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I read this short story only about 4 or 5 years ago (a bit "before Covid"), probably in a collection.

The pages of a manuscript are found on a table of a café next to an empty coffee cup. In the manuscript a man relates recent events that happened to him.

He had a difficult relationship with his wife. At some point, he and a friend both have an affair with two unmarried girls which were friends of each other. He had remorse and he told his mistress that he wanted to stop their relationship. But then things again go for the worse with his wife and he decides to see his mistress again.

Both girls live in the same apartment building where one cannot call the apartment directly, but only call the concierge who then calls the apartment. When he calls that evening he is told she just went out.

He cannot call again that evening, so he tries to reach her at her workplace the next day. He does not remember the phone number, only the name of the magazine for which she works. But he cannot find the name he remembers in the directory. He decides to go there, he remember the address. But where the offices of the magazine were, it is a totally different business.

He calls again the concierge of her apartment building, but he is told no-one of that name lives there. And the concierge denies having said the evening before that she had gone out, implying that she did live there. He asks for her friend, and is told that no-one of that name lives there either.

He calls his friend, to ask him if he knows where his mistress now lives. But the latter denies ever having had an affair, and any knowledge of the place where the first one claims they both had that affair. The hotel where it happened also denies any past reservation on the day he indicates under either his or his friend's name.

When he gets home, his wife is not there, nor any object belonging to her. Going through pictures he found in a drawer, he finds that though he can see himself, she has disappeared from all the pictures where they were together. (This reminded me of pictures in the movie "Back to the Future"). Also there is no trace of his friend on pictures he remembers being with him.

He calls his friend again, but the operator tells him the number does not exist.

He goes to a bar and writes down all these weirds events. The manuscript ends with a sentence about him drinking coffee.

IIRC The waiter does not remember having served the cup found next to the manuscript.

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    There are many pieces of literature listed on TV Tropes where a person or people remember events or people no one else does. tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RippleEffectProofMemory Do any seem to fit? Apr 11 at 11:52
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    @JudithJones Thanks for your comment. But I went to the sub-list under "Literature" on the link you gave. None of the stories met my memories
    – Alfred
    Apr 11 at 12:49
  • I will see what else I can find then 😀 Apr 11 at 13:24
  • @JudithJones Thanks ! While you are at it, do yo uhave any idea about my question (with bonus !!) about the goddess and her priestess ?
    – Alfred
    Apr 11 at 14:36
  • Cristobol Polychronopolis looks like he found this answer so I'll go look for the priestess and goddess. Apr 11 at 14:55

1 Answer 1

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This sounds a lot like "Disappearing Act" by Richard Matheson, first published in F&SF magazine, March 1953. Synopsis quotes from tentoinfinity.com:

The pages of a manuscript are found on a table of a café next to an empty coffee cup. In the manuscript a man relates recent events that happened to him.

The story opens with a diary, kept because the narrator feels he has to confess somewhere.

He had a difficult relationship with his wife. At some point, he and a friend both have an affair with two unmarried girls which were friends of each other.

he and his wife Mary have perpetual money problems, in part because he devotes half his working hours to being an unsuccessful writer. They argue a lot. One night, after a particularly bad row, he goes out with his friend Mike to see a couple of women, Jean and Sally. That night things go too far between him and Jean.

He calls again the concierge of her apartment building, but he is told no-one of that name lives there. And the concierge denies having said the evening before that she had gone out, implying that she did live there. He asks for her friend, and is told that no-one of that name lives there either.

He calls his friend, to ask him if he knows where his mistress now lives. But the latter denies ever having had an affair, and any knowledge of the place where the first one claims they both had that affair. The hotel where it happened also denies any past reservation on the day he indicates under either his or his friend's name.

He tries to speak to Jean by every way he can, to no avail. He calls up her friend Sally, but he can’t get in touch with her either. Mike denies knowing either of them, and claims that nothing happened that adulterous night. He becomes so worried he’s even tempted to confess it all to his wife. Is everyone lying to him? Or is something stranger happening to his life?

As described, gradually people he remembers keep disappearing, from his life as well as from history and the memories of others. IIRC, the last line in the found journal is something like:

Now I'm just sitting here having a cup of coff--

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    Exactly what I remembered !Thanks !
    – Alfred
    Apr 11 at 16:37
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    The story was adapted into the Twilight Zone episode "And When The Sky Was Opened", available on YouTube: youtube.com/watch?v=YNSEzvagwvM
    – Plutor
    Apr 11 at 17:37
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    It's often confused with a story of the same name by Alfred Bester, which was also first published in 1953. Apr 12 at 13:38

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