art by Void lon iXaarii
What Memories Are Made Of
by Kat Otis
There was a footbridge on the road leading into the town, but its troll was small enough that Hans only had to sell a woodcarving memory to gain passage. Afterwards, he prodded at the blank space in his mind, like tonguing a missing tooth, even though he'd sold enough memories to know that it was gone forever. He reached into his pocket and felt the reassuring shape of his latest carving. After five decades of working with wood, surely he had memories to spare. And even if he didn't, the price was still worth it.
Another chance to find his daughter, his Inger, was worth any price.
The caravan of Traveling Folk was circled just outside the town walls. A steady stream of men and women flowed between the town and encampment--people who coveted goods from far-off lands more than they despised those who brought them. Town and caravan children played together underfoot, oblivious to the tensions of their elders. They had not yet learned to fear the memory loss that accompanied traveling.
Hans wandered through the encampment, searching for Inger. When he reached the edge of the wagon circle, he meant to turn back but instead found himself frozen in his tracks.
He stared at a blue wagon trimmed with images of red clover. He knew that wagon, knew it by feel, the way he knew his own teeth, though a moment earlier he would have sworn he'd never seen it before. He struggled to catch hold of the memory and came up against sharp-edged blankness, the feeling of a memory cut away. Increasingly uneasy, he circled the wagon, struck by the same feeling again and again--three, five, ten times. How many memories of this wagon had he sold? And why?