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  Viper Wire by Richard Kadrey

Confessions of a Mnemonist

In the morning it's Mad Love with the dregs of last night's vodka. In the afternoon, a couple of lines of Crazy Ivan with a port chaser and maybe a tab of Sky Saw to turn on the flood lights in my skull and drown out the world with white electric jitters. This ain't no party. This ain't no disco. This is medicine, son. I'll take Crazy Ivan migraines over drooling Haldol fuzzouts any day (Haldol turns you to warm pudding, but doesn't numb the memory centers and what's the use of annihilation when old Dragnet episodes keep streaming at you through the fog?). I need to turn off the past. To escape the third grade. Summer barbecues. The snows of Stalingrad. The day God drowned the world.

Fun facts to know and tell: I've never lost a key, a glove or a sock.

Forget. Forget. Forget. Be a mouse. So small. So quick to live and die. Live in the now. Be like the Buddha. Hum mane padme hum.

I am the past on two legs. I am history's broken-back coolie. They showed me MRI glossies of my brain (January twenty-first, nineteen ninety-nine, two forty-four p.m.), bright and colored like an infant's first crayon scrawl. Those swollen overheated temporal lobes and medulla oblongata. The poison fish swimming in my cerebral fluid.

I am a mnemonist. I donít forget. I can't. Junkies have heroin. I have every pitiful moment and sensory experience of my life. Fuck your diaries and your datebooks. I have the facts, cold and hard and burning like dry ice crammed behind my eyes. I'm drowning. Sinking in black seas of fishstick school lunches, first kisses, old songs, a brown shoestring I broke on March fourth, nineteen seventy-eight.

Drugs ease my pain, but they're not enough. Sometimes the desire for obliteration is like slow seduction. Suicide smells like fresh-cut daisies and tastes like candy. What kind? You name it. I know them all, remember every gummy treat, fruity goo and chocolate you-name-it I ever tasted.

I remember every pill and electroshock session in the King's County Hospital (the taste of the rubber bit in the my mouth so I wouldn't bite my tongue, the nurse's blue eyes which were like the blue of icebergs which were like the blue on Dutch ceramics which were imperfect like the Indian bones we saw at the Museum of Natural History, June thirtieth, nineteen fifty-seven, which was the year they arrested Ed Gein and he had a lot of bones in his house…). You see what I mean? Imagine eating Proust's madeleine a hundred times a day.

While "curing" me, the doctors magically figured out how to make my condition worse. Hypnotherapy sessions with Dr. Janice Elizabeth Cruz, left-handed, black-haired, a mole on her left ear. She buried me in my past, looking for childhood traumas, sexual abuse, gruesome head injuries. Dr. Cruz jimmied and kicked in the doors of my consciousness, looking for a reason or an excuse for what I was.

She broke something in the attic of my brain. Opened a door I can't close. Other people pay a fortune for this and call it "past life regression." Who were you in former lifetimes? I know who I was. Those babbling strangers exploded into my head like a volcanic eruption. Boiling memories of a hundred lives poured into my skull, a bright and burning magma of recollection. Armies. Whale hunting on ice floes. Desert sands, like oceans of gold. Sea voyages with hard tac for food. Leprous sores, fevers and aneurysms. Wives, husbands, children and friends gone to dust, history's fodder. Horses, trains, airships, burning longboats. I knew the story of every scar on my body. Now I know the scars of a hundred. I remember God's great flood. Ice Ages flowing and receding. Dying in snow, fire and water in countries that haven't existed for a thousand years.

I need to forget. Undo time. Rewind consciousness. Help me. Smother me. Distract me with your bright lies, your sweet sex, your chemical dreams (the first dream of my first life, still in the crib: darkness, milk, the dusty scent of my mother's breasts; my dream last night: burning water, needles in my eyes, the puttering of the little engine that's my heart beating; it's beaten 7200 times as I've written this and I remember each and every beat). Kiss me or kill me. As long as this moment lasts, the others won't come. Is that too much to ask? I want a single moment that is itself and nothing else. Don't let me drift away and get lost in sunny pre-school playgrounds, Moroccan souks, mud trenches behind German lines, blacksmith shops, the claustrophobic stink in the belly of slave ships, the black death, herds of mammoths.

I am less than the sum of my shattered parts. I am everything that has ever happened to this body (these bodies). I am nothing.


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Richard Kadrey is a member of a small group of innovative writers, including William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, Pat Cadigan, Tom Maddox, and others, who changed the face of science fiction in the 1980s. He also creates art. He lives in San Francisco.

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