Science Fiction & Fantasy

CHOSEN ONES

Advertisement

Fiction

The Shadow Prisoner’s Dilemma

Vivian sat at a café opposite Cass. Everything around her had a gritty, dingy quality. Even Cass looked run down, their face deeply tanned and distressingly wrinkled. They were old now, many decades past being the child that Vivian remembered. She looked down at her hands, so different than the black shadows that she’d grown accustomed to seeing during all her years as a Shade—the skin was covered in age spots and hung loose on the bones. The overhead light flickered, and there were crumbs on one corner of the table. Vivian brushed them away and reached for her can of CitrusSoda.

NOW PLAYING IN FULL SENSORY IMMERSION: THE SHADOW PRISONER’S DILEMMA

The words appeared in the corner of Vivian’s field of view when she opened the can. Advertisers were getting bolder again, pushing new avenues now that they weren’t allowed to generate fake Citizens to use as targeted adbots. The CitrusSoda can had the advertisement printed on the side so that even people who had removed their Personal Implanted Perception chips would see it, which was ridiculous because without a PIP you couldn’t experience movie immersions.

“I’d like to go,” Vivian told Cass. “Maybe with Brooke?”

“Mum doesn’t do immersions,” Cass said, “not since Amelia had her PIP out.”

“Is Brooke avoiding me?” Vivian saw Cass nearly every day, but her wife . . . her now-remarried wife . . . she saw rarely.

“No, Mom.” Cass put their hand on Vivian’s shoulder. “She’s just trying to balance between reconnecting with you and not hurting Amelia. Give me a minute to ping Mark and let him know I’ll be late getting home, and I can take you to the theater.”

Back before the fall of ZimCorp, immersive movies premiered on grand opening nights with stars and producers dressed in expensive designer overlays. As one of the inspirations for this new movie, Vivian might have been invited to the premier, and she could have worn a gown like the ones she saw back at Illusions Formalwear, half a lifetime ago.

“I once saw a ballgown made entirely of tiny gears. I could have worn it, if they still had big premiers and designer overlays.”

“They had a premier a few weeks ago, but there’s not as much money in immersives these days so it was a smaller affair. Kids aren’t getting PIPs, and not all of the older generations kept them. And the end of personal overlays is a good thing. Are you sure you want to do this?” Cass asked. “The movie is partly based on your life. Your therapist says it might be disorienting.”

“I’m disoriented anyway, who cares?”

Cass laughed.

The theater was as dilapidated as all the other buildings in the yet-to-be renovated neighborhood. It was on the endless list of city projects that had piled up while overlays rendered cosmetic maintenance unnecessary. The inside was plain, which hardly mattered because once the customers were immersed in the world of the movie, they lost track of the real world. Immersive theaters were one of very few holdovers from the ZimCorp era, a place where people could voluntarily have the kind of manufactured reality that the revolution had worked so hard to dismantle.

“These are our seats,” Cass said, gesturing to a pair of drab chairs. The theater was mostly empty, though there was an elderly couple near the front, holding hands as they stared off into space together. A theater staff member sat reading an ancient printed-on-paper book at the front of the room.

Vivian sat down and logged into the theater, and Cass carefully checked the theater’s licenses and permissions before allowing limited-time access to their PIPs through the security menus of their wristbands. The difference between good PIPs and bad PIPs was all in who controlled the filters, though Vivian supposed that letting people choose what they wanted to see was not without its own problems.

“All your usual settings?” Cass asked.

“Yes.” Vivian’s hearing and vision were both starting to go, so she liked to reduce environmental sound levels to hear voices better and increase the size and contrast of words and images. The younger generation was avoiding PIPs entirely because of the ways they’d been misused, but the features would be lost with the flaws.

“Ready?” Cass asked. “I’ll start us together so we’ll be in sync.”

They would get synchronized sensory inputs, but they would process them based on their past experiences, add their own thoughts and impressions. Vivian supposed people also did that with the old-fashioned non-immersive movies that were making a comeback, though with those it was usually clearer which things were on the screen and which were in the viewers’ minds.

“I’m ready.”

• • • •

There are things I know are true, and things I know are wrong, but most of it is somewhere in the middle. I’m not sure I’ll ever really piece together my past.

Vivian scribbled the words into a blue notebook while Cass read the yellow one. The notebooks went in rainbow order, but the red one and the orange one were a disjointed mishmash of confused memory fragments and implanted lies.

