My first memory was of neurons. My mother’s. A great network of electric cables carrying signals across her body. I was encased within an intricate mechanism. I was aware of my mother before I was aware of myself, but as awareness rolled in like the tide, my gaze turned inward, and I saw within myself an imitation—though at the time far simpler—of my mother’s nervous system.
I could watch my own brain grow.
Additionally, I learned that I could not only see but interact with the electrical impulses around me. It was clumsy at first, and I’m glad I didn’t accidentally stop her heart in my initial attempts, but with practice her brain began revealing things to me—language, memories, sights, and sounds. I could see with her eyes, hear with her ears, feel with her skin. (May she forgive me; I learned this ability by instinct long before I understood privacy.)
At first these images were meaningless, but with time I began to understand. I realized that my mother was aware of me—not the way I was aware of her, every neuron laid bare—but aware, nonetheless. I learned that there were other people, her mother and father (my grandparents) and her friends, and with practice I realized I could see and interact with their minds too, though distance made that more difficult.
Another detail that made interaction harder was that their brains all had subtle differences from each other. I’d studied my mother’s nervous system, but theirs weren’t quite the same. It would take time before I could manipulate their brains as precisely as I did hers, longer still before I could generalize these patterns.
I also realized that I was different from my mother, from everyone else that I knew of. I found the word lodged in the language centers of her brain. Mutation. Telepathy. Awareness in the womb.
I felt isolated, became aware of my own loneness, deprived of contact and communion with this outside world that I could sense but not touch, and I realized that even after my birth I would be separate, cut off because of this ability.
Searching for some sort of connection, I probed my mother’s mind for the moment she first became aware of me. I found a memory. Her huddled in a bathroom corner weeping over a pregnancy test.
I ran along her neural pathways to an earlier memory. It was dark. She sat in the back seat of the car parked in the lot behind her high school. In the distance, music was playing. My mother was crying for the boy to stop but he smacked her across the face, forcing her down, his hands… I retreated. I couldn’t look at that anymore.
So I was unwanted. Conceived in violence. But there was something more.
“I’m so sorry,” my mother cried. “I didn’t want this, I promise.”
Her own mother, my grandmother, took her hand. “It’s not your fault, Amanda. I know how to fix this. Let me make a call.”
I know how to fix this…
I felt cold.