‘I’ll never forget. You’ll have to kill me first.’ I yell as I’m shoved into the operation room. We’d made a pact to go down fighting if the worst happened. Defiant until the end, we’d all agreed. But it’s a little harder now that I know nothing I say or do can make a difference, and it doesn’t seem half as heroic. Still. A pact’s a pact, even if I don’t believe a word that comes out of my mouth. I take a breath and try to remember what my father taught me. Deep breaths, full sentences, body squared, voice steadied. Speak like I’m the one in control of the situation, especially when that couldn’t be further from the truth.
‘You don’t have the technology or the resources to operate properly.’ I say. ‘All your wealth’s been sucked up by this war you insist on fighting. I’ll die before you can mess up my head.’
“Oh, I wouldn’t bet on that, kiddo.” I look up to see who answered and take in my surroundings. I’m in a sterile, tiled room with a single steel operating table in the centre. Nothing else. The room seems both cavernous and claustrophobic at the same time and the though it’s lit fluorescently I can’t see where the light is coming from. It’s so… surreal. Like I’m in a dream and my brain hasn’t really bothered to fill in the details.
Standing beside the table is a tall, gaunt man with a shiny bald patch on his head, circled by a tangle of wiry hair. I notice the striking resemblance to a very large egg tucked into a bird nest and fight the sudden urge to giggle. What a way to ruin my tough-guy façade. The man’s wearing a pristine surgeon’s gown that hangs ridiculously on his bony frame. He opens his mouth to continue. ‘That key that’s hidden so deep in your dim little head that even you cant find it is of a certain importance to our… client’
I suddenly lock my eyes onto his and he drops his gaze. He’s got a stern face on and a cruel smile, which reveals a perfect set of absurdly white teeth, but I’ve learned to look past the face. I notice how he shifts his body weight from left to right before finally settling to lean slightly against the table for support. So he’s playing the same game as I am. Good to know. Maybe I can torment my tormenter a bit before the inevitable, and I know just how to do it.
He’s obviously not here by choice – I’m certainly not. Someone’s scared him into it. I wait for him to recite the next line of line of his script, thinking the words it in my head at the same time. It’s so predictable. A little originality couldn’t go astray.
‘Don’t kid yourself into thinking we’re going to let it slip through our fingers this time.’
‘Your client?’ I spit, then take on his professional tone. ‘That implies your being paid for your services. Are you?’
I grin my triumph, knowing I’ve got him by the collar, ready to hit him with the most painful weapon in my arsenal – the truth.
‘Tell me, doctor. How many loved ones exactly has your client murdered to force you into her little group of henchmen.’
I hear an angry grunt from behind me and the two thugs restraining me tightened their grip on my shoulders. My arms feel like they’re about to drop off, but they can’t shut me up. I know for a fact that their client will be watching from surveillance cameras (hidden in the walls, probably) and wants to hear everything I have to say. She wants me to be weak so she can use the film for propaganda.
I can just imagine tomorrow’s headline – Notorious Terrorist Organisation [consisting of four rebellious teenagers] Finally Silenced [in other words, experimented on like animals and left to die] Thanks To Your Friendly [not to mention, corrupt] Government [controlled by one psychopathic individual that is the perfect reflection of all that is bad in humanity].
Our pact suddenly has new meaning. There’s no way I’m going to let those words be accompanied by footage of me bawling my eyes out and begging for mercy like a pathetic child.
Unfortunately, the doctor knows this and even if he’s not smart enough to try and break me, he’s smart enough to get on with it. And that’s not good for me.
“Get him onto the table,” The doctor orders the thugs. I thrash out in one last, ditch effort to escape, but it’s all for show. This is the end and I know it. They slam me, hard, against the icy metal of operating table. All the bravado saps out of me as they shackle my wrists and ankles down and stab a large syringe filled with bright pink liquid into the side of my neck.
I scream in agony as the drugs enter my bloodstream. The world sways and dips around me and I’m falling through the table… through the ground… through the earth into the burning core. Every atom of my being is aflame. I’m being scorched alive. My brains exploding and I can’t think and I can’t breath, but I can feel. I feel a thousand razor sharp knives drive down, deeper and deeper, into my skin. They grip at my insides and twist them tighter and tighter and tighter.
I feel like I’m dying in every way possible, but I’m not slipping into that blissful nothingness they promised death would be. My thoughts from those last seconds of consciousness swim around in my drowning head. (Was it seconds? Minutes? Days? Hours? Years ago?).
They’re going to steal my memories. I’ll never forget. I can’t let them. I’ll never forget. They want the key hidden somewhere in my head. I’ll never forget. I don’t even know what it is. I’ll never forget. Why is it so important? I’ll never forget. Why did I ever rebel? I’ll never forget. What have I done? I’ll never forget. Memories are the one thing they can’t take away from you. I’ll never forget. Memories are meant to be eternal. I’ll never forget.
I hold a picture of my parents in my mind. My little brother, my home, my friends. All that was – is – important in my life. But it gets harder and harder to fight off the darkness, threatening to engulf them.
Finally, I can’t hold on to pictures any longer, only words. I reach out and clutch the names of my loved ones. My family: Dane, Susan, Jake. My friends; Tore, Mals, Alice. Me: Benjamin Dane Ledger.
I repeat them over and over. Dane, Susan, Jake. Tore, Mals, Alice. Benjamin Dane Ledger. But one by one they’re swallowed by the darkness. I’m too tired and sore. I can’t hold on much longer. There’s only one name left. Please, don’t let me lose it. Please.
Benjamin Dane Ledger.
B… b… b… I fall into the darkness.
I shall never forget.
Memories are meant to be eternal, but when I wake up I don’t remember my name.