What You Will Find at a Memory Auction

Reading Time: 4 minutes


My vision scrambles, as I shiver outside the data bank. It’s cold out, but that’s the least of my problems. My heads-up display keeps blinking in and out, obscuring what I can see.

I’ve got to get inside the bank and pay for more cloud storage immediately. If I don’t, my cache will start shedding memories to conserve space.

(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

Precious memories. Like when my mom threw a raincoat on me and took me to step in puddles out in the grassy field beside our home. I remember my little boots, they were yellow. Red? Bright pastels? I-

My HUD hiccups again. I glance toward the door of the data bank. It sighs open each time someone comes near it. A steady stream of people go in and out.

The state mandated we all install neural plugins a few years ago. They’re just little hormone feeders, imbedded as chips within our brain. We were told it was to keep up with the modern demands for brainpower.

And that’s true.

I remember what humanity was like before the advent of neural plugins. We were starting to slip. Too much distraction, too much vanity. Too much ego.

Everyone was perpetually exhausted and anxious, and the spirit of living was lagging behind the sheer rush of stimulation sluicing over each and every one of us.

My hand is in my pocket, gripping my old leather wallet. It’s been retrofit with all the modern fob technology that elicits agency in this day and age. It’s how I need to pay for more storage, to keep these oldest memories.

As a society, we quickly realized a crucial flaw in the plugins. They required storage. The plugins could improve neural processing power, but by overclocking the brain, we couldn’t keep up with the clip at which life was happening.

Our ability to retain new memories began to slip.

So we began storing memories to the cloud, as way to ensure we could remember our fundamental years. The sheer mass of data and stimulation is shaking modern humanity apart. We accumulate all of this so fast, the brain’s memory can’t keep up with its power.

I’m getting to that point. The telltale signs are when your HUD goes on the fritz.

I can’t just dash into the data bank, swipe my credentials, and breath a sigh of relief, though.

I don’t have the money.

The doors sigh open, birthing a new wobbly, slovenly proletariat like me. Probably on his last dime too.

Maybe I can barter with them, and they’ll let me open a line of credit. Buy me a little time. It’s my only shot at saving my bedrock memories. Like all those times my dad would put me on his shoulders at the pool. Standing on the edge of the water, he was my high dive. I remember him launching me up, and I swear it always felt like I was jumping from fifty feet in the air. I screamed with delight every time. My body would plunge down in the deep end, eight feet deep. Or eight and a half? Nine feet? There was also that one time when the jacuzzi clogged and-

It’s time to go in and talk to the bank. My HUD is blinking at a rapid rate, slicing life up, frame by frame.

“Unfortunately you have been denied credit,” the laconic teller tells me, after scanning my credentials. I’ve been in here for maybe forty-five seconds. “A report will be mailed in five to six weeks detailing why. Any questions?”

“Please,” I plead, “is there any sort of option that would allow me to retain those old memories for a little while longer?”

“Sir,” the teller snaps, “you do realize that with the current exchange rate, you will only retain these memories for a few weeks before needing to upgrade your storage again.”

“I don’t care,” I cry out, “is there any sort of option.” My HUD is blinking so rapidly it makes me nauseous. I hold onto the ledge separating me from the teller. I stare at them, lock eyes with another human being. They stare back, eyes fluttering.

“…You… are welcome to sell your memories at our auction. Digitally, of course. Purge some space, select something sweet that you’re willing to part ways with, and put it up for sale. We have clients willing to supplement their neural plugins and patch in new memories. The market is very hot right now.”

Alright. So what can I give up? If I’m selling these to rich people, they want to remember my best memories. Not my worst. Not the time I vomited in Berlin. Or when I tried to fight a bear outside Lone Pine.

It’s awful. Leveraging memories for space is the lowest of the low. Picking and choosing, forgetting people and places. All I can do is savor every moment I’ve deemed worthy of surrender one last time. What will I offer? The zest of young love? The thrill of adolescent success? Each instance rushes through my overclocked brain.

I’m taken to the back, and told to remove all my jewelry, and my belt. Shoes, too.

Synced to the machine, I pick a dream I’ve decided to forget.

I remember picking sopping wet toilet paper up from our front lawn. I was victimized for the third time in two months. I thought I was the tops. To get tee-peed was a total flirt. I had the attention of a few cuties. Their names were Lucy, and Sylvia. And Rachel. Wait. Was there a Rachel? There was Stephanie, and …

This story previously appeared in Etherea Magazine, June 2022.
Edited by Marie Ginga


Eric Farrell lives in Long Beach, California, where he works as a beer sales rep by day, and speculative fiction author by night. His writing credits stem from a career in journalism, where he reported for a host of local and metro newspapers in the greater Los Angeles area. He posts on Twitter @stygianspace and has recent fiction with Aphotic Realm, Haven Spec, and HyphenPunk.