“Okay Dr. Blay,” Joshua says to me, “All I need you to do is relax and hold this thing tight.” He places a small metallic ball before me. I slowly reach out and place my hands on it as it sends a small jolt through my body. “You’ll feel yourself being coaxed into a deep sleep.”
“I can’t fall asleep with this thing shocking me,” I say. “What is this going to do anyways?”
“This is going to help you to regain your memory,” he says as he cranks up the voltage and it feels more like a soothing massage now. “I need you to relax.” He makes me sit back in the reclining chair and keep my eyes close with my hands still on the metallic ball.
“Exactly how will this help me to regain my memory?” I ask as the shocks become even more soothing than painful.
“Don’t worry,” he says. “You’ll see. And I’ll be right there by your side the whole time as you do so.” I can feel my body relaxing more and more as I descend deeper into a sleep state.
I wake up on a bed inside a room I vaguely seem to remember but not much. I get off the bed and walk to the front door but when I go through it, it brings me to another place I remember a lot, the reception in the hospital where I first woke up in. I spot someone at the desk with their back to me and walk toward them.
“Excuse me,” I say to the person as they turn slowly and recognise the person. “Joshua? What are you doing here? Where are we?”
“You tell me Iggy,” he says. “This is your dream after all.” He gets off the chair and walks to me.
“So all this is a dream?” I ask to be sure.
“Yes,” he says reassuringly. “But this must be one of your newer memories we’re in. We are trying to eliminate the deeper fake memories.”
“How do we do that?”
“We have to eliminate the things that tie you most to the fake memories,” he says and begins to scan the room. “Now we just have to figure out exactly what they are.”
“You don’t even know what they are?” I say.
“These aren’t my memories Dr. Blay, they are yours,” Joshua says. “You must find the things that mean most to you in this fake reality and you destroy them. When that is done, the two realities can separate and you can destroy the fake one, forever.”
“Okay, well that seems easy enough,” I say as I begin to think deeply and the whole place starts to wobble since this is my mind after all. “I think I know where to start. How do we go back to a memory of when I was fourteen?”
“Well this is a dream,” he says with his hand on his chin. “I think we should look for something with the number fourteen on it; something like...that!” He points to a white coffee mug sitting on the desk with the number fourteen painted on it in purple paint. He walks over, picks it up and looks inside it.
“Seriously?” I say. “How will a whole memory fit inside there?”
“Come look for yourself,” he says. I draw closer to him and he entreats me to look at the liquid inside. Sure enough, instead of coffee, there is a memory of when I was fourteen inside it where those two army men came to the house and told me that my parents had died in the plane crash. Thankfully a fake memory.
“Yup, that’s the memory alright,” I say and draw away from the mug in his hand. “How do we get there through this tiny mug?”
“We could pour it on ourselves,” he says and raises the cup above us ready to pour the liquid inside on us.
“Wait!” I say and he pauses. “I hate coffee stains.” He just shakes his head in amusement and pours the liquid over us. We are instantly transported into the living room of my parent’s house as the bad news of my parents apparent ‘passing’ is being broken to me.
“It worked,” Joshua says as we hide behind a wall to avoid being spotted.
“What now?” I say and he just shrugs his shoulders causing me to glare spitefully at him.
“Fine, if you want me to do all the work,” he says. “I think you must destroy this memory, physically.”
“You think?” I ask and he nods. “And how do I do that?”
“I don’t know,” he says and I glare at him again. “Try smashing those two army dudes with a baseball bat or something.”
“Okay, good idea,” I say. “Hand me a bat.”
“What are you looking at me for?” he says and I look at him with daggers in my pupils. “I don’t have one.”
“Seriously?” I say. “Now how are we supposed to...”
“You seriously don’t expect me to carry baseball bats around when I enter the subconscious minds of people whose brains have been messed up by my deranged twin brother and...can’t even remember their best friends from childhood...do you?” He says that last part under his breath but I hear it clearly.
“What was that last part?” I say.
“We’ll talk about that later,” I say. “Now, I need to find a bat, or a very large stick.”
