Fiction Fragment Friday

Some weeks the story I share is one that I wrote just because I have dedicated myself to writing something new and sharing it each week. This is not one of those weeks. I decided to write this story early in the week and it was one that I felt I needed to write. I am sharing it here because this is my outlet for these short stories, but it was written because I wanted to write it.

I feel that these type of stories that I feel called to write are stronger first drafts that the stories that I just write to keep writing something new. That of course is just a matter of opinion, but they mean more to me.

                As I stepped out the front door of my childhood home for the last time the memories overwhelmed me.  I don’t mean that in some esoteric way either.  Something in my cortical implant malfunctioned at that exact moment flooding me with replays of memories not one at a time, but all at once.  A lifetime of memories that some unknowable algorithm determined were worth permanently saving without any input from me on relevance. 

                All my senses were assaulted by conflicting stimuli.  I experience being three and running into the living room on Christmas morning to see what gifts were waiting.  The flashing lights on the Christmas tree draws my attention.  I can smell bacon cooking in the kitchen from my bed years later.  I hear myself screaming at my father as a teenager angry at the world.  I taste my high school girlfriend’s breath mint as we kiss. Finally, I feel how frail my elderly mother’s arms are as I try to help her up from a fall.  Each sense is replaced by another as quickly as it hits me.

                My head felt like it was going to burst open.  The human brain is not made to handle simultaneous memories.  I tried to focus on individual moments to slow the feedback.  I focused on my first dog and how he showed me that animals didn’t have to be scary.  He was at the same time young and hyper and old and infirmed.  Each memory felt like a double-edged blade cutting me deeply as I grasped to keep them but had to acknowledge that those moments are past.  Each moment that I could pull strength from was followed by another pain as I lost anything I tried to hold onto. 

                Physical pain cut through the other sensations.  I had collapsed to the floor hitting hard without any way to lessen the impact.  Normally I avoid pain, but this time I yearned for it.  I tried to feel as much as I could because it cemented me in the moment instead of the past.  Pain was once again my companion and one I embraced like a lover.  I let the pain ground me as I rode out the mental attack. 

                When the memories finally faded, I took inventory of my state.  I was curled up on the floor with tears filling my eyes.  My legs were shaky and lacked enough strength to even stand up.  Blood ran down the side of my face mixing in with my tears. My head had busted open when it hit the floor.  The world still felt like it was spinning, and I couldn’t grasp a sense of balance.  A voice deep down inside me screamed to get up and move, but my body just wouldn’t respond.  I wasn’t even sure what was real at that moment. 

                Some unknown amount of time passed before I could finally sit up and compose myself.  The first thought that came to mind was a question.  Should I clean up the blood or just leave it for the person buying the house to deal with?  The second thought was to wonder if there was something wrong with me that I would be more concerned about a mess than my own physical wellbeing.  If my cortical implant had failed in a more precarious moment like while I was on the stairs I could have died.  Since I didn’t fully understand the device in my own head I didn’t know if it really was ok now or if it could happen again. 

                I looked around the room again thinking about all the memories I had just experienced.  Why were these the ones that the algorithm deemed important enough for permanent storage?  What about all the simpler moments just spending time with my family or relaxing with a good book?  The implant had chosen to remember those moments, but some of them I would have rather forgotten.  In time you either focus on the good memories or the bad and years blend together being shaded by those memories.  I wanted the good, but each good moment was fleeting and something that would soon pass.  I knew that the painful moments passed as well, but seeing them right after the good had poisoned my memories of them. 

                As soon as the strength returned to me, I forced myself to my feet.  It was still difficult to focus, but I was going into fight or flight mode.  There was nothing there to fight so I needed to put some distance between myself and that experience.  I finally finished what I had been trying to do and stepped out the frond door pulling it shut behind me.  I struggled to my car and got in staring out the front windshield at the house.  So much of my life had occurred in that house, but I had moved on decades ago.  It was not my home anymore, but the thought of never seeing it again was hard to accept. 

                “Home,” I said to my car’s AI.  I had named my car after a car from a TV show I watched with my parents as a kid.  I remembered all those moments, but I couldn’t even remember a name that had stuck with me into adulthood in that moment.  I remembered having a talking battery powered version of the car and driving it around the very driveway I was currently sitting in.  Why didn’t I have any images of it in my trip down memory lane?  Because you can’t choose what memories get saved.  You just have to live with the ones you have. 

                 As my car backed out of the driveway I took my last look at the house.  With it in my rearview mirror I opened up the browser in the car and logged into my healthcare page.  I needed to make an appointment to have the implant looked at.  In that moment I didn’t trust using it to look anything up.  I didn’t want the implant doing anything other than the basic authentications needed to start my car and unlock my door when I got home.  If I could have turned it off in that moment I would have, but things in your head cannot be turned off.  You just have to live with them.