As a Memory Jumper, Adelaide can edit, delete, and add memories in peoples’ brains. However, her talent is merely a weapon in the hands of her narcissistic mother, Fawn, who uses it to make an income in less-than-ethical ways. But when Adelaide meets Mason, a wannabe inventor obsessed with fixing things, he dares Adelaide to speak up for herself.
The Memory Jumper is a dark fantasy novel. Rapunzel meets The Giver in this thrilling, heartbreaking novel about a girl who just wants to be free.
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You are not free
The questions are rhetorical
You should’ve known that
Take on the facade
That it’s okay
You have no other choice
Your cage is large
There are others worse off than you
It takes me a minute to remind myself that the red paint dripping from the table isn’t my own blood. It glows unnaturally in the light of my single white LED lantern.
In moments like this, the best thing to do is just remain silent. If you don’t move, they can’t see you. I think I read that about a dinosaur.
“Where—did—I—tell you— this— goes?” The woman in front of me speaks words of rabid fangs, the light from my lantern spilling across her face and making it just as harsh as the hangman’s noose look in her eyes.
Disappear. Disappear. But I’m still here.
“I’m sorry, Fawn.” My voice gets lost in my terror, and only squeaks come out. This only irritates her more. She towers over me, both in actual height and presence. She’s a rhinoceros; a tiger; an elephant, a . . . cow? Why did I think of that? The thought makes me want to laugh, which makes me want to smile, which makes me actually smile for just a second.
Too late. She’s seen. “You think this is funny?”
I close my eyes. I breathe in and out. I start another list of animals Fawn is like. A weasel; a bear; a . . . it’s pointless. No animal compares to her.
I almost wish she’d hit me, just to get it over with. But Fawn’s game is primarily in the mind. It’s a poisonous, invisible game that makes me sometimes wonder if I’m a tinge insane. It’s a symptom-less sickness.
Instead, she tosses the rest of the paint tubes, palettes, and paintbrushes off of my desk.
I retreat inside of my mind. I wonder if normal humans can do this. Just because I’m a Memory Jumper doesn’t mean other people don’t lock themselves inside their minds during stuff like this.
I wonder what’s going through Fawn’s mind.
She leaves me to clean up the mess. The red paint mixes with blue, green, and a little ochre.
Good. No blood.
I’ve curled up in a corner of my room, the farthest corner. The farthest corner in the farthest room in the house. I pretend it’s my safe corner, but that’s a lie. I flip through a novel about the Titanic, my lantern lighting each page. I touch every face in every picture. These are my friends.
I toss it aside, then pick up a field guide to sparrows. These are my friends too.
You know what all these pictures show? What they speak of? Mothers. And something called maternity. Lots of the books I’ve read talk about mothers. Well, Fawn is the closest thing I have to that. She’s only a couple years older than me but I’ve always known her as mother. She’s provided for me and guided me; she’s installed herself as the mother figure of my life.
Not that I call her mom.
A knocking sounds from above me. It’s the hollow thunk of someone pounding on metal. I wait for the familiar rhythm: thunk, tap tap, thunk, tap, thunk, stomp. My heart rate rises, but I think I’m okay. She should be calm by now after some time in The Outside.
I put my third book down—a thrilling collection of codes—and make my way to the elevator. I press a button on the wall and wait like a loyal pet. I always have to wait and say hi or she’ll throw a fit.
From what Fawn has told me, it’s both an elevator and a teleporter. She rarely uses the elevator, afraid that it would be easier for people to track us back here if she travels above-ground. Instead, she takes advantage of the teleporter.
We live underground in a concrete box. It’s dark in most places, but cozy. I’ve never had reason to complain. I’m not allowed outside because of my value. If everyone knew about my powers, they’d be flying at me fast as mosquitoes on standing water. People would try to kidnap me, misuse me.
I don’t want that. And neither does Fawn.
So I stay inside, all day. I do my school, get that over with. Then the rest of the day is mine for the taking. Fawn’s been kind enough to allow me to do pottery. I have all my supplies in what was supposed to be a closet. Every day I go in there and make plates, bowls, vases, and jewelry holders. She sells them in the city and we get a little extra money through that. I love it because it makes me feel in control for once.
But I wish I could be the one selling my items. I want to run a booth, to help people pick out the perfect gift for their loved one or wrap it in colorful tissue paper.
The elevator opens with a cheerful ding. Fawn’s eyes meet mine, calculating, measuring, evaluating—always stripping the subject of all its coverings, revealing motive and areas of lacking.
I’ve never met someone with eyes that are so exactly described as circles; it’s like those old-time-y cartoon characters. I think Fawn was their inspiration, except her eyes don’t make her look goofy. She has two modes: a cold, aloof innocence or a shrinking, empty anger.
