Sara is getting restless in the queue. There are still a couple of people standing ahead of her; they both look defeated. She wonders if she, too, is donning the same look. I am a Roy, she reminds herself, Roys may lose, but are never defeated. She plasters a smile on her face.
She has been standing in the queue for quite some time now. And that makes beaming further more difficult. Especially so, given she has no clue what the queue is for. She peers around; a vast, white, closed hall surrounds her. But all it holds is a queue spiralling outwards, inching slowly towards the centre. Towards a lady, running an apparatus. And a grater — not much different from a normal cheese grater, just unnaturally large.
This was in no way the entrance to the afterlife that Sara had always imagined. Not that of the heaven, for sure. Sara feels suffocated. She isn’t prepared to embrace the death yet.
The person in front of Sara moves ahead and hands the memory stick to the craggy looking lady. Sara tilts her head with a childish curiosity, and observes the lady and her apparatus. There is a charcoal like block right at the centre of the hall. The lady inserts the memory stick in the only slot the block displays. The block makes some abrasive, unpleasant noises and pops out muskmelon-sized orbs of a person’s memories — some vibrant, some pale. She expressionlessly picks up every orb, the vibrant ones and the pale ones, and grates it.
Sara watches as the shreds of memories drop straight down the drain below.She tightens her fist around the memory stick she holds. She won’t let her priceless memories die such a dreadful death; it doesn’t matter that’s just how her’s had been.
“Next,” Sara hears the lady call out. The voice lacks any emotion, but that makes it sound further weighty.
Sara greets the lady, just the way she is taught Roys do, with a smile. The lady though — without lifting her chin even slightly — stretches her hand out further.
“I can’t recall how this ended up with me, but here,” Sara hands her the memory stick. She continues in an attempt to sound confident and cheerful, “That’s the memories spanning 20 years of my colourful life.”
Sara looks on as the block starts spitting the orbs. From the queue, this process felt a lot faster. She could, however, now see the memory that every orb represented.
She looks on as the lady picks up Sara’s first vision of her mum and grates it. She then picks up Sara’s first word and drains the shreds of the faint mma. Her first step meets the same end. The lady continues as she pounces on every dear memory of Sara’s and scrubs it on the grater.
Drops of sadness, helplessness flood Sara’s eyes. She has to do something; she couldn’t let this massacre continue unquestioned. “Do you have to grate all my memories?”
The lady looks up momentarily and then lets out a dull sigh. “Of course, not. It’s not about what do I have to do. It’s about what do you want me to do.”
Well, that’s unexpected. Sara ponders, “But why did no one else get that option?”
“Did you see anyone else question?” The lady had her brows raised, holding Sara’s first day to school. “Some, like you, do. And they get the option. But once they realise what it means, most do not hold on to any of their memories.”
Sara sees the lady grate her cheery self, hopping to the school. “And what does it mean not grating some memories?”
“It means next time you are born, it’s not with a clean canvas.” Sara sees her first crush get shredded down the drain. “You begin your life with some memories; memories without context, without backstories. The questions such memories can raise in one’s mind could potentially draw her crazy.”
Sara wasn’t convinced. “Can the answers to these question be quested for in one’s lifetime?”
“Of course, they can be. The vital question is do you want to be born with the baggage?”
The lady expected an answer, or more questions, from the feisty girl. Failing to get either, she looks up and catches a gleam of excitement sparkle in Sara’s eyes — an excitement she has not seen for a long, long time. She heedlessly looks at the vibrant orb of a cosy pinkish hue that she holds. She sees a dreamy Sara, with the same sparkle in her eyes, looking at a guy walk into her class.