When he speaks, people comment on his unusual accent.

Where are you from? they'll inevitably ask. Sometimes they ask right away, sometimes they ask near the end of the conversation, and every single time for a sliver of a moment, a brief flash of thought, his mind will go blank.

Should he tell them of the crystal-domed palaces in far off mountains, whose people believed the gods of stars and planets could be tamed by naming them and writing them down? No. Though the stars remained, the names did not, and those written books are long gone, as are the palaces and the ones who'd built them.

Maybe he should tell them of the desert temples, of the vast and flowing river that brought life to the emptiness, of the lush forests that grew in the middle of desert sands. But those are gone now, too.

Half-remembered images with flicker before his minds eye.

An ancient library filled with all the world's knowledge, run by humble monks who wrote it all by hand-- gone. Swept beneath the sea when the earth shook and the entire city had been submerged in the waves.

A tiny village by the sea, at the foot of a dormant volcano. He had vivid recollection of the locals tossing things inside it; food from the harvest, jewelry, the occasional sheep. When he'd returned after a number of years, the village had grown into a city, its founders now idolized in legend. When he'd come again, the city was gone, eaten by the mountain that it had once worshiped as a god.

Cities of gold whose diamond-topped spires reached to the sun, catching light in such a way as to light sacramental torches in times of peace, and to alight enemy armies in times of war. The beams of focused light piercing through approaching cavalry, burning blackened strips of earth where it passed. Others, cities that sprouted from minuscule islands, connected by massive bridges lined with homes and houses-- lost when the great tsunamis overtook them.

Hundreds of languages, long dead, dance on his tongue. Hundreds of nations, large and small, all lost to history-- except many even history did not remember. But he did.

"Around," he answers eventually. "I'm from around."

And he leaves it at that.