The Memory Chamber by S.J. Budd

“If you want to proceed, you’ll need to sign here.” Jennifer James took the pen and consent form in her shaking hands, “Has someone gone over the risks with you? I must remind you how dangerous this can be.”

“Yes, yes, that I could lose all my memories for good and become a vegetable, blah, blah, blah.”

Dr Fawcett pushed up his heavy spectacles, “Yes exactly, there are many risks. Memories define us, they build our identity and shape our behaviours…”

“And destroy us completely,” Jennifer sighed and handed back the signed form, “Look doctor, I’ve spent the last ten years drinking from every bottle and scavenging for any drug, my mind is half unravelled anyway. I’m the perfect guinea pig, so let’s get on with this.”

“If you’ve spent the last ten years trying to wipe your memories why are you so keen to re-find them now?”

Jennifer looked down at the recent scars across her wrists and quickly tried to cover them up, Dr Fawcett nodded and understood, “That method doesn’t seem to be working. My shrink said I should gain some closure and sent me to you.”

The room suddenly seemed quieter and smaller, more constricted, Jennifer hated doctors, she hated their questions. Thinking was something she didn’t like doing anymore. “The sweetest memories are also the most painful. Look doctor I know I aint got long left, but there’s a few I want to see one more time. Hopefully they’ll kill me for good this time.”

Dr Fawcett shrugged, “As you wish. We’ll begin straight away.”

A tired overworked nurse came in at the Doctor’s command and wordlessly ushered Jennifer out of his office and down the empty sterile corridor that smelt of cleanliness to the trial area. Plush carpets were replaced with linoleum floors and bright unflinching lights that burned into her retinas.

Jennifer couldn’t believe her luck that she had been selected for the trial. Even to her drug addled mind she could see how this would be revolutionary. A new drug that allowed you access to all your memories from birth onwards. Nothing in life would ever be a mystery again, all the answers could be found with this new drug. She was going to be one of the first to try it out.

She trembled slightly as she was tied down onto an uncomfortable hospital bed with brown leather straps, she was used to this procedure but it still gave her chills to be restricted like this. It reminded her of all those bad times, of how she had ended up in this psychiatric ward.

Jennifer waited, unable to move as they prepared her dose in silence. She felt that slight pricking in her arm as the injection was administered before being wheeled out and placed in a small isolation chamber and left there alone in the darkness.

She waited.

“Jimmy? Are you there?”

As the drug took effect there was a mighty shudder from deep inside her abdomen that threatened to split apart her hips, the blinding pain took control and she screamed out in pain and ecstasy. No one had come to check up on her. Surely they could hear? Jennifer cried out once more she hoped there wasn’t something wrong with her dosage.  Her vision turned to white and the pain quickly subsided as if it had never been there at all.

And there he was, all pink, blubbery and helpless, cradled in her arms. The most perfect child to have ever been born: her child. Her Jimmy.

Jennifer’s body shook with delight as she relived all her precious moments with him, his first smile, his first babble, the first time he ran onto her arms, the way he would hold her tight after hurting himself. The feel of him cuddled up to her on the sofa as they watched TV together and stroking her long hair. How could she have ever forgotten that special way in which he looked into her eyes last thing at night, like she was the only person in his world.

These were the good memories, but over time they had hurt the most. It had been so long since she had allowed herself to think of him but always he was there in her mind, just out sight, painfully out of reach. She vowed to remember these moments forever, this was her life now. She could not go back to the dreary pain and existence afforded to her outside this chamber. This was how she wanted to be.

The drug took control as she remembered all the moments she had spent with Jimmy, her only child. Her bliss transcended to an overwhelming feeling of completeness that no drug could ever give her. This was natural, this drug was a miracle cure, and she had found everything which she had lost.

Until finally she woke up.

Except she was not awake, this was it. Dr Fawcett had told her that she would have had control over which memories she could access that she would not have to relive the ones she did not want to. He could never contemplate just how dark some of her memories were. She had feared this one would eventually surface and now she desperately fought against it.


She tried to remember his funny little run he had, when he’d just learnt how to walk, the way in which he used to wave at her when she returned in the mornings. Her arms and legs shook in retaliation trying to wake herself before the inevitable took hold.

It was a Sunday morning, the worst day where the entire excesses of the week finally caught up with her, she had finally sobered up to face reality. She had not made it to bed but was on the sofa sleeping under her torn denim jacket, her head rattled from drink and the room began to spin as she tried to navigate her clumsy limbs off the sofa. Jennifer had no recollection of the night before, or whom she had spent it with, only that it now hurt and that the only way to stop the flooding feelings of utter shame and guilt was to carry on with the half empty bottle of whisky in front of her.

Jimmy bundled in the front room, all hurricane and torque, “Mummy, mummy, can I have some juice? Mummy, mummy I’m hungry. Play with me mummy. Take me to the park.”

“Jimmy can you just be quiet for ten minutes, Mummy’s got a headache! Go and play somewhere else. I’ll fix you up with breakfast when I’m less poorly.” Jimmy looked down and gently tugged at her elbow, she smacked his little hand away and turned over, back to sleep. He was always bothering her first thing. Could he not see she was tired?

