Don't You Forget About Me

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


What are memories worth???

Submitted: November 30, 2017

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Submitted: November 30, 2017

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“It is not because they are small minded women” explained the short, fat scientist to the members of the Board.

“They are all very clever women, global experts in their relevant fields. They just cannot handle that amount of stimuli and information at once. Their minds do not have the capacity to store that amount of data.”

“Can’t we send men instead? Aren’t their brains bigger?” one of the male board members suggested.

“Bigger in volume? Yes, they are, somewhere in the region of 14% larger in some cases. However, that doesn’t help us as men’s brains are, generally, filled with random trivial information – film quotes, CD track listings, sports results, and so on. It is far harder to identify and clear millions of tiny trivial information dotted randomly across the subcortical regions than it would be to remove whole chunks of memory. Also women’s brains work far more efficiently at collating and sorting the information the brain receives. That is part of the reason women are more intelligent than men. And the main reason why we have been using women” the scientist replied.

“So, what are you suggesting we do?” the chairman of the board asked, phrasing the question at Doctor Alvin Hirsch, newly appointed Director of the newly created Center for Communicating with Extraterrestrial Intelligence or ‘CCEI’.

“Well, as you know, all further attempts to collect data from ‘the source’ have failed. Any drone, robot or artificial intelligence we have sent in has been ignored. When the craft first landed a sizeable data transfer occurred with the first person on site.....” Doctor Hirsch replied.

“Data transfer?”

“Yes, sir. A farm girl, erm, a Jolene Underhill, someone locals have since described as ‘simple’, discovered the craft and touched it. Miss Underhill is now schooling NASA scientists in how to make inter-planetary travel as straightforward as driving to work. In conclusion it appears the craft will only release information to a human. We don’t know why. Maybe it’s a test, to see if we are worthy of their knowledge” Hirsch replied.

“Ok, so what do you suggest?”
 
“It is not possible to increase a person’s mind using genetic engineering or stem cells, the technology is not there yet, maybe in the next decade but not yet. Current calculations are the human brain can hold an equivalent maximum of 2.5 petabytes, or 2.5 million gigabytes of data. However, this is compartmentalised into subconscious functions, conscious thought, memory, the psychic apparatus, the superego, id, etc. The area we can currently affect is the memory and this accounts for the majority of space taken up in the brain. We have developed a technique that can strip the brain of specific memories, freeing up space.”

“And with this ‘technique’ you think we can clear enough space in someone’s mind to go in and safety collect the data?”

“I hope so. The memory cleared would be long term, the least accessed memories: events from childhood, first loves, school, etc. Because of the aforementioned difference in how men and women store memories, it is not feasible to use men for this purpose. We need to send a complex filing system not a rumpus room.”

“So to clarify: we all know exactly what is being proposed” said Lawson. “You are asking permission from the board to wipe the memories of the women in your programme in order to collect the information being offered by the source.”

“That is correct. The ideal candidates would be young women whose brains are fully formed but who have less life experiences than older women so there would be less to clear. We are looking at women between 24 to 29 years old, well educated, with no children. We have discovered that women with children have a reduced storage capacity as their love for their children means they store more information about them, practically everything it seems. It’s not something they are aware of or even something they can control, it’s the maternal instinct I guess.’ Hirsch concluded.

“Ok, thank you, Doctor Hirsch. We have your briefing notes, the board will discuss the matter and inform you of our decision.’ said Lawson, dismissing Hirsch and the scientist.

********************************

“Can you think back to your earliest memory?” the technician asked.

Isabelle Bennett closed her eyes, and said “I remember being walked to my first day of school by my brother, Iain, and my father. I must have been....”

“It’s ok,” the technician interrupted kindly, “you don’t have to tell us, just think it and I can see on the screen the area of the brain that memory is stored.”

The monitor beside Isabelle had a 3d graphic of her brain on it and a small, royal blue section was highlighted. The technician pressed a button and the screen zoomed into the highlighted section. Another button press and the screen reverted back to the full brain representation, free of any blue sections.

“Can you recall your earliest memory?” the technician asked.
 
