Stories are Delicious: “The Pulse of Memory” by Beth Dawkins

Short stories about a singularity where we upload our consciousness into a computer are not in short supply. Will Ludwigsen wrote a good, humorous one not too long ago and even popular television shows like The 100 have played with the trope.

What is in short supply are fancy new interpretations that make readers sit up and take notice.

Thank the fish tank.

Somewhere deep in the universe, Beth Dawkins creates a stunningly visceral tale that forces readers deep inside the consciousness of the main character, a person who is told to eat a fish  which contains the consciousness of their ancestors. The ancestors are culled and fed to the fish at age 64, even if they’re healthy, for the sole purpose of making sure their memory isn’t corrupted by a paradoxical “repair virus”.

After eating the fish, the speaker of the story is, for lack of a better word, hooked. They become a keeper of the fish–and able to don the ceremonial garb–and it only sort of comes as a surprise when they start eating more fish, sucking eyeballs and rib meat free from their salty bodies. As the memories begin to overlap like scales, bits of stories align, and consciousness becomes even more slippery until finally, the reader questions who the speaker really is and what exactly is real.

It’s a brilliant story, one I won’t soon forget, but at the heart of it all is a simple fact: stories, specifically the experiences of others, are delicious. We escape every day in fiction and movies and TV shows, hoping to find meaning we missed in our everyday lives. To simply know there is something greater than ourselves. Or, maybe, it’s simply about falling in love with “the fish in tank two.”

Run over to Apex Magazine and read the story for yourself, then pop back and tell me what you think in the comments below.

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