“So, are you sure this is safe?” I asked.
“Of course,” The doctor responded. “We’ve had many patients like you, it’s a very simple process really. Perfectly safe.” The doctor smiled, crossing his arms and gesturing to the operation table before me. I hesitated and looked around the room at all of the other people there, observers as the doctor called them, here to watch the progress of science in action.
“Then why is there a money-back guarantee?” I asked as I sat down, itching my arm as I stared at the tools before me, the scalpel, the cranial drill, the machine itself that I’d heard so much about. It was smaller than I expected, just a little hunk of metal that looked a lot like a helmet. Apparently it would just rest on my head and do its thing.
“Just to draw in customers, sir. I promise you, I guarantee you, this machine is perfectly safe.” The doctor tapped the helmet happily, smiling wholeheartedly at me as he walked around the table and rested a hand on my shoulder, making me feel extremely uncomfortable.
“If you have any doubts, please, we do not need to perform this operation. This is all for you of course, sir.”
I thought of all the waivers I’d signed. I thought of all the money I’d spent. I thought of the man, the reason I was here. Would I really undo everything I’d done to get here? No, I couldn’t. I had to get rid of him, I had to get him out of my head.
I sighed and looked up at the doctor. “I’m ready,” I said definitively, nodding to add some emphasis to it. He smiled happily and clapped his hands together.
“Excellent! Then, let us start!”
Nurses rushed forward and gently took my hands, my legs, strapping them to the table. I’d been told this was for my own protection, any little movement could alter the machine and could cause complications.
The doctor walked behind me, out of sight. Suddenly a mask slipped over my face, the tube connected to it trailing behind me. I heard a hiss of gas and a strong scent of chemicals filled my lungs. I heard the doctor talking behind me, his voice oddly distorted.
“I have now administered a strong chemical concoction that will make the operation completely painless yet keep the individual cogent. They must be aware for the procedure to work correctly, of course.” He stepped into view and smiled at me reassuringly as he picked up the scalpel. He walked behind me again and I felt some pressure on the top of my head, a curious sensation of warmth trickling down the back of my skull, the front of my face.
“Nurse, a towel or two, thanks.” I heard him say from somewhere above me. A haze had filled my brain, I felt like I was drifting a bit between time and space, I couldn’t quite place exactly where I was, I couldn’t remember the time. I felt like I was floating above the scene, looking down upon it, watching the doctor carefully cutting a square in my head, peeling the flesh from the bone and setting the mat of scalp and hair down on a little table to his left.
Next, he picked up the drill and carefully cut a square in my exposed skull. As the drilling started the haze faded, the sound filled my entire head, was the only thing I could think of, it was just so loud. The buzzing of the drill became my entire world for the moment it was active, although I felt no pain as it effortlessly drilled through my skull. Finally it stopped, the pressure that had been present without my knowledge stopped, and I was free of the sound.
“Now that the brain has been exposed,” The doctor said from somewhere above, the haze quickly filling my brain once more, distorting his voice, making it sound alien. “I shall install the machine on his head.”
I saw him from the corner of my eye–curiously, I’d lost the ability to turn it–pick up the helmet-machine up from the table before walking back to me. I felt the heavy contraption slip onto my head, felt the weight of it on my neck, felt a strange pinching feeling on the top of my head.
“As you can see, the machine has already probed into his brain, it is now seeking out the memories we programmed for it to remove. This individual suffers from trauma related to his father, the man abused him and…” The doctor’s words started to trail off as something tunneled into my brain, I could feel the world around me going dark like the lights were turning off.
A memory filled my head, stronger than any I’d experienced before. A summer day, a day I remembered very clearly for how horrible it had been, juxtaposing the beautiful weather. It was sunny, a strong, cool breeze blew over the grass of our yard, rustling the leaves in the tree. Sun covered everything in a golden glow, heating up everything. It was so beautiful, and I was inside, watching my dad watch television.
“Dad?” I’d mumbled under my breath, my hands shoved in my pockets.
“Whaddawant?” Was his slurred response. It was early in the day but he’d already been drinking heavily, was already clearly drunk. I was only 10 that day but I knew what his slurred voice meant–he was going to be mean.
“Dad, I want to go outside and play with my friends.” I lied. I didn’t have many friends, no one wanted to be friends with me, the small, sickly boy with no mother whose dad didn’t work. No, I just wanted to go out into the woods to the small hut I’d built there with my own hands, a little shack built of rotting boards that would scare any parent who saw it. Rusting nails held it together but I treasured every inch of it, it was my own little safe place in the world, and I wanted to go there so badly that day, to watch the birds play in the trees through the little windows I’d made–really just squares cut into rotten wood with a rusted saw I’d stolen from my dad’s unused toolkit. I really liked watching birds those days, I liked to imagine I would grow into a bird and be able to fly away, fly far away from my dad and his drinking and all the kids that made fun of me for being motherless and small.
“Why don’t ya ask your mother if you can?” He said, laughing hoarsely at his own joke. I stood there, unsure what to do, trembling slightly with fear. Did I push him and ask again and risk a beating or did I go upstairs and stare at the wall all day.
