“I can only wait for the final amnesia – the one that can erase an entire life.” - Luis Bunuel
The world faded in, passing from absolute black - oblivion - to a murky shade of grey that slowly began to brighten, rising in intensity, blinding me until-
With a flick, my eyes opened.
I tried to sit up – my first instinct. But something stopped me. I pushed, straining harder, until I found the sense to look at the things which were stopping me – restraining me.
They turned out to be a pair of circular, thick straps of some kind of shiny material – that was strangely soft despite its strength. It was auburn, and glossy, with hard brass ticks ingrained into its length, binding them together.
The word which had floated into my head, as though surfacing from an opaque pool of thought, held no meaning to me.
Oh, but of course I recognised what "leather" was – the bands that fastened my hands down to the plastic, brown table I was lying on. But it didn’t pass on any information. No metaphysical catalogue of properties, purposes and history…nothing. Just the image of those binders. Nothing more. And there seemed, to me, something profoundly wrong about that.
Above me, and aside from the black specks that collided and divided in my blinkered eyes, there appeared to be a large, factory-like ceiling, with tetrahedral-shaped glass openings present at regular, five meter intervals. Twisting my head, I noticed the large columns of concrete that sprouted up from the floor like dead grey trees, supporting the second level of the building – a series of interconnected catwalks that branched off periodically in different directions, constructed of a type of corrugated material. The floodlights placed high on either side of the building washed the entire scene with an eerie, pallid light.
Where was I?
I had no more time to think because, at that moment, I became aware of a dull, scraping noise. It reverberated throughout the room, sending echoes down invisible corridors beyond my vision. This continued for an ominous moment or so, complete with the squeal of inorganic material, until with a final, leaden rasp, it ceased.
There were several moments of ear-splitting silence.
Then he began to hear something else – a soft, whispery noise, nearly indiscernible among the pitter-patter of rain on the glass openings above. But as it came closer – it must have been, for it to be more noticeable – I heard more.
The slither of clothes on a body. Muffled breathing.
Light suddenly became blotted out, destroying my sense of vision. I instinctively screwed up my eyes, adjusting to the darkness, until my eyes finally settled.
Settled on the form of something standing above me.
I automatically flinched, my arms jerking against the restraints, fingers tense, as though electrocuted.
Tense? I thought.
Then the figure spoke – in a clipped, urbane tone.
“How are you feeling today, AS1?”
I stared. Despite my fear, I couldn’t bring myself to answer.
I couldn’t speak.
I didn’t know how to.
My attempt at communication came out – a feeble, slurred: “Ummmmamaaa…”
The figure shifted in the light, and I got a glimpse of its face. And body.
It appeared to be covered in a pale, blue-green suit that shone as though wet. Its face was enveloped by a hood of the same substance and over its lower half was a white, cloth-like covering. Only the eyes showed, dark and flinty and...
It looked down at me with clinical distaste.
“Interesting…” it muttered. Then it moved around the table, and grabbed my face in one shiny glove. It was cold, and slippery, but somehow the thing managed to maintain a grip as my head thrashed. A light flickered in my eyes, my mouth was pulled back for examination and diodes were attached to my temples.
My face was slapped multiple times, before I finally quietened.
“You repulsive creature,” it said, typing into a board connected to a bent white pane - the one that had wires attached to my head. “When this is done, it will be my pleasure to exterminate you.”
Nothing. I didn’t react, just gazing at him in anger and confusion. What was happening?There was a moment of quiet, and the tapping stopped.
“Well…” the thing seemed, from the tone, surprised. “This is…well…it worked.”
There was an insane giggle.
An equally fucked-up laugh.
The device deactivated, the whirring sound I could hear off my side – that blew hot air into my ears – slowly dying off.
The thing spoke once again.
“No wonder you can’t speak, my poor, idiot friend. But what does it matter – despite the problems you’ve caused, this has revitalised everything.” It began to walk around the table to the other side, opposite the black, strangely reflective screen.
“Oh, you can’t understand, I know. But you won’t be around for much longer. We can’t use you when there are so many other, uncontaminated subjects.” The figure reached into a drawer next to the table, already opened, and pulled out something.
“Don’t worry, though – everything will be quick, and clean.
There was a flash of silver as the hand came up.
“I’ll make sure of that.”
My mind didn’t know what the silver thing was, that was so viciously curved, sharp and maddeningly spotless, but my mind instantly equated it with one thing.
A foot lashed out from its restraints, acting in conjunction to my now spastic body that was writhing and jerking, trying to free itself, moving the slab of light metal on its trundles. It missed the thing completely, held back as it was by the padded brown straps, but it stuck an unintended target – the thin metal table on wheels. The thing had placed it too close.
