The Fry

28 November 2020

I don’t remember who I am.

I remember who I was. I was a violent, impulsive piece of crap who lacked executive function. Who I was is what got me here in the first place. It’s what got me the mind fry. But I keep forgetting who I am.

The fry is supposed to return you to who you really are. There aren’t good people and bad people, so the psychs say. There are only people, and people who learn to be bad. Violence, racism, selfishness, those are all learned. Countless infant studies support this. Show them a story of the kind blue triangle and the mean yellow circle, and they pick the helpful triangle. Mix up the shapes and the colors, and the kids prefer the nice every time.

When it was discovered that humans are inherently kind, nothing really changed. But after the plague wars, there was a tremendous push to restructure the way children were raised. The three R’s is all well and good, but humanity needed selflessness and generosity. We needed to be kind. There were some that protested the shift, but they were outnumbered and ignored.

In fairness, the change did help. Violence went down, the economy stabilized, and the quality of life went up. Peace in our time, as they used to say.

But no matter what they did, there were always a few who slipped through the cracks. Some were clearly mind-sick. Things like schizophrenia and sociopathy didn’t just vanish any more than asthma or broken legs. These children were treated as best they could, with meds and neurotherapy helping where it could. They were pitied, but not feared.

But there were also the others. The ones like me. We pass every psych test you can throw at us. We give the right answers and our scans are normal. And we’re kind until we aren’t. Most, like me, have fairly minor transgressions. Assault, theft, lying. But some of the others would go so far as beatings and in at least one case straight-up murder.

Until an event happened, you never knew who was one of the others. The neuroscientists couldn’t figure out why. Some thought the events were just accidents, but you don’t just accidentally beat an old lady for her groceries. Some thought it was a new form of neurodiversity. Just nature’s way of trying things in our modern world. But it didn’t matter, because there was a cure. The cure was the fry.

Mind wipes had been around for a generation. Back in the 2030s, they became the standard form of capital punishment. Map a criminal’s brain, find the trigger points in their behavior, and erase them. It was lobotomy reborn, and far more effective. Map, zap, and no more criminal behavior.

The downside was that it would wipe some of the good memories with the bad. Those that were wiped often lost decades of memory. They forgot family or friends. Their personalities changed. But they weren’t violent anymore. They were compliant, slow to anger, safe. And at the time, people really just wanted to be safe.

But in my generation views changed. People started to feel that wiping one’s memories was the same as murder. After all, our memories are what define us. If you can’t remember your own family, how is that any different than shoving an ice pick up your nose?

Neuroscience had gotten better, though, so a new approach was tried. Rather than erase memories, what about simply disconnecting them. Memories are an emotional trigger, and emotions cause bad behavior. Disconnect the memories from the emotions, and a person could return to their inherently kind states. The process became known as the fry.

Advocates of the fry argued that it was just like therapy, but faster. And unlike therapy, the fry actually worked on the others. Plus, it was seen as a deterrent. If an other has the free will to choose kindness over the unkind, they had best exercise it or face the fry.

I agreed. The fry seemed like the perfect solution. And when I behaved badly and learned I was an other, I was happy to be fried. Then I could sleep easy knowing I was cured. That I wouldn’t be evil anymore.

But that isn’t true. Since the fry doesn’t erase memories, you still recall what you did. Without the emotions, though, it feels like it happened to someone else. Rather than feeling myself again, I feel haunted by a violent ghost. I have memories of him, but I don’t have memories of me. If I’m not who I was, then who am I?

I won’t tell the psychs that, though. I know the answers they want, and that’s the answers I give. When they ask me if I have violent urges, I tell them no. I lie. The urge is there, stronger than before. But it is not connected to my emotions. I lie. I play my part. I’m a good boy. A good citizen.

My grandfather used to say there are two wolves inside us. A good and a bad. The one you feed is the one that lives, he would say. So what happens when the good gets the fry, leaving the other.