I pull a childhood thread, the first ride on a hover-bike — wind in her hair, skin goosepimpled in the fall air, father’s hands warm around her middle, keeping her upright until the first, beautiful glance of freedom — and weave it underneath the smell of burning metal and plastic from that time she flipped her car. She wants less wanderlust this time around, wants to make sure she’ll stay put, build herself a family, a career, something to hold onto. Wanderlust is a young soul’s game, for your first or second clone. By the time you’re on your third, a person starts worrying about their legacy.
“We can’t entirely erase the memories or create false ones,” I explain. “This one man tried to snip out the memory of an ex-girlfriend, and he came out so confused that he killed himself four months after decanting. We can just layer them differently. Emphasize some influences. Downplay others.” My apprentice, Lynne, sits beside me taking careful notes.
“But we do get rid of memories somehow, right? I mean, that’s the whole point of your department,” she says, absentmindedly scratching at the InfiniTech logo installed behind her ear. I wonder who wove the habit into her. Maybe it was Adriana from the third floor. She likes to add little “signatures” like that into her work.
“In a sense,” I say. That’s my specialty, hiding the things people want to forget. All our services are expensive, but this one is particularly pricey because it takes so much finesse. Our apprentices take rotations with each of the departments — Physical Enhancement, Personality Alterations, and Talent Distribution — but I’m always the last. Not many of them choose to stay on with me in Memory Removal once their rotation is finished, but I think Lynne might just have what it takes. “We don’t erase it so much as take it apart. We dissociate the event until it might as well not have happened at all. Watch.”
I lead her over to the next client’s loom — a biotech CEO named Carl Morganson — and pull out the memory of a fight he had with his wife before he died. He’s decided they’re going to stay with each other in their next cycle, and, because he paid extra, we’re doctoring some of their worse fights. It helps smooth things over in the next go-round.
I show Lynne how to fiddle out the component parts: the smell of limes from the margaritas they were drinking, a few unkind phrases like “you never” or “you always,” and the sound of breaking glass. She takes a turn piecing out the imagery, the colors, and feelings, then hands the frayed threads back to me.
Needle in hand, I show her how to hide each strand beneath other memories. Some things make more obvious sense. The lime smell can pair with their vacation to Aruba — the one where they drank so much rum they fell asleep on the beach and woke up sunbaked like lobsters. The breaking glass is harder. I pull each crystalline note out and push it under other breaks — a broken bone, a dropped plate, the time he threw a ball through the window of an old house.
Lynne watches with fascination. “And so he won’t remember it at all?”
“Maybe flashes will come back to him, but the mind is malleable. It’ll make up excuses for whatever it is he’s remembering. The stronger the memory, the more we have to break it apart.” I sit back and hand her the weaving needle. “Here, you try this one.”
She jerks back a bit when she realizes what it is. “We’re really going to hide this?”
“If you can’t handle it…”
She takes a deep breath and shakes her head. Scratches again at the logo on her scalp — definitely Adriana’s work. Needle in hand, she leans over the loom, scanning the threads for the right spot to hide it. She hovers over a memory of picking apples — bright red galas shining in the afternoon light — and looks back at me as if asking for permission.
“Good instinct, but the shade of red isn’t right.”
I see the perfect match before she points to it: a bad nosebleed from a broken nose he got when he was young. The red of blood is so particular, the smell of it so visceral and strong that you can’t really hide it under anything other than itself. Only blood can hide blood. I nod when she finds the right thread, but she doesn’t move towards it. Instead, she pauses, the needle suspended above the loom.
“Won’t his wife remember what he did to her?” She asks.
“Claire? Don’t worry. We’re doing the same to her memories. She won’t suspect a thing.”
“But if they both forget, if he forgets, what’s to stop him from doing it again in the next cycle?” she asks.
I laugh. The girl’s a quick study, and I wonder if her last clone was as bright. Probably — you can’t really weave in intelligence.
“Nothing,” I say. “Nothing stops them.”
I gesture her closer and pull back the nosebleed thread to show her what’s already hidden underneath — other memories from other cycles, at least five previous lives that I can count.
It’s blood all the way down.
Brit E. B. Hvide is a writer and editor. She studied creative writing and physics at Northwestern University. Originally from Singapore, she now lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their dog. Follow her on Twitter @bhvide or visit her website brithvide.wordpress.com.