Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.
There are always memories that stand out like a diamond amidst a sea of zircons. There are also memories that fades and blurs and become distant faces, things only to be recalled in times of their need.
For me, it was not a memory. But rather, the absence of one. Somewhere in that myriad of memories, Jimmy had learnt to ride his bike without me. I didn’t know why that was so important, it was a small thing but it caught hold onto my heart like a hungry leech.
Why wasn’t I there for something as important as that, I should have been the one that taught him. No one else. In the back of my mind, a small voice told me I knew the answer.
“Arian. Arian. Are you listening?” Jimmy’s voice jolted me back to the present, I looked down at his brown eyes and the nearby discarded bike.
Of course, in here it was different. Here, they could reconstruct anything and everything. With a price that’s far too high. The voice in the back of my head nagged again, I brushed it aside and knelt down beside Jimmy. “C’mon, give it another try, I know you can do it.”
He pulled on the strap of his helmet sullenly before flinging himself into my lap, “it’s hard Arian. And I don’t get it, it just wobbles like that old rocky chair dad sits on all the time. It’s stupid.” He huffed out and kicked at a tuft of grass angrily.
I bit back a small laugh and ruffled his hair, “Jimmy you’ve hardly tried it at all, what if I dared you to ride down the hill. And if you can do it, I’ll let you play with the skyhover.”
His face lit up as he eyed the bike again with renewed interest, “you really will let me?”
I laughed and pushed him towards the bike, “only if you can ride down the hill.” It was the way I had learnt how to ride the bike, Dad had pushed me down the hill and as the wind whipped its fearsome melody by my heart I somehow found the rhythm amidst all the terror. Besides, this hill was nothing compared to the one he pushed me down on.
Jimmy had straightened the bike up and pushed it to the edge of the hill, his eyes surveyed the hill tentatively before he sat on the bike and pushed on the pedal.
I stood up and started to jog towards the hill – just as my body shuddered and dropped to the ground and felt my bones shattered into a billion fragments brimming with pain. I gasped soundlessly and sat up in the chair, the world whirled in a dizzying splash of whites and greys before settling in the familiar white-washed walls and metallic furniture. I realized with a sense of dread of my location; reality, what a pleasure to be back.
“Pay up, Kannan.” A familiar pair of eyes pierced my own as they slammed their hands down on either side of me. “And don’t think you can get out of it this time, you won’t be leaving here until you’ve paid us.”
“It’s nice to see you too, Razi. I know that I’m good looking and charming but could you please step back, just so that I can view your beautiful face in all its glory and not just a single part?”
I tried to ignore hostility as she pulled away, mouth set in a straight line. “Flattery will get you nowhere.”
“I wasn’t trying to flatter you.” I muttered under my breath, fully intending for her to hear it. Her anger boiled beneath her skin, I felt its steaming rising from the pores of her body barely contained. “Alright, look here Razi. Let’s make a deal here.”
“No.” She said. “You said that for the last five times and we haven’t seen a ghost of the so called ‘deal’ you’ve made.” She made no attempt to conceal her disdain and contempt as she crossed her arms over her chest. “You either pay us in cash or in memory, your choice.”
I looked around the room, taking in its sterile walls, white lights and the meticulous machines that crooned a soft melody to the passing of time. “This place doesn't seem like a bad place to live.”
“Kannan,” she said slowly, “you will either paid us in cash or in memory. Or there will be one less person living in your apartment when you return tonight.”
Sudden fear gripped my heart and pumped its blackness into my veins, paralyzing my thoughts. My body wanted to fight, my muscles had automatically coiled into tight strings and my feet tinged with the temptation of escape. But Go was too great a risk, I had owed her too much and I had paid back none to her.
“Ok. Walk me through the selection of memory again.” I sighed, and wondered what tempted me to visit this cursed place again. For Jimmy, of course. You can’t stay away from the pull, can you.
“Stalling are we?” Razi’s voice was as sweet as cream now, a fleeting smile played at the edge of her lips. “Memory selection is done at random for the permanent removal of a patient’s memory which is then wiped and added to our database for future patients. The memory chosen could be any memory from the conscious, subconscious and unconscious. Happy now?”
“Of course, Razi.” I smiled at her and wondered how nice it would be to kick her face until it resembled the colour of a fly’s body. One can dream. “Just get it over and done with.”
“Lie down then, and don’t move.” Razi warned as I shut my eyes as if that alone could ward off what was coming, I heard the familiar beep of buttons and the automated voice asking for confirmation of the program. I hated the process and I hated every minute of it, it was an intrusion that was far more intimate than anything I’ve experienced. It was more intimate than a relationship between a newborn baby and their mother, every fear, every memory that constructs the being is you is being violated by something foreign to you. Unknown. And before you can grasp it-
“Have a nice trip home, Kannan.” Razi smiled at me as she left the room, carrying the small datachip between her fingertips. The metallic strips on it caught light and winked at me mockingly as both of them disappeared from my sight.
So I left the room and The Clinic, trying to ignore the aching loss in my heart that only seemed to grow with every step I took.
What did they take away from me?