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Lt (jg) Loxley: The Fabric of Memory


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The Fabric of Memory

 

"There is, in truth, no past, only a memory of the past. Blink your eyes, and the world you see next did not exist when you closed them." – Terry Pratchett

 

“Energise!”

Blue, shimmering light filled the transporter room of the USS Wells as three figures slowly coalesced. The away team stepped off the transporter pad, their vintage clothing incongruous against the advanced technological surroundings.

“That was close.” Larrimer sighed with relief as he joined the others by the door.

“Too close.” Murphy agreed. “Another minute and I think the temporal Prime Directive would have been shredded!"

Commander Shanwea tapped the device on her arm before replying, the holographic shroud which had been disguising her for the mission fading away until her familiar Saurian features returned.

“And that is why we don’t mess around when time travelling, people. We all need to stick to the plan, no matter what happens. Actions have consequences after all.” She turned her large eyes to the officer behind the transporter console. “Speaking of which, what’s the damage, Lieutenant?”

“History is back to how it should be, Ma’am. Everything looks fine.”

“Any issues due to our little mishap back there?”

“I’m not sure, maybe a couple of very minor alterations, but I don’t think it’s anything anyone would notice.”

Shanwea sighed. “Unfortunately, that’s not our call to make, Lieutenant. Sounds like we’re going to have to wait on Temporal Investigations to take a look before we can all relax.”

Unhappy grumbles greeted her comments as the officers filed out of the room and into the ship corridors, off to brief the Captain on their successful mission.
 

***
 

Carice sat staring at the wall. It was an off-white colour. She wasn’t sure if it had been painted that shade or if it had once been pure white and had just changed over time. She planned to test that theory by staring at the wall every day for the rest of her life to see if it became any more discoloured. She had the time, after all, as it had been made clear to her that she wouldn’t be leaving here until she was ‘well’. But that wasn’t going to happen, because as far as Carice was concerned, she wasn’t ‘unwell’.

Time was pretty abstract in this room. Hours, days, weeks, months had no meaning but they had come in and told her that it was her birthday a little while ago, which meant she’d been here almost a year. A year since she’d last seen him, last heard him talk, last felt his hand in hers. Her brother had been her best friend ever since she’d been born, someone she looked up to and respected and who protected her from so many hardships. He was also the reason she was here – because nobody except for Carice remembered him.

Clement. That was his name. She had been with him when it had happened, walking in the park by the pond so they could feed the ducks like they did most weeks. He’d just told her a terrible joke and she’d laughed, raising an arm and shoving him away in reproach for his awful humour. Her hand had brushed against the soft, smooth silk fabric of his shirt as she closed her eyes for a second and grimaced in mock pain.
And then, when she’d opened them again, Clem was gone. The ducks which had been clamouring around their feet for crusts of bread were all suddenly out on the surface of the pond and the crumbs Clem had been throwing to them had vanished, too. The change had been so sudden, so absolute, it had taken Carice a moment before she started calling out for him, assuming it was just another bad joke. A few minutes more and she started asking people nearby. The elderly couple on the bench looked at her confused when she asked if they’d seen where Clem had gone, telling her that she’d been alone since she’d come into the park, watching the ducks. Carice accused them of lying which is when they’d called the police. The officers had been more inclined to believe her at least. That was until they took her home and the real horror had begun.
They’d taken her address from her ID card but house they drove her to wasn’t the house she’d left that morning with Clem. Instead, it was one street further down the hill and smaller. Her parents had been there but they’d looked confused when she’d told them Clem was missing. Confused, then concerned and then scared the more Carice talked and the more she refused to believe them when they said she didn’t have a brother, had never had one. They told her that this was the house Carice had grown up in, but how could that be? Her head was full of the memories of childhood – smells, textures, the pain of a grazed knee, the emotion of a rare fight with Clem, the vision of summer sunlight shining through the long lounge windows on one of those hot, empty afternoons that always seemed to stretch on forever.

Carice had run out of that alien house, her parents calling after her in desperation, and up the hill to the home she knew, forcing her way inside past a startled young man when he’d opened the door to her furious knocking. But it was when she’d run upstairs to Clem’s bedroom only to find it was now a nursery that she finally lost control completely. The world had changed and had taken her brother with it and now it was taking her sanity, too. Someone, somewhere must know what had happened, where Clem was and how she could get him back, how she could make everything right again. How she could make everyone remember.
It was, Carice considered, probably the uncontrollable screaming which had finally resulted in her being admitted to this room rather than to a police cell.

Carice looked back to the wall. Was it perhaps a tiny shade more beige than it had been when she first came here? Unclear. The trouble was, Carice only had her memory to compare it to and she couldn’t reply on that anymore. Her memories of Clem were fading quickly, like someone was leeching them away. His voice, his smile, they were all being stolen from her. Carice closed her eyes tightly and tried to think of something she could hold onto, something tangible. And then she had it – when she’d pushed him, that last physical contact they’d shared, the feeling of the fabric of his shirt under her palm, that was something she could still remember, that was the one thing she swore she would never forget. Carice opened her eyes and looked down at her hand lying open on her knee, nodding to herself.

“I will remember you Clem, even if no-one else does. And as long as I remember, then you still exist. You’re still real.”

She closed her hand tight, clenching it into a fist, holding on to that one felling, that one tactile sensation.

 

***

 

Temporal Investigator First Class Figgins placed the PADD carefully on his desktop. It contained a detailed analysis of all the alterations to the timeline following the actions of the USS Wells and her crew and was the last piece of information Figgins had been waiting on before they could write their report.

“Computer, begin recording.”

Figgins waited for the affirmative chirp before clearing their throat and dictating.

“Our investigation concludes that there was, at most, two or three very minor discrepancies. One less birth here, two extra trees there and some unseasonal rain leading to a small mudslide that resulted in the premature death of a rodent. Please see appendix H for more details. The timeline will correct itself to compensate and nobody should recall anything different after a while. It is regrettable, of course, but maintaining our timeline is simply more important than any... collateral damage.
Now, onto the details of the case…”

***
 

Another birthday came around, the third one she’d had in this place, but this time it came with a visit to her consultant. That sat looking at each other across his wooden desk in the tidy, well-lit office. The walls, she noted, were bright white.

“How are you feeling today, Carice?”

“Good, thank you Doctor.” She smiled and nodded.

“Have you given any more thought to what we spoke about last time? About going home?”

“I have, Doctor, and I would like that very much. Honestly, I don’t really know why I’m here, I’m sure you have plenty of patients who are actually sick and need your help much more than I do.”

“That’s good to hear. And you were sick, too, Carice, when you first came here. But you seem much better now. I think you just needed time to rest and let your mind sort itself out.”

Carice merely nodded again. The exact reason for her arrival was still a little muddled in her head. The doctor continued.

“Your parents are very much looking forward to having you back home. You’re their only child after all and they’ve been very worried about you.”

Something in the way the doctor phrased the comment seemed odd to Carice. She frowned.

“I know, doctor, and I’m excited to see them. Excited, but nervous, too. It’s been a while.” She paused. “Was there something else you were going to say?”

The doctor smiled and made a note on the file in front of him before replying. “No, nothing important.”

Carice absently rubbed her hand against her top. It was a habit she’d developed at some point during her time in the institution which helped to calm her nerves. The feeling of the smooth fabric against her open palm always felt comforting to her, reassuring somehow. It made her feel safe.

But she couldn’t remember why.

 

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