By George Allen Miller
George lives in Washington DC with his wife, children, elderly dog and naked-foot-biting cat. When not writing he’s busy architecting solutions in the technology world, helping his dog walk around the block, playing with his kids, chilling with his wife, and searching for pairs of feline repellent socks.
“WHO ARE YOU LIVING?” I asked.
The guy at the bar looked up at me with bleary eyes as the memories from the small hard drive in his hand downloaded into his mind. He shook once and his eyes focused on me.
“What?” he said.
“Who ya living?” I asked again.
“Jasmine, her name’s Jasmine. Grew up in the city, not far from here.”
I nodded and turned away. The bar was filled with the usual trader crowd. About half were staring into space as new memories, new lives, integrated with their brains. I walked to an empty table, threw my drive down and took a sip from my beer.
“Looking to trade?” A woman said. She sat down across from me and smiled. She had long brown hair and loose fitting clothes, the current trend. I pegged her somewhere between twenty-five and a thousand. Really hard to tell how old someone was when everyone lived forever.
“Maybe,” I said. “What’s your name?”
“Actual or – “ She held up the drive in her hand motioned towards it.
“Actual. Your real name.”
She smirked. “Angela. You?”
“Well, Ryan, want to trade? Who do you have there?”
I played with the drive in my hand. “An Italian fashion designer. But I’m actually looking for the memories of someone specific to trade for.”
Angela cocked her head to one side and eyed me with suspicion. People looking for memories of individuals typically wanted to dig up dirt and cause someone grief or blackmail them with a forgotten secret past. Silly, really, but immortality causes boredom.
“It’s not what you think. I’m looking for me.”
“You? What do you mean?”
I sighed. “I get you don’t get it. I just want me back. I traded it away two months ago and hate myself for it. I want my life back, the first two hundred years.”
She laughed once and took a sip from her drink. “Two hundred? Wow, you must be a geezer.”
“Seven hundred this year.”
She shook her head and shrugged. “Why do you want them back?”
I looked at her wondering what to say. Why did I? I’d been trading drives for months and living other people’s early lives. It was addicting but still, something was — off. “How old are you?” I ended up asking.
I sat back in my chair and furrowed my brow. “What? Why are you even here? Your brain can hold five hundred years of memories naturally.” I lifted the drive off the table and pointed it at her like a weapon. “You don’t even need this thing. You’re probably absorbing half the stuff you jack into, do you realize that? As in the memories on the drive are getting stored in your brain as actual memories.”
She nodded. “Yeah, I had to have my first fifty years downloaded and deleted. Gets crowded up here.” She pointed to her head and half-laughed. “It gets confusing too but it’s also kind of awesome. I have a dozen childhoods and twice that many parents. Don’t even need one of these to see them.” She held up her drive and smiled.
“These are only for people who can’t form new memories because our brains are already filled. You shouldn’t even jack-in.”
She shrugged and rolled her eyes. Kids.
“I don’t need a lecture. If you don’t want to trade then we don’t need to talk.” She stood up, frowned, and looked back at me. “What did you say your name was again?”
“Ryan, Ryan Wallace.” I looked at her and my eyes lit up just a fraction. I’d been looking for my drive for weeks and the thought of finding it gave me a small burst of hope.
Angela smiled. “Mrs. Baxter was a real ball-buster, eh?”
I practically fell out of my chair as I stood up. “Are you kidding? That’s me?” Tears welled in my eyes both at the thought of getting my life back.
“Yeah, I didn’t even think of it when you told me your name earlier. I had this for about two days now. Nice life.”
I smiled. “Yeah, well, as it happens I wouldn’t know.”
She laughed. “Ok, well I guess you want to trade now? I’ve never been to Italy, so that’s good for me.”
She unplugged her drive from her head and handed it to me. I gave her the drive holding the memories of the fashion designer and sat back down at my table. The plug eased into the jack under my ear and memories, my memories, my actual honest-to-god memories, flooded back into my mind. I cried as the face of my mother, a face I didn’t recognize in an old picture I dug up from the bottom of an old box, returned to me. My father, brother, all the times growing up, they all hit me like a freight train. Everything in my life made a certain sense now. Like my foundation was back under me. I realized, without knowing it earlier, this is why I wanted them back. Having someone else’s childhood is fun, sure. But I’m only me now because I was me then.
“Hey, pal, who ya living?” said a stranger in the bar.
I blinked a dozen times and let the fog of memory induction fade. The bar was filled with the same people, or maybe they were all different. I didn’t’ see Angela anywhere, probably already off enjoying Italy. I clipped the drive to my belt, took my last sip of beer and stood up.
“Just me,” I said to the stranger. “Just me.”