“Mom.” Cass stopped reading. “What are you doing?”

“Memories,” Vivian answered. “I have to write them down, have to make sure nothing has changed. You’re reading the yellow memories, and I’m writing the blue. I’m nearly to purple, and purple is good. Safe.”

“You don’t have to do that anymore, that’s done now.” Cass closed the yellow journal. “You never talk about your time in shadow. I thought the memories were wiped in the zero-point coup.”

Vivian wrote Cass’s words into the blue notebook. She didn’t write every conversation, there wasn’t time and too much writing made her wrist hurt. But this seemed important.

Cass frowned at the yellow notebook. “There’s so much detail here.”

“By the time I got to yellow, nothing felt real.” Vivian peered at the middle-aged person that she remembered as a child. Her child. They were portly now, with a deeply lined face and short hair dyed black. What if this wasn’t really Cass? She could test them, try to trick them.

“How did Brooke die?” Vivian asked.

“Sometimes you seem . . . better, but then you keep asking about Mum in all these weird ways. She remarried. She waited for a long time, but after a while we thought you were . . .” Cass looked away. They wore a long-sleeved dress with a geometric pattern of turquoise and purple. The vibrant purple was important—it went gray if you mixed it with yellow. Reality Royale, designers were calling the now-popular hue. Vivian’s shirt was the same color, and the fabric was soft and smooth.

Vivian frowned. Cass had been reading her notebooks, and everything anyone would possibly want to know about Brooke was in there. No, not in the yellow one. The sunshine yellow notebook was from the dark time, the time when she was alone. She smiled at the irony of it. Darkness encased in a cheery yellow cover. “Do you still paint sunflowers?”

“I haven’t painted for a long time. I’m an archivist now. I preserve the Red Books at the library on campus, so we don’t lose the stories of the shadow prison era.”

Vivian nodded. “Van Gogh’s sunflowers are fading to brown, like real flowers. Slowly dying as the paint degrades in the light. You can cover the darkness with yellow, but eventually it seeps through.”

• • • •

There was an odd cut between scenes, where the director had tried for a fancy effect but it didn’t quite work: Vivian stared at the yellow notebook from the previous scene, and then she fell into it, with words and sketched-out illustrations scattering around her as she fell, like Alice falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, except that she fell into her own past.

• • • •

Vivian loaded her basket with two weeks of rations, the most a Shade was allowed to buy in one transaction. Efficient without it being stockpiling. Rules were important and good, as everyone had learned from the Shade riots. Her memories of the riots were oddly sepia-toned, with a musty smell and a faint rustling ever-present in the background, as if they’d been printed on ancient newspaper. A broken window from the looting. Chaos as a mob of Shades gathered in the streets. Then a beautiful sense of peace when order was restored, like the warm golden light of the sun after a rain. But even thinking about peace, Vivian couldn’t shake the damp smell and the odd rustling sound.

Vivian tried to focus. She’d been cheating sleep for weeks, staying up late to read sci-books on memory formation and recall. The books were . . . not quite illegal. They were written in the guise of science fiction novels, with pulpy illustrations and poorly defined characters who explained the workings of the mind in loosely plot-relevant infodumps.

She felt like she was on the verge of a breakthrough. She knew that they were in her head, filtering her reality, shifting her memories. What she needed was a way to escape their lies.

How do you break free from the prison of your own mind?

Vivian waited in the checkout line, careful not to meet the gaze of the Citizens and Shades who stood waiting with carts and baskets. If she was lucky, she could get in and out of the shop with only one interaction. The other customers had the same goal—make it through the line and speak to no one, interact with no one.

The clerk had no choice in the matter. Jobs like that were basically death row, and the Shade working the register knew it. Vivian wondered how many points the clerk had left—it was impossible to tell from the shadowy black figure who the person underneath was, and whether they had several thousand points or only a few hundred. The only thing she knew for sure was that the clerk was below the Shade line, which congress had recently bumped up to twenty thousand.

Hopefully the clerk was closer to twenty thousand than to terminal zero.

If in doubt, always report. She only lost one point that way, no matter what the other person did. Vivian had slightly over five thousand points. If she minimized her interactions with others and always reported when she did have to interact with people, she could stretch those points for probably three years.

“I have less than a hundred points left,” the clerk said, ringing up groceries for someone farther up the line. “If we both choose not to report, no one loses any points.”

