The Memory Smith - Part 4 (Aaron Achartz)

Part 4

Over the next two days, Magnus slowly got back to work. Christmas was on Saturday and several orders needed to be finished. He worked in a daze, mindlessly completing memories, not noticing the movement of his hands.

Alvis stopped by at one point, ostensibly to invite Magnus to his Christmas Eve party, but Magnus knew he’d heard about the argument with Val. Magnus gave a few noncommittal responses to Alvis’s questions, and his friend soon left the workshop muttering and shaking his head.

The whole time, the memory of the fire sat in the center of the work table, untouched, but not unnoticed. Continually throughout the day, Magnus’s gaze wandered over, yet he never disturbed it.

It was the morning of the 23rd when Shay visited the workshop. “Sorry to interrupt, Magnus, but I’ve got another memory for you.”

“Alright.” Magnus did not look up.

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah, yeah.” He waved his chisel around dismissively.

“Okay. Well, here’s what I want you to work on. You know what to do.” Shay set the memory down on the edge of the work table. It was him and his daughter playing outside in the snow.

Magnus picked it up with a sigh. “This scar.” His finger traced the scar on the daughter’s hand.

“Yeah, I noticed you left it in last time,” Shay said. “Thanks.”

“Thanks?” Magnus’s eyebrow rose.

“I haven’t told you that story?” Shay rubbed his chin. “I tell everyone who asks about the scar.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever asked,” Magnus said.

“Well, when Felicity was only two, we went up to Faldan Park, at the north end of town. Have you been there?”

Magnus shook his head.

“Anyway, there’s this big hill with a cliff where you can overlook the city. We were walking the path up there when she got away from me.”

“Got away?” Magnus asked.

“She bolted off and I couldn’t keep up. She made it to the overlook and started climbing the railing. Beyond was a hundred foot drop. I was terrified.” Shay bit his lip. “But then, her hand hit a sharp metal edge where the railing had broken. It cut her palm, but it made her let go and fall backwards. If she hadn’t cut her hand, she would have fallen over that cliff.”

Magnus shook his head in disbelief. “I always thought it was an annoyance. A reminder of an error.”

“No,” Shay said. “It’s a reminder of how lucky I am to have her. Every time I see it, I thank God for our good fortune.”

Magnus glanced over at the fire memory, then back to Shay. “I’m sorry. If I’d have known, I wouldn’t have removed it. I’m always looking to make the memories better, you know. Remove the flaws.”

Shay stared into his own memory, smiling at his daughter. “Not every imperfection is a flaw.”

They both stood there for a long time, studying their respective memories. Magnus turned the idea over and over. He knew what he needed to do. He knew he could probably do it. It was just so contrary to how he had always worked.

“I’ll, uh, let you go then?” Shay asked, drawing Magnus back.

“Yeah.” Magnus then turned to him. “And you and your family have a Merry Christmas, Shay.”

Shay smiled. “Thanks. You, too.”

As soon as the door shut, Magnus pulled out his shears, tongs, and hammer. He would take the memory apart and return it to its original form. With a confident stance and focused eyes, he set to work.
It was evening when Val pounded on the door to the workshop. “It’s Christmas Eve, Magnus! I don’t have the time to listen to another lecture from you.”

Magnus opened the door with a trembling hand. “Come in.”

Val stomped in. He brushed the snow from the shoulders of his jacket. “I got your message. What did you want?”

“I wanted to apologize.”

Val crossed his arms and glowered. “Really?”

Magnus held out the memory. It was once again just the fire, gently flickering in the dark void.

Val shuffled forward, his mouth open. He took it with trembling hands. “Is this…?”

Magnus nodded. “I fixed it. Removed the extraneous sensations I’d added in.”

“What’s going on?” Val asked hesitantly.

“After you didn’t like the changes, I was confused. I couldn’t figure out why you didn’t like my work,” Magnus said. “But, I was looking at it the wrong way. Just because your memory lacked heat, or sound, or a surrounding scene didn’t mean it was incomplete.”

Val smiled. “That’s why I left it with you. I wanted you to see what I saw in it.”

“And I did,” Magnus said. “Eventually. When I was taking it apart, I saw your memory didn’t need all of those things. It was good just the way it started.”

“But why did you take it apart?” Val asked.

“I was talking with Shay.” A relaxed smile crossed Magnus’s face. “He made me realize that, while there are things we can improve with our work, our purpose is to help people keep their meaningful memories. And a meaningful memory doesn’t always mean a perfect memory.”

Val leapt forward and hugged Magnus. “I’m glad you figured that out.”

Unable to think of any words, Magnus awkwardly patted Val’s back. Then, convinced, hugged him back.

Val released him. “So, uh, was there anything else?”

“I’d like to stay in touch with you,” Magnus said. “You’re skilled, but you’re also a good friend.”

“Thanks.” Val grinned. “I’ll gladly stay in touch.”

“Maybe I’ll even stop by the University,” Magnus said. “I can teach you kids some real skills.”

Val laughed. “Yeah, that’d be good.” He sighed, contentedly. “Well, I should get going. There’s a student party tonight.”

“Sounds fun.” Magnus grabbed his coat.

“Where are you going?” Val asked.

“Alvis’s party,” Magnus said. “It’s Christmas Eve! I should be out making memories, not working on them.”

Val smiled. “I’ll walk with you.”

They conversed cheerfully beneath the warm glow of the streetlamps as they headed towards the University, leaving the cold, dark workshop behind.
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