If Only again. She had been so satisfied in her emotional isolation. Now when she needed a friend, she had none.

Then it came to her, like a quiet bolt of lightning: suppose she started caring about others? Noticing them, remembering them. Would they then do the same for her? Would they then be there for her when she needed help? If only she had cultivated some! Then she could have gone to them for help. As it was, she was at a loss.

But maybe there was a way. She needed to cultivate a friend to help her. If she could do that, it would not be too late.

She stood in the street, pondering. Who did she know of in this area who might need a friend? Who did not already have one? There weren't many.

Then her mind zeroed in on a prospect. This was Jay, a boy her age, majoring in higher math, batching it in this neighborhood. She had seen him on occasion, walking to his apartment. He was a nerd, so focused on his studies that he had no time for girls. No, he wasn't gay, according to the rumor mill, just busy.

Maybe it was a pose. Maybe he could use some social contact, such as a friend or even a girlfriend, but was too shy to go for it. Maybe she could do him a favor.

The idea appealed to her, not because she wanted a man in her life, though she did, but because it could be an exercise in caring; her caring about someone else. Her trying to do some good for another person, regardless of whatever she might gain or lose anything herself.

She walked toward Jay's residence. She knew he would be there, studying, because that was what he did. She did now know whether he would welcome her intrusion. That was a gamble she simply had to take.

There it was: the apartment house. She mounted the steps, walked through the front door, then up a flight of steps to his modest suite. There it was, his name on the door panel, for letter deliveries. She paused, nerving herself, then walked on in.

And there he was, sitting at a table, hunched over his notes. Behind him she saw the dishes piled in the sink; men never kept up well with that sort of thing. He was writing a paper, probably a treatise on obscure math that only a math professor would ever understand. Her own knowledge of math was limited to fractions and decimals. She never had figured out the mystery of “i,” the square root of minus one. Maybe Jay would be able to explain it to her.

Then she suffered a second strike of soft lightning. “i” was an imaginary number that had real mathematical relevance. Just as she was now a largely imaginary person who hoped to have a real impact on part of the real world. A perfect parallel, maybe.

She came to stand before the table where Jay worked. He was tall and lean, not unhandsome if you liked that type, with hair as black as hers and brown eyes like hers. Not distinguished in appearance; he was really more like a male wallflower. She knew the type as well as she knew herself. They could make a matching couple.

Did she really want that? Or was she just caught up in her desperation to get back into the real world? She needed to get her underlying motive straight.

Yes, she did want to return to the real world. Yes she did want a boyfriend. Those were the selfish aspects. But yes, too, she did want to help him get a social life. She knew she could do him a lot of good. Those were the unselfish aspects. So it balanced out, in its dubious fashion.

One major question remained: could she love him? Could she commit to him, if he wanted her to? And the answer was, yes, if he loved her. Love was the binding force.

Now it was time to put it to the proof. She put on her most positive expression. “Jay,” she said.

He looked up. Had he heard her, or was it coincidence? Probably the latter.

She smiled. “I have come to help you, maybe, if I can.”

He looked perplexed. Did he recognize her? He could have noticed her in passing, just as she had noticed him. She tried her best to firm up her image to be unmisty. “Please talk to me.”

He shook his head. “I don't believe in ghosts. They don't compute.”

“I'm not a ghost, Jay. I'm a fellow student. Fonda. I live nearby.”

“I must be overtired, suffering a vision.”

“Yes, I am a vision, but not a ghost. I need your help.”

He concentrated visibly. “I know a little lip reading. I have a deaf friend back home. I learned when he learned. You're not a ghost? Pronounce your words carefully.”

He was responding meaningfully to her! “I am Fonda,” she said precisely. “Please help me.”

“Fonda. Now I place you. That pretty girl who ignores me in the hall.”

Ouch! “I am sorry,” she said carefully. “I will not ignore you anymore.”

He grimaced. “I think I am suffering a wish fulfilling daydream. That a girl actually wants my company. I really need to rest.”

