Sunday, September 25, 2016

Muscle Memory


My story for this week was based upon my short story group's prompt, "Muscle Memory". I am classifying it into the category of "Science Fiction", though the machine in the story isn't much more far fetched than some of the various devices you see in many modern movies or spy films that would not be considered Science Fiction. 

I have to thank my morning run for helping me come up with the story. It is kind of interesting how one little idea can end up becoming a full story after an hour on the running trail. Though it is always hard to tell if the story is going to be any good.

Anyway, let me know what you think! I would enjoy the feedback!



"Muscle Memory"
by James J Meadows III

                The tears in my wife’s eyes nearly caused my heart to break as I kissed her one last time before leaving the house.

                “Don’t do this, Edward,” she said.

                “I’ve got to, Anne,” I replied. “I need to know. After all these years, I need answers.”

                Answers were the one thing, above all other things, which had eluded me so far these last ten years, ever since I was found washed up on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain with a severe head wound and no knowledge of my previous life. Even the modern twenty-second century psychological techniques were unable to restore the memories. Now, however, for the first time, thanks to recent advances in neuroscience, I finally had a chance to get those answers. I wasn’t prepared to give it up.

                “What if you don’t like what you find,” my wife pleaded. “What if you discover you have another wife, another family? What if you forget about us?”

                I reached up to wipe the tears away. We had met a few months after I was found by the police. I didn’t necessarily believe in love at first sight, yet if such a thing existed, this was it. While my past was a mystery to me, how I felt for her and for my family wasn’t.

                “Nothing will change who I am,” I replied. “I will always love you. I will always love our family. Nothing can ever change that!”

                My daughters seemed on edge too. Though they were only two and four, too young to understand what was happening, they could sense their mother’s tension, and it made them uneasy. I knelt down and gave them each a tight hug and kiss, promising to bring them back some sweets and toys when I got back from the hospital. Then, with one last kiss to my wife, I headed into the garage, where I climbed into my car and let it drive me away.

                The throngs of reporters were already waiting for me when I arrived at the clinic. This didn’t surprise me much. From almost the day of my discovery, the media was crazy about me: the mystery man, with no identification, no fingerprints, no one able to identify him and not even capable of remembering his name, only that it started with an ‘E’. My accomplishments since the day of my discovery had only added to the media frenzy which often accompanied me.

                “Move back! Move back! Give him room!” Several police officers shouted, fighting to maintain a path for me as I headed to the facility.

                “Thanks Stephen,” I said to the first officer, as I started past. “How is the family?”

                “Doing well,” he replied, coming to join me, while another officer took his place fighting off reporters. “How is yours?”

                “Nervous,” I answered.

                Stephen and I were fairly close, thanks to five years spent as partners on the force. Though he wasn’t my partner anymore, not since his promotion last year, I had served with him longer than anyone else. My physical fitness, knack for investigation, skill at tailing and talent for information gathering, none of which I could explain, made going into the force a natural course of action for me following my discovery.

                Thanks to my skills, and of course the help of partners like Stephen, I accumulated almost a dozen awards and honors in the eight years I served.  I suppose this only added to the mystique surrounding my past. Still, it was a mystique which bothered me. Where did I develop all those skills? What did I use them to accomplish?

                None of the reporters or cops or even my family could understand what it was like to not have a past, to not remember anything: your parents; childhood friends; or even your own name. That was why, even though I was happy with my life, I needed to do this procedure.

                “Hello Edward,” a young woman, in her late twenties, with dark black hair greeted me as I entered the clinic. “We haven’t met before. I’m Nurse Johnson. I was brought in from out-of-town, to help operate the machine. I am one of the designers. Are you ready for your procedure today?”

                “Yes,” I answered, as security teams fought to stop the news crews from flooding inside.

                She led me down a hall. Stephen, who seemed to be intent upon accompanying me through the process, followed as we walked.

