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Moments I Don't Remember
There are some things I don’t want to remember. Things I would be happy to forget, to let disappear. Choices I wish I didn’t have to make. People I’d rather not think about. But I do remember them. I remember the fear, the grief, the terror. My past has woven its way into me, stranding me on a lonesome island, with only my memories for company.
Memories. Moments. I would do anything to forget it all. To start fresh. To begin again. To leave behind the things I want to leave behind, and to begin on a new trail. Maybe that is why I’ve made the decision I’ve made.
This is my last choice. For years, the memories have trapped me in a prison I thought I would never escape. But maybe, just maybe, the memories won’t have me for very much longer.
"I am going to ask you one more time, Rachel," Dolciani repeats, "Are you sure you want to do this? Once the procedure finishes, there is no going back."
I nod. "I want to forget everything," I tell him.
"You do realize that you won’t forget your past life entirely?" Dolciani’s assistant, David Jurgensen, tells me, "At the least, you will remember a trace of what once was, the fact that you chose to abandon a previous life. Important memories will be gone. Your friends, your parents, everything."
"I don’t care. I’d prefer to forget about my parents," I tell Jurgensen, "I want these memories to go away, and you say you can do that."
Dolciani gives a quick nod in Jurgensen’s direction, and they have me sit down in a chair.
"Your memories will be removed in reverse order, starting with the more recent ones, the ones fresh in your mind, the ones that haven’t rooted themselves within you. Slowly, we dig deeper, and get rid of all of them," Dolciani tells me in a bored voice, as if he’s said these things many times before, "As we remove memories, they will cross your mind one last time before they leave permanently. You might think about them a little bit without trying to. For some of the more powerful memories, you will actually relive them."
"You mean I’m going to have to relive some of my memories?" I ask Dolciani. He never mentioned this part to me before.
Dolciani nods. "It’s a side effect that I have no control over," he tells me, "If you decide there’s a memory that you want to hold on to, just let me know while you’re thinking about the memory. If you’re reliving the memory, your eyes will close, and opening your eyes will be sufficient to hold on to the memory. If you don’t let the memory finish crossing your mind, it can’t leave."
I didn’t really pay attention anything Dolciani had just said, but I didn’t care. I wanted my memories to go away. That was all that mattered.
Jurgensen places a helmet-like device on top of my head, and Dolciani looks at me one last time. I nod, and Dolciani presses some buttons on his computer. I start thinking about things that have happened to me recently, within the last few days. But when I tried to pinpoint exactly what from the last few days I was thinking about, I couldn’t. I realized that... I didn’t remember any of those things.
Maybe Dolciani’s plan was going to work.
Maybe I would forget all of my memories.
It’s not until a few seconds seconds go by that my eyes grow heavy.
My world turns black.
And a memory pulls its way forward.
Someone knocks on the door to my room. I assume it’s just the orphanage manager, or one of the other kids that wants to talk to me.
"Come in," I say.
But in walks a man I don’t recognize. Is he the new counselor?
"Who are you?" I ask him.
"My name is Albert Dolciani," he says, "I’m a neuroscientist."
A neuroscientist. Just like my father.
"What do you want?" I ask.
Dolciani sits down in my chair and turns to face me. "I want to help you," he says, "Your counselor said that you might be interested in what I have to offer."
"And what exactly do you have to offer?" I ask him menacingly. I don’t like it when people are reserved and hidden. I prefer it when they come out and say what they want to say right away, instead of waiting a long time.
"I’m a neuroscientist. I’ve developed a technology you might be interested in."
"And what technology might that be?"
"It’s a memory removal service."
He pauses to let that sink in. Memory removal. My past. All of it could go away.
"What’s the catch?"
Dolciani smiles. "There is none," he tells me, "If you want the service, you come into my office, we set you up with one of the memory removal machines, and we erase your memories. You start fresh."
"How much does it cost?" I ask him.
Once again, Dolciani smiles. "We’re a free service. What do you say?"
I hesitate, but I know I have nothing to lose. Things can’t get any worse.
"Okay," I tell Dolciani, "I’ll do it."
The memory fades, and my eyes open. A man looks at me strangely.
"Who are you?" I demand.
The man looks at me curiously. "My name is Albert Dolciani," he says, "You’ve agreed to have your memories removed. Don’t panic."
Memory removal. Of course. I don’t remember agreeing to it, but I know Dolciani was talking about it earlier. And I hadn’t tried to stop him.
"Just calm down," Dolciani’s assistant says, "Sit down, and we’ll get the rest of the memories out."
