The Memory Farm

by Cayt Mirra

The old farmer hobbled through the dusty hallway, opening the creaking wooden door with a grunt. Sunlight filtered through a dusty skylight, ripples bouncing off lines of glass jars adorning rows of iron shelves. Walking to the end of an aisle, he reached into his grey overcoat and pulled out a single jar, cleaner than the rest but containing, just like the others, a human brain. He placed it in an opening on the top shelf and smiled.

*

As a child, Raina had been full of excitement and enthusiasm for the spectacular life she envisioned for herself. But her life hadn’t been spectacular. In fact, it had been, in almost every conceivable way, a disappointment. Nothing too horrible, but nothing noteworthy: she hadn’t travelled the world or had a brilliant career or experienced true love. She was average in almost every way and while she collected a lot of stuff, she had no memories she was particularly attached to.

She’d been to the Memory Farm before. In the height of her optimistic youth, her class had visited on an excursion. Back then, she hadn’t understood why anyone would want to recycle their memories. Surely, she had thought, every moment of her life would be precious, to be kept and cherished. But the Farm had been operating for generations, taking unwanted memories and recycling them to generate a renewable energy almost as effective as solar power, and much cheaper. The Memory Farm powered most of the local community, and there were others set up in different parts of the country.

But today Raina didn’t want her memories. They could be used to light up the town and actually do some good. She imagined how it would feel to free some space in her mind – space to create new, better memories. Perhaps without all that banality clouding her thoughts, she would do something worth remembering. Even the thought brought a burst of hope.

In the empty waiting room she tapped her foot nervously.

*

The farmer watched her through the murky glass, wondering if she could provide what he needed. He would keep her waiting – give her time to think, to bring all the best memories to the surface.

*

The feeling of her memories leaving her wasn’t what she expected. It didn’t hurt exactly, but there was a tugging sensation in her head – like having a tooth pulled. Shadows of each memory flickered in her subconscious. Not whole memories, but glimmers of faces and sounds, smells and feelings. Mostly she felt numb as flashes of her mundane life washed over her. Once it was over she felt lighter, brighter. Thanking the farmer, she left to live her life.

And that would’ve been it, except that she went back, like he knew she would. For Raina soon found that the new memories filling the empty spaces in her mind weren’t as wonderful as she’d hoped. She craved that feeling of opportunity that came with a newly-recycled mind. On her second visit she removed even more of her memories and again she felt the tugging as they were taken. This time she found the discomfort satisfying. But as the scenes fluttered in her mind she felt, amongst feelings of boredom and disappointment, the occasional moment of joy, now gone forever. She was too empty and tired to register any sense of regret.

*

She was the one; he knew it. The more he took from her the surer he became. His daughter wouldn’t survive much longer. The other brains kept her alive but hadn’t cured her. Raina’s memories were different. They were so full of darkness, which meant they were powerful. But he didn’t quite understand why. There must be something hidden in the deepest recesses of her mind; a memory she didn’t know she had. Something so putrid and deplorable that her brain had buried it, her conscious mind driving her to purge her memories in the hope of freeing herself. He could help her with that.

*

She would keep coming back. She enjoyed the emptiness too much to stop. She could barely remember anything about her childhood. She was fairly sure she had a family, but their faces were fuzzy. All she knew for sure was that she had to go back to the farm.

On her third and final visit she smiled at the farmer as he led her into the recycling suite. He didn’t smile back, but looked at her with something akin to pity. She closed her eyes once more, waiting for the tugging feeling that had become her drug. She could see the usual images as the memories flowed through and out. And then, pain. Pain she couldn’t comprehend. It ate at her, it burned and stabbed. She saw flames, heard screaming, smelt the smoky but sickeningly sweet smell of burnt flesh. She felt things she didn’t understand: guilt, fear, revulsion, and something like pleasure but with a sadistic edge. And then a swirling darkness – through it she fell, deeper and deeper, then everything went white, and she felt nothing at all.

*

As he stitched her cranium together, the farmer sighed. He had replaced her brain in the usual way, with a Department Issue brain, as was protocol. She would wake soon and live her life, never knowing that she wasn’t in control. There were thousands of them out there; empty shells. The Department wanted it that way. It was easier. For his services they allowed him to keep the organic brains, to use the memories to help his child. And Raina’s memory gave him the power he needed.

When the young girl woke, her father was looking down at her with loving eyes. She knew him, but felt nothing. For, filled as she was with these foreign memories, she wasn’t really his daughter anymore.

When Raina opened her eyes, her body worked, but she knew nothing of who she was, for, devoid as she was of all her memories, she wasn’t really Raina anymore.

Neither of them was Raina, and yet, in a way, they both were.