Memory

History keepers of the Expanse

We forget. We keep forgetting. How is it that these stupid shells who can't even eat by themselves don't have to share this curse ? I don't remember my mother. I don't remember my siblings. I can't even remember the face of my daughters. All of us, have we really been blessed with this long life ? We are the oldest ones beside the shells, and yet it seems our minds aren't fit for our age. Everything we did, everything we went through, was it for nothing if a mere shell hasn't recorded it ?  

That's it. If their secret lies in their pearls, I'll produce one. If it lies in their flesh, I'll eat them whole. And if I can't, after all this, remember, then why should the others ? I'm already a pariah with no lineage, no signature. I will easily be forgotten, even by him. Unless I remember me myself.

 
 

There it is, the Memory's room. It's becoming tiring to mimic a signature, moreso under constant surveillance. I don't have the stamina of my young cycles. As the gate closes, only one guard is left in the room. She stays back, only told to act if I am to harm the Memory. Tough luck for her, I'm not completely rusted yet. Her dead body hits the ground before she even realised I moved. Now I'm alone with my target.

 

Has it detected what just happened ? They are blind after all, and I took great care to be silent. There, I just have to wait. I stop acting this dumb signature. Soon it will open. And I will rip it of every bit of memory, and I will make it all mine. And then I will just escape like he showed me. And then...

 

Good, the shell opens. It tries to hatch a sound, but I'm already inside it. The hard protection closes back too late. It is now trapped with me. Food's ready. And I'm starving for my memories.

 

Facing the toll of time

 

Most species in the Expanse are short-lived, some so much that the individual often gets erased for the benefit of the greater group. So is the premise of lineages, where the will of a single person merges with the objectives of their bloodline. This has proven to be the most efficient way to ensure continuity across time. But even if the will is shared, the remembrance is still individual. People forget, and few can tell events from more than three generations. Yet, in the crowd of forgetfulness, a species stands out. Trifling in number, but as old as the most ancient Spheres. Their original name is forgotten, if they had any in the first place. They are known as Memories.

 

A crack in the fog of amnesia

 

Memories are shellfishes, but not any shells. While most of the likes are not even considered primals and merely looked down like parasites, these ones are treasured. Bigger than others, they are almost the size of an adult Oblogg. And they grow continuously in the course of their long lives. The oldest of all, held by the Gnornian Academy, is big enough to gobble a small skip whole. Old as time itself, much of its knowledge is hidden merely because the academicians cannot ask the right questions.

 

The way this kind lives this long is a mystery, but not as much as how they manage to hold on to every bit of information they hear. The shellfishes themselves don't seem to know by what means they achieve such a feat. It seems to be linked in some way with the giant pearl in the center of their body. It is not a part of their beings, as it can be easily removed without causing any harm, but then the amputee loses almost all of his memories. So, does the pearl contains the memories? It may be so, but inscribed in a way no one else than its owner can decipher it, even other Memories are clueless when offered the pearl of another.

 

The cost of keeping a Memory

 
by pxfuel

As essential as Memories are, they can't sustain themselves in the environment of the Spheres. It is one of the rare species that never truly adapted to this lifestyle, and they would be more suited to life in the Expanse. They feed on phytoplankton, the same kind Spheres eat, and must have access to them at all times. Only one spheria has the craftmanship to make nets tight enough to capture the microalgae, and they sell their expertise at full price. This alone makes it insanely hard for any organisation with less means than a spheria to take care of a Memory.

   

Then there's the need for a room, watertight to prevent the food from going away, and at the same time able to renew the water regularly. The kind of rooms typically found in the circulatory systems of Spheres and nowhere else. A room that must be guarded at all times and, last but not least, there must be at least one person regularly visiting the shellfish to bring them new memories, or they would wither away.

 

This is why most spherias possess one or several Memories, but hardly any other group. Some are exceptions, like the Hollene lineage which harbor the Memory of their bloodline in Oblogga, but under their own care. Many times the Council of Oblogga tried to lay hands on this particular Memory, but the power of the Hollene has never once faltered enough to endanger their possession.

 
 

Etiquette

 

When addressing a Memory, some things must be kept in mind. First, albeit they are able to understand any means of communication, they lack most of the organs and appendages needed to use the most common languages. They either talk in a very basic Unitone, or in a circumvoluted language very hard to pick up, the Mnnm. In order to consult a Memory, one must learn the Mnnm beforehand, or be ready to receive only simple and unsatisfactory answers.

 

Second, when asking something from a Memory, it is mandatory to have pieces of information to trade. Sometimes it is not necessary, but some other times the Memory will ask to be fed new knowledge before delivering theirs. If the questioner fails to comply, the shell may close for good. Since they are informed regularly of the main events of the Expanse by their owners, it would be tedious for commoners to keep up with the ever-growing knowledge of Memories, if it wasn't for the market of knowledge.

