A M N E S I A 




Read Part I (Chap­ters I—III) here.
Read Part II (Chap­ters IV—VI) here.


Water sim­mers in a small kitch­enette. I watch Onyx as he takes two cups from a small cup­board and puts tea leaves into a fil­ter. My hands trem­ble slight­ly. I try to sup­press the tremor. Remem­ber­ing what


I once again find myself stand­ing in the mid­dle of my burn­ing, dis­in­te­grat­ing world, in front of my sculp­ture. All is carved in stone save for her hands; all fixed, unchang­ing. But her fin­gers, her fin­ger­tips, they curve so del­i­cate­ly that you could eas­i­ly miss it; as if she were long­ing to touch some­one or to cry out for some­one to be with her. Her eyes stare motion­less­ly into the dis­tance. “Skye.” I spin and spin. The world begins to spi­ral. I look down at myself, at my arms, no birth­marks, no scars. I turn my left wrist and look at my bracelet. Raven. The truth rings loud and clear through the digits. 

Onyx puts the two cups down in front of us on a small mahogany table. Amidst the pro­jec­tion of a summer’s day, he con­fides in me about how he remem­bers his life before Amne­sia when he is being tattooed. 

“It’s just lit­tle frag­ments; names, voic­es, short images, scenes, scents, touch­es.” He looks at me thought­ful­ly. “And over and over, a face. And excru­ci­at­ing pain. Just frag­ments, but enough to make you shiv­er. To make you need more.” 

“Do you think the pain trig­gers the memories?”

“Yes, but it’s nev­er long or intense enough to real­ly get a grip. Always just a moment out of reach.”

“Have you told any­one about this?”

His nos­trils flare briefly. “Antero­grade is a dan­ger­ous place, Raven. We may have checked our­selves in here, but Father’s meth­ods are cruel.” 

“I know,” I say qui­et­ly. “Before I woke up in the white room, I was in some kind of apoc­a­lypse where every­thing was con­sumed by flames, col­laps­ing in on itself. I was cov­ered in blood and in pain, but I wasn’t part of that world. I was some­how out­side of it, I saw it being anni­hi­lat­ed with­out being able to inter­vene. As if some­one want­ed to destroy every­thing that sur­round­ed me with­out destroy­ing me with it.”
Onyx stares at me. “You remem­ber the extrac­tion process?” He leans for­ward. “Raven. Nobody remem­bers the procedure.” 

“Well … I do.” I take a sip of jas­mine tea. I can feel his gaze linger on me. 

“So … if it is that dan­ger­ous to talk about it, why are you telling me?” I ask. “I’m only a stranger walk­ing in here because of mere curios­i­ty, a naked, ghost­ly stranger. I am not even a person.”

“I saw you. I saw you walk­ing in through the glass pane, just a shad­ow, and then when I went to look, I found you stand­ing there look­ing at your­self with a sense of explo­ration, and doubt. And I think that res­onat­ed with my frag­ment­ed mem­o­ries, and the way they make me feel: Like I am stuck in between two places, not allowed into one and not ful­ly present in the oth­er. Instead of becom­ing whole at last, I am now atom­ised all across Antero­grade and time.”
“I feel the same way,” I say. Sec­onds pass, music flows, and shad­ows caress my face in turn with light beams. My right thumb gen­tly brush­es over my wrist­band. “A mem­o­ry for a mem­o­ry?” I smile. “Well—the only one I have to give.”

Onyx nods. “Yes, okay.”

“What was the mem­o­ry that came with your first tattoo?”

He leans back, a lock falls into his face. He’s beau­ti­ful, I think. As much as I can under­stand beau­ty any­way. He clos­es his eyes. “My first tat­too made me remem­ber a hol­i­day,” he says. “Some­where by the beach. But it was win­ter, and the sea was rough. Nobody was around at first. I saw flash­es of a face, my face, but much younger, rounder, untaint­ed. I remem­ber some­one call­ing out my name, except I could not real­ly grasp it. Like dream log­ic, I knew I was being called, but couldn’t actu­al­ly hear my name. I was called after because I had walked towards the ocean, curi­ous about its rough waves and its depth. Some­one, I think it was my moth­er, fol­lowed me and yanked around my hand. She yelled at me, her face sil­hou­et­ted against the sky. A man ran up behind her and soft­ly picked me up while push­ing her away. I remem­ber being hur­ried away on the man’s arm, while my moth­er, in tears, fell fur­ther and fur­ther behind us. And then, there was one last out­cry before the vision went dark.” 

“What was the tat­too?” I ask. 

He looks at me for a moment, then he nods com­pli­ant­ly. “Is it okay if I—?” He ges­tures for his jumper to come off. I nod. Onyx turns his bare back to me and I let out a soft cry. He turns to me quick­ly, my hand cupped in front of my mouth, and is alarmed. “Raven?” 

“Wait, show me again,” I say, try­ing to thwart a vague lump of emo­tion which sucks the breath out of me. A huge tree stretch­es across his back. Peonies sprout from it, cov­er­ing his shoul­ders. Goose­bumps run over his skin, and with trem­bling fin­gers I trace the lines of the tat­too. He shud­ders slight­ly under my touch. 

“I think I was dream­ing about you,” I say faintly.

