by Megan Crewe
Earl laid her on the table's vinyl padding. He wiped her forehead with dampened gauze.
"It'll just hurt a moment, really," he said. "A little crackle through the skull."
Not like the shudder when she'd slammed the bedroom door behind her, when she'd lanced him with her glare and opened her mouth: Enough, this is the last time, slinking in at midnight, you live in your lab from now on you can sleep there.
Her eyelids fluttered. He brushed them still.
Don't touch me don't try, you stink, burnt vinegar, hear me this once go.
The blood in her cheek was clouding into a bruise. He never would have, if she hadn't said it, if she hadn't--
I never loved you anyway.
His throat ached with an uncried sob. His fingers tripped across the tray. Never mind. He would fix that mistake. And all others.
He smoothed electrodes to her temples as the checkered box beneath his elbow murmured. Its panes blinked numeric neon pupils.
It had started in sparks, seven years ago. The glint of her anklet. The flash of her smile. He, shot through with a bolt like lightning. She, illuminated from the inside out. Static between their skins.
Seven years. Seven years of harmony allotted, before the marital ceiling rotted through and crashed down in splinters of disappointment. The glow smothered in the rubble.
It had been worth it: the late hours, the migraines, the pinching of his sinuses as he squinted over lines of data, fumbled curlicues of wire. Worth it so that he could pin-point their failure in silver dots on the hollows of her head. Revive the electricity. Burn out the pain. Erase.
The dial clicked under the pressure of his thumb. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.
Seven years--of memory.
He flipped the switch. Her flesh twitched. The current ran backward.
All the way back, she looked like she was sleeping, leaned against the car window the way she'd dozed on the flight home from their Parisian honeymoon. He carried her over the threshold, lay her on the bed's white sheets. The window was open, the photographs cleared from the ledge. A breeze stirred the canopy like a veiled ghost.
Her eyelids fluttered, and opened.
"Earl," she said. "Are we back already? I hardly remember the plane. I wish we could just live in France. It was gorgeous." Her fingers grazed his cheek. "God, I love you."
Warmth uncurled like petals in his chest; he smiled. "I told you so," he said.
Originally published in On Spec #56 (Spring 2004)
Author's Note: This was my first (and last--I really am a long-form writer) attempt at writing flash fiction. The story is only 440 words long. I always meant to come back to this idea and write a longer story about the characters and Earl's memory-altering technology, but it's never quite come together.