It will be a relevant fact for those of us who luxuriate here in the limitless bounds of the stars that well positioned land was rare on our old rock.
Our biological carriers had certain physiological necessities, a particular balance of proteins, chemicals, lights, and atmospheres required for even the temporary preservation of our lived experience to which our ancestors were restricted. Large swaths of land were rendered untenable by either terminal aridity or by submersion beneath millions of liters of salinated liquid.
As a result, prime land like this rich, fertile soil next to the bay, sheltered from the weather’s extremities by the twinned mountain ranges was often home to multiple cultures across the long span of our history on the rock. Recall that we were stuck on this one rock for over 4,000,000 years! We have had the occasion to learn that there are only so many places worth the living on any given mass, but when our groundbound forebears ran out of viable options they had limited means to leave and find somewhere new.
In the darker years of our history, the limited space sparked disagreements as to the value of human life as compared to quality land. They talked about population control, and built over the top of dead cities. Sometimes, they even killed the children, to spare the food.
The cumulative nature of our human experience is such that who we used to be often dwells just beneath the surface of who we are. Large collectives of humanity, like the great urban centers of old, are no exception to this phenomenon. The ghost of cities past would long live in forgotten alleys and boarded up stores beneath living streets.
Seattle, one of the last of the legendary Cities of Seven Hills, was one such city of aged layers, built atop bones charred by fire, and salt water laden. For the most part, this city-beneath-the-city had been filled with reinforcements, concrete, boards, and in some cases bodies.
Lower levels, where there were lower levels, were crowded with more supports and water from the bay. This city renowned for regular precipitation had regular drainage grates embedded in curbs and corners to divert fluid flow from the surface into subterranean sewer pipes, a newish system installed in the last century or so.
At least, most of the grates drained into the cross-hatch of metal pipery. Some of the older grates, down close to the water, drained in the remnants of an older concrete drainage system. That is, the grates just dumped into the underground, flooding buried passages as the water swept debris out into the bay.
It is true that a great deal of the city-beneath-the-city was blocked up and filled, or collapsed. It is also true that places deemed impassable for a full grown human need not prove so for a smaller frame.
Kid dropped from the window to plant his feet on a metal pole jutting out from the wall, drawing a pair of soft screeches from dangling hinges that had supported a sign in that earlier world when the crust of the burgeoning town strutted their finery along the boardwalk. He spun, twisting his body as he dropped again, grabbing the pole for a brief suspension of his momentum before landing in a narrow passage between the front of the building and a concrete slab extending upward to support the street.
Small glass blocks cut into the overhead sidewalk gave more the impression of light than the fact of it and Kid turned, fingers trailing along the concrete as he headed deeper into the darkness. Gaping doorways yawned darker yet on his left as Kid strode past the clusters of refuse dotting the narrow path.
Just a few dozen steps down the passage Kid ducked into one of looming doorways, hands extended out before him as he slowed in what was now almost complete darkness. Sure steps wove through the room, two forward, two to the right, three forward, until coming to a sudden stop. Kid reached and found the wall before him, took a half step to the left and reached down to grasp a box in the blackness at his feet.
So, about Twitchy?
Do we want a Memory about meeting him?
What do you think Fuzz?
Hah. A Memory of the only conversation we have ever had? Why would we ever want that?
Sarcasm, nailed. Yeah, let’s do it, but what do we want to use for the placeholder?
With careful precision Kid lifted the box, stepped through the space the box had been occupying, then turned and set the box in the space again. Straightening, he turned with hands outstretched, moving forward until his hands found a smooth surface, floating to shape the top of a counter about as tall as his head.
Trailing fingers along the counter Kid made his way around the end, winding around behind the counter where the hand on the non-counter side could rise to feel the back wall of the dead-end back of the room. Kid shrugged out of the straps holding his bag to his back when his shuffling feet stubbed against something laying flat on the ground.
Dropping the bag by his feet, Kid reached down to lift a thin piece of wood. He held the piece of wood propped up on a shoulder as his fingers felt around on the ground by his feet until finding a lip into which he wedged his fingers.
Not a terrible idea.
Hah! I never win the holder contest.
Cause it isn’t a great idea either.
You have anything better?
A table with a broken leg?
That works, we could make it small enough to be a book end and toss it on a shelf.
Ok, grab as much of the memory as we can, focus on all the senses.
Kid heaved at the finger hold, slipping his hands into a firmer grip, then thrust with his legs and back, flinging open a door sunken into the floor, revealing a hole descending deeper underground. A quick shimmy shifted the weight of the door onto Kid’s shoulder before it could slam shut.
