This is in response to a writing prompt over at Reddit, in /r/writingprompts. As of this posting it was the highest rated story for that particular prompt. The prompt was simply “In this world, you can instantaneously teach somebody a new skill and trade or give them a precious memory of yours, but once you give it away, you lose it yourself.”
An Artist’s Legacy
by Rick Cook Jr
I’m old and my time is coming to an end. The Department of Traded Skills has advertisements everywhere, targeted at people like me.
Sell your experience on the DoTS market! Apprentice and Journeyman rates comparable to your experience! Master rates pending evaluation!
Don’t want to wait for those drum lessons? Shred like Neil Peart in a fraction of the time! In the fine print it reads: Results not guaranteed to make you a rock star.
Somewhere out there Mozart still composes. A new Rembrandt is commissioned from the inheritor. Shakespeare’s quill still scribbles away.
Some of my work is on those advertisements. Some is on display at the finest museums, and in the galleries of the rich and famous. My father gave me his skill with a brush when I was twelve, as my grandfather gave it to him. My monetary inheritance was substantial, but the memory and skill I received at twelve was the real inheritance.
I hold a photo in my hands. It is old, creased and weathered like the hands that hold it. The smiling faces look up at me and I feel nothing; I sold my memories of them long ago, the happy and the sad. Memories have emotion attached to them. A sociopath who cannot feel purchases grief and heartache like an addict buys heroin. My sorrow is his completion.
I cannot remember the feel of my wife’s lips on mine, nor if we ever kissed. I can’t hear my daughter’s laughter when I close my eyes. I can only pretend.
There is no family to bequeath my talent. My wealth of knowledge and material cannot benefit those I loved, that I believe I loved.
Lawyers come and go, some requesting and some threatening. The rich beg me to sell, and the poor beg me to give. Preservers of history, art, experience, and knowledge implore me to think of the greater good, that it would be a terrible tragedy to lose my skill out of some selfish desire.
But I have no desire left in me. All I have are holes where memory used to live. If there is an afterlife, will they be waiting there for me? Will I remember them then? Can they love me if everything I was to them is missing, sold or given away? If consciousness persists after death, and memory is tied to consciousness, Heaven must be lonely, stagnant.
I hold the faded picture in hands too weak to paint. A smile creases my lips; I close my eyes, and drift away.
My brush will paint the Heavens.
I hope you enjoyed this little foray into a “what if” scenario as much as I enjoyed writing it.
What a fascinating, yet terrifying concept. I certainly do not possess a trade valuable enough to sell, which would leave me with my memories as my only commodity. But, good or bad my memories are what define me as me. This was thought provoking and beautifully realized in a mere 430 words. Enjoyed it!