“Oh Jimmy! I’m so sorry.” Jennifer struggled in vain against the drug as it took her closer.

Her next memory was of waking up late afternoon the same day, it was much later. She had not intended to sleep for so long. A day she unfortunately remembered all too well.

Straight away in the pit of her stomach, Jennifer was struck by how quiet it was in the house. There were no cartoons being played on the TV, there were no noises of a little unsupervised child running around loose in their small flat. There was nothing.

“Jimmy?” Jennifer got up by balancing herself against the sofa and shuffling out into the hall way which was spinning rapidly out of focus, “Jimmy? Answer me now?”

A car screeched to a sudden halt outside, it sounded so clear, so near. She turned as she felt a cold breeze shiver upon her back. It felt refreshing until she realised their front door was ajar and Jimmy’s coat and boots were gone.

“Jimmy! Jimmy No!”

She had no more memories of Jimmy after that last moment. Her body was shaking uncontrollably and her head felt like it was fit to burst. She felt a tremendous pain take over her, the pain of loss, it was too much to bear and then like before her vision went white and she woke up on the sofa, it was Sunday morning and her head hurt like hell…..

“No, no, no.” She begged for release but the drug was still rampant running free churning out all her memories like a burglar ransacking a home.

“Quick we’re losing her.” Doctor Galton ordered as Jennifer was rushed out of the isolation chamber and down the corridor to an emergency resuscitation room. Dr Fawcett hovered in the background scribbling on his clipboard of notes, “Why didn’t you raise the alarm earlier Dr Fawcett?”

“I doubt there’s much we can do with this one. Her liver was already on its way out.” Dr Fawcett replied calmly.

“Oh was this the junkie?” One of the nurses asked, “Still I think you’ve given her too much. This was her first dose.”

“She still deserves to live, c’mon we must keep trying,” ordered Doctor Galton trying to have Jennifer resuscitated.

“Does she? She had a son once, I looked in her notes. It’s why I chose her, she has a very colourful past, this one. She couldn’t look after him properly and he died aged three, got hit by a car. At least it was instant for him.”

“That’s awful.” The nurse said.

“Well, she’s stabilised for now, she’ll need a CT scan to assess for any brain damage, or activity. But in my opinion I think she’s brain dead. Something happened in there.” Dr Galton offered in explanation.

Dr Fawcett played with his bushy moustache, “I see, but I still have need of her, take her to my ward.”

The nurse looked stunned but offered up no resistance, “As you wish Dr Fawcett.”

Dr Fawcett returned to his office and pulled out the Dictaphone from inside his walnut desk and began to speak his mind.

“Memories are a funny thing. You can’t stop them once they’re unleashed running around in your mind and your body, the slightest smell, noise or  feeling of déjà vu will bring them back. They can never be truly forgotten. My research has shown that not only is this new drug a force for good where conditions like Alzheimer’s and Amnesia can be cured, it can also be a forceful weapon for those who should never forget what they have done.”

Dr Fawcett sighed, what was the use he asked himself. He knew already that straight away this new drug would be instantly banned under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, but he was still determined to go ahead anyway. To punish the sorts of people that were responsible for the death of his wife ten years ago. Robbed and killed by hungry junkies for the ten pounds she had in her wallet that day.

There was a knock on the door, Dr Galton came in looking dishevelled still in his blue scrubs. He came right up to Dr Fawcett sitting behind his desk.

“It’s not right keeping Jennifer alive, she’s brain dead. The kindest thing to do for her now is to turn off her machine. What do you still want with her?”

“Doctor Galton may I remind you that I have authority here, she is my patient and she signed the consent form. I could do anything I like to her.”

“You’re sick,” Dr Galton spat as he stormed off.

Dr Fawcett smiled and took out his Dictaphone once more.

“What’s really remarkable about this drug, it that not only are all the patient’s memories experienced from birth accessible but that it’s possible to select which ones they have access to. It is the most horrifying and painful memories that are most often supressed by the test subjects but these can be found by giving a higher dosage. Once they are released back into the conscious stream so to speak, it is possible for the patient to relive them over and over again as long as the high dosage is maintained.”

There was another knock of the door as a nurse entered.

“What have you got for me Elaine?”

“We have stabilised Ms Jennifer James, though she’s still in a coma, Doctor Galton says she’s brain dead but her pulse is still elevated and there’s some occasional flickering being observed in her eyelids and fingers.”

“Good,” He pressed the record button once more.

“It is my hypothesis that memories are so powerful that they can still be experienced when the patient has become brain dead. Effectively they will keep on reliving the same memories they spent their whole life trying to erase, over and over again. Such a marvellous thing.”

“Shall we turn her off? No one will come to claim her.” The nurse asked.

Dr Fawcett grinned, “No let’s leave her on, and up her dosage. All she has left are her memories.”


  1. Just read Deadmans Tome. Excellent! It keeps you wondering about the outcome and hoping that it’s not horiffic! Unfortunately, it is, and the reader’s worst fears are realised!

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