Fiction Science Fiction Suspense

“We’re just downloading the patient’s memories to a hard drive. I mean, it’s hardly brain surgery, now is it…?”

The operating room comprising of two doctors, one nurse, and the anaesthetist, suddenly went disbelievingly silent, searching each other to see if there was a possible punch line to follow.

“I’m sorry, Doctor Abel,” the chief nurse spoke up. “Was that a joke?”

“Should it be?” Simon Abel answered with a question.

“I know it’s just attached sensors and that you’re not cutting her open,” the nurse attempted to defend her opinion. “But all the same, it is a form of brain surgery. You’re literally in this woman’s head.”

“How do you know she’s not in my head?” Simon indignantly queried.


Confusion spread across her face, before she pointed to a monitor on the wall behind her to emphasise her muted point. It was currently lit up, displaying the live feed from the monitoring camera that was focussed on the patient’s head.

“Do you think I don’t know that - Nurse?” Simon corrected her. “This woman’s predicament has been in my head for weeks. In fact, I’ve thought of nothing else since her diagnosis, and no matter how hard I have tried, I can’t get her out of it!”

“We did raise our concerns, Simon,” Geoffrey Bentall, the Consulting Surgeon intervened. “Operating on your own wife was always a risky undertaking - especially in emotional terms.”

“This had to be me,” Simon explained. “Danger exists, if this goes wrong. Joanne faces a spiralling collapse into the rapid onset of Dementia, and I face having the woman I love no longer know who I am. I simply refuse to accept the end to the memories that we together alone, have built over the past thirty-nine years. Without this pioneering surgery, it will be like the landscape of our lives suddenly becoming a blurry, misted window in a long dark night.”

“I understand,” Geoffrey empathised. “However, as surgeons, we must operate without emotions, and more importantly, without doubting our abilities. That is the only way we can focus on the tasks ahead. I’m afraid, you are letting control slip away from you.”

Simon paused as his colleague’s words hit home. Geoffrey’s logic was undeniably sound. He was too close to the patient and emotion was indeed muddling his own thought processes. However, the Royal College of Surgeons graduate, was as stubborn as he was gifted. This resulted in him changing course during his residency, to specialise in studying the effects of ageing on the brain. Early successes in this field led to awards and grants, funding the development of the Memory Activity Retrieval and Storage System (MARSS), a procedure of directly applied piezo sensors to the hippocampus, the neocortex, and the amygdala that monitor, read, and convert electrical brain signals into visual interpretations. This data is then stored on quantum-based computers in multi-dimensional format. The ground-breaking system allows memories and reality to exist in a single state of consciousness and provides a way to re-boot short-term and long-term memory by re-uploading the saved data into the patient’s memory gaps. Simon discovered that dementia could be reversed by feeding the visual back into the patient. Then, converting the images back into electrical signals that stimulate the temporal lobe of the patient, he proved that total recall of the patient’s life can be restored. Successful tests on lab rats and primates provided the medical profession enough convincing data to give the green light to Simon’s team for use on humans. However, no-one but Simon foresaw that the first patient would be his own wife, Joanne. It was for this primary purpose that he forged ahead with the innovative and life-changing intervention. What he did not welcome was the delaying tactics of those in present company.

“I’m still the acting surgeon for this procedure, so I control the process and what I say goes, okay? In fact, today, we are going to do what Simon Says, and Simon says stop doubting me.”

Geoffrey conceded the argument with a nod of his head to indicate he had said what he needed to say, and that the room was still in Simon’s reliable hands.

“Nurse…” Simon’s own memory struggled with her name.

“Dawson,” she inserted into the pause.

“Right, Nurse Dawson,” Simon repeated.

“Jenny,” she added - attempting to ease the tension.

“Jenny,” Simon once again mirrored the assisting nurse. “Simon says, please touch the record button on the main monitor.”

“Recording… activated, Doctor,” she announced as she interacted with the touchscreen controls to the MARSS application.

“Now, I’ve successfully attached the sensors to each region that we intend to capture data from. As the MARSS quantum processor begins to process the initial electrical signals emitting from the patient’s three areas of interest, you will notice each of the three monitors situated at the head of the operating table will begin transmitting a video interpretation of the signal from each sensor.”

As if on cue, each of the three monitors attached to the sensors lit up with moving images. Feeling the need to educate those watching on, Simon proceeded to explain what was happening.

