A new technology developed by a large tech company promises to change the lives of people with experiences they are desperate to overcome. [Rating: 13+]
The black neon light shone down from the facade onto Louisa standing below. The threat illuminating from the sign flashing ‘Yron Technologies’ across the city matched her nerves. A green and blue globe next to the sign kept rotating endlessly. Louisa had to avert her eyes not to start rotating with it. She stared at the immense concrete structure before her, as welcoming as any of the surrounding factory buildings on this industrial strip at the outskirts of the city.
Ahead of her, the electronic doors whirred open and a smartly-dressed man walked out with a briefcase in his hand. He was talking into a headset as he hurried past Louisa and headed for the parking lot. Louisa retraced his steps, but hesitated when the doors opened for her. Swallowing, she took a step forward, into its high-ceilinged atrium. A three-tier fountain stood in the middle of the reception hall, but the atmosphere was solemn. There was no music, the reception desk was currently unmanned, the fountain was silent and people hurried to and fro without giving each other a single glace.
Louisa looked around the entrance hall while simultaneously rummaging around inside her shoulder bag. When she felt paper between her fingers, she pulled out the confirmation letter and read the bold letters: ‘Treatment Area – Waiting Area 3 – Room 14’.
Her eyes scanned for any signage when a woman halted next to her. Louisa looked at her sideways, but the woman refused to meet her eye. Above the lady’s head, though, Louisa noticed several sign posts pointing into different directions. Admin and Consultations were on the fourth floor, the Engine Room was in the basement down the stairs, the Research Dept was located on the top floor and the Treatment Areas extended from the ground floor up to the third. The accompanying arrows sent her towards the left most hallway. From the clicking behind her, she sensed the woman was following her to the Treatment Area, but after passing Waiting Area 1 the sounds disappeared.
The Treatment hallway was long and narrow and consisted of doors to six waiting areas. Its white walls were lined with colourful posters shouting slogans at her: ‘Start Adulthood Happy!’, ’21 And Traumatised? No More!’, ‘Feeling Lost And Confused? Yron Technologies Can Help You!’, ‘Are You Convicted Of A Crime? Yron Technologies Can Help You Move On After Your Prison Sentence!’
When Louisa came upon Waiting Area 3, she slowly pushed open the door leading into it. Behind was another long hallway, much like the other, with similar posters on the wall. A door on her right had the number 1 painted on it in the same black style as the neon sign attached to the outside of the building. An elderly gentleman sat waiting in the chair opposite. He was looking at his shoes as his fingers tapped the chair restlessly. Louisa passed more numbered doors and more nervous looking people until she came upon the door numbered 14. An empty chair stood opposite it. As she sat down, she avoided eye contact with the young men sitting in front of doors 13 and 15. From the corner of her eye, she guessed them to be her age. Possibly from the same test group as her, she mused.
On a small wooden side table standing next to her lay a thin stack of Yron Technologies leaflets. She picked up the top one and read the cover: ‘Need your employees to work more efficiently? We offer great results at great prices!’ Louisa turned it over and recognised the spherical logo from the facade. She put the leaflet back down and stroked the pink scarf that was wrapped around her neck multiple times. Further down the hallway, a teenage boy was called into the room beyond door 21. As that one closed, the 14th opened and a tall, thin woman walked out.
‘Ms Lopez? Please, follow me.’
Louisa stood up and clung to her shoulder bag as she followed the woman through the door. The woman’s brown hair was pinned up tightly in a bun at the nape of her neck. She closed the door behind them and locked it. The white room was not much bigger than Louisa’s bathroom and it only contained a simple chair and table.
‘You can hang up your coat here and leave your bag too, please.’ The woman waited with folded hands as Louisa took off her coat and stuffed her scarf inside her coat sleeve before putting her bag down on the table.
‘On the peg too, please.’
Louisa did as she was told.
‘Please, have a seat and watch the instructional presentation. I will be with you shortly.’ The woman turned on her heel and disappeared through another door on the opposite end of the room.
So, Louisa sat down and waited. After about a minute of wondering if she was supposed to press a button somewhere, a light started to glow in the middle of the table. Then suddenly the familiar green and blue globe hovered above it.
