Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
 
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The Persistence of Memory

by by Pedro Blas González


I think it was about 11:00 p.m. when I first realized that my anxiety was well founded. After spending an entire day at the lab, the last thing on my mind was to entertain the idea of yet more experiments. But I could not find it in me to forget about the Alpha Zeta Chromosome Project.

I am a romantic by nature, but I make my living as a bio-engineer. My job consists of furnishing the bio-medical industry with replicas of human organs, body parts, and as of the last five years, entire human beings or what have come to be called clones. The lab for which I work is called Bio21st. The operation is privately founded by two philanthropists who vowed to remain anonymous. They have set up a trust fund that will fund the lab for the next thirty-five years, after which our research is to be made public.

In addition, by mutual consent the scientists who participate in the experiment have agreed that the outcome will be made public ten years from the closing of the lab in order to protect all the parties involved. My work, as can easily be imagined, is top secret given the so-called ethical questions that would otherwise paralyze our efforts. One day after dinner I sat down to watch television. This is when my first vision occurred. I began to see myself as a child playing in my mother's flower garden. I could distinctly hear my mother telling me that for every rose that I damaged she was going to keep me inside the house the next day after school. This was all too strange, because I was the type of boy that took care of things. In fact, I never did destroy any of my mother's flowers. This much I clearly remember.

Now, I am having this vision of a past that either did not occur or that I was not recalling. I began to feel the sensation of the effect that my mother's threat had on me back then. I actually felt as if I was reliving the moment.

The peculiar thing, however, was that I could see myself acting out in an alternate way of how I actually acted as a child. For instance, I saw myself playing in the snow, when in reality I did not first see snow until I attended college. At first I thought that my memory had perhaps failed. But as more of these experiences continued to take place, this proved to be just mere wishful thinking on my part.

At work, the next day, I was informed that a firm in Britain had purchased my clone. As part of the research, each member of the research committee in our lab had volunteered to have a clone of him or she produced. This provided a fairly broad range of genetic characteristics without requiring use of publicly-donated material. We were convinced that our ability to remain under the radar, as it were, would prove to be the decisive factor that would ensure the success of the project.

Dr. Robert Hastings, lab director had informed me that my clone -- I prefer to call it my double -- had been adopted by a family in the U.K. Proper documentation had been created and the child, who was now five years of age, was placed in a home outside of East London.

The boy was named Timothy Lafleur, born July 8, 2023 at 8:09 a.m. in St. Michael's hospital in San Francisco, California, U.S.A. The adoption agency was told that his parents, Mr. Bill Lafleur and Mrs. Brenda Lee Lafleur, originally of Louisiana, had perished in a boating accident in the Gulf of Mexico when the child was two years of age. After the accident the child was taken in by his sole living relative, his maternal grandmother, a Mrs. Adelphia Marie Jackson of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

We all signed an agreement that none us would ever try to contact our doubles. The program was to follow the doubles throughout their lives. The lab would compare reactions to life experiences, stress patterns, creative abilities and above all, the double's disposition toward the world that it was to encounter. This information was gathered and compared to other relevant information that the original, that is, the provider of the original DNA, had supplied.

Also, the lab was to cultivate the double for the possible use of its organs if we were ever to need them. There were ten of these doubles in all. The children are all five years old, given that this was when we were first successful in undertaking this task after several years of trial and error. There are seven boys and three girls. For the first years the children were cared for by other members of the lab who did not participate in the experiment. This was done for two reasons. First, as human beings, we could not keep these subjects anywhere else but in a proper home. But also, because for these first five years, a team of psychologists from the lab would study the children closely. This was a luxury that we knew we could not afford, once the children were placed in their respective adopted homes.

That night after work I began to view myself as a child once again. I began to relive my childhood. In fact, I couldn't make sense of most of these visions or memories or whatever they may have been. In one memory I saw myself taking a train trip with two people who I can't recall. As this night went on, I got the distinct impression that I was living these sensations and not so much recalling them. I stayed up until 5:00 a.m. reliving a past that I knew I had never lived. This and my lack of sleep made me somewhat nauseous.