“We are in your dream after all,” he says and I look at him with confusion. “Why don’t you just think one up.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean just imagine you have one and chances are it will appear.”
“Ummm, I’m not really good at imagining, stuff,” I say.
“Okay let me help you. Which player did you adore as a kid?”
“Hmmm, let me see,” I say as the wheels in my brain begin to turn again and the hole place gets wobbly. “Oh yeah, Joe DiMaggio.”
“Good,” he says. “Now stretch out your hands out and close your eyes.” I do that. “Now imagine Joe DiMaggio in Yankee Stadium about to swing at an incoming fly ball. Now imagine that that beautiful bat he’s wielding slowly lifts up out of his hands as the ball hits him square in the jaw,” he says and I chuckle. “Now imagine that the bat magically appears right into your hands. Are you imagining it?”
“Yes, I can see it,” I say. “It’s so beautiful! It has his signature and everything.”
“Good, now open your eyes.” I open my eyes and incredibly, the bat I was imagining in my head is in my hands right now. I clasp it and feel the grains of the wood and the small indentations in the wood where he has marked his signature.
“Hey Joshua?” I say.
“Did I really just ‘imagine’ this bat into existence?” I ask in wonderment.
“Honestly...no.” My smile immediately disappears. “You were imagining something, but it looked more like a misshapen twig than a baseball bat so I just looked through this closet and fortunately for us, there was a baseball bat signed by Joe DiMaggio stuffed in there.”
“Wow, what are the odds huh?” I say and he nods. “Okay then, let’s do this I guess.”
I step out from behind the wall we were hid behind and slide over to behind the couch. I take the handle of the bat in my mouth and crawl on my belly to behind the soldiers using a combination of unnecessarily painful manoeuvres that only manage to gain me a pulled muscle in my back. I arrive behind the soldier, standing right before my kid self and prepare to hit the men but surprisingly, neither of them reacts to my presence.
“I don’t think they can see me,” I mouth to Joshua and he nods. He then makes the sign for hitting something with a bat.
I give him a thumbs up and take a step back to allow for more room for the swing since I might get only one chance at this; I don’t want to miss. Just as I am about to swing my arms and hit the soldier in the back of the head, my kid self suddenly turns away from them and looks directly at me.
“What are you doing Mister?” he says to me as time instantly freezes around us.
“Huh? You can see me?” I ask in surprise as I lower the bat.
“Yes,” he says as he gets off the couch and walks toward me. “Why are you going to hurt the man? He didn’t crash my parent’s plane.”
“Look kid,” I say as I bend over on one knee to speak to, me. “I can’t say anything for fear that I might affect myself but what I’m going to do will make you, me, us, feel a whole lot better so just stand back okay.”
He takes a step back as I swing the bat with all my power and when it lands on first man in the uniform, he shatters like glass and immediately, time unfreezes and Joshua and I are transported back to the reception.
“Whoa! What happened?” Joshua asks while examining himself. “It was almost like time froze back there or something.”
“I think it did but I smashed the soldier and the fake memory vanished.”
“Good,” Joshua says. “Now what other memories do you think could be tying you to this false reality?”
I think for moment. “I think I have an idea; follow me.”
We exit the reception, walk down the familiar hallway and head outside. Once we step outside it isn’t the Underworld as I remember, but rather a barren desert wasteland.
“What memory are you trying to destroy out here?” he says to me. “Did you get sand in your shorts out here or something?”
“I honestly wasn’t trying to get us all the way out here,” he says. “I wanted to get us to the surveillance room.”
“Why?” he says. “What happened there?”
“It, it, was the place where Alexandria and I almost kissed.” It feels so nasty to say that out loud.
He immediately takes a step back in shock and says, “What? Eeew! Dude! You kissed your own daughter? That is wrong on so many levels.”
“I didn’t know she was my daughter back then!” I say and he pretends to vomit. “Cut me some slack and besides, it was on the forehead not on the lips.”
“Still, let’s destroy that paedophilic memory and get outta here.”
“That’s the problem,” I say. “This isn’t where it happened.”
“Then where did it happen?” he says.
