It feels like I have just woken from a deep sleep. I am standing on a street that looks familiar, but have no idea where is it or how I got here. I don’t even know who I am. No helpful thoughts are coming to me. However, I seem to know where I am going.
Crossing the street, I see a pub on one corner. This is where I want to go. Green painted walls, a fresco of shamrocks around one window and the faint sounds of Gaelic music, begin putting me off. A crowd of men and over-made-up women are blocking the entrance. Feelings of repugnance persuade me to change direction. I head away from the pub.
Walking several blocks past the entrance to a mall, I access the pedestrian walkway and begin crossing the bridge leading out of the city. Suddenly, I recall floating in the cold water of Sydney Harbour. I know this is a recent memory but it seems disconnected from current reality. Another flash of memory and I see myself boarding a bus and heading into the centre of Sydney.
Standing on the bridge overlooking the harbour, I feel confused. If my memory of recently being in the water is correct, how come my clothes aren’t damp? I become aware that a smallish sports bag is slung over my shoulder. Opening its zip, wet bathers and a damp towel come into view. Further exploration reveals a cellphone in one of the side pockets. Is it mine? As I pull the cellphone from the bag I am surprised by how small it is. Hoping for clues, I scroll through its address book, texts and photographs. There are pictures of a beautiful woman, seated in a boat, holding an infant boy; both are dressed in bright blue life jackets. My body tells me I know this woman and child. How?
I find video clips. These are strange videos, with what looks like molten metal shapes behaving like animals. The shapes seem to be playing together like cats, fighting, chasing and bumping into each other before merging into one blob of metal. What I am looking at on this tiny screen is very peculiar. It isn’t normal.
“Dean!” A young man in his mid-twenties is behind me on the pedestrian walkway. A name comes to mind. “Rhys?” A slight frown replaces his smile. “Hi, Dean. It’s David. Rhys is my Dad. He works for you. He’s one the scientists working on your malleable metal project. I always get told I look like my Dad.” I don’t know what to say. I feel stupid. David steps closer. He can see I am disoriented. A knowing expression forms on his face. “May I?” Taking the cellphone from my hand, he says, “Here….let me show you.” Flicking back to the pictures of the woman and infant on the boat, he says, “This is your wife and child, isn’t it?” Numbly, I find myself nodding. David shows me the same video clip of cavorting metal objects. “This is the project my father is working on with you. Remember?” I didn’t. “Together you designed and manufactured a metal that changes shape without using heat. You also designed this cellphone, or the plastic substance it is made from. It’s a material that expands or grows on a given, electronic, signal. Am I ringing any bells?”
Pressing a small button on the reverse side of the cellphone, David says, “Watch.” The cellphone gradually expands, changing shape until it is the size of a 12.9cm tablet. I cannot remember seeing anything like this before. David pats my arm. He says, “Dean, you must have put yourself into a forced amnesia state. Don’t panic. You haven’t got early onset dementia. You’re just in the controlled state you and Dad use when you’re working on something important. You do it when you want to use full brain capacity, clear your mind of unnecessary personal data, and concentrate on a complex task.”
What David says next is even more unbelievable. “You also use, what you describe as, ‘spiritual communication.’ This is a skill you and Dad would like every human being to learn. Communicating mentally, without the use of speech or technology, could take this world to a previously unknown level of honesty. David can see my brain is still not fully awake when he says, “Dean, this is how I knew where to find you. You asked me, through spiritual communication, to meet you at Harrigan’s Pub. You said you were going for a swim first. Am I getting through to you, yet?” I shake my head. He continues, “I saw you walk past and then followed after you deviated from the pub.” “I did know I had to go to the pub,” I say, lamely. David shakes his head,
David’s smile returns. “You asked me to meet you before you switched yourself into a state of forced amnesia. You spoke to me just before you started to relax and meditate during your swim.” I look at him blankly, waiting for my own penny to drop. “Let me try something else. We need to jog you out of this.” He turns, pointing to a metal bench next to one of the lookout points on the bridge. “If you sit over there, Dean, I’ll just call my mother and see if she has any ideas.” As I look across the harbor, the bridge lights and moonlight are turning the water to silver. David finishes talking to his mother and walks toward me. “Mum tells me both you and Dad have ‘Full Consciousness Return Signals’ (FCRS) attached to your laboratory doors. She says you should go home. When you see your wife and child it should act in the same way as the FCRS. Her idea is that, on the way to your place, I should keep filling you in on your past until something starts triggering the reconnection. So….Here goes.”
