The Age of Alteration

An interactive speculative fiction story by Linda Cohen

Are you defined by your past?

The air smelled of rusty copper wires and was filled with smoke when Penelope Claire and Mike Minitel left the office. “Hey PC, wait up!” Penelope Claire was in a rush to get home because she remembered only minutes ago she had left her dog Plato without any food this morning. Her co-worker and sprightly best friend Mike Minitel was rushing to catch up to her. PC turned around and saw Mike struggling, so she slowed down from a jog to a brisk walk. “Sorry Mike, we’re going to have to watch Cyborg Chats another time because I have to feed- arrgh!”


She stopped for a second and grabbed the back of her neck as a pained expression washed across her face. Her microchip implant had been giving her trouble for a few days now. Mike winced as if he could feel her pain, “Is it your chip again?” PC nodded, still rubbing the back of her neck. “Yeah, has yours given you any trouble lately?” PC could not remember when she first had the chip inserted. In fact, if you asked anyone on the street who had one, it was guaranteed that no one would remember the origins of their implant.

“I think I just need to get some rest. I’ll catch you later Mike!” PC picked up the pace, and with her hand now firmly grasping her neck, she wondered whether the pain would ever subside.

PC lived just outside the city in a borough called The Dell, an older neighborhood full of grey tinted apartment buildings and overcrowded sidewalks. She sat down in her favorite chair to watch the local news. The top news story was one that had been recurring for years, just with new players. Different faces flashed across the screen with the words:

Wanted: Truth Tellers of the Dell

Truth Tellers, or Double T’s as many people referred to them, were specialized computer hackers who made it their mission to reprogram and restore people’s altered memories. Memory alteration was possible through microchip implants that maintained new memories. To learn more about the history behind memory alteration


Double T hackers believed that memories hold certain truths that cannot be avoided. Since the commercializing of memory implants, Double T’s now believed that anyone who willingly agreed to have their memories altered had been brainwashed by the media.

Truth Tellers were a secretive online community who attempted to release old memories. This means that millions of memories exist in an underground space on the Internet through protected servers located in our nation's capital.

Double T's made it their mission to retrieve these old memories by communicating through an encrypted forum disguised as a MUD, much like our class example WahooMUSH. Once old memories were released from the servers, Double T's could reverse the coding of the implants and reprogram old memories back. Oftentimes, those whose memories had been hacked found it too hard to come to terms with their ultimate truths. As the number of Truth Tellers rose, so did the number of people in psych wards and deaths.

In the middle of the night, PC felt a massive SHOCK on the back of her neck. Before PC could even react, the sharp voice of a man yelling rung in her eardrums, followed by a flashing image of a hand reaching out to grab her. This was not the first time she had had a nightmare like this. She immediately reached for her phone and called Mike. After groggily answering “Hello?” Mike quickly heard the terror in PC’s voice and began to try to calm her down. “It was worse than the last one Mike. The shock was bigger and this time instead of just the horrible yelling, he actually reached out and tried to touch me.” Mike Minitel might have been an optimist, but he was no fool. He had his predictions that Truth Tellers might be behind PC’s outbursts, but he kept his theory to himself. “Don’t worry, it’s over, PC. Try to calm yourself and just breathe. You know I’m here for you whenever you need me.”

After some time had passed, Mike met PC by a lake in The Dell, one of the only secluded places they were able to talk in private. After laying out his theory to PC that Double T hackers might be behind PC’s physical and mental suffering, PC closed her eyes and covered her face.

It was starting to click what was happening.

Old memories of her abusive boyfriend, Mac, were finally starting to become rooted in reality. All of the hurt PC was able to bypass through her implant was seeping back into her consciousness. In her mind, PC thought the Truth Tellers had taken her control away, and there was no coming back from this nightmare turned reality.

PC explained to Mike that she still did not have all of the pieces of her memory, but it was only a matter of time before Truth Tellers successfully completed their reversal coding. She was disgusted at herself for letting such a hurtful relationship drag on for so long. Fear of how to cope with this grueling hardship overcame her all at once. Soon, Mike and PC found themselves holding hands.

Mike spoke softly to PC, “Listen, pain and suffering is never easy. Hell, life is full of heartbreaks, losses, and rejections. Implant or no implant, I will remain by your side to help rebuild you into the strong, brave woman I know you are. Now, it’s going to take time, lots of it. But you still have control, and I need you to grab it by the reigns and grip it so tight you’ll never want to let go."

"Our past is part of us, but it does not define us."

PC looked at Mike Minitel with different eyes that day, unaware of just how much she needed him in this crazy world. The air smelled of pinecones and was crystal clear.

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