“It happened in some sort of surveillance room down in Sector 1,” I say and he gets a vomit look on his face. “What is it?”
“I’m just imagining you, kissing your own daughter,” he says and I groan in exasperation. “Your gross lips all over her nasty face. I also remember when she was a baby in your arms, totally nauseating.”
“Like I said for the umpteenth time, I didn’t know she was my daughter back then!” I say. “Obviously nothing happened afterwards and besides, now that I know that she’s my kid I take that kiss as a fatherly kiss.”
“Whatever helps you to sleep at night,” he says.
“Quit messing around and help me find the way to the surveillance room.”
We crane our heads around in every direction bit still remain stationery because there is honestly nothing to look under, into or over since this is literally a barren wasteland.
“Hey Dr. Blay, did you see any of those things,” he points to a post-humanoid in the distance which is staring into a probe, “Through cameras? You know, provided you had your eyes on the screen and not lustfully on your daughter.”
“I resent that,” I say. “But yeah, we did see one of those creatures staring at the probe...just like that one. I think that’s it.”
We trot toward the post-humanoid examining the probe and try to shoo it away but it doesn’t react to us so we just sneak by it and place our fingers on the lens of the probe. With one touch, it sucks us into it and we are instantly deposited into the surveillance room with Alex and I inching toward each other as that ‘almost’ kiss is about to happen.
“Hurry!” Joshua says as he shields his eyes in disgust. “I don’t want to see this!” I can’t blame him; now that I know the truth, that almost makes me vomit but I keep my breakfast in my tummy.
I walk toward myself and Alex and raise the bat over them. One of them is me and the other one, is Alex. I don’t know which one to hit.
“Joshua, which one do I smash?” I say.
“I don’t know,” he says. “Just hit them both and let’s get out of here!” he says as he continues to shield his eyes.
I raise it over myself then over Alex not knowing what might happen if I smash the wrong one. If I hit Alex, I might forget her but if I smash myself, I might die. Okay, we have a winner. I swing the bat at Alex and she shatters like glass and we are immediately transported back to the reception. The moment we arrive, I try to remember Alexandria and let out a sigh of relief when I remember her, not as that quirky girl who had an odd crush on me for as long as I’ve known her but my first child I had when I was twenty two and married to Martina. Thank God.
“Wow that was, horrifying,” he says as we get back to the reception.
“Oh please,” I say. “Now, officially, it never happened.”
“It technically did but still, let’s keep going,” he says. “What’s the third thing keeping you tied to these memories?”
I scan the room for an answer and it immediately dawns on me. “I think I know, but how do we get there?”
“Which memory are you thinking of?”
“I’m thinking of the memory of me destroying the earth,” I say. “It happened at Cape Canaveral, Florida. How do we get there?”
“I think it’s quite obvious,” he says and I stare curiously at him. “Boom, Cape Canaveral, you know what I’m saying?”
“Neither do I but I’m pretty sure something with any relation to booming or explosions should do the trick.”
We look around the room for anything related to explosions but nothing comes up. I spot a colourful bag in the corner and pick it up to search inside.
“Joshua, look,” I hold up a pack of diapers named ‘Boom Boom Baby Bracers’ in my hand. “You think this might be it?”
“Could be,” he says. “But how do we enter a pack of diapers?”
“We could wrap the diapers around our faces and hope for the best,” I say with a chuckle.
“Okay, hand me one.” I wasn’t being serious but if he is really going to try it then why not? I just hope they are new and not used diapers.
We tear the diapers out of their wrapper then wrap the diapers around our faces. Thankfully they smell like talcum powder and not the, ‘other thing’ that’s usually in baby diapers. We stand there for about five minutes looking like complete idiots with baby diapers wrapped around our faces but when we take them off, we are left standing in the middle of Cape Canaveral with the space probe right beside us.
“Sweet it worked!” he says.
“Yes!” I say and throw the diaper to the ground. “Now where is Dr. Alfred so that I can finish this?”
“Why are you looking for Dr. Alfred?” he asks.
“To smash him and banish this evil memory forever,” I say. “Isn’t that why we’re here?”
“There is a villain in this situation,” he says, “But it’s certainly not him.”