                “Now, as I’m sure Dr. Burke explained, this is a relatively new procedure,” the nurse said. “Essentially, as you know, your muscles remember their past actions and behaviors even if you can’t directly recall them yourself. What we do is stimulate those muscles. As we do so, synapses in the brain will fire, causing it to unconsciously recall actions. The devices we will be attaching in your head will detect the electrical impulses and project them into a visible form on the screen, essentially reading your unconscious mind.”

                “You, and those of us in the room, will be able to see the images stored in your brain, associated with the muscle memories as they come up. So far, even though this has only been performed a few times, we have noticed that once one memory is collected, the brain begins to regurgitate more and more, connecting them with the previous. In this way, we should be able to get a pretty good collection of visions from your past.”

                “Excellent,” I said.

                We were just about to enter the room when the nurse stepped in front of me, placing her hand against the door.

                “Officer Edward,” she said. “Are you sure you want to go through with this procedure? Remember, we don’t know what we’re going to find. You’ve done a lot of great things in your life and I don’t want to risk anything that might wipe them out. Think about it. With your skills, you could be a foreign spy. You could find yourself in serious trouble if the truth comes out. Or perhaps you were some other sort of investigator or researcher, who someone tried to do in because they knew something they shouldn’t. That information coming to light could endanger you and your family! There are all sorts of consequences of this procedure which you should consider.”

                “Nurse Johnson,” I said. “Are you attempting to discourage me?”

                “All I’m saying,” she replied. “Is that, as the operator of the machine, I have watched all four uses of the device to restore memory. I’ve learned that you can occasionally see things you don’t want to. Sometimes it is best to let the ghosts of the past stay there.”

                “I’m determined to see this through,” I replied. “There is nothing I cannot deal with.”

                “Very well,” she said, with a somewhat resigned voice.

                Stephen and I were led into the room, where the doctors started hooking up various pads, cords, and devices all over my body. At the same time, I was strapped down, to prevent thrashing or uncontrollable spasms while my muscles were stimulated. Finally, an IV was placed into my arm, apparently to allow them to administer any medications necessary throughout the procedure. Once the equipment was settled, the doctor and nurse informed me that everything was ready and a monitor was hoisted above my head for me to watch the images they retrieved.

                “Last chance to change your mind,” Nurse Johnson said, giving me a sideways look.

I didn’t even considered the idea. My determination to know my past, to finally get my memories back, to at last uncover the missing pieces of my life, and to become a whole person again, drove me forward.

                “You can begin whenever you are ready,” I replied.

                “Very well,” she said.

                The lights were dimmed. Within seconds, I felt my muscles begin to contract as though performing various acts. At first these acts were somewhat random. Yet as time went on, I felt myself performing normal everyday activities which were a part of my life. Of course, I wasn’t really performing them; I was strapped to a table. To my muscles, though, it seemed like I was living out my daily routine.

                Gradually, over the course of many more minutes, images took shape on the screen above me. They were not thoughts I was consciously thinking. Sure enough, as described, they were images which appeared to be stored in my unconscious, which were associated with the movements, seen as if I were looking out of my own eyes. I felt completely lost in the awe of what I was experiencing. I watched myself kiss my wife, practice with my pistol at the police station gun range, and exercise at the gym.

                At first, all of the memories were ones I could recall. It wasn’t until my brain got to the point of crawling out of the river, where I found myself making a sudden jump to the past. Without warning, I found myself, for the first time, staring at the faces of my parents, racing through a snow covered valley, shopping at stores, which listed their currency in Canadian values, taking martial arts lessons and studying in a modern computerized high schools.

                I watched in awe for what felt like hours, though in truth I knew it was far less time. It was amazing. At least, until I noticed, something wasn’t quite right. I saw myself sitting in front of a computer, using my research skills to uncover information. But the information I was researching was specific women. I also saw myself using my skill at tailing. And what I was tailing was other young women.