 

Third and last, there is a protocol to initiate and terminate a conversation. In the Memory's room, the interrogator must stay put in front of the shell, and wait for them to talk first. Some waits are longer than the others, and this is but a test of patience. The fool who can't stand to be immobile will be thrown out of the room, even if it is because their interlocutor is asleep. However, it is the visitor who ends the consultation, by stating the name and the role of the Memory. They will then respond by the name and the highest role of the visitor, marking the end of the talk.

by pxfuel
by pxfuel

A Market of Pearls

To take the pearl of a Memory is to deprive them of their essence, a terrible crime. And like anything precious and forbidden, it became an object of desire. Though prohibited in every proper Sphere, there is a black market for these relics. When people become too wealthy, they crave to show off to their friends. And nothing beats having a pearl, except maybe a large chunk of Leftovers. However, they are purely for decoration purposes, as nothing can be gained directly from the pearl.

 

This kind of trade is not without risk, as being caught in either part of the process means an immediate death sentence, but a surprisingly high number of individuals are ready to take it. Some out of desperation, others for the thrill of partaking in a criminal operation of large scale.

 
by wombo AI
 

A Market of Knowledge

While Memories ask to be fed information, they are not picky about the topic or the utility of such knowledge, treating groundbreaking discoveries and futile trivia all the same. A market of ideas appeared from this fact, collecting or creating anecdotes, then selling their pieces of information to Memory questioners. A lucrative but very competitive business on bigger Spheres like Oblogga or Oppollln, where the demand exceeds the offer by a large margin.

 

At times, organisations may seek monopoly over a Memory using a dirty but common trick. Instead of giving the shellfish information bit by bit, they will overflow them with all the things there is to know, from the big event to the smallest detail. Memories tend to become addicted to this continuous flow of information and will always ask for more, refusing to talk to anyone but the group who made them like that. Since such a scheme can threaten the whole market and even the sanity of the Memory, it has been deemed illegal. Not that it stops greedy associations dedicated to ruin their competitors.

The Obloggian Perspective

 

Oh, Memories sure are wonderful beings. A little bit stuck-up maybe, with their protocols and all. But hey, you got a question? The Memory will have the answer and if they haven't, then it means the question has no answer. For sure, merchants and explorers have an easier time talking to them, with their travels across the world, but everyone here can ask a Memory for free! I heard some even let their slaves consult them. Not very safe if you ask me, insight may be a dangerous weapon, but that's not for me to judge.

by pxfuel

Even if you don't count the one of these egoistic Hollene, we have a total of thirty-six Memories in our spheria. Sure, that means there's always a huge line waiting to consult them, but that's still a great number. And it's not like we could breed them, heh. Do they even breed? Beh, don't ask me. And yet... I have some fresh news about the Seekers and now I'm curious. Maybe I should go and ask them if they reproduce.



Cover image: by Marin Tulard

Comments

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2 Jan, 2022 09:52

Wow, this was such a unique read and has me intrigued about the world in which they live. This is a beautiful article with a lot of thought put into it. I don't think I've ever seen a concept like this before. I like that there's details about how to interact with them and that there are various protections put in place to try to keep them from being wiped out completely. Amazing work!

4 Jan, 2022 19:48

Glad you liked it! Indeed Memories are treasured, just the same as we can't afford to lose our libraries and databases :D

I gathered some awesome articles in my Reading Challenge, want to take a look? There's also a Reading Challenge Big List combining all mentions of authors for the challenge, maybe you're in there too!
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
3 Jan, 2022 00:38

I also want to know if they reproduce now... Since they need such specific conditions to grow, do any of them live outside of the Spheres? Or would the inhabitants of the Spheres not be able to know since the ocean floor is too deep for them to reach?   Really great article, I love the etiquette they have to follow and the tricks they have to gain as much advantage as possible from the situation. And the whole concept around the memories, people not having long memories and working as lineage etc, it's really fascinating :D   What species is the POV character from the quote at the start of the article?

To see what I am up to, here is my civilisation challenge article.
4 Jan, 2022 20:04

For all they know, there could be Memories deep in the Abyss, or even on parts not yet explored of the Expanse (especially the Spire, a very big rocky peak with the deeper parts unknown). They do reproduce just like any shellfish, however there are so few of them they rarely ever get the chance to meet each other.   Happy to read that! Indeed, their hosts aren't the only ones benefitting from the situation!   They are a kind of octopus, though very different from the Obloggs. As you could tell, pretty skilled assassins! It's actually the first time (and probably the last for a while) this species and its mimicry power is featured, but I'll definitely expand on them :)

I gathered some awesome articles in my Reading Challenge, want to take a look? There's also a Reading Challenge Big List combining all mentions of authors for the challenge, maybe you're in there too!
5 Jan, 2022 09:16

That's a really fascinating concept, and the introduction fiction really sells it superbly well. The requirements of trading memories is wonderfully mystical too - all in all, really fascinating :D   The formatting is great and helps makes it a real easy, pleasant read, full of cool quirky ideas, which is my favorite kind. Very well done indeed :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
5 Jan, 2022 16:58

Love the concept and ideas here. They are really unique and make the reader really think about what is going on. Amazing article!

23 Jan, 2022 09:35

This is one of the most unique take on a species, and i find the concept really inspiring. Love that organic creatures are the world's archive of knowledge and wisdom, and how you've explored how your world's systems - social, economic, ecological - are all impacted by them. Great work.

Check out my world Shadowfire and my Summer Camp progress