He takes another drag of his cigarette. All around the snow billows, flying in waves. The smoke feels cool in his mouth and warm in his lungs; he can feel the microscopic burns in his alveoli. To be honest it feels good with the stark blasts of wind freezing his fingers inside his worn gloves.
The forgetting is the worst part. Worse than the pain. Worse than the soreness for weeks. Worse than the alien feeling in his own head. He allows the smoke to come out his nostrils, mixing with the frost-bitten air. To be an amnesiac is one thing, he thinks, to wake up one day having no memory of what came before; left with only general knowledge; that was one thing.
To know when the forgetting was coming on, to brace yourself and let any possible regrets go; to wake up with the gap, the black nothing; that was another thing entirely. To live this way meant being the Swiss Cheese Man. Each time it happened, another hole was created, another memory gap. Only those crazy indigenous who practiced trepanation knew what it means to have holes in your head. Except of course that his were all internal.
He takes one last drag from his cig and lets the butt fall onto the icy sidewalk. He crushes it under heel as his hands begin to crack in a hundred places. His arms start to elongate and expand, muscles and sinew double wrapping like a mummy's cloths. His fingers extend longer and longer, but there are no talons, no claws, no fur. Not this time.
At work they all plead and cajole, trying to get him to come out for even just one drink. But to start a routine, to have that added familiarity waiting would simply be too much to handle. There are already enough regrets and mysteries clouding his head. Suppose he did go out with them, had a great time and kept on going week after week and got too drunk one night and lost control? What then. It was easier on everyone to just wave and say, "Maybe next time!"
He walks down the alley toward the park. His hip shifting downwards awkwardly as his tibias and femurs shorten. His eyes start to glow with a faint green phosphorescence. This is when it always goes fuzzy. Like when you're driving and the radio gets caught between two stations. Eventually, if you drive far enough the static takes over.
His nostrils sniff at the air, creating tiny clouds of mist. He smells cold water. The water in the retention pond a few hundred yards away. The ice is sure to be frozen as thick as cement, but his brain is no longer likely to yield to such logic. He lopes off toward the scent of the body of water, feet and dragging knuckles working in tandem.
Reaching the water he extends a long tongue to take a drink, but the cold water gives resistance. A bellow escapes his lungs. His arms thrash wildly toward the unsatisfying water.
THUMP - THUMP - CRUMP - THUNK
After several hammer blows of his arms the ice gives way. There's a sizable hole in the pond surely big enough to drink from. The animal in him still isn't satisfied and thrashes out one last time. The momentum carries him through the piercing cold water. This is when the static takes over. This is when the memory ends.
Above the water his tail swings for purchase before plunging under the cold.