Erased

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

In a dystopian future the personalities can be rewritten at will.
Young Lila is a victim of her evil stepmother - instead of a bright but rebellious girl she became an obedient robot.
However, she managed to escape her mental prison. Now she & her friends are set up to liberate other human beings.

Erased

 

Lila stared up at the cold metal walls, twisting her hands anxiously in her lap. There was a draught running through the tunnel from somewhere, bitter with the smell of chemicals and unpleasant on her skin. She had never been inside a Facility before. It wasn’t what she had been expecting. From the outside, it was little more than a domed building with censored security doors and very few windows. Inside, the walls were silver and the air was so cold that Lila could see her own breath. There was nobody else here except for the guard stationed at the entrance, and she could see no other doors. It was just a tunnel, leading nowhere.

She had debated trying to run, but as far as she could see there was only one way out, and she wouldn’t be allowed to leave without a proper security tag. That’s all she was now. Something to be scanned and tagged. An object to warp and manipulate, to twist into something else. She would be leaving here a different person to whom she had come in as. Her old self would be Erased.

Lila wondered if her father knew about this. It was her stepmother who had brought her here while her real father was at work. Her stepsister had been left behind at home; Lila still remembered the grim smile she’d given her through the window, as though she knew what was coming. There had been little sympathy in that smile.

The Facilities had been set up a few years ago, following a wave of technological advancement into the world of brain programming. Personalities could be Erased and re-written at the touch of a button. Memories could be transplanted. Humans could be reshaped, redesigned and reconstructed by machines. They said it was a ‘humane’ practice, that it was for the good of society. You could erase destructive tendencies, sociopathic personalities, haunting memories. Most people these days used it to change the way their children behaved. If a child was prone to misbehaviour and disobedience, they could be changed into someone who was the complete opposite; passive and obedient. Now Lila’s own stepmother was doing the same to her. She was going to Erase her personality and give her a new one. And Lila would never even remember.

The staccato click of shoes echoed down the corridor, and she glanced up to see a tall, thin woman walking towards her. “Lila Mason?” She said coolly, giving Lila a smile that didn’t reach her eyes, which were small and dark, set into deeply shadowed sockets.

Lila stood without saying anything.

“Come with me.”

The woman turned and headed back down the corridor. The smell of chemicals grew stronger as Lila followed her, wrinkling her nose in distaste. There was a door at the end of the tunnel which Lila had not noticed before. Nor had she seen where the woman had come from. A keypad with a fingerprint scanner presented itself, and the woman pressed her thumb to the surface, letting it read the unique lines on the pad of her skin. A second later, the door slid open with a faint hiss, and the woman stepped aside to let Lila go in ahead of her. She hesitated, her fingers curling into fists, bracing her heels against the ground, but she already knew she stood no chance of getting anywhere even if she tried. With a sigh, she stepped reluctantly inside.

The room was smaller than she was expecting. It had the same cold metal walls as the tunnel outside, and there were strips of fluorescents set into the ceiling, half of them switched off so that shadows pooled in the corners. In the middle of the room was a chair made of hard black leather, hooked up to a machine with wires sprawling out from it like snakes. Lila swallowed. Her first instinct was to go back, but the woman was already inside and the door was already closed behind her. There was no way out now. This was it.

“In the chair, please.”

Lila didn’t move. Part of her wanted to see what the woman would do if she refused. Part of her wanted to get it over and done with. She’d heard it was painless. You barely felt a thing, and you didn’t remember anything after it had happened. You didn’t remember your old self once you’d been rewritten. Once your old self had been Erased. It was just gone.

“In the chair, please,” the woman repeated, her voice tight with impatience. In the shadows, her face looked deep and menacing, and Lila found herself clambering onto the chair. The leather was cold against her skin.

“You know why you’re here?”

Lila hesitated, then shook her head. Her stepmother had brought her, that’s all she knew.

“I’ve been told you’re rude, impolite and disobedient to your mother.”

“Stepmother,” Lila corrected, her voice echoing dimly around the room.

“Hm. Well, we’ll soon have you corrected in no time. Sit back, please.”

“Will I… feel anything?”

“No. You will feel nothing. Nothing but emptiness,” she added, her thin lips twitching.

“Until you fill me up, right? With someone else’s personality.”

