Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Prompt: How much are your memories worth?

Paul stepped nervously into the pawn shop. He’d never been before, and he’d heard the rumors. It wasn't at all what he expected. Clean and well lit, there were display tables around the edges, leaving space for the reclining chair in one corner. A lanky guy about his age lay in the chair, one arm thrown over his eyes, the other stretched out to the side. Paul took in the enormous man holding the arm and thought about turning around and walking back out.

The giant looked up and smiled at Paul, and it was clear he understood Paul’s uncertainty. “What can I do for you, kid?” He asked in a warm voice. Paul shrugged and shoved his hands in his pockets. The man nodded and said, “Wait a minute, we’re almost done here.”

He held a small rectangular device against the young man’s arm, and after a moment, he thumbed a button and set it aside, laying the arm back in the guy’s lap. “Okay, Joe. Take a minute. You know you get dizzy when you jump up too fast.”

The guy in the chair lifted his other arm away from his face and sat up. He looked over to Paul and gave a spacey smile. “No way, man, I’m all good. Got places to go, now you hooked me up.”

The giant shook his head. “Okay, okay, Joe. Take it easy. Try not to spend it all in one place. I can’t take more until, um, Monday. So you got to get through the weekend.”

Joe jumped out of the chair and wobbled a little as he headed for the door. The giant called after him, “Joe? Don’t go to any of those junk shops. They won’t give you as good a deal anyway, and they don’t take care of you!”

Joe waved airily and pulled the door open with more strength than was needed, stumbling back with a giggle as he careened outside.

The giant waved Paul over. “Come on. First time, huh? I can always tell. Don’t worry, it don’t hurt, I’m the best in the biz.”

Paul sat down in the chair, fighting his anxiety. “Um, is it going to make me high or something?”

The giant laughed.  “You mean like Joe? Naw, he’s an addict. He came in like that. If anything, it will relax you. Now, let’s see what you got.”

Paul looked up in surprise. “You mean, you can see it?”

“Sure. How else could I price it for you? Don’t worry, it's easy – I just run the scanner--” he held up the little box “—over your arm, and it gives me a preview of the memory you’re selling.”

“How does it know which one?”

The giant raised an eyebrow. “Well, you got to hold it right in front of your mind, of course. But you can see the preview too and let me know it’s the right one. Most folks don’t really care, anyway.”

Paul flinched a little. He wasn’t sure he wanted to do this, after all. The giant seemed to understand and sat quietly until Paul sat in the chair and rolled up his sleeve. He took Paul’s hand and stretched out his arm, rolling it up so he could hold the scanner over his tricep. He ran the scanner for a moment, and Paul watched curiously. He didn’t feel anything, actually, except cautious relief.

The giant pursed his lips and put the scanner down. He sat for a minute, looking at the ceiling without saying anything, Paul was starting to wonder what was wrong when he spoke. “Son, you need to take that to the bank. I’m going to give you a name to ask for. She’ll take good care of you.”

“Oh, okay, I guess—”

“Then you need to go straight to the police.”

Paul stared at him and gave a short laugh, expecting the man to join in. He didn’t. He wrote a name on his card and handed it to Paul.

When he reached for the door, the man said quietly, “Son, you be careful with that memory. I’m serious. The bank, then the police.” He hesitated, then said, “It’s worth a lot of money. But it could also be worth your life.”

Dogs in house:
Houdini, Brindle

Daughter’s piano lesson

May word count:


  1. Prompt: How much are your memories worth?

    Rona clasped her hands and stared up the stairs at the temple entrance. The doors were dark green, painted in an inviting leaf motif, at odds with the temple's reputation. People came back changed, different, she had heard. People didn't come back at all. But she had no choice. Papa was dying, and without a priest to send him to the afterlife he would be a shade, trapped forever away from the circle of rebirth.

    Rona had already spent her last copper -- and hocked her last belongings -- to pay for Papa's doctors. No, no, she would not begrudge that cost. Even if they had not cured Papa, they had made his last days more bearable. But now she had nothing left to sell, and the only priests who did not demand payment for shepherding a soul to the next stage were behind those green doors.

    She climbed the temple stairs, feeling as if everyone on the city street behind her watched, noting the desperate girl, laughing at her plight. She turned to look. No one was paying attention. She reached the door. It opened at her touch, swinging inward easily.

    The interior was dark, and nearly indiscernible to eyes adjusted to the bright outside. Slowly things resolved, giving Rona the sense of standing in the midst of a carved jungle.

    "What have you brought to offer, child?" said a voice.

    "My Papa needs--"

    "What you need, second. What you offer, first."

    "I have nothing," Rona said. Everyone said they asked no payment. She blinked, fighting tears. She thought back to Papa, drifting to sleep peacefully in the chair downstairs, enabling her to sneak out, hoping that he would remain so until she returned. So different from the energetic man he used to be, laughing in the workshop, heaving planks from the mill onto their long wagon. She remembered him giving her her first set of tools, him standing proudly as she sanded her first finished cabinet.

    "Stop!" said the voice. "That is enough. When it is time, someone will come. Go back to your father now, child."

    Rona turned and was pulling open the door before she quite realised what she was doing. She was relieved that the temple would send someone, and that they had demanded no payment, as everyone said.

    In the street, she stopped, confused. What was she doing here? She looked up at the temple. She had come to go into the temple; why was she now leaving it? What was Papa doing? She should not have left home with him awake. She had meant to wait until he slept! She hurried home.

    Time writing: 30 minutes

  2. Oo! Sounds like the start to a good mystery.