Thanks for the Memory

Skinner looked like an old vulture with a broken wing. He sat across the kitchen table from Amon with one arm crooked in a scarf bandage — a ruse that, the man insisted, made it easier for him to pass the sentinels with his crisp greenback bribes.

“Boring.” Amon blinked, shoulders slumping with disappointment. He tugged the electrodes from his temples, and they retracted on threads spooling from Skinner's open valise. “You promised better.”

“They're hard to come by, Sir.”

Amon narrowed his hazel eyes. “But you're easily replaceable.”

My very short story (only 950 words) "Thanks for the Memory" was in last week's issue of Nature, available to read for free right here. I received a contributor's copy of the print issue, and it looks great. Kind of cool to have the only fiction page in a journal with research scientists as the primary audience. (When the publisher contacted me to arrange payment, she addressed me as Dr. Fowler. I used to have a coworker who did the same, but he was being facetious.)

With this story, I attempted to create an alternate Great Depression era. The wealthy Citizens live in a walled city to separate them from the rabble in their Hoovervilles, but while the well-off may be safe inside, their lives have grown stagnant. They demand to be entertained, and they're willing to pay smugglers for illicit contraband.

Skinner's job is simple: sneak memories into the city for Amon and other paying customers. But where do these memories come from? And why would anyone be willing to part with something so personal? You'll have to read it to find out. (See what I did there? Awwww yyeeeeeaah...)

It's a big story to pack into 950 words, and 14 other publications rejected the idea, saying it was "too big" for such a short tale. But I'm glad the folks at Nature disagreed. And who knows, maybe someday I'll expand it into a novella or even a novel. Anything is possible.

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