“As you can see, the monitor on the left shows my wife’s episodic memories. Here, we have a scene from what looks like her childhood – playing on a swing, going to the park with her friends, eating ice cream on holiday with her parents, etc. etc. I do believe that may be in Corfu.”

“Extraordinary,” Geoffrey commented. “This is like something out of science fiction.”

“Correction, Geoffrey. It is now out of science fact.”

“It’s so… sensational.”

Not to be distracted by Geoffrey’s awe of what he was witnessing, Simon continued.

“You will also notice on the monitor in the middle, that some of the memories from the hippocampus are being transferred into the neocortex, combining the episodic memories with sensory perception, generation of motor commands and language. The imagery resembles an AI art generator trying to process your composition request. This organic data will act as a future conduit upon re-upload to the patient, sculpting over the cracks in memory.”

“A sort of translatory intermediary,” Geoffrey concluded.

“Correct, Geoff. The intention is to merge everything in one swift upload. Like a jolt from a defibrillator that restarts the heart, it helps restore cognitive recall.”

Geoffrey’s attention was suddenly diverted to the monitor on the right, where a series of events were fast-forwarding at a rapid pace.

“Is that normal?”

“It’s the quantum processing. It allows multi states of data results at the same time in the same space.”

“No, I mean is it normal for every memory to have the same person in it.”

“It’s the Amygdala,” Simon mansplained. It’s where the strongest emotional memories such as shame, joy, love, and grief are stored.”

“Yes, I know that,” Geoffrey’s indignant answer cut through the condescending air exhaled by Simon. “But isn’t fear also stored in the Amygdala?”

Geoffrey’s tone of voice suggested an underlying motive for the question, but Simon was too distracted to comprehend it.

“Correct. PTSD is also an emotional stress that’s processed there.”

“There seems to be the same man in all of these scenes,” Nurse Dawson pointed out.

“We have been together for almost four decades,” Simon emphasised. “It is natural that I would be a normal re-occurrence in my wife’s memory.”

“But you’re not in any of these memories,” Nurse Dawson noticed.

Prompted by that statement, Simon’s close study of the sensors attached to his wife’s brain, suddenly broke as he quickly looked up at the monitor.

“Nurse, turn up the sound,” he ordered.

I can’t leave him,” came the first words from the monitor’s speakers – interspersed with blips that sounded like morse code scrunched together, as if the message was in a hurry to send its details. “He’ll never agree to a divorce.”

The words spoken so bluntly, were being said by Simon’s wife to an unfamiliar blurry-imaged man sitting with her on what appeared to be a park bench. The surreal scene reminded Simon of something he had once seen in an old black and white episode of The Twilight Zone.

Simon says that we’ll always be together,” she continued. “I’ve tried to convince him that our marriage ended the day our daughter died. He was the one driving under the influence and I’ve never forgiven him.”

Simon says, Simon says,” the man’s distorted voice repeated. “You are not a possession that he owns, or someone that has to always be at his beck and call.

I know that,” she tried to explain. “He’ll never leave me, or let me leave him.”

Then you must forget him,” the man instructed. “You know,” He suggested. “I can remove him from your conscious thoughts.”

I don’t understand.”

Cradling her hand between his, the man softly explained his cryptic meaning.

I know what he’s working on to help Dementia patients,” the man revealed. “There are several of us doctors working on similar systems to restore lost memories; however, my department has developed a government funded process that blanks certain memories. A kind of wipe utility for those in precarious positions in life, like trauma patients – such as military personnel suffering from PTSD. My system alleviates mental anguish, pain, and anything associated with negativity.”

Simon and the other attentive operating theatre attendees silently watched the surreal scene on the monitor play out to the end, where Simon’s wife and the unidentified man shared a passionate kiss and long embrace - before the scene changed to a kitchen setting, where Simon and Joanne were vociferously arguing about their relationship.

I can’t bear to look at you,” Joanne screamed. “Knowing you killed our little girl.”

Everyone in the operating theatre turned to look at Simon, who stood crestfallen with head bowed, as the memory was re-lived for all to witness.

Please give me the divorce,” she continued to plead with him onscreen.

I can’t,” the digital Simon replied. “In time, you’ll recover from your grief… Simon says,” he tenderly tried to comfort Joanne. “You’re all I have left to love.”

Moving at an increasingly rapid rate, the video on the left monitor, displayed Joanne in a sensual embrace with the blurry man. Heavy, sensual breathing could be heard as Joanne whispered, “Make me forget… please.”