He turns his head to one side as if he hadn’t heard prop­er­ly. “What do you mean by dreamed? No one dreams in stage one of Amne­sia.” 

“I don’t,” I add. “But I’ve def­i­nite­ly dreamt of you. Dur­ing what you call extrac­tion.”  My heart pounds up my throat. “It was like you said, I could not see a face, it was all blurred out, but there was some­one with your exact tat­too try­ing to talk to me. Except … I wasn’t me.
“What did my dream self say?”
“You called me a name.”
“ What name?” 

I hes­i­tate. I’ve nev­er spo­ken my secret out loud. 

Skye. You’ve been call­ing out the name Skye.” 

“I don’t remem­ber any­one called Skye,” he answers. Dis­ap­point­ed, my heart drops into the shad­ows. “You must have,” I urge. 

“Raven.” His eyes pierce through me, suf­fused with pity and con­fu­sion. “This was your sub­con­scious try­ing to com­mu­ni­cate with you. Of course it would try to cling to the mem­o­ries that are sup­posed to be extract­ed and annulled. That is why Amne­sia is the most for­mi­da­ble drug on the mar­ket. If that name was a mem­o­ry of yours, your brain found shapes and faces that would appeal to your atten­tion, that would try to make you stay in a place designed to be escaped.”

Into the mahogany silence, I ask a ques­tion that had burnt my tongue since the day I awoke. “Is it pos­si­ble that I was Skye?” My fin­gers trem­ble, I feel cold all of a sud­den. He leaps to his feet and starts pac­ing back and forth in the store. I watch him with the unease of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty in a world which has not yet taught me trust. He tends to the peonies, which look almost syn­thet­ic in the white ster­ile light gleam­ing in from the sec­tor. Not as though they were made of plas­tic, but as though they could glitch at any moment, van­ish, leav­ing behind mere­ly ones and zeros. As he waters them, he assures, “Noth­ing is out of the realm of pos­si­bil­i­ty, Raven. But you have to be care­ful who you tell about these things. Some­thing as del­i­cate as a name can have seri­ous con­se­quences in a place like Antero­grade. Father hears every­thing and sees everything.”

“That’s why we shared a secret for a secret,” I whis­per. “You hold my safe­ty and I hold yours.”

He chuck­les as he trims away dead leaves. “That’s more than I’ve prob­a­bly ever trust­ed any­one here.”

“Besides,” I say. “Even if we did remem­ber. Even if all our mem­o­ries were to come

back to us all at once. Weren’t we the ones who signed us into Amne­sia? And if so, wouldn’t the worst case be sim­ply that it didn’t work? That we must resume our lives with the full weight of our past? Why does it sound like we are pris­on­ers here? Why should I be silenced? Why do four let­ters dri­ve me to the brink of madness?”

“Those are a lot of ques­tions for some­one who was tech­ni­cal­ly just born, like, yesterday.”

I stand up, angry now. “But why shouldn’t I get my answers? I am doing this for her, I am try­ing to keep to the rules because she thought it would save us. Because she thought we were beyond sav­ing if we remem­bered who we once were. But I am not a pris­on­er. If I so choose, I could walk out of here at any giv­en moment. Tell me it isn’t so.” 

Onyx puts down the scis­sors and turns to me. “Raven, Amne­sia is an exper­i­men­tal project, unprece­dent­ed, the first of its kind. And we are its guinea pigs. Not the first gen­er­a­tion, but hard­ly the tenth. Amne­sia is still in the process of becom­ing, adapt­ing, and sta­bil­is­ing. Tech­ni­cal­ly, they are still beta-test­ing. Peo­ple don’t admit it, but they do remem­ber some­times. When they, Father and the oth­ers, realise that the pro­ce­dure has had no effect on you, they will try again and again, with ever more ruth­less meth­ods, until all that remains of you is a lan­guish­ing husk. Until your lamps are alight, but you have retreat­ed so far into your­self that you can no longer find your way back. Amne­sia is like a lobot­o­my; except it’s not per­formed with a pick. They won’t allow fail­ure. We are pris­on­ers and this is life or death. The only way to get out is to go through the treat­ment, be stamped offi­cial­ly sane, walk free and mend­ed through the same glass doors you once entered. That’s the only way.” He shakes his head in dis­tress and adds: “One day, we will walk away from this place, you and I. One day we will turn our backs to it, and we will for­get. And we will just live.”

“But I don’t under­stand,” I say. “Why did she think Amne­sia would save us? Why did she sur­ren­der us to a prison?”

“She couldn’t have known, Raven. If you were offered a beta of a new drug, at no cost, with the promise of releas­ing your trau­ma, wouldn’t you try it? She was assured she would be safe and tak­en care of, a new chance at liv­ing to become you. And so did he, who­ev­er he was. Con­sid­er­ing how much they both must have fought to sur­vive, I think moral judg­ments are out of place here.”