‘Welcome to Yron Technologies,’ a robotic female voice said. ‘You have been chosen to be part of a trial in which a group of 21-year-olds receives the opportunity to experience first-hand the incredible new technology developed here at Yron Technologies, the technology we call the Optimum Brain Function Regulator, or OBFR for short.’
The sphere continued to move around its axis in front of Louisa.
‘That is why Yron Technologies is pleased to tell that today marks the first day of the rest of your life.’
The sphere started to spin faster before it seemed to implode. It disappeared and was replaced by a series of images of people working at a desk while frowning, and crying.
‘Our modern world is a complicated one,’ the voice continued. ‘Life can be hard and pain and hardship often rule it. Until now.’ The voice suddenly became a lot more chipper. ‘Here at Yron Technologies, we have developed a treatment that erases painful experiences from your mind so you can go on to live a satisfied life, full of potential for success, a life no longer held back by past trauma.’
A holographic brain now hovered above the table. Different parts of it lit up in different coloured lights as the woman continued.
‘Some experiences have a profound effect on our brain function and as a consequence on us, our lives and our productivity. Yron Technologies offers you a procedure to help with the memories of those experiences. Organisations from around the world, including governments, have consulted us in the past and have experienced the benefits of our technology first-hand. Therefore, we are proud to announce that we can now offer this technology to individual citizens as well as organisations. Thanks to Yron Technologies and your government, you have been chosen to undergo one OBFR treatment, as part of our trial group, to ease your transition from adolescence into adulthood.’
Louisa was shown images of smiling faces, of people at work at their desks and in factories and of students at university, but with no frowns or tears in sight.
‘Unburdened by past trauma, these people represent the life after the OBFR, a life in which they continue to live their lives happily and successfully. Thanks to Yron Tech technology, we can erase one life experience from your mind that has haunted you and stopped you from reaching your full potential. You leave behind the memory that holds you back, fills you with sorrow, makes it impossible to trust or to love and influences your day to day life. Does that not sound life changing? Well, Yron Technologies is here to tell you: it is.’
In front of Louisa, a young family was having a picnic in a park before the image switched to the father giving a speech in front of a large board room filled with smiling faces, including the father’s.
‘Thanks to the 6,347 people we have helped so far, we can announce that 98,6 percent of them reported a significant and positive change in their life. Today, you are here, because Yron Technologies wants you to be part of that majority too.’
The image of the father smiling into the camera faded away, bringing silence back to the room.
The second door reopened and the woman with the bun stood there waiting in silence for Louisa to come in. Louisa stood up and peeked around the door before walking into the second room. It was bigger than the adjacent one, but just as white. In the corner stood what looked like a shower cabin with blurred doors. Louisa swallowed before sitting down in the chair offered to her in front of a long, narrow desk. The woman sat down behind it and opened a thin file in front of her. The rest of the white desk was empty, as was the rest of the windowless room. The white walls were bare except for a massive Yron Technologies sphere hanging from the ceiling above her head, functioning as a revolving lamp.
‘Welcome, Ms Lopez. My name is Dr Geraldine Woodward. I will be aiding you in your OBRF procedure today.’
Dr Woodward gestured towards the cabin behind Louisa, so she turned around in her seat to look at it again. As if on cue, the blurred glass became transparent, making Louisa do a double take. Behind the glass stood a platform with a large, wide chair on it. It looked like a giant’s dentist chair, but with more appliances and wires attached. Dr Woodward cleared her throat so Louisa turned back to face her, swallowing hard. She shifted in the chair uneasily and started to play with her cuticles.
‘It won’t be painful,’ said Dr Woodward in response. ‘Physically, it won’t, anyway. You will, of course, have to tell me everything you can think of about your memory. I will need the tiniest detail, to make sure we pinpoint the right memory and extract the right amount of it. We don’t want to erase more than is needed or leave a piece of it intact.’
‘Does…’ Louisa interjected, but the words stuck in her throat, so she cleared it and tried it again. ‘Does that happen a lot? That some of the memory remains behind?’