Was he going to break it off, thinking he was suffering a delusion? “I am real,” she said urgently. “I do want your company. How can I prove that to you?”

Jay laughed somewhat bitterly. “Prove it? I don't suppose you could do it mathematically? I do believe in mathematics.”

Math! Here was the way. She looked at the math book on the table beside his paper. She pointed to it.

He was surprised. “This?”

She nodded vigorously. “Open it.” She made a book-opening gesture.

Jay shrugged and opened the book.

“Turn the page.” She gestured again.

He turned a page.


He turned another. Then it was there, the description of “i” the imaginary number. The square root of minus one. She plunged her finger down on it so hard she passed right though the page.

“i,” he said. “The undefinable yet amazingly relevant number.”

She pointed to herself. “Me!”

He looked at her thoughtfully. “You are saying that you are like 'i,' imaginary but real? That I can relate to you if just I know how?”


“That actually does make sense to me. To use 'i,' I need to square it, to bring it into positive territory. How do I square you?”

How, indeed! She didn't know. “What do you want of me?” she asked.

He laughed again. “A girl like you? Kiss me.”

He did want a girlfriend! He wanted feeling, emotion. That she could provide. “I will,” she promised. “Take my hand.” She reached her right hand out slowly toward him. “Will me to join you.”

He nodded. “That would be the proof of it,” he agreed. “A square relationship. Here goes nothing.” He reached out to take her proffered hand.

There was an electric pulse as their hands touched. They did want each other. Fonda concentrated, willing herself to solidify, to join him in his realm. Would it work?

The tingle moved from her hand up her arm and to her body. Suddenly she was whole again; she felt it completely. She experienced a surge of emotion. She was back in reality, and she hoped never to leave it again. But she wanted more.

“You're real!” he said, evidently taken aback.

“I am,” she agreed, this time audibly. “You rescued me from limbo. Now I am yours.”

He seemed dazed. “Mine? What now?”

He didn't know? But of course he didn't. He had never had a real live girl of his own. “You do with me what you do with any girl who likes your attention.”

“What is that?”

Now the ball was in her court. She played it carefully, determined not to mess it up. “Approach me,” she said.

He got up, circled the table, and came to her.

“Put your arms around me.”

He did so. She felt his hands shaking; he was nervous, and would not have been able to do it at all if she were not directing him.

Step by step. “Closer.”

He moved his arms marginally closer. She reached around to grasp his hands and draw them in to her body, the arms following.

“Bring your face close to mine.”

He did so.

“Kiss me.”

He hesitated, unable to take so bold a step. So she held him tight and kissed him herself.

He melted. “Oh, Fonda,” he breathed as it ended. “You mean it.”

“That is just the beginning,” she said.

“The beginning?”

She grasped his right hand with her left and set it firmly on her bottom. She pressed the backs of his fingers, causing him to take a handful. She felt the thrill run through his whole body. “If I am to be your girlfriend, we'll do more than hug and kiss.”

“More,” he agreed breathlessly. He was clearly committed.

“But you will have to do it yourself. I wouldn't want you to think me too forward.” Laughable as it was to say it after this.

“My girlfriend,” he agreed. “I think I love you already.”

That was music to her. She had what she wanted, and she meant to return it in good measure. They would have a fine relationship. “There is just one thing you must never do with me,” she said firmly.

“One thing?”

“Never forget me.”

“Oh, Fonda, I will never do that!” She felt the sincerity in every part of him.

On the whole, it was good enough. They had solved each other's problems. They would work out the details later. Nothing would be forgotten.

Piers Anthony was born in Oxford, England, in "AwGhost" 1934. He spent time with relatives and a nanny while his parents went to do relief work in Spain during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. They were helping to feed the children rendered hungry by the devastation of the war. When that ended, Piers and his sister joined them in Spain. He came to America at the age of six.

He received a BA in writing at Goddard College in Vermont, where he met his wife. He has had more than 145 books published, with more in the pipeline, such as the online Trail Mix fantasy series.

You can learn more about Piers Anthony HERE

See all of Piers' books HERE