Prompt 51: What is a memory you would like to erase?
An earlier prompt sparked a memory-erasure short story already, so I don’t want to do another one in that vein so soon. Instead I will wax philosophic about this one for a bit then do another short prompt.
I have a slight fascination with memory. The human brain, really. I probably wasted mine studying mathematics instead of psychology, although I’d wager I know more about psych than I do about any given math topic at this point. Certainly is useful when it comes to writing. Understanding character motivations from a psychological standpoint, even if I don’t agree with them, is incredibly handy as a writer.
When I first started writing stories, my protags were often amnesiacs. Looking back, I think I did this because I rarely had a clue as to who the character was and would learn with her as she discovered the pieces of her past. Spoiler alert: I’m a discovery writer 9 stories out of 10. It’s probably why I never finish any of them.
In my most recent iteration of my oldest story, my MC isn’t a typical amnesiac. She has childhood memories but like most people her earliest memories are blank. Unlike most people, she has flashes of memories from a previous life. She wasn’t always human, and before she became human she had lived a full life. It’s the memories of that life slipping to the forefront of her mind that make her question everything she thinks she knows.
There’s a scene where she dissociates and has a flashback to her previous life. At that juncture she was already aware that she wasn’t truly human but she didn’t know anything more than that. Her bodyguard, for lack of a better word, brings her back to reality and takes her home. She airs her concerns about the memories she can’t quite seem to grasp, wondering if she’s better off without them. The woman in her memories terrifies her and she doesn’t know if she could ever be that person. He tells her not to worry about them, that those memories don’t define who she is. This reassures her for the night, but it touches on an interesting concept.
What are memories? Are they the sum of our experiences? Who are we without them? It has been proven that memories are unreliable. Two people can witness the same event and have completely conflicting memories of what transpired. Some people (like myself) have incredibly vivid dreams which then also become memories. What happens when those dreams are about something mundane like an interaction at work? Can we tell the difference from the memory of an actual real life interaction and that of the dream?
There’s a new show on Netflix, an anime called A.I.C.O. Incarnation, that delves into this. The MC has a “fake” body (really, synthetic) and must return to the research facility where her original body is in order to end a catastrophe that was caused when the surgery to fix her went awry. The surgery involved creating a duplicate “fake” brain to keep the real body alive while it was being operated on and allow the patient to live on in her “fake” body until her original was healed. However, the fake brain panicked and started growing the synthetic material exponentially, causing the Burst. The idea is that once her “real” brain is returned to her “real” body and the fake one is destroyed everything will be set aright and the Burst will stop.
At the end, the girl is able to meet her other self and the quandary of “which one is the real one” begins. Since each brain has memories, how do you destroy the “fake” one? Is it truly human? Do the memories make her human? Do the differences in their experiences make them functionally different people?
We all have memories we would much rather forget, even erase completely. Especially late at night when you’re lying awake, unable to get to sleep, and your brain decides to remind you of that super awkward thing you did in college that you still secretly hope everyone has forgotten about, even if your brain won’t allow you to.
Or maybe it’s a traumatic experience like Ryan Drake had removed. I wouldn’t necessarily advocate for erasing memories, since I fall in the camp of “memories are part of what make you who you are,” but for trauma survivors? Absolutely.
So yeah, memory is a fascinating concept for me. Do I have any memories I would rather have erased? Sure, but they’re mostly your run-of-the-mill embarrassing type memories that never had a drastic effect on my life, the kind you laugh at and go “wow I was an idiot” and move on. What about you? What memory would you have erased if you could?
Prompt 52: What traffic sign best reflects your life right now?
Nothing too deep about this one. My life is definitely a winding road. Can’t say I really know where I’m going, but I enjoy the ride.