“Who is it then?” I ask.
“It is obvious that you feel very strongly about this memory and the guilt that comes with it,” he says and I stare at his face in confusion. “And who is the one that feels that guilt?”
“Ummm, me?” I say and he nods. “So what are you saying? That I should smash myself?”
“Precisely,” he says.
“Are you sure that wont kill me or anything?”
“Positive, and look sharp,” he says as he turns me around. “Here you come.” He points to me running at top speed toward the probe to stop the launch and I prepare my bat to smash as he runs by.
Immediately as my bat makes contact with the midriff of myself and smashes him into pieces, the entire world around us shatters too and goes black. We aren’t transported back to the reception either. We are left in the black void. I think I just killed myself.
“Joshua you dimwit!” I yell in outrage. “You just made me kill myself!”
“Chill man,” he says as he takes the bat from me and throws it away. “I think you just destroyed the final tying memory. All’s left now is to smash the remainder of the false memories now that there is nothing tying you to them.”
“Fantastic!” I say in excitement. “So where are they?” Just as I finish speaking, two giant squares suddenly drop from the sky and land right before us with a loud thud which sends us crashing to the floor.
I get off the floor and observe them closely. The first one is flashing all the ridiculous false memories implanted by that bastard Whitford while the other one shows my real memories.
“Go ahead,” he eggs me on. “Use this.” He picks the bat off the floor and I take it in my hand. I continue feeling it as I walk toward the square with the false memories.
When I get before the giant square, I look down at the bat in my hand and toss it away. Joshua must be wondering what I’m doing. This is something I need to do myself.
“Okay false memories,” I say. “It’s been, awful but I need to live my life the way God intended and you are standing in my way.” I swing my fist at the square with the false memories with all my might and it shatters as the true memory square enters my head through my ear.
“Good riddance,” I whisper and feel myself waking up. The world inside my head goes black.
“How are you feeling son?” my dad asks above me as I slowly open my eyes. I am still sitting in the chair holding the metal ball and I have a ridiculous headache but the good thing is that I can remember everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING now.
Despite the incredible headache, I feel relief as everything inside my head makes sense again.
“I’m fine dad,” I say as I hand him the metal ball. “I remember everything.”
“That’s fantastic!” he says as he takes me into a bear hug. “I knew Joshua would do a good job...”
“Joshua!” I suddenly exclaim. “I hope I didn’t leave him trapped in my head!”
“Don’t worry,” my Dad says in a calming tone as he lays his broad hand on my back. “He’s in the back taking a nap. He came out an hour before you did. You need some rest too. You guys were under for almost three hours.”
“Three hours?” I ask in flabbergast and he nods slowly. “Wow. Now that I think about it, I am pretty exhausted.”
“Let me help you to your room.” He helps me get up just as Joshua appears from the back room holding a face towel to his face. He gives me a thumbs up sign and I reciprocate it with a grateful smile; that dude and I have been through a lot.
He calls Alex to come for her procedure but I spot her hands jittering a bit as she’s led over to the chair by Martina and Josh. I blow her a kiss and tell her that daddy loves her, which doesn’t seem weird at all now, except that she makes a weirded-out face for obvious reasons.
When my Dad takes his leave of me, I just lie on my bed and stare at the ceiling. I shut my eyes tightly and try to recollect all my old memories that I lost momentarily; Alexandria’s birth, the parties, the many, many groundings, the arguments with the kids, especially Alex, Jason’s birth, Ricardo’s birth and the all the rest, everything. I especially remember the arguments I had with Dr. Whitford at the institute and how he tricked all of us into going to dinner with him before he kidnapped us; that bastard!
Most of all, I remember how I used to be, and still am best friends with Joshua. This guy was there for it all: the college introductions, being my roommate for four years, the wedding and the child births, all of it. He’s a bit of a goof, unlike his deranged brother, but he always comes through. That must have been what he was rambling on about when he was talking about remembering best friends from childhood and blah blah blah.
I manage to drift off into a sort of half sleep, half reflection as my original memories begin flashing back to give me a new sort of dream where my old memories kind of overpower the fake ones as it fades into the background. I hope that’s the end of them.
