Free To Be Forgotten by Leila Murton Poole

Thunderous clouds block our path. But these clouds can dissipate. Mine can’t. Mine seep into my brain, misting my memories, casting shadows where I need the light to shine brightest.

My daughter sits opposite me, squinting as our air taxi bursts through the cloudy veil into the light. It’s always sunny somewhere, I’d whisper to her when she couldn’t sleep, afraid of the dark. Until I became the one terrified of the unavoidable blackness. My memory is unrecoverable. It’s the one word I seem to never forget. Unrecoverable.

I take her tiny hand in mine as we reach the Tunnel of Time which sits majestically atop mile-high columns, seemingly balancing on the clouds. I’m about to tell her we’ve arrived, but the words catch in my throat as I realise I can’t remember her name.

Our taxi navigates itself through the swarm of aeromobiles before stopping at the platform beside the entrance, an immense black void ready to swallow us into the past. The door next to us opens for the android assistant.

“New memory card order for Luna Xael.” That’s it. Luna. I’d tell her how she couldn’t be afraid of the dark when she lights up the night sky. Luna. Luna. Luna.

The android scans our faces before settling on Luna, bringing up forceps clasping a new memory card.

“Authorization required for minor.”

I raise my palm against the hologram contract, giving my permission. Luckily, they only need one guardian’s consent. Cassian wouldn’t agree. He didn’t agree. I tap my watch and send a message to ask him to pick up Luna afterwards. He’ll know what’s happening from the location. Then, I disable notifications. It’s too late for anything else he has to say.

The android inserts the memory card inside Luna’s ear canal. Every memory we revisit will transfer from her brain onto this card as we watch them in the tunnel; all Luna’s memories of me together safely on one card.

Memories are slippery things; they change and evolve and disappear even without my condition. Most people use the tunnel for fun, to see what they’ve forgotten and settle past disagreements, others use it to delete unwanted memories. I like to see what I’ve lost through others’ memories of me.

Luna giggles as the card slides into its slot.

“It tickles!”

“You mean like this?” I tickle under her chin as she squeals with joy. It’s a sound I wish I could bottle up, one that I can’t believe I’d forget. But I have before, and I will again.

My brain memory is long gone. Now, I rely on my cards but the faulty connections mean that my memory comes and goes just like that. Sometimes it’s only a few things, sometimes it’s everything. Soon enough, my memory cards will never reconnect.

The android leaves and our taxi positions itself at the start of the tunnel. Suddenly, we’re propelled forward by electromagnets, surrounded by walls which bring faded memories to life in an unimaginably vivid way.

There’s the moment we bought Xixi, the toy dragon that Luna grasps tightly now. Laughing, Luna makes it wave to its former—much cleaner—self. Then, I’m spinning Luna around in our front garden on her first day of school.

But there’s also the bad. Luna’s brow furrows as I break her favourite cup after she spilled her drink for the hundredth time. I was never perfect. And then, the worst one of all; the terror on Luna’s face when I couldn’t remember her for the first time.

She crawls onto my lap now, unable to look, and I rock her gently. I’m sorry she has to watch this again. But it must be every single memory of me, both the good and bad.

Soon enough, it’s over: all of Luna’s six years compressed into no time at all.

A new android operator enters, forceps in hand, and walks towards Luna.

“Wait,” I say. “Just for a moment.”

Taking Luna’s hands in mine, I look into her deep hazel eyes.

“Listen to me, Luna. Mummy loves you, don’t ever forget…” I swallow, realising what I’m saying. “I just love you, okay?”

Luna nods, grasping Xixi tighter than ever.

 I turn away and signal to the android to take out the memory card. The card that contains everything Luna knows about me. I close my eyes. Shine brightly, little one.

“Action required for memory card,” the android states.

“Destroy,” I whisper.

I know others won’t understand. But the alternative is too much to bear. It’s a decision I won’t have the luxury to regret.

I hear the android leave and I turn to look at my baby. My heart breaks at the blank expression on her face. And that’s how I know I was right. This is how it feels—and it’s too much.

Cassian appears at the door, devastation and betrayal written all over his face.

“I’m here Luna, let’s go home,” he manages, holding my gaze.

Luna jumps up, swinging XiXi by her side, and runs to hug her father.

“Say goodbye to…” His voice cracks. “The nice lady who works here.” Luna turns and waves before skipping past Cassian out of the air taxi.

Then, it is just us. And it’s impossible.

I want to ask him to erase me too, but I know he won’t. And this isn’t the time to argue. Again.

His face flickers in and out of recognition.

“I… I love you Elora,” he says before leaving.

Elora. That’s a lovely name.

From the window, I watch two figures walk towards an aeromobile. The man with a familiar face turns and I wave, though I’m not sure why. I smile as he brings the beautiful little girl into a tight embrace. I’d love to have a daughter.

An automated voice resounds around the taxi.

“Re-routing to final destination: Oblivion Assisted Dying Facility.”

The air taxi pulls away as the clouds break and the day clears.

It looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day.

Leave a Reply