And sure enough, another memory begins to tug at reality, and my eyes close.
I am standing of the grave of my father, Roland Chandler. The sun is beginning to set against the clouds, and as far as I can tell, I am alone. And even now, after I know it has already happened, I cannot bear to believe that he is gone. That he has left the world. That he has left me.
Tears stream down my cheeks. But tears won’t bring my dad back. Nothing will bring him back anymore.
My mother is gone. My father is gone. Am I destined to lose everyone that is important to me? And with all my family gone, how long will it be before I lose myself?
I trace the letters of my father’s name, trying to remember what he looks like, what he sounded like. But it just makes me cry harder. My father abandoned me when I needed him most. He is gone now.
I tell myself that I never want to think about my father again. But telling myself that isn’t quite as easy as doing it.
My eyes open, my heart pounding. I don’t know what has just happened, all I know is that another memory has been taken from me. I don’t know what memory it was. But I decide that I want to go back.
"I’m going home," I tell Dolciani, "My dad’s waiting for me at home, he will probably have dinner cooked."
Jurgensen looks at Dolciani with an uncertain look on his face. Dolciani turns to me and says, "Your father isn’t home."
I blink once or twice, not really hearing what he’s saying. I can feel more memories being drained out of my mind every second. "Of course he is," I say.
"Your father is dead."
I leap to my feat, and Jurgensen is quick to push me down into my chair and hold me there. "Calm down," he whispers into my ear.
"When did he die?" I demand.
"Two years ago," Dolciani tells me, "You’ve been living in an orphanage ever since. Just hold on, we’re going to remove the rest of the memories, and then it will make it easier to cope."
"Hold on?" I scream at Dolciani, "My father’s dead and you tell me to hold on? While you go and erase more of my memories?"
Jurgensen glares at me, and I fall silent. "How did he die?" I ask, looking at Jurgensen instead of Dolciani.
But it is Dolciani who answers. "He killed himself," Dolciani told me, "He convinced himself there was no longer anything worth living for."
And before I can get my mind around this idea, my eyes close again.
My father and I are sitting in the kitchen on a stormy afternoon. Rain pounds against the windows, and I stroke my curly brown hair as I watch the droplets. My father, too, sits, looking out the window, not saying a word.
"What’s wrong, dad?" I ask, seeing the concerned expression on his face.
Dad shakes his head. "Nothing," he says, "I’m just watching the horizon."
But I know something is wrong. He just doesn’t want to say.
I slip back into consciousness, and look at Dolciani. "Why?" I ask, "What happened to me that made me want to forget everything?"
Dolciani shakes his head. "I can only tell you so much," he says, "Telling you more would defeat the purpose of why you’re doing this. Some things you have to know. But other things are best left a mystery."
I want to argue, but I know that Dolciani is right. For whatever reason, I requested my memories removed. And now I was going to have to suffer the consequences. It meant forgetting about mom, forgetting about dad, forgetting about everyone. All the moments I didn’t want to remember. But what if I want to remember them? I know how my mother died. I don’t like it, but I know how it happened. I could live with it.
"Can I get them back?" I ask Dolciani, "My memories?"
Dolciani shakes his head. "They’re gone now," he informs me, "Gone into nothingness."
Fire. The smell of it consumed me, and I rushed down towards the front door. Dad was screaming out my name, "Rachel! Rachel! Rachel!"
I reach him, and my dad wraps his arms around me, picks me up, and starts running. He turns over his shoulder and cries out to my mom, "Shannon! Come quick!"
From the bottom of the stairs, I see some movement. Is it a person? Mom?
"Mom!" I cry out.
The smoke grows heavy, and it becomes harder for me to see anything. Panic rises, and I tighten my grip on my dad’s shoulder. But my dad is still running, and he doesn’t wait for my mom.
"Dad! Dad! You have to wait!" I tell him, but he doesn’t listen. He keeps running.
We smash through the back door, and run out into the backyard. Dad pulls out his cell phone and calls the fire department, but we both know it is too late. The house is burning down, and we both know that mom is inside.
They hit the ground.
And then they vanish from the world, forever.
"I don’t know what’s going on," I say as I pull out of another memory, "But I do know that I need to know what’s going on. You told me my dad died. But my mom..."
"She died too," Dolciani said. Was he smiling? He couldn’t be. "Died in a fire. A few years before your dad."
"No!" I scream out, and I start crying again. I still remember them as if they were a part of my life. I don’t want to believe that they are not there anymore. What is the point of removing my memories, if it’s still going to put me in this much pain over my lost memories? I can feel more and more memories being sucked out of me by the second. I’m losing everything that’s important to me. I’m losing the moments I remember.
