Title: THE MEMORY VISIT
Category/genre: YA Dystopian
Author: Jenny Lynn Lambert
Chosen by editor Carly Hayward
Rain’s flashbacks of her baby brother’s drowning are getting worse and
nothing helps—not therapy, not hypnosis. Not even sleep because all she
dreams of are Dal’s wide eyes sinking away from her in the backyard
pool. There’s only one thing she hasn’t tried yet: a Memory Visit.
Desperate for answers, Rain ignores her doctor’s warning and relives
that horrible day via a laser probe straight to her brain’s
hippocampus. What she discovers is even worse than she thought; her
brother, Dal, was murdered, and she is a mark, one of the remarkable
people who can alter the past through her memories.
Using her newfound ability, Rain attempts to save her brother only
to become a target of the assassins who killed him. Now, she must decide
whether rescuing a brother she barely knows in the past is worth
risking her life and the lives of people she loves in the present.
Fourteen years ago, my baby brother drowned, and I watched him die.
Fourteen years seems like a long time, doesn’t it? Time enough to feel sad. To feel angry. To feel guilty. Time enough for a bunch of shrinks to tell me that I can’t blame myself. Maybe even time for me to believe them.
The thing is, I haven’t had fourteen years to face the fact that I was there when Dal died. I’ve hardly had four months. Four torturous months of nightmares and flashbacks.
Before the flashbacks, I had no memory of it at all, which makes sense since I was barely three years old when it happened. What doesn’t make sense is why I now see Dal drowning over and over again in my mind so vividly, so clearly, where before, he didn’t even exist.
The only way I can explain it is this: when Dal drowned, my little brain built a dam to hold back the tragic scene, to keep it from seeping into my consciousness. But the dam wasn’t built to last, and now I’m the one drowning over and over again in a flood of memory.
The dam started to leak on April 3, when I had my first flashback--a streak of refracted light dancing across Dal’s forehead, a thin stream of bubbles escaping from his tiny nostrils. For a brief moment, he floated peacefully underwater, just out of reach of my hands. Then he started to drift, his wide blue eyes sinking farther away until they lost all color and shape in the cloudy water.
The flashback always comes at the worst times, like when I’m at the vendor market trying to trade a few carrots for a gram of black pepper. My tight throat and watering eyes prompt the vendor to ask me if I’m all right. I never know what to say. Of course, I’m all right. I’m not the one who drowned. I am the one, though, who was right there when it happened. The one left wondering if there was something I could have done.
Did I reach for him? Did I scream for help? I’ve tried everything to remember more including meditation, psycho-therapy, and even hypnosis. Little by little, details are coming back to me, some details more disturbing than others.
Take the latest, for example--a shadow on the water, a woman’s silhouette. I never see the actual woman, but her size and shape and the length of her hair make me think of my mother. Dal’s mother.
But it couldn’t be. Our mother couldn’t possibly have stood there watching while her only son drowned. The shadow must be a trick of my mind, conjured by my guilty conscience to share in the blame for my brother’s death. Only a monster would stand by watching a helpless baby sink to the bottom of a pool.
A monster like me.
I know, I know, I was only three. What could I have done? Besides, there must have been someone there, an adult, watching me and Dal. Perhaps there was a group of people, too involved in conversation to see the danger coming. There had to be someone. I mean, who would leave a baby in a pool with a preschooler?
Still, my imagination won’t let it go. I just can’t shake the feeling that there’s something hiding in this memory. Something down deep in the waters of the flood, lying on the dark floor of my consciousness alongside Dal’s lifeless body. For fourteen years, my brain has kept this something from reaching the surface. And now that I’m aware of its existence, I dive, and I dive, but never deep enough. Each time, I return to the surface, empty handed.
Just like today. I take yet another dive in Yamuna’s tiny office. On a soft purple sofa, she has hypnotized me into a dream-sea of partial memories, hoping to recover the answers.
But as I wake, I see no answers in Yamuna’s uneasy stare. Her strained smile tells me I’ve failed. Again.
“Nothing new, huh?” I say and cringe at my sarcastic tone. This isn’t her fault.
