Rabbi Dov Applebaum argued—quite eloquently, he thought—for keeping the spaceship to its original flight plan. After all, there were Jewish children on Orion Station who needed Torah lessons before their upcoming B’nai Mitzvah. And yet the AI refused to listen to him and instead plotted a new course towards the distress signal on Rigel-7.
When the AI stated that intergalactic law compelled them to answer a distress call, Dov might’ve kept quiet—he wouldn’t actually have kept quiet, but he might have—but when the fakakta computer started citing Jewish law, Dov had to object.
“True, Leviticus says not to ‘stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor,'” said Dov, “but there are many interpretations of the Jewish law around distress signals. For one, what is a neighbor, galactically speaking?”
The reporter is young, smells young even through the miasma of bleach and boiled vegetables. Three Willows Retirement Village is not an olfactory feast, so Millie is grateful for the scents of mango shampoo and coconut hand cream the girl brings with her.
“First of all, congratulations on the milestone!”
Millie wraps her knuckles around the gnarled head of her driftwood cane, leans forward.
“Congratulations?” She releases a calculated chuckle, gently chiding. “On not dying?”
“I just mean… I mean, not everyone gets to celebrate their one-hundred and tenth birthday!”
“Well, that’s very true. I’ve been blessed.”
“I was hoping you could tell me a little about your life. You must have seen so much!”
The girl has a notebook out now, pen poised.
“I was hoping you could tell me, what’s your earliest memory?”
(n) A sincere, though ultimately futile, effort to make right a wrong. Always involves books.
This. She didn’t mean to. It was a mistake.
1. (v) To get up from a position of repose.
2. (v) To become evident or apparent.
Time to get up. You arise from the bed, drifting, almost floating, toes straining down to reach the ground, arms flailing a bit for balance, before you thump-settle back into place.
Shake your head. Yes, that was odd. Still, you’ve forgotten about it by the time you’re dressed. Just one of those things.
Thomas Fitzpatrick McAllister’s life was the very essence of boring and uneventful, to the extent that even his goldfish, who up until recently had always been a veritable fountain of excitement, had taken up the hobby of listening to dial tones while staring listlessly at the wall. It wasn’t even a particularly interesting wall, though it must be noted that it was painted a rather vibrant shade of ecru, and was quite possibly the most vibrant shade of anything in the entire apartment. Though Tom never entertained guests, whenever a plumber or handyman happened to complement the ecru wall, Tom was quick to point out that it had been that color when he moved in, and that the previous residents had probably been wild, uninhibited hippies who had bought the paint in the middle of a psychedelic trip.
Though his life had consisted of undressed salads, unscented deodorant, and a vast variety of other un-things for as long as he could remember (which was nearly everything since his traumatic fourth birthday, when some well-meaning but ill-informed aunt had attempted to give him a box of crayons), his comfortably dull, quiet life would soon be violently thrust into a world of excitement. And not a moment too soon, or this might have been an incredibly uninteresting story.
On that island there are two kingdoms, equal in area, and both are distinct in character. The northern is a state of order and precision; the southern is a realm of chaos and indecision. Two borders with a narrow neutral strip between them mark the frontier. The northern is a wall of constant height that traverses the island in a perfectly straight line; the southern undulates randomly over the mountains and marshes.
There is no commerce between the nations, no diplomatic, cultural or academic exchange. The frontier is impassable; both regions are isolated and self-reliant. They receive foreign visitors rarely and discourage them with different methods; in the northern zone, by ignoring them until they leave; in the southern, by failing to protect them from violence. They are worlds unto themselves, reticent, exclusive.
Yet even divergent evolutionary paths can circumnavigate the sphere of possibilities and end up leading in the same direction. So finely tuned was the northern territory that no aspect of modern civilisation was absent from it and every facility enjoyed by the citizens of the most sophisticated outer countries was available to its denizens too. For example, it featured a zoo that was a public political experiment.