“Yes, it’s my first day of school. I don’t remember how I got to school but I had a teacher....” She paused and then stopped as she recalled what the technician had said. She opened her eyes and looked at the windowed gallery in front of her, half filled with spectators. She could see Alvin Hirsch up there talking to a few serious looking people. He saw her looking at him, gave a reassuring smile and resumed his conversation. One of the people, a short, balding man with an obscene comb-over, was gesticulating widely and aggressively. Alvin put his hand on the man’s shoulder and said something Isabelle couldn’t lip read. It seemed to placate the man as he raised his hands in a conciliatory gesture, smiled and left the galley.

“What was your first home like?” the technician asked.

Isabelle closed her eyes and thought back.

********************************

“How do you think she’s doing, Alvin?” asked Melissa Lyndon, looking down at Isabelle strapped into a dentist chair in a white, sterile, operating theatre.
 
“It’s too soon to say but she appears to be the best candidate so far.”

“What was up with Malcolm? I came in at the end of it.”

“Oh, nothing, you know Malcolm, he usually is ranting about something.”

“Come on, Alvin, it’s not like you to be evasive. And you know I’ll have to report everything back to the board.”

Alvin sighed. “Alright, Malcolm is not happy with us using Isabelle.”

“Why? You already said she’s the best candidate.”

“He thinks I’m not being objective and going easy on her.”

“Why’s that? You didn’t go easy on the others, why would you with her?”
“Well, Isabelle is my daughter. We have different surnames because my ex-wife changed her name back to her maiden name when we divorced and changed Isabelle’s too.”

“She’s your daughter? I assume the board aren’t aware of this… I will have to tell them, you know, don’t try to make me keep it from them.”

“I know… I know… I wouldn’t. I didn’t know she had entered the program until she had already aced the preliminary rounds. She really is the best candidate we’ve had. She fits the criteria perfectly: 27, never married, no children, has a PhD from Harvard and has spent most of her adult life on research trips or in the lab. She’s also willing to do it, which is getting harder and harder to find, nowadays.”

********************************

“Who was your first crush?”
 
Isabelle thought for a second and a young, handsome, bald, Lex Luthor from Smallville appeared out of the darkness and winked. A half-smile appeared on her face and her tongue quickly darted out and wet her lips.

“I won’t ask who that was” the technician said with a smile, as he made the adjustments on the system.

“That’s good, I won’t be telling you.” Isabelle replied.

“That bad? I’ll leave it and go on to the next one.”

“Thanks.”

“Who was your first love?”

“Really?” Isabelle queried, “Must we?”

“Unfortunately, yes” he replied, “it is one of the most important areas to clear, removing those memories accounts for almost a fifth of the total. You’d be amazed at the amount we store from our first loves.”

“Can I have a little time while with those memories before you clear them?”

“We’ve still got a lot to go through but.... hmmm… ok, I guess we can have a break. Is thirty minutes ok?”

“Thanks, I appreciate it.”

“Director Hirsch, we’re going to take a thirty minute break now” the technician said into the microphone as he looked up to the gallery. Director Hirsch’s eyes wrinkled quizzically, then, nodded his assent.

The technician unstrapped Isabelle from the chair, undoing the large restrictive straps from her legs, waist and shoulders and then removing the smaller head straps. Isabelle lifted herself out of the chair and stretched to remove a few kinks in her joints.

“By the way, I don’t know your name – they never told me. I suppose they have their reasons.”

He looked at the gallery, saw no one was interested in them at the moment and said, “Mike, my name’s Mike.”

Isabelle held her hand out, “Hi Mike, it’s nice to meet you. For however long I remember you.”

Mike shook her hand, “Go on, take your break before they.....” he nodded at the gallery, “..... change their mind and call you back”.