Fast-forwarding, the video’s changing scene displayed Joanne on an operating table very similar to the one she was currently laying on. For a moment, Simon confusedly checked his surroundings.

“Is there a problem, Doctor?” Nurse Dawson asked.

“For a moment,” he paused. “That room on the monitor looked very much like…”

Finishing his sentence, Nurse Dawson quickly said, “This one? Yes, the plot thickens,” she teased. “Don’t all operating theatres look alike?”

This will hurt me more than you,” the blurry man on the left monitor comforted the onscreen Joanne. “When I’m finished here, your memory will have had a spring clean.”

I can’t wait,” she replied. “This overwhelming grief is just too much to…

At that very revealing moment, all three monitors went blank – except for the occasional ghostly flicker of light illuminating the screens, as the quantum computer put itself into sleep mode.

“Stop recording,” Simon instructed. “I have all I need. Nurse Dawson, would you please unhook my wife from the system.”

“But we haven’t configured the re-upload, Doctor.”

“I’m suspending the procedure. Please transfer her to the gurney and have the orderlies return her to her room.”

“Simon, what are you doing?” Geoffrey asked with a protest lingering in the air.

“I need to analyse the data before I take the next step.”

Nurse Dawson hesitated as she once again voiced her concern.

“Doctor, wouldn’t it be better to conclude the procedure? With the full download of data…”

“Simon says take her back to her room!” He vociferously commanded.

“This is preposterous, Simon,” Geoffrey argued. “It’s half-hearted and typical of your behaviour.”

With an added commanding nod, Joanne was transferred to a gurney and with Nurse Dawson and orderlies in tow, she was taken out of the theatre.

“Leave us, please,” Simon addressed the anaesthetist. “I need to discuss notes with Doctor Bentall.”

Escorting her to the door, Simon quietly locked it behind the exiting doctor, then returned to the centre of the room, placing both his hands on the operating table, like he had something important to relay.

“Why’d you do it, Geoffrey?”

Exhibiting a convincing state of bemusement, Geoffrey replied, “What on Earth are you talking about, Simon?”

“Don’t avoid the question,” Simon’s annoyed tone of voice reflected his mood.

“My dear chap,” Geoffrey countered, I really don’t know what you are referring to.”

“You must have been relieved to see your image blurred. Is that a feature in the plagiarised software you sell to dodgy governments?”

“Simon,” Geoffrey began to argue, before being silenced.

“Simon says, shut your big ugly mouth!”

Taken aback by Simon’s outburst, Geoffrey reluctantly complied while listening to his colleague’s rant.

“Did you think I didn’t notice you pawing my wife at dinner parties, and how you embarrassed yourself trying to kiss her when you thought I wasn’t looking?”

Geoffrey’s lack of response gave Simon more fuel to highlight obvious signs of underhanded behaviour.

“What about those secret Valentine cards that appeared in my mailbox every year?”

“Speculation, dear chap,” Geoffrey tried to counter. “Were the cards signed by anyone?”

“You know they weren’t.”

Simon deliberately made his way around to the other side of the operating table and appeared to be circling Geoffrey as he spoke.

“Then there’s the video translation of Joanne’s memories,” he specified, slowing his speech deliberately. “You wanted her so much that you took advantage of a grieving woman, promising her new memories to replace old, painful ones.”

“Again, old bean. Speculation,” Geoffrey nervously laughed. “That blurry image could have been anybody,” he attempted to rationalise. “I mean, come on, old chap. That doesn’t even look like my body type.”

“There was one minute giveaway,” Simon pointed out, as he positioned himself directly behind Geoffrey.

“Giveaway?” Geoffrey repeated while cocking his head, straining to see where Simon stood.

This will hurt you more than me,” Simon recited. “How many times have I heard you say that to your patients before surgery? It’s such a flippant thing to say, don’t you agree?”

“No,” Geoffrey argued. “What I say is, this will hurt me more than you…” Geoffrey caught himself in mid-sentence, but too late to stop. “…Simon,” he tried to reason. “I’m…”

Geoffrey’s attempt at an apology was swiftly drowned out by his words slurring uncontrollably. Feeling a sharp jab in his neck, his legs reacted by instantly buckling under him – forcing him to cling to the operating table like an overboard sailor gripping a piece of driftwood floating on the ocean. To avoid him slipping to the floor, Simon turned Geoffrey around and carefully laid him face up on the operating table. As Geoffrey mumbled and slurred his protesting sentences, Simon attached sensors to three areas around Geoffrey’s skull. The now familiar, Hippocampus, the Neocortex, and the Amygdala. The MARSS system awoke from of its sleep mode, as a few blips of sound stirred the three monitors. As Geoffrey started to fall into a state of unconsciousness, he could hear Simon explaining to him a fate that sounded worse than death.

