For seven-ninety-nine a month they’ll rent you back your memories so that you don’t have to struggle to make new ones. I’d bought one of the first gen A.R. projectors. It ran interiors at four-K but had difficulty properly rendering weather. For the most part, I overlooked its shortcomings. It ran a maximum thirty minute nostalgic rendering so whether the clouds looked 2D up there in the big blue was of little concern.
‘Stevie’s brother Moe went to that new Nostalgia Centre. You hear about it?’
‘Heard about it?’
‘Oh.’ my brother continued, all the while rolling himself a cigarette. ‘I hate those fuckin’ vape things. Every time I see one I wanna take it off the prat that owns up, stick it up his arse and kick him in the balls until it explodes.’
‘You were saying about the Nostalgia Centre.’
‘Aye. Apparently, it’s the nuts. He spent a full week in it with his kids, you know, from before he got himself caught on the babysitter’s clit ring and his whole life went to the shitter.’
The brother kept yacking but I tuned him out. I’d been pretty accomplished at that ever since we’d bunked together as children. I took a deep breath and held it. One week. I had so many questions. Where did he shit?
I took myself to the website. The FAQs were vague, so I engaged the Chatbot.
Where do you shit?
Patrons occupy a fully automated living environment adjusted to match the hard light AR recall captured by the noGlass lenses used to map the moment.
So you shit in your memory?
What do you eat?
I had several other questions. All of them leading to the realisation that you simply exist inside the memory. Interact with lost loved ones. Experience the highest highs. Those moments of sexual ecstasy that, even when you were in the midst of, you knew you’d miss. I’d found myself in a consultation before the dirty question of money had even crossed my mind.
‘I mean, I’m not even sure I’d want to spend an entire week living in my own shed skin.’ I supped their complimentary coffee ‘I think I’d prefer my first encounter with this whole new interface to be a little more…’
‘Superficial.’ he added.
‘Exactly. A little pop-in, quick kick of the tyres and out I go.’
Harold took his leave of me for a few minutes. I wondered whether there was anyone behind the glass of our consultation room as I sat perfectly still; exuding poker-face. A small fly buzzed busily; trapped between the inner and outer tubing of the fluorescent lighting above. The Deja-vu was light, and fleeting.
When he returned, Harold was carrying a release form whiter than his dick-faced grin.
‘Mr. Morgan, as a valued customer we’d be more than happy to extend a one-hour experience to you for the one-time price of seventy-five-pounds.’
‘I know a Thai girl who could do the hour for less, and I’d leave lighter on my feet.’
‘Yes, but she only deals in the now. We offer everything you’ve ever known. Available in hard-light AR with complete recall.’
He made a good case. I signed the release form. Filled in the medical form. The consent to personal privacy form. The in case of emergency form, and even live monitoring form so their coders could track my usage and log any glitches for investigation. Behind closed doors with my projector I’d travel back to sexual conquests. Relive the odd handjob in the back of a cab here, cunny in the cinema; but in this setting, in a quasi-medical building with its pristine white walls and unlit glass flooring I began to question the building blocks of my character. Where do I plant my flag? Am I considering a non-hump experience because I’ll have passengers along for the ride or because I’m finally being forced to look inward? Is there more to Nostalgia, Inc than chasing the big O?
In the submerging process they begin with a smell. Having mapped your brain function a particular smell will trigger the 3D virtual build of what is, effectively, your home for the week. With my eyes closed, and my headphones on I narrowed down my senses. Fine-tuning them for not just what I was looking for, but when.
Laundry drying on a radiator.
Stale beer wrestling with day-old aftershave.
I opened my eyes.
I was there.
November, 1982. Tara and I were suckling at the teat of the television. Jeff wasn’t even in the old lady’s belly yet. Jack Morgan sat on the couch, restringing his four string banjo while slurping from a tall can of Harp. Mum was working the kitchen. Dinner smelled like ten minutes out. I sat in a neglected armchair in the furthest corner of the room and admired how I could still feel every tired slither of fabric between callus-clad fingers. The way Harold had explained it to me, I could interact with the environment. I could eat, sleep, shit and repeat. The players as they were referred to were programmed to avoid interaction with you. Whether they could even see me was anyone’s guess.
