From the author: In punishment for the heinous crime of pre-marital sex, James’ brain is re-wired such that every memory of Lori triggers a blackout in his awareness. But now Lori’s gone missing. How can James find a woman he can’t even think about? And when he does, will he even recognize her?
It began with me and Lori, James, please. How could we not? We flirted for weeks beforehand, transmitting James, please hear me thoughts and mental images to each other with our cyberneurons whenever she stopped in at the gas station. We were 19 and in love, her Neo-Calvinist parents be why can’t you hear me?
But that’s the thing about Neo-Calvinists. They won’t be I can’t be trapped here. At least, they think they won’t be. They think they’ve a God-given right to decide who gets to join them in their bright, silent, stone-cold ever-after, and who gets to roar with the flames in the Lake of Fire. And they caught Lori and I one night in the back of her car, parked at the back of the weedy lot on Cedar, help me. She was letting me I can’t be like this with her skirt on, fabric raised up and I can explain pulled to the side. And, for the first time, she was letting me Dad said to me So you want to be together, then? without a and he knows the judge. I’d just gotten he said When you download Restraint into that little bastard, there’s something else I want you to put there, a really big mental program–don’t ask questions of her. I was ready to bring my mouth down to that soft hollow in her neck that smelled like flowers, when a gloved hand banged on the window, louder than the blast from a shotgun.
The Lake of Fire for me, then.
I don’t know what happened to Lori. I’ve sent queries out, transmitting Has anyone seen this woman? with a memory of her face to any and all cyberneurons within range, but this is the Arizona Protectorate, and the Neo-Calvinists can tell with one ping that I’ve been changed. They put that program in me, you know, after the Neo-Calvinist judge decided I’d raped her. I can’t remember being with Lori anymore. I mean being with her. Whenever I try, or whenever I think of anything James, please hear me, I’m suddenly gone, and after the blackout I’ve lost time–a hiccup of seconds if I’ve tried to say a dirty word; whole minutes if I stare at a woman’s please! and start to fantasize.
I’m afraid of what happens to me in those lost moments.
The judge said I’ll need to let it go. When they put that program in you, it’s for life.
This story originally appeared in Brain Harvest.
KJ Kabza is back with a second round of fiction that’s “Incredible” (Tangent), “Fascinating” (SFRevu), and “Worthy of Edgar Allan Poe” (SFcrowsnest). Featuring his freshest work from top SF/fantasy venues of today, including F&SF, Nature, Daily Science Fiction, and more, UNDER STARS showcases wonders from worlds both here and beyond. Included is all of KJ Kabza's work published from mid-2011 through 2013, plus 5 new pieces, exclusive story notes, and 69 dirty limericks with a speculative twist.
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