James strolled down the high street on his way back to the bowling alley. Blue snow fell from the sky all around him, and kangaroos hopped around bins, benches and shoppers. James wasn’t at all surprised by this and kept walking, eventually passing through the automatic doors and into the alley.
Squared bowling balls rolled, as best they could, down the lanes and people cheered in triumph as they got strikes.
The security guard, in his puffy security jacket, strutted up to James and smiled down at him.
‘Ready to play?’ he asked and James nodded.
They both went to the nearest arcade machine and started playing a game of MIGHTY FISTS. The security guard chose a light bulb shaped character and James chose a slug like creature.
Their chosen avatars beat each other up with animated moves until James’ slug finished of the security guards character with an almighty punch.
‘I won, I don’t believe it,’ James cried out.
He then realized that he was dreaming.
Then he woke up.
James rolled around on the floor in agony, grasping his head as a huge headache pounded his brain.
‘Arrrrrrrrrh,’ he shouted out and he held his head in his hands with his eyes tightly shut, straining to make the pain go away.
He clambered onto his knees hoping that maybe if he sat up it would help.
‘Somebody help me!’ he said out loud, but no one came.
Thankfully, of its own accord, the headache then began to get more tolerable, and while breathing hard, James released his tight grip on his head and let it fade away all by itself.
The pain finally stopped and he relaxed, his muscles had tensed up and now they gradually loosened and he slumped forward.
‘That’s better,’ he said, ‘oh great now I’m talking to myself,’ and he chuckled, making himself feel slightly better.
He rubbed his eyes and he saw he was back in his cell with its plain walls and no bars. He checked his forehead and found the same device as before stuck there and he sighed.
James shuffled across the floor towards the far wall and put his back against it and relaxed as best he could. He squirmed where he lay, his clothes had dried, however the mud on them had as well, and it was now flaking off his skin and chaffing his back.
He sat up off the wall when he heard it. ‘Yes’ he said looking around his cell and into the corridor for whoever had spoken.
There was no reply. He relaxed again closing his eyes thinking it was nothing more than a stray noise he had misheard.
‘James, pay attention!’ the voice said again.
He opened his eyes and this time went straight for the edge of his cell to see if he could catch someone hiding, but there was no one there.
Turning around and crawling back into his cell he wondered what the heck was going on? Then he heard the voice again.
This was getting scary now and he quickly looked around again, but of course no one was there. ‘Follow me,’ it said again. Still not seeing anything James realized he wasn’t hearing someone speak, but was thinking it.
The voice was coming from inside his head.
Suddenly the headache returned. It caused him so much pain and he couldn’t stop it, his eyes were tightly shut and his hands grasped his head like he wanted to reach inside and pull out his brain.
‘What’s happening?’ he struggled to say to anyone who could give him an answer.
Then it was gone as quickly as it came, but when he opened his eyes he was no longer in the cell.
He was standing on the pavement of some road he didn’t recognize. Semidetached houses lined the street and a few cars drove past. At first he thought he was dreaming again, but then he smelt the fresh air and could feel it on his face.
Totally bemused he wandered into the road looking around. Could the alien ship have been a dream, and he’d just woken up? If that was the case where was he and how did he get here?
‘James hurry come on or we’ll be late,’ the woman’s voice he had been hearing said.
He turned around and was surprised to see a younger version of himself being dragged down the road. It was him in perfect miniature, wearing black trousers and a blue jumper with a school logo embroidered on it.
James remembered the uniform and the jumper, which made him think of the coarse scratchy material it was made of. Those memories made him flinch, he didn’t remember ever thinking of those things at all and it was weird suddenly recalling them with perfect clarity.
James looked up from his younger self and saw a face that took his breath away. It was his mother, ten years younger than see should have been, dragging his moody younger self down the street.
‘Come on or we’ll be late,’ she said.
‘Mum,’ James said, and he felt the tears form in his eyes at seeing her again.
His mum didn’t seem to hear.
He didn’t care and ran at her and went for a hug, ‘It’s you, and you’re alive?’
He fell forward flat on his face having passed straight through her.
Standing up James watched his mother and younger self walk away. They couldn’t see or feel him, was he a ghost?
James looked beyond them and saw the gates of small public school, he recognized the name above the gates and it finally hit him…
…these are my memories! He thought to himself.
The headache returned once more and James found himself on the floor of his prison cell, writhing about until the pain gradually faded away.
James was up off the floor immediately, pacing his cell trying to make sense of what he had just seen. The clarity and intensity of that memory had overwhelmed him. Never before had he seen those images, he remembered the event, but not with that much accuracy and reality to it before.
Then he heard more voices and coming back to him were flashes of other memories. There was the time when he had been bullied, broken his leg after jumping of a high wall and that one Christmas when he had stolen all the chocolates off the tree in the orphanage when he was nine.
Everything came to him in a tangled mess, until after a few minutes it died away and he heard and saw nothing except his cell walls.
James then heard the door to the prison slide open.
‘Finally it wakes up,’ he heard Isto say.
‘What do you want?’ James said without turning around.
‘We’re here to give you something,’ Isto said.
‘FIRST YOU TELL ME WHAT YOU DID TO ME, MY HEAD IS MESSED UP,’ James shouted at them turning on the spot sharply and clenching his fists.
‘We told you back in the lab that we were going to expand your mind,’ Mede said calmly, not rising to James’ outburst.
‘What does that mean?’ James replied in frustration.
