The first thing Jack Simons remembered was walking into his living room. He stopped and looked back down the short hall that led to the heavy wooden door behind him. He gotten there somehow but could remember nothing about it. After a moment, of confused indecision, he walked back and opened the door…
…and walked back into the living room. Again, he could remember nothing about being outside—it was as if he had jumped forward in time. He was carrying a briefcase that when he opened it, was filled with lesson plans and student assignments. It seemed as if he were a teacher, but it was terrifying that he could not remember where he worked or even what he taught.
He could not even remember the house he was standing in. It seemed spacious beyond his price range, with large, hermetically-sealed windows that looked out onto a narrow lawn, bordered by tall hedges that blocked all further view. The living room furniture was all modern and shiny; he had definitely not picked it out himself. A quick search of the rest of the house revealed a bedroom with a new bed, but his own clothes in the drawers, and a bathroom with his brands of toothpaste and shampoo, all in unopened containers. The kitchen was stocked with everything he normally ate, all in new and unopened packages.
At the other end of the house was another door that looked like the front door. It was locked by some method that bypassed the key and deadbolt. The window next to it looked out onto a front lawn that was also surrounded by a high hedge and a high gate he could not see over.
In the living room on a side table was a laptop, open and logged on to a chat program. The only contact was someone named Sarah. The icon was a gorgeous woman in blue dress. Jack reached over and typed, one-fingered: Hi.
Hi Jack. The reply came almost immediately, as if someone had been waiting for him.
He sat down at the table. Who are you?
I’m Sarah. How do you like the house?
It’s fine, but it’s not mine. Where am I?
You’re in your new home, at least for now. You are part of an experiment in memory, which is why you don’t remember anything beyond a few moments ago. Don’t worry, you volunteered for it.
I don’t remember volunteering for any experiment, Jack wrote.
The familiarity of the reply caused a flash of anger in Jack, but he restrained it. He typed, Just tell me when I can leave.
The experiment will last a few weeks at most. Don’t worry, you have the permission of your principal and school. I know it will probably be hard, but you won’t be able to remember what you do outside and when you’re outside, you won’t remember what you do here.
So you split me into two people, then.
Sort of. It may be difficult, but please remember, you volunteered for this, so follow the rules. Don’t write notes to yourself. Your principal assures me you will never need to bring work home.
So what am I supposed to do? Jack asked.
Whatever you’d like. We provided a selection of books that you requested and the TV is programmed to all your favorite channels. Anything else you need, you can pick up when you go out tomorrow.
So, I’m a prisoner?
There was a slight pause. You can leave at any time. You just won’t remember it when you return.
Do I know you, out there? Who are you?
Just call me Sarah.
The next day the alarm rang at 6:00. Jack considered not getting up. It was hard to worry about a job he could not even remember. Eventually, though, he got up, showered and got dressed. He left the house at 7:30, his briefcase in hand…
…and walked into the house. The clock on the living room wall said 5:22 and he felt tired. The house was as silent as before. He had logged off from the chat with Sarah the night before and turned off the computer, but now it was on again and logged into the chat window.
There was a small pain, lurking somewhere in the back of his mind. As soon as it came into his conscious mind, he realized it was coming from his right armpit. He rubbed at it, but it did not go away. Finally, he went into the bedroom and took off his shirt, wondering if a bee had crawled into his clothes and stung him.
On his side, just below his armpit was a series of tiny red lines that looked as if they had been cut with a razor. They seemed to form letters, but the whole area was red and swollen. He pressed on it, forcing the blood away from the skin and suddenly the red lines stood out. Cameras.
Cameras? Was this a message from himself on the outside? He felt a chill run through him. Sarah had said he could not send messages to himself. Jack looked around and quickly put his arm down.
He went downstairs to the computer. Are you there? he typed.
Yes, Jack. I’m here. How are you feeling today?
How would I know? Listen, are there cameras in this house? Are you spying on me?
There was a pause of half a minute and Jack could see that she started to type and then stopped several times.
Yes, there are some cameras there, just to monitor you for the experiment. You knew there would be when you signed up for this.
Maybe the me out there knew, but you could have told the me in here. Are you’re watching me while I take a piss?
No, there are no cameras in the bathroom. We respect your privacy.
Yeah, sure they did, he thought. They put him in a bugged house and left out the bathroom for the sake of his privacy? He went into the bathroom and flipped his middle finger at the mirror, the light and anywhere else he thought could hide a camera. Then he went back to the computer.
Did you see that?
See what, Jack?
Yeah, right. Suddenly everything that she said seemed sinister. He looked around the room and then slammed the laptop shut.