David takes a deep breath and begins. “Dean, you are an amazing scientist. You have won many prestigious awards for scientific innovation. It was you who developed and trialled DNA Compatibility Testing (DNACT). It was so incredibly successful, it has since been applied to offender assessment, prenuptial counseling programs, educational institutions, community housing selection, and even asylum seeker assessment. We now have fewer problems across each of these areas. Prisoners are no longer confined with other, less compatible, offenders and are linked to more appropriate development and rehabilitation activities. Community housing is less problematic, at all levels. Individuals who wish to form committed relationships are now able to more confidently predict partnership outcomes, and avoid less appropriate liaisons. This more mature approach to forming relationships is now being taught in secondary colleges across the country. Educational institutions are also achieving higher graduation rates because course selection processes have been vastly improved by using DNACT.”
I like what David is telling me. I find it inspiring to hear about such advances, whether I share responsibility for their innovation or not. David continues, “The most exciting outcome of all has been associated with Asylum Seeker Resettlement Programs. During a two year trial period, three countries, including Australia (which supervised these programs), used DNACT assessment testing to link each migrant, or migrant family, to the most suitable country, community, and/or district. Even the development and implementation of assimilation training programs were matched to DNACT and personality test results. The entire process was empowering, rather than demeaning. Each potential wage-earner was offered a ‘living wage package’ during the trial period. Positive community engagement was encouraged and facilitated by ongoing individual and group support strategies. World leaders are now seeing this project as a welcome formula for responding to, what has become, a global crisis.”
Seeing the stunned look on my face, David laughs. “Are you sure it’s me you’re talking about?” I ask. “It sure is,” he responds emphatically. “Which brings us back to your current projects; ‘Spiritual Communication’ and ‘Malleable Metal.” You were working on the latter today using forced amnesia to focus on your experiments. Remember anything, yet?” I nod, thoughtfully. “I think I am.”
My phone beeps. It’s an email from Rhys.
Have some great news. Your suggestion today re using the Metallic Hydrogen looks like working. Unlike the mercury we have been using, the Metallic hydrogen is showing the right responses in initial tests. I’m excited to report that the Metallic hydrogen is acting as a superconductor at room temperature.
(End of email)
Scientific memory begins re-flooding my hippocampus. I immediately recall that Metallic Hydrogen was discovered on Jupiter in 2017 and brought back, in commercial quantities, by NASA. This substance is now being used in experimental aviation. Focus is currently on superconductor metals (e.g. mercury, lead) and chemical alloys (such as niobium-titanium, germanium-niobium, and niobium nitride). Superconductors are being used with machines such as MRIs and the Large Hadron Collider. First, they must be cooled to very low temperatures. All very interesting, but not particularly easy.
I can now remember that in making malleable, or shape changing, metals we have been using quantum physics. It’s a bit like writing a software program using atoms. To get the right program we had to heat, freeze and mix different materials. Fascinating stuff! The shape changing plastic was another exciting challenge. It took three years to develop. We have already dedicated two years of our lives to the malleable metal project. It’s so good to remember all this. David sees recognition on my face and laughs loudly.
After we finish crossing the bridge, David leads me into a Sydney street lined on either side by well-maintained, Victorian era, houses. He slows as we reach a coffee-colored brick home with cream-painted wraparound porch. I know this house. I feel it, rather than think it. David says, “You’re home now. I hope you’ll be okay.” “Thanks so much, David. I’ll be more careful next time.” I’m pretending a little. Not all of my memories are in place yet. David walks away, whistling ‘Bird on a Wire.’
I push open the wrought iron gate and walk to the front door. My hand easily finds the small bunch of keys in my jacket pocket, inserting one into the door lock. A woman’s voice calls out. “Is that you, Sweetheart?” “It’s me!” I answer, the familiar words slipping back into a routine response. I walk into the kitchen where a small boy seated in a high chair waves at me excitedly, spitting out bits of food as he mouths the word “Dadda!” I plant a kiss on his blonde head before heading toward someone who looks exactly like the beautiful woman pictured in the photograph stored on my cellphone. As I embrace her, the last of my amnesia vanishes.