From the out­side, an alarm horn abrupt­ly blares through the sec­tor and it rup­tures the still­ness inside. Sec­ond by sec­ond the chat­ter of count­less excit­ed peo­ple approach­es Earth & Rum­ble. I look through the low­ered blinds and see my group return­ing, Jamie bring­ing up the rear. Jamie. I had com­plete­ly for­got­ten about Jamie. Hasti­ly I turn to Onyx. “I think that’s my cue to leave.” Onyx smiles and some­where inside me a sin­gle but­ter­fly flut­ters. “It’s been my pleasure.”—“Take good care of my secret,” I say. There is a strange famil­iar­i­ty between us that doesn’t feel like today is only the first day of my life. He steps towards me and takes me in his arms. I let my face sink into his jack­et and breathe in deeply. “I will keep Skye safe,” he mur­murs, inaudi­bly almost, into the embrace.

The moment lasts for a heart­beat until Jamie knocks on the front door. 

Eight—“A Fire in the Ruins”

“Are you excit­ed?” asks Aubrey, my neigh­bour, as she works her way through my thick hair and rebraids it in fiery red. She is suf­fused with a jit­tery glow, as if she is ner­vous enough for two. I hes­i­tate with my answer, but in the air that fol­lows Aubrey’s words is the pres­sure to say yes. In some ways, Antero­grade is a giant panop­ti­con. Every­one is watch­ing every­one else. All the more risky and, to say the least, reck­less it had been to trust a stranger so much. In Onyx’ pres­ence, I had felt a pecu­liar famil­iar­i­ty that made my words spill forth before I could sti­fle them. As if my soul had reared up and reached out to him. It felt like I had known him all my life. I hadn’t made up the stranger in my pecu­liar dream. I could hard­ly imag­ine my brain fan­ta­sis­ing such a detail as his tat­too, with­out clue, with­out rea­son. But it sim­ply couldn’t be. Why would Amne­sia fail me, of all people?

Aubrey’s touch feels gen­tle in my hair, but beneath her gen­tle­ness is curios­i­ty and grow­ing scep­ti­cism. A week ago I had been trans­ferred to the periph­ery, to a flat of my own. With the flat came full author­i­ty over how I spent my days—within Anterograde’s bor­ders, of course. Aubrey had lived in my sec­tor for two years. For me, only two months had passed. Dur­ing all that time, no one had ever told me how long it would take for Amne­sia’s sub­jects to trans­form into func­tion­ing mem­bers of soci­ety. Two years is a fright­en­ing­ly long time, and it almost seems to me that Aubrey is merg­ing more with her life here by the sec­ond. Per­haps she is scared of what might come after. 

All this time, with­out see­ing the sun even once.

Today is the Ceremonical. 

The Cer­e­mon­i­cal is Amne­sia’s rite of pas­sage from ster­ile hos­pi­tal rooms to untidy flats, from shaved heads to box braids, from shells to a first inkling of peo­ple, from phase one to phase two. Among Amne­sia’s loy­al res­i­dents, to its bliss­ful, mem­o­ry­less sub­jects like Aubrey, it sig­ni­fies a day full of pride­ful cer­e­monies. I won­der why hard­ly any­one finds it odd that we need a day to cel­e­brate becom­ing peo­ple again. Maybe, just per­haps, we should have nev­er been less. If you take away the sta­tus of per­son­hood just to re-ascribe it lat­er, it is not a priv­i­lege deserv­ing of cel­e­bra­tion, it is the return of what had always been ours even when it was tak­en. But most of Amne­sia’s res­i­dents do not think that far. They have accept­ed their fate, but it is more than just accep­tance: They ful­ly trust their for­mer selves’ decisions. 

Some­times I am struck by the desire to find out why the sit­u­a­tion is so dif­fer­ent for me. I find it hard to rec­on­cile that it was real­ly her own deci­sion to sign us up for Amne­sia. Espe­cial­ly know­ing that the pro­gramme is still in a test­ing phase and car­ries unknown—or per­haps uncommunicated—risks, it is of utmost sig­nif­i­cance that her moti­va­tions must have been so much greater than Amne­sia’s vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to errors and acci­dents. I don’t want to doubt her. I reck­on she doubt­ed her­self the most. But the feel­ing of being a pris­on­er in this place nev­er leaves my bones. The periph­ery hard­ly changes any­thing. I have passed all the tests they have run on us by neu­rol­o­gists and psy­chi­a­trists, but my pass­ing was cer­tain­ly not because Amne­sia had affect­ed me like it was sup­posed to. My mem­o­ries may have been sup­pressed, silenced like mut­ed waves, but just like the waves keep flood­ing the lands regard­less, my mem­o­ries still per­sist beneath it all. Now that I have gained par­tial free­dom, I plan on learn­ing how to access them, to find back to who I was and join forces with her to escape this prison. 

