Damon lay on the bed, his eyes still closed. He did not remember how he had gotten here, but he seemed to remember many other things in detail. The cake his mother made on his 5th birthday. The first badge he earned as an Eagle Scout, miscellaneous bit and pieces of a life he felt was his floating through his mind as if they had happened, well, yesterday.
He heard a door open and soon his wrist was contained in a firm but gentle grip. Opening his eyes he saw a man in a white coat taking his pulse.
“Well, good morning, Damon. It’s nice of you to join us.”
“If you know who I am, would you mind telling me where I am?”
“You are in the Molaison Clinic. When you are ready, I will try to explain what has happened to you.”
“Well, I don’t have any appointments that I’m aware of, so now seems to be a good time.”
The man in white made a note on a chart, placed it in a pocket near the door and drew a chair near the bed. As he settled into his seat he introduced himself as Dr. Cat, short for a lovely long Italian name that no one ever got right.
“Well, you see, Damon, you have been suffering from early onset vascular dementia. For, oh, the last two or three years you have been wandering through the world rather incapable of linking things around you with things in your head. You did not recognize people near to you. You could not remember vast portions of your life, you were unable to take care of yourself in any functional way.
Your family was contacted by our clinic in order to conduct a medical trial. Because of your age, you make an excellent subject. You are under 65, in good health, and you have lived a life that was fairly well documented. You have been active in social networks and your photographic history and communications have been maintained in electronic files. We really couldn’t ask for a more perfect subject.”
Damon pushed himself up in the bed, a slight headache making his eyes blur. “At moments like these I have to wonder if it was safe to give a durable power of attorney to my wife. Just what kind of experiment is going on here?”
“Well, you see,” Dr. Cat smiled, “six months ago you didn’t even remember you had a wife.” During the next hour the doctor explained how Damon had been brought to the clinic. How the damage caused by mini-strokes and loss of blood flow had been repaired. Then the doctors carefully encouraged growth of new brain tissue. The last stage was to use new technology to “upload” all the collected electronic data about Damon’s life that his family had been able to gather. It was an effort to “jump start” the hippocampus in to functioning as it should as keeper of memories, a vital part of what makes a person who they are.
During the next week, Damon was tested extensively and, in the end, deemed well enough to return home. Dr. Cat was sure the program was a success and began to plan further studies.
Several weeks later Dr. Cat drove into the Clinic parking lot prepared to start work early. He had received additional funding and was planning his next round of tests. Applications were already coming in. As he approached the door he saw a figure huddled near the threshold, grasping a prescription bottle tightly, rocking back and forth in some apparent fugue.
“Hey, there. Move on, or I’ll call the police.” No response. He approached a bit closer and barely recognized his patient of some weeks before. There was a note pinned to his jacket.
Dear Dr. Cat.
Before you inflict this sort of thing upon another family I beg you to reconsider. We don’t blame you, for who could have known? At least I take comfort in believing you would not have known. Do you have any idea what it is like to live with someone who possesses a perfect memory? What it is like to have everything you have done in the last 20-30 years recited in explicit detail and not always at opportune moments? You cannot shut him up! The moment a memory pops in his head it pops out of his mouth. The consequences can be devastating, I simply can’t go on this way. Oh, and I’m sorry if I did something wrong, but I may have given him too many of his pain pills. I sincerely hope you can help him; but, please, don’t send him back home.”
Sincerely, Mrs. D. Johns.