Billable Memories
By: Matthew Battles | Categories: Fiction

This is the help line, Mr. Dexter-Haven. We’re pleased to have responded to your urgent evoke in two thousand, three hundred and fifty-seven thousandths of a second. What can I do for you today, Mr. Dexter-Haven?

I’m sorry. I’ve forgotten where I put my keys. It’s awfully silly of me…

Not a problem, Mr. Dexter-Haven — it’s only the third time this week, you’re still well within the terms of service.

Oh, good!

Let’s see Mr. Dexter-Haven. Would you prefer premium insight, or augmented mnemonics?

Well, I dunno — which is cheaper?

You’ve still got 30 credits for augmented mnemonics this month. Premium insight, of course, is instantaneous.

I guess I’ll stick with the augments.

Very well, Mr. Dexter-Haven. Let’s begin. You were in the men’s room…

…at the Cleveland Circle Cinema, yes!

…and you were holding your coat…

…right right! the car coat, not the trench.

Correct. You shifted it to your shoulder to when you went to wash your hands…

And my keys slipped out of the pocket! I picked them up and stuck them in my briefcase!

Check your briefcase now, Mr. Dexter-Haven.

Yes! They’re here! They’re here! Oh, this is great.

Happy to be of service. Is there anything else I can do for you today, Mr. Dexter-Haven?

Actually, yes… It’s my mother’s birthday. I think! Trouble is I don’t remember.

I see, Mr. Dexter-Haven.

I’ve always been bad at remembering dates…

Of course, Mr. Dexter-Haven. Let me just check your account.

Thanks for waiting, Mr. Dexter-Haven. Your mother’s birthday is a billable memory.

Well, what’s it cost?

It’s ten premium insight credits, Mr. Dexter-Haven.

Yikes. And my balance?

One moment…. You have three premium insight credits, Mr. Dexter-Haven.

I see. What if I exchange my augments for insights?

Discovery of keys used five augment credits, Mr. Dexter-Haven, leaving you with a balance of 25. They may be exchanged for five insight credits.

That leaves me short by, um…

Two credits. Arithmetic calculations are furnished as a free service.

Thanks. So what can I do?

Your credits roll over, Mr. Dexter-Haven. You’ll receive five more at the start of the next month, and you can exchange them for the memory at that time.

Yeah, but that might be too late.

I understand, Mr. Dexter-Haven. There’s another option, however: your account does support memory exchange.

How does that work?

You may exchange up to three level one memories per month for credits, at the rate of two credits per memory.

That doesn’t seem like a very good rate.

Cognition service fees apply.

Hmmm. Let me think. I can’t use augment credits?

Not on a level one basic memory, Mr. Dexter-Haven, no.

But what if… what if I, say I lost my — my wallet. I lost my wallet on my mother’s birthday! Can you help me check?

That memory falls outside the datestamp for augmented mnemonics, Mr. Dexter-Haven.

Darn. Well, OK. Tell me what memories I can exchange.

Level one memories include first kiss, birth of children, wedding, honeymoon…

Hold on. Honeymoon? Exactly what’s covered?

Memory begins with arrival at destination, concludes with return home. Name of venue, activities, qualitative experience are all coded with this memory.

But the wedding, that’s not included.

Correct, Mr. Dexter-Haven.

OK. That’s good. Better hold on to that one, I could get in trouble!

I’m sure you’re correct, Mr. Dexter-Haven.

But tell me, what happens to the memory in question?

Memories are assigned to other users, Mr. Dexter-Haven.

How does that work?

They’re offered strictly anonymously…

The — the other users — they don’t keep them permanently, then?

Oh no; they’re offered strictly for entertainment purposes.

What do you mean?

Usage varies from one customer to the next. Some people like to surf memories. Others use them as ringtones.

I see. But I can get it back in the future, right?

Certainly, Mr. Dexter-Haven. With sufficient premium credit balance. Of course, rates vary.

All right, then. Let’s do it.

Excellent, Mr. Dexter-Haven. Is there anything else I can help you with today?

***

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Matthew Battles, Hilobrow's cofounder, has written about language, history, and the natural world for many publications. When he makes poems, he puts them here. A fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, he's also the author of Library, An Unquiet History.