Prompt: You receive a weird text message from an unknown number when you’re walking home one night. It says, “You now have the chance to go back in time and change one memory. You have five minutes to decide.” What happens next?
Against The Dying of the Light
She had never thought her beloved Land Rover would break down, but lo behold it had happened. Alice slammed the car door and stomped down the road – no one could pick her up, and it was still two miles home.
Envisioning the steadily-cooling macaroni cheese on the table only made her hungrier, and she sighed, plugging her headphones into her phone. One ear bud dangled uselessly, and she tucked it into her jacket.
She debated about jogging home, but voted for hitch-hiking instead. Thumb sticking into the road, she continued to trudge, her Land Rover casting a long shadow and mixing with hers.
The knife slid into the sheath sewn into her boot moulded comfortably against her calf; the gun was only a light weight on her hip. Although they were reasonably safe in the little town, Alice still kept her trained eyes peeled for assassins.
Rose-red, short hair bounced lightly to the music. Pearl-white teeth gnawed on chapped lips as she thought about Cal’s newly-discovered school report. He was falling behind – and rapidly. The worst thing was, he knew it, and she suspected that was why he had cooked dinner. Not his parent but still technically responsible for him, she dreaded the talk to come.
The music paused for a moment to omit a short ‘dingle’ sound. Without faulting her stride, Alice reached into her pocket, still keeping an arm outstretched. Cars had passed, but none stopped.
Quickly typing in her password, she clicked on the message button. ‘Unknown’ was listed as the ID and she opened the message with trepidation, all thoughts of hitch-hiking lost as she stopped on the grass verge. So many ransom messages came through unknowns she already had a hand reaching for her ear piece.
But the message was completely different to what she expected.
‘You now have the chance to go back in time and change one memory,’ it read. ‘You have five minutes to decide.‘
Scoffing, Alice’s finger hovered over the ‘delete’ button, but she hesitated for a moment. Changing a memory? She had so many terrible ones, it would be difficult to know which to change.
The message was probably just some chain mail. Still, she sat on the browning grass and traced the number.
Nothing. The number was just ‘0’ and the location came up as asterisks in the middle of the sky. Alice’s pulse rose. She fought to keep her heart rate level, and glanced behind her, certain there was someone watching in the darkness, checking to see she took the bait.
Whizzing around the corner, a car made her jump. She tensed, nerves on edge, ready to run – something she hadn’t felt the instinct to do for years. Briefly, she wondered what her family – her new family, she reminded herself – would have said.
Then she pushed the thought away. She didn’t want to think about Scott’s laughter, or Janie rolling her eyes, or Oscar asking after her. She especially didn’t want to think about letting Cal down.
Instead, she drew her knife and stared at her reflection in the glinting silver, the dying light providing just enough to see. Auburn hair from her grandmother. A cheeky smile from her uncle. Her mother’s nose, her father’s hands holding the carefully carved blade.
The originals of those features were dead and buried. She couldn’t bring them back, but she could forget them, forget the pain…
No, one memory. She could change the pattern of blood splatters on the wall, the silent-screaming mouths, the battered doors.
She could forget it was her fault.
Alice’s stomach knotted, her palms began to sweat and her vision blurred. Blinking heavily, she took a breath and leaned back, wiping her hands on the dead grass.
Forgetting it was her fault, changing it to be a freak accident, would be incredible. Maybe the physical weight she often found pressing on her slender shoulders would finally lift. She could wake without guilt hanging on her heart strings like dying stars on the thin fabrics of the universe.
For a moment, she couldn’t wait for the change. Then she wondered how it would warp her memories. Would she forget who killed her family? She still wanted to avenge their deaths.
And surely she’d relearn eventually? Journals were littered with letters of regret to her dead relatives, her own thoughts on the matter in others – she even had one dedicated to the tracking of every single killer.
Alice reopened the text message. Thumb over the red ‘delete’ button, she jammed it down, and the message disappeared.
Brushing off her jeans and sheathing the knife, Alice stood, just as as car drove past; the driver honked and pulled over. “Alice!” Scott seemed genuinely delighted to see her, and Alice forced a smile.
“Hey,” she said, opening the car door and sliding in, “I thought you were working?”
“I was,” he replied cheerfully, “but then Cal offered mac and cheese. How could I say no?” Alice rolled her eyes. “What’s wrong?” She’d clearly underestimated how sensitive he was to other people’s emotions.
“Oh, nothing,” she said breezily, tensing her calf against the knife. “Have you seen Cal’s school report?”
Thanks for reading! 😀 I hope you liked it. As always, feedback would be appreciated!
And sorry, I kinda found this one quite boring (compared to others). It just seemed like it was all of Alice’s inner thoughts, no action, nothing more…eh. I wrote something anyway so y’know. 🙂