|Prompts: "Supposedly our sense of smell is strong enough to take us to very distinct memories. In a poem OR a story, recount a time, place or situation when someone's olfactory sense led them back to a memory."
Apologies in advance. This story evolved from a simple concept, current word count is 2750. I hope a few of you will read the entire story. I probably won't have time to go through revisions, but I like the story so much I'm going to do so after it is posted and submit it to a couple of magazines. So any feedback provided will only help me during the revision process.
New York Memory Exchange
John shuffled forward as the lady behind the glass motioned that he was next and placed his small backpack on the ledge in front of the window.
Never lifting her eyes from the datapad on her desk, the lady asked "Buy, sell or trade?" Her bored monotone coming though the tinny speaker just further added to John's feeling of unhappiness. He looked around him one last time, trying to make up his mind if this is what her really wanted to do.
"Ummm. Sell, I gue...", he said.
"Follow the yellow line", she replied before he finished speaking.
A dingy yellow line had appeared on the floor leading off to the left. Sighing, John put on his backpack and turned towards the line. Slowly following the line, he gave himself a few moment to decide if this is what he really wanted to do. Maybe it was a rash decision, but he had to do something to get his life back in order. With each step, he felt his confidence return knowing that this was probably for the best.
The yellow link begun to blink, urging him to walk faster. Looking behind him, we saw that the line disappeared as soon as he picked up his feet. Further proof that there was not turning back.
The yellow line terminated in front of a stainless steel door, a sign that read "Memory Reclamation Area #3" above it. The light above the door turned green and the door opened with a hiss. The room inside was as austere as it could be. A technician is a white smock was standing in front of a confusing array of buttons and these was a single reclining steel chair in the middle of the room.
"Please leave your bag in the storage area to the left sir and come into the room", said the technician.
John looked around for a moment and then pressed his hand against the biometric scanner and a small door opened.
"Please empty your pockets as well. We don't want any distractions once we get started. Would you like to change into a gown as well?"
"No, I'll just keep my clothes. I just want to get this over with."
"As you wish. Just keep in mind that you will get better results from better memories. Sometimes the clothes that you have on will impact your recall.", the technician said.
"Fine, I'll take a gown too." John rolled his eyes as the man turned around and pressed a button. A small gown and privacy curtain extended from the wall. John quickly changed as the door to the chamber closed behind him. His clothes went into the same storage bin as his bag and he closed the door.
Stepping past the curtain, which had started to retract into the wall, John stood in front of the chair.
"The system indicates this is your first trip here. Take a seat and get comfortable while I explain the process. Feel free to interrupt me if you have any questions or concerns.", the main said.
John sat down and reclined in the chair, which began adjusting to his body.
"The process is very simple," the man said," first we will discuss why you want to sell your memories. Then we will discuss which ones. If checks out up to that point, then we will proceed to the next step of extracting the memories. Understand?"
Beginning to get a bit nervous, John just nodded in response."
"Excellent! Let's begin. Please state your name for the system."
"Full name please."
"John Thaddeus Salzar."
"John, the process of selling memories is painless, at least in the conventional sense. You will not feel any pain from the hardware or chemicals that we use. However, there is often some emotional pain involved once we begin. Are you ready to begin?"
Feeling that it would be worth it to feel the pain once than have to deal with it over a longer period of time, John agreed.
"Please state for the computer why you wish to sell some of your memories."
John considered for a moment, not sure if a certain response would disqualify him. He decided to answer directly and without emotion. "The women I have been dating for 7 years left me a week ago and she is not coming back. I want to get rid of some of the more pleasant memories so that I won't miss her so much."
"I understand. So you do understand that once we extract these memories, you will never be able to recall them nor get them back?"
"Yes. They aren't doing anything but making me miserable today."
"It sounds like she is still causing you emotional pain. For this to work properly , and for you to get the best value for your memories, you have to be able to completely recall the time and feel how you felt at that moment. If we try to process a happy memory but you become sad while remembering it, they memory is mostly worthless. In this case, you lose the moment and not receive many credits. I am authorized to administer certain drugs that can alter your emotional state, if you wish them."
"What impact will they have on the memory?", John said.
"None, but you will be charged for them and the cost taken out of your credits. If you can do it without the drugs, I would suggest we try. We can begin with a short memory and see how it goes."