The following morning I called in late to work. I began rummaging through some of our family albums, once my wife had left for work. I began to compare the places and people in my pictures with those of my memories and to my astonishment I realized that everything in my family album looked outdated and out of place. The cars in my memories were much newer. The clothes that I actually wore were nothing like those I saw in my memories. The house that I keep seeing in my memories is not the house in which I lived as a little boy. By the time I had turned the last page of the photo album, I had grown confused. I knew I had to get to work.

"Bob, can I have a word with you?" I said. He nodded, and I stepped into his office, a smallish space that made up for its size with a splendid view of Lake Michigan.

"Bob, have you felt anything unusual in your life since the beginning of our experiment?" I asked, not knowing what the outcome of such a question would be.

"Unusual? How so, Richard?"

"Well, have you been sleeping all right, for instance?"

"I suppose so."

"Well, what about dreams? Have you had any strange dreams lately?"

"Dreams? Yes, some. But what exactly do you have in mind?"

"What about anyone else? Have they reported having strange visions lately?"

"You mean some kind of false memories that I can't locate? Is that what you have in mind?"

"Exactly! That's it ... but why haven't you mentioned this to anyone?"

"Because I thought I was going mad," Bob replied. "But if you have been experiencing the same thing, then... Tell me about your visions, as best as you can recall them."

"Simply put, these are memories of a little boy who is clearly me -- at least the image I see in the mirror looks like me at that age -- having a childhood that is not my own."

"Mine are of myself living in a coastal town. I grew up in the country in Idaho. So you see, I am as confused as you are."

"Should we have a talk with the others, Bob?"

"I think we should."

For the next three days we exchanged memories and they all turned out to be disjointed, if not altogether unrecognizable. We decided that the first step was to send some psychologists to interview and see how the ten children were living. Next we were to compare these findings with our own experiences and from there we would decide how best to proceed.

That night I walked around the house trying to figure out how I was going to solve my problem. I was also feeling apprehensive about the next manifestation of these memories, for I was convinced that surely there would be others. My wife was asleep. I went to see my children sleeping in their bedrooms. When I looked in on my nine year old son's bedroom, I didn't see him. Instead, I saw myself as a little boy looking back at me. The boy, that is, I, was sitting in bed smiling. I looked away. Then I went to see my daughter. She was sleeping. Coming back out to the hall I then saw the little boy walking past me. I followed him.

Having spent my entire life demanding that reality show its face in a manner that can be verified, I now found myself stunned by this apparition. The boy walked in front of me for several seconds before I found myself alone once again. I went to bed. That night I had what I imagined were several very disjointed dreams that saw me as a little boy.

In one of my dreams, I chased a black kitten around a very large white room. Even though the room had no windows or doors, I continued to go around in circles after the kitten. On the ceiling, looking down there was a large, round clock. The faster I ran after the cat, the faster the arms of the clock moved. After several minutes of this game, I became dizzy and stopped. Now lying in the middle of the room, I stared up at the clock; the arms were now moving slower than before, but still faster than normal. I never caught the animal. The kitten now sat beside me, as if to signal that the game was over.

In another dream I floated in outer space, in some kind of void. The interesting thing was that I could hear my mother calling me from the distance. Through the darkened glass of my helmet, I saw myself in my mother's womb, father holding her hand. Throughout the duration of the dream I felt as if the boy who floated in space was leading me to something.

The other dream that I remembered was about me playing in a park. The sky was an infinite blue. I kicked cool sand with my bare feet. I could see my house in the distance. This was the only house that I could see, however. The house sat in a field of green grass. Swinging myself on a swing, I remember seeing how the blue sky and the green grass alternately came to dominate my field of vision. I didn't want to get off. As I moved up and down, I began to see the days, weeks and months of my life before me. First the days went by very slowly. From birth to the time that I began to crawl around the house, I witnessed how the world was merely an appendix of my vision. And then from the time that I began to walk, the days seemed to separate from each other, as if I were responsible for pushing them away from my flesh. Finally, I saw the months and years speeding away from me as if repulsed by being associated with anything human.