‘There are risks involved. First of all, as you know, you are part of a trial. While it has been tested for five years already, you are among the first group of 21-year-olds qualified for this trial. So, it is normal that there are still occasional hiccups.’
‘You received an info leaflet from the therapist who referred you for this trial?’ asked the doctor, looking her up and down.
‘Yes, I did.’
‘And you read it? Thoroughly?’
‘Then you know that in some people,’ said the doctor, her eyes down on the file, ‘whose experiences lasted for years, the memory is a lot trickier to extract than in those dealing with a one-night event.’
‘So how do you extract long lasting experiences?’
Dr Woodward touched the yellow file in front of her, correcting it in a straight line on her desk. ‘I’m not at liberty to divulge that information. ‘
‘But you can do it?’
‘Yes, we can do it. We do do it.’
Louisa folded her hands in her lap. ‘Any after-effects?’
‘You might feel confused for a short while, have some trouble sleeping, concentration issues, headaches.’
‘Possible heightened irritability levels. But all of those will decrease after a month, or two.’
‘I see, said Louisa. ‘My brain will adapt?’
‘Fully. There is no risk of any damage to the brain, not in the short term, not in the long term.’
‘Okay. Good.’ Louisa felt a tiny bit more reassured.
‘Any other questions?’ the doctor leaned forward, still hardly looking her in the eye.
Louisa hesitated for a moment, but then pulled out her phone from her trouser pocket. She swiped through it until she found what she was looking for and placed the device on her file in front of Doctor Woodward. The woman pulled a pair of frameless glasses out of the pocket of her doctor’s uniform, put them on and gave Louisa a one over before grabbing the phone to look at its content. She scrolled down and tapped the screen a couple of times for several minutes before putting it down and looking up at Louisa over her spectacles. ‘I see.’
Louisa felt her heart beat in her chest.
‘Misdemeanours are exempt from the rules, especially if you were a bystander. I assume you know this?’ the doctor said, removing her glasses and putting them back in her uniform.
Louisa nodded. ‘I just wanted to be forthcoming.’
‘I appreciate that,’ said the doctor, ‘but we received all necessary personal information about you and our system would not have approved you for this trial if you had served time.’
‘So, shall we begin?’ Dr Woodward stood up and gestured Louisa to sit in the chair behind her.
Louisa got up as the cabin’s doors slid down into the floor. She climbed up on the platform. The chair seemed to whizz alive when her body touched its white surface. The doctor pulled out several chords and attached them to Louisa’s head, including a head strap. ‘So you don’t move,’ she added as other restraints folded across her wrists and ankles. The doctor started applying electrodes to Louisa’s head and temples. ‘Via these we monitor your brain activity and link up to the memory so we can extract it later. It won’t be easy retelling this experience, but it is the only way to catch it properly. Understand?’
Louisa tried to nod, but the restraint around her head prevented that.
‘Good.’ said the doctor, dragging her chair in front of Louisa. From its armrest a small desk folded out in front of her.
Louisa took a deep breath and closed her eyes. It wasn’t the first time she had retold the story of the petrol station, but today was supposed to be the last time, the final time she would ever feel the guilt and the shame.
She had tried for years to try to come to terms with what happened, to accept her role and to stop blaming herself. Three years ago, in one second, Louisa’s life had changed. Because of one decision. And she had not been able to recover from it since. She spent her days at home, afraid of seeing anyone she knew. When she did, she could feel their judgement, their loathing, their blame oozing from their veins. As a consequence, she had dropped out of school and had had no friend left when the Yron Technologies procedure had made headlines. ‘Forget Every Sad Thing That Ever Happened To You!’ ‘Memory Erasing Now Real!’ ‘Yron Tech Makes Money Off of Trauma’.
Louisa had had her doubts about this technology. Were humans still human if they purposely forget their personal experiences? Processing them thoroughly so they didn’t hurt as much, as she had tried herself, was one thing, but erasing them altogether? Some trauma was so horrendous that it was better if someone didn’t remember, but where to draw the line? Would we still cherish the happy memories when they had become the norm? Wasn’t pain part of living? Would we still recognise each other? But despite her reservations, Louisa’s therapist had put her forward for the trial and a month ago her approval and the invitation to participate had arrived.
