Below the introduction to a new Novella - out on Kindle this Autumn
The cover of the small book is blank bar the title; my name. It is embossed in old fashioned type, the letters dig into the creamy cartridge paper. Like the front page of a movie script trying too hard. A smudge of lipstick smeared across the front like a butcher’s thumbprint. The red makes me feel uneasy. An omen in a real library or a deliberate message here in the depths of the new unreal.
Then I open it to the greeting. There on the first page the words whisper to me.
‘Hello Garden.’ Two words are there, printed stark against the white page that doesn’t exist in the library that cannot be.
I can hear a voice say my name. I can hear her voice.
She knows I am here. The web vibrates and draws her in.
‘Hello Garden.’ The voice like dates and caramel.
I turn the page and memories I have forgotten rise like floodwater. I am condemned.
It had all started this morning so simply, so peacefully.
Forgive me, but I want you to understand before I go on, even in this prehistoric medium. Words on a page, typed with my own fingers: mechanical, abrupt. I will write it as it happened. I cannot think in any other way. So ‘I am’, not ‘I was’. That’s the hope for now.
In my present world to experience in the past is to be unconnected. Everything I feel, everything I experience I do in real time. If I engage it is immediate, if I learn it is as if I was there unless I am searching some long lamented archive with my fingertips.
My mind has been altered so my memories are experiences I access as readily as a file on a computer to be played again and again. Like a teenager’s favourite, tortured track repeatedly pounding from behind a bedroom door.
In the twenty third century the world is here and now and at once. The past, present and maybe future are concepts that are slowly dissolving from language and from understanding as brains connect to the ever growing homogeneity of humanity.
This is my lesson. This is my punishment. I have been left my memories to access as I please, but their recollection must be transcribed, hammered out as interpretation rather than real; my fingers bruising themselves against a typewriter in my personal prison.
I have been reduced, my thought process redacted.
You could not comprehend it, not until you have experienced it.
To have the world in your mind and to then be separated; it is a death and I am in my own private hell.
All I have is my memory and I will give it to you again, until she is happy, until she sees fit to release me to the universe once more.
I begin again and hope.
I wake in the usual way. My internal clock rouses me from REM sleep at the optimum point. Eyes open, moist, alert: I see my ceiling: corniced in a Victorian style, but stark white. The newsfeed scrolls across the bottom of my vision in pale blue and the messages wait in the top right. The information sits deep in my periphery, floating icons an arm’s length away, unless I consciously retrieve them to my foreground with a flick of my eyes or hand.
The pale green bulb telling me I have messages flashes the figure three and I lie back on my Japanese style bed, using my fingers to scroll through them like a cat batting at imaginary yarn. Two from my finance manager who wants me to invest in books.
I chuckle without sound. As no such thing as a book has been printed in fifty years the first edition market has erupted and there’s a twentieth century First edition Rowling he thinks we can get a share in. Putting my resources in printed paper is as crazy as putting them in paper money. I watch the first video message. His face appears as if he were before me, floating in a hazy facsimile of a chaotic office. I marvel that in an age of complete disclosure he still sends video messages from a rundown apartment amidst piles of papers. He is good, but he’s not image conscious. I delete both and add a note to my calendar to call him next week before storing the memory of the call.
The last message has no return address, no content other than a time. I don’t need to look at a clock. An internal chronometer tells me all I need.
I have twenty minutes before potential new employers make contact.
More than enough time for coffee.
I stand, stretch and walk to the kitchen counter to go through the physical routine of preparing an espresso. My apartment is vast and without walls: white minimalist furniture and cupboard spaces seamlessly hidden. My kitchen is shiny white enamel with only the barest obsidian touches. The counter sits flush against the wall and a single stool grows organically from the floor before a small island that leaves me leaning on a view out across the New York skyline through floor to ceiling windows.
The espresso machine is new, I could operate it with a single command, but I remember the old way. I remember the steaming two tone machines and coffee houses with cranking baristas working magic as they produced delicate cups of foaming oily blackness: crema with the aroma of history and travel. It makes me think of a moment I can’t remember.
I sit down and stare at the jagged skyline raising the white cup and dark sticky wake-up to my mouth, breathing in the memory. This happens to me more often than not.
Our brains are connections. Synapses from recognising the smell run a signal all the way to a memory that has an association. For me sometimes the memory is just not there; saved instead in a data file, safe from outside eyes, freeing my mind for other things. Every time I smell coffee it hits one of those dead ends and instead my memory ends in a small warning message, a red dot appearing in my periphery. The person, the event that it wants to run to is set in a series of ones and zeros locked safe in a separate drive. For most memories it is just in the hard storage surgically implanted into my brain, but for some memories the external drives need to be used. Locked safe away from me, they are the things that even I don’t want to know.
It takes a while to get used to. But the universe is just too big now. For any sane person to live and work and interact in the modern world you have to file away what you don’t need.