The next morning I went to work dazed. Sitting in traffic, I played Debussy. This calmed me. The defused, rounded melodies of this musical genius brought me back to myself. Once in the parking lot of our lab, I noticed a woman with a small boy across the street waiting to cross. I did not recognize the woman, but the boy was the same boy that I had been seeing now for several days. He was I. While she watched the traffic, the little boy just looked at me. I walked quickly and got inside the building. Looking back through the glass door I could no longer see them.

I sat at my desk and stared at my coffee cup for several minutes before a colleague came by to give me new data on our ten clones. The ten children were now in kindergarten. Two remained in the United States. Three went to England, one to New Zealand, two others found homes in Australia and two others lived in France and Germany. As per our agreement, all of the children went to families that consisted of a father and mother. Half of the children went to families that already had children, while the others were the only child.

I studied the data carefully, a collection of photographs, comments from doctors and psychologists, and standardized test scores. My double, Timothy now weighed about forty pounds. I read the report:

He is a slender boy but ranks in the 95th percentile range for height. I am six feet four tall.

He has dark, brown hair and dark eyes. He is athletic and impervious to physical fatigue. But most children are like that at that age, I suppose.

Timothy likes to ask questions about the nature of things. He is very perceptive about the world which surrounds him. He is active and possesses a healthy degree of vital energy. He is interested in airplanes and rockets. These were my first loves, too.

He is a cheerful boy who makes friends easily... Lately, the boy has been given to fear of the dark. I smiled and nodded in agreement. I had developed similar fears at his age -- old enough to have heard about monsters under the bed, young enough to believe in them. But then I wondered: had he been dreaming of my life, as I had been dreaming of his?

When the boy plays he goes all out, and he seems to respond favorably to visiting libraries and bookstores, the report continued. He is also given to flights of fancy that seem to be rooted in an active imagination. I found the comments illuminating, but I didn't really know in what direction our experiment should continue to move.

"Can I come in?" said a voice at the door.

"Come on in, Shelley Ann," I answered. "How are you?"

"Fine -- more or less, "Dr. Shelley Ann Richards replied. She had dark smudges under her eyes, as all ten of us did these days. "Did Robert tell you about his latest visions?"

"I spoke with him, but I'm not sure that I've heard the latest."

"Well, you may not know this, but Robert's father was killed in a construction accident when he was five."

"No. I didn't know."

"He told me that early period of his life was very traumatic for him. He saw his mother crying incessantly and he knew not what to do. Yesterday marked the anniversary of his father's death."

"Poor child."

"Well that's just the thing, Steven. Yesterday he began to relive that entire episode again. The entire thing. He's not here today."

"The whole thing? How? Give me examples."

"He's horrified. The little boy confronts him and asks him if he is his father."

"Is the vision in his head or is the boy manifested physically?"

"Actually both. He says that when he closes his eyes he still sees the boy crying. He says he does not know what to do about it. I suggested that perhaps we should all expect to have visions of our most trying times from when we were that age. Steven, I think Robert is the first, but quite frankly we're all in for it sooner or later."

"How about you, Shelley Ann, are you experiencing some of these episodes?"

"Yes, but nothing as difficult to handle as that. How about you? Robert mentioned your memories."

"They're manageable for now. But I see your concern nonetheless. What can we do? I think we should continue with the experiment no matter what."

"Your notion of 'what' scares me, Steven. Do you know what I mean?"

"Absolutely. But what other alternative do we have? Terminate the clones? Has anyone suggested that yet?"

"Not that I am aware of. Only you right now."

"That's not an option for me."

"I don't think that's an option for any of us. That's unthinkable, really. Perhaps we now need to concentrate on how these memory sequences work and block them."

"Block them? What do you have in mind?"

"I'm not sure to be honest, but I've been thinking about it. I came up with some ideas. Maybe we need to come together and compare notes and move from there."

"You realize you're asking to make our memories public?"

"I understand, but what other viable choices do we have?"

"Can we change them?"

"The memories, you mean?"

