[Original Novel] Metal Fever II: The Erasure of Asherah, Part 14

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Previous parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

When I said so, she shrugged. “Must be nice, if you can really afford to be picky. You know about dummy memories, right?” She balked when I shook my head. “Have you been under a rock for the last five years?” Six actually, but I didn’t say so.

“Dummy memories are plugins that conceal your actual memories from employers. If they go digging to see what your background is, though of course they swear they won’t, all they will find are generic memories. First pet. First bicycle. First kiss.”

I asked how that could possibly fool them. “Well, it’s randomized somewhat. The first pet may be a dog, a cat, a turtle, a hamster. The first kiss is with one of hundreds of stock model characters. The faces are changed around, that sort of thing.”

It still seemed hokey. But she soon clarified. “It doesn’t really fool them, but they generally don’t care anyway. It’s just there so if they are doing any large scale sweeps for suspicious persons, there’s nothing that makes you stand out. Except the fact you’re using a dummy memory in the first place, but then everybody does.”

I recalled the compressed air bottles on lanyards around the necks of all those conshelfers. Once again, I’m the only one out of the loop. I closed my eyes briefly to bookmark a few listings for cheap dummy memory plugins before restoring my attention to the woman’s finely wrinkled face.

Speaking of compressed air, the hissing stopped. The black and white diagram bolted to the wall indicated that it’s connected to utilities. Clean air is a utility now? Apparently it would only start using onboard bottled air if flooding were to carry it away, breaking the connection.

It was a small comfort. Nature only seems more and more determined to be rid of us with each passing year, and in less and less predictable ways. It would be just my luck if the storm I evaded back on the stead was the beginning of a hurricane headed for Shenzen.

Not today, evidently. The sirens outside finally died down, and after the light next to the hatch changed from red to green, the old woman struggled to open it. I stepped in to help, but she shrugged me off, then finished the job herself.

The air still smelled of roasted dog turds. Old books mention a certain lingering smell after it’s rained but somehow I think if it smelled like this, they would’ve used stronger language to describe it.

What a blessing and a curse man’s ever-growing memory has been. The step up from story telling traditions to the written word, then the printing press was almost exclusively constructive.

The step from there to universal digital storage, somewhat less so. Besides the permanent annihilation of personal privacy which resulted, it also furnished ample evidence from past generations that weather wasn’t always like this.

There are no gas storms in flat movies from the turn of the century. There are underwater films depicting a rich abundance of wildlife in seemingly impossible diversity. Not just jellies, dolphins and the occasional sickly looking crab.

Instead, mind blowingly colorful coral reefs. I had no idea until then that corals could be any color except brown. Some of it might be CGI. Seems like it would have to be. But I saw the same views in films which purported to be factual documentaries.

Shit like that gives me some inkling of what dolphins are so angry about. It also made me realize that without all this archived media, kids would never know that gas storms aren’t normal. They would never know that there didn’t used to be any cohabs.

What a pain that must be for the world’s most prolific polluters. What a boon it would be for them if our collective electronic memory extended back no further than a few decades, with everything older than that judiciously wiped.

Rendering the whole of humanity amnesiatic, in a sense. Frightening as the prospect seems, there’s no shortage of people who would gladly forget if possible. Dad says that’s what booze is for.

It wouldn’t fix anything, if we simply forgot what we’ve lost. It would hurt less, but pain is only a symptom. Of course that’s not to say there haven’t been legal efforts to remove certain records on the grounds that they’re “politically biased”.

Weasel worded legalese for “incriminating”. For “materials which contradict the party’s narrative.” Only vigilant watchdog groups prevent the success of such efforts. I wonder if one day, nobody will care enough. Maybe one day we’ll become sick of remembering, and welcome the censors.

Our need to forget is, after all, sometimes more powerful than our need to remember. Evolution did not gift us with perfect recall, despite the apparent advantages, most likely because of the impediment to emotional recovery following the death of a loved one.

However monstrous it seems that the intensity of the pain could fade over time, as if one is somehow no longer “as bothered” by the loss, nature put our brains together that way for good reasons.

I am more inclined to trust those reasons, at any rate, than the implant engineers who second guess evolution. Who work tirelessly to circumvent it, though in fairness it’s still possible to delete unwanted memories. It’s just you that does it now, rather than time.

I’m hard pressed to call that an improvement however, since it’s just as useful for holding a grudge as it is for remembering the beauty and laughter of someone you’re determined to never forget.

The first thing I did was drop a vanishingly small fraction of a D-coin on a pollution mask. I knew it looked a little bit ridiculous, especially on a body with these proportions. I resembled a futuristic luchador more than anything else.

Only afterward did I think to look up reviews for the mask. Three stars? Ouch. Caveat emptor, I guess. May as well be China’s national motto. That’s not entirely fair though, the quality of their goods has risen drastically since I was little.

Dad’s still salty about the shit quality of the Chinese electric motorcycle he nevertheless loved so dearly. But these days the government cracks down so harshly on poor quality exports that manufacturers now cheap out only on what they can get away with.

For the most part, that means domestic products sold to desperate people who make in a year what I used to make on my mining rig in the time it took me to vacuum out my lower intestine. Feeling a pang of guilt, I went looking for the old woman to give her my mask, but she was long gone.

The trek to the apartment building wasn’t too bad. The prosthetic leg did more than its fair share of the work, such that I wasn’t even out of breath by the time I arrived. My other leg hurt like a bitch due to years in cold storage with no exercise, but fuck it. I plan to replace that thing pretty soon anyhow.

The building looked outwardly devastated by the storm. But as my own…dwelling…is actually below ground level, it didn’t occur to me right away that the storm damage would cause any problems for my schedule.

Brightly painted yellow robots painted with hazard stripes were noisily going about the tedious work of clearing debris. A fat, balding man with two prosthetic eyes and a prosthetic right arm up to his shoulder stood just outside the front office, gesturing wildly at the robots while shouting obscenities.

I initially had no idea what he was angry about, as once I got close enough that the translator app could make it out, he noticed me and abruptly changed his demeanor. That is until I told him I was the guy who tried to lowball him on his cheapest room.

Stay Tuned for Part 15!

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