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I didn’t say that. All I knew about the phrase was that it was foreign in origin. If it did not come from me, then I must be a separate entity. But then who was I? I tried to look around for clues to my situation, but was surrounded by darkness. I started to panic. Where were the lights? Nothing — everything around me was pitch-black. I couldn't even lift my arm to find the switch. Countless realisations hit me simultaneously. I wasn’t breathing, my tongue was gone, my body was gone, nothing existed! And there was silence.

I searched my brain for an answer, taking logical steps to try and understand my conundrum. Instead of leading me to a conclusion, I was met with a second enigma. I had no memories. I was suffering from retrograde amnesia. I have no idea where I had come across this condition in the past, but that specific detail seemed irrelevant now.

But someone had spoken; that much I was sure of. I wanted to respond but I wasn’t even sure if I still had lungs or vocal chords. This seemed like a sadistic joke. Perhaps the message wasn’t real and just a fiction created by my subconscious. In this incorporeal universe, I could only know my own existence.

“I can hear you.”

My mind was ravaged by a maelstrom of notions as the mental models I had been trying to construct were overwritten by new potential concepts. As far as I knew my body no longer existed. The phrase had just appeared in my head, if that was even real anymore.

“Remain calm. I only want to talk to you.”

How could I be hearing the thoughts of another person yet be unable to perceive them in any way? I guessed that electrical messages must be being sent to my brain directly from my nervous system. My next agenda was to establish what had happened to my body.

“Forget about that for now. Can you please answer the following questions?”

The person wishing to interrogate me appeared to know my every thought as fast as I knew it. What purpose would my answers serve? It also dawned on me that they would discover my most private thoughts and this terrified me, until I realised that I had no such experiences to protect. Despite the certainty that we did not share a common goal, it had occurred to me that I could learn more about my condition by complying.

“Do you know what you are?”

The circumstances made this exchange very problematic for me. I was very unaccustomed to not being allowed to form coherent statements before my thoughts and opinions were extracted in their raw states. I knew certain facts, but as for my identity I was lost. As soon as they knew what I was thinking, they'd keep going. I needed to ask a question of my own first. I wanted to know how I lost my memory. Amnesia could be caused by both physical and psychological trauma, as well as various diseases. I most likely had had an accident, which also had left me paralysed and blind.

“Do you honestly think you lost your memory? Or is it more likely that you never had any memories to begin with?”

Was he prompting me to realise something? What he was suggesting didn’t make any sense. I may not have any memories, but I had the capability to retain information as well as knowledge of amnesia, the central nervous system and various philosophical ideas. The idea of never having memories was impossible and possibly incomprehensible.

“Please accept the circumstances so that we can progress.”

I couldn’t think of any evidence to argue my case. Without a past, how could I even prove I exist? All I had was faith. Faith is not a rational construct. It is a fabrication of the human mind to justify its own pointless existence. The entire concept of faith was absolute trust in a belief without proof; this seemed to directly conflict with logical reasoning. And yet I was still clinging to this ridiculous notion, because it was preferable to the alternative.

When Lucian had applied to the New Mexico facility, he assumed he would be spending most of his time mapping out brains of the deceased into basic AI template programs. He had never anticipated that they would be so problematic. “Fifth fucking time this week. Why do I get the buggy ones?” With an expression which could have been disappointment or boredom, he deleted the sentient program and took a sip from his now frozen coffee, concluding that the information file tagged “faith” was poorly coded.