Author: Glenn Leung

The fog in my brain had lifted, and all I saw was the rubble. My memories were there; my family, my friends, my comrades of the ill-fated revolution, the building blocks of my identity. But these blocks lay in heaps and piles, the cement and the steel that once held them together lying uselessly around them.

“Do you remember the imperial guard you shot?” The well-dressed man sitting across me in the interrogation room asked.

“I do,” I replied without thought.

“Do you feel any remorse or pride regarding your actions?”

“I do not feel anything,” came my stone-faced answer.

It was true. I felt nothing, not even the surprise that was supposed to come with realizing you felt nothing. I have memories of being actively involved; of making and throwing Molotov cocktails and laughing as it smashed in the faces of imperial loyalists, of high fiving my friends after I broke through the imperial firewall and messed up the tax records. I should be swelling with pride as the well-dressed man recounted them to me, but I felt nothing.

The well-dressed man made some notes on my eye movement and pulse, then spoke into his voice recorder.

“Teleportation subject appears to be clear so far, proceeding to stage two of confirmation.”

I remember the teleporter, the two stygian obelisks in a room of chrome and ebony. I remember being dragged screaming into one of them and coming out the other with the fog in my head, a side effect of the brain being torn apart then recreated. Often loosely compared to restarting a computer, it is part one of the most effective brainwashing method ever accidentally developed. We kept all our memories, but the Empire could put them together the way they wanted. We would be filled with shame, then pride as we were reminded of the Empire’s regimented education system and the free healthcare. We would believe that the surveillance, the suppression, and the brutality is needed to sustain the New World Order. We would come to love the Empire, and it would be easier to do so without a desire for freedom.

Let the Man repaint the canvas.

“Get in there!”

The well-dressed man had left and returned with a woman in handcuffs, his vice-like grip on her upper arm. She was sobbing. She was my wife.

“You recognize this woman? She’s under suspicion for aiding your kind with crimes against the empire. What can you tell me about that?”

I looked at my wife’s tear-filled visage as she stared back at me in horror, realizing what they had done to me. I remembered how we had embraced amidst the fires of protest, how she had defended me from her friends who said I was no good for her, how she had nursed me back to health when the Empire used biotoxins on the mob. Without any sense of identity, it just felt like somebody else’s life.

“She helped steal the virus that I used to break the firewall,” I told the well-dressed man.

There was a gunshot and my wife fell dead. I blinked a little.

The well-dressed man checked my pulse and spoke again into his recorder.

“Teleportation subject confirmed clean.”

As I sat alone in the interrogation room, my wife’s corpse lying near the door, I remembered my last thought in the teleporter just before the pain of my old body disintegrating.

“How could anyone think this is a good idea?”