So here she was.
The voice of Dr Woodward brought her back to the present. ‘When you are ready, can you tell me about the memory you would like to have erased? Make sure you start in the right place and that you do not stop too soon.’
The doctor moved her hand horizontally over her small desk’s white surface. A blue rectangular light appeared. Squinting, Louisa realised it was a keyboard. The doctor hit enter and another light appeared between them. A familiar sight: it was the sphere again. The doctor waved her hand over it and the globe turned into a holographic screen hanging in the air. She began to type and Louisa saw her name and date of birth pop up. A big green check sign appeared behind her age, today’s date and the words ‘approved OBFR procedure’. The doctor pressed enter again and what seemed like a video editing suite emerged between them.
Louisa blinked and frowned. Was she going to see live visuals of her memory?
‘Our technology is able to convert the brain activity we measure into actual images. These images will remain between us and afterward will be stored under the strictest privacy protection laws. Do you agree to this?’
Louisa sighed, full of anxiety and nerves. ‘I guess so.’
‘OBFR, record Louisa Lopez’s memory,’ continued the doctor.
‘Voice activation confirmed,’ a mechanical voice said, before the scene Louisa had seen so many times inside her head started to play out in front of her as if it were a movie.
She jumped back in her seat. There he was. Will.
‘It’s normal to be startled by the clarity. Please, continue.’
Louisa saw herself getting out of a car as Will came around and took her hand, helping her out before walking to the convenience store together. Will was laughing and looking at her with a face full of cheek and love.
‘Are we really doing this?’ she heard a voice that must have been her own ask. She couldn’t hear his reply. She had forgotten it. Will looked into the camera, which were really her eyes. She felt a punch being delivered to her gut. Those brown eyes, his black hair moving around his oval face as he laughed.
‘Relax. It will be fine.’
As the door whizzed closed behind them, a cashier looked up and nodded at them as they strolled into the aisle full of crisp bags and soda bottles.
Louisa heard her own giggles and shifted uncomfortably in her seat, even though the restraints kept her arms and head in place. How could she have been so stupid?
On the screen, Will let go of her hand and bent over. He grabbed a bottle of diet cola from the bottom shelf and hid it inside his denim jacket sleeve. More giggling.
‘You’re so bad.’
‘What are you doing?’ A voice from behind startled the both of them and the image shook. Louisa had turned around as there the cashier now stood, his hands behind his back.
‘Oh, nothing,’ Will said. ‘Just deciding on what flavours we want. She likes marmite. I hate it.’
Lying had always come so easily to him.
‘Is that so?’ said the man.
‘Which do you prefer?’ Will said, staring at the different rows of food and drink.
‘I’d prefer it if you took the cola bottle out of your jacket and put it back,’ the man said calmly.
Will turned to the man and smiled. The image turned from the cashier to Will and back. Louisa remembered the moment of that smile so vividly. It had been the first, and last, moment she had ever been a little scared of Will.
‘Now why would I do that?’
‘Because in our civilised society, we pay for goods we use.’
‘Is that so? And what if I support a different kind of society?’ Will strolled past Louisa towards the man, hands in his pockets.
‘Then I would still like you to pay for that, sir.’
‘No, it’s okay, Loo.’ He seemed to turn around and kiss her on the cheek. ‘I got this.’
Will now stood with his hands in the pockets of his jeans before the man with his hands still behind his back.
Louisa wanted to avert her gaze from the screen and get out of there, but the doctor coughed a little, to make sure Louisa kept her focus on continuing the memory.
Right on cue, the man produced a kitchen knife from behind his back and pointed it out at Will.
‘Woah, man. Woah. It’s fine. Here, have your coke.’ Will shook his sleeve and out fell the bottle with a clunk to the floor. ‘We just forgot our wallets on the car ride home and got hungry and thirsty, that’s all.’
‘You listen to me, I won’t let any more of you bastards ruin me and my family.’