                From there, things turned even darker. I watched as I burned my fingers with acid to cover my finger prints and acquired fake ids. I saw myself sneak across the Canadian border into the US where I went on a rampage, stalking, raping and murdering one young woman after another, making my way across the country. I wanted to scream. This couldn’t be true. This couldn’t be happening. This couldn’t really be me!

                All of the sudden, I saw a familiar face on the screen: a young woman walking the streets of Baton Rouge with her college friends. I watched as the group broke off for a bar, while she continued on, apparently heading for their hotel, which lay along a bridge beside Lake Pontchartrain. I saw her spot me and start to run. I watched, through my eyes, as I charged after her, pulling a knife out of my pocket. I was practically on top of her when she turned around with an expandable night stick in her hands.

I didn’t pull back fast enough. Clearly, I had grown over confident from years of killing. When she spun on me, swinging it with all her might, I was not prepared. It struck me hard across the head. I saw blood spatter everywhere and watched as I stumbled to the railing of the bridge, not realizing there was an opening with steps leading down to the water. I fell, tumbling down the steps, smashing my head again. A moment later, I watched myself roll into the shallow water. Everything went black.

Long minutes followed as I stared at the dark screen, feeling my muscles relax when the electrical pulses stopped. With some effort, I pried my eyes off the television and turned them toward the woman who I had followed on that fateful night, the one who hit me with the club as I attempted to kill her, the one who now, ten years later, had attempted to convince me not to get the procedure done: Nurse Johnson.

“I’m sorry, Officer Edward,” she said, in a soft quiet voice. “I told you: sometimes it is best to let the ghosts of the past stay there.”

A long silence filled the room. I looked toward Stephen, who was still gazing at the screen in stunned horror. Then, I watched him reach into his pocket and withdraw a pair of handcuffs.

“Officer Edward, I’m sorry, I’m afraid you are under arrest,” he said. “Doctors, please remove the straps from him, so I can take him away.”

I had finally regained my memories and lost everything else.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Last Draw


This story was written in response to a short story prompt "Piece by Piece". Though, the contents were inspired by a YouTube video counting down evidence of "Parallel Universes". The various countdown videos are always great sources of inspiration when I'm trying to come up with an idea of what to write about.

The name of the story is called "The Last Draw". Let me know what you think! I look forward to hearing back from you!


James Meadows

"The Last Draw"
by James J Meadows III

     The first thing I noticed, as I entered the room, was the large chess board stationed under the far window. I smiled. Somehow I should have known it would be this way.

     “Commander Lukin. I thought you had retired. Please, take a seat. Can I get you a drink?”

     I turned toward the speaker, a man whom I had fought more battles with than I could even count; a man whose dark schemes marked him as perhaps the greatest villain to ever live upon our world; a man whose wicked deeds had brought me here today to confront him one last time.

     “Just a small one,” I replied, taking a seat in one of the plush arm chairs behind the chess board. I glanced outside the window at the thick dark forest surrounding his hideout. It was amazing that anyone, even I, could find their way through this thicket to reach the fortress.

     As I sat, I could feel the photon bomb in my pocket press against my skin. It was a device capable of creating an atomic explosion, one big enough to wipe out everything for miles around. I had requested it as a last resort in case I failed. Yet, a part of me had considered a different plan, a plan my adversary could not possibly foresee.

     He walked across the room to pour the drinks. I marveled at him. He was always so calm, so imperturbable, and ever cordial in defeat as well as victory. That was why I respect him.

     “So they called you out of retirement to battle me one last time?” he asked, filling the drinks and crossing back toward us.


     “Not really,” he responded, handing me the drink. “Still, what are your people going to do once you are no longer there to save them?”

     “I don’t know,” I responded. “Perhaps travel to another parallel universe where I have trained a protégé and bring them back. You know all about traveling to the various worlds and dimensions. That is where you got this game from, after all.”

