Between Remembered and Forgotten

I’m taking part in the Penprints Flash Fiction Dash! My prompt was to write a cyberpunk flash fiction story based on the song Arrow by Half Alive.

Tag Stanford splashed cold water on his face and stared at the reflection in the tiny mirror. Lack of sleep left dark purple marks under his bloodshot eyes. His calf muscles ached, and his left knee screamed in protest at the extended run he’d taken after his shift at work. Too bad it hadn’t exhausted him enough to let him slip into a dreamless sleep for a change.

He dragged on some decent-looking clothes and stuck a dented metal mug under the drink dispenser. He had to hit the panel twice to get a full cup of coffee out of the stupid thing. He’d have to save up for a new one later. Gulping the lukewarm brew, Tag picked up the note from his employer and read it again. Phrases like, “negatively impacting productivity” and “strongly suggest professional treatment” screamed at him. Employers couldn’t legally mandate any kind of medical treatment, but they could fire him if they determined that his productivity was on a downward spiral. He downed the dregs of what passed for coffee and stuck the mug in the sterilizer. It was hard to be productive when the nightmares started every time you closed your eyes.

A quiet ping from the band on his wrist drew his attention and the reminder scrolled across the tiny screen.

“Appointment at New Mind Clinic in 1 Hour”

Dr. Ataca assured Tag that he’d come through the exact same procedure once before with no problems. Tag couldn’t remember the previous treatment, but then that was sort of the point. Remove those troublesome memories and the memory of the treatment and then just go along with your life like it never happened. The mind is a funny thing though, and the doctor told him that in rare cases the brain starts to remember trauma in the form of nightmares and inexplicable anxiety. Tag could attest to that. A second treatment would take care of any residual memories. He would go the the clinic this evening, then wake up in his apartment tomorrow morning and go to work. He’d sleep through the night again. He gathered up the note from work and the brochure from New Mind Clinic and stuffed them into his pocket. It wouldn’t do to leave those here where he’d find them tomorrow.

The door locked clicked behind him and his elderly neighbor, Mrs. Leisha poked her head out the door to wave. He waved and smiled back, trying not to think about her opinions on the memory erasure treatment. She likened it to the lobotomies her grandmother talked about. Tag looked that up on the internet once and immediately wished that he hadn’t. He got a headache every time he envisioned an ice pick being shoved in his brain. Thankfully, the dark ages of medical care were over.

Photo by Derek Story on Unsplash

Tag walked the short distance from his apartment building to the mag train. It was only drizzling a bit, so he didn’t bother flipping the hood of his jacket over his head. The crowds waiting at the stop were typical for a Tuesday evening. Most of them were checking messages, ordering take-out, or watching the news on their wristbands. Tag couldn’t focus enough to do anything these days. He would be glad to get this over with; being stuck between remembering and forgetting was the worst place to be.

It wasn’t a long ride to the stop near the clinic. As soon as he finished checking in at the front desk, a medical assistant took him back to a treatment room and handed him a pair of scrubs.

“Just change into these Mr. Stanford and I’ll be back in a few minutes with Dr. Ataca.”

Tag left his street clothes in a neat stack on a chair in the corner and sat on the exam table, studying the pattern of the flooring until the short knock before the door opened.

“How are you doing this morning, Tag?” Dr. Ataca put a hand on his shoulder and looked him in the eye.

He rubbed his sweaty palms on the thin scrubs. “Little nervous. Are you sure this second procedure will take care of everything?”

She patted his shoulder. “Of course it will. I’ve been doing this a long time, and we have every reason to be confident that after this treatment, you’ll never have these dreams or memories again. Don’t worry, you’re in good hands!”

Dr. Ataca nodded to the med assistant as Tag settled back on the table. A micro-needle anesthetic patch was applied to his wrist and bio-monitor patches on his chest and forehead. His eyes drifted closed when the drug finally hit his bloodstream. This would all be over soon, and he’d never have to come back to the clinic again.

***

“Is he out?” Dr. Ataca asked.

The med assistant checked the bio-monitor readouts and nodded, “All ready to begin.”

“Good.” She stepped closer to the table and began inputting the parameters for Tag’s memory erasure treatment. “Be sure to make a note in his chart that he needs to be referred every eight months. If his Primary Med Provider’s office hadn’t messed up the scheduling, he’d never have gotten to the point where the memories resurfaced at all. Thank goodness his employer’s HR department picked up on what was going on before it got worse.”

“I’ve set up a reminder to ping his PMP’s office in 8 months if they haven’t referred him yet. Is this really the 16th treatment he’s had?” The med assistant looked up in surprise.

Dr. Ataca nodded, “Yes, Tag was one of our first patients here at the clinic.”

“And he has no idea that he’s been your patient for more than a decade?”

“No, and if we all do our jobs right, none of them ever know.”

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