"Yes, if the child is going to have them more or less, and from the looks of it, they are really accurate memories, why can't we find a mechanism to preempt this? I think this is an option worth pursuing."

"Perhaps, in some respects. But remember we are also dealing with two additional concerns: time and our own ability to remember."

"If these memories are so traumatic, then we will recall them effortlessly."

"Not necessarily," she said. "We may have some very difficult moments that we have either filed away or forgotten altogether. But you are right to the degree that we will not be able to block the great majority of our memories. Remember, that what we refer to as memories appear as the child's immediate experience. But to compound this problem, the child too has to be concerned with its immediate, daily experiences that do not belong to us. We'll have to see. I'm not very sure that we know how to proceed, just like we didn't anticipate this complication. I say we call a meeting with all the others and address the question. We may be surprised how debilitating this whole thing may turn out to be. Look at poor Robert. Who could've known?"

Shelley Ann and I assembled the others in an impromptu meeting. Robert, too, was present.

"I understand that we are all experiencing untold difficulties lately as a result of our experiment," I began the meeting. "Is there a consensus on this?"

We all agreed that this was the case. Robert's memories came across as the most drastic, but others equally had some very difficult moments that they were reliving. Brian Montgomery was afflicted by the vision of a terrible fire that destroyed their family home.

"I think we can begin by agreeing that our doubles are experiencing our earliest memories, as we have been reliving some of their more recent experiences. In turn, this means that we have had to revisit those events from our lives that our doubles find traumatic. Now, the point of our meeting is to decipher a way to stop this from occurring. I think we should all be open to suggestions," I added.

"Steven, I think we have to ask ourselves how this is affecting the children in addition to what we already know about ourselves," Shelley Ann addressed us. "My point has to do with the possibility that the children might be taught to distinguish between their own memories and our own."

"This seems like a fine idea, Dr. Montgomery, but that would not preclude us from being afflicted."

"No. I am aware of that. However, if the children can somehow learn to identify the false memories, they may be able to stop them before they take place," she retorted.

"The problem, as I see it," I responded, "is that if we take that route we will end up by having to tell the children the truth. I can't see another possibility. Why else would they have false memories?"

"Yet there is a sense in which we are sitting ducks in terms of our own past, because we cannot control the past, which of course means the children's future. I don't know. They seem to be living our memories for us in some way. You know how when we close our eyes we retain the image? Well, I think that same persistence of memory is taking place here," added Dr. Hastings.

"It's not so much that the children are forced to have our memories, but that we relive them through them. Our memories seem to be encoded in their ability to decipher their own present. We can think of our memories as scar tissue that tells our story," I contributed.

"Whether they tell our story or not, I can't say, but they sure are our identity. I can't help but to find myself harassed by this situation. My whole understanding of the past is precisely that it is over. Now I am scrambling to deal with it all over again," Dr. Hastings said.

"For now it is important that we all deal with this on our own. I certainly don't have any further ideas to put on the table. Or maybe just one more, actually. If things continue going as they have been. I will suggest that we bring the children back and have them live with us. In this way we might be able to control this phenomenon," I suggested.

The others seemed to reject this idea.

"Out of the question for me," said Shelley Ann. "I really can't even begin to entertain that idea."

"Oh, Steven, I don't know. My kids are all grown up now. Do you know what you are asking? I don't think I know what to do with a five year old," Robert said, shaking his head.

The meeting was called off. We agreed to meet again a month from that date and bring everyone up to date. That night I sat in bed reading Maupassant's "The Devil." My wife asked me about the experiment.

"It's ongoing, isn't it?" she asked. "I can see it in your face. What's the latest episode? You want to share it with me?"

"The latest? Let me think. There have been so many. This afternoon on my drive home he was playing in the school playground when I went to pick up the kids. He was running after some other children, but stopped when he saw me."

"Oh, Steve. What are you going to do?"

"I can't say. I've tried several mental exercises but none seem to work."

"Are your visions as bad as Roberts's?"

"No. And thankfully I don't expect them to be. My childhood was wonderful. It's just that I don't know what to do when these memories act up. Take this afternoon. The boy was happy. He was playing like all kids like to do. But then I see him and I can't help but to become lost in the moment. During those moments my mind regresses, and I begin to see myself through him."

