solace_aderyn: (thinking)
[personal profile] solace_aderyn
As I've said on other channels, I entered this year's, which was also the first. It works like this: you sign up, and then you're given a title, a premise, a line you have to include and 48hrs to write, edit and shoot yourself telling the story. Unlike the film challenge, it doesn't need a team. You have 6 minutes.

Here is what I was emailed at 1pm on the Saturday:

Title: FAIL TO GAIN
Line: I don't want him to know. Do you think we can do it without him finding out?
Theme: People can only store 15 memories at one time - all other memories are erased

I told the first draft rather than wrote it, pulling it out of the air in the shadow of a watertower that looks like a castle, surrounded by vivid pink cherry blossom and a sky filled with cotton candy clouds. Then I trapped it on a screen, in words, and I loved it, made sure it was healthy. Then let it go, like any storybird.

I never heard a thing back, something that's more common than most would let on, but, nonetheless, the story itself is something I am proud of. So here it is, and unedited.

It takes a little under 8 minutes if you read it out loud; seven and a half if you can push past the tremors of your voice, as the loss buried in it strokes you with thorns.

----------------------

She opened her eyes, and saw a park.

There was a woman sitting next to her, on her right, in a lab coat. She seemed at once out of place and very, very real.

The first woman looked ahead. “I don’t remember this. It’s really pretty, though.”

“You were here when you were fifteen,” the woman in the lab coat said.

“Oh.” She waited for a moment, looking around. There were a dozen or so cherry trees, heavy with rich pink blossom, and the sky was a faultless blue. The grass had the vivid brightness of new growth. “Why am I here?” she finally said.

The woman in the lab coat smiled, with the ease and tender smirk of someone who’d done this dozens, hundreds of times before. “We’re here because there’s a new memory you want to instil.”

“Is it this one?”

“No. We’re just here because it’s a neutral place for you. You enjoy it, but there’s hardly any emotional attachment here. So it’s something you gravitated to.” Now the woman in the lab coat looked around, a tendril of loose hair from her ponytail catching in the breeze. “It’s interesting. Most of the time people choose beaches, or an empty room, or their offices. The park is new. You’ve even got people in it,” she added, and it was true, though they were hazy and out of focus, barely more than shapes.

“I guess. Can I see the memory now?”

“Of course.” A figure came forward. It was another woman, dressed in a suit. A black pinstripe one, originally for a man, but she wore it as her own. It clung to her, perfectly tailored, showing everything and nothing. Her hair was down, and black.

She smiled, a perfect bow of her lips – but long, not Cupid. These could kill, if you asked her to. “Hello, Mary,” she said to the woman who couldn’t remember.

“Is that my name?” The words tumbled out of her.

“Yes. I can help you remember, if you like?” She bent forward, from her waist, as if for a kiss – then she flickered, and was gone.

The loss felt palpable.

“It’s a 1 minute preview, I’m afraid,” the woman in the lab coat said. “That’s all you get.”

“A... preview?” The woman who couldn’t remember stared. Her eyes were wide. “How- how long is the memory?”

“...Two and a half years. So far.”

“It’s still going?”

“Yes.”

“Whoa.” She was silent, her eyes wide.

“So. What memory would you like to remove?”

“I. Man. I’m not sure. I...”

“We can temporarily store any for recall for seven days, if you wish. It doesn’t cost much extra.”

“Wait. Please. I need a minute.”

“Of course.” The woman in the lab coat still sounded amused. “Take all the time you need.”

“Okay.” She carefully ruffled through what memories she had. Her first was a beach, and why it didn’t appear as neutral ground: she’d stood on a razor clam shell when she was young, maybe two or three. It was a clean cut, sharp, much like the memory itself: she remembered trying to pull away her chubby little foot quickly, clumsily, and how the blood spilled like smoke into the sea. Then the saltwater hit her with a wave of pain, and her mother came and scooped her up, murmuring soothing sounds as the blood dripped hot off her toes and her yells filled the air, vying with seagulls.

She didn’t know what to think of her mother. She couldn’t remember anything else of her.

That was why she couldn’t lose it.

She went to another memory. Her fifth, this time. It was her first kiss. She was in a closet near the music room, and she was fourteen. There was a guy with her, and he kissed her. It was her first. She didn’t like it: it was slimy, and she felt awkward because she should have had at least a kiss by now, and as their tongues flapped around each other he unbuttoned her shirt and groped at the bud of her breast. She was wearing her mother’s bra, old and greying, and she pulled away in shame.

They never spoke again, even though she, in a fit of naivety thinking he loved her, saved and bought a him a lavish gift for his birthday two months later. She cringed at the memory, but she also felt it defined her. So she refused that, too.

She went through each one, dismissing and re-dismissing, until one finally stopped. This one was the thirteenth. Unlucky for some.

It was a guy. Her boyfriend. He was kind, more kind than she deserved, she felt. She loved him more than time.

But she’d met someone else, and fallen for them, and she was just about to break his heart. He looked right at her. His eyes were multi coloured, like mood rings, and in just a few moments she knew she was going to break his heart, and it wasn’t his fault. Or hers. There was just a core incompatibility.

It was a clinical way to describe it, but truth never cares.

“I don't want him to know. Do you think we can do it without him finding out?”

She wasn’t sure she’d spoken until the woman in the lab coat replied.

“We only get fifteen memories, remember. It’s likely he would have chosen to forget you already. Too painful, you know?”

The woman who didn’t remember winced. “Probably. I just...”

“Just what?”

She said nothing for a moment. “I feel so empty,” she finally said, plaintive. “Is it always like this when we pick memories?”

The woman in the lab coat didn’t reply.

She closed her eyes. The sense of the park was still there – the faint flowery scent of the blossoms and the softer smell of the grass, coupled with the feel of it under her feet. The breeze was strong. So was the woman in the suit, the one who caused her throat to go dry, even though she’d long flickered away; she could still see her eyes, nut brown, the colour of the earth under the grass. There was a lot of potential to gain here, she knew. The rolling in her guts told her as much as any memory would. And the only price she could even consider was losing Ash.

It would be simple, she told herself: let the woman in the lab coat do what she needed, press a button, wave a magic wand, and it would be like he’d never existed. She even fancied herself remembering just that.

It would be simple. But it wasn’t.

Ash defined her, as much as the blood, as a kiss, as a rollercoaster, as the clothes she wore and the food she liked and the language she used. To lose him would be losing how she found her identity, a label that told her how and who she really loved. It was more than their relationship: it was the guilt of the change, and moving through that, using it to appreciate the present even more, even if she would never experience it through her memory ever again.

Here in the park with her eyes closed, she saw the memories as stars in the night, picking out a constellation that guided her life. They all did the same, in their own way.

It was a price, she realised, she set to live well: to treat others well, and be true, even though it meant she would be oblivious to any consequences from now on.

The alternative was a price she couldn’t pay.

She opened her eyes.

“I can’t lose any,” she told the woman in the lab coat. “I’m sorry. I’m pretty sure I’m going to lose something good. But you can understand that, right? You can see why?”

The woman in the lab coat smiled, like a bow, though long or cross or Cupid she couldn’t tell. She reached behind her, flicked a switch that the woman hadn’t seen.

And the world went black.
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