She is every­thing, even after she split us in two. A shut­tered house, lay­ing still in dusty dark­ness. But through the fine cracks in the pan­els of wood nailed to the win­dows gen­tly shines the spring light. The incan­des­cence of the sun reflects upon her dark skin, iri­des­cent with devo­tion and solic­i­tude. Even if she can’t believe it, she has always been wor­thy of the light. And the light would nev­er be daunt­ed by her night ter­rors. If any­thing, it would always try to immerse her in gold. It would wash over her scars and turn the pain with­in them into a dis­tant hum. She is worth fight­ing for and I will do every­thing I can to find her again. Skye

After a weari­some speech by Father, we wait in a line of twos to be tak­en through the cer­e­mo­ny by our chap­er­ones. We wear white suits that near­ly make us blend in with the white of the walls. Next to me stands Aubrey, clutch­ing her arm in mine, with an excit­ed twin­kle in her eyes, her gaze fixed for­ward. Behind us stands Jamie with his neigh­bour Phineas, who is not as excit­ed as Aubrey. His gaze is steady and dis­tant. I turn and try to catch Jamie’s atten­tion. The Cer­e­mon­i­cal is not a day for per­son­al­i­ty. Our faces are neu­tral, our hands steady, and our clothes devoid of colour. It is noth­ing more than a pub­lic spec­ta­cle, a break in the monot­o­ny, a demon­stra­tion of pow­er under the guise of bet­ter­ment. Today is not a day for one’s own opin­ions, sar­cas­tic humour, or deep feel­ings. I imag­ine we are actors mere­ly play­ing out a scene. Hard­ly any­thing oth­er than the rest of the strange movie that has been play­ing out around me for months. Jamie’s face betrays no emo­tion as his eyes find mine and I rec­og­nize in them the same frus­tra­tion, yet the same grotesque amuse­ment that I also feel. Jamie may not remem­ber any­thing that hap­pened before Amne­sia, and spends much of his days in Sec­tor 8, but he is still delight­ed by the seri­ous­ness that every­one is putting on today. He puck­ers up a cor­ner of his mouth to grin, and we nod sage­ly at each other.

The crowd moves for­ward. Hun­dreds of my sis­ters and broth­ers dressed in white on the left, with their chap­er­ones dressed in dark green by their right sides, slow­ly march­ing towards the surg­eries on the left wing of the clin­ic. There, we wait in silence and watch the peo­ple enter­ing and exit­ing the booths. I try to ascer­tain if they look any dif­fer­ent from before, turned from a crin­kled paper wrist­band to a fleshed out per­son. From atom­iza­tion to sub­stance, car­ry­ing a promis­ing glow of com­plete­ness. But this isn’t grad­u­a­tion and we are far from com­ple­tion. My thoughts melt away from the scene, lit­tle by lit­tle over­come with the rever­ber­a­tion of Onyx’ words, who told me he felt more dif­fused the longer he resided in Antero­grade. Per­haps we’re a Ben­jamin But­ton case, orig­i­nal­ly com­plete, just to dete­ri­o­rate into the res­o­lu­tion of our par­ti­cles. Truth seems to lie just a nee­dle prick away, yearn­ing to be found and under­stood, and every day that we set­tle into Amne­sia and play our part, it fades more and more into the dark­ness. I won’t speak my doubts aloud, but per­haps ruins are just ruins in the eyes of the wrong peo­ple. Maybe from anoth­er angle, they could be cas­tles. Maybe from yet anoth­er angle, there’s no need for them to be any­thing oth­er than ruins. Aren’t ruins a trea­sure of his­to­ry and beau­ty? Through the ages they filled to the brim with depth and plays of light and shad­ows and traces of faces and feel­ings and mem­o­ries. Ruins can still be a home, because it is not their fault they had been forged out of afire walls. It is not their respon­si­bil­i­ty to defend against the weights of the world—it is the world’s respon­si­bil­i­ty to become some­thing that needs no defence against. It’s eas­i­er to bur­den the ruins with rebuild­ing, to have the gut­ted home believe it needs Amne­sia’s full demo­li­tion and recon­struc­tion to be of capac­i­ty again. Nobody inquires with­in the ruins what caused the fire, because it is not con­sid­ered of impor­tance. All which mat­ters is that the ruins serve soci­ety again. 

Final­ly, it’s Aubrey’s and my turn to enter the tat­too booth. The blind­ing white light burns into my pupils and reminds me of the unfor­giv­ing steril­i­ty in the clin­ic rooms. A nurse in a white coat wel­comes us fes­tive­ly. Aubrey is notably fid­gety and emits an excit­ed squeak. She grabs my arm, her face lit up. “Raven, I am so hon­oured to be your chap­er­one and walk with you on this impor­tant day. God, it’s so exhil­a­rat­ing, I still fond­ly rem­i­nisce about how tall and ground­ed I felt when I got my tat­too. Like I was armed against any­thing that could hap­pen to me.” I nod and con­tort my lips into an emo­tion­less line of a smile. The nurse smiles gen­tly at Aubrey. “One of the most beau­ti­ful days in Antero­grade, isn’t it?” She scans my bracelet and types on her com­put­er. Then she turns and rolls toward me, seat­ed in her rotat­ing chair. “Raven, I’m now going to lis­ten to your heart and lungs.” I nod and let the exam wash over me. The nurse lis­tens for a moment and smiles. “That sounds fan­tas­tic. How do you feel?” I watch her hands as she assem­bles a com­plex look­ing device. Aubrey nudges me insis­tent­ly. I plas­ter on my bro­ken smile anew and nod quick­ly. “Yeah, um, I couldn’t be bet­ter. The periph­er­als are ter­rif­ic and Aubrey is such an accom­mo­dat­ing neigh­bour. I’m very glad she was assigned to me.”—“Why don’t you tell me a lit­tle about your­self while I pre­pare the machine,” the nurse replies. In anoth­er world, she could have been my sis­ter. She is also dark-skinned, her hair short like mine after the era­sure process, but dyed plat­inum blonde. She wears a sur­gi­cal face mask, but I can make out the out­lines of sev­er­al pierc­ings and, very obvi­ous­ly, a dia­mond-shaped der­mal anchor on her fore­head. Her offer feels like a tri­al. As if the premise of the tat­too was that she could be sure I had cul­ti­vat­ed a per­son­al­i­ty. But I know the game. I have the words pre­pared and know how to sat­is­fy her request to per­fec­tion. She explains the pro­ce­dure to me, and the device stamps my ID tat­too onto my skin in sec­onds that hard­ly out­last the exhale sprout­ing from my mouth. A sharp sen­sa­tion runs through me like a light­ning stroke, my skin blazes like burnt tim­ber. With­in sec­onds, it returns to its orig­i­nal state. The red­ness of the tat­too first turns to black and then dis­ap­pears alto­geth­er. I look up to the nurse. “Did some­thing go wrong?” She shakes her head con­fi­dent­ly. “Don’t wor­ry, every­thing is exact­ly as it should be. The ink is clear and can only be cap­tured by our scan­ners. We don’t want to brand you like cat­tle, now, do we.” I can­not help but think that that is what we are in this place. As we walk out of the booth, I catch a glimpse of Jamie’s face, giv­ing away noth­ing as he is walk­ing in. 

