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That’s what it will feel like, I decide. A glowing ember caged inside, holding the past and future and present behind molten bars. The blistering nerves dancing along your skin, making you cringe at every motion. The screaming as your mind’s solace is torn away and locked away behind the unsurpassable gate of a forgotten prison. Hating yourself for convincing you to do this. To forget.
Yes. That’s exactly how it will be.
I press my hands against the edges of the sink, eyes looking down to the ground, forcing myself pause before facing the mirror. Every morning it’s the same - or at least, I assume it is. Reluctant to let it all go, but releasing anyway and reasoning with yourself that this is the right thing to do, that if you do progress will be made. That you’re important, and this ritual of loss reflects that importance.
All I have to do is look up. I know that. But I also know what I will lose if I do, and the thought of having my past locked away behind bars, myself trapped outside without a key, puts a leaden weight on my soul.
Of course, if I don’t, research will never get anywhere. I won’t be able to approach problems with as much of an open perspective as I can this way and solve the issues my forgotten colleagues have been troubling over for months. Progress will be stalled, and in when in a war of escape, the slower the progress the more lives are lost. I can’t afford that, not on top of what I have already sacrificed. My colleagues can’t afford that loss. No one can.
This is worth it. It has to be.
I’m not sure I could bear the consequences if it wasn’t.
Taking a heavy breath, I compose myself tenderly. If anything, I won’t remember the pain this will give. I also won’t remember waking up this morning and fearing the ritual to come. I won’t remember staring into the mirror in confusion moments after my past was erased yesterday morning, frantically bursting out the apartment and down the stairs to find my task and old colleagues waiting for me. The friends I untied, working on the plot I formulated; all designed for me to forget.
I owe it to myself to at least try and work to complete the plans I began. At least try to get the escape humankind so desperately needs. If I don’t so much as attempt to finish what we started, all the memories I’ve sacrificed will be for nothing. I’ve come too far to turn back, and even though I am terrified of what’s ahead, I’m more terrified of what lies behind.
Numb, I look up into the mirror. My dazed reflection stares back at me with hollow green eyes that stare right through me, haloed in exhaustion and wild unbrushed hair curling at my chin, a look of pure emptiness on my features.
That’s me, I realize. That lonely, lost, pathetic person is me.
The device at the top of the mirror clicks softly, the room suddenly cloaked in a blinding white light.
For a moment, all I can feel is the panic of forgetting, the regret about making this stupid decision and designing this all in the first place, the contempt that this version of me only gets a mirror image to remember themselves by. All I feel is emptiness as it all melts away, footprints on a beach swallowed by the next breaking wave.
It’s not at all like burning.