False Memory

by Malcolm Flanigan

I’ve been having tremendous flights of déjà vu; that feeling of anxiety spurned by the sudden surfacing of a false memory (if a false memory can indeed surface). The first epiphany scrambled forth while my Chemistry Professor explained radioactive disintegration – the decay, spread across tens of thousands of millennia, of certain radioactive elements into lead. I raised my hand and asked her, “Why do I feel as if I’ve been here before?”

“Because you have,” she responded. 

After class was dismissed, I decided to visit the school-provided Psychologist. I traversed the sprawling, labyrinthine corridors, sifting through aimless anonymity grasping the immense feeling that something was going to happen next – catharsis, perhaps; a purge of all pity and fear, a climax to the quotidian flow of time. But I merely entered a small, dark office and sat in an ornate fauteuil. “Blue velvet,” I thought, “really puts the mind at ease.” An old woman at the front desk was reading a book which bore no title nor author.

“What book are you reading,” I asked, trying to be polite.

“I’m not sure. I’ve been reading it for so long that I’ve forgotten its name,” she said. “Though episodes from it have been manifesting themselves in the everyday.”

“Yes. My problem is similar. Though, I have no recollection of where these memories came from,” I looked at the floor, “I don’t read much.”

When I looked up, the Secretary seemed to no longer be listening, her eyes swept along the lines of words, her face obscured by the book. Suddenly, I felt I no longer wanted to talk to the Psychologist. I didn’t doubt his ability to bring me closer to a state of mental fulfillment, I’m sure all his credentials were legitimate, but I felt inexplicably uneasy, and I realized, looking at the blue velvet cloistering the seat across from me, that it was happening again. I felt the whole of the universe was going to collapse beneath the weight of such familiarity. But before this implosion occurred, the Psychologist appeared, hunched in the doorway of his office, swathed in a dirty suitcoat, a shoelace holding up his hemmed dress pants. Beads tacked above the entryway sulked around his square body and his face was an unrecognizable smudge.

“Can I help you,” he intoned.

I squirmed. The velvet felt like fire. I tried to push out any utterance, from words to confused yawps, but found I couldn’t speak. The Psychologist stepped out into the waiting-room, straightening his back, shadows netting his nebulous face. He looked down at me.

“It’s okay, I think I know what’s troubling you. Is it your dreams?”

I shook my head no.

“Huh.” He looked at his Secretary. “It’s usually the dreams. These kids are prone to a constant subconscious mix of lewdness and violence. It frightens them.”

“Aren’t lewdness and violence one in the same,” the Secretary asked.

He grimaced at her, and replied, “Who’s the Psychologist and who’s the Secretary again?” Looking, then, at me, trembling in the chair, he asked, “Well then? What’s your problem?”

I sighed and forced the phrase: “I keep feeling like I’ve been here before.”

“Like you’ve seen it in a dream, maybe?” He shot a grin at his Secretary, who ignored him.

“No, I don’t think so. I usually dream about women who resemble my mother.” I said. “I’ll bring you my journal some time.”

“Yes, please do,” responded the Psychologist. “Now, tell me when was the last time you felt like you’ve been here?

“Just before we started talking,” I said.

“Interesting.” Humming swelled from the void eclipsing his face. “Have you emerged from any caves lately?”

“I don’t remember.”

“What do you remember?”

I thought about it – the blood that pumped through my veins, and the signals that traveled through the trenches in my spine caused my body to simmer. As the Psychologist and the Secretary bickered, I began to smell opium and hear the rumble of locomotives. Rain and hail were sounding on the roof. A calico cat whispered past my legs and dissipated into the darkening office. The abysmal face seemed to relax and stretch about the room, and the only thing which remained visible was the unsourced, untitled book.


EDITOR FOR MUSIC  - MALCOLM FLANIGAN is a junior at SUNY Albany. They major in English and minor in Creative Writing. Malcolm's work has been published in the SUNY-wide lit-mag, Gandy Dancer, and MVCC's student-run lit-mag, Argus, for which they were also the editor-in-chief.