"Can’t you speed up the process?" Jurgensen insists, looking at Dolciani, "Giving her information in the middle of the memory removal isn’t a smart thing to do, it’s teaching her too much about what she doesn’t have to know."
Dolciani shook his head. "Just sit down, Rachel. I promise, everything will be okay soon. You have absolutely nothing to worry about."
I walk up into my parents room. It is early morning, and they do not know I am awake yet. I press my ear against the door, to see if they are awake. And they are. I can hear them talking.
"Not safe..." dad says, "We know he’s going to come after us."
"But it’s not our fault," mom replies.
"He doesn’t care," my dad tells her, "He burned down Adam’s building. There’s no telling what he’s going to do next. He wants the power, but he’s not going to get it."
My mom sighs.
"There must be something we can do," she insists.
I don’t know what they are talking about, and I am tempted to open the door and ask. But something tells me that I shouldn’t.
"He’s going to find us, no matter what we do. Unless..."
Their voices turn to hushed whispers. But even through their whispers, I can hear one word, repeated over and over. Dolciani.
I know I have forgotten something important. But I can’t put my finger on what it is. I remember thinking that there was something I didn’t want to lose. But I had lost it, before I had gotten the chance to hold on to it. But what was it?
"I just lost an important memory," I tell Dolciani, "I don’t know what it was... but I know it was important."
Dolciani frowns and looks at Jurgensen, whose eyes narrow.
"None of your memories are important anymore, Rachel," Dolciani tells me, "All that’s left is your new life to worry about. Forget about the past. It’s gone, over. And it will be gone from your mind soon enough."
Dolciani shoots another quick glanced at Jurgensen, who nods. I look at them, trying to figure out what they’re trying to communicate about. But nothing comes to mind.
I am sitting on the floor in my dad’s office, drawing pictures. Dad is talking to one of the neuroscientists that works for his company. I can’t see either of their faces. Dad doesn’t sound happy.
"Your actions threatened to completely destroy everything that we’ve spent so long creating," my dad snarled.
"It’s not my fault!" the man protested, "I didn’t know!"
"You didn’t know," my dad repeats, "You think you can get away with it, you think that it’s all going to turn out okay, just because you didn’t know? Well, you would be wrong!"
His voice echoes in the small office... "Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!"
The man keeps talking. "Give me another chance, Mr. Chandler, please."
"There are no second chances when it comes to things as serious as this," my dad says, "I’m sorry, but you’re fired, Mr. Dolciani."
Dolciani. Where have I heard that name before? And soon I realize that I’m actually thinking with my present-day mind. And I know where I have heard that name. I know exactly the man that my dad fired. What had Dolciani told me? Opening my eyes would be enough to hold on to the memory, and not forget it. I forced myself to open my eyes.
My eyes open, and I look at Dolciani, who stares back at me blankly. "Did the memory go by that quickly?" he asks, "I think it should have taken a little bit longer..."
"Why didn’t you tell me you worked for my dad’s company?" I demand.
Jurgensen turns away, and Dolciani stares at me. "You remember that?"
"Now that I relived the memory, yes," I say, "You worked as a neuroscientist for my dad’s company. But you were fired."
Dolciani nods. "It was a long time ago."
He tries to make it sound casual, unimportant. But I can tell there’s something else he isn’t telling me. Some other part to the story that I don’t know. Some part to the story that I have to figure out. I close my eyes shut, hoping that it will bring me back to the memory I was just reliving. And sure enough, it does.
There is a scream.
"No!" Dolciani yells, "This is not happening! I, who helped you so much in this project. You’re getting rid of me now?"
"You care only about your own fame and fortune, Mr. Dolciani," dad says, "And not the good will of the other people. Your self-importance is self-defeating."
"This is my technology!" Dolciani shouts, "Mine! And you’re going to take it from me, not giving me the credit I deserve, by putting me out of the project entirely!"
"It was never your project," my dad continues calmly.
"I’ll make you regret this," Dolciani says, his voice barely a whisper now, "I’ll kill you all, and then take the project for myself. I’ll be the one credited with the invention of memory removal. Not you. Not Shannon. Not Adam. Me. You hear that? Me."
"Mr. Dolciani, you are certainly a crazy man."
"Did you hear me?" Dolciani repeats, "I am going to be the one to complete the project. I will take the credit for it. And I will eliminate anyone who stands in my way. And the number one person on that list is you."
And with that, Dolciani turns around and storms out the door.