"I think you need to find some mechanism to help you see through this. Maybe a breakthrough will take place soon. Otherwise I think you're all going to have a great deal of trouble."

"Breakthrough? I am beginning to doubt it. I already regret the entire experiment. We thought that we would simply gather some data from the children as they grew. But no one anticipated this memory business. I think Robert is not doing very well. He mentioned seeking professional help. That's only going to muddle things up even more. What is he going to say? He can't admit that this project is taking place."

"Unless he cracks," my wife said.

"I fear for him and the rest of us. It's one thing dealing with things that happen to us when we are five and another having to rehash these events in middle age. It might be that that will be the greatest impact of our experiment. We are guinea pigs in more ways than we could have never imagined."

We turned off the light and went to bed. At around 3:00 a.m. I awoke to the voice of a child who was calling, "Daddy."

Looking about my dark bedroom, I placed my feet on the cold tile floor and wiped my eyes. A few seconds later I heard the voice again. This time I could clearly make out that it was not my son. Yet I couldn't figure out from what direction the voice came. Once again, the voice called out for me. I opened the curtain and looked out into the yard. There was the boy outside my window calling me and motioning me to come out. However, this time the boy was no longer the one who I had seen many times before. The boy now was I. In disbelief, I watched him for what seemed like several minutes. I didn't know if he was actually outside in the yard or inside my head. I kept looking. I then decided that I would go outside and meet him. I opened the kitchen door and went out to the yard. He was standing in the same spot outside my bedroom window. I stood in front of him. He smiled. I was looking at myself at age five. I -- the boy -- was wearing a watch that my father had given me for my fifth birthday. He wore a plaid shirt, short pants and the same black orthopedic shoes that I wore, given my flat feet. I smiled at him, but he didn't speak. Instead, he motioned me to follow him back inside the house.

When I opened the kitchen door I noticed that the furniture was different. The light from the nightlight allowed me to see my way around. In the kitchen, I saw a smaller refrigerator than my own. The kitchen table, too, was older. It looked like a turquoise and aluminum one that my mother had in the sixties. The boy then took me by the hand. Feeling the warmth of his hand, my eyes began to water. He led me to my bedroom and then turned on the lamp. To my amazement, there in bed were my parents. Mother was sleeping facing up and father was moving around, now reacting to the light.

"Daddy I can't sleep," said the boy.

"Steven, every night you wake me up for the same reason. Come, let's try to sleep."

I stood by the door with tears running down my cheeks. My father took me in his arms and carried me past the door and out to my former bedroom. I followed. He placed me in bed and covered me with a blanket that contained pictures of the planets. He then kissed me on my cheek and said good night. Father walked out past me and disappeared on his way back to the bedroom. The boy then called me over.

"I am going to be just like you," he said and turned over to sleep.

I stood there dumbfounded. My legs were shaking. I didn't know if I was dreaming or going out of my mind. I looked around the room and all my toys were in place. I then walked out to the living room and looked out across the street. Parked in the driveway there was my father's 1955 Bel Air, its two tone paint reflecting the light from the streetlight. Across the street was Ms. Parkinson's 1946, black, 6-cylinder Nash 600 that she loved so much and which she let me wash.

As I walked around the house in that semi darkness my mind raced through memories like a computer program through files. I didn't dare go back in the boy's room for fear that it was all an illusion. In the living room, I sat on my father's favorite chair. I held his pipe in my hands, the smell of tobacco sent chills through me. For those few minutes I lost all conception of time and place.

I then decided to check on the boy once again. I peaked into his room, and there halfway under the blanket with the planets on it I was, sleeping peacefully. The room had posters of the stars and planets that father had put up for me. In one corner I saw my first baseball glove, a ball nestled in its pocket. I sat on the side of the bed and watched him sleeping as I thought of how I imagined the future when I was his age. In those few moments my entire existence was put on hold, as I rummaged through my past like I had not done in a very long time.

