The Sense of Memory by Danielle Woodgate

Its olfactory system comes online. Gideon initiates trial 152 for the integration of a human mind with a manufactured body system.

Scientists peer down at Gideon in the center of the surgical suite. “Stimulus one,” he says to the crowded room.

The initial compound the synthetic being detects when stimulus one activates is Mentha x piperita. Programming inside the machine transmits the data to the hard drive, the human consciousness lying dormant within its processors.

The machine initializes its optical receptors and analyzes the sterile laboratory surroundings. Invoked by the stimulus, a facsimile of its maternal figure develops. A female, who drank peppermint tea every morning until her expiration.

The android’s facial characteristics remain neutral as it attempts to amalgamate the data.

“Stimulus two,” Gideon says.

Spoiled milk braids with overly ripe blueberries, the odor of spit-up brings forth notes of Brahms’ lullaby. She remembers children. Two daughters. She is a mother. A woman named Nicki.

Stimulus three drifts gently into her awareness, the smell of vanilla and fresh rain. She remembers the long hair of her wife. Crimson like fire, changing hues as she moved. Nicki would wrap her fingers in her wife’s hair as she fell asleep.

Is she dreaming? Nicki’s body is numb, and she knows memories are not lost in sleep. This is something else.

Stimulus five flows across the fabricated nasal cavity: maple syrup, bacon, a scent she feels intimately. Waking up early to surprise her better half with breakfast. Sometimes the children would help, adding chocolate chips to stacks of pancakes.

Stimulus six contorts into the bitter roast of dark coffee. She remembers a cafe near campus, the eclectic design of the shop, gilded age photos and the velvety chairs. She was finishing some calculations. Artificial intelligence: that was her life’s passion.

Then stimulus seven, the scent of ginger, fresh, cloying, looking up from her coffee and seeing Joanie, her future wife.

Pine stabs into the air until it is all her nose can perceive. Stimulus eight is spiky, demanding a deeper inhale, the undertones of decaying forests and frosted branches. A large thick leather glove clutching her pink mitten. Her father, he told her she would do great things.

The scent of pine fades, leaving bleach. The natural odor of the lab pulling forth a memory. Joanie’s hand in hers, both wrinkled, when did they grow old? A kiss. It tastes of licorice, black, sweet, with a bit of danger. A farewell.

In this moment, Nicki sees her lab assistant Gideon. But he has changed, a white beard covering his once youthful chin.

“Can you tell me your name?” His voice has grown raspy with time.

“It’s Nicki. Where’s Joanie? When did you get old?” Her questions hang in air pregnant with memories.

“Incredible, it worked!” Gideon turns away from the machine that houses the mind of his mentor. He basks in the applause of the others who have shared in his journey.

Gideon exhales, eyes falling back on the machine in front of him. “Nicki you were right, scent was the missing key.”

“What worked?”

“Your consciousness has been successfully integrated into an artificial lifeform.”

Nicki looks at the smooth synthetic skin on the back of her hands and remembers.

She remembers everything.

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