The store where I discovered my "True Self", Richard Daniels, had no name. It was the first floor of a red building, standing in the shadow of the state offices. Nothing quite as unearthly as entering a short victorian building with a 60's facade when across the street there's a series of sixteen story skyscrapers in stark white international style. The store itself was less a store, and more a pile.
You didn't walk through aisles, you scaled mountains, hoping that on the other side was a valley that you could walk through. You didn't examine items on display; you dug them out, and each was a prize from Junk-enkamen's tomb. Despite the volume of stuff, the proprietor could expound on each item with Dr. Carter's archeological enthusiasm and knowledge.
It didn't feel completely "in" this world, and I fit in perfectly- having pulled myself out of this world.
I rifled through, trying to find new items to represent myself. The first thing I found was my Great-Grand Mother's ring, or so I decided to name it. It was silver, with filligree and a pearl set in the center. The pearl was somewhat imprefect, and an indentation in the center cast a dark shadow, giving the illusion of a pupil in the center of a large white eye.
It was fifteen dollars in reality, and for me, it was a "promise ring" given by my great-grandmother's first young love, who died in the Great War before they could be married.
I also purchased a black leather tri-fold wallet that I found lost in the dust under a display case. To this day, I'm not sure if it was something that was honestly for sale, or if some hapless patron lost it in the store- it still had a license, credit cards, and all the rick-rack that people acquire in their wallets. Pictures and the like. I was so excited by this find that I didn't even examine the contents closely- just that it _had_ contents was enough for me!
The final item I took home from there was an engraved fountain pen, which had the name "Richard Daniels" on it. Mind you, I had not yet discovered that I was Richard Daniels. It was an exquisite Cross pen and the name was engraved with an amazingly elegant script- hand done I was sure, judging from the detail in each curlicue on the letters, which branched and curved and recoiled in a mesmerizing Julia fractal pattern.
All in all, I dropped fifty dollars in that store, which was almost all of the cash I had in my pocket. Still, my finds were impressive, and when I stepped outside, and examined the wallet more closely, I realized that every penny was well spent.
The driver's license was still in the wallet, tucked away in a plastic envelope, with a few coins shoved behind it, for emergency phone calls I assumed. The picture on the license could have been a close relative of mine. It wasn't like looking into a mirror, but the resemblance was shocking- the previous owner was slightly older than I. Even more surprising was that the license had not yet expired.
However, the final twist on the license is what finally sealed my fate. The name: Richard Daniels.
I'm not one to believe in fate, but this tore it. A full wallet, with a valid id. A pen that belonged to the same person. And now they belonged to me. I _was_ Richard Daniels now.
A few blocks away, I found a greasy spoon named Famous Lunch, where I sat to assimilate my findings. It was a strange place, as seperate from time and reality as the unnamed store where I found myself. The decor was in the thirties, and it all centered around the lunch counter. The prices were from the sixties, and for fourt-five cents, I could get a can of Nehi.
I sat at the far end of the counter, merely ordering the day's special, and focusing on the wallet. My ex-wife was a fairly beautiful woman, as were our two children. We had split because, well- she was an Ice Queen. Our kids were turning out to be the typical broken-family spawn. My teenage son, David, was sneaking pot whenever he visited for the weekend, and thought I didn't know. In all honesty, I didn't care, and had been tempted to bum some from him. The younger son, an Aryan king, had already been turning his piercing blue eyes on the girls in his middle school. He had a steady strem of them, and it was going to his head. My ex-wife is convinced that he'll grow up to be gay.
All of that spilled out to me, looking at the pictures. Part of me did, and still does, know that I made it up. But looking at the gorgeous woman that I decided I had been married to, it didn't feel that way. I had vivid images (memories, it felt like) of the fights followed by the silent treatments that we would visit on each other.
I put the wallet away just as my food arrived. The short-order cook grunted and pointed at the sign beneath the plastic-letter menu- "Please pay when served." "Four fifty." I pulled my wallet back out, trying not to smile like a lunatic, and handed him six dollars. "Keep the change. Today's a good day man."
"Yeah, if you say so. Me, it'll be a good day when I'm home and can snag a beer, you know?"
"Hah. Yeah, I understand that." I looked at my plate, and saw six miniature hot-dogs- not cocktail wieners, they were about four inches long, covered in a strange sauce. It looked like my hot-dogs had decided to get cozy with a sloppy joe. The fries were covered with the same sauce.
"What's that sauce?" I asked.
"Zippy sauce, our speciality." He turned back to the griddle to prepare a the next order, and pointed a finger at another sign on the wall:
Zippy SaucePt. $1.25 Qt. $2.35
I smiled, and ate. While I could feel the grease knocking five years off my life- my life as Richard Daniels, I enjoyed every bite, and ten minutes later, was back out on the street, bathed in sun, looking up at the state offices which reflected that sun with blinding whiteness.
That was the _real_ beginning.