My particular injury, it was explained to me had the unfortunate effect of dividing my mind’s capacity to distinguish, and in particular, it’s capacity to distinguish fantasy from memory. The world before that faithful day which was either ill-fated or bellicose (I am still not sure), was ought to me but daydreams and fancies. In addition, it was incomplete. I might have the entire world of my twelfth year in my memory, but not the world of three months prior. In fact, the most distinct absences were those but newly made. Particularly absent was my year before, during which, I had been told, I had expeditioned up the Congo River basin north of, what is now, Leopoldstad and above Livingstone Falls.
Regarding the source of the injury itself, I was informed that I had been left in an alley. It was suspected that the circumstances surrounding the injury were probably criminal in nature and that I had, most likely, been the target of some petty thuggery. The blackjack having struck too severely, I was left with but a modicum of that stuff one might call the self. I knew who I was, I knew where I was. There were gaps, to be sure, in my description of my life, but what was worse was that none of it seemed, to me at least, to have actually happened. It had the texture of a story one has heard, perhaps too often. Some of it was appealing; much of it wasn’t.
I had, therefore, been placed into the care of Dr. Billington. Now, this, dear reader, is perhaps the odd bit of the tale, at least at its inception: Dr. Billington was famous for getting results in cases of traumatic injury to the skull, such as the one that I, myself, had suffered, but he was also famous for being very very expensive. He was the physicians of kings and princes, not the sort of the man who finds scholars and soldiers under his care. He was in London, however, to oversee my care in particular, which meant, of course, that my treatment had a sponsor, a sponsor with deep pockets. I could only conjecture as to who might have served as my benefactor, or benefactors, though I suspected that it had something to do with my work in the region of the Congo.
Whatever the source of the funds that paid for my stay at Bollingsbrook, the results were, I must say, quite worth the money, and in little time, I had recovered quite a good deal of my previous year. I could remember, for instance, venturing into areas that no white man had ever seen. Doubt if you must, but I remember having learned that peculiar dialect of Bunta, known as Lingala among the dark skinned natives of that region. I had served as translator on those curious moments when one world encounters the other, a moment when one becomes acutely aware of one’s distance from home and the safety one carries by employing the sovereign name of the monarch for whom we are all but dutiful servants.
Unfortunately, Dr. Billington could not continue in my care. He hinted that part of his service had been paid for by his curiosity and that he, himself, had soon hoped to make an exploration to the Congo, primarily because of his belief in vague and half-formed theories that were beginning to take hold in the British Naturalistic Society. These theories were, in particular, concerned with the development of man and they suggested that the first people of the world came, not from the Teutonic region, as so many had suspected, but from the dark continent. In particular, Dr. Billington wanted to find the pure descendants of these first people because of a fascination he had developed with something he called “species memory.”
And so, just as my treatment had begun to take hold, I found myself threatened by the possibility of losing my physician to that wild territory that I had, only recently, regained for the empire of myself. If what I might have done in response seems rash, know, dear reader, that I feared I might never be cured.