The fes­tiv­i­ties are in full swing as we return to the main hall. I keep an eye out for Jamie, but can’t find him. My face aches with polite smiles, and my heart with pre­tence. I long for my home in the periph­ery. Even if I don’t plan on dec­o­rat­ing it and mak­ing it into a real home, it’s the safest place in Antero­grade to drop my act and just be me. From large win­dows it offers a view of the streets in the north­ern periph­ery, expos­ing illu­mi­nat­ed apart­ments full of peo­ple in search of themselves. 

The Cer­e­mon­i­cal par­ty reminds me of the roar­ing twen­ties I read about in his­to­ry books. I sit at a dis­tance, legs crossed, lis­ten­ing to the blast­ing music, and I feel like cry­ing. I look down at my hand hold­ing a glass of cham­pagne. It’s almost as if noth­ing has hap­pened. But as unde­tectable as the burn on my skin may be, nobody fath­oms what’s going on with me either. Not even Jamie knows about the secrets I keep. Count­less nights in Sec­tor 8 may have made us realise that we are both mis­fits in Antero­grade, but I can nei­ther trust Jamie with my life nor put him in dan­ger of risk­ing his own. 

The abrupt clink of a glass being set down on the table in front of me snaps me out of my self-pity. I look up and Onyx is sit­ting next to me, legs crossed, one hand on a glass of whiskey.



“Mad­ness, such self-deception.”


He turns his gaze to me, points to my wrist, and says, “So how was the first time?” 

“You can hard­ly call it a first time. Or do you burn your friends with invis­i­ble ink?”


“Didn’t think so. Dis­gust sticks to my skin since I’ve left that fuck­ing booth. Just a num­ber in the sys­tem. It was kind of obvi­ous from the start. But to cel­e­brate this absurd per­ver­si­ty as if it were a tri­umph.” I shrug my shoul­ders. “You hon­est­ly want to run away.” I stare at my wrist, then turn my gaze thought­ful­ly toward the ceil­ing. “Months with­out sun and grass make me doubt my body even remem­bers how to run any longer. Or the scent of spring air. Or the lumi­nes­cence of cities at night.”

“The periph­ery actu­al­ly does a good job of mim­ic­k­ing the latter.”

“Yeah, well, an imi­ta­tion is not the orig­i­nal.” I shake my head. “The knock­off can be an exact copy and yet it feels like nothing.” 

“Is that how you feel about us?”
I look at Onyx. There’s that word. Us. I’ve got the faintest feel­ing he does not mean the hun­dreds of peo­ple down here. He means us—him and I. There’s that feel­ing again. The cur­va­ture of his neck. The strength of his hands, and a home­sick mem­o­ry of the fine art and ten­der­ness that springs from them. 

And a mys­ti­cal vision of being one. 

As if my skin was burn­ing where once fin­ger­prints left a trace, even if Amne­sia had etched any his­to­ry out of me. There is the feel­ing in my stom­ach, and the urge of my heart to lean toward him. 

“We are not copies,” I declare into the swarm of our jol­ly broth­ers and sis­ters danc­ing in bliss­ful for­get­ful­ness. I am enclosed in the moment, becom­ing it. “We are not copies,” I repeat, fur­ther solid­i­fy­ing the pro­nounce­ment of an epiphany.  “We have nev­er been. I think that is the orig­i­nal sin.”
“To some, it’s sin, to some beau­ty.”
“Books tell me that’s how the world works. The flower’s colour is bound to the per­spec­tive from which you behold it. To some, it’s the shade of blushed cheeks, to oth­ers a raz­ing fire. And they will respond to it correspondingly.” 

A moment pass­es, filled with the sem­pi­ter­ni­ty of a three­fold ris­ing and sink­ing sun. 