“Please, dad, I want to go outside,” I mumbled in a voice barely above a whisper.
My dad threw a drunken look at me, his dark eyes merely buttons on his blank, fat, greasy face. He looked like something out of a horror movie, his skin was pasty and stretched tight over his fat body, his hair was raggedy from lack of cleaning and his teeth were black and yellow with cavities and plaque. “Are you still there boy? No! No going outside, ya hear me?”
I stood there, trembling. I was too scared to move, I wanted to go out so badly, I wanted to scream at him, I wanted to burst into tears.
“GET OUT OF MY SIGHT YA LITTLE SHIT!” He roared, making me freeze even further, I hated loud noises, I could always hear him yelling at my mother late at night while she was still alive and it had made me terrified of his raised voice ever since.
He stared at me there, motionless save for my trembling, and heaved himself out of the armchair he was always in, the leather peeling loudly away from his sweat-stained shirt and pants. He lurched forward and I made no move to block the slap that lifted me off my feet, throwing me against the wall where I crumbled in a pile.
“ARE YOU DEAF? GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!” He shouted and finally my trance broke and I ran for the door, screaming all the way as he chased me. I had just grabbed the door when he grabbed me, yanking me away from the light and the warmth and back into the living room, the dark, cold living room, where he threw me against another wall and screamed at me for trying to leave.
Suddenly I could hear the doctor’s voice again, the memory–what memory?--was gone. What had I been thinking about? There was a faint, vague feeling of uneasiness, I could feel tears in my eyes, yet for the life of me I couldn’t put my finger on what it was that had been troubling me.
“...he’s already losing some of the memories, as you can see, the process should be finished within a few minutes…” The doctor was saying, but again his voice was being drowned out by another memory coming up from the dark depths of my mind, filling my brain once more.
This time–yes, I had been thinking of a memory last time, but what had the memory been?--the memory was of a Christmas morning.
Snow-covered the trees outside and the yard, there were already snowmen in our neighbor’s yards. I had woken up just as the sun was rising, as the few birds left were chirping. I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs, nearly falling down them in my haste. The tree had a few gifts under it, my stocking was filled with candy! My dad and mom came downstairs…these were the days before things had turned sour–no, I didn’t want to lose this memory, oh god, they were going to take this memory of my mother from me!
Suddenly it was gone, what had–what had gone? What was gone? I vaguely remembered something of my mother but what had it been?
The doctor was suddenly looking down at me, his eyes wide with fear, his mouth open.
“What’s happening?” Someone asked from outside of my sight.
“I–I don’t know, oh dear god, it’s–it’s erasing everything!” The doctor said, and before the words could really be processed in my mind I was plunged into another memory.
This one was of my first kiss with the girl who would be my wife, us holding hands at prom as we swayed together, the blue and pink and purple lights making her hair look like lovely fire as I leaned in and we kissed deeply. No! No!
I started seizing up in my restraints, but, of course, they restrained me. It was taking away everything, it was taking away it all!
Memories started to flash in my head, memories of all sorts of things–spring days in the shack, watching birds as they chirped and sang and flew. The autumn day the shack had collapsed, me trying to rebuild it but giving up and crying in frustration. My first true friend, his face blurring as I remembered him and forgot him at the same time, us swimming in the lake, talking about school and girls and television shows we both liked. Books, so many books, the books I’d hidden in to avoid my dad, all of them flashing before my eyes before disappearing into the void.
I could see the void now, could feel it growing in my brain, tears started spilling from my eyes frantically as I tried to speak, tried to force the growing haze in my brain apart so I could say something to the doctor, could beg him to stop it.
“Stop–Stop…Stop it!” I managed to shout, drool spraying forth from my trembling lips as I tried to shake my head, tried to do anything to get the machine out of my brain, to save what precious memories I had.
“I–I can’t without killing you! It can’t stop once started and I can’t just yank it out!” He said, looking truly horrified. “I–I’m so sorry, Mr. Hansen, I’m so sorry.” He took a step back and then darted for the doors, vanishing from sight…from my mind. Who had I been talking to? Who was Mr. Hansen? Was that who I’d been talking to?
The void had almost filled my brain, I couldn’t remember who I was, where I was, why I couldn’t move, what was on my head. Unfamiliar faces surrounded me, strangers staring down at me with curiosity and horror, some of the faces hungry, consuming my confusion like it was sustenance.
Who was I? What was happening? Memories I didn’t remember kept flicking through my brain before vanishing into the void, Summer became winter, friends became enemies, my college years flashed away in seconds, my elementary years even faster. All I could remember was I was here, and even as I tried to think about it, it was gone.
The void filled my brain and took everything with it. All I have left is this, this reflection of everything that had happened, somehow surviving, remembering memories that were lost, but even now I can feel it going, I can feel it vanishing. I feel my mother going, my friend going, my dad, that bastard whose fault all of this was, him vanishing into the void. I feel myself going too, the void pulling me in. I feel–