And it spun, titled on an odd axis as my foot hit it, twisting away to smash the startled thing, sending it stumbling, before the table crashed into the thin white slip and its black-box attachments. There was a crash, a smash and a sparking noise. A metallic sound of clattering came from the table as its contents spilled off.
And there was clack of metal-on-metal. A tear of fabric.
A blaze of pain.
I looked down at my left leg – the source of my hurt. A shiny implement was lying by it, on the table, next to a slash that was visible through the parted white cloth of my leg. That was rapidly straining red.
It was silver.
And it had cut the strap – straight through the edge, sliced open like the soft skin of a child. My left leg was free.
I heard a furious shout from the thing, from the area of the black boxes. It wouldn’t be long before it came back. I knew it. And I knew that if I didn’t get out by then, it would kill me.
My leg started yanking, pushing the silver apparatus towards my hand, which strapped to the table.
It sliced my leg again, digging deep, catching. But despite that, it moved.
Five inches – the length my indented leg managed to skid it. My hand was so close.
There was a crashing sound from my side. From the corner of my tear-stained, twitching eyes, I saw a black case fall over. The figure was moving, pushing off the reflective black screen.
I screamed in desperation, my hand straining.
And it touched the blade, prompting blood to leak from the wound. My hand clutched it, partially ruined and bloodied, and began to frantically saw at the strap holding my right hand.
It was free in a moment.
Then it began to work on my right leg – again, with a tear, it came free.
And then the blade came upon the other one.
An aqua-green fisted hand smashed into my face from the side, the world exploding in white and black. Another arm, gleaming, closed around my throat. “You fucking experiment…I’m going to fucking kill you! Fucking die!” The figure roared, squeezing hard.
The world pulsed rapidly in black and red as my hand scrabbled uselessly at its slick, coated arm. I pushed with all my strength.
And then I came free, and I crashed into the figure. It fell backwards, eyes millimetres from mine, the now-transparent, wet cloth screaming obscenities at me. It’s fist pounded my face, and my hand moved.
And it gasped.
The man in the surgical outfit gasped, hands still on my throat, tightening further. I couldn’t breathe. I was going to die.
Then the fingers loosened, and the man fell back into the smoking mess of machinery and computers, rolling over to expose the silver and black object sticking out of his glossy overalls.
A surgical knife.
It took me a moment to regain coherent thought. Everything seemed to be a blistering inferno of pain.
I didn’t realise that I had fallen to the ground – I didn’t hear my breath quickening in pace, like that of an excited dog.
I found a job. People ridiculed my poor, childish English and abysmal numeracy skills. It was sickening – I knew I shouldn’t speak that badly, or be that terrible at mathematics, but I didn’t know what to do about it.
It was maddening. All those snide little comments, all those whispers behind my back…it hurt. Deeply. They gave me a name, because I couldn’t remember my own, or anything important – only scant memories of playing as a child in fields with another boy who resembled me, the bells of a churchyard, the smile of a motherly-like woman.
“Richard the Retard.”
Worse of all, I could only express my anger in fits of childlike rage which, when I realised what it was, made me collapse into one sad, sobbing mess. Something had to be done.
So I thought. And to be honest, the answer should have come sooner – probably due to my befuddled state.
That was what had triggered my memories, however little – killing the man dressed as a surgeon. I had to do it again. Please don’t condemn me – I needed to know who I was.
I chose Pauline. The supervisor at my work who seemed to personally hate me. I had lured her to the building basement under the guise of wanting to check out faulty shipments.
It had been messy and upsetting.
“Where is it, Richard?” she had asked, peering into the murky gloom of the basement. “I don’t really have time for this.”
“Please d-d-don’t cry.” I sounded petulant even to my own ears. “It makes m-me sad.”
A sickening thud as the hammer hit her head. And a thud as the memories unlocked.
I became more educated – more sophisticated. I got a better job and moved to another city.
I killed again – more cleanly, that time. Another woman. A man.
Soon I remembered almost everything – Simon Ulstien’s sick experiments, trying to create a mindless, memory-less slave who did nothing but kill on his command. Being a PI, I very nearly fucked up his entire operation – until he managed to capture me. And induce my own amnesia through a series of hydro-electric shocks.
It became addictive, killing. Less awkward. More fun. So, in a funny sort of way, he succeeded – though definitely not in the way he would have liked. But I soon grasped the profound truth of his deeds – something that even he couldn't have anticipated.
There came a point where I began to remember the lives of others.
I didn’t understand why I had two childhood memories, until I was killed on a sandy white beach to bullets. I didn’t understand why I had memories of fighting in mountains and plains, until I crashed into a twin-towered building, dying instantly.
There were many, many more, until I remembered…nothing.
It was what we came from. And it's what waits for us in the afterlife.
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