“Raven, there is some­thing you need to know.” Onyx’ con­fes­sion near­ly dis­ap­pears in the thun­der­ous room brim­ming over with life. In his eyes rea­son enough to drown, I look at him ready to be submerged. 

Nine—“Meant to Feel Your Heart­beat Skip”

There is an uneasy silence in the pod rac­ing toward sec­tor 22. Onyx and I sit silent­ly next to each oth­er while the south­ern and east­ern periph­eries rush past us. Every now and then I notice his eyes on me. Sud­den­ly, I am a glass house and he can see right through me, into the hol­lows and the attic of my pres­ence, reach­ing beyond my map of myself. Or per­haps I just want him to. 

It is a strange feel­ing to be this pal­pa­ble, like a promise that I’d final­ly prompt a reflec­tion in the pud­dle wait­ing at the end of the world. It’s the antithe­sis to what I felt in the clin­ic when the nurse brand­ed my ID onto my arm. It is such a new sen­sa­tion. Sud­den­ly I am God—I am the blue­print and every sam­ple, a spir­i­tu­al force in which begin­nings and end­ings flow into one, the merg­er of worlds pri­or and subsequent. 

“Why can’t you tell me about what you saw?” I ask qui­et­ly into the dark­ness as the clin­ic falls fur­ther and fur­ther behind us. 

“Because it’s bet­ter if I show you,” Onyx replies. “For you to see it first­hand. I guess I just don’t have the words.”

The pod comes to a stop before Earth & Rum­ble. The shop is dark, as is the sec­tor. Just a dim light, the bril­liance of a dis­tant moon, every few yards shin­ing a fog­gy glim­mer on noth­ing. As we walk through the front door of the shop, we are eclipsed in dark­ness. The dim light offers but a trace of Onyx’ face, like a fever dream I catch a glimpse of his lips or his hands in the sec­onds between his move­ments. A frag­ment­ed stro­bo­scope fig­ure, until he switch­es on a soft light in the back­room and ush­ers me in. 

He paces back and forth through the room.
“Onyx.” I sit down on the chair. “What­ev­er it is, you know you can trust me with it.”

A few sec­onds pass, then he turns around. “Do you trust me, Raven?”


“Do you trust me enough to tat­too on you?”
“I mean, yes, but… why?” 

“It’s the only way I can show you.”
“Did you have a vision?”
“Involv­ing us?”

My stom­ach turns. “Okay.” 

Absorbed in thought, Onyx begins to assem­ble his tat­too machine. He’s avoid­ing my gaze. Mean­while, I skim through his flash, with trem­bling fin­gers and a flut­ter­ing heart. With­out look­ing up, he goes, “the king’s card.”


“The king’s card. It needs to be that one. There’s a mem­o­ry attached and I am sure you have it too. You were there, after all.” 

It’s just an ordi­nary king’s card. But I reck­on most life-chang­ing expe­ri­ences were once ordi­nary before they became significant. 

Onyx dis­in­fects the soft skin on my left low­er arm, and places the sten­cil. He waits for my con­fir­ma­tion, still avert­ing his gaze. His fin­gers trem­ble slight­ly touch­ing my skin, even through latex gloves. I just nod and he reg­is­ters the move­ment in the cor­ner of his eye.

“Are you ready?” 

“Onyx, look at me.” Fear rid­den, he lifts his gaze and his eyes meet mine. “I’m ready,” I say. 

The first stab of the nee­dle comes sharply and abrupt­ly. I refuse to let it show on my face. Instead, I pay atten­tion to his hands, which now run smooth­ly over my skin. He is con­fi­dent in his job. It’s his safe space, the only thing that makes sense to him in Antero­grade. Four lines lat­er, he looks at me again, his eyes full of antic­i­pa­tion. “Any­thing?” he asks. I shake my head. 

“Oh, okay.” Dis­ap­point­ed, he continues. 

It hap­pens as he com­pletes the king’s face. I am over­come by a sud­den deaf­en­ing sen­sa­tion of thun­der and chaos and war, as if some­one has fired a can­non that’s come crash­ing down on me. At first, it’s just vio­lent scraps of images frayed at their seams. A psy­chot­ic slide show that makes me nau­seous, laced with dark­ness and blur­ri­ness. The world ver­ti­cal­ly resolves into air like pix­els and dig­its. The ground beneath my feet seems to come alive with a trem­ble. I gasp. From what seems a life­time away, I hear his voice. 

“You have to take con­trol of it,” he urges. “Don’t let the world dis­in­te­grate or you won’t be able to access the mem­o­ry. Once you’ve got it, let go, fall into it.”

Are you kid­ding me? Seiz­ing con­trol just to let go? I close my eyes, and I try to focus on a shard of glass fir­ing at me with pris­mat­ic beams. I try to look into its core, to take hold of its axiomat­ic force. A glim­mer­ing image emerges, the worn king card of a skat deck, on the back of which some­one has writ­ten with a black mark­er. Before I can reach for it, I am vio­lent­ly snatched from the present and hurled into the mem­o­ry with a jolt. Two peo­ple, two hands, explor­ing each other’s faces, affec­tion­ate­ly caress­ing each other’s skin, in the com­fort of a home. She sits on his lap with her legs out­stretched, and he holds her head in his hands and leans his fore­head against hers. The mem­o­ry is sepia-toned with a tinge of colour, and I can walk around in it, look at it from all van­tage points, but I can­not see it from their per­spec­tives. The two linger for a moment. She wears her hair in all its nat­u­ral­ness, fram­ing her soft face and green eyes like a pic­ture frame made of black Cana­di­an maple, the most expen­sive of its kind. His skin lacks art. 

