Good evening everyone, and thanks for taking the time to visit the site! Tonight’s short story is rewritten from one that I submitted to an SFX competition about 10 years ago. The basic theme is the same as that original story, but I’ve reworked it quite substantially so it’s got a bit more narrative oomph to it. Hope you like.
And if you feel so inclined, please bookmark the site for future updates. Thanks!
The sky was green. Of the many differences between this alien world and home, this was the most obvious. There were some similarities between the two planets. The cool breeze that brushed past him felt just like back on Earth. The trees and fauna, whilst looking strange compared to his native home, still offered a minor semblance of normality.
He had been a tall, imposing figure on Earth. Here, the small stature of the aliens made him seem positively gigantic. Whilst still in his early thirties, his temples had turned grey. A result of the experiments that had been conducted on him. Otherwise, he was a picture of health physically. His mental state was a different story.
Since his arrival here, he’d had trouble with his memories. He couldn’t remember if this had always been the case, or if his poor recollection had only been since his arrival. There were snatches of memory, nothing more.
One memory in particular had stayed with him. Back home, on his balcony just like the one on which he now stood. The sky was dark, the stars bright and clear in the night sky. The same type of breeze cooling his skin. It was summer, and the gentle touch of the wind had been most welcome. He had been there for a reason.
No matter how hard he tried, he could never remember anything else about his life quite as clearly as that one moment. What was his name? He couldn’t remember. Had he left behind any friends or family? What had he done for work, for enjoyment? Again, he couldn’t remember. In their place were just patches of black, an absence of anything at all. Were those memories even still there? Or had his alien abductors removed them, as if they were surgeons removing a cancer growth?
This puzzled him. His personal memories were almost entirely absent, yet he could place surgery, illness, basic humanity, into context. Even the fact he had been abducted by aliens. This didn’t seem nearly as strange as he expected. Maybe it had something to do with the experiments that had prematurely aged him.
He continued staring out at the vista in front of him, revelling in the sharp contrast in colours. When he had been escorted back to his room a few moments before, the lead scientist had told him that the next session would be his last. The scientist hadn’t said it outright, but the man knew what that meant. At the very least, they had gone to great pains to make him as comfortable as possible thus far. This was no easy task given his height. While extravagant by this planet’s standards, the ceiling of his residence was far too low to stand up straight. It was almost inevitable that, when he wasn’t in the experimental chamber, he spent as much time as he could on the balcony. It helped ease the aches in his increasingly weak spine.
He had spent several weeks here since his abduction. In that time the aliens had learned to duplicate his speech patterns and were now able to speak with him in fluent English, Spanish and French. He understood them all equally, although he had no idea how or why. The aliens seemed to take great delight in forming words in Earth tongue. It differed quite substantially from their native guttural language of clicks and pops.
As he watched the crops in the nearby field swaying in the breeze, a jolt of memory struck. Life had not been happy for him back home. He had lost something. But what? Something important. He tried to conjure up an image, anything to help him place the new memory in context, but there was nothing. All he could now add was an emotion to the memory – sadness.
For the final experiment session they followed the same old routine. Instructions were read out to him in English, occasionally in French or Spanish depending on their mood, and then the experiments would begin. After hearing the instructions for what must have been the thousandth time, he nodded and took his place on the table without saying a word.
Behind a safety screen, a group of alien scientists watched him keenly. In front of them were an array of buttons that controlled the experiments. Next to them, a display provided readings on the man’s internal organs and general health. A second screen beneath logged his mental state.
At the press of a button his mind was abuzz, as if the flip of a switch had given him back all that he had forgotten. This time the experiment was different to all the rest.
He cried, a never ending stream of tears as bolts of red and green light and pulses of blue energy rippled across his frame. The gaps in his mind had now been filled, and he wished that he could forget.
He was back on Earth. He was out for a picnic with his wife and two young children. The summer had been warm not not unpleasantly so, and they had decided that morning to make the most out of the nice weather. It was a spot they had visited many times before, a peaceful spot near the river, with an old oak tree providing cover from the sun and the elements.
A freak accident had taken them away from him that day. He had been the only survivor.
And so he had ended up on the balcony, looking up at the stars, ready to take his own life. As he lay on the table, he begged the aliens to take the memories away again, to return him to how he had been before. Anything was better than the pain he now felt.
“Yes, very good.” The scientist had spoken in English, placing a mark on the computer display. As much as the man begged, as much as he pleaded, the aliens did not return him to his former state. He was left with everything painfully clear in his mind.
After the session the man was almost dragged back to his residence. He had no energy left in him, no desire to continue. Maybe it was for the best that the experiments had now come to an end. His lucidity was tempered by the emotional stress of the final session. He felt ready for his final day, more so than he had on that fateful night on the balcony. The night when the alien’s beam had taken him away from his Earthly pain and grief.
That morning he crawled over to the balcony one final time as the sun’s rays first began peaking over the horizon. He closed his eyes, absorbing the rising sunlight as it creeped slowly up the side of the building. “It is time.” The guard, who had entered a moment before, had only just learned English. Its voice was staccato and unsteady, a novice. A gentle hand on his wrist directed him towards the door and away from the balcony. He followed, numbly.
Where they were taking him, he didn’t know. It didn’t matter. Not any more.