The Power of Forgetting

So I saw this when I was scrolling through Instagram the other day and thought it might make for an interesting story. Feeling creative for the first time in forever…

I dropped the old newspaper in disbelief. Looking down as newsprint scattered on the floor of the old attic, my eye caught the date. June 21, 1982…

According to this paper and the enlarged image on the front page, a younger looking version of myself had been escorted into a heavily fortified prison facility. The article accompanying the photo claimed that this younger version of me had been a dangerous super-powered individual who could cause incredible explosions through telekinesis. The media called this individual Mind Blown.

At least I didn’t come up with that name, I thought, giving myself only the slightest bit of relief.

The article went on to explain that I had been given a life sentence… that I would never experience the world outside of that prison again.

If that’s the case, why do I have the life I’ve lived? I had a beautiful wife. We had three brilliant children. I even have grandkids who call me Pop-Pop. Mind Blown? Please…

I knelt down to pick up the newspaper once more. Not an easy task at my age, to be sure. But I needed to have it in hand when I showed it to my friend. I needed someone else to see this thing to prove to me I wasn’t crazy. After all, this was my best friend’s house and, therefore, his stack of old newspapers. He must have kept this particular edition for some particular reason.

Once I got back downstairs, I found my oldest friend in the world pouring himself a third cup of coffee. He had invited me over to have breakfast with him and his wife, which had almost become a weekly tradition since my Clara passed.

“Would you like another cup?” asked Sarah as I re-entered the kitchen.

Staring at my friend’s back with a look that I’m sure conveyed a mixture of confusion and rage, I told her, “No, thank you.” Then I slammed the folded over newspaper on the kitchen table. “But I do want to know what the hell this is.”

Zachary, my friend, turned with his mug in hand, a look of concern suddenly washing over his face. He looked at the newspaper and I could see the wheels in his head turning.

“Sarah, would you mind running out to the store? I just used the last of our creamer.”

Without saying a word, Sarah nodded her head, stood up from the table, then exited the house through the back door. My eyes never left Zach’s.

“When I sent you to the attic it wasn’t to dig through the archives, you know?” he said, taking his seat at the table.

“This is me, isn’t it?”

“It is.”

“You’ve been my friend for as long as I can remember. You have these news articles. I can only assume you have an explanation for why I have no memory of the man described on the front page.”

Zachary sighed. “Mind Blown had been found guilty of multiple acts of terrorism and was responsible for the deaths of more than a dozen innocent men and women when he caused an explosion in downtown Chicago in March of 1982. The trial was quick and the public was led to believe Mind Blown would spend the rest of his days in a concrete bunker, never to see the light of day.”

“Mind Blown… You mean me,” I said, shaking my head.

“Yes,” Zach confirmed. “And I’m sorry about that name. I always thought it was stupid. But the media has a tendency to name us whatever they want.”

“Us?”

“They used to call me The Eraser,” Zach said derisively.

“And what was your super power? The ability to fix mistakes that were made whenever someone was writing with pencil?”

“I erased memories.”

That’s when it dawned on me… “You took my memories?” I asked, finally understanding the truth.

“You were dangerous. At that point there was no telling what would happen to you in prison. No one knew if those walls would even hold you. That’s how powerful you were. So the decision was made to call me in. I would erase your memories… eliminate your crimes and any knowledge of your power. The people who knew you best also had their minds wiped. Mind Blown could no longer exist.”

“What gave you the right…?” I began, but Zach interrupted.

“The right? You killed at least 17 people. Some of those bodies have never been found to this day. You caused millions of dollars in property damage. It was determined that the most humane thing to do would be to eliminate all traces of your former life and give you a fresh start. A clean slate,” Zach explained all of this very calmly. As if he had been rehearsing for this very occasion for 40 years.

“You stole my life… my memories!”

“And gave you a chance to have something better… something more meaningful. Think about it: you could have been rotting away in a prison cell with six foot concrete walls. Instead you met Clara and had a beautiful family. You’ve lived a fulfilling life. You’ve made an incredible difference in the world with the work that you’ve done.” Zach paused. “You may not agree with what we did to you, but can you really say your life would have been better if we hadn’t?”

Without a word, I turned and walked out. I slammed Zach’s front door behind me as I walked toward my car. I needed to clear my head and I couldn’t do it while listening to my so-called best friend delivering the speech that he knew he would have to give me one day.

I made my way out of the city and found myself driving toward an area that held a hiking trail where I had once proposed to Clara. Once I got there, I turned the car off and started walking. At my age, I was in no shape for this, but I was filled with so much anger, I had to do something.

My life was a lie… Or was it? I just didn’t know what to believe. Zach was right… I’ve led a great life and I wouldn’t trade the love I had with Clara for anything in the world. But to know that I used to have a completely different identity… That I used to be someone… something else. I didn’t know how to process it all.

I took a seat on a boulder at the edge of the trail and buried my head in my hands. I could only hear an intense ringing in my ears as images flashed through my mind. Images from a life I don’t even remember living.

That’s when the trees around me began to ignite and explode…

Feature Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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