The memory fades, but I forced myself to repeat the important facts to myself over and over to my conscious mind so I wouldn’t forget them. Dolciani was fired. Dolciani threatened to kill my mom and dad.
My parents are dead. Dolciani threatened to kill them. I can only come up with one conclusion...
"It was you," I whisper, staring at Dolciani, "You’re the one that killed my mom and dad."
Dolciani doesn’t respond, and I get up out of the chair, throw the helmet off, and run out the door. I can hear footsteps from Dolciani and Jurgensen running behind me, chasing after me. But I don’t want to be caught. I run through the halls of the office building, desperate to get away.
But even as I start running, I can feel my eyes begin to close again, and I feel myself fall down. Is it another memory? How could it be? I’m not wearing the helmet.
I sit at a table, watching the adults talk. Dad and mom are talking to the other two neuroscientists working on the project- Adam and Albert.
"We are talking about the capability of removing people’s memories," my dad says, "This is not something to be taken lightly. This could change everything. This will change the world."
I see Albert, who my future consciousness recognizes as a younger version of Dolciani, grin mischievously. "We will change the world," he repeats.
"What about the ethical issues?" Adam asks.
"Removing memories is perfectly legal," my mom insists, "But that’s because it’s never been tried before. Once we establish a procedure, you can be sure that the government is going to start hammering out some rules."
"What if we keep it a secret?" Dolciani asks, "Not tell anyone. Only disclose the information to the necessary people."
My dad shakes his head. "I don’t think so, Albert," he says, "Things like this aren’t going to be kept secret very well."
"Just because you can’t keep a secret, Roland, doesn’t mean nobody else can," Dolciani tells him.
Nobody looks at me. My dad doesn’t even notice that I’m there. My mom doesn’t seem to pay any attention to me. Dolciani shoots me a strange glance, but that is all.
My eyes open, but I realize that I still remember that memory entirely. I remember the conversation, I remember what was said, clearer than I had before. I see Dolciani, standing over me.
"You remember that memory, don’t you?" Dolciani asks.
"You don’t have the helmet," Jurgensen explains, "You’ve been given the injection to re-experience all of your memories. But the helmet is what actually removes them once they are re-experienced. Which gives us a slight advantage when trying to catch you, if you become unconscious every few moments."
"You," I say, looking at Jurgensen. He was a part of this too?
"We’re doing what’s best for you," Dolciani says, "Forget about your parents. You said so yourself, they never cared for you. You saw from that memory. They were all more concerned with their work than you. Leave them behind. Let yourself forget, Rachel. It’s the only way you can be set free."
I shake my head. "I don’t want to be free of my memories anymore."
"No choice," Dolciani tells me, "We’re taking you straight back to the helmet."
And with that, Dolciani picks me up and starts walking across the hall. I feel my eyes close again uncontrollably.
I am riding my bike. My parents are watching with pleasure from the side. Dolciani is not there. Neither is Adam. I know I am about six or seven. I ride with ease, laughing and talking to my dad at the same time.
The bike wobbles, and I struggle to maintain balance.
I topple over.
I fall down towards the ground.
I hit the ground.
Before I realize what is going on, my dad and mom are both standing over me, helping me to my feet. They tend for my scratches and bruises. My dad gives me a long hug.
And that’s when my waking mind realizes how wrong I was about everything. That my parents did care for me. If they were alive now, what would they tell me to do?
I snap my eyes open.
My eyes flicker. I feel myself flow in and out of memories.
Sometimes I catch a glimpse of Dolciani. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of my father. Sometimes I see Jurgensen. Sometimes I see my mother.
I feel Jurgensen carrying me away, and I watch as Dolciani prepares something, perhaps a poison that he is going to use to get rid of me altogether. Maybe it isn’t enough just to remove my memories.
I am in a car, and my mother is driving me to school. She is singing with me, laughing with me.
I am in Dolciani’s office. Dolciani draws nearer. He laughs menacingly. He tells me that my time is over.
I am playing on a play structure, my parents watching happily from a bench nearby.
More images flicker.
I am lying down. I see my father and mother, both standing over me.
I want to ask them to explain what is going on. How can they possibly be here when I know they died, years ago? And where is Dolciani? But I don’t say anything.
"We’re here," my mother whispers.
"You’re safe now," my father says.
My mother wraps her arms around me and squeezes me tightly. I haven’t felt her hug in years. And I know that she will not leave me. Neither will my father. They never abandoned me.
And as I lay there with them next to me, calm, knowing that no harm will come to me, I know that these are the moments I want to remember.