It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? Well, I have a reason I’m so tardy. I took a new job on the East Coast and moved! I’d like to blame the cold for my laziness, but really, it’s just me. Between the move and just getting acclimated, I just haven’t been able to summon up the willpower to write. But here I am. It’s time get back in the writing game. Here’s the final part of The Assassin of Memory.
To recap: The protagonist has stolen a device that allows him to alter memories. He causes a lot of trouble. Unfortunately, something happens…
It’s over. It’s all over. The dream has died. These letters I have sent. I fear that they are all lies. I thought I was proving to you that I was worthy, but my efforts have been in vain. No, the past few months of hiding under cold grey underpasses and crumbling apartment buildings have given me a grim clarity. This will be my final missive.
The device stirs inside me. Its insidious tendrils pulling at the connections of my mind. Memories of Christmas near the fireplace mix with memories of slow shuffling walks on frozen bridges. I see you reading stories to me, but, at times, my former mentor’s stern countenance replaces your own. I do not know how long this has been happening. I cannot tell what is real. I am afraid I’m dying.
In some world, perhaps the real one, you are gloating right now, knowing that the arrogant son finally met his comeuppance. It is not wholly undeserved. This flailing of my mind as its embers cool humbles me. I pray and beg and scream for it to end but the decay keeps on going and going and going.
How did we get to this point, you wonder? As much as I want to blame you, only I hold responsibility. The power of the GASLIGHT device burns like a cleansing furnace. I should have never stolen it, for it has stolen us. This damnable, wretched thief! If only I could forget.
They betrayed me. The ones who granted me access. The collaborators. They told me I abused the device. When the contact told me, a spine-chilling fear seized me. Almost by reflex, I activated the device and attempted to erase his memory. I remember his cold grin as the walls of my apartment wobbled and shook. I fell to the floor as some sort of feedback force propelled me backward. Impossible, I thought.
Something had interfered with my power. I should have known the collaborators had a contingency plan in place. My arms drew up to cover my face. The man’s grin remained on his face as he towered over me.
“Big mistake,” he said.
A sharp pain rumbled through my head. A high-pitched shriek echoed through my ears. They were so unbearable, I thought my brain would explode. I screamed, a full-throated cry of terror that tapped into my most primal essence. The pain increased in intensity, like a nail pounded through my forehead. And then the pain stopped. He was gone.
Had I imagined all that? Was my mind playing tricks on me? I looked around. My room appeared normal. Nothing was out of place. I opened the window. All I saw was a pure white, like reality had been replaced by a canvass. A pure dread seized me. But then I blinked, and the outside world reformed itself. People walking on the streets, the sun shining, squirrels climbing trees. I shook my head. This is too much, I thought. I had to get out.
With just a backpack full of personal items and the clothes on my back, I ran outside in no particular direction. I just had to get away, away from this nightmare. I picked a direction and just kept on going.
I don’t know how long I walked. It must have been hours. Out of fatigue, I sat down at a nearby park bench. The sky began to darken, signaling the coming evening. As I rubbed my aching legs, I felt a change in the direction of the air. Ever alert for signs of my enemies, I scanned the area. At first, I found nothing. No brick or tree out of place. No shadow figures at the edge of perception. Then, I heard the footsteps.
A dozen people surrounded me. Men, women, and children. All dressed normally. None of them appeared to have anything in common. That was scary enough. The worst part was the quiet. No one spoke. No one made a sound. My heart pounded like a jackhammer. Then, a little girl pointed at me and gave me that grin, the exact same grin the man in the apartment had given me. They all gave me that grin. I pushed through the crowd and bolted.
There was only one place I could go. I had to go to you. Any feelings of doubt or shame were overwhelmed by intense paranoia. I needed you, Mother. But you weren’t there. I knew something was wrong when the caretaker answered the door. I didn’t know any caretaker.
She led me to you. You sat on an old, ratty chair in the living room, but you didn’t respond to anything I said. You had a far off gaze towards some point on the wall. The caretaker said that you had been catatonic for years now, long before I discovered the GASLIGHT device. Could this be true? I remember calling and emailing you during my time in college. I could swear that I could remember your responses. But I couldn’t remember. Was the device behind this?
That was when you looked at me. I gasped. The last I saw of you was your grin.
And now I wonder, lost, unsure of my own sanity. All that has been constant is the frozen ground I sleep on. I ponder which memories are real and which are not. I berate myself for my mistakes. But most of all, I think of you, Mother. I miss you. Please be there for me again.
Your loving son,