This takes place in a Big Brother future where data to be preserved is stored in individual Memory banks and a daily Drink erases all real memories over three days old. In urgent, unconscious protest, teenage Paul sets a symbolic fire (light swallowing darkness); and as punishment the psychiatrist assigns him to Welfare work, caring for a sick woman in the substandards (housing units). Meanwhile Paul begins to write himself secret notes and hide them, so that important experiences will not be lost. This is a serious offense. The sick woman is also having trouble with the pervasive system of memory repression. Eventually she and, later, her daughter Sharon and Paul himself are sent into exile to a sort of prison colony, where people must work hard in the fields but, oddly, don't have to take the memory-erasing Drink. From there Paul and Sharon escape into the uncontrolled unknown, where some free spirits have preceded them and others are sure to follow. Schlee's talent for ambient historical settings serves her as well in this appalling future, and Paul's hesitant and anguished struggles against his conditioning are as intensely realized.