Awakened

Isaac made his way through the lower city’s dirty streets, hood pulled tightly over his head. People were hurriedly going about their daily tasks all around him, covered in what barely be described as more than rags. For fifteen years, he had lived in this abject poverty, but today that would all change. That was because his memories had finally awoken.

Not only that, but he remembered everything. An extraordinarily rare occurrence that would guarantee him a comfortable life going forward. No longer would he have to do hard manual labor and eat stale, moldy bread just to survive. Starting today, he would be one of the elite, an Awakened.

Finally, after traipsing through muddy streets that smelled of feces for some time, the air grew less foul. A moment later a cobblestone street came into view, causing Isaac to hurry forward. Breaking free of the muck of the lower city, he entered what residents called the middle city. There was no hard border to be seen. Only this simple cobblestone street separated the two.

Yet, the difference was profound. The buildings stood firm, and the streets before him were no longer covered in muck and grime. All around him, people walked about wearing actual clothes rather than hastily sewn together rags. It was like night and day.

As Isaac continued deeper into the middle city, more and more people threw angry sideways glances at him. He could feel their contempt toward his filthy self oozing out of their every pore. Still, he didn’t let it bother him, not today. Let them glare at him and look down at him all they wanted. Tomorrow the tables would be turned, and he would be looking down on them. 

As he imagined that exact scenario, Isaac finally reached his destination, a small government-run office in the center of the middle city. Two well-armored guards with pikes stood outside, which struck him as odd. Unlike the lower city, the middle city was generally a pretty peaceful place where drunkards regularly got into scuffles. Hesitantly, he approached the entrance, but just as he was about to pass through, the guards crossed their pikes, blocking his path.

“Just where you think you’re going, bottom feeder?” The guard on Isaac’s right asked him, staring down at him with a disgusted look.

Before he could even respond, the other guard joined in, a bemused smirk on his face, “You get lost or something? The dung pile is back that way.”

Isaac could feel his anger bubbling up inside him, but he pushed it down and carefully controlled his expression. It was humiliating being talked down to like that, but this was the last time it would probably ever happen to him, so he could deal with it.

“I’m here to register. My memories of my past life came back to me just yesterday evening.”

“Oh, is that right,” The guard who had called him a bottom feeder reached out and pulled back Isaac’s hood before he could even react, “Well, it looks like he’s about the right age at least. Think we should let him through?”

“Can we not? He’s probably just another loon, making shit up to try and get out of the lower city.”

“Would you two just let me through?” Isaac finally lost his patience with the guards, “I’m pretty sure it’s not your job to judge whether I’m lying or not. That’s for the arbiter to decide.”

Both guards glared down at him, clearly unhappy that someone from the lower city had dared to challenge their authority. Still, they pulled their weapons back opening the path in front of him, “You better hope they give you a pretty good rank in there kid,” The guard on Isaac’s left pulled a shiny silver medallion out from under his armor, “If you don’t then I may just have to show you what happens when you disrespect your superiors.”

He glared back at guard as he passed, “I could say the same to you.”

Entering the building, he came into a small lobby with some basic wooden benches. The only light came from the large windows on the front of the building, which cast long shadows through the room. On the far side of the room was a counter, behind which stood a lone man. The only other person in the room was a blonde-haired girl about the same age as Isaac, who sat quietly on one of the benches, waiting for her turn. 

Isaac approached the counter and called out to the man behind it, “Hello. I’m here to register.”

The man looked up and him, his brow furrowing as he caught sight of Isaac’s raggedy attire, “You came all the way up from the lower city just to register?”

Already tired of being looked down on today, Isaac snapped back at the man, “Yeah, is that a problem?” 

However, the man barely reacted to his provocation, pulling a form from nearby and filling it out, “No skin off my back. Just seems like a waste. All the time you spent walking up here and doing this could have been used to earn wages.”

“Like I earn enough for it to matter.”

“Fair enough,” The man simply shrugged his shoulders at Isaac’s response, unable to say anything back. He knew just as well as anyone how terrible the lower city conditions were, “Name?”

“Isaac Evanson.”

The man quickly jotted down Isaac’s name on the paper and then gestured over to the benches without looking up, “Alright, go and have a seat until your name is called. Shouldn’t be too long.”

