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Sep 08 2012

Saturday Storytime: Sexagesimal

Our memories are a large part of who we are. In this story, Katharine Duckett explores what happens when we have to choose between them. And what about the ones we want to forget we ever had?

Teskia’s grandfather chalked it up to nationality. “All Americans believe in immortality,” he’d told her. “Even the atheists. The Afterlife doesn’t surprise them in the least. They’ve had everything else handed to them–why not eternity?”

“And what about Russians? Or Greeks?”

He blew out a long plume of cigarette smoke. “We try not to show that we notice. Notice it, appreciate it–someone will take it away from you. I, for one, try to live like I’m dead.”

They’d met at his shop, one of the few shared spaces that remained between them. It saddened Teskia to see that her beloved grandfather had traded in the memories of her childhood for those of his own youth, but he had been a respected writer in his earlier years, and dementia had stolen his goldens just as it had taken hers. She had reverted to her younger self, too, of course; but then, she had no children.

That meeting had been their first and only: her grandfather had faded soon after. Teskia knew he was running out of time from the choppy way he morphalated, vibrating back and forth between only two or three states of being. His timeline–what Julio called “the snake”–was losing its tail, shriveling down to its essential segments.

“People’s timelines are like long, stringy creatures,” Julio had explained as they’d discussed the concept of morphalation.  “They contain every moment of that person’s life. We should be able to see every second of our lives, all at once, but we see each other like this because that’s what we’re used to. I don’t think the brain can handle much more than a flicker.”

“We’re dead,” Teskia had pointed out. “Who knows what our brains can handle?”

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