The woman ignored her as she walked over to the machine, moving her fingers over a series of buttons. Lila tried to see what she was doing, but the screen was turned away from her and the fluorescent lights were playing trick on her eyes. She glanced back at the door instead, but realized that there wasn’t one. It had gone.

Lila flinched as something cold touched the back of her neck. Goosebumps raised her skin, sending a shiver along her spine.

“Stay still,” the woman snapped. She was affixing two of the wires from the machine to her skin. It was uncomfortable, but painless, and Lila had to bite the inside of her gum to stop herself from flinching again. The woman went back to the machine and picked up a helmet, stainless steel with black pads over the eyes. Lila swallowed, fighting the urge to resist as the helmet was roughly lowered onto her head, scraping past her ear. It was heavy, and the pads scratched her eyelids as they fluttered closed. She saw nothing but blackness, and the helmet muffled the sounds of the room so that all she could hear was the erratic thudding of her heart in her ears.

Why had she let this happen? Why hadn’t she fought against her stepmother? Why hadn’t she been the rude, disobedient girl that they all thought she was. She should have called her father, told him what was going on. He wouldn’t have let this happen, she knew he wouldn’t.

Lila wondered briefly if her father would even notice that she had changed. She wondered if she really wouldn’t remember anything afterwards.

And then she felt nothing.

 

 

Lila smiled at her stepmother, her green eyes twinkling like jade in the mid-morning sun. They were out in the city square, spending quality time with each other while Lila’s father was at work and her stepsister was busy.

There was a chill in the air that morning, stirring the hair around Lila’s neck. Although it was not too cold, it made Lila feel vaguely disconcerted, as though it reminded her of something she could not wholly remember.

“Everything okay, Lila?” Alice asked, her thin brows arching as she stared at her stepdaughter. “You look troubled.”

Lila schooled her features back into a smile. “Everything’s fine. The wind’s just a bit nippy.”

“Then how about we go for a drink somewhere?”

“Sounds good,” Lila said, grinning.

The two of them made their way to a local coffee bar. There weren’t too many people inside, and symphonic music was playing faintly in the background. Once they had taken their seats and looked at the menu, Alice looked slyly across at Lila.

“Won’t you be a dear, and go place our orders,” she said, and Lila nodded without hesitation.

“Of course. My treat,” she added, reaching for her own purse. Alice made no move to stop her from spending her hard-earned money working insane hours at a local packaging outlet. Alice believed the girl should work a manual job instead of going to college. Frankly, it was quite annoying that Lila used to be smarter that her own daughter.

As soon as Lila’s back was turned, a smug grin settled on her face. It was so nice to see her daughter treating her right for a change. There had been a time when she’d refused to do anything for her stepmother, the snarky little brat. Now look at her. Completely changed.

“Oh, you are a good girl,” Alice said when Lila returned, carrying a tray of drinks and cakes. “So… obedient.” Lila’s cheeks flushed at the compliment, though something inside her felt vaguely wrong. Something she couldn’t place.

“Thank you, Alice.”

“Please, I’m your mother now.”

Lila lowered her eyes to the table, smiling uncertainly. “Thank you… mother.”

 

 

Lila had strange dreams that night. She dreamt of cold metal walls and chemical smells, and a woman with small dark eyes and a sinister smile. When she woke up, her skin was slick with sweat and she felt disorientated, not entirely sure where she was, who she was. She looked down at her hands, realising they were shaking, and tried to pull herself together.

It took her a few minutes to properly wake up and shake away those strange dreams, about the woman she didn’t know and the place she had never been.

When she went downstairs, she found everyone else already awake and eating breakfast at the table.

“Morning, sleepyhead,” her father said, grinning as he wiped the crumbs from his mouth.

Her stepsister and mother were there too, and Lila gave them all a smile. “Morning.”

“We saved you some breakfast,” Alice said, gesturing to a plate of eggs and bacon.

“Thank you, mother,” Lila said, settling into the seat next to her.

Her father gave her a strange look across the table, but Lila barely noticed, too busy digging into her food.

The conversation that morning was amiable, free from tension or disparity. Everyone was getting on as any family should. Yet even as Lila played her part as dutiful daughter, something kept itching at her, like a loose thread that desperately needed pulling.

“Please excuse me,” Alice said after a lull in conversation, retreating upstairs. Her daughter was soon hot on her heels, leaving Lila and her father together. As soon as they were gone, her father turned to her.

“It’s so nice to see you two getting along.”

