The screen flickered with various images of the dark-haired man. A laughing image of the young man as a late teen. Then a mischievous expression dressed in black and shortly buzzed hair. A formal setting framed the man dressed in his military uniform. The woman with grey flashes at her temples reached up to the man. The image fragile as the woman.
'Who is this man?' I stood up from the desk careful not to let the post it with the password and login name come loose from the desk pad under the keyboard. I can't remember using it.
The coffee percolator sighed and spit on the kitchen counter as the last drops of water forced through the pipes to the heating element before settling on the ground coffee beans. The aroma surprising me. Almost foreign to me. A notebook rested close to the percolator. It seemed to be well used.
'Did I write anything about this aroma before?' I discovered It's purpose similar to others scattered around. The entries were dated. Common entries such as the reasons why I love the brown mosaic tiles in the bathroom were recorded. The notebook on my desk told me that I was in the process of writing an essay on memory modification with the singular purpose of preventing degeneration of the mind. I can't remember why it told me that. I also can't remember what I wrote. Not to mention the knowledge I should have on the subject.
I looked at the notebook in front of me. The pen hovered above the page. 'What did I want to write about?' The percolator puffed the last time and a ball of coffee aroma tickled my nose. 'The coffee. I remember.' I placed the pen down and paged back in the notebook. There were notes on a food that I ate and its taste. Anchovies. Apparently, I loathed it. But I clearly forgot to look at the various other notes I made to myself in warning. A stack of takeaway menus rested in a basket. I ruffled through the stack and found a menu from a pizza restaurant. It had various anchovies offerings. I scratched over the picture in big bold letters IT'S DISGUSTING. DON'T ORDER IT.
I stopped in the middle of the living area. My mind blank. I looked at my surroundings. The apartment suggested sophistication. The creams and whites with highlights of browns felt light and happy. I smiled. But remembered that I wanted to do something. The phone rang that second. I looked in the direction of the sound and noticed the wall mounted handset.
'Sarah! Thank goodness! How are you feeling?' The male voice sounded relieved. He sounded tired.
'Yes, your name is Sarah. Dr Sarah Watson. You're a world-renowned psychologist. Scientist. Trendsetter. Mogul. Specialising in memory modification.'
'Wait! Wait! What? But I don't remember. And who are you?' I gripped the phone. Sarah Watson. DR Sarah Watson. I scanned the surrounding area for something to write all of this down. The phone cord stretched easily to the counter where the notebook lay next to the percolator.
'My name is Ben Porter. Your associate and friend.' I scribbled in the notebook. Ben. Porter. Associate. Friend. 'You're busy writing an essay on the subject. And luckily for science,' the male voice hesitated 'but unlucky for you, this experiment is not working.' I captured essay and my pen stilled.
'Unlucky for me?'
'Yes. Unlucky for you.' Ben stopped talking.
'Why?' Ben took his time answering.
'We incorporated nanobots with Monday's session. You wrote the algorithm and program to hunt down the specific memories you wanted to be modified.' Ben's voice drifted off.
'And?' Dread coiled inside me. I struggled to remember the words he used. And gave up on the meanings. It sounded bad. And I was the unlucky one. I slipped onto the kitchen counter and looked into the apartment. This was my apartment but I had no memory of it. Not moving in or furnishing it. 'Which memories did I want to be modified?' I heard myself ask as I looked at the pictures scrolling past on the computer screen.
'You know.' Ben cleared his throat. I shook my head as if the man was in front of me.
'No, I don't know. Please tell me.' I gripped the handpiece again. Squeezing the answers through it.
'There is a notebook next to the keyboard. You always jotted down the ideas and theories you had. Go read through it.'
'Please tell me. Now. This conversation will be gone before I reach the desk.' I had to know.
'Me.' His voice was sad.
'You? Were we...together? Married?' I looked at the man scrolling across the screen.
'And the...trauma.' Ben ignored my questions. I slipped off the kitchen counter again and moved toward the desk. A small stack of similarly styled notebooks rested on the far corner of the desk.
'What trauma?' I stretched myself the distance that the cord wouldn't and gathered the notebooks in a clumsy bundle into one curved arm. The handpiece threatened to slip from between my shoulder and ear when I let go of the handpiece to prevent the books from tumbling to the floor.
'Sarah. We don't have time for this now. The experiment is failing. If we don't stop it, it will leave you catatonic.' I dropped the notebooks on the kitchen counter and let Ben's words sink in.
'How much did I know the last time you phoned me?' Questions milled in my head.
Silence. 'I was there last night. I left about two hours ago.' Only two hours ago. The thought left me cold. And scared. I had memories of the last twenty minutes. Not of Ben. Not of an essay. Not of my name. Not of my life.
'How do I stop this?' Panic set in.
'You have the only virus. The neutralisers for the nanobots.' Ben sounded rushed. 'I'm on my way.' Doors opened and closed.
'Where is it?' I stared around the kitchen, the desk, the living area. My mind had no ideas. There was no plan or escape code. The phone line disconnected. I let the handset of the phone clatter to the floor. I looked at the stack of notebooks on the counter. They were all similar. Each had a different red letter written on its spine. At a glance, it looked like the alphabet in random order. I changed the order around to form the alphabet but A, B and C were not there. I closed the notebook on the desk. It had the letter D written on it. The notebook next to the percolator boasted E. I sprinted through the apartment and found two more with N and K respectively.
On the floor, I added the last notebooks in their alphabetical order. D E H I K N R T. Different words formed as I shuffled the notebooks around. NERD. KNIT. HIKE. DENT. But nothing that felt right.
'Think Sarah.' I moved the notebooks another time. 'Think.'Of course! THINK. Three notebooks rested next to it. I stared at it. D. R. E. RED. 'Think Red?' The notebook with T on the spine had something written in black. 'The virus is a thought.' I read the words again. Then the letters had no meaning. I stared at the black squiggles and lines. It was meaningless.
'Sarah!' I stared into the man's face. His expression looked worried. But I struggled to comprehend it.
YOU ARE READING
A scientist is on the verge of making scientific breakthrough. But the breakthrough will come if she can survive being the subject of her own research. Sarah needs to write an essay about memory modification as a means to prevent and cure degenerati...