Subject: Memory Windows
Dear Professor Powell,
My name is George Stewart and although we have met a few times I’m sure you don’t remember me since I work down in the lower levels of the facility and we’ve only had contact at a couple of staff parties. Anyway, I’m writing to you because I think there’s a problem down here in Lab 2077-B and I wanted to bring it to the attention of management before it gets out of hand.
First of all, let me make it clear that I’m not just sending you some gripe about our circumstances in the laboratory bunker. Sure, it’s a bit Spartan down here, but labs are always that way and I certainly don’t want to complain when I know about the horrible conditions that so many of the citizens of this country are facing above ground.
Second, I hope that you understand that I really think that the memory windows are a great idea and I want you to know that my morale has improved dramatically since they were installed. They’re much better than the posters with inspiring bits of advice that we used to have here.
To be able to scan someone’s memories and then use them to create scenes that run autonomously on a computer screen is one of the greatest technological innovations that I have ever encountered.
I can tell you that right now, for example, the memory window on my wall is showing me a scene from my childhood that is so beautiful and realistic that I can’t do it justice in an email. I’ll just say that it shows friends of mine — friends whom I had forgotten — playing a game of softball in the park that was just down the street from where I grew up.
It’s such a comfort to me to see something like this, especially since my hometown was destroyed early in the war.
Anyway, I’m digressing here. What I wanted to bring to your attention is that the memory windows concept hasn’t worked so well for my office mate, Chuck. He doesn’t want to talk about it, but, by putting two and two together, I’ve come to the conclusion that he must have suffered from — I hate to think that this sort of thing could have ever happened in our wonderful country — some form of childhood abuse.
At first, Chuck seemed to enjoy his memory window. I’m sure that he must have had at least a few good memories about the house where he grew up, but after a few days, the figure of a middle aged man showed up. The man stood in front of Chuck’s house leaning against the gate of a picket fence.
I couldn’t help but notice that the man seemed to make Chuck uncomfortable. I asked Chuck who he was and he replied that it was his Uncle Alan. Then Chuck asked if he could turn his memory window off, which, of course, he can’t do.
Uncle Alan just stood there for days. Chuck pretended not to notice him, but I could hear him muttering under his breath, “I won’t let him in. I’ll never let him in again.”
Yesterday, Uncle Alan finally swung the gate open and walked up the steps to Chuck’s house. He stood on the porch for a few hours while he kept ringing the doorbell. While this was going on, I could see that Chuck had pushed his office chair as far away from the memory window as he could and that he had stopped working entirely. I could hear him whispering “no, no, no” for fifteen minutes or more.
Today, Uncle Alan is no longer on the porch. It appears that he’s inside the house and walking up the stairs to what I suspect is Chuck’s bedroom.
It would be nice if you could do something to help Chuck deal with his past, but what I really wanted to bring to your attention is that the work we do on this level involves creating the viruses that our country has been using against its enemies.
I am fully committed to our great cause, so I have never really seriously considered suicide, but I have noticed how well protected against ourselves we are down here.
As you may know, not only are we not permitted to have weapons, but there are no bedsheets on the beds, and our grooming is done by the facility’s barber, so there are no sharp objects around. Hypothetically, if an employee, such as Chuck, wanted to end it all, almost the only way he could do it is by releasing pathogens into the lab.
I assure you that Chuck has the skill to get around our security protocols.
So, would you please send someone to talk to Chuck? Or, perhaps, you could re-wire his memory window, or, perhaps, take it down altogether. And please do it quickly. Uncle Alan is just now turning the knob of the door to Chuck’s old room. Chuck is crying again and pushing the buttons on his control panel.
Chris Bullard is a native of Jacksonville, FL. He lives in Collingswood, NJ. He received his B.A. in English from the University of Pennsylvania and his M.F.A. from Wilkes University. He has published two full length books and four chapbooks of poetry. Big Table Press published Fear, a collection of his science fiction and horror short stories, in 2017.