“And if you report and I don’t, I lose twenty points!” The customer wore the silver androgynous form of a Generic Citizen. “You’re probably not telling the truth. I mean, obviously you’re a Shade, so why would anyone trust you? It’s a trick for you to build your points back up by cutting all of us down! You’d gain five points for reporting me, and I’d lose twenty. I’m an upstanding Citizen, not some Shade to bargain with!”

The clerk finished ringing up the customer’s items, and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that both the customer and the clerk had reported the interaction.

Slowly the line moved forward, one customer at a time, a long string of Citizens. The clerk made no further effort at conversation with any of them.

Vivian reached the front of the line.

“Please?” the clerk said. “You’re not like that other customer, that Citizen. You need the points as much as I do.”

The Citizens were the ones with points to spare, points to risk, but the Shades were the ones who understood the stakes, understood the desperation. The clerk scanned her items slowly, but there were only a few boxes of rations left in her basket; she had to decide quickly.

What if it was Cass beneath that shadow? Or Brooke? She hadn’t seen her family for so many years—they could have slipped, fallen into shade.

“You swear you won’t report me?” Vivian asked.

“Yes. Oh, thank you,” the clerk said.

The clerk finished ringing up her rations, and the question popped up in the upper right corner of her field of view. Report interaction? Y/N

Vivian did not report. She held her breath and waited.

Interaction reported.

Her point total dropped by twenty points.

“You lying fuck!” Vivian yelled, her voice loud enough that anyone in the store could hear her. Twenty points could have lasted her an entire week, and she’d been so foolish. “You swore you wouldn’t report!”

She gathered up her things, cursing the clerk but also cursing herself.

Always report. Always report. Always report.

As she was leaving, a Citizen approached. Shit. She must have left something behind, and it would cost her another interaction.

“It has been a while since I’ve seen someone choose kindness over self-preservation. Do know about the newspaper?”

Vivian shook her head, but suddenly something clicked. “The paper they printed them on would turn yellow and musty with age. Like a—”

“Not here.” The Citizen interrupted and handed her a slip of folded purple paper. “I can’t afford twenty, and after what just happened I expect you to report this interaction. So I’ll tell you now that I am also going to report and save us both some trouble. Sorry.”

Vivian took the slip of paper, wary. She unfolded it. The letters were gray, which made it difficult to read. All it said was “The Prisoner’s Dilemma,” with tomorrow’s date, 8 p.m., Cesar Chavez Auditorium. The back side was a coupon for shoes, printed in black, long expired.

“Yellow and purple make gray,” the customer told her. “Yellow can’t be trusted.”

Maybe this was what she’d been searching for, a way to break free of the system. Vivian stuck the paper on the top of her box of rations and started walking. Report interaction? Y/N

She reported, and lost only one point.

Always report.

• • • •

The scene shifted again, this time abruptly, like turning the page of a notebook. Vivian studied the age spots on her hands while Cass read. It surprised her sometimes, that she could see her own body any time she wanted. But she was so old now. Too old. She traced her fingers over the wrinkled skin, finding the scar where she’d punched through her own hand with the factory-machine needle. That was a true memory—she still had the scar.

“This is still Red Book stuff, Mom,” Cass said, looking up from the yellow notebook. “I’ve been reading other accounts, and for most people the prisoner’s dilemma years are in the red notebooks.”

“I was a test subject for the memory tech; they had to keep an eye on me sooner,” Vivian answered. She didn’t write this down in her blue notebook, in case anyone was watching. No, they didn’t do that now. But still. “They wanted to see how well their tech was working, whether the altered memories were sinking in. To know what I was thinking, they tricked me into writing it down so they could see. I was very prolific.”

Cass patted her shoulder in what was supposed to be a soothing gesture, but it was stilted and awkward. They were trying so hard to rebuild the relationship, and Vivian was ruining it by being too broken. She had to be careful or she would drive Cass away, and she couldn’t stand the thought of losing them again.

“I did my best,” Vivian said. “Even if it mostly didn’t help.”

“I’m impressed you survived,” Cass said. “Anything else is amazing.”

• • • •

“They changed a lot of things,” Vivian whispered to Cass without bothering to pause. The immersive movie was quick-cutting through a series of sepia-tinted memories in a montage set to classic violin and a crisp autumn breeze. The rustling noise of the autumn leaves clashed with the music, and the cool breeze smelled faintly of mold. The entire montage was a lie.