‘Put simply, we’ve given you access to parts of your brain you normally wouldn’t have conscious access to, your brain is as you put it messed up because it will take a little time to reorganize all the information your mind is processing,’ Isto said.
‘In case you didn’t know your brain is quite a sophisticated organ. It records any and all information you expose yourself to over the course of your life. Usually humans only have access to bits of that information, you just aren’t evolved enough to process it all consciously. You now have access to fifteen percent more of that data, you are now technically speaking the most intelligent member of your race, able to process information faster than any other human,’ Mede explained.
‘Actually it’s…’ but James didn’t continue.
‘Actually it’s…what?’ Isto asked.
‘Nothing,’ James said sneering at them, he didn’t want to tell them that it had been increased even more than they thought; otherwise they might decide to put him back under that machine of theirs.
‘Why did you do this?’ he asked.
‘We are on a mission to acquire a member of your race for information on your species, after that you are going to become a slave and it will be necessary for you to understand certain technologies you have never come into contact with before,’ Mede began. ‘With a larger brain you will be able to learn much more quickly, although your brain still won’t be as advanced as most alien species,’ he said, and then he held out his hand across the threshold of James’ cell.
He saw that the alien held some sort of device between his slimy fingers.
James took it carefully not wanting to be paralyzed if he came too far out of his cell. The device was just a small plasma screen the size of a large Smartphone.
‘That computer has an encyclopedia of information you will need to learn in order to be a reasonable enough slave. With your larger mind, that we have programmed, all you have to do is look at each page and you will remember it exactly as it is and you will have instant total recall of the information. Get it done quickly, we have work for you to do,’ Isto said, and then the aliens started to leave.
James extended his finger and touched the screen, which filled itself with information.
‘Hey you disgusting aliens,’ he said and both of them stopped in their tracks.
‘What?’ they said.
‘Why me, why choose me?’ he asked, ‘out of all the people on planet Earth?’
Isto and Mede looked at each other. ‘You don’t need to know,’ Isto replied then they both left the prison.
‘Morons,’ James said after them wishing instead he could say it to their faces. He turned away from the edge of his cell and looked at the small computer in his hands.
He really didn’t want to do what they said so he shoved the computer into his jacket pocket. He then looked around his cell and realized that there wasn’t that much to do anyway so maybe he should read it, after all some of the information might be useful.
Had his mind really changed though? Those images that had come to him like a dream, when he had been taken to the orphanage by the social worker, intrigued him. What other memories did he have he had never recalled before.
He closed his eyes and tried to remember.
A torrent of memories came back to him easily. His school years, his birthdays and Christmas’, the times he played football, tried to take up fencing and karate flashed through his mind.
He opened his eyes amazed at the detail of what he could remember.
James’ earliest memory used to be when he was four and he was playing in the snow in the garden of his home. He wondered, what if I have memories from before that?
Concentrating hard he tried to think back to when he was a baby he kept repeating the word over in his head.
New memories surfaced and he started to see images of his parents, memories of them playing with him when he was just a year old.
Unbelievable! He thought.
He could see his mother with her chestnut hair and thin face holding a soft toy and dangling it in front of him. He also saw his dad, who was wide at the shoulders and had a fully shaven head, looking down at him as he lay in his cot as a baby. He kept these images in his head, he had never seen his parents like this, happy and content.
But then it all went wrong, suddenly the images were consumed in fire and he heard screams, screams coming from his mother. Before he knew what he was doing he realized he too was screaming at the top of his voice.
More disturbing memories flooded his mind, times when he was bullied, hurt and embarrassed, bad memories filled his head and he kept screaming as the pain of them intensified. Breathing deeply and summoning as much strength as he could, he repressed the memories.
The ordeal left him sweating and shaking uncontrollably and he felt as if all his energy had been drained out of him.
While on his hands and knees he drew the strength to sit up again. He couldn’t believe the response all those bad memories had, the pain it caused him. He wouldn’t be trying to remember stuff like that ever again and have that pain return. The time his mother died was something he didn’t definitely didn’t want to see or be reminded of.
But even as he was thinking about repressing the memories, the headache came back. He couldn’t help it and the images of his mum tormented him. He had to take his mind off those thoughts. Usually if he wanted to take his mind off something he would read a book or watch TV or listen to music, but this time the only thing he had was the small computer. He took it out of his pocket and looked at it.
Like Isto and Mede said all he had to do was touch the computer screen, so he tapped it once and immediately yellow writing appeared across its black screen. Surprisingly the writing was in English, although he realized of course that if it had been in an alien language he would have simply been memorizing gibberish.
Hmm can I really memorize this with just a glance? James thought to himself.
He stared down at the writing on the screen taping his lips with his fingers as he thought about it. He had been looking at the first page for a while now, but not actually reading it so he decided to test his new brain. He turned the computer away so he couldn’t see the screen then closed his eyes.
Thinking really hard he tried to visualize what he had just looked at. At first he saw nothing except the usual spirally patterns of light that appear before your eyes. He screwed up his face as he concentrated even harder until an image of the computer screen appeared with the information on it. He saw all the words in English beginning with the word The in the top right hand corner and the final word since with a full stop at the bottom. Opening his eyes and looking at the computer screen once again he saw that it matched the one in his brain perfectly.
Wondering how many pages he had to memorize he looked down at the bottom of the screen where it said page 1 of 500,000.
‘500,000! I better get started,’ James said.
Backing up against the wall he let himself slide down to sit on the floor and he began tapping at the computer barely needing to concentrate as he enlarged brain took it all in.