     He sat down in the chair and smiled. Picking up the pawn in front of his king, he pushed it forward two squares. He stared at me expectantly. I knew, from our past confrontations, that I wasn’t going to get anything else out of him until I made a move, so I leaned forward and pushed my opposite pawn up in response. He moved a knight out to attack my pawn.

     I had anticipated this move and prepared a special response for it. I picked the pawn on the left side of my king, pushing it forward one square to protect my pawn from his attack. The move obviously caught him off-guard because he sat up, studying the position intently.

     “I never understand your fascination with this game, an ancient relic from a race long extinct in a world well past its prime,” I said.

     “There is a story in the world this game came from,” he responded, not taking his eyes off the board. “It concerns a Sultan, a type of king, whose brother usurped his throne. As his brother’s army swarmed the palace, a guard entered the throne room, where the Sultan was playing a game of chess. The guard told the Sultan they must flee. The Sultan, knowing he had nowhere to go and no one to run to, even if he was able to escape, told the guard to go away because he was making a move. In the end, enemy soldiers burst in and killed the Sultan over his chessboard. He chose to die playing chess rather than wasting away in exile. Only a game with that kind of power is worthy of my interest.”

     I thought about this for a moment. As I watched, he startled me by capturing the pawn with his knight. I picked up my pawn and captured his knight in response.

     “I know you stole the Dimensional Inverter,” I said. “What are you doing with it?”

     “Waiting for me to give the traditional villainous dialogue about my grand evil scheme?” he asked, looking at me with a sideways grin.

     “Hey, I might as well know what plot I’m supposed to be thwarting before I try it,” I said.

     He smiled. “Well, the Inverter is a useful thing, no doubt: able to summon objects from other dimensions and parallel universes. Your kingdom and its corrupt government spent decades designing and building it. I’m sure it crushed them when they found it and all their notes stolen.”

     I shook my head. He had always hated my kingdom and its leaders.

     “Of course, they didn’t know I had spied on their progress for years, learning about it,” he said. “Figuring out how I could give it a little tweak. Check!”

     He moved his queen across the board to attack my king. I moved a pawn forward to block his attack and leaned back into my chair.

     “Tweaked it to do what?” I asked.

     At these words, he let out a laugh.

     “Seriously,” he said. “Have you not even looked out the window once since we sat down?”

     At that moment, for the first time, I realized sunlight was streaming onto the chess board. I looked out the window and beheld, to my shock, a bright green field full of flowers, bushes, and wide expanses of animals grazing beneath the noonday sky.

     “Those flowers, those animals, they are from the world of Lyndios,” I gasped. “How?”

     I looked at him. He just smiled and said, “Check”.

     Looking down at the board, I realized he had captured a pawn with his queen and was now attacking my king. I wasn’t that worried about it. I had captured one of his knights already. I just moved my king to the only free space and waited for him to continue.

     As I finished my move, the light on the board disappeared. The landscape outside had changed again. A large cratered surface filled with pools of bubbling silver ooze, which emitted a foul toxic odor, replaced the previously beautiful exterior.

     “Check,” he said again.

     I heard him place his piece down upon the board. When he did, the scene outside changed again, replaced by a deep dark sea of black liquid with bizarre purple fumes rising from it.

     “The chess board,” I exclaimed. “You’ve connected the Dimensional Inverter to the chess board!”

     “Did you know?” he asked. “That there are over ten billion possible combinations of chess lines after only the first ten moves? There are so many possible combinations of chess moves and sequences that they outnumber all the atoms in the entire universe! I have manipulated the Inverter so that it has connected each of those possible combinations with a different world. Even I don’t know what will arise from each position!”

     “But why?” I asked.

     He sat back and gazed at me.

     “It’s your move.” He said.

     I looked down to see my king under attack from a bishop. I moved a pawn forward two spaces, blocking the attack.