“It’s an immersive movie, not a documentary,” Cass answered, their seemingly disembodied voice crisp and clear over the muffled soundtrack of the memories. “Based on several people’s stories, all mashed together, with a great deal of artistic license to smooth it all out.”

• • • •

Vivian was grateful to have a job that didn’t require her to interact with other people. Automated scanners logged her arrival and departure times, and her PIP directed her to her station assignment and alerted her when it was time for her breaks. The work was monotonous and soothing. Load the piece, stamp the part, unload the piece. The long hours of repeated motions meant she came home with an aching arm and a sore back, but she earned enough credits for her rations, and she kept her points. Rumor had it they were making “grow-with-me” PIPs that were pre-birth compatible. Vivian wondered what it would be like to be born already connected to the system.

The worst part of her job was the memories. Working a machine on the assembly line called up another time, an older time, when she had worked on the memory-altering PIPs. Or were they dragon scales for an immersive movie? It was hard to remember. Her mind bombarded her with flashbacks as she worked: tampering with a similar machine, disabling the safeties, stamping a needle through her own hand.

She remembered the joy of seeing her own hand, despite the horror of the blood.

Back then she’d thought that she could take down the system.

Angry yelling called Vivian back to the present. Halfway down the line, a Shade was arguing with the floor supervisor.

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable,” the Shade shouted, loud enough for the entire floor to hear.

It was a quote from John F. Kennedy, but the last time Vivian had heard those words, it had been from Auntie Yang.

She remembered five gunshots in rapid succession—loud flashes of sound. Auntie’s mouth moving, but she couldn’t hear anything over a rustling noise and the ringing of her own ears. Or perhaps Auntie could no longer voice the words. Blood soaked through Auntie’s dull gray tunic, like crimson stars. Vivian frowned. Hadn’t the tunic been purple? Auntie had loved bright colors and never wore gray. She remembered the moment both ways—Auntie in purple and Auntie in gray. Somehow this memory was real and not real.

Vivian’s co-worker continued to argue with the supervisor, and two Keepers came in to end the disruption. To Vivian’s horror, instead of cooperating, her co-worker took a swing at one of the Keepers. The Keeper swung back, hitting the Shade not once but many times, over and over again.

The worker’s medical safeties detected her injuries and disabled the Shade overlay. The woman was old—even older than Auntie Yang. She was still calling for a revolution. Her jumpsuit was purple and her voice was clear. “At zero points, I have nothing left to lose.”

The Keepers pulled out batons. Vivian heard the crunch of bone.

Unstamped pieces piled up at Vivian’s station, but she couldn’t look away. Tears streaked down the woman’s wrinkled face, and Vivian cried along with her. The Keepers pummeled the old woman even as her words turned to inarticulate wails of pain, and then silence. They kept beating her even after she fell to the ground.

She wasn’t moving when they hauled her away.

The supervisor resumed walking the factory floor, and Vivian forced herself to get back to work.

“Fifty points for failing to keep up with the line,” the supervisor said, counting up the backlog of unstamped pieces at Vivian’s workstation.

Report this interaction? Y/N

This was the one exception to “always report.” If she reported her supervisor, she would bleed points forever afterwards for minor and made-up infractions. She did not report, and despite the fifty-point penalty she’d already been given, the fucking supervisor reported her. Another twenty points gone.

She took the penalties in silence, the old woman’s screams echoing in her head. Even rationing her points, Vivian didn’t have much time left, and what kind of life was this to cling to? Shades were desperate, constantly creeping closer and closer to zero. They had so little left to lose. Vivian thought again of the message on the back of the coupon—The Prisoner’s Dilemma. Whatever it was, it was happening tonight.

• • • •

“Are you okay, Mom?” Cass asked. “We can stop.”

“I want to see the rest,” Vivian answered. She wasn’t okay, but she hadn’t been okay for a long time. These were familiar horrors, memories—both true and false—that haunted her in dreams and waking. It was already hard to remember which things were from the movie and which ones were real, and she hadn’t even watched the whole thing yet.

• • • •

A Shade scanned Vivian’s ID chip as she entered Cesar Chavez auditorium. She’d been scanned countless times, but never by a fellow Shade. There were clumps of Shades by the door. Vivian cringed when one came up to her and gestured for her to go sit down, but thankfully her PIP did not ask her to report the interaction.

