It isn’t something you can see. When it arrives, your olfactories go into overdrive. The acrid stench stings your nostrils, but it doesn’t prepare you for the overwhelming stink of death. And I’m not talking about the rat in the walls stink. I’m talking about a corpse left in the sun for a week. You feel like your stomach is coming up through your mouth.That’s how you know it’s there.
My journal is nearly full. I stare down at the worn pages as I turn them. They haven’t changed in a year. Each one for that period repeats the same thing. Except…I turn to the last page I’ve written and glance at the date. I can’t remember what today is. How long have I been here? My first thought is to look around…and I do. Carefully.
The room is nothing to brag about. There’s a bed beneath me with a simple wool blanket and white sheet. I don’t even have a pillow. The walls are all barren except for a small window just at eye level. Bars cover it. I stand and make my way across the concrete floor in slippers I don’t remember putting on. In fact, I don’t remember dressing in this robe or tying back my hair. I can feel the pull of it behind my head. I pause as I begin to question what I actually remember at all. And it’s…nothing. I woke in this bed, surrounded by these walls, with this journal in my hand. Is it mine?
Before I can make it to the window, there’s a short knock at the door behind me. I spin and catch my breath. It takes a moment for me to recover. “Wh-who’s there?”
“Doctor Estez,” a muffled voice answers from behind the door. “Please have a seat, Nova.”
“I don’t understand.”
There’s a short pause before he answers. I can hear him mumble something, but it’s too low to make out. “Please have a seat, Nova. We’re here to help.”
I’m not certain why, but I obey and sit on the edge of my bed. It’s stiff, uncomfortable for any position. I glance back at the door. “O-okay. I’m sitting now.”
I hear three loud clicks and metal grinding against metal as the locks release. The door complains as it opens, letting out a woeful groan against its hinges. Doctor Estes stands behind two men in uniform, both carrying guns. All of them wear facemasks.
My frown deepens. “Why do you have weapons?”
“It’s for my safety, Nova,” Doctor Estes says calmly. He steps past the two men and looks at me over his glasses. “You’re not always…cooperative.”
There’s something that itches in the back of my mind when I hear his voice. A shudder of panic races through my nervous system. I can’t quite place why, but there it is. I don’t trust him.
He produces a large syringe and holds it gently in gloved hands. “I need a sample today. We’re getting closer to finding a way to hide from it.”
“It?” I think back over the journal entry I read.
He nods. “You’ve quite frequently called it ‘the monster,’ but we know it as Memoria Fur.” He gestures to one of the soldiers who immediately moves further into the room. “We just need a blood sample today, Nova. We need to know why it chose you…to find a reason it chooses anyone.”
I swallow against a dry throat. “I don’t…What do you mean chooses? Please, Doctor Estes, I don’t understand.”
Doctor Estes sighs. “Doctor Bellard will be in here shortly to explain. He’s our psych advisor. We go through this every time.”
“Every time? As in you’ve taken my blood before.” Something about that seems wrong. “Why would you need multiple samples?”
He smiles. “I’m always fascinated by the amount of knowledge you’ve retained. Others…well most of them can barely tie their shoes.” He leans down so that he’s eye level with me. “And that’s why you are so important, Doctor Nova Rithe.” He straightens and shrugs. His grip on the syringe has tightened. “Of course, I need more samples because you destroyed the last batch. It’s the third incident.” He nods to the soldier beside me.
Before I can react, the solder has me in a tight bear hug. He’s too strong to fight. I struggle, but it’s pointless, so I give up. Another man, much smaller and meeker, moves toward me with a strip of rubber.
“You don’t have to hold me down,” I say breathlessly. “You can have your sample.”
“Yes. You said that last time.” Doctor Estes pulls the collar of his shirt down. A bruise is there on his neck…in the shape of teeth. “I learned my lesson.”
It isn’t something you can see. When it arrives your olfactories go into overdrive. The acrid stench stings your nostrils, but it doesn’t prepare you for the overwhelming stink of death. And I’m not talking about the rat in the walls stink. I’m talking about a corpse left in the sun for a week. You feel like your stomach is coming up through your mouth.That’s how you know it’s there.
I look up from the pages of the journal I hold. Doctor Bellard sits across a silver table from me. He’s watching me intently, arms crossed over his broad chest. The respirator he wears over his face blocks the turn of his lips. I imagine he’s frowning. He’s not like Doctor Estes. There’s something calming about his presence. And something sad.
He tilts his head. “Turn to the very last page.”
“That’s the last one,” I say with a small amount of uncertainty.
“The last one,” he says. “As in the very last page in the entire journal.”
I glance down at it and hesitate. My jaw tightens as I do as he asks.
It has been two years since I was attacked. The monster has taken everything. I know love, but I do not remember it. I know I had a mother, a father, a husband…a child. But I cannot picture them. My hands shake more frequently. Soon I will not even remember my name. Short-term memory is failing. What did I eat yesterday? When did I put on these clothes?
If only I had found the camouflage before I was attacked….
A tear falls from my chin onto the page, blurring the last word. I snap the journal closed and set it on the table.
“Do you remember me, Nova? Do you know who I am?” Doctor Bellard leans forward with his arms on the table now. His eyes convey sympathy. I want none.
I shake my head no. It’s all I can muster.
“That’s okay,” he says as he reaches for my hand.
I draw it back. Not out of spite. I can’t hate him–not that I know why that is. I just want answers now, not comfort. “What is this….monster?”
He sighs and leans back in his chair. “Memoria Fur is a creature…sort of. It’s out of our visual range. It can only be seen in infrared. But basically it’s exactly as its name translates.”
“Memory thief,” I whisper. How do I know that?
Doctor Bellard nods. “Yes. It absorbs the energy from specific brain activity. When we remember things, life memories, it latches on.”
“Like a parasite.”
“Yes and no. It continues until it has had its fill. Unfortunately for some, that means everything. For some reason your memories were taken, but you’ve retained your knowledge. Doctor Estes is convinced he can find out why through your DNA, but…”
I shake my head no again. “It’s in my brain structure.”
He frowns. “Nova, do you know what that means?”
“Doctor Bellard,” I draw a deep breath. “Get me a brain surgeon.”
The bed is softer than mine, and for some reason I appreciate that. Even if I’m about to die. Doctor Thames looks at me through surgical glasses. I can’t make out his mouth beneath the mask, but I can see he’s worried from the deep furrow in his brow. “I want you to know, I protested this all the way to the top. We can’t guarantee we’ll find what we need this way.”
The drugs are just setting in, so it takes all of my energy to answer. “I can’t live like this.”