Here to Stay Harry J. Chong Roger was strapped to a medical bed.
Several doctors, who were surrounding him in a cluster, put a helmet onto his head. The helmet was a high-tech looking device that was attached to a group of wires; they connected to a computer and a large, wide screen. “This gonna hurt?” asked Roger. “Let’s say I wanna back out.” “You’ve signed a contract,” said one of the doctors. “There is no backing out.” “But…” “Look, you’re lucky, you’re very lucky. Out of a thousand something prisoners, you got this opportunity.” “Could you run me through it again? An’ don’t get too technical, doc. I ain’t the brightest penny in the fountain.” The doctor sighed. “The neura-helmet will selectively erase your memories. All the bad stuff you did, all the bad stuff that’s been done to you, all that’ll be forgotten. Then once your slate is clean, so to speak, you’ll be free to go.” Roger trembled. “I’ll be different then, won’t I?” “Your cognitive abilities may change. Yes.” “So, you guys really think this is good alternative to the ol’ steel bars and concrete walls?” “That will be determined.” A mouth guard was shoved into Roger’s mouth; and after a “three, two, one” count down, his helmet was activated with the push of a button. Bright lights of all colors flashed before his eyes. Then in a moment, he began to convulse and clench his teeth. It felt like a thousand needles were simultaneously being poked into his brain. An hour later, after some examination, Roger was released from the laboratory. A man by the door gave him a set of keys, a wallet, and a folder with papers. The papers gave Roger the necessary information that he would require for the outside world. It told him about: his new identity, where he lived, what he did for a living, and other sorts of personal information. “Thank you,” said Roger to the man who gave him the papers; then he went on his way, and took a taxicab home. Roger went into his apartment. It was a small affair, which took less than a minute to explore, but contained everything that he needed. Roger wondered how he would adjust to society after living locked up for more than ten years. He tried to recall what he’d experienced during that time, but could only remember periods when he felt neutral or, on the rare occasion, happy. No horrific or niggardly memories haunted him. “A new beginning,” he thought aloud while seated, leaning back on a chair. “What should I do with my time?” The morning came and Roger, by the sound of his alarm clock, woke up for work. He sprung out of bed, feeling quite merry, and went to the washroom to brush his teeth and prepare for the day. After, he ran downstairs, and hopped onto his bicycle. He rode to his place of employment which was only about ten minutes away. He stood in front of long, rectangular, light-grey building. A sign on top read: “Tes-Mart Department Store.” Roger went in and was greeted by the manager. The manager—a bald, pudgy fellow —gave him a haughty tour of the premises.
A month went by and Roger was doing fine at work and in life. He never complained once, even when there were many things to complain about. “Well,” he said while sweeping the floor in the toiletries aisle, “this isn’t the best of arrangements, but it sure is better than being in prison, isn’t it?” There was a smile on his face ‘til he felt a tap upon his shoulder; he turned around in a somewhat hasty manner. “’Scuse me,” said a lady with thick eyeglasses. “Do you know where—” “Yes?” said Roger, waiting for her to continue. She began to stammer. “I, I, I, I have to go now.” Then she ran away. “Strange lady,” thought Roger, and he continued sweeping. When he was about to leave, a tall man in trench coat stepped in his way. Coincidentally, he spoke in the same way that lady did. He had the long drawl to his voice. “’Scuse me,” he said. “I’d like to speak with you.” “I’m sorry,” said Roger, “but my shift is about to end in five minutes. I’ll be going home soon.” The man in the trench coat grinned, “I can wait.” So, five minute or so later, and Roger and the man in the trench coat were outside in the parking. “What did you want to talk about again?” asked Roger. “Nothing,” said the man in the trench coat. “Nothing?” “Nothing at all.” “Well, then I’m going to leave.” “No you ain’t.” The man in the trench coat gave Roger a right-hook punch, square in the jaw. An undefined amount of time later, Roger woke up. He found himself strapped tight to a chair. “What’s going on?” he said. “Where am I?” He looked around. The room was bare except for the television screen in front of him. The man in the trench coat appeared. “Roger, Roger, Roger, Roger… Roger Dodger,” he said in an amused manner. “I was waiting for you to get out of prison. Did you know that?” “Is, is, that so?” Roger said nervously. “I’m intrigued. Do you remember anything, anything at all of your heinous past?” “No… All my bad memories have been erased.” “Well, I’d like to show them to you.” “No, I—” Of a sudden, the man in the trench coat latched hooks onto Roger’s eyelids (which kept them open). He turned on the TV screen in front and pressed the play button on a remote control. The lights went off and images started to flash and move. Roger squirmed and screamed, trying to close his eyes, but the hooks would not allow that. “No,” he said, “I never did that… I never did that! I NEVER DID THAT! IMPOSSIBLE!” “But you did, you did,” said the man in the trench coat while laughing. “You did.” “I can’t watch. Make it stop! MAKE IT STOP!” “Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha!” Several hours went by, and midnight came. The man in the trench coat released an exhausted Roger.
Roger stumbled about and threw up in the corner of the room. “The last scene,” he said. “The last scene was the worst. What that criminal did to that boy. I can’t believe it.” The man in the trench coat pointed. “That criminal is you,” he said, “and that boy— that boy was my son. My little son. My five year old son. You killed him.” “I’m sorry,” said Roger. Then he crawled to the man in the trench coat to grovel at his feet. “I’m sorry!” The man in the trench coat kicked him away, “’Sorry’ is too late… The past cannot be erased… What’s done is done… Now, go on home.” Roger got to his feet. He stumbled through a door which had been behind him the entire time he was held captive, and found himself on an unfamiliar but busy street. “Well,” he said, “I guess this is it.” Then he jumped into traffic. The prison program to rehabilitate criminals with memory-erasing was considered a success. Fin.