********************************

Isabelle sat in the break room, a cold can of Coke in front of her. She was on the floor, her back against the wall, her eyes closed as she thought back to that summer, four years ago. She had spent 4 months in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve in Sri Lanka and there she met Guillaume, from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France. He was two decades or so older than her and lead the research expedition to the reserve. The purpose of the expedition was to look into the medical properties of different types of spider venom, especially for cancer and stroke prevention. Guillaume was a demanding leader, very brusque with the team, abrupt and impatient, some would say typically French. He got results though, making us work so hard trying to please him, to get a word of encouragement or praise. He was relentless in his disinterest though, which only made us try even harder. I would have probably ended up hating him if that leopard hadn’t come into our camp that night. We slept at the research site in individual tents, these were ten feet apart from each other, circling the main research unit where our experiments took place. The toilet was away from the main camp area to protect camp members from the sounds and smells. We had cleared a path to make it easy to find in the dark. God, it was dark there that night, the tree canopy blocking any light from the moon. I was walking sleepily to the toilet when I was crushed by a huge, writhing, weight on me with a guttural snarling and growling. Pinning me to the flour, I felt razors slice into my side and teeth into my arm. All of a sudden there was a shout and the creature slowly got off me. A burning light illuminated my saviour: Guillaume waving a fiery branch at the large cat. The leopard kept swiping it’s huge paws at the branch as it swept by, growling all the time. Guillaume leapt high, swinging the branch down at the leopard, the tip of the branch struck it on the nose and the cat yelped and backed away. When he was sure it had gone he came over to me, and held me as I shook in shock and pain. He kissed my forehead and wiped my tears, reassuring me the leopard had gone. Guillaume’s brusqueness had gone too and he was so kind and gentle. From that moment I knew that I loved him. I watched him every chance I could, volunteering for extra work to be close to him. He never knew how I felt – he had a wife and child back in Toulouse. For the last two months of the project I was under his spell and he was my first love....

Isabelle broke off from her memories as she heard the door of the break room. She opened her teary eyes and saw her father looking down at her.

“Are you alright, Izzy?” Alvin asked.

“I’m just saying goodbye to certain people in here” she said, tapping her head, “I didn’t think it would be so hard to let go.”

“You’re doing great, you know, I’m very proud of you. I know it’s not easy, previous candidates all said how hard it was for them.”

“How many have done this before me?” Isabelle asked. “I’ve asked a number of times but no one wants to tell me.”

“That was for your own good..... and the good of the project.” He said kindly, “I suppose there’s no harm in telling you now. You’re the ninety-fourth woman we have done this to.....”

“Ninety-four!” she exclaimed. “Ninety-three other women, all with their childhoods, loves and past ripped from them! That is so sad, ninety-three first memories, first birthdays, first friends.... first loves..... just thrown away.”

Tears started to stream down her face, “How could you?”

Alvin was speechless. A single tear dropped slowly from his eye. He wiped it away quickly and helped her up from the floor.

They held each other tightly and he whispered into her ear, “I wish I was a better father to you, I’m sorry.”

Isabelle pulled away and looked into his eyes, “I love you, dad, soon I may not remember why, but make sure you do not forget that I do.”

There was a knock at the door. Mike, the technician, stuck his head in, “Isabelle it’s time to..... oh, sorry Director Hirsch, I’ll leave.”

“It’s ok, Mike” Isabelle said, with steel in her voice, “let’s get this over with.”

********************************

“How do you think she’s doing, Alvin?’ Sean Lawson asked, concern evident in his voice, “Is she going to make it?”

“Well, Mr Chairman, she’s been holding the craft for two whole days now. She hasn’t spoken or moved. However, her vital signs are looking good” Alvin replied. “None of the others even made it this far. I hope to God she does.”

They fell silent and looked at the bank of monitors in front of them. The main one sat pride of place in the centre. On the monitor was a large dome tent, with a tunnel leading away from it. The movement of the wind fluttering the canvas of the tent was the only thing that moved on the screen. A smaller monitor beside it showed a human figure kneeling on the floor, hand out-stretched, touching a dark, oblong object the size of a car. The depth of its darkness absorbing all the light from the floodlights aimed at it.

“I’m sure she will,” Lawson said as he clasped Alvin’s shoulder in encouragement before striding out of the room.

Alvin pressed a couple of buttons and the two monitors switched displays.

Alvin stood in silence, wondering if it was all worth it as his daughter held an alien spacecraft hopefully for the benefit of all humankind.


© Copyright 2018 Thom Goddard. All rights reserved.

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