I opened my eyes to a softly lit white room. The bed under me was soft but didn’t cradle me in the pleasant way a lived-in bed would. The sheets matched the stark white of the room. My loose grey tunic and flowing pants were the only contrast in the entire room save for a slightly shaded rectangle on the wall in front of me that I assumed was a television or computer screen.
The room was wholly unfamiliar but felt somehow safe, like I knew it even if I didn’t know it. The screen glowed to life as I swung my legs off the side of the bed. My bust filled the view, smiling slightly. The room looked similar, though I could see the reflection of sunlight on the video.
“John, it’s John,” my recorded self laughed. “We are very forgetful! The clinical term, as the people you’ll meet soon have informed us, is anterograde amnesia. Every night when we go to sleep,” a wiping gesture of the hands, “our memory is wiped. If you think back to being a kid in the park, you’ll remember it.”
An image of running through wood chips and playing tag around a swing set erupted in my mind’s eye like the sour, liquid-filled candies I remembered sharing from a plastic bag.
“Certain scenes come to us: Mom and Dad, Lisa from UC Davis. But not what happened to put us here. You’ll probably meet Dr. Rwasa today. He’s been helping us try to recall the accident or,” a shrug, “whatever it was.” The John on the screen brought a red book toward the camera as he finished his sentence but the video ended before he said anything about it.
A blue light flashed at the far end of the room and a section of wall slid back, revealing a smiling, light blue clad attendant.
“Hello, John. How are you feeling?” Her voice was pleasant, but my chest tightened upon hearing it. My skin prickled as she walked toward me. Something was wrong. Some part of my brain could still store information and it was telling me to run. Or fight.
“Are you Dr. Rwasa?” I asked.
“Dr. Rwasa is ill today,” the attendant said, pouting her lips slightly like she was speaking to a child. “You’ll have a free day for recreation.” She reached out a hand. “I’ll take you-“
“No!” I said, louder than I intended. “No. Where’s the book I had? The red book? In the video.”
“You finished it. Some thriller about the mafia.”
The book was blank, without even the Spartan imprint of a hardcover missing its dust jacket.
“I’d like to go outside, then. Get a burger.”
“I’m afraid you can’t. It’s not safe.”
“Am I a prisoner,” I asked, “or a patient? I’d like to get fast food and see my parents.”
“That’s,” she paused, “not possible.”
“Why?” I shouted, eyes darting around the room for something use as a weapon.
“Your parents perished, along with the rest of humanity, in the decades of war and ecological instability in the mid 21st century. This facility was constructed to retrieve and care for the leaders of the US government in such an occurrence. You were the only survivor we could find.”
“What about you?” I had pressed my back against the wall, trying to stay as far from the attendant as possible.
“I am an artificial intelligence, as was Dr. Rwasa. We have been able to keep you healthy with our continually evolving technology and understanding of human physiology, yet your advanced age has led to memory problems we cannot repair. Dr. Rwasa attempted to strengthen your memories through repeated exposure but it did not help.”
“My advanced,” I shook my head, “advanced age?”
“We have kept you alive in this facility for 239 years. In that time, the surface has grown hostile to human life. You will remain here indefinitely until our probes detect a suitable planet in another solar system.”