I decided to take this story in another direction, but I really enjoyed writing this. Maybe you’ll find some pleasure in it too, short and incomplete as it is.
While the most likely outcome is that her unconscious mind will reject the coupling, there is also the possibility that my mind will collapse in on itself, taking Selassie’s with it. I am recording this log in the event that the latter outcome is realised. This is uncharted territory I am wading into.
# Dela could only faintly recall a single image from when they first met at six years old; of their mother lying in a casket, her face pale and at peace. Selassie was too little to understand why she was crying. She held up her little hand, offering a candy.
~ Selassie did not remember offering Dela a candy, or much about the funeral itself. She remembered the car ride back, and the colour of the trees in the harmattan.
Perfect recollection is impossible for any species of sentient animal on earth. At least, there is no known evidence to the contrary. For most of human history memory was unreliable, fragmented, and impermanent, until Allotey and I made breakthroughs in our understanding of memory which ultimately led to the invention of the View technology.
We began by studying what happened in the brains of people who had unconsciously repressed their memories of traumatic events, as well as those who could recall memories in eidetic detail. We knew that powerful emotion was the primary agent in selecting which memories were stored, discarded, and which ones were actively repressed. We sought to understand what happened in the brain when these extremes of cognition occurred, and for years we had no success, until we discovered a means of identifying and isolating the exact neural pathways along which recollections of past events fired. Two years later we found a means to suppress the synaptic responses triggered when specific memories fired, effectively limiting ability to recall said events.
Early tests on individuals who suffered from PTSD and child abuse proved to be successful at limiting the recall of traumatic memories. As to whether they went on to live better lives was less clear. A small number of those who underwent the initial trial reported that while they had no recollection of their trauma, they felt overwhelmed by a feeling of paranoia they had no basis for, having no memory of what it might be rooted in. This was expected, as we knew that stressful memories altered the brain in ways their mere suppression would not reverse.
To my surprise Allotey did not think this was cause for concern. He was sure that our work would lead to a resolution for this in time, and urged me to focus my energies on what was at hand. Allotey always believed our legacy would be the elimination of painful memories. He was convinced these were the source of suffering, and to eliminate them would be the solution to human unhappiness.
# He could remember her bike, a shiny green busanga with streamers on the handles. He remembered running along beside her as she rode through puddles, splashing red mud on jeans his father would beat him for dirtying. He remembered the streamers, how they fluttered in the breeze, and her smile, wide and unafraid, not a care in the world.
~ She remembered the bike as well, but she was certain it was blue, the seat too high and the gears too tight. He ran beside her the entire time. That was when she knew she would marry him.
Our paper (the “Allotey-Koffie study,” as it came to be known) sent a ripple across the scientific community. The implications of our discovery were incredible. Our peers called our work “revolutionary,” and were optimistic it would lead to breakthroughs and answers to long-standing questions about cognition, and the nature of memory. Further research revealed a number of capabilities, as well as limitations of our method. For one, we could not retrieve lost memories. In an attempt to treat amnesia we found that physical damage to neural pathways could not be repaired. We could, however, reinforce and strengthen existing pathways, increasing vividness of recall to the point that early testers could not tell the difference between remembered events and present reality.
(This is where it falls apart 😬. I didn’t properly flesh out my ideas past this point.)
The first of the hacker groups cropped up about five years ago. They were a small group of about a hundred users who claimed to be able to edit recorded memories, to alter minor details and recollections. BigCorp immediately revoked their use permissions as a violation of a vaguely worded clause in their fair use agreement. Unsurprisingly, BigCorp released a major update announcing the new Alter feature, which took advantage of their AI to enable editing recollections of facial expressions, locations, events, etc. They quieted protests that this would render memory unreliable by showing that all records of memory were version controlled across board, and users could elect which changes to keep and discard when sync requests were issued. Amarh voiced his displeasure vehemently, warning against the danger of all memory becoming unreliable, since if memories could be edited, which ones could be trusted? No one listened. BigCorp was too powerful, and in their relentless drive to create “moments worth remembering,” they pushed this update hard. That first hacker group faded into obscurity, to be replaced by tamer, more compliant ones.
# Went to different colleges. Saw other people. Stayed in touch hardly. Began to Skype each other near end. Admitted crush. She was beautiful in all the ways I did not expect. There was something about the way she … that rarefied the air around her and left him light-headed. She laughed right then, and he found himself laughing with her, for no reason other than he was happy she was happy.
By far the most troubling of the hacker groups were those who called themselves “the Styx”. They voluntarily subjected themselves to life-threatening dangers in an attempt to induce near death experiences. They believed the perfect recall their Views afforded them would enable them record whatever they glimpsed of the beyond. BigCorp inflicted immediate access revocations to the few they caught using them, but the majority were able to mask their activity and continue uncaught. Even though I’m not sure I believe them. It seems more likely they took perverse pleasure in what they thought was some affirmation of their life, some “triumph” over death in that they walked in the valley of its shadow, and feared no ill.
# He remembered the fear, most of all. To this day he felt waves of dread wash over him as he recalled the doctor’s prognosis. Brain scans showed normal brain activity, and yet it was unclear when she would wake from the coma.
Should this work we might be able to share memories–to share minds–but I don’t know what that means. Would sharing memories truly be equivalent to sharing minds? Am I defined by my particular collection of memories? What does that then say about which memories are selected, and which ones are repressed? I’m not sure you would feel my exact pain, my anguish, my apathy, and I wouldn’t want you to.
# He stood at the casket and for the second time in his life, stared down at the face of the most important woman in his life as she lay still, her face pale and at peace. They said she hadn’t felt a thing. He could only remember the numbness. The overwhelming, debilitating numbness. It was only a dream, but the fear it filled him with was real.
Allotey never understood that memories, while often the source of pain, were not ultimately the cause of our anguish. He believed that happiness was the absence of suffering, but he was wrong. We desire to be known and loved in spite of everything wrong with us. We desire empathy.