She reach­es for her favourite book and pulls out a play­ing card. On its back, words in black mark­er. She hands him the card. I read over his shoul­der. “In every dimen­sion, in every life­line. Remem­ber me.” A tin­gling sen­sa­tion creeps over my skin. His eyes fill with weep­ing tears. Ashamed, he looks to the ground, much like Onyx did ever since we left the Cer­e­mon­i­cal ball. She takes his hand with con­cern. “Hey. What’s wrong?”


My world shatters. 

“I’m just a ruin, a shell of what I could have been, a bro­ken home. I wor­ry I’ll wreck you too.”

Star­dust from an implod­ed world streams down on us.

“Rhys.” She search­es his gaze. “Then we’ll live togeth­er in the ruins. I’m a fuck­ing fortress, walls so high I can’t see the sky some­times. I find the ruins all the more allur­ing with their can­dour, how they lie fal­low under a huge vault and the stars and the sun. I want noth­ing more than to sit with you in the ruins.” 

Des­per­ate­ly I try to become part of the moment, part of her. I fal­ter and scream. The scene sud­den­ly dis­ap­pears into the vast black­ness, devoid of air, which eclipses the hori­zon. Around me in the dark­ness of unde­fined space sparkle the shards of count­less oth­er mem­o­ries, the only wit­ness­es to my scream into sweep­ing seclusion. 

“Raven.” Onyx’ voice is muf­fled as if he was call­ing from under­wa­ter. “Raven.” His cries grow loud­er. A blow to my core pulls me back to the present. “Raven.” Slow­ly his face comes back into focus, anx­ious­ly look­ing at me as he holds my hand. My heart races, with love, with con­fu­sion, with trust. 


“I’m here,” I say, still gasp­ing from the abrupt drag. “I’m here.”

He holds my hand for a sec­ond, then releas­es it, only to clasp my face. I won­der if there is anoth­er me in this room at this moment, one that is try­ing to become one with me, to feel what I feel. Sud­den­ly we’re Skye and Rhys, and we’re locked in the moment, fore­head to fore­head, just like them. 

“Did you see it?” he asks quietly. 

I nod, rais­ing my arm to look at the fin­ished tat­too of the king. 

We sit in the stu­dio all night, until Anterograde’s arti­fi­cial sun ris­es in the morn­ing hours and we hear soft voic­es from the out­side as the sec­tor fills with peo­ple. Inside Earth & Rum­ble, time is upset. Our skin is now coat­ed in recov­ered mem­o­ries. Togeth­er we trav­elled to Skye and Rhy’s first encounter in a psy­chi­atric clin­ic, where their bor­der­line and severe depres­sion led them to the same stu­pid art ther­a­py class. We saw them become attached to one anoth­er, each other’s safe­house in a war of their mind. We vis­it­ed their wed­ding by the beach, accom­pa­nied by the tran­quil­li­ty of the sum­mer sea and the song of birds, and their hon­ey­moon by the same sea in the win­ter. We saw them seek­ing refuge in the dock­side pub, warm­ing up next to the crack­ling fire, near their feet a three-legged dog, each a glass of sea buck­thorn liquor in front of them on the table. We saw the tears at night, the unprompt­ed dark­ness that tried to choke Rhys to death, and the pain which cut right through Skye’s heart of glass when­ev­er peo­ple aban­doned her. But she knew he’d be there, and he knew she’d keep him a finger’s breadth apart from death always. And as lit­tle as that seemed, it was the most they had ever had. Until one day, with­out warn­ing, Rhys attempt­ed to take his own life, and he almost suc­ceed­ed. That day, Skye’s foun­da­tion broke to pieces, as she under­stood that he intend­ed to leave her after all. Now she could nev­er be sure of his pres­ence any longer, and it weighed down on her so heav­i­ly that she pushed him away. And she felt self­ish, as she so often does with her con­di­tion. Attend­ing to her own needs makes her feel guilty, because she thinks she doesn’t deserve it, so she vis­its him every day in the hos­pi­tal despite break­ing up the mar­riage. Self doubt creeps into her thoughts at night. She can nev­er get things right. So every night from then on, she tries to smoth­er her pain in drugs, which make her feel euphor­ic and easy for a while. Until they stop work­ing, and in despair she takes them all at once. She ends up in the same clin­ic as him, three floors apart. After being in hos­pi­tal care and speech ther­a­py for a few weeks, a strange woman vis­its both Skye and Rhys on the same day, only hours apart. She offers them to par­take in a tri­al of a new drug. She says there had already been ten rounds of tests, and in each one, they had a 100% suc­cess rate. She says it will cost them noth­ing, but they’d have an entire life to gain. On the same day, just hours apart, Rhys and Skye both signed a con­tract with Amne­sia. While Rhys had been released into the care of the Amne­sia pro­gram, Skye bat­tled with a sud­den col­lapse. Her body went into shut­down. For three months, she lost her speech. Her mus­cles felt afire for months. Nobody knew what was wrong with her, until Amne­sia’s sci­en­tists con­tact­ed the hos­pi­tal once more, promis­ing them that their drug could cure the psy­cho­so­mat­ic ill­ness from which she suf­fered. They said, “it’s not unusu­al in bor­der­lin­ers. They’re so intense that their bod­ies car­ry much more stress.” They used that word. Bor­der­lin­ers. They did not say peo­ple suf­fer­ing from bor­der­line per­son­al­i­ty dis­or­der. To them, the bor­der­lin­ers, the depressed, the bipo­lar, they were just attrib­ut­es to cat­e­gorise peo­ple by, but they hard­ly under­stood the pain or knew how to see them as peo­ple. But the accu­mu­la­tion of just that pain made them the per­fect sub­jects for Amne­sia. A year after Rhys, Skye found her­self record­ing a video mes­sage for her future self, sud­den­ly suf­fused with a new found mania. 