‘It’s okay, man. We understand. We’re leaving. We were just kidding around.’
‘Yes, leave. And don’t come back. And don’t try this on anybody else, got that?’ The man’s hand was shaking as he moved towards Will.
Louisa felt her throat close up, like it had then.
The time on the screen seemed to slow down, as it had in her mind then. She knew what was coming and her stomach cramped.
And it did happen. Right before her eyes, again.
Like it had then, Will’s right leg moved backwards as he put his hands up to indicate he was harmless.
Louisa could barely keep the memory flow going. During the last two years, the same film had played out over and over again in her mind and each time it had been painful beyond her own belief.
She still couldn’t see what it was that made him trip, the lower part of her line of sight remained blurry even now, but trip he did. He stumbled backwards, slowly, before bumping into the food stalls behind him which gave way under his weight. His legs shot forward, causing the store manager to lose his own balance and footing. He was slowly falling forward towards Will, his knife still thrusting outward.
Louisa could still remember the look on the manager’s face and there it was again, right in front of her now, as if it happened in this moment.
The image went blurry for a few seconds, then noises. Sirens. Screams. Moans.
The blurriness dissipated and Louisa looked down at Will as she had then. He was sprawled across the shop’s aisle, his hand lying shakily on top of his jacket, wet and colouring darkly. His blood started to create a pool next to him, seeping around the coke bottle he had dropped to the floor.
The manager sat bent over Will. He had taken off his shop jacket and pressed its fabric onto Will’s wound.
‘I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry,’ he mumbled again and again.
The screen went blurry again before returning to full brightness seeing out the shop’s window where several vehicles had pulled up. Blue lights flashed.
The perspective panned. Louisa was standing at the register. She was holding onto a phone. She never did recall having rung the emergency services.
The image shook as Louisa looked back at Will. And there it was. The look she saw when she closed her eyes every night. The look of desperation, of fear of his imminent death. The blood on his face. The tears. The pool of red next to him where the coke bottle lay. His moans of fear and the shop manager’s sobs as he tried to stop the bleeding. His face a mix of fright and desperation.
Will looking at up her and his lips mumbling: ‘Help.’
The speed of the image suddenly changed and it shook, moved fast and the perspective headed out the door. Louisa was running. She was running away from the scene. As fast as she could, she ran. Away from the petrol station, from the police, from the shop keeper, from Will. Away from the blood.
She ran, the screen occasionally turning black or blurry, past lit and unlit houses, until she saw the train station. The sign above the platform said the train to the city was three minutes out. So she waited, in the cold, shaking and crying.
The image shook as the train bumpily started to move. The twenty minutes it took to get to the city were condensed in only a few seconds of memory. The memory of mostly her own reflection against the dark outside world. Her reflection among the flashes in her mind of that look he had thrown her. His desperate search for help. The help she had refused to give. That she had been unable to give.
The screen went black several times. She heard the engine of the train stop and Louisa knew, as she sat there in a lab chair for a tech company watching the complete darkness of that night, that the worst was over.
The screen before her went transparent. Louisa felt her tears drip down onto her shirt. The doctor was scribbling notes in her file. Realising Louisa had finished, she looked up.
‘Thank you. That must have been hard.’ The desk in front of the doctor retracted back inside the arm rest so she could stand up to set Louisa free. ‘OBFR memory retrieval concluded.’
‘Confirmed,’ said the OBFR.
When she was set free, Louisa dried her tears which had run all the way down her shirt. Her eyes pricked from being unable to rub them.
‘Anything to add, Ms Lopez?’
A knock on the door brought Louisa back to the present.
‘Excuse me,’ said the doctor as she stood up and went through the door with a deep frown protruding from her forehead.
Louisa’s head was pounding. She closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead, but instantly the look on Will’s face as he lay there in his own blood appeared again. Her eyes shot open just as Dr Woodward peeked around the door. ‘Personal matter. Ten minutes.’
Louisa nodded and felt grateful for some alone time after what she had gone through. It had been so vivid. She took a deep breath in an attempt to calm herself. Was she doing the right thing? Shouldn’t she remember how she left her boyfriend to die in a pool of blood for the rest of her life? Shouldn’t she suffer the memory of being a coward forever? These questions had plagued her before and came back to her now.
