Friday, August 18, 2023

“Clinical Progress of Witness Deprotection Client L.M. as Transcribed from Taped Recordings”
• by Allan Dyen-Shapiro

Day One

What I remembered right after your machine zapped my brain? The guy had nice shoes. Stool was knocked over. His legs were still kicking—must’ve been a hanging. I could only see from the knees down.

Did I off him?

Maybe, but more likely, I used to know who did. It would make more sense. You don’t protect nobody by erasing their memories unless they know something.

That’s all. You happy?

Is it enough for me to get paid?

Day Two

What I remember most about today is lunch. The veal parmesan the nurse brought was as good as my mother’s.

But I’m sure you’re more interested in the details this morning’s electroshocks brought back to me. In the stiff’s room, a picture hung on the wall. The frame was gold like in swanky museums. And it was oil on canvas, the way Rembrandt painted, not a photo snapped in some department-store studio. A lady’s portrait.

The wiseguy dangling from the rope had murdered her. I don’t know how I knew that.

Nothing else. Could I get seconds on the grub?

Day Three

Today, I saw his desk. A stack of scientific articles sat on top, and I could read one of the abstracts. I’m not certain how an auto mechanic like me understood, but I did. Psychiatry research: a monkey was fitted with a cap containing wireless electrodes, and zapping the brain suppressed memories.

You think you could get me in touch with the professor who wrote it? The mob owns my shop, and I know some of the bigwigs. They’d be interested in a way to never worry about subpoenas again.

You’re shakin’ your head. Oh, well.

Anyways, the researchers brought the memories back by “deprotection”—this was the word used in the title—Deprotection Protocol for Restoration of Erased Memories in Macaca mulatta.

Maybe you can help me, Doc. I know—your experiment, so your rules—you ain’t talking to me. But if I tell you what I think I understand, could you nod if I get it right?

Oh, good. Well, the article said the memories get rejiggered over time, so something that once made you sad don’t upset you no more. The reworking still happened with the erased memories. When the memories were restored, these monkeys could recall details, but they weren’t unhappy. The animals also regained other memories that had disappeared as collateral damage. Communication—the monkey equivalent of talking fancy—improved, too. But the apes got one shot—the guy botched it with the first ones, and they never got their memories back.

Wait—you’re the author. And I’m your patient. Was I the first human? Yes?

Really. How long have I been without my memories? You’re holding up two fingers—two days? Two months? Two years?

I spent two years without my memories? Well, you showed me the consent form, so I must’ve had reasons I agreed to it.

Was my procedure successful?

Dammit! All you’re going to give me is a shrug?

Day Four

I fucking hate you. Scientific method—yadda, yadda—I get it, but frankly, doctor, your bedside manner is terrible. What kind of psychiatrist doesn’t talk to his patient? Sure, I read the article you gave me. The individual must lead in rewriting his narrative identity, but McAdams’ theory pertained to standard psychotherapy.

Fine—I’ll cooperate if it’s the only way to figure out who I am. I pictured more of the desk: walnut, with a honey smell as if polished with beeswax, flush against the wall. An armchair was pulled out, as if someone seated in it had been using the desk to write, and a suit jacket was on the chairback. A newspaper lay on the desktop. The front-page headline was about the pandemic, the one five years ago.

The guy was a journalist. Old school—the desk drawers overflowed with clippings, photocopies, and scrawled notes. He must have been working on a story about the disease because everything, except your manuscript, looked like virology.

And you won’t let me read his articles. Terrific.

Day Five

I glimpsed the hanged man’s face in the mirror that fronted the lady’s jewelry armoire, and I recognized him. He was gaunt, hair disheveled, bleary-eyed, gasping for air.

Nobody executed him—he attempted suicide. How do I know this?

Because the man was me.

The woman in the painting—my wife—had succumbed to the disease. It was the day of her funeral. I’d attended—the blazer was from my suit. Our adult children hadn’t—they’d lived out of state and would have had to quarantine.

She’d been my reason for living. She died because I’d passed her the virus, and for the crime of snuffing my goddess’s life, I sentenced myself to torment: a breathless agony, a death like hers.

The mirror revealed another, behind me, also dressed in funeral black, sawing through the rope with a hacksaw.

It was you. You’re my brother-in-law.

You endured these sessions without telling me? Because I had to piece it together myself to again become whole. McAdams, et al., right.

Can I return to being a reporter? Yes? Excellent.

I can see why you wouldn’t have wanted me investigating anything during my treatment. Were you the one who talked Vito into giving me back the mechanic job I had as a teenager? That was slick, getting him to pretend I’d worked there for forty years.

And the crappy apartment across the street—what, you knew the landlord? Nice.

Are my kids okay? You know, I can still feel things. The emotional processing dulled the despair, but my connection to them is as strong as ever.

Can I see them? Today?


Hey, how about once you publish your paper, we do an interview? I bet I could sell it to Rolling Stone or The Atlantic and make you a household name.

Turn off the recorder and let me give you a hug.


Allan Dyen-Shapiro is a Ph.D. biochemist currently working as an educator. He’s sold stories to numerous markets including Dark Matter Magazine, Flash Fiction Online, and Grantville Gazette. He also co-edited an anthology of SFF set in the Middle East. He is a member of SFWA and Codex. You can find links to his published stories (and some freebies) as well as his blog, where he opines on matters of interest to those who might like his fiction (environmentalism, futurism, science, literature, and science fiction in all media), at Follow him on Twitter (@Allan_author_SF) and Mastodon (; friend him on Facebook ( 

If you enjoyed this story, watch for “Caliban’s Cameras,” coming soon in STUPEFYING STORIES 25.


Anonymous said...

Great story! Interesting structure.

Made in DNA said...

That was groovy!

Allan Dyen-Shapiro said...

Thank you so much! I'm glad you liked it.