“I first trialled this system on rodents. You’d be fascinated at the memories stored within their primitive brains. For instance, did you know that the incidences of episodic memory in a rat’s tiny brain, can reach up to thirty recollections? That’s why they’re such a fascinating study. They surprise me.”

As Simon spoke, the three monitors flashed video images of Geoffrey’s memories being interpreted by the MARSS system. When the image of Joanne appeared in the right monitor, Simon paused it, grabbed Geoffrey by the jaw, then turned his head to face the screen, while he spoke to him slowly and deliberately.

“Such a beautiful soul, isn’t she? She may never forgive me for a mistake that cost us both dearly. However, I must continue to try to help her overcome her grief. I owe her that much – and for that, I need to remain in her life and not forgotten.”

Selecting an option on the touchscreen, Simon pressed a button to initiate a previously hidden process.

“I knew what your memory Spring Cleaner could do. Part of the code you used to develop it was illegally copied from my system. However, I put a trapdoor in the code that when invoked, emailed me your raw code.”

Bending to whisper in Geoffrey’s ear, Simon’s cheeks appeared to glow from his victorious thrill.

“You see, I developed my own Spring Cleaner. It does more than just delete. It’s more of a complete memory replacement.”

Selecting another touch option on the control monitor, Simon pressed a button labelled, Initiate.

“Geoffrey, say hello to Raymond - my favourite rat subject. I’m sure you and him have similar instincts. Well, you will by the time my code filters out your current memory and replaces it with recollections of a never-ending hunt for food.”

A stifled, slurry scream attempted to emanate from Geoffrey’s mouth; however, it fell silent as he drifted into unconsciousness. Watching the transference of rodent recollections wipe human hypermnesia clean, like a singer would re-record over a used cassette tape, a passing tinge of psychopathic regret encompassed Simon, before being dismissed with a relieving smile.

After several moments of scrunchy-sounding morse code, the process came to the end of its programming. Attentively, Simon removed the sensors attached to Geoffrey’s head, re-arranged him to look like he was taking a nap, then walked toward the operating room door to unlock it. With a glance over his shoulder, Simon bid his colleague an insincere farewell.

“Enjoy your new memories, old chap. I imagine that they’ll send you raving mad and straight into the looney bin.”

As he exited through the door, he couldn’t resist one final verbal poke.”

“Simon says… good luck…”



April 20, 2023 15:57

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Graham Kinross
18:42 Jan 03, 2024

This was a hell of a read. The technology alone would have so many implications. The egos behind all of this really impact the application of what would be a breakthrough. The revelation of Simon’s psychotic, or is it sociopathic? behaviour is paced well for impact. Have you ever seen Dollhouse the short lived TV show? It had a similar concept but about implanting memories.


Chris Campbell
02:18 Jan 04, 2024

Graham, Thanks for your great feedback. Simon does border on the brink of controlled madness. The tipping point - obviously - was his wife's memories being exposed. I don't blame him, though. Betrayal and infidelity are two big motivators for any type of behaviour. I have not seen Dollhouse, but from your recommendation, I will give it a try.


Graham Kinross
06:42 Jan 04, 2024

Dollhouse is well worth a try. One of my favourite shows.


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Amanda Lieser
06:08 May 05, 2023

Hi Chris! As with many of your lovely tales you manage to ask an ethical question to set the scene. For this one, I thought you were asking: just because we can, does that mean we should? Yes, a cure for dementia and Alzheimer’s would be life changing. But what pain could we cause in the process? I also loved the additional conflict of these doctors and that Simon character was superb. I loved the way we slowly revealed his true spirit. Nice work!!


Chris Campbell
07:24 May 05, 2023

Thanks, Amanda. Poor Joanne was the unwitting victim of two horrible male egos. It is uncertain how much technology and AI will change us in the future. Perhaps, humans will evolve into a hybrid, allowing us all to be uploaded to the trans-web highway - where memories become reality and permanent. Thanks for your great feedback.


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Viga Boland
14:11 Apr 27, 2023

This was totally captivating read, Chris. I couldn’t get to each line fast enough to see what was going to happen next. The concept is fascinating and frightening. The two men are quite despicable. Bottom line? Very creative and enjoyable short story.


