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
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.
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.”