Refuge: an underground city built to save people from an apocalyptic world. But how will its people save themselves? Read the stories in any order, or start with the introduction at part 1.
Reconciliation Council report B-40, submitted anonymously
How could someone forget? There are so many things, terrible things, memories to ruin sleep and haunt waking hours. Who wouldn’t want to forget, just for a moment of relief? But can it be done? Is that yearning for peace to be forever unattainable?
How could someone forget? It seems impossible, but so many say they have. We must admit that we live in impossible times. Poisoned air followed by cancer, treatment followed by brain damage – and that doesn’t even account for the impossible world that preceded these things. Surely it is impossible for children born without the ability to form memories to survive, to live and function and obey. That we would fit their brains with hardware arrays to enable it, that we would plant metal inside their heads – what fantasist would ever have devised such a plan?
Perhaps it is better for them, the Type 2s. We dispatch them to do their terrible things and then download the memories out of them. Their sleep need never be torn apart by nightmares. No shadows haunt their waking hours. At least I hope this is true. We’ve turned them out now, and we can’t ask them even if we wanted to.
How can I forget? So many years I authorized this treatment of our people, the amnesiacs pressed into service, the victims of their orders. I did not originate the orders; I stood in the position between command and logistics, communicating the corruption downward, safe from too much responsibility in either direction. Only once did I stand in a treatment room during a download procedure. The Commander had been traumatized by her assignment. She fought off the technicians, broke someone’s jaw if I recall correctly, and had to be tranquilized just to get her into the procedure chair. She was standing directly in front of me when the medical staff injected her, her hand raised to strike. Not seeing me, not truly – I am considerably taller than she was, and her blow, had it landed, would have fallen far short of my head – but staring wildly and blindly at some absent threat. That is what I remember, not her assignment or the report that was recovered from her ravaged brain, not even her serial number, but her eyes, wide and terrified. Holding the horrors I had ordered her to commit without even knowing or caring who she was.
This is what I tried to forget for years. Had I been asked then, I would have said that I had. But I never slept through the night after that. The first night I slept soundly was the night the riot alarms went off and all the speakers came to life, warning us that the revolutionaries who had allied themselves with Ana 53C were marching through Military headquarters. I remember it clearly – I sighed and went back to sleep, no longer hearing the alarms, and the morning lights had gone on full and bright by the time one of the revolutionaries woke to tell me I was under arrest.
I did not file this as a C-category report. I do not speak as a member of Government. We should not forget we are citizens of Refuge, as is everyone else. I will be accused of cowardice nonetheless, I don’t doubt, because I write anonymously. But this is a stronger voice in which to speak: not as the position I hold now or the one I held then, but as a member of the public, the fortieth one to come forward and tell my story. Too many threats have risked this Council, too many moments when its mission is deemed impossible. But it cannot be allowed to dissolve. We cannot be allowed to forget. And those who have, those who claim they have, we must still hear them, because how can they ever truly forget?
©2017 Michelle M. Welch