Fawn nods at me as she steps out of the elevator with an elderly woman. Her brunette hair is perfectly parted down the middle, so dark it’s almost black. Her skin is a light type of sunkissed brown that I can never attain because I’m kept away from the light; I can’t ever remember being outside in my eighteen years of life.
I’m glad she has a client; she can’t be mad at me in front of a client.
The woman sways a bit, her face swollen in wrinkles, her eyes clouded over with time. She doesn’t say a word as Fawn grabs one of her arms and helps remove her from the elevator, and I grab the other arm.
We cross the entryway and enter the main room, a modest area with much-loved cream sofas. Light drops in from above; there’s a skylight cleverly concealed by a pond on top of it. I remember when I was younger and Fawn would press the emergency button, which covered the skylight and sent us into darkness. She’d tell me to be deadly silent; that someone was hunting us. I breathe a little more heavily thinking about it.
One wall is made entirely out of one big screen. I often change it to picture lofty mountains, sparkling oceans, or dense jungles. The pictures move, and sometimes I am lucky enough to find a scene that actually shows people milling around a busy street, or animals walking around nature. But our blind customer does not need to be impressed by any visual stimuli, so I leave it at its current view: the Rocky Mountains mid-winter, carpeted in icy white that looks so plush and delicious I want to both roll in it and eat it at the same time.
I wonder what a mountain would feel like.
“Ms. Dalia, this is my—my daughter, Adelaide.” She says “daughter” like it’s a bad word. I don’t need to go over the story again: how Fawn’s old boyfriend, a firefighter, saved me from a nasty housefire during the governmental overthrow in my infancy. The chaos lasted for over two years, and thousands of people died. When America resurfaced, it became a monarchy, in the hands of the Alnwick family.
Fawn’s boyfriend was the one that, as Fawn always tells me, “whined me into adopting you.” And then, at the age of three, I Memory Jumped into Fawn’s mind. I don’t remember what I saw, and I have never Memory Jumped into her mind again. She doesn’t let me. In fact, she gets angry if I ever try.
At first, Fawn thought I was some kind of witch . . . but she was a single woman with hardly any source of income. So she began selling my “service” when I was only five.
I can’t blame her, and I don’t. I think it’s pretty ingenious of her, in fact. At least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself for years.
If you tell yourself a lie enough times, it’ll eventually be nothing but truth.
“Nice to meet you,” I say to the old woman.
The old woman turns her head towards me. I wonder if she’d mind knowing she’s being recorded. Fawn has cameras here in the living room, in my bedroom, and in my pottery room. I try to forget about that. “Nice to meet you, doll.”
“Ms. Dalia has Alzeimers and will eventually lose her memory. She has already lost her husband. She would like you to erase all her memories: except one.”
I’ve had clients like this before. Clients who have diseases that will terminate their memory or their lives. Clients who simply want to live in a beautiful memory. I don’t quite understand it myself; how could one memory be wonderful enough for it to be replayed over and over again?
I always feel a bit guilty about these tasks. It’s hard for destroying something to feel right. But it’s what Ms. Dalia wants.
And Fawn has made me do far worse things.
“Which memory would you like to keep?” I ask. Ms. Dalia reaches into her clutch, an antique thing made of granny-approved patchwork stars and stripes. A memento of our old regime. She retrieves a piece of paper, crumpled a bit from its journey but still legible.
“I had my nurse write this down as I dictated.”
I take the paper and read it. My heart warms at the words; I curl the paper in my hand, tilting my head.
“This is a good choice,” I say. Ms. Dalia smiles as if my approval has cemented her decision.
“Thank you, Miss Adelaide.” I stick the note in my pocket and wipe my hands on my jeans. I always get sweaty palms before Memory Jumping. In fact, I get sweaty palms before anything involving my always-bound-up nerves. I’m always aware of what will happen if I fail.
“Are you ready, ma’am?” Fawn asks. Her voice sounds patient, but she’s as tense as a coiled-up slinky. Fawn likes to get them in, get them out, quick.
“Yes. Yes.” The old woman runs her pointy, crinkly finger along the stitches of a proud star on her purse. “And all the details are planned out?”
“Absolutely.” Fawn can’t just bring Ms. Dalia back to the nursing home in a stupor. If the old woman were to wake up and only remember one thing, questions would be asked. That’s why Fawn has special contacts, Buddy and Perkins, that can “deliver” people when their conditions have been . . . altered.
Their kind, the Visionaries, have been persecuted and hunted down by the government just like Memory Jumpers. The twins get mad when people dismiss their gift as “fortune-telling.” They are specialists in realities. They report back with alternative realities; it’s up to you to decide which one will actually happen. Of course, Fawn lunged on their gifts just like she did with mine. Being fellow persecutees has drawn us all together, and they’re practically family now.