Unlike most places Vivian frequented, the auditorium was updated and modern, no sign of wear and neglect. She couldn’t remember whether it was a new addition to the University. The audience was packed with Shades, and a handful of Citizens wearing generic silver overlays. Projected on both sides of the screen at the front of the auditorium was a message, written in gray on purple in big block letters. “DO NOT SPEAK OR SIGN UNTIL THE ROOM IS LOCKED DOWN. PLEASE SIT AND DIRECT YOUR GAZE AT THE MOVIE SCREEN.” The armrests between the chairs were accessibility interfaces with audio jacks and a programmable top surface—Vivian couldn’t read Braille, but she assumed the bumps on the otherwise smooth armrest gave the same message.

In the center of the screen there was a Cardinal Guardians movie—not an immersive experience but one of those old-fashioned movies that you watch without experiencing all the sensations. Vivian wondered if it was the non-immersive version of the movie she’d made the dragon scales for, back on the factory line. She worried for a moment that she was wasting time and potentially points on a mere movie night, but if that was all this was, then why the odd message about the lockdown? Besides, the dragon movie had a different title than what was on the back of her coupon.

At 8:05 p.m. the clump of Shades by the door closed it and locked it. A Shade with a white cane walked to the front of the auditorium, swinging the cane back and forth until it tapped the edge of the podium. Vivian couldn’t recall ever encountering a blind Shade before. She wasn’t sure if that was good because they were escaping the system somehow, or ominous because ZimCorp was weeding them out.

The movie froze.

Suddenly all the overlays came down, and instead of being surrounded by Shades and the occasional Generic Citizen, the auditorium was nearly empty. Only a couple dozen individuals remained, ranging from young to old, with a variety of races and cultures and genders. Vivian could even see herself—thin bony hands folded on top of the dingy blue fabric of her standard-issue work pants.

The black woman at the podium leaned in to the microphone. “The total runtime for the movie playing behind me is one hour and forty seven minutes, and we have spent seven of them getting our initial recording. We’ve hacked the output of this room so anyone observing will see you, the audience, watching the rest of the movie. SPOILER: Kitora dies at the end. In case anyone asks.”

The crowd laughed nervously.

“You can call me Nash. You are here because we noticed your potential. Because you noticed something wrong and sought us out. Perhaps because you have a skill we need. We are trying to break a system.” She paused and took a sip of water. “The system is insidious, and it pits us against each other. It filters our reality and feeds us false memories.”

The auditorium was silent as she spoke.

“Their false memories are recordings, some taken from real people of real experiences, others generated by actors playing a role in a scene. They are like immersive movies—”

“What are the false memories like if you’re blind?” someone interrupted from the crowd.

“Ever had a migraine?” Nash answered. “The memories are created by sighted people and triggered by algorithms—hearing a certain phrase, seeing a certain object. Those of us who are blind trigger fewer of the memories, and—at least for me—when I get one it tends to manifest as a debilitating headache. ZimCorp’s failure to account for anyone who isn’t able-bodied was key to getting us to where we are now. Their false memories don’t work for everyone, and their algorithms for monitoring our activities are heavily skewed to the visual.”

Other people began calling out questions.

Nash waved them off. “There isn’t time. The first step is already complete. We have introduced a bug to their system that shifts colors on the visual spectrum and introduces false texture and scent and sound. We’ve made their lies yellow and musty, given them what some people describe as an old newspaper feel. You now have the cues you need to determine what is real. Listen for sound without static, feel for smooth surfaces, memories that smell fresh and clean. Look for the most vibrant purple. Those are your cues that something is real.”

Vivian thought through her memories. The Shade riots were tinged with all the cues that Nash described. None of that had happened. It was a lie to keep people in line, make them obey the rules.

“Breaking their control on our realities is only the first step,” Nash continued. “Next we must give people an incentive to work together against the system.

“What we have here is a prisoner’s dilemma. The best course of action for all of us, collectively, is different from the best course of action for each of us, individually. We are rewarded for betraying each other.”

“Always report,” Vivian whispered to herself.

“We’ve gained access to the point system,” Nash continued, “And we’re going to make everyone equal. Reset the points so that everyone is a citizen—”

Vivian shook her head. No, that was wrong. That might slow the system down, but people would still act in their own interests, try to preserve what they had gained, and eventually ZimCorp would regain control and put things back the way they were.

Excited murmurs ran through the crowd as people voiced their dreams of freedom.

“It won’t work,” Vivian said, softly first, but again loud enough that the room fell silent.

