I don’t know how I lost my memories, but I know I want them back. I pull against my restraints once more, testing them for no good reason other than nervousness. The man in the white coat is approaching once more, no doubt with yet another dour warning. I know that whatever made my mind shut down may be horrific, but I have to know otherwise what am I? Just an empty shell.
I find myself nodding in response to his questions, but if you asked me what those questions were, I would struggle to repeat them. I just want it over with. Give me my memories.
He fills a syringe, squirts out the excess, taps to eliminate any bubbles and bends over my supine form. I feel the sharp pain as the needle pierces my skin and everything goes black.
I start to hear voices at first, then I can smell the clinical smell of the treatment room. I eventually open my eyes – they feel sticky, my vision blurred. I can just make out a man in a white coat. He is asking me a question. It takes me a while to focus, to tune into his words.
“When you think of a flag burning, what do you remember?”
My head spins. Suddenly, I am no longer in the treatment room. I am in my student digs, looking out the window at a teeming mob below. A peaceful protest march suddenly is peaceful no more as violence breaks out. My eyes fixate on a flag which is now burning. As I watch, I become aware of my girlfriend’s arms around me. I can remember her name, Karen. She pulls me back to the bed and starts to delicately undress me. I cry out as I feel the pleasant memory drifting away from me as once I again I lapse into unconsciousness.
I slowly come round. Again, the man in the white coat is speaking to me.
“When you think of a Christmas tree, what do you remember?”
The disorientation sets in once more and I find myself in the lounge of a house, my house, no – our house. Mine and Karen’s. She’s now my wife. I slowly scan the room before resting my gaze on the charred Christmas tree in the corner. There is a letter addressed to me on the mantlepiece. I recognise Karen’s handwriting. Inside, she tells me of her love for another and I can hear screaming. It is me screaming. I beg the man in the white coat to put me under again and after an eternity, I drift away once more.
I awaken. The man in the white coat is still there.
“When you think of a butterfly brooch, what do you remember?”
Nausea kicks in as my stomach lurches. I feel my physical self vomit. I’m at a church. It’s my daughter’s wedding, but I’m not invited. I’m carrying something, a bottle. In horror, I realise that I intend to use the bottle to harm my daughter. I try to drop it, but I am a passenger of my memories. I can change nothing.
As she emerges from the church, I open the bottle and run towards her. Suited men rush to block me, but not before I launch the contents of the bottle at my daughter. She screams and so do I – at least my physical self does. The men in suits set about me. I feel physical pain, but it is nothing compared with the mental pain. Just before I mercifully slip into a coma, I notice my daughter’s butterfly brooch on the floor. It is badly damaged by the acid.
Gradually I come round. I feel exhausted and horrific memories fight for my attention. The man in the white coat is saying something to me.
“Congratulations Mr. Tomkins. Your treatment is now complete and you will in time regain all your memories. I have to ask you if you wish to keep them – if you would rather they were erased once more – it is a simple procedure.”
The more I remember, the more pain I feel. But is it worse than the emptiness of having no memories? I slowly make my decision. In a shaky voice, I make my request. For one last time, I feel the sharp pain of a needle and I drift off to sleep.
The man in the white coat walks over to his desk and picks up the phone.
“Would you please come and pick up Mr. Tomkins.”
The disembodied voice responds.
“Did he choose to keep his memories this time.”
The man in the white coat slowly shakes his head before answering.
“No, I’m afraid not. Maybe next time.”