I sense a presence above me. “Dad, dad wake up!” I open my eyes to see Alex standing over me and patting my sleeping head with her tiny hand. She looks different, more peaceful.
“Alexandria?” I say and sit up as I rub my eyes. “What? Why? What’s wrong?”
“Uncle Josh told me to tell you that he’s done,” she says.
“What? Already?” I say as I invite Alex to sit down by me.
“It’s been like two hours already dad,” she says as she chuckles.
“Oh, wow,” I say. “I slept for that long?”
“Yeah,” she says. “Uncle Josh said your memories were the most entrenched so weeding out the fake memories was harder than all of ours’.”
“Really,” I ask and stare into her face. “So you remember everything now?”
“Yes, I remember everything,” she says and stares down at her hands as if something is troubling her. “There is only one thing really bothering me tough.” Ha-ha, nailed it.
“What is it peaches?” I say.
“Wow, I really remember hating that nickname,” she says and I laugh. “But yeah, I am just really bothered how someone could be so heartless to do something so evil like that to other humans, you know?”
“Why, what happened?” I say as my paranoid fatherly instincts kick in. “Did anyone do anything inappropriate in your dream? Was it Whitford? I’ll kill...”
“Sit down dad!” she says and pulls me down with a chuckle. “I’m talking about what Dr. James did to all of us.”
“Oh yeah, sorry,” I say and pause a bit. “Trust me honey, Whitford will pay for what he did to us, I assure you of that, okay? Don’t worry about that at all.” I put my arm around her.
“Okay,” she says as she bounces off the bed. “Aha, yes, almost forgot; Grandpa says he wants to see you in the lab.” I take a slow breath before getting up to follow her.
We pass through the hallway and I greet a few people along the way whom I remember now. We enter the elevator at the end of the hall and I press the button with a blue ‘L1’ on it. It drops quickly and brings us to the floor with the lab. Alex and I walk side by side into the lab and see all of them are sitting around chatting, even the boys who are no longer mutated. I look down at my arms and it looks like we are back to normal; thank you Joshua. I need my glasses back though.
“Aha Ignatius, you’re awake,” my Dad says when he spots up walking in. My father chats away with Martina and she pats the seat beside her as I take it. Alex sits on the lab stool by Josh.
Once we’re all seated, my dad gets up, possibly to address us. “I cannot begin to express my joy that my family, the only family I have left and love more than anything in this world is back to themselves again,” he says. “All I can do is extend the greatest of thanks to the brilliant work of Dr. Joshua Whitford; thank you Joshua for reversing the evil your twin brother did to them.”
“I actually have something to say to Joshua,” I say as I suddenly get off my seat.
“Go ahead son,” my dad says as he gives me the floor.
“Okay,” I say. “I just want Josh to know that what he did for me, for all of us was just, incredible. You risked your own life to get us all back to what we were and that is something I can never thank you enough for man.” He smiles at me as I say this. “Also, don’t worry, I remember all our big plans and I’ll definitely make plans for us to hang out like we used to.” I retake my seat and they all chuckle.
Josh also gets up to say something. “Look guys, I sincerely appreciate all your thanks but honestly, it isn’t necessary. You guys are literally the only family I have left,” he says as a small tear comes to my eyes and I quickly wipe it away. “Oh and Iggy, I’m looking forward to kicking your butt at video games like I always used to do,” he says and we all burst into laughter again.
“Challenge accepted Josh,” I say. “Challenge accepted.”
“You boys think you’re big shots huh?” Martina says. “Well I bet none of you can beat me. I’m still an old pro.”
“Yeah right,” I say as I put my arm behind her chair. “You always used to cheat.”
“No I didn’t,” she says. “You’re just bitter.”
“If being right means being bitter then call me a lime my dear,” I say and she shakes her head as they all laugh.
My dad gets off his seat again. “Can we step into my office again? There’s something we need to clear up.” We all get up but I notice that Josh is still typing away at his computer.
“You too Josh,” I say to him.
“Me?” he asks.
“Of course,” I say. “You’re family.”