Lucian had already mentally spent some of his memory’s earnings before he had even opened the heavy door to the shop. He knew he would be getting a weighty pouch of gold dust for this memory as it combined many of the elements the idle rich enjoyed. Sex, danger and a guilt-free experience. Lucian was a time collector, he sold snippets of his life so that others could enjoy them as if theirs.
The interior of the shop looked like your average apothecary. The walls were shelved from floor to ceiling and on each shelf were identical, well identical but for their labels and coloured contents, lidded glass jars. The shop was well lit with a glass skylight above and bright lamps below. The memory master always was dressed in the whitest of robes, not a smut or mark on them. He was a consummate salesman and his customers loved him. Maybe because he never really told them what the memory was they were buying, he let their imagination and anticipation add to the frisson.
A customer who entered the shop would be ushered in and sat in a comfortable divan. The memory master offered them “calming tea” but Lucian suspected it contained some form of ingredient that encourage excitability, as the drinker would become flushed, speak faster, and even sparkle a little with a sprinkle of perspiration that appeared on their top lip and forehead. The memory master would chat with the customer and then walk to a shelf and extract a bottle. The customer had not spoken of anything more than the weather, or whether the trip to the shop was pleasant, but the memory master could always pick something that would fit the customer’s preferences.
At this point in the transaction the customer would seem to almost froth with excitement. The memory master never changed his demeanour, never twitched an eyebrow or looked down his nose, he continued on to place the jar in a specially padded wooden box that would protect it from harm until it reached the customer’s abode. A consummate professional. The customer would hand over more gold than they had planned, but probably less than they would have should the memory master had asked. Off they went – sometimes to immediately absorb the memory in their carriage before even leaving the kerb, or more likely taking it home to savour with a good meal and wine, or in the company of friends who would all tip their heads back and breath the contents at the chiming of a clock, usually at the mid of the night.
Lucian did not begrudge the memory master his trade. Oh no, Lucian would probably be but a poor tradesman, covered in grime, returning home to a hovel he shared with many others if the memory master had not spotted him as a youngster. Without the skills of the man in white he would be eating only watery stew and hard bread. He shuddered to think of it. At least he had clean rooms of his own, and could frequent the chop shops and inns of the city for whatever repast amused him. He knew though, that the memory master had a townhouse and a chateau in the sunny countryside surrounded by farms and fields of golden grain, largely funded by taking a hefty commission from the fruits his exploits. Lucian felt that the memory master certainly had the best of their bargain.
Lucian did look down on those that purchased his memories. He could not understand why they, who had the time and means, would rather have someone else’s recollection of an event (even if they saw themselves in the main role) than actually experiencing the event themselves. He was secretly pleased that the memories themselves weren’t permanent to the purchaser. Like chalk marks on the cobbles, the more times the memory was used the more they faded, until eventually they were too faint to recall. Secretly he knew his irritation sprang from his own faded memories, for when you sold a memory only a misty recollection was left, and it too eventually disappeared.
To ensure that he never sold the same experience more than once, which would have netted him a smaller bag of gold dust for his efforts, Lucian kept a ledger of each transaction. Unlike the memory master who seemed to know by heart what every bottle contained (the labels only had some kind of stock number on them, they gave nothing away as to what the contents were), Lucian had to put to paper where, when, who and what he had done. A good deal of what he earned went to creating the circumstances for the next experience, and as you could only sell one memory at a time trying to make the process more profitable came down to how well he could window dress the scenery. Sadly, if he knew what he was experiencing was not real, then the memory would too, and that would be bad for business. Very bad.
Lucian tried to read the ledger as a dispassionate observer would. It was easy to become bitter about what he had lost. He told himself that everyone lost most of their memories. That they accepted it, because you do not miss what you do not remember. His lost memories were recorded. His lost memories were a constant thorn that caught his skin at odd times and brought on a seething melancholy that could be blotted out with wine, or with planning and executing a new experience. Too often he chose the first, knowing that the second was some evil Ouroboros that he could not escape.