Chris Campbell
15:04 Apr 27, 2023

Many thanks, Viga. Yes, the two doctors are indeed despicable cads, and in their blinkered desire to possess Joanne, they willingly make her the victim of their controlling egos. So glad you liked it.


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Russell Mickler
03:30 Apr 27, 2023

Hey there, Chris - Okay, loved the opening line, and the transition into the drama right away was a masterful touch. I did like the Phillip K. Dick / The Outer Limits vibe to this and the application of today’s technology to create plausibility. A great read - fantastic response to the prompt. R


Chris Campbell
04:06 Apr 27, 2023

Russell, Many thanks for the great feedback. I was indeed attempting to create a Twilight Zone/Outer Limits feel to the story, so I'm glad it worked for you.


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Helen A Smith
07:59 Apr 26, 2023

Hi Chris Clever stuff. Really enthralling. What a great twist! A real horror show here. Could easily happen in the future. However, the most interesting question of all - for me - is did either of these two egocentric men really love the woman? If they did, they would have left her memories alone. I think they deserved each other and she deserved anyone but them. Great story 💀


Chris Campbell
00:53 Apr 27, 2023

Helen, Thanks for the great feedback. Your observation is spot on. Joanne is the victim of two controlling male egos vying to dominate her free will. Simon's love for his wife was replaced by guilt and sorrow caused by a personal tragedy. His solution to clean her memory was a desperate attempt to eliminate the guilt. Instead of respecting her wishes, he selflishly ignored them. Glad you liked it.


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Mary Bendickson
16:14 Apr 23, 2023

Made this sci-fi so believable I am worried it already exists. Lots of prompts covered, too. I can't quit imagining a man-size rat thinking he can devour anything and everything. Simon says...well done.


Chris Campbell
05:07 Apr 24, 2023

Thanks, Mary. This one took a little research to pass as believable. Glad you liked it.


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Delbert Griffith
11:46 Apr 21, 2023

It looks like you got more than one prompt in here, Chris. Yes, "Twilight Zone" indeed! The plot must have been thickened by about a pound of corn starch because when it thickened, it really thickened! The only person I feel sorry for is the wife, who is more guinea pig than anything else, more chess pawn than queen. I feel like both doctors were narcissistic assholes, though Simon seems to have more assholery than Geoffrey. Barely. This was a great tale that encompassed a lot of plausible future science and dark scenarios. Great work, my f...


Chris Campbell
15:42 Apr 21, 2023

Thanks, Delbert. Your analysis is perfectly correct. The victim here is definitely the wife being used and manipulated by the arrogance of the two doctors. I had started this story thinking it was going to be comedy, but it took me down a different path and helped me learn a little about the areas of our brains. Glad you liked it.


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Michelle Oliver
01:18 Apr 21, 2023

Oh what a read! Your medical and scientific explanations read with science fiction plausibility. I was hooked in this world. What a great twist, the fact that Simon knows everything and had a master plot and he was manipulating the situation and his colleague all along. There is the age old dilemma that all new inventions, technology, treatments have the potential for exploitation and misuse for personal gain, revenge or some other nefarious misuse. This story explores all of this and more. Thanks for sharing


Chris Campbell
01:40 Apr 21, 2023

Thanks, Michelle. I've just done a little re-write around the Royal College of Surgeons passage. It needed cleaning up. However, I very much appreciate your great feedback. I look forward to reading your views. The more I immersed myself in this story, I couldn't help but think it resembled the style of an old Twilight Zone episode.


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Kevin V
23:47 Apr 20, 2023

Ok, Chris, so if I followed this correctly, Simon's wife never truly had dementia. The painful memories were removed by Geoffrey who she had an affair with, by using part of the process invented by Simon. The effect only mimicked it. And Simon developed the procedure to reintroduce the memories in a way that would reverse the dementia. This is all very technical! I thought the use of a quantum computer particularly clever since something of that magnitude would be necessary to capture all those memories and do it quickly. And all the tw...


Chris Campbell
01:56 Apr 21, 2023

Kevin, What wonderful comprehensive feedback! You summed up my story perfectly. Thank you for the re-write suggestion. I have since updated that passage, so you've helped make it better. Thank you. This indeed was a departure from my last two pieces. Based on a different prompt, I envisaged a comedy; however, it took a turn in what I can only describe as The Twilight Zone, so I quickly changed prompts - and as I was deep into the story, I just had to finish it. That said, I'm going back to comedy for the next prompt - hopefully. The trans...


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