"Honestly, I'm here to get rid of the memories - the credits are just a bonus. Let's just get started."
"As you wish. COMPUTER: Note that patient John T. Salzar understands the process and agrees to proceed. Now John, which memories do you want to get rid of?"
"Since I've never done this before, do you have a suggestion?"
"Do you really want to wipe out any memory of her, good or bad?"
Excited, John leans forward. "You can do that?"
"The brain is a amazing organ. Memories are tied together, sometimes in the strangest ways. Sometimes, if we can remove the first memory tied to an event or person, then all future memories unravel. Unfortunately, the process is not reversible. Make sure this really what you want to do."
"Let's do it. The quicker I get her out of my head, the better!"
"I can take out three memories per session. If the last one will be the moment you met, pick to more memories that were pleasant at the time."
"Ok. How about our first kiss and long walk we had on a beach when we first started dating?"
"The first kiss would probably work well. Is there any specific smell that was really noticeable during that memory?"
John closes his eyes and thinks for a moment. "Strawberries. We were having a strawberry fondue. I can smell and taste them."
"Excellent! Give me a few moments to get you prepped and then we'll give it a shot.", the technician said as he stood and started extracting a metal hood from the ceiling. "This will fit over your head and access the portions of your brain that are responsible for long term memory. As we record the memory, it will be erased from your brain."
The cool hood fit tightly over John's head and face. Small suction cups inside of it engaged and pulled it tight with a quiet hum. "This may be a bit comfortable," the tech said as he placed two plastic plugs in John's nostrils, " but it won't hurt. It is important that we identify the correct smell before we can begin. Ready to give it a try?"
"As ready as I'll ever be", John said.
"OK. Think about that memory. Concentrate on it the best you can. Remember it in a positive light. The hood will begin emitting the smell of stawberries through the tubes in your nose. We have 12 different types of strawberry favors to go through. As soon as you identify the one closest to your memory, raise your hand. We start now."
The system begins to cycle through the different flavors. After a few seconds without a response from John, it beeps and moves to the next. After the 5th beep, he raises his hand.
"Ok John. I'm about to start the recording. Focus on how intense the feelings were, how bright the colors were and the smell. When the pulses in the lenses slow down, the system knows you are in the correct start to begin the transfer."
The lenses in John's helmet begin to pulse at a fast rate and the system increases the level of strawberry fragrance being fed to him. As he concentrates on the memory, the pulses begin to slow down until they get to a deep rhythmic strumming."
Barely above the noise of the machine, the tech lets John know to go back to the beginning and the recording will begin.
That night has been a perfect night. John and Sammi had gotten past the awkward stage and were getting closer to the point of being comfortable around each other without have to worry about impressing the other. The candle lit restaurant and corner booth made it appear like they were all along on their own island of moonlight. Occasionally a waiter would enter their warm glow of light to make sure they were happy and then just as quietly slip away. Simple things such as hands touching across the table and a random smile would send small electrical shocks through John. "Could I really be this lucky?" he thought. The final course was to be a surprise for Sammi. Chocolate fondue with her favorite fruit, Strawberries. The way her eyes lit up when they waitress placed them on the table warmed John's heart and he knew at that moment that we was in love. Picking up a strawberry and dipping it in the molten chocolate, he fed it to Sammi. Giggling and trying to bit the whole morsel, the picked up a strawberry to do the same for John. Missing his mouth, she had gotten a bit of the chocolate on his top lip. Before John could lick it off, the leans forward and kisses it away. The first kiss. Impromptu and perfect. They gaze at each other a moment as Sammy pulls back and then lean in for a longer kiss.
John raises his hand, "I'm done. I can't stay happy and enjoy that memory any longer".
"No problem John. I think we got enough. Give the system a moment to process it." The tech turns around and makes a few adjustments to the machine, watching a readout. "So John, what was that memory about?"
Wiping tears from under the lenses, John stops and thinks for a moment. "I can't remember. I smell strawberries, but I can't remember anything. Sammi loved strawberries, were we picking them from a field?"
"No, John. The fact you can't remember it now means the process was a success. The memory was about your first kiss."
"Wow, that is amazing. I can't believe it worked."
"Most people are shocked the first time, but that will wear off. Tell me John, do you remember any other kisses with your girlfriend?"