Hav­ing reliv­ed our lives in just one night, there is no way for us to wait until Amne­sia has forged us into what­ev­er they need us to be for their drug to be green­lit in the mar­ket. We under­stand, now, that it was nev­er about us. Maybe it was, for a while. Maybe in the begin­ning, when Father sat down in his lab with a vision for a bet­ter future, a gen­uine desire to help peo­ple who are weighed down by life. But a slaugh­ter­house is not a home, and a smil­ing pig on a can filled with its torn flesh can­not trick you into think­ing otherwise. 

Epilogue—“Obsidian or Moonstone” 

There was a choice to be made. We didn’t know what the choice real­ly asked of us. In the begin­ning, there was a para­graph read to us before sign­ing the con­tract. The para­graph stat­ed that the mem­o­ry era­sure would include the ties and con­nec­tions we had cul­ti­vat­ed over time. A log­i­cal con­se­quence, but not dis­clos­ing the detail had pre­vi­ous­ly led to legal action. Even if we didn’t talk in weeks before sign­ing up for Amne­sia, Rhys and I knew that they would delete us from each other’s map. There was no doubt that we would grav­i­tate back towards each oth­er in Antero­grade and find each oth­er again. I just had to remem­ber his face and the soft­ness of his fin­gers on my trem­bling skin. As dead­locked as our love was, we had pledged our loy­al­ty to it. We risked our lives on the premise of priv­i­lege, assum­ing we were some­how dif­fer­ent enough that our bond would out­last Amne­sia’s pow­er­ful sci­ence. A con­fi­dence like­ly born from lived prox­im­i­ty to death. Hubris and its flir­ta­tion with the fall. 

And we did find each oth­er. But not for the rea­sons we antic­i­pat­ed. We found each oth­er because Amne­sia failed us. We had nev­er reached the desired state of inno­cence to begin with. My mem­o­ry era­sure wasn’t com­plete. There had always been a pic­ture of him, and a name from my past. What had drawn me to his art, and made me feel safe in his pres­ence was the same inex­plic­a­ble feel­ing of famil­iar­i­ty I had felt when I met Rhys for the first time. But what made me stay was to find my dream pic­tured on his skin, and the strange and beau­ti­ful way in which his art bestowed him with visions. Find­ing back to each oth­er meant find­ing back to our­selves. The two had always been mutu­al­ly con­sti­tu­tive. The real choice was adamant. Had the drug worked on us and we would not have felt the pain of know­ing what we lost, we could have found some­one refined and light­heart­ed. But there are some depths which can­not be replaced. We don’t get to rid our­selves of our lives but choose to keep the peo­ple in it. Or the mag­ic or the beau­ty or the rich­ness of our souls. A choice between abun­dant obsid­i­an his­to­ry or rec­ti­fi­ca­tion in a moon­stone coloured cage was wait­ing to be made. Instead, we fash­ioned our own truth from melan­choly: that Amne­sia would cure the grief run­ning through us like water. That love would feel the same, out­liv­ing our extinc­tion, even if its coor­di­nates had van­ished from the sky. 

Three years ago, we dis­ap­peared from Antero­grade. Per­haps through a crack in the walls. Per­haps by becom­ing some­one else. Unper­son­hood taught us to craft repli­cas that were true to detail. Just as we were once copies, we now oblit­er­at­ed those who had brand­ed us like cat­tle. Not by choice, but as an end to an end. Our escape was not a blood­shed. We fought our way to the glass doors, led by the prin­ci­ple of our redemp­tion. The burns on our wrists where the laser seared our ID tag start­ed to fade into the cold wind of what must have been a Decem­ber morn­ing. The sun broke its fin­gers on our skin. And our eyes scorched upon her touch. 

Read Part I (Chap­ters I—III) here.| Read Part II (Chap­ters IV—VI) here.


A M N E S I A is a three-part short sto­ry and will be released as a paper­book and e‑book in late 2022 / ear­ly 2023. More infor­ma­tion on and on Insta­gram (@snkllrpublications).

Mer­cy Fer­rars is a MA grad­u­ate in phi­los­o­phy and writes fic­tion, poet­ry and non-fic­tion essays. She is mad­ly in love with Scot­land, dogs and Bojack Horseman.