"Toward the Cusp" by Ian Creasey — story background

My earliest memory is of dying in a cocoon of machines, my shrivelled body enfolded in monitors like an insect in amber.

It put a shadow on my infancy.  I would wake up screaming, terrified of decay in a clean white room.  The specialists diagnosed birth trauma; I lacked the vocabulary to explain that it was in fact death trauma.

As with several of my shortest works, this is a very old piece that sat in my files for some time until I discovered that the "flash fiction" genre was a handy outlet for strange squibs of prose.  The story was inspired by the White Queen in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass — "It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards," she remarks, since she remembers her future as well as her past.

But what would it be like to have a memory so prodigious that it works both ways?  The narrator of "Toward the Cusp" has a regular memory that starts from birth and goes forward; he also has extra memories that start from his death and accumulate backward.  The effect is that the undetermined portion of his life is gradually squeezed, so that his options keep diminishing.  When the remaining unremembered time shrinks down to a year, a day, an hour... what can he do with his vanishing slice of freedom?

Page last updated: 23 May 2015