     “It is the ultimate weapon,” he continued. “With the right changes, the device now has the ability to tear out a piece of this universe or world and switch it with a piece from another world. You can send an enemy army blocking your way to another world and replace it with an empty plain or make opposing towns, factories and fortifications vanish with a blink. You can render entire arsenals irrelevant by just shooting them into another universe. Check.”

     He captured the pawn with the bishop.

     “Think about it,” he said. “Any country would pay infinite wealth for such a weapon. I have already created a dozen of them. Soon there will be hundreds. Everyone will want one, especially when the war break outs.”

     “What war?”

     “Oh, come on,” he replied. “How many countries are already on the verge of war? With this kind of technology, I only need to give a small push – a town disappearing, replaced by a crater, a weapons factory replaced by a burned down ruin. Once an opponent is accused, war in inevitable.”

     “That’s why you’re doing this?” I said with some incredulity, “to start a war? You’re talking about all of time and space fracturing. Objects will be displaced throughout not just our universe but all universes. The entire multiverse will fall apart!”

     “Exactly,” he said. “I’m not just after a war. I’m after a war that will transform all war forever – a war to end all things! Check!”

     He captured my bishop with his own bishop. In response, I heard the loud roars of wild creatures outside. Without even looking to see what new world he had summoned, I moved my king to a new square. The sound died out.

     “What is in this for you?” I asked.

     “Do you know what happened to the race that created this game?”

     “No,” I answered.

     “They had a powerful regent leading a country equipped with hundreds of nuclear weapons,” he said. “Unbeknownst to the other kingdoms, he had a program, called ‘Dead Hand’ which, upon his death, would launch all of his nuclear weapons at once. On his death bed, he triggered it, just so he could take the whole world out with him.”

     He looked up at me, his face serious.

     “I’m dying,” he said. “Years of traveling from universe to universe, world-to-world have damaged my body and brain. I am already starting to wither away. I don’t want to die quietly; I want to go out with a bang. But you already know that, don’t you? Because you’re dying too, from years of chasing me, aren’t you? That is why you have the photon bomb in your pocket, isn’t it?”

     Despite the seriousness of the moment, I couldn’t help but smile. Somehow, he always seemed to know. Even when he couldn’t stop me, he still seemed to be one step ahead. And now, the plan I thought he couldn’t possibly foresee turned out to be the one he expected all along.

     I reached into my pocket and pulled out the device.

     “Check” he said, moving his bishop to capture a knight.

     I placed the bomb on the table beside the chess board. He watched me, studying me with his intense gaze. The eyes made me uncomfortable. So I turned to look out the window. I wasn’t worried about him taking the bomb or stopping me from using it. I suspected he wanted to see if I would do it, maybe even give me the chance.

     “It’s your move,” he said.

     I watched the bizarre tentacles flapping from a strange bog outside the window for several moments before looking at the board. Then, I moved my king of out the line of the attack before looking back out the window. My gaze now fell upon a full moon shimmering over a peaceful meadow.

     “It almost seems poetic doesn’t it,” he said. “For the last century, we have battled together. Now, in the end, we die together, one final resolution to a long game. We can call it a draw.”

     Again, I didn’t say anything. There was nothing more to say. A part of me suspected this was his plan all along. I would destroy him, both of us going out in a blaze of glory. Meanwhile he would get the satisfaction of taking out the Inverter and all its records with him, one last spiteful strike against my kingdom. Even better, I, the hero of my kingdom, would be the one to destroy them, and myself.

     The rest of the schemes were just a threat to force my hand. Yet I knew only too well, he would not hesitate to carry out his threat if I didn’t carry out mine.

     “I have mate-in-one,” he said. “It’s your move.”

     He pushed the explosive toward me.

     “Make it.” He said.

     I studied him for a moment. Then I picked up the bomb, my fingers coming to rest upon the trigger.

     “Good game,” I told him, giving him a nod.

     “Good game,” he said. And I squeezed.