Lila appraised him with a frown. “What do you mean?”

His smile crumpled slightly. “Well, I mean, I know it was difficult in the beginning, getting used to having a new mum. But I think we’re all going to be okay together. You seem happier lately.”

Lila shrugged, not really understanding what he was talking about. “I guess so.”

He reached over and ruffled her hair. “Are you going to be mad at me if I ask you to clear these pots up?”

Lila blinked at him. “Not at all.”

Later that day, while Lila’s father was at work and she was cleaning the house, doing the chores that her stepmother would normally do, a friend came to visit. He was a colleague of hers from the packaging outlet she worked at, and Lila had been fostering a crush on him for a long time now. Given the way he acted around her, she was starting to think that her feelings might be reciprocated after all.

“Hey,” Max said sheepishly as he stood at the door looking at her, rubbing a hand over his neck. “I hope you don’t mind me turning up like this. I came to see how you were doing. I haven’t seen you in a while.”

Lila smiled, stepping aside to let him in. She was sure her stepmother wouldn’t mind. She and her daughter were watching a movie together anyway, and Lila had been stuck doing chores all afternoon. “Come in. It’s good to see you.”

She led Max into the kitchen, offering him a drink and something to eat, which he politely declined, and they both sat at the table, catching up on everything Lila had missed. She’d taken some time off work, as per her stepmother’s request, to ‘help her at home’. Lila couldn’t see she missed the long hours, but she had missed seeing Max.

As they were chatting, Lila’s stepsister came in. Shock was evident on her face when she saw Max, her features twisting into a slight scowl as she looked at Lila. Lila felt her cheeks heat up slightly. Her stepsister never had a boyfriend, whether because of her looks or personality, and it was probably jealousy she was directing at Lila right now. Without a word, she retreated from the room, and Max levelled a strange look at Lila.

“Is everything okay?” He asked. “I can leave if you want.”

“No, no, it’s fine. I won’t be a minute,” Lila said, quickly excusing herself. She followed her stepsister out into the hallway, where she was immediately accosted by her stepmother.

“What do you think you’re doing?” She hissed, her voice low. “You should have asked me if you could invite a boy in here.”

Lila looked down at her feet, feeling guilty. “I’m sorry. You were busy and I didn’t want to disturb you.”

“He’s a handsome boy, I’d like to get him, mama,” her stepsister said sulkily.

Alice’s eyebrows arched sharply. “Lila,” she purred, her voice taking on a smug edge. “Do your darling mother a favour, and tell that boy you don’t like him. Tell him to leave. And then my darling can swoop in and save the day, hm?”

Lila stammered, but no words came out. After all, she had to please her stepmother. It was in her nature. She would do anything she said.

Clutching her hands together, Lila returned to the kitchen and stiffly repeated her stepmother’s commands, telling Max that he should leave, that she didn’t want to see him again. He looked hurt at once, and Lila felt a faint stab of guilt. She wanted to take all of her words back, but she couldn’t.

Her stepsister came in then, telling Max not to listen to Lila, that she was rude and selfish.

The rest of what she said was drowned out as Lila turned and fled the room, feeling like she’d made a terrible mistake.

 

 

Lila’s dreams seemed to get worse after that. Most nights, she would dream of that same metal hallway and the stranger with the dark eyes and wonder who she was and why she didn’t remember the significance of the place. It was nowhere she recognised, and it had no place in her memories. She thought that perhaps she had merely dreamed it up, but it kept coming back, invading her thoughts until she was sure it was not a figment of her imagination, but a real place. Something imbedded deep into her conscious. Somewhere she needed to remember.

When she woke up, a few days later, she didn’t feel herself. She felt partly like she had woken up in a stranger’s body, not recognising the person she was. She had a strange taste on her tongue, bitter and chemical-like, similar to the smell from her dreams. Nothing made sense. All of these strange feelings and sensations, these unfamiliar places. She felt like it all connected somehow, and yet she couldn’t begin to fathom how. She was still missing pieces of the puzzle. Without them, she would never be able to understand.