I then walked back to my own bedroom. When I got to the doorway I noticed that the room was my own. My wife was sound asleep. I placed my head on the pillow and realized that these visions of the boy were not as ominous as I first imagined. In fact, the boy had delivered me to a wonderful time of my life that I wish I could retain forever.

The next morning I told my wife what had happened. I didn't expect her to understand, because none of this made sense to me either. At that moment I decided to take the kids to school and then return home. I called the office and explain that I would not be coming in, that I was going to work from home. I realized that I had some ideas about the double that I wanted to put down on paper.

Returning from taking the kids to school, I immediately proceeded to take out some old family albums. Going through them, I began to see that there was a possible pattern between the many visions that I had of the boy and my family pictures. Not all the pictures were represented by my visions of the boy, but every vision had a corresponding picture to go with it.

The boy's words, "I am going to be like you" ran through my head. But what could they mean? Since last night, my thoughts had turned from Timothy, the double who lived in England, to my visions of myself as a boy.

I paced about the house, going into my son's room and trying to figure out any correlations between the actual room and the one from my youth. There was none. I went back to my bedroom and continued looking through the pictures. Hearing a noise outside the window, I turned to look and right outside my window was the boy again. It was myself again. The boy smiled at me and motioned for me to come outside. Like the night before, I went out to the yard through the kitchen door, only this time I felt a wonderful sense of anticipation to see him again.

Once outside, I did not know what to say or do. I was very happy to see him in the daylight. Without warning, he threw me a baseball and then picked up a small glove from the ground and put it on.

"Throw it," he said.

I threw the ball and watched him struggle to catch it, but he dropped it. For a few minutes I became lost in the child's world. When I looked into his eyes, I got the strong impression not so much that I was reliving my past, but that the boy was gazing into the future. After several minutes of playing ball, he motioned me to enter the house. In daylight, I realized that I had stepped into my mother's kitchen. Her cooking utensils and the pictures on the wall were the same.

The boy then took me to his room where he began to show me his posters of spaceships and galaxies. Father had put these on the wall after he realized that I had a fascination with space and science. In a corner of the room I saw the Blue Lighting bicycle that I had gotten the previous Christmas. The training wheels were still on. I rode the bicycle around the block with my father running next to me.

On a dresser, I saw a picture of me with my mother, father and older sister standing in front of some early rocket in a museum, in New York. The boy then asked for me to sit next to him on the side of the bed. He smiled at me and said, "I'm going to be like you." Then he hugged me.

Immediately thereafter I lost track of myself as an adult and began to see what the boy saw. I had become him. The bedroom window was open and I could hear Billy Hughes playing in his yard next door. Running to the kitchen I saw mother cooking. I went outside and played with Billy for a while until he was called to come inside to eat. I remained in the yard playing by myself. Through the open bedroom window I saw my father sitting at his desk that looked out to the yard. He was working on some project for work. I came up to him."

"Daddy, what are you doing?"

"I am trying to piece together the tail section of this small rocket. Do you have any ideas?"

"Me?"

"Sure, you do. Look," he said showing me the plans.

"I don't know, daddy."

"Just visualize what you want to be, what you want to do and start trying to become it. This is what I wanted to do since I was a little boy."

"Okay. I'm going to think about it and help you. Daddy..."

"Good."

"I'm going to be like you."

Father smiled and told me not to forget that I promised to help him. Coming back through the kitchen door, I now found myself sitting next to the little boy once again at which point he said he had to go.

I spent the remainder of the day thinking about the double and how I now expected to see visions of this boy until the day I die. I wasn't sure what kinds of manifestations the others were experiencing or how they were coping with the problem.

My problem, I had come to realize, was less daunting than I first realized. I went back to my picture albums and rummaging through the photographs, I visualized the sights and sounds that made those pictures what they are.

I then picked up the telephone and called my elderly father.

THE END


© 2010 Pedro Blas González

Bio: Pedro Blas González is professor of Philosophy at Barry University, Miami Shores, Florida. He has published four books of philosophy and one novel, Dreaming in the Cathderal.

E-mail: Pedro Blas González

Blog: Castle to Castle

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