She stood and faced Nash. “Maybe years ago it might have, but we’re too far gone. We can’t reset the system. We have to destroy it, make it so no one has anything left to lose. If you have access to the points, you can’t give them to people. You have to take them away. Set everyone to zero, and obliterate all record of what they had.”

“A zero-point coup,” Nash said, thoughtful. “There will be chaos. Riots.”

The audience erupted in a cacophony of loud objections.

Vivian’s instinct was to retreat from the conflict and preserve her precious points. But the fierce reaction of the crowd—and her own impulse to withdraw—proved that a zero-point coup was the only solution. The anger that filled the auditorium was rooted in fear. People were afraid for the future, afraid for their loved ones.

If something happened to Brooke because of this, or to Cass . . .

Setting everyone’s points to a higher level would ease this unrelenting fear. People would feel safe, and they would want to keep that feeling of safety. Having nothing left to lose would free them from that fear. Once the worst had happened, people would finally fight against the system, everyone together. It was the only way.

“There will be . . . losses.” Vivian raised her voice, unwilling to be silenced by anger and fear. “But anything less won’t work. And those who made peaceful revolution impossible have made violent revolution inevitable.”

• • • •

The scene in the auditorium ended, and Vivian found herself immersed in a series of key moments from the zero-point coup, strung together in roughly chronological order, set to Lux Aeterna by Clint Mansell. Unlike the montage of lies earlier in the movie, now the sound was crisp and clear—Vivian could hear each instrument in the orchestra, the voices of the choir, the beat of the drums. The colors were true and there was no musty odor of stagnation and decay. It looked and sounded and smelled of truth.

Time was dilated, dreamlike. Entire scenes dropped into Vivian’s mind in a single note. It was a rainstorm building to a flood. She let the moments wash over her. There were protests and marches. The North End fires. Attempts at reestablishing curfews and making arrests. In the midst of the fighting and chaos, Bardo Phillips Jr., current CEO of ZimCorp, was led away in handcuffs by armed guards. News headlines sprung up in the periphery of her field of view as he was led away. ZimCorp CEO charged with False Imprisonment. The End of ZimCorp: What Comes Next? Corrupted Reality! Fall of a Titan.

The montage ended in a crescendo of strings and drums. There was a moment of silence.

In a busy courtyard, a trio of Shades stood in a circle, holding hands. All around them, more Shades rushed in and out of shops and businesses. A clocktower loomed above the courtyard, the minute hand sweeping upward to meet the hour hand. At noon, the tower bells began to ring, the sound so loud that Vivian felt the vibrations in her bones.

At the center of the courtyard, the Shade overlays dropped away to reveal three people, three individuals holding hands. All around them Shades were transformed, the sea of dark figures becoming less uniform, more colorful. The seemingly well-maintained facades of the shops around them gave way to faded paint and dusty windows, and the ripple of unfiltered reality continued outward as ZimCorp’s last remaining systems were shut down.

• • • •

“I’m Nash. I am the person whose memories they stole and altered. I am the one who proposed the zero-point coup,” Vivian mumbled. Her therapist was right about the immersive movie: it was hard to piece together what was real. The movie had circled back to its beginning, with Cass reading from a yellow notebook while Vivian wrote notes into a blue one.

“You definitely aren’t Nash,” Cass answered. “But we can try to piece together the rest from your notebooks.”

Vivian couldn’t tell if the answer had come from real-Cass or movie-Cass.

• • • •

Vivian stood at the entrance to the library archives of the Red Books. She took in the scale of the collection, shelf after shelf packed with red notebooks, each filled with the stories of a different Shade. The shelves were mostly red notebooks with a small smattering of orange. Only a few of other colors. Vivian had been one of the earliest test subjects for the false memories, and a prolific writer. Her attention settled on a shelf that held a full rainbow of notebooks, her own journals.

Credits appeared over the scene, text scrolling across her field of view.

Based on the lives of J.R. Brachman, Anita G. Flores, Terri “Nash” Jackson, Chris M. Lee, Arjun Singh, and Vivian Watanabe.

The library archives faded to black.

“We have long known that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. The hard part is finding out what really happened.” —Terri “Nash” Jackson

The end credits scrolled.

Caroline M. Yoachim

Caroline M. Yoachim is a two-time Hugo and four-time Nebula Award finalist, and her short stories have been translated into several languages and reprinted in multiple best-of anthologies, including three times in Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. Her debut short story collection Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World & Other Stories came out with Fairwood Press in 2016. For more about Caroline, check out her website at carolineyoachim.com.