 

 

Lila didn’t see her father much the following week. He got roped into working double shifts at the factory, leaving her alone with her stepmother and sister. Lila didn’t mind it at first. It was nice to spend time with them without her father having to bridge the gap. But Lila’s patience soon began to wear thin. She had always been happy to help people when asked, and it seemed to be in her nature to be docile and obedient, but she realised her stepmother was beginning to take advantage of her. She ordered Lila around non-stop, making her do the chores and cook the dinner, knowing that Lila would do it all without complaint. But somehow, Lila knew that something was wrong. This didn’t seem like her. Deep down, she fought against a natural instinct to say ‘no’. And it was one evening towards the end of the week that she did. Alice was lazing around in the sitting room, painting her nails, when she called Lila down and asked her to make her something to eat. Lila had been about to comply and go to the kitchen, but something held her back. Instead, she turned to her stepmother and told her to get it herself. Silence fell suddenly and heavily. Lila was horrified at what she’d done, and her stepmother seemed shocked more than anything. But there was also something gratifying about the look on her face, and the feeling of liberty that had rooted itself in Lila’s chest.

After that, Lila started to remember.

She tugged on that loose thread that had been niggling at her for weeks, and everything began to unravel.

She remembered what lay beyond those cold metal walls, and behind that woman’s small dark eyes. She remembered a room with a strange machine, and wires connecting to the back of her head. She remembered something happening to her. The machine and the woman had done something to her, though the memories were still hazy and it took another few days for everything to fall into place.

Then, one morning, Lila woke up from a restless dream and remembered everything. All of those memories that had been erased and written over came back to her, and she realised that this was not the Lila she was supposed to be. She had been wrongfully changed. Her stepmother had taken her to be Erased. The cold metal walls and the woman with the dark eyes – those were her memories of the Facility where she had been taken for the procedure. Where her old personality had been replaced with a new one. Only, it hadn’t worked. Not properly. Not everything had been Erased, because now she was starting to remember. The old Lila – the original Lila – was starting to return.

She had never before considered the implications of the Facilities and their Erasure Program. They had been around for years and had integrated into normal society. But there was nothing ‘humane’ about the way they robbed you over your mind, your true personality, and replaced it with someone else’s. They violated you, rewrote you like you were nothing more than a computer program. But that wasn’t true. Humans were not computers. Maybe that was why the program was beginning to fail. Machines underestimated the extent of human emotion. Lila had gone through the procedure, but in the end, her old memories and her old self had come back. Not even the Facilities had predicted that.

 

 

For the next few days, Lila pretended she was still the polite, docile daughter that her stepmother had forced her into being. Now that she remembered, her old hatred of the woman had come back. Even before she had been Erased, she had despised the woman; the way she had forced her way into her and her father’s life. Her father was blind to how selfish and greedy the woman was, but Lila knew the truth.

During this time, Lila set about making connections. Going through private mediums, she managed to get into contact with a rebel faction who were completely against the phenomenon of brain programming. It was a small community made up of people like her, who had been Erased but had slowly recovered their memories, realising the injustice of it all. Once she had established contact with the group, she quickly began to see that it was worse than even she had thought. The advancements of programming and rewiring the brain could soon lead to a wave of criminality; people being kidnapped and forced into submission through these procedures, their entire lives being unwillingly rewritten to someone else’s needs and desires. It was a grotesque violation, and yet society didn’t see the whole picture. They were told it was a safe and humane practice, a way to instil discipline into misbehaving children, bring them up as models of civilisation. But it was so much more, so much worse, than that. These Facilities didn’t care about the people. All they cared about was the money. As long as you could pay, they would carry out the procedure on anyone, regardless of motivation. It was only a matter of time before the business was expanded into criminal circles.

The Erasure Program had been going on for too long without resistance. It was time to bring the Facilities down, for good.

 

One morning, after her father had left for work and her stepsister had gone out, Lila and her stepmother were alone in the house together. Lila struggled to maintain her composure as Alice ordered her about, knowing that her new personality would not permit her to disagree. Her eyes flicked anxiously to the clock every few minutes, watching it count down the morning. It was approaching quarter to ten when she made her move. She had an appointment with the Facility at half past, and it was one she didn’t want to miss.

“Let me make you a nice hot tea,” Lila said sweetly as Alice was relaxing in the front room, her legs stretched out on the sofa.

“Yes, that sounds good,” her stepmother said without looking at her, and Lila slipped away to the kitchen.

She set the kettle to boil and spooned the tea leaves into a strainer. Checking over her shoulder to make sure Alice wasn’t watching, she pulled a small white packet out of her pocket and tipped the contents into the cup. Although she wasn’t entirely sure what it was, her contacts who had procured it for her had explained it was a special type of drug that knocked the conscious brain out, but kept the subconscious active enough to follow simple commands. It was perfect for their plan.

