Charis and her team crashed through the front door of the apartment leaving glass and splinters of wood sprinkled in hallway like confetti at a wedding. An anonymous caller had tipped them of to the abuse of I-Mem devices.
Half a dozen people lay recumbent on chairs and sofas. One girl, sitting with her knees tucked tightly under her chin, was crying softly. She rocked gently from side to side. Unaware of their presence she was lost in an I-Mem trance. Pink electrodes sprouted from her forehead as the transmitter, a small black box she held, hummed gently.
Charis had experienced I-Mem technology just the once, and that under close supervision. It was part of her training. She remembered the room, its cool temperature exacerbated by the white walls and cabinets. Half a dozen monitors, mounted on the wall above the bed beeped a confusion of changing numbers.
Hospital rooms were associated with suffering and death and Charis tried to avoid them. There was nothing about I-Mem technology that warmed her it. Her palms tingled nervously and she swore she could hear the pounding of her heart as she lay down.
The world of genetics had been a mine field for as long as Charis could remember. Scientists might be able to map the sequences and decipher the DNA codes but that did not mean that every message decoded was good news. Granted, the identification and eradication of some diseases had been good for society, but the discovery of I-Mem wasnít.
All of Charisí physical characteristics could be traced back to different strings of code in her DNA. Her intense blue eyes and heavy brows were bestowed by her mother. The dark hair refused to grow beyond her shoulders was her fatherís gift. Character traits were as easily attributed. Having her fatherís patience enabled Charis to be tenacious in her job. The sharp curiosity of her mother was also apparent in how Charis approached her work.
When scientists began wading through the junk DNA that all people possessed, they discovered I-Mem, or inherited memory. Incidents of deja-vu were theorised to be caused by I-Mem. The belief in reincarnation and the ability to recall memories of past lives was also linked to I-Mem. Memories, scientists insisted, were inherited in the same way a child inherited blue eyes or a propensity for violence. Time and the investment of billions in private funds resulted in technology to access I-Mem, allowing people experience the memories of their ancestors.
Sunshine on her face was the first thing Charis had been aware of. It was beyond imagining. So bright was the light that she shielded her eyes with her hand. Liver spots swam into focus. The hand, not hers, was much older, with the skin concertinaed into delicate, paper thin folds. The fingernails were engrained with dirt. Charis was part observer, part participator in someone elseís life for just a moment. Whose life she had no way of knowing.
Kneeling in a garden Charis inhaled air heavy with the fragrance of flowers. A butterfly, a light wisp of wings danced a finger tip away. A fat bee sauntered close by, weaving a drunken path.
Dampness seeped through the knees of her trousers. The deep brown soil was moist and clotted. A tangled coil of a single earthworm disappeared slowly, wet and glistening.
Charis reached down to gather a handful of soil. She had never seen such a rich colour, dark brown to black when saturated in water, lighter and crumbling where the sun had dried it. She could smell the nutrients and feel the power of growth the soil exuded.
Waking to find herself, much like the girl in the apartment, curled into a foetal position, Charis felt tears wet her cheek. Her fists were clenched and a throb of anger burned inside. How dare they, the selfish generations that had lived before her, leave her a barren world to live in? Over farming the planetís natural resources, excessive greed and unbridled violence against other countries had left the following generations with a devastated landscape.
No wonder people chose to loose themselves in the memories of a better world, where the sun shone brightly and the soil was brown. Like a tattoo that refused to fade, the memory of the soil in her hand, her borrowed hand, was always there and the anger it ignited resurfaced periodically.
Charis reached down to check the pulse of the unconscious girl.
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