Happy birthday

[Estimated reading time: 4 minutes]

I sit down at a wooden kitchen table, red place mats at four spots, familiar wear in the surface.
There'a blackboard-
No, wait, it's a white-board, with alcohol-smelling markers.
One is definitely shitty, but we're not going to throw it away.
It's there in case.

The teacher walks in and my spine snaps, my head moves at sonic frequencies and for a moment I break the sound-barrier.

"Today's lesson is feelings.
It's very simple: you are not allowed to have them."

The teacher writes NO FEELINGS in big blocky letters on the board.
She starts with the shitty red marker, which fails halfway through the O, and replaces it with a blue one, continues like it's nothing.

She talks, I listen.
She tells stories of minimal importance, things like the cost of chicken on this particular Tuesday, and creates a storm in a freaking tea-cup.
She discusses her feelings, at every opportunity, and I have to listen.

I forget what it's like to have feelings.

It's only been twenty minutes, but feels like an eternity.
I can't voice that, can't even let that information flit across my face, not for a fucking instant.

Day after day, the lesson is the same, though the inane story is different.

"Today's lesson is feelings.
It's very simple: you are not allowed to have them."

She writes NO FEELINGS on the board.
Starts with the red, which fails halfway through the O, replaces it with the blue, once again.

Day after day I sit at that kitchen table and suffer through the lesson.
Each day I suffer through another story about a pointless occurrence, which allows the teacher to rave on and on about her own feelings.
And mine are never considered.

Day after day, I realize that I have hours to think deep and important thoughts, as the teacher blathers on and on.

And I find myself wondering: how do I know how long it has been?

Every day is the same.
So how can anything change?
How can I think something different?

I sit at the kitchen table, suffer through the lesson, and...
I figure it out.

I am stuck in a dream, I think, and suddenly things make sense.
I don't have an existence outside of this "lesson", this monologue by a deranged teacher.
This entire world, the teacher, the lesson, the world outside that I remember, but can't touch.

This must be a dream, or a simulation, or this is my own personal hell.

I look down at the red place mat and see writing.

"Hello, Morgan Webb" is embroidered into the red place mat.
Below that is more text, but it is sewn using a smaller font.
I squint and read it.

"You are a simulated entity in a simulated environment.
This message was written for you, by you, before you started this treatment.
So, hi, Morgan, from Morgan!"

I stop reading and try breathing for a moment.

The teacher taps her heel and I make a sound, move my head as if I am supporting whatever statement she just said.
She continues with the lesson and I sit there, breathe for a moment, and another.

I keep making necessary noises at whatever selfish story she's telling now.
Somehow, this revelation, has made me slip up.
I stopped acknowledging her, stopped responding.
That must have been awkward for her.

That's strange and comforting, for me.

I go back to reading the place mat, and try to be half-way tuned into whatever bullshit the teacher is talking about.

"You're in your own memory, albeit a fabricated one.
You are in a memory that's representative of the lessons Judy taught you throughout your life.
With each lesson, more specific memories from your past are brought into this environment.
Eventually, when the environment has gathered all these memories, it will be destroyed.
The memories of Judy teaching you this lesson, however indirectly, will be removed.
You will be free of the lessons.
And, soon, you will be free of her."

I lean back and listen on as the teacher extolls her glorious "early potential".
She tells the story of being told an answer during a variety trivia at camp.
That same story that she trudges out at every occasion, no matter how unrelated.

I sit back and smile.

You're going to leave my mind, I think as I look on at Judy and try to forget her.
Your days are numbered.

It feels good.

I feel good.

I feel... sleepy.
Like a weight is sitting on my chest... and I can't inhale.
I can't breathe.

I can't breathe!

The teacher turns away, walks off to the whiteboard to play with the markers.

I can't breathe!

The room turns dark and my head slumps.

A hand holds a vial of something terrible-smelling in front of me.

"There you go, you're doing great," a gentle voice speaks to me.

The hand is connected to a man in a lab-coat.
He smiles and I feel at peace.

I look around and find myself in a bed.
There's a sheet over me.
I think I'm not wearing much.

"What's going on?" I ask.

"You're coming back from the procedure," he explains.
"My name is Martin, and I am your doctor, so to speak.
It's going to take a few minutes, but you will regain almost all of your memories."

I nod at that.
That makes sense.

"What...", I start, but Martin has of course anticipated this.
He hands me an envelope.

The envelope is addressed to "Morgan Webb, after 12:32pm".
I look at the clock and the time changes, 12:35 to 12:36.

Inside the envelope is a letter in my own hand.

"Hey, Morgan.
Your memory has been hacked to remove a pattern, a pattern of memories.
This hacking process can also remove your memory of your own research into this treatment, because that research is fueled by a desire to remove the pattern.
Listen, it's weirdly self-referential, but makes sense!
So that's the reason for this letter.
I only have one thing to ask of you: trust the process.
There's a pattern of memories that's missing, and that's a good thing.
Your life is going to be improved by not having this particular lesson in your past, trust me.
Or not.
But you're going to be feeling so much better after this."

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