Eleven Hungry Cats was on TV.
Why this night came to mind was suddenly painfully apparent.
‘Hey Champ,’ Jack grunted ‘go get yer old man another beer.’
Little Doug got to his feet without complaint or protest. He knew better.
This was the night.
The night he put her in hospital, and we all had to go stay with her sister.
My throat tightened at the thought of sitting through this again. Witnessing the patriarchal assault as a man old enough to be a father in my own right, and yet powerless to do anything about it.
‘This is all very nice,’ I yelled into the ether ‘but not how I want to spend my Friday night. I knew a stripper in the Boom Boom Rooms who had a G-string that smelled like cinnamon. Have Ziggy leap me in over there!!’
The living room continued on along its charted course. My childhood-self returned with a cold can of Harp, handed it to Dad and accepted his gentle “thank-you” slap round the back of the head before retaking my spot on the floor and diving back into escapism. As the moment grew closer I found myself rising, moving to position myself between my sire and the object of his scorn.
‘Dinner’s ready!’ Ruth called. Tara leapt to her feet and didn’t look back.
I was a little less sure. I’d invested in these characters and was eager for the pay-off.
‘Gawd-damn-it, Doug! Move yer ass!’
I ducked under his lazy swing, and darted towards the safety or our small kitchen table. His large meaty paw unsettled the full can resting on the chair’s arm, sending it tumbling towards the ground. As an adult I watched all this play out as it was then, until instinct kicked in. Inches before the can was to hit the busy carpet, moments before the piss-like nectar was it erupt out and soak the living room, I reached out and caught it.
Looking up I caught the old man’s eye. There was a brief flash of recollection. A flash of bemusement, then wonder, then fear. Who was this grown man suddenly in his home? I dropped the can. Harp oozed out soaking the old man’s slippers, and in that minute everything reset. Jack leapt to his toes and gave chase.
‘You little bastard. What have I told you about runnin’ in the fuckin’ house?!’
Tara began to fill up behind the peepers. My childhood-self made himself as small as he could, preparing himself for the raining fists. Mum stepped in.
‘It was an accident, Jack! Just sit down and eat your dinner. I’ll deal with it afterwards.’
‘He needs to learn a lesson, Ruth.’ Dad barked.
‘And what lesson is that? How to walk into a door?’
‘Don’t you back-chat me, woman.’
‘Your food is getting cold.’
‘Fuck the food!’ the plate met the wall, shattering into a hundred gravy stained pieces.
‘You’re a bastard, Jack Morgan.’
Then he was on her. The first two shots landed so cleanly that they echoed in the frightened night air. I went to look away, but even when my eyes were shut I could see the brute beating on her.
Aside for the eyes, it was the only thing he ever left me.
I gripped the old man by his off-white collar, and pulled him to his feet.
He turned on his heels and froze. Not a glitch, more a moment of consideration. They all had one. Who was this stranger in their family home? Why was he dressed so oddly, and perhaps more importantly how in the-fuck did he get in here? His club like fist came up hard, catching me in the centre of my chest and pushing me back. He caught me again as he charged forward, but it was his last offering to our brawl. Taking his neck in the crook of my arm, I brought the old man to ground with me. Once there I laid into him. Thirty-five (plus change) years of anger, frustration, even downright hate. The old bastard never stood a chance. I took his focus away from him with a hard left followed by two quick rights. The iron from his grip was next as I bashed the back of his dome against the concrete through a thin living room carpet. The last shot put his lights straight out. I had been fixing to kill him when I caught a glimpse from an eye I know well. Where it is usually soaked in regret and wrapped in sleep it sat alert, primed; youthful.
I suddenly remembered this night in its entirety. I remembered the trauma, the emotional tantra. The stranger. This wasn’t the night Jack put her in hospital. This was the night Jack got his. The night he… no… was it I? Is it I? Did I do all this? My head began to hurt from the dual memories that was suddenly existing and non-existing within my head. The pain had me woozy. I remembered how he came to our rescue, seemingly out of nowhere to rescue my father’s kids and make love to his wife.
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