Author : Liam Hogan
“What do you remember?”
It was what they asked. Teacher, Scientist, Mother. The same testing question, always.
Heads bowed, we stared at our desks. We didn’t understand why, but we knew the question was dangerous.
“I… I remember…” a voice crept out from my left and I screwed my eyes shut.
“Yes, Tommy?” the Teacher coaxed.
The classroom held its breath.
“I remember… there were more of us.”
There was a long silence. “No, Tommy. You are mistaken. That is enough school for today. Your Mothers are waiting.”
We filed out into the corridor, ashamed, silent, eyes fixed on the heels of the boy in front.
There were only eleven Mothers.
Tommy’s wasn’t there.
He was right though; Tommy. There had been more. The empty desks hadn’t always been empty, even if I couldn’t remember the older boys who had sat there.
There would be another empty desk, tomorrow. I promised myself I would remember his name.
And his lesson.
Tommy had remembered something you weren’t supposed to notice. And that had been enough.
Back home, Mother sat me down, lowered herself to my level.
“What do you remember, Alex?” she asked.
Worms writhed in my stomach. In the classroom, you could hide behind the other boys, wait for one of them to fill the void with a safe, recent, memory.
“What do you remember?” Mother insisted.
But when you were asked direct, there was no escape. You had to find an answer. One that kept Mother happy.
Only, I remembered so much more than I should. I remembered before.
I remembered a sister; a smiling, sleeping, crying baby sister.
I remembered a moon, as well as a sun.
I remembered trees, and grass, and birds.
And I remembered my mother. My real mother.
Delicate purple fronds emerged from the tip of Mother’s arm, wiping away the tears as I sobbed. Fleshy pads tilted my chin until I met her glittering eyes. And a hushed voice whispered in my ear:
“What do you remember?”
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