Taking a seat on the bench opposite the blonde girl, Isaac patiently waited for his turn. It wasn’t long before she was called away. After that, time seemed to stretch on forever, with Isaac growing more and more impatient with each passing second. Eventually, the tenth bell rang across the city, causing Isaac to lose his patience. Nearly an hour had passed since the girl had been called back. 

“What in the world could they possibly be doing back there?” he muttered under his breath.

Having had enough, he stood up and walked over to the counter to demand an explanation. Just as he did, though, the clerk looked up at him with an apologetic smile, “Ah, perfect timing. I was just about to call you,” Walking over to the nearby door, he held it open for Isaac, “Sorry about the wait. The last guest caused quite the fuss. It took longer than normal to get her situation sorted.”

Isaac walked past the man, trying his best to hide his irritation, “Whatever, it’s not like a few extra minutes really matters at the end of the day.” 

Isaac passed into the room. As the door closed behind him, he heard the clerk’s voice one last time, “Well, either way, good luck. I hope you’re not too disappointed.”

He looked back at the sturdy wooden door frame for a brief moment, confused by the man’s words. After all, there was no way that he could be disappointed. He was an Awakened, one of the few people in this world who retained all of the memories of their past life. That alone made him special. 

Turning away from the door, he walked down the short hallway and entered the room at the far end. There sat an old man, clothed in ceremonial looking white robes. In front of him sat a small bluish crystal, which rested in a stand made of gold. It’s jagged edges reflected the light from the torches giving it an odd appearance. 

“Welcome. Have a seat,” The old man said, gesturing to a simple wooden chair in front of the table.  The old man’s attitude caught him off guard. Most everyone looked down at people from the lower city with contempt, but he didn’t get that impression at all from this man. After a slight pause, Isaac sat down in the chair, his heart beating nervously. 

“Now, place your hand on the crystal and close your eyes,” The old man instructed him as he placed his hand on the crystal himself, “I’ll look into your memories quickly before performing your evaluation.”

Isaac slowly reached out toward the crystal, his heart beating faster with each passing second. Once his hand came to rest on the cold, smooth surface, he felt a tingle run up his spine. In an instant, all of the memories he had regained flashed before his eyes. Growing up in suburbia, going to college, successfully launching his own online business, and raising a family of his own, all if it passed before him in a blur.

Before he even realized it, it was over. He opened his eyes to find the old man staring back at him with a conflicted expression, “To think that I would live to see the dare where I met two Awakened on the same day, and with such different fates.”

“Different fates?”

“Yes. The girl before you was a dragon in her past life,” The old man stood up and walked over to some drawers nearby withdrawing something from them, “Thus, gaining back all of her memories had granted her extraordinary power. However, in your case…”

Returning to the table, the old man wordlessly slid a simple copper medal onto the table. Isaac stared at the badge, frozen in shock. He knew the medal lying on the table before him, he had seen it countless times before in the lower city. The small copper medal was the result of his evaluation, the lowest rank possible.

“This has to be a joke, right?” He looked up at the old man, eyes pleading, “There’s no way I’m a copper rank. I’m an Awakened! I should at least be gold rank, no higher than that.”

The old man looked back at him with pity in his eyes, “It’s true that being an Awakened does multiply the power you gain from your memories tremendously.”

“Then, what is this garbage!?” Isaac slammed his fist down on the table, “How could I possibly be copper rank if that’s true.”

“However, that does not guarantee you a high rank,” The old man continued, ignoring Isaac’s outburst, “Even multiplying a person with little to no power’s abilities by a hundredfold won’t do much. After all, zero times zero is still zero.”

“So, you’re saying that I’m powerless?”

“Exactly. You were just a normal human in your past life. While you lived in an advanced world, you have no knowledge of how to reconstruct any of the technology there. Unfortunately, that means your memories have no value. I’m sorry.”

Isaac grabbed the tiny copper medal and made his way towards the door before pausing, “Have your evaluations ever been wrong?”

“Never.”

“I see. Well, I guess there’s a first time for everything.”

Isaac took a deep breath and left the room, his hopes and expectations were crushed. However, it wasn’t over yet. He was still an Awakened. Even if that old man couldn’t see its value, he still had an entire lifetime of knowledge at his disposal. He could definitely find some way to put it to use and climb to the top of this wretched society. No, he would find a way, no matter what it took. 

Awakened

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