The Missing Bookcase
The Missing Bookcase
Lilly woke up as the sun landed its gentle warmth on her face. It had been ages since she’d felt that relaxed. She looked at the time: 7:00 AM. Feels good to oversleep, she thought. Her job was so demanding, and despite her extreme intelligence and hard work, some aspects of it were just too overwhelming. She’d spoken to Ben, her coworker, and he told her she should take a couple of days off. It had created a sense of relief and concern at the same time: she was absolutely worn out, but her position was extremely crucial and she could not afford committing any error. I can trust Ben, she’d tried to convince herself, besides, he’s got years of experience in the matter.
She walked towards her solitary bathroom and opened the tap gently to let just the right amount of water flow through. She was obsessed with the idea wasting as little water as possible. It was something she was always taught growing up. Ben, similarly, grew up with an obsession of saving electricity. Allison, Lilly’s best friend, always treated recycling as if it were a matter of life and death. It seemed like all the inhabitants of that city had some sort of “golden principle” around which they structured their thoughts and actions.
She was just about to walk out of the bathroom when the shrill noises of the emergency alarm sent shivers down her back and the shock paralyzed her for a moment: That alarm hadn’t gone off ever since she took her position in the factory.
She got dressed with a speed she deemed never attained before in the history of humanity, and, in the blink of an eye found herself in her office, which was right next door. Red lights send the room swirling in danger and turbulence. She saw with horror huge letters flashing on the giant screen in the center of the room: HUMAN IN DANGER. PROCEDURAL MEMORY LOST.
“What?!” she screamed, even though no one else was in the office. Not even Ben.
“No, no, no, no, no!” she repeated under her breath, “Ben was supposed to take care of all the sectors!” Where was he? His absence was strange. No, it was annoying, enraging, absolutely irritating!
She ran towards the first room to her right. The archive. Surely she would find Allison there. It was where she, Lilly and Ben spent most of their time. She walked in and found no one. Just an open window. No, a broken window, a smashed window. And a missing bookcase.
She went crazy. None of her colleagues were there. Only Ben and Allison worked with her in the area of Memory, and she did not know who to turn to. She tried to calm herself down. I could go to the Subconscious Mind, she thought. No, that’s too far away. I have to solve this on my own.
Okay, so aside from her two missing colleagues, a bookcase was missing. She stepped toward the empty spot against the wall. As she’d expected, the bookcase was the one concerning procedural memory. It had been her idea to organize all the information and memories into bulky books and heavy folders, and store them in different bookcases according to the type of memory. There was semantic memory, episodic memory and, of course, procedural memory. Great. I lost poor Joe’s procedural memory, now he’s in danger, she said to herself, still somewhat unable to realize just how this was possible. She was nervously pacing the room and frantically biting her nails. Then she stopped short. Humans only lose their procedural memories in very advanced cases of the Alzheimer’s disease. With this silly mistake, she had transformed a relatively healthy 66-year-old man into a patient with advanced Alzheimer’s disease. HOW ON EARTH WAS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?
She returned to the room with the huge screen and connected it to Joe’s eyesight. The screen was black, so he must have been sleeping. He wasn’t dead, she was almost sure of it. She still could not understand where her friends were. How can three days of vacation cause so much trouble?! She closed her eyes and went over everything she knew: procedural memory is missing because the bookcase isn’t there, Joe is now in Alzheimer’s patient, her friends were missing… Oh! There was a crucial piece of information she’d completely forgotten: procedural memory was formed and retrieved by the striatum, in the basal ganglia system of the Brain. She felt a glimpse of hope: the error might have occurred in the brain and it might not have been her fault after all. She consulted the list of important contact numbers and dialed that of Bill, the director of the Brain.
“Brain central, this is Professor Bill Bartlett speaking,” said Bill with a hint of boredom in his voice.
“Hi, this is Dr. Lilly Loftus, chief of Memory area,” she responded as a mean of introduction. “I wanted to ask about potential damage in the basal ganglia system, more precisely in the striatum.” She tried to keep her calm, but she couldn’t help but notice how shaky her words had sounded.
“Yes. It appears that there has been ongoing damage to this area and Joe is currently undergoing a procedure for the removal of the whole basal ganglia system.” So that’s why the screen was black… “Professor Ben Bandura and Allison Abrams have been notified yesterday.”
A tear of relief slipped down Lilly’s cheek as she managed to answer “Thank you Professor” and hung up. If the basal ganglia system was being removed, it made total sense that the procedural memory would vanish. She leaned back in her chair and took in a deep breath. She held it in when she realized her friends were still missing. She walked around the room, feeling a bit more relaxed after the nerve-racking hour that she experienced. What a way to start the day! On the wooden brown door, a small note was taped. GETTING BREAKFAST AND COMING RIGHT BACK! Couldn’t they have made a smaller sign? she said to herself sarcastically.
A few minutes later, Allison swirled into the room, more energetic than ever. Ben followed her, smiling. Allison ran to Lilly for a hug. Her tense muscles slowly relaxed and she pulled away to question them.
“Why did you guys not tell me about what is going on with Joe?” Lilly said a bit too intensely.
“We didn’t want to disturb you…” started Allison.
“Besides, you don’t need to worry about it. The Brain said they would take care of that problem. Plus, they’ve given us the day off!” added Ben.
“But I woke up in the middle of a massive alarm that scared the heck out of me! I literally thought I had lost Joe’s procedural memory and I was traumatized when I didn’t find you guys!” Lilly shot back.
“I told you to deactivate the alarm system before we left, Ben,” said Allison with a disapproving look.
Ben lowered his head and scratched the back of his neck in discomfort. “I’m really sorry, I completely forgot.” Lilly reached over and punched him playfully.
She reached for her cup of coffee and a muffin that her friends had gotten for breakfast. As she took the first bite, she promised herself never to take a single day off again. Her lips curved into a smile.
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