The Vault (3) Quack Quack
The woman wasn't on reception the next time I visited the Vault. It was a man, in his late fifties, slim, neatly presented with a finely trimmed mustache.
"I'm here to use the Archive," I said.
He looked at me contemptuously. "You shouldn't be here," he said. "This is the Archive of your own memories, you should be out there in the world, making new memories. You could be making love to a beautiful woman, or an ugly woman, I don't care, both would constitute a rich memory. You could see a band, visit a friend, go to the pub, so many options, yet instead you decide to climb down here into the Vault of your own memories."
I had no response.
"You see that feed," he pointed to an ancient ticker-tape machine, "That is where your memories come through as you make them. It's our job to process them, store them."
"But the machine's not doing anything," I said.
"Exactly. It doesn't work while you're in the Vault, you don't generate new memories."
"I've been here before," I said, changing tack. "I went to the booth round the corner, one with a hamster in the room. There was a woman on reception."
"Yes, I know who you mean. I don't approve of her methods at all, memories powered by hamster-wheel, have you ever heard anything so stupid!?"
I had no answer to that statement, leading to a silence which was more than awkward.
Eventually the man moved from his desk and powered off to the left.
"Come with me," he said. I followed.
We went outside through a side door, leading to a field in which stood a horse.
"You ride of course," the man said. Clearly he had processed memories of me riding a horse. The same horse, in fact. Sturges. I recognised it with a start.
"I find that movement is necessary to charge the memory. There is no greater way to access the memory than riding on horseback."
Sturges was saddled up and waiting for me. I climbed onto him and he sped off.
Immediately a memory came to me, not on a screen like before, this time I am in the memory itself.
I am in a communal shower room with a group of boys, all of us in our trunks/shorts/pants. We are on a school trip, a long week away, in the Lake District I think, though my memory is hazy beyond the immediate scene and I am unable to access details of where we are.
One of the boys, Terrence, has brought rubber ducks with him, a dozen of them, all of them small, hand-sized, and we were all leaping in and out of the showers making quacking noises.
"Quack quack," says Terrence.
The rule appears to be that you can't quack until you have been in and out of a shower, so Dave follows, he leaps in the shower duck in hand, he leaps out the shower, and goes "Quack, quack."
There are half a dozen showers and a dozen boys, all with ducks, all leaping in and out in turn, and often out of turn, shouting "Quack, quack," at the top of their voice, as if the game is 'Who can shout Quack Quack the loudest - maybe it is.
The first time I leap in the shower I am nervous, it is wet and slippery and the shower is freezing cold, but that doesn't matter as I'm not stopping, I leap straight back out again shouting "Quack, quack." After the first time I forget the slippery surface, the icy chill of the shower fountain, all I think about is leaping and quacking.
The memory disappeared suddenly. Sturges had come to a standstill, we were back at the Vault. There was no sign of the man so I went back through the door. I found him at reception, back at his desk.
"Well," he said, not looking up. "What wonderful memory did you have that justified your coming down here, ceasing to generate new memories. What was so much more important?"
"Er, I was on a school trip. There was a group of us leaping in and out of the shower and quacking."
"You know, like a duck."
He made no attempt to hide his contempt, focussing all his attention on something or nothing in his desk drawer. "You know the way out," he said.