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Memories of Blue

Matt is addicted to Netflix comedy specials and listening to extremely long and unabridged audiobooks while running. He lives with his amazingly patient wife, three kids, and a dog named Sherlock in south eastern Australia. His short stories can be found in Nature Futures, The NoSleep Podcast, upcoming in Cossmass Infinities, and elsewhere.

My slippers are blue. I don't remember buying them. It is just a little thing, really, but there are so many little things like it. They make one big thing, all of them together. I think I have thought of this before, but I am not sure. I shake my head.
"What are you looking at, Dad?"
There is a girl next to me. She has dark hair, and green eyes, and she is ten years old, grinning as she shows me her new sun dress--the blue one with the yellow flowers. It is her favorite. I blink, and she is a grown woman, frowning at me, a crease of worry between her eyes.
"Lacy?" I ask. I see the hurt in her eyes before she banishes it with a faded echo of her ten-year-old smile.
"Yeah, Dad." She sits next to me. I am in an armchair, in a room. For a moment I panic, but then I see my things on the dresser. Marjorie is there in her frame--my Marjorie, in her wedding dress, so happy, so alive. She looks so much like the woman sitting with me, but I know it is not her. Marjorie is dead. Dead and gone, years ago. It does not come as a shock. I am grateful for that, at least. Feeling that pain again, fresh, that would not be a little thing.
"How are you?" Lacy, my Lacy, asks me.
"Oh," I say. "You know." My response feels familiar. This could be something I have said before. She nods and smiles. I am glad she knows. I am glad one of us does.
"Are they treating you okay?"
"No complaints," I say. This, too, has a familiar shape to it as it passes my lips. I do not want to burden this woman with my ramblings. But of course it is not some woman--it is Lacy, my Lacy, with the green eyes and her mother's smile. My accomplished Lacy, with such smarts, who has gone so far beyond the world I understand. My gaze falls. My slippers are blue.
"Blue," I say. I do not mean to. She frowns. "Remember your blue dress? With the yellow flowers?"
Her smile is so much like her mother's it hurts. "Oh, I loved that dress," she says. "My favorite colors. And it was the last thing Mum ever bought me." Then she looks at me, biting her lip.
"The doctors say you are not so well these days. That things are..." she swallows, and I think she might cry, but then she takes a big watery breath instead. "I've been working on something. I'd like to try it out. Maybe tomorrow?"
I nod, and the woman gets up. She kisses me on the forehead before she leaves, but I don't watch her go. I am looking down. My slippers are blue.
There is a woman, and she is doing something to me.
"Who are you?" I ask. I raise one hand to grab at my head. "What are you doing?"
The woman grabs my hand. I try to pull away but she lifts my hand quickly and presses it to her lips.
"Dad!" Lacy says, and I stop trying to pull away. She nods and lets go. "Dad, we talked about this. Do you remember?"
I reach up, slowly, and this time Lacy does not stop me. My fingers slip over something hard and rectangular just behind my ear.
"This," I say, trying to think of Lacy's words. It is so hard. "This might help me?"
She nods. "I hope so. Do you remember?"
I do not like it when people ask me to remember. It does not hurt, but it does hurt at the same time, to have to sift through all those scattered broken images and words with no meaning--all those missing little things. But it is my Lacy asking, so I try.
"Quant..." I start.
"Quantum neural aligner," a woman next to me says. I have been looking at my things on the dresser. At Marjorie. I don't know why this woman is here. My slippers are blue. My daughter loves her blue dress.
Lacy smiles at me.
"The staff say you are doing better."
"No complaints," I say, and then I smile. It feels good. Lacy looks surprised, and that feels even better. My hand drifts up to my ear.
"They didn't ask..." I begin, and my daughter nods.
"I told them it is a hearing aid. It looks like one. I made sure of that."
"What does it do?"
She looks at me with that slight crease between her eyes--so much like her mother.
"Do you remember what I do?"
I nod. "Of course. You are a scientist. You work at the University."
Her frown deepens a little. "An experimental physicist, yes. But I work for MemCorp, a private company."
I shrug. I was sure she worked at the University, but it is just a little thing. And it is just one little thing. I still have no complaints.
"That device is still experimental. I would get fired if anyone knew I had it. If you had it."
"What does it do?"
Lacy's crease eases and she smiles a little. She has always been so smart.
"It's a quantum neural aligner. It works on something called the Branching Cats Theory. You are entangled with multiple expressions of you, in a quantum sense. We all are. This boosts that link."
I stare at her. For a moment she is a girl--just a little girl, grinning in her favorite dress. And then she is Lacy again, Lacy who works at the University. She takes my hand.
"It's a memory photocopier, Dad. In a quantum sense, there are other places, other versions of you. Ones who are maybe not so... sick. I am borrowing from them. You are borrowing from them."
She smiles. "You can have it all back. We can have it back."
I smile because she is smiling, but I know I can't have it all back. Not really. I can't have Marjorie, and I can't have my little girl dancing in her blue dress.
Lacy is not smiling anymore.
"It's nothing to worry about," I say. I try not to sound annoyed, or afraid. My mind is clear. My memories are clear. It is the world that is the problem.
"They say you are not sleeping," she says quietly. "They say you say things that are not right. That you are not just forgetful anymore."
"Give me a break!" I say. "Last week everything I said was not right."
She nods, looking thoughtful. "That could be it, yes. Just a period of adjustment." She looks hopeful, but then sighs.
"Humor me. Answer some questions?"
I nod, even though I do not really want to.
"Who am I?"
I almost laugh. "My Lacy," I say, ignoring how hard this question would have been a week ago.
"And where do I work?"
"The University--no, wait, some private company. Mimco? Something like that."
She frowns. I hope she will not press. It's not like it was, not like broken images and gaps in my mind. I have no memory of Mimco, or whatever it is, but I can see the University clearly. Green lawns, sandstone walls, a smiling Lacy at the cafeteria with three steaming coffees in front of her. That was not so long ago, really.
"And where are you?"
"I'm in the old folk's home."
"And my favorite dress when I was younger?"
"That's easy," I say. "Your green sundress. It had red flowers."
She suddenly looks too pale, too concerned. She opens her mouth but I hold up a forestalling hand. I have a question of my own, one I did not want to ask the staff. They would not pay attention. They would think it was a little thing. But this is my Lacy, so I ask.
"Lacy. Where is your mother? Where are her things? She was here yesterday."
There is a woman sitting next to me. She is crying. She is holding my hand. My face feels wet as well. I wonder if I have been crying. I wonder what I might have to cry about.
"Hello," I say. "Are you all right? Am I?"
She squeezes my hand and lifts the other to wipe at her face. There is something in that hand, something small and hard and rectangular.
"Is that mine?" I ask. I do not know why I ask.
"No, Dad," the woman says, and then smiles through her tears. "I thought it was, but not yet. I have more work to do."
I look down. My slippers are blue.
"Remember your blue dress, Lacy?" I ask. "The one with the yellow flowers?"
The End
This story was first published on Friday, June 3rd, 2022

Author Comments

In this story I wanted to capture some of the frustration and sadness that comes with experiencing dementia in loved ones. I also wanted some hope in there, but didn't want it to have a trite "technology saves all" kind of ending. I think life is always a bit more nuanced than that, and sometimes a "fix" can bring hope, while also meaning we lose something unexpected.

- Matt Tighe
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