A foot nudged his bag into the pitch, then Kid slid to follow, holding the door on his back as his feet found the crevices carved into the side of the wall. As Kid climbed down the door shut above him, hidden under a slab of old wood in a forgotten store from a buried time, beneath an abandoned building.
At the bottom of the short descent Kid felt around to locate his dropped bag, slipping his arms through the handles in the reverse fashion this time, so the bag hung across his chest. He turned, heading down an unlit tunnel with confident strides, extended fingertips grazing the walls on occasion, small clucking of tongue on gum bouncing into the darkness around him.
He advanced with his eyes closed, dropping when the ceiling slanted too low to remain upright, creeping through the black on the balls of his fingers and toes, bag swaying suspended beneath him.
Coffee. It smelled like coffee.
I could hear the girl making the coffee, the whistly steam. Was she cute?
Twitch smelled like buttery flowers.
I think she was cute.
It felt like everyone was watching us when we walked to the back, their eyes like hooks with weights attached snagging the back of our shirt.
I was hungry.
You’re always hungry.
There was a memory trick that had ebbed and flowed in popularity across the eons predating the hivemind, and in those tides gathered a slew of names. The name that has trickled down to us here at the tip of the future is a ‘memory palace’, but that name is a poor fit for the mental construct of the boy in question.
Kid held in his mind a small cave, details blurred by the haze of his divided concentration.
Three figures, shrouded in a similar haze, inhabited his cave. While the three figures were alike in height and build, one bore a noticeable poof of frizzled hair atop the slender frame, and another’s haze was of a darker shade, and seemed thicker.
As the need to divide his attention to the visual world dwindled with the absent light of his surroundings, the details of Kid’s memory cave sharpened, the haze retreating to reveal a winding series of tunnels connecting several rooms. Where the details of the space might be hidden in the murky sightlessness of the tactile reality, Kid’s mental space featured pale stone floors webbed with dark veins that matched the slate walls of the caverns, with the deep red ceiling supported by elegant pillars.
The residents of the cavern were also more clear with the obscuring haze having withdrawn to hide just the faces. Two of the trio walked down a tunnel together, a tunnel that was an exact replica of the one down which Kid was crawling. The mental constructs, not bound by the laws of physics in this regard, had no need to crawl.
It felt like it got really hot right after he kicked the table.
When he fell the second time.
Did you see that?
What? I was thinking about leaving by then.
He kicked the guard.
In the nuts!
Well, he kind of spasmed his knee into the guy while he was helping Twitch stand.
And they all collapsed.
That must have been when someone laughed.
Sounded like a kid.
Might have been us.
Kid’s cognitive space differed from the traditional memory palace in form, but not function. A moment to consider the function of a memory palace, as our hivemind has rendered such things obsolete. Through hours of diligent meditation, practitioners would construct a meditative holding space in their mind.
Palaces were popular, first because the large quantity of rooms and spaces allowed for a refined organizational system. The other reason they were popular was because most people, when constructing an imaginary place for themselves, opted for the kind of opulent luxury their material lives would not afford them.
Regardless of the stylistic choices made in regard to this space, these practitioners could store memories in a manner more accessible and reliable than the standard biological information retrieval mechanism. Experiences could be imbued into a visual representation and then recalled at will by using the representation to re-trigger the memory.
Ok, I want to cut it off before the melt down, so let’s stop at when he hands us the book.
With his face all smirky and twisted.
The guy seated on the curb singing into the doorway.
Great. That’s a perfect, heh, note to end on.
In the material space, Kid emerged crawling from a tunnel maybe a meter wide into a broad opening, still in complete darkness. Standing, he stretched and rubbed at his shoulders before slinging his bag back around to rest on his back. After a few steps away from the tunnel and the surrounding walls, Kid spun in a slow circle, taking a deep breath.
In the memory cavern, the space into which the two constructs emerged was a large room with six openings splitting off to other tunnels. The ceiling of the room was a vaulted dome of bright blue stone, and above each of the entrances was a glowing sign. Each tunnel mouth had an adjacent pillar that reached to shoulder height, flattening into a kind of table.
The pair walked past the opening lit by a sign bearing a bright red rat and hosting a small pile of teeth on the accompanying pillar. The tunnel past the rat-door was marked overhead with a single glowing drop of water. The pillar beside this door bore a fishbowl, occupied.
One of the pair played with a miniaturized replica of the collapsed table after Twitch had bent the leg out of shape, tossing it into the air and snatching it just as it reached it’s apex. The darker of the two figures ran his fingers around the lip of the fishbowl as they passed, and in doing so triggered one of their oldest memories.