“No, I’m sorry, Rain,” She says, her weak smile withering into a frown.
“Did I talk about the shadow this time?”
She pushes a strand of wooly black hair off her ashy cheek and shakes her head. She knows what I want to hear. She knows I want there to be someone else in the memory, someone else to blame, even if that person is my own mother. I’ve never had to admit this to her. She simply understands and forgives me for it.
“Like always, I’ve recorded the session for Dr. Thames,” She says. “He’s waiting for you down the hall.”
When she rises to retrieve the memory chip from her holographic tablet, her flowery peasant blouse hangs loosely on her sagging shoulders. Her long legs shuffle like an old woman’s under her crinkled skirt. If she’d been born up north, like in Oasis where I lived when Dal died, Yamuna would be running half-marathons or at least playing tennis on the weekends with her friends. But not here, where she wastes away with the rest of NorCoast, like another dying scrub oak on the foothills.
I know better than to offer her the small bottle of water I keep in my bag. There’s nothing more insulting than water charity. I should have stuffed the bottle behind a tattered pillow when her back was turned. It’s too late now, though; she’s right in front of me, proffering the chip like a consolation prize.
I take the chip, wishing that I could forget about Dr. Thames with his paneled office and constant sniffing. Instead, I long to sit here in Yamuna’s warm muraled room with the faded purple couch cushions that smell of patchouli.
As I rise to leave, she takes my hands and pulls me in for an unprecedented hug. Hesitantly, I relax into her embrace, letting her warm arms swaddle me like an infant. When she steps back, there’s a hint of pity in her eyes, which makes me angry, but not at her.
“Thanks,” I say. “I know you’ve done all you could. I wish I could remember more.” I cough to cover up the catch in my voice.
“Rain, it’s not your fault. You were very little. Plus, Oasis is a totally different world. Here, there aren’t any visual clues that might help you remember. Actually, I’m pretty amazed at what we’ve been able to uncover from such an old memory.”
“Yeah,” I say softly.
“I think, though, that we’ve reached the limit of what hypnosis can do for you,” she says, and I’m not surprised. The only new detail in the past few sessions has been the woman’s shadow on the water, and even that has been inconsistent.
“I wish you had learned more,” she says and pauses, studying my face with her bold black eyes. “I’ve been hesitant to propose this up until now…” She stops, and I wonder if she’s really going to suggest what I think she’s going to suggest. “Have you ever considered…”
“…a Memory Visit?”
Yamuna nods. “You’ve heard stories about them, right?”
“Yeah, I’ve heard some pretty scary stuff.”
“Well, there are other stories, too,” she says. “Ones that haven’t been all hyped up by the media. I’ve recommended Memory Visits to a few of my clients, and none of them became addicts. None of them suffered mental health problems. No one’s brain exploded.” She smiles. “I just make sure that my clients are the right kind of people with the right kind of need, people like you who aren’t doing it to escape reality.”
Yamuna’s got me all wrong. I do like to escape reality, especially in self-destructive ways. I drop my gaze to the ground in case she can discover the truth behind my pale eyes.
“The decision is yours to make,” she says. “I’m only suggesting it because you need to understand this memory before you can heal.”
This time she’s right. I see Dal’s swollen face in my dreams, on the commuter train, during my classes. Ever since the first flashback, I started sneaking over to Bainbridge’s East Side to buy liquor--rare, expensive poison for a water-rationed people. As Shakespeare might say, the booze is ever the prologue to my sleep. I wake up weak and sick, but it’s the only way I can sleep without dreams about Dal. If I’m not careful, I’ll be headed for kidney dialysis in a matter of months instead of decades.
Yamuna’s frown mirrors my own. “Look, Rain, I’m sorry if my suggestion upsets you.”
“No, no, I’m not upset. Just…considering my options. I’ll talk about it with Dr. Thames.”
She grins. “I doubt he’d be as open-minded as I am. He’s a respected psychiatrist with a reputation to uphold. I, on the other hand, am a simple hypnotist.” She winks, her assuredness convincing me in spite of my doubts.