But she also knew each night the nightmares would come and each morning the depression would continue to hit her like a tidal wave as it had the previous three years. If she abandoned this now, it would mean that she’d forever be afraid to go to sleep and equally afraid to wake up.
So here she was. As a last resort. It was this or be taken under by depressions, guilt and self-loathing, whether deserved or not. She knew she didn’t have much choice.
‘Thank you, Ms Lopez,’ the doctor said as she came back in. ‘I have one final question for you: you do realise you will forget about Will and have to delete and remove all memories of him from your phone and home?’
Louisa looked at the doctor. ‘I have to remove everything?’
‘I’m afraid so.’
‘But… Why? Why not just that one night?’
‘How do you feel when you think about him?’
‘With every memory or only when you think about that night?’
‘Well, now every mem… Ah. I see.’
‘I’m sorry, but it’s the only way to make sure the erasure sticks.’
‘Do you still want to proceed?’
‘Yes,’ Louisa answered. ‘So what happens now?’
‘The technology is currently calculating the received data from the chair regarding your brain and memory. It will have saved the visuals we just saw so it can erase all traces of that memory.’
‘Yes, I’m afraid so.’
‘Do you also agree?’
‘Good. Can you sign here? We rather do this beforehand.’
‘Of course. What is it?’
‘Oh, nothing to worry about. Just a legal document that you grant us permission to extract the memory and erase it from your mind.’
‘Okay,’ said Louisa. She took the pen from the doctor and pulled the thin file towards her and signed below her name.
‘Now, if you would be so kind as to wait in the waiting room for fifteen minutes while the OBFR processes the information. It will download its results into the chair and when you come back in it will put you into a light sleep. The chair will do the rest. Here, have some water to take with you,’ the doctor said as she retrieved a cup of water from an opening in the wall next to the OBFR. ‘I will call on you when it’s ready.’
Louisa got up, walked through the doors the doctor held open for her and sat back down on the seat she had sat on thirty minutes earlier. She took a deep breath and took a sip of the water.
The big number 14 stared at her. The chairs in front of doors number 13 and 15 were empty. Further up, a door opened and a young woman with long, curly red hair shook an older gentleman’s hand and came walking Louisa’s way.
‘Hey Miranda,’ Louisa said, recognising her friend from secondary school instantly. Even though they hadn’t spoken to each other in a while, she was surprised to see her here.
Miranda looked at her and frowned. ‘Ehm, hi.’
‘Hi. How are you?’
‘Oh. I’m so sorry. You’ve just had…’
‘Sorry, do I know you?’
Louisa looked at her friend from years earlier and suddenly felt uneasy. ‘Yeah, we went to the same school.’
‘Oh, okay,’ said Miranda, a faint smile peering through. ‘Different classes?’
‘No,’ answered Louisa. ‘Same class.’ She looked at Miranda, hovering in front of her with a vacant look in her eyes.
Miranda furrowed her brow. ‘Same class? But then why don’t I…’ Her eyes widened as she looked up at Louisa. ‘I should go.’ Without another word she jumped forward and hurried to the exit of Waiting Area 3.
Louisa frowned. As far as she knew Miranda and her had been quite friendly. They had had sleepovers and had gone to parties together. Sure, Miranda hadn’t been the most popular of people at school, but…
Louisa’s eyes widened. She looked after where Miranda had exited and stood up to chase after her. But then she sat back down, feeling run over by guilt. Yet more guilt. She realised what Miranda just had erased from her memory. And that included Louisa herself.
Louisa felt a twinge in her stomach. Her childhood friend had had her removed from her mind. Because she had been desperate to save face at school. Because she was scared the bully would do the same to her, she laughed at his mean jokes about Miranda’s family. And Miranda had seen her laugh. Louisa should have talked to her friend about that. Tell her not to mind bullies and explain why she had pretended to laugh. She would have understood. Instead, Miranda had forgotten all about her.