John pondered a moment and then shook his head.
"That is also a good sign. The ability for your mind to erase chains of memories bodes well for doing a complete erasure if you are still interested."
"Of course. Let's do the second memory now. The smell that was most noticeable was ocean surf."
The tech turned to the console and pressed a few buttons. "The computer indicates that there are only 5 different types of ocean smells. Let me know when we find the correct one."
The rest of the process was similar to the first. John quickly identified the correct fragrance and dove into the memory as soon as the rhythmic sounds started.
John and Sammi stood on a beach, watching the sunset go turn from a warm yellow to rustic orange. A flock of seagulls flew overheard, dipping and climbing on the warm breeze coming from the water. The tang of sulfur and seaweed in the air. John kept glancing at Sammi, noticing how the wind was blowing her hair and thinking about how much he wanted to kiss her, but content for now just to be close to her. Sammi shivered a bit and wrapped he arms across her torso, trying to keep warm. Feeling as nervous as a 6th grader, John slowly reaches out and put his army around her. "Are you too cold? Should we go back to the restaurant and see if our table is ready". Sighing, Sammi settles closer to him and leans against his side. "No, I think I'll be fine now."
John tugged on his helmet, trying to take it off. "I can't", he sobbed.
"Don't worry about it", the tech said and helped him take off the helmet. "Take a few moments to recover and we'll do the final memory."
John sat in the chair, trying to get control of his breathing. He peered at the tech with red-ringed eyes, "I didn't know it would be this painful."
"Most people don't, but we only have one more to go."
His breathing finally back to normal, John laid back. "Ready when you are."
"Ok. This will probably be the most difficult memory for us to do. There will be so may memories attach to it, that you will have a strong emotional response. Are you sure this is what you want to do?" The tech seemed to be genuinely concerned about John's ability to proceed.
"We've gone this far, let's just get it over with."
"Certainly. Tell me where you met."
"We met at a spring wedding. It may sounds a bit cliche, but we were both part of the wedding party. We didn't really hit it off at first, but by the end of the night I knew that I had to ask her out."
"Weddings are difficult to process, there are always a lot of smells in the air. Were there one or two that really stood out to you."
"The wedding was in an old mansion, so is smelled stale. Not bad, just not fresh. Calla lilies were everywhere, so I know that scent was there was well."
"Let me check the computer and see what I can do."
The tech spent a few moments trying to find the two scents. "Ok, John. Let's try this one."
"Close. The flowers are right, but the house isn't quite right. It needs to be stronger."
After a few more minutes of back and forth, the scent was finally close enough to continue. With instructions similar to the previous two times, John relaxed and tried to recall the memory. Throughout the process, he would often smile, laugh or in a few cases cry, but refused to give up until the memory was gone.
"Excellent work John. That was the best recording so far, probably one of the best I've ever done." The tech worked at finishing the session and closing out John account. "Tell me, do you know what you came here today?"
"I can remember everything we've done today and I know I came to forget someone, but I don't remember who. I guess that means this was a success."
"Yes, it was. The system has processed your memories and they have all been loaded into the central data core. I would expect them to sold within a week at the most. I have to get ready for the next patient, but take a few moments to gather yourself and then you can leave through the hatch. It will open if you push on it. The blue line will take you to the exit." The tech closed down his system and exited through the rear.
John exited the room a few moments later and followed the line to the exit. Checking his credit chip,he had 20,000 more cred than he started with. "I bet I could make some better memories with 20,000 creds." As he exited the Memory Exchange, a beautiful women came running towards him, "John, I am so sorry. I made a mistake."
Staring at her a moment, john replied "Do I know you?"
-[ Other Musings ]-
I've noticed a few of my fellow bloggers also post non-prompt items within their blog so I though I might do the same.
I'm not sure if it is because of the first prompt we had ( dreams ) or that I have been able to sleep in for the past 3 days, but I have had some pretty vivid dreams just before waking. Two of which have given me the idea for a short story - probably along the lines of YA romance. My concerns are:
1) I've never read a romance novel, so I'm not familiar with the genre.
2) Do men write romance novels, especially from a male protagonist point of view? More importantly, is there anyone that would read it?
I'll probably just put my butt in the chair and start typing - if nothing else, it will be a stretch to write in that genre.