A short story by Alex Davey.
Your memories can’t be trusted. Records can’t be wiped, altered and doubted with a click of a button. An easy lie goes down better than the hard truth. We live in this world and are starting to accept it. Will you?
You are being lied to.
I need to get that down. You are being lied to. Before it all changes again.
You don’t know what’s real and what’s not. Your memory is imperfect. External records can be and have been altered.
You think you have a good memory, but what do you actually, properly remember? Memory isn’t like filming something, it involves all of the senses. Sight, sound, smell, touch. What does the smell of lavender remind you of?
I remember a funeral of someone who died over twenty years after the ceremony. I wasn’t there, it was televised, he was that important. I remember the tears, the lessons, then I forgot it all. He was an important person, but not one that impacted my life, so I forgot about him. Until I learned he was still alive.
It was an argument in a pub quiz, so phones were off the table. The question was about when this man was president of somewhere else. Trick question I said, he died in prison. Nobody agreed with me, but I had the pen so I gave the right answer. It cost us the quiz.
Once we got our phones back I was determined to prove them all wrong. It was his wife who was president, I was sure of it. Googling told me I was wrong. I couldn’t be wrong; I remember the lessons in school. I had a big poster on my wall, ‘Great People of the Millennium’, he had a birth date and a death date. What the hell happened?
I looked into it. I wasn’t the only person to remember his death, dozens of individual cases. What really struck me was how similar they were to my memory of the events. An illness in prison. A televised funeral, even if it wasn’t a state funeral. His wife picking up the mantle. Some people had a different memory – an assassination, a different disease. But this many people can’t be wrong.
Bare in mind, I’m not a conspiracy theorist – the world is round, the Queen isn’t a lizard person and we definitely went to the Moon. But I looked into this and it goes deeper. It started out as noticing different spellings, things you can easily dismiss as imperfect memories. Then it becomes parts of movies that disappear between cinema and home release. Whole series of shows that were never broadcast.
The internet was a useful place to collate information, but it was messy. You never knew who the other person was, beyond what they shared. There were people from all over the world. The smoking gun for me was when someone who said they were from that country. Let’s call him Luke. He remembered the death, the funeral, all that followed. He woke up one day and they were talking about the final days of a man who died long ago.
He thought he was from another world, one where things went differently, and that he had ‘moved’ into to this one. This is where most people fell to the sceptics – it was an imperfect memory as opposed to some great manipulator or this new theory of other worlds. I didn’t know what to believe. My life wasn’t all that different, being honest.
It started small, so small, I didn’t even notice at first.
Things started to move around on my desk. I could deal with them being stolen, but why move my stuff? I took pictures whenever I left for the night or even just to talk to someone else. It didn’t happen every time, but I was sure it was happening. It got to the point where I put tape down, and made sure I was the last to leave and first to arrive. They had even moved the tape! My photos were changed as well! So I didn’t have any evidence to take to HR, but I did send them an email. The whole office was told about respecting spaces and gas lighting. The moving stopped, I think.
Then there was an email about a fairly big change in a project at work. For me it came out of the blue, but everyone else acted as if the change had been there for weeks. I trawled through my emails, looking for something I may have missed. There was a memo from weeks ago about a meeting that seemed to be important, but I don’t remember receiving the memo or going to the meeting or any change at all before then. Luckily I adapted pretty quickly and brushed it off. Maybe I really hadn’t been paying attention.
It was clear I needed a break. I had holiday to use up, so it was a perfect time to go. I didn’t have a plan, so I was just lounging around at home. At first, it was relaxing, but very quickly became boring. I found myself binge watching shows on Netflix I had watched a dozen times before. I was watching a dark comedy about a washed-up, depressed sitcom actor from the 90s ruin his life as he searches for meaning in his life.
There was an episode I’d never seen before. It wasn’t a filler episode, it actually added to the overall story. It was referred to in later episodes, but I was pretty sure it had never been on before. I checked Wikipedia, lo and behold, there it was. The history of the page suggested it was added with the rest of the episodes. There was a quote from the producers about why that season had an extra episode. There were reviews I’m sure weren’t around when the season first came out.
I called my girlfriend to see if she remembered the episode. She did, it was one of her favourites, especially after re-watching it. She asked why it was important, I told her I just forgot about it. She was a little weirded out, and I don’t blame her.
I put it to the back of my mind, maybe I did actually forget about a whole episode. What was one episode really? I messaged Luke to ask him, he said he had experienced the same things. He was working on this theory that we were all ‘moving’, but most people don’t notice until something big changes. Once you do, you become aware of it. There wasn’t anyway to stop it, only to record it, remember it.
I could brush aside a president I never had to think about, but this was my life. Would I live the rest of it my memories at odds with reality?
Not long after that I was looking through Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, when I noticed I was following people I hadn’t before, in the middle of conversations I don’t remember starting. My friends were different, not significantly, but photos had changed around, such as wearing different clothes.
I told Luke about all this. He’d changed too. No longer was he all about different worlds, he even ridiculed me at first for talking about it. No, it was some shady government agency. I asked him which government, he said all of them. Why would they target people like us? He said we were just a casualty of something bigger. I asked again where he thought the ‘moving worlds’ theory fit into this. He had no idea what I was talking about. He had always been about the government doing it, and our entire past conversation seemed to confirm that.
Somebody had to be told about it. I told my girlfriend but she just looked at me like I was an idiot. She said I was just bored because I wasn’t working. That I should maybe go outside. I admit, I hadn’t because I was afraid that the streets had changed around or something overnight.
The next morning, she was gone. As in, she wasn’t there when I woke up. I went to text her, but her number wasn’t saved in my phone. I had her on Facebook though, so I asked her where she was. She said at home, I said no she wasn’t, she lives with me.
Since when, she asked.
Nearly a year.
We’ve never been room-mates.
I said we were a bit closer than room-mates. Maybe a few eyebrow-raised emoticons.
She told me to stop being so creepy, she had a boyfriend. She did, a friend of ours, someone she never showed any interest in before. I apologised and tried to take stock. My room had changed round, the whole flat. I stumbled through the morning – I had a phone call from someone who I never met before telling me I was late for work. I had to say I had a family emergency. This assuaged them, as long as I was in tomorrow.
I tried to contact Luke but he had disappeared off the face of the Earth. All out conversations gone. The site we were using was dying, filled with people making fun of our supposed faulty memories. I was just one more crank voice, because I couldn’t offer any evidence that I once had another life.
I don’t know who did this to me or why. Maybe this has happened before and something’s gone wrong this time. I’m writing this down, but tomorrow it could have all changed again. What if it really is my memory, only my fault? It was all so vivid, I was sure it happened.
I am being lied to. But I don’t know who.