In the next moment everything is lost.
Her beautiful face, my son’s laughter, the sunlight flowing through the open window. Everything that mattered is gone. I reach my hand out to where they were seconds ago and feel nothing. I close my eyes and when I open them I’m in a white room sitting at a metal table. There are no windows and there doesn’t appear to be a door. The surface of the table is cool against my palms, a fan hums lazily overhead, and the tops of my thighs are numb. I know this room, I’ve been here before. I stare at the table until the wall opens up, then slides back into itself. A man approaches the table, his hair is completely white, he’s painfully thin, and walks with a bit of a limp. Then I see his hands and know that despite how frail he looks, this man is strong. “Hello, Jack. I’m glad you’ve come back to us”, he says.
With the sound of his voice I remember this room and my hatred of the man standing in front of me. He’s the one that can wipe everything away and each time we find ourselves in this room I beg him not to. I beg him to let me keep the memories I have. I try to explain that keeping them may help me to prevent this from happening all over again. But it’s his job, and besides, I think he gets a certain amount of satisfaction from it. I know him, I’ve seen his lifeline. Unlike the cartographers, the enforcers get to have lives. They get to have all of the things we are denied, only this man hasn’t ever had anything. He has no wife, no children, nothing to come home to at the end of a long shift. So he gets a kick out of taking what he can from anyone else. He shares part of the blame for all of this.
I do not respond to him, instead I focus on the cuticles of my right hand, pushing them down, then I go on to my left hand.
“You don’t have to say anything, Jack. We know each other very well, don’t we? I know exactly what you are thinking and what you would say. All you need to do is listen. This is the end of the line. We’ve been very patient with you, we’ve given you multiple chances, and I’m afraid our employer has decided that enough is enough. You see, Jack, I know you recognize this place and I know you recognize me. I don’t think you realize how many times you’ve been here before. I can tell you it’s more than any of the other cartographers have been. This time you are to be completely wiped, everything you are will be cleaned out, there will be nothing left. Up until now I’ve always left a little bit of you in there, but this time I’m cleaning house. It’s a shame, I’ve had a great time chasing you over the years, and I’ll miss our chats together. You’ve always amazed me with the lengths that you’d go to in order to destroy the balance we’ve created. If I had my way I wouldn’t erase you completely, but I’ve got a job to do. I’m sure you hate me and I bet you’d give up quite a bit to see me suffer. Would you give up that pretty wife of yours? Oh, but you don’t have a wife do you, Jack? Or maybe you do, but only every five years or so for a couple of minutes at a time. “, he slaps his knee and chuckles. “Well, that was rude of me, wasn’t it? I should be more sensitive with the things I say. Shucks, Jack, I’m sorry. Forgive me, would you?”
My heart is racing, I try to stand up, but my arms and legs have been restrained. The man tells me to sit tight while he goes to get what he needs to fix me right up.
I see the wall open, he walks through, and it closes behind him.