She finished making the tea and returned to her stepmother, handing it over with an unassuming smile.

Alice grunted a ‘thanks’ and sipped at the dark liquid. She made no comment about an unusual taste, and kept on drinking it while Lila hovered around her, waiting for its effects to kick in.

A few minutes later, Alice made a wet gurgling noise and the cup slipped from her hands. Lila dashed forward to catch it before it hit the ground, and looked up at the woman. Her pale eyes were misted over, and her lips hung open at an ungainly angle.

“Stand up,” Lila instructed, and Alice stood stiffly to her feet, her arms dangling uselessly at her side. “Come with me.”

She led the dazed woman to the front door, where a white van was just pulling into the driveway. Right on time. The passenger door swung open, and a girl not much older than Lila jumped out.

“Lila, right?”

“That’s me.”

“I’m Mel. That’s Jack in the front,” she introduced, gesturing to a young man sitting behind the steering wheel. He gave her a friendly salute. “You ready to do this?”

“As I’ll ever be,” Lila said. Alice was staring dumbly at her feet when Lila took her arm. “Get into the van,” she said, helping her climb into the back, following in after her. Mel closed the doors behind them and returned to the front. There was a vent in the middle that allowed Lila to see them. She nodded.

“Let’s get going.”

 

The Facility looked exactly the same as the last time Lila had been there. Dark and unassuming, a shadow blotting the cityscape. The security guard at the door was not the same as last time, and he didn’t recognise her when she went up to him, showing him the appointment slip they had procured. He scanned the code with a small black machine and stepped aside to let her pass.

“Follow me,” she said to Alice.

Mel and Jack nodded at her through the window of the van, and drove off. They wouldn’t be going far. They were to circle around to the back of the building and head inside through a hidden entrance. The rebels had spent days scoping out the place, watching when and where people entered and left. The doors to the Facility were well-hidden but not invisible, like the one Lila had gone through to the procedural room. You just had to look carefully.

She took Alice inside, the memories of her own Erasure making her feel uneasy. At least now her stepmother would know what it had felt like.

Instead of waiting for someone to meet her, she went to the end of the hallway, where she knew the door was. There was a hairline fracture in the metal. She slipped a nail file out of her pocket and inserted it into the crack, putting enough pressure on it that she eventually heard a soft click from inside, and the fingerprint keypad slid out. Growling, Lila smashed it with her fist.

“Lila!” She looked up to see Jack and Mel coming through a door in the wall to her left. “Here, let me.” She stepped aside and let Jack press something to the fingerprint reader. A moment later, the door opened with a hiss, and he stepped back grinning.

The four of them went inside. Mel, Jack and Lila all shuddered when they saw the machine. They had all gone through the experience of being Erased. Which is why they were all here, determined to put a stop to it.

“Sit on the chair,” Lila said grimly, and Alice complied, dropping clumsily onto the stiff leather.

“Ready?” Mel said, already stood at the machine. Lila nodded, taking the helmet as she handed it over and placing it over her stepmother’s head.

“Do it.”

Mel tapped a sequence into the machine, and a small electrical pulse travelled through the wires to the helmet. Alice slumped over in the chair, and the machine gave a small beep.

“That’s it. She has officially been Erased.”

“Help me get her up,” Lila said to Jack. “And let’s destroy the machine for good.”

With Alice resting between her and Jack, Lila watched as Mel pulled a blade from her pocket and began sawing through the wires. The machine hissed and crackled, smoke rising from the severed wires, and the smell of burning tinged the air.

“That should do it,” Mel said. “Now let’s get the hell out of here.”

The four of them fled the Facility and climbed back into the van, just as an alarm started blaring from inside.

“Just in time,” Jack said with a grin.

“Yeah. But our work’s not done yet,” Lila said. “There’s still a lot of machines to destroy, before we eradicate the Erasure Program for good.”

Mel nodded, matching Jack’s grin. “Then let’s get going.”


Submitted: January 01, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Rina Shai. All rights reserved.

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HJ FURL

I really enjoyed this; you write well!

Sat, January 2nd, 2021 1:01pm

Author
Reply

Thank you very much! :)

Sat, January 2nd, 2021 11:01am

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