I like Buddy and Perkins. They’re brothers, so similar you’d think they’re twins. Both slightly overweight, both with a marvelous sense of humor, both with a bit of stubble on their copious chins.
I guess they’re a type of henchmen, but the best and kindest kind there is.
“All right, Ms. Dalia.” Fawn looks at me. She can see the nervousness in my eyes, I know it. I give her a thumbs up so she won’t snap at me later about chickening out. “Thank you so much for allowing us to help you.”
I place one hand on Ms. Dalia’s temple. My hands are always cold, so the old woman gasps a little as they meet her warm forehead. But she doesn’t beg me to stop; at least she doesn’t chicken out.
I close my eyes and focus, really hard. I dig into the core of my brain, the epicenter, imagining a pinpoint. The world fuzzes out, becoming blurry. I can’t feel my hands or legs anymore. In fact, I can’t feel anything except a sizzling in my soul.
Then comes the actual Memory Jumping. I target the center of Ms. Dalia’s brain and then focus my energy on catapulting myself there. The feeling is sharp but not unpleasant. I travel through her brain in a blur of black and white and occasional colors and feelings. I finally land in one of her memory locations.
I have read all about memory in my science books. Most everything is theory; people hardly know how it’s stored, where it’s stored, or why certain memories fade away. And there is certainly nothing about Memory Jumping.
I never think of myself as peculiar until I see the look in my Jumpees’ eyes. The funny thing about people is, we all think we’re normal until we meet other people. Then we realize that this quirk about us is abnormal, and not everyone thinks the way we do.
And that not everyone can Memory Jump as easily as they can whistle or shoot hoops.
Sometimes, people think we’re using black magic. One guy ran out when I placed my hand on his forehead, screaming like the devil himself was on his tail. I saw myself a little differently in the mirror after that.
I jolt back to the task in front of me. I need to search for the memory. I decide to try the bottom part of Ms. Dalia’s memory first, the long term. A golden door appears, shining and certain. Then it shoots out, far away from me, and other doors visualize along a long corridor. My feet reappear, then my legs. Soon I can see and feel my body again.
I’m in Ms. Dalia’s mind.
Almost every door is different in some way. They are all labeled, neat and tidy. Not everyone’s brains are like that. I have been in some brains that were the most disheveled, disorderly things. It’s a good thing I can search for memories when I need to or I would’ve been in there for the rest of my life.
Ms. Dalia’s memories, at least here, are ordered alphabetically by people involved. There are simply names, no explanations as to whom the people were. I stick my fingers into my back pocket and retrieve the piece of paper.
I would like to forever remember the moment I knew David Watersby loved me. We had been just friends up to the time, but one night we went to the movies. We were supposed to go with a group, but they all cancelled last minute so it was just me and David. I was watching the movie when I felt something, and I looked over . . . he was just staring at me. And I don’t mean in a strange way, or even an unmeaningful way.
I swear, when a man looks at you that way, you know he loves you. There’s not a doubt about it. It’s written all over his face.
The car was an aqua Ford.
I was wearing a yellow headscarf and a pink floral dress.
I pass a couple “b” names and continue down the hallway, searching for the d’s. There are a whole lotta “c” names, that’s for certain.
I finally locate the d’s, and Daniel is one of the first. I open the door and see opaque images floating everywhere. They’re all from Dalia’s point of view, of course, tinged with her emotions.
In one, she hugs a younger man tightly, her eyes scrunched as little droplets of water fall down her cheeks. Tears drip down my own cheeks as I melt into the memory. In another image, Dalia sits on a couch, having a serious conversation with the man. A thread of dark purple worry snakes through the memory, which makes me curious. I put my own feelings away and get back to my job. I find a memory in which Dalia wears a yellow dress. She looks out the window at an aqua Ford.
It’s time to do my job.
I close the door. This is the one I need to save. I could destroy all the doors at the same time but it always takes a bit of time for me to get up the courage. I’ll just start out with one; maybe do another one; maybe three.
I don’t know why this is so hard for me. Memory Jumping is what I do. It’s what I was made for.
But something about destroying someone’s memories, even if it is their choice . . . it doesn’t feel right. Maybe it’s because, deep down inside, I know that memories, even painful ones, were made to be kept. They’re what shapes people into who they are.
Before I wimp out anymore, I turn to the door next to this one and rip off the doorknob. It does not come off easily, but it releases with less effort than an actual doorknob. Golden flickers and flashes swallow the door, turning it into golden sparkles.
From amidst the burning destruction, I look at the nameplate again.
And realize I have made a terrible error.