Harold C. Jones
Rod’s eyes flickered open.
The tech lady beamed from her suite of advanced electronics as Dr. Ridgeway extended a hand to help him sit up.
Another assistant, this one a real non-entity, breathed loudly, right up beside his right ear as they unplugged leads and cords and sensors from his chest and head.
“Thank you, Doctor.” Rod’s head swam a little bit.
His eyes went from right to left and back again.
“We just need to ask you a few simple questions, Rod. How are you feeling?”
“Fine, Doc. What’s up?”
“How many fingers am I holding up?”
“Four. So, what’s going on?” He looked around in curiosity, feeling slightly woozy with the sudden head movements.
“Well, it’s just that you've had a little procedure.”
“I did?” A look of awe crossed Rod’s face. “What procedure was that?”
“In compliance with a pre-sentence agreement between yourself and the public prosecutor’s office, you have been mind-wiped by order of the court.”
“What? You’ve got to be kidding me—I don’t remember anything like that.” He had no idea of how he got here, for that matter—
“Yes, sir. There are things you need to know. You are now a free man. You are a citizen in good standing. Your previous criminal history has been expunged. We have removed all memories which would tend to reinforce certain potential outcomes in or of your release, including any previous criminal acts that you, the subject, may have committed. Do you understand what I have just told you?”
“Ah—no.” Rod stared, the others in the room were a lot more sober looking now.
The doctor sighed.
“Okay, Rod, it’s not unusual to feel a certain disorientation after mind-wipe. Basically, you were going to be sent to jail for a very long time. In exchange for mind-wipe, which you agreed to do, you are now being given the chance to start over. You’re a free man.”
“What?” He had heard of it though—somewhere.
Somebody he knew, maybe. A friend, or somebody close to him. He just couldn’t put a name or a face to it.
“Rod, it’s probably best if we don’t tell you too much about your previous life. We want you to have the best possible chance to succeed in your new life. Right? You’re what, twenty-seven? Yeah, it sure beats doing life in prison with no possibility of parole for what, thirty years? Something like that. In fact, we can’t even tell you about your case, or what might have happened before, or anything at all like that, okay?”
Rod finally raised his hand and the doctor hauled him up out of what looked like a dentist chair from the twenty-fifth century.
“No…this can’t be.”
“What’s interesting, Rod, is that you still have all memories of family members, your ex-wife, your daughter. All of your childhood friends, employers, co-workers, aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews. Anyway, sir, you seem pretty alert to us, and it looks like we’re good to go.”
The doctor lifted an arm, indicating the big stainless-steel door at the end of this operating theatre.
“It’s time to go, Rod.”
“Anywhere, Rod. Anywhere you want. And again, let me just say, congratulations.”
The mouse-faced assistant, grey and smelling oddly, had their hand on the knob. She attempted a smile, but got no response from a shocked Rod.
They pulled the door open as the doctor took him by the wrist, and using a gentle kind of shoulder-lock walked him to the door.
“Doc! Doc! Where am I? Where are we going?”
“Your old neighbourhood is about eight blocks up the street. Turn to the right as you go out the door and then again at the end of the passage. Good luck, and God Bless, Rod.”
He was shoved out into an alley, smelling strongly of the latrine that it undoubtedly was. Confronted by the blank brick wall of the building across the way, he had two choices. He could go left, and try and get as far the hell away from there as possible. Or he could turn right. And go home—whatever that meant.
There was a police robot off to his left, it was watching him and he felt uneasy, downright scared if someone were to ask him.
Sooner or later it would come over and tell him to move along or arrest him for something or other. In that sense, nothing much had really changed.
Rod turned right and started walking.
A whole new start?
He had no idea of what that meant.
He had nothing, to his knowledge, but the shoes on his feet, the shirt on his back and a stomach that was beginning to rumble.
It was nothing but a big alley, and he turned right when he got to the end. He knew where he was instantly—they hadn’t taken that away from him.
“Well, well, well.” He sighed deeply, pausing a moment and drinking it all in. “A whole new start, eh.”
It was either that or strangle himself with his own hands, right on the spot.
For whatever reason, he began walking again.
Right back into the same old ghetto that had spawned him.