Just like Louisa was going to forget all about Will. From the back pocket of her jeans she pulled out a photo. There he was again. She moved her finger over his contours, over his face, over his hair, over his shirt. This was the last time she would ever see his face. His brown eyes, his black hair, hanging sleek across his shoulders.
Never again could she reminisce about her first boyfriend, her first love, her first kiss. Never again would she smile when she thought of their mutual friend’s 16th birthday party where they had met or remember the long nights of playing video games together.
How had it gone so horribly wrong for them?
In front of her, door number 14 reopened and Dr Woodward emerged. ‘It’s ready for you, Ms. Lopez.’
Louisa got up and shuffled unsteadily towards the open door. Just before she walked through it, she opened her hand and watched as the photo slid down onto the floor and glided across it. As she looked back up, she saw a man enter the waiting area. Was that…? She quickly averted her gaze back to room 14 and walked through it, her knees shaking even more. Her mind was being cruel to her today.
‘Are you ready?’ the doctor asked as they re-entered the room.
Louisa nodded and stepped onto the chair’s platform. As she sat down, it restrained her wrists and ankles one last time. The head strap attached to her forehead.
‘Here we go. You can close your eyes now.’
Louisa closed her eyes and felt an instant throbbing in her forehead that moved across her entire head. She wondered what was happening, but before she could think of an answer the darkness took her.
When she woke up and opened her eyes, Dr Woodward was standing in front of her.
‘How do you feel?’
Her restraints retracted and Louisa’s hand went instantly to her throbbing head.
‘Your head might hurt for another couple of days. Any spots in your vision? Hearing issues?’
Louisa swallowed. Her throat was very dry. ‘N… No, all good. I think.’
‘Good. Do contact us when such symptoms occur or when concentration problems or headaches persist.’
Louisa nodded, which made her head throb even worse.
‘Do you remember what you came in here for?’ the doctor asked, checking something in Louisa’s file.
‘To get my memory erased.’
‘Can you tell me which memory?’
Louisa tried to think, but the headache made it difficult. Nothing came to mind. ‘No, I can’t.’
‘Good. Then I will file this trial as provisionally successful.’ The doctor helped Louisa get down from the chair.
‘Will I have to come back in?’ Louisa asked as she followed the doctor through the first door and put her coat and scarf back on before heaving the bag over her head.
‘Yes,’ the doctor said before opening the other door leading into Waiting Area 3. It seemed like another lifetime when she had sat there, even if it had only been half an hour. ‘We will be in touch again in three months’ time for a follow up appointment. In the meantime, your therapist will keep us appraised of your development.’
As the doctor opened the door, light flooded towards Louisa and she had to squint.
‘But do not hesitate to contact us if there are any physical problems before then.’
‘I will,’ replied Louisa.
‘You can have a seat here with another drink if you need a minute,’ suggested the doctor, handing her a freshly filled cup of water.
‘Thank you, but I think I can use some fresh air now.’ She motioned to her head.
‘Of course,’ replied the doctor. ‘Go be successful, Ms Lopez.’
‘Eh… And you, Dr Woodward.’
They shook each other’s hands, one cold and one sweaty, and as Louisa turned around she saw the doctor pick something up from the floor before closing the door behind her.
New faces were sitting along the hallway nervously facing the numbered doors in front of them as Louisa walked back the way she had come. She wanted to wish them all good luck, but refrained.
‘Louisa?’ A voice called. Louisa saw a young man sit in a wheelchair next to a designated chair in front of door 8. ‘My God, it’s you.’
Louisa frowned and halted. ‘I’m sorry?’
The man moved forward. ‘It’s me. To see you. Here. Today. Wow.’
‘I’m sorry,’ said Louisa. ‘I should go.’
‘Bye.’ She hurried past him, as door 8 opened and a doctor appeared. As Louisa sprinted towards the exit of Waiting Area 3, she heard the doctor behind her call out.
‘Mr Will Fallon, come with me please.’
The door closed behind Louisa and she sprinted down the hallway and across the atrium, heading out of the main doors into the open air, with a skip in her step and a smile of relief and possibility on her face.