Missing Memories

My name is Mark Todd, I am twenty-five years old, and I have no happy memories. Three weeks ago, I was made bankrupt, and all my happy memories were taken. I had to do something, or they would be auctioned to pay my debts.

I found a set of lockpicks in my desk drawer. I don’t remember using them, so presumably whatever I did was enjoyable. I seem to be quite good with them. I can open my front door without too much trouble. I waited until it was dark, then put the picks in my pocket. I set off to drive to the courthouse, where my memories are impounded.

As I drove, I wondered which of my memories would go for the most money. My first kiss, assuming I’d had one? If you’re rich enough, you can have two first kisses, or even more if you can afford them. Had I got away with anything disreputable? Those memories always go for a lot of money, too. Rich people like to think they get away with things, apparently, even if it was really someone else.

I parked round the corner from the courthouse, and started walking. I didn’t want anyone to remember seeing my car when they realised the courthouse had been burgled. The courthouse is a modern building, and when I got there I could see a security guard sitting just inside the glass front door. The lights were on even though the courthouse was closed. That way in was no good, but I remembered seeing a side door. That might be a good place to try my lockpicks.

When I got to the side door, there were no lights on inside, and I couldn’t be seen from the street. Perfect. I knelt down in front of the door and pushed a pick into the keyhole. I slowly drew it back out, counting the number of pins. Five pins that felt normal, so probably a standard lock. I put the tension tool in the bottom of the keyhole, twisted slightly, then began raising the pins.

I was kneeling in that drive for ten nerve-racking minutes. Picking locks needs concentration, and I was too frightened for that. Fortunately the lock had seen a lot of use and the pins were worn. Just when I was starting to think about giving up, I managed to lift all five pins without any of the earlier ones dropping down. The lock turned and I quickly opened the door, before it could slip and lock itself again.

Somewhere in the distance I heard a buzzer. At first I thought I’d set off an alarm, but after a second or two, it stopped again. I waited outside in a panic. I decided that if someone came, I would quickly pull the door shut, as though nothing had happened. There was no damage so it wasn’t obvious anyone had managed to break in. I just hoped they didn’t ask what I was doing there. What possible reason could there be for visiting the courthouse in the middle of the night?

After a few minutes, no one had come, so I slipped quickly inside and pulled the door closed behind me. After my bankruptcy hearing I had been taken to a small room at the back of the courthouse, where my memories had been extracted. On shelves around the room, there had been thousands of tiny glass bottles, each containing a memory. Hopefully my memories had now joined them, and I could get them back.

Finding the room again wasn’t easy, but fortunately it had been an unpleasant experience, so the memory hadn’t been taken. Eventually I managed it, and surprisingly my memories were already out, arranged neatly on a table. I quickly grabbed them and headed for home.

All the way home I was terrified, expecting to be stopped and arrested at any moment. When I put the key in my own front door, though, I thought I’d got away with it. I nearly jumped out of my skin when someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Mr Todd.’

I turned round and two men were standing behind me. They were dressed as security guards, not policemen. I tried to bluff. ‘What’s the problem?’

‘Shall we go back to the courthouse?’

They drove me back to the courthouse, and took me into a windowless office with one of the guards. He searched me, and found the memories. After that, it seemed pointless denying anything, so I just told him what I’d done.

‘Interesting,’ said the guard calmly. ‘On Monday, you denied doing anything. On Tuesday you got angry. On Wednesday, you demanded a lawyer…’

I had no idea what he was talking about, and I told him so.

‘This is the fourth time you’ve tried to burgle the courthouse, Mr Todd.’

I was puzzled for a moment, but then I realised what must have happened. ‘And every evening, you took the memory.’

‘Exactly. You worked it out yesterday, too, but not on Tuesday because you were too angry.’

I still didn’t understand, and it was frustrating to think that I’d probably asked the same questions before. ‘Why did you take the memory?’

‘To help you, Mr Todd,’ said the guard with a faint smile. ‘People like getting away with things, so those memories will be very valuable. Four of them should buy all your other memories back.’

‘But I didn’t get away with anything.’ I still felt puzzled.

The guard shrugged. ‘They’ll cut the memory off just before you got caught. We knew you were here all the time because of the buzzer, but we waited so you’d get a complete memory you could sell.’

‘It’s just a shame I won’t remember how I paid my debts.’ I was relieved but sad too, at the thought of losing yet another piece of myself.

The guard pushed a piece of paper and a pen towards me. ‘You could always write it down.’