Smallfoot is a 2018 computer-animated musical adventure children’s film about a town of yetis living in high mountains above the clouds, oblivious of the human world until plane crashes and a young yeti, Migo (Channing Tatum) sees a smallfoot (their name for humans). Everything about the yetis’ lives is defined by the laws written on ancient stones worn by their leader the Stonekeeper (Common). Migo is the son of Dorgle the gong-ringer (Danny DeVito) who rings the gong every morning to make the sun rise. Every day is spent with daily labors that don’t have a clear purpose but are prescribed by the stones. Migo and his young friends, including Meechee the Stonekeeper’s daughter (Zendaya), Gwangi (LeBron James), Kolka (Gina Rodriguez), and Fleem (Ely Henry) question the wisdom of the stones.
Connor was shy, introverted and a thousand other things that made sitting there, at the tiny coffee shop table, torturous. He didn’t want to be tortured. He wanted to hear harp music and cherubs giggling and all the other noises that accompanied your first date with your soul mate. It had taken him weeks to screw up the courage to ask Kayla out for coffee. As far as he was concerned, glitter should ooze from the walls in a poltergeist-style reward for the brazen bravery he’d demonstrated.
Meanwhile, Kayla pretty clearly didn’t realize this was supposed to be a date.
She wasn’t being weird or anything. And Connor wasn’t sure what she ought to be doing instead. But she wasn’t nervous or awkward or in any way different from how she was when they hung out with Debra and Joe and the rest. This was basically the same as hanging out in Kayla’s workshop for their hack-a-thon sessions, except the coffee was better, nobody else was around, and Connor felt entitled to glitter ooze.
I showed up early for work, as always. The airport’s underbelly was the ugliest place in Boston, but I would’ve spent every hour there if I could get away with it. Among the hurried machines and distant reek-sweet jet fuel, I had everything I needed. A purpose, a paycheck, a place to hide; and most of all, a land of function without beauty, where nothing would tempt me to invest it with holiness and life.
The other officers grunted hellos as they arrived, and we split up into pairs for our little contributions to the safety of mankind. My supervisor Darrell beckoned me to him once again, and I took my place by the conveyor belt, pleased for the company of his press-perfect uniform blues. I had never let him know me, as I could let no human know me, but he had come to appreciate me despite the dull mask of my restraint.
I brushed clay dust from my uniform, tugged on my gloves, and watched humanity’s obsessions trundle toward the scanner. The belt hummed with the comfort of purposeful movement, content with suitcases and backpacks and baby strollers. A hard-shelled bicycle box wedged against a chute, and a light blinked amber as the conveyor belt clunked to a halt.
Oh, I remember my mam. She’s been gone nigh on forty years, but I still think of the mornings when I were little and she’d show me the demons. She’d be up at the crack of dawn, kneeling down afore the stove to shove kindling in the firebox with one hand because she were cradling my baby brother in the other. And then I’d come along and pick a bit of coal out of the scuttle and ask: is there a demon in this one? And she’d say no, and I’d put it back and pick up another and ask: is there a demon in this one? And she’d say no again and I’d take another and like as not she’d clip me round the ear before I said owt else. “It’s not demons, Elsie,” she’d say. “The coal remembers what it was, that’s all. But it’s still only a lump of coal and I need to get the fire lit for your dad’s bath so get away with you and stop bothering me with your nonsense!”
Dad were on the night shift, you see. I hardly ever saw him with the hours he worked. He’d get home in the morning so covered in coal dust I thought he were a piece of coal himself. And then he’d have his bath and go straight to bed, and he were out again before I were back from school. People are always asking me about him. I get sick of all the questions. They’re only asking because he died in the disaster, but that were seventy years ago and it’s not like I were down there in the mine with him when it happened. I were back home, with Mam. Course I was. I were only little. I were up early to look at the demons.
The first thing to remember is that your memories are no longer your own. You’re worth something now that you’ve been implanted, but only so long as you can remember something worthwhile.
You need to think about your memories in terms of who will consume them. What kind of mood will it give them? What do they want to feel? What food or drinks will be paired with the memory? Will they be remembering it alone?
Remember that while your memories may be yours, they are being recalled in the service of paying customers. You should never remind them of this fact, but always be aware that they are the ones with money and you are not.