Crystallized [Flash fiction]

A flash fiction piece about stolen memories. Written for Flash Fiction Friday’s prompt “Crystallized” (#FFF 225) and part of the Makoltaverse library.

White typewriter text over an ambient black and blue background depicting vectors. The text reads "# FFF 181 Crystallized"

Truthfully, this isn’t what she expected memories to look like.

Amalia bore an amused expression, apparently used to this kind of reaction. “Well, what did you think they looked like?”

Cyra shook her head. “I have no idea. Not this.”

“Let me rephrase.” The memory-keeper paced casually, scanning the shelves for a specific item. “What do memories look like when you take them from people?”

Cyra thought about this. She hadn’t been in training for very long. They told her she had an affinity for something called psionics, and taught her how to extract memories out of people’s minds.

“Like a projection, I suppose. When I enter someone’s mind, looking for a memory, they’re like… they’re like images playing on a very faint light. I guess if you could project something against the sky in really really high definition, that’s what a memory looked like.”

“Inside their minds,” Amalia nodded. “And when you extract them?”

That one was easier. “Like a tiny ray of sun,” she replied. That’s the first thought she had, after all, the first time she successfully removed a memory from a subject. “Or sometimes moonlight, depending on the memory. But it’s definitely a stream of light emitting from their skin.”

She knew Amalia was listening, even though she was pulling a ladder to reach for a higher shelf. “And you will that light stream into the device your trainers gave you, correct? What happens next?”

Cyra shrugged. She’d never thought about it and never really cared to question. Her best guess was the memories were disposed of or destroyed through magic.

Amalia descended from the ladder with a glass display box, a brilliant crystal housed inside. She handed it to Cyra, who let out a soft gasp as she took in its details up close.

The lights inside the room were dim, but the crystal was pulsing light within its core. Its numerous cuts and facets were tiny and rough, not clean like a diamond’s.

She resisted the urge to bring the crystal closer to her face, wondering if she would perhaps peek at the memories contained, playing on the tiny surfaces like a house of mirrors.

“This is what happens next,” Amalia said. “They’re left in special cases and they crystallize over time.”

Cyra stared and stared. She never asked before what happened with extracted memories, assuming they just disappeared when removed. Did the agency store every memory they ever took? Do they use them for something? For what? Surely it wasn’t all safekeeping.

A hundred possibilities began pouring into her mind like sand.

“What’s the purpose of that?” Cyra demanded. Her voice betrayed her, rising in anxiety and confusion. “Can the memories be used somehow? Can they be given back? Can they be implanted in somebody else?”

Amalia approached her slowly, a gentle expression on her face. “We don’t currently know how to return memories, or even to replay them once taken. But I can tell you everyone in my line of work is looking for a way. Everyone who takes memories is also keeping them.”

“Why… This is suddenly too much to think about. Why are you showing me all this?”

She didn’t answer right away, but continued looking at Cyra kindly. “You, a memory extractor, may not yet know what happens to the memories you’re instructed to take. Maybe it’s with the owner’s consent, and maybe it really is for their own benefit. But not everyone is good, Agent Cyra. Every day, memories get stolen without the owners ever knowing.”

She held Cyra’s gaze for a long moment, waiting for her breathing to quiet down and the wild look in her eyes to soften. “When the day comes that memories can be returned, I want people to have the choice to get it back. If they ever find out they were stolen from. And you need to start remembering everyone you ever took from, even if it pains you. You might need to tell them someday and they might want it back.”

“How close are you? To finding a way?”

“Not very close,” Amalia said sadly. “After all, there aren’t many experiments we can do without the risk of permanently destroying or damaging the crystal memory. It’s a risky thing.”

“I understand, I think.”

“When I’ve figured it out, I will call you,” she promised. She lowered her gaze at the shining, pulsing, opalescent crystal in Cyra’s hands. “Because I think you’re gonna want that one back.”

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