Still, there was a flash of a pinch of a fraction of a notion that maybe he was not sleeping. Maybe the man without a home had passed away without even a prayer from a stranger to carry him there, though many passed by.
And Allister passed, too. But, he came back.
He crouched down beside the man and listened to see if he could hear him dream. And, when he could not, he went to the next step. He shook the man. He shook the man twice, grabbed his shoulders, and said, "Wake up!" And, like Lazarus before him, the homeless man awoke. But, unlike Lazarus before him, the homeless man had not been dead.
The man asked expected questions. "What is going on? Who are you? Where am I?"
But, he also asked an unexpected one. "Who am I?"
Whether his amnesia was knew (born of that particular alley-cradled nap) or old (born of another nap long ago) was uncertain. But, the man had lost his memory. All of it. He stared blankly ahead. His eyes and brain knew the word for 'wall', but they did not know how it applied to his life. He had retained a vocabulary, but had no memories to wrap it around.
And what do you give the man who has nothing? Something, of course. So, Allister gave the man in the alley memories.
And, to be specific, he gave the man in the alley the memories of Louis de Frontenanc, the French saviour of Quebec during King William's War.
Allister looked the man in his frightened eyes and said, "Who are you? Why, you are the son of a French colonel from a family of distinction. Beyond that, your early life is a mystery. But, I can tell you what you have done since, sir. You followed your father's footsteps and entered the military. You fought with valor for Holland's Prince of Orange in the lowlands of Italy. For your bravery in the siege of Orbitello, you were promoted to the rank of colonel."
"You were," Allister answered. Now, why Allister knew so much about Louis de Frontenanc, is a long and rather pointless story (suffice it to say, he just did). But, Louis had passed away long ago and left only his memories (and perhaps some miscellaneous non-biodegradable memorabilia). And, what other way was there to put memories to use than for someone to remember them?
The man in the alley (who was now Louis de Frontenanc) rubbed his eyes and blinked. He could now feel the beginning of memories (that were not his). But, he had not completely submerged into them. So, Allister continued.
"And there's more, Louis. Oh yes, much more! You set sail for Quebec to lead the city through a time of great peril. The English were digging their talons into Quebec and the situation seemed hopeless. The French army was greatly outnumbered. And, when the British General Phips sent Major Savage to the city gates with a summons for surrender, what did you do? You blindfolded him so that he could not see your inferior number of soldiers. And you paraded him through the city as mobs ferociously roared through their inferiority with such strength, that it became quite apparent to the blindfolded Major that you had the upper hand. And you took him into the great Château Saint-Louis, where all your finest men sat in their finest clothes, as if this Major of a superior army threatening your city was no more than a strange oddity for all men of distinction to gawk at. And, when you took off the blindfold, he stood before all your leaders and shakily delivered his terms of surrender. And, do you remember what you said to him?"
"I remember the feeling. But, the words seemed to have slipped my mind," answered the man in the alley.
So, Allister told him, "You said, 'I have no reply to make to your general other than from the mouth of my cannons and muskets."
"Ha! I did? What a character I am! And it worked! I remember it worked! I tricked them! And we won the battle! Ha!"
And the man in the alley, who had once been thought dead, leapt to his feet and relived the miraculous victory he never had. And he asked Allister for more- more memories, more experiences, more thoughts, more solid reinforcement of his worthwhile life.
And Allister, thoroughly caught up in the act of transferring one life to another, wanted to give more. But, his bizarrely-gained knowledage of Louis de Frontenanc ended with theBattle of Quebec. So, he acted quickly, surveyed his memorized knowledge, and pulled out another nugget of early colonial American history. And, using some creative license, he hacked it apart to fit (perhaps even summarize) the life of the new Louis de Frontenanc.
"Immediately after that great victory, you left the city, 'to think,' you said. You camped in the forest alone for months with little to eat or drink and told no one to come to your aid until the first snowfall. And, when snow came, your friends and comrades in arms ran to find you at the exact coordinates you had given them. And you were not there. Nothing was. Only a message carved into a tree. It was only one word- 'Croatoan.' What it meant, we do not know. I cannot even tell you its meaning now, sir. It seemed a summary to a part of your life, lived-through and over. And, you moved on. We searched high and low for you for many years, thinking we'd never find you. But, still we searched. We had to. We wanted to thank you and give you a message."
"Well, here I am," said Louis de Frontenanc.
"And here is your message. You are relieved of your duties and we give you our blessing to move on freely as you please. You are free to begin anew."
"But, what do I do now?" Louis de Fontenbanc was scared again. And, so, Allister answered:
"What do you do now? Well, sir, it is entirely up to you. But, if you want my advice, I say collect all that you can. Gather up everything- memories and experiences and pour them out from everywhere. You, Louis de Frontenanc, should be a man of many spouts."