The Memory Dresser – Nicholas M. Stillman
Our parlor is small—tucked in a corner of Helm, folded between an empty Gassa stall and the home of a half-deaf mystic. For this reason, discretion numbers as one of our services. Not even the moon bears full witness, as Illsea, the largest Tower on the hill, shades us from the first few hours of evening light. Under our lamps, we shape the memories of the people of Helm, our people. Unlike the royals in Illsea, they are not looking for beauty. No shine-oil treatments or the newest configuration of knots and trellises. Our client’s memories are coated in the dirt that lines our streets and our teeth. They sit in my grandmother’s chair and weep at their reflections. Each length tracks the harrowing years of their lives in the dim lamps or beady sun: yesterday’s shame growing from their scalp, their unfortunate births dragged through the streets. My grandmother’s job is to make them feel well—to clean and wrap, braid and twist them into people who can walk back into their lives without shame dragging them down.
My own memories are unremarkable. Ordinary, frizzed, limp. My childhood must have been something to forget, because I all but have. There are a few years, though, that are different. Four finger lengths that hold the light like river rocks after rain. Memories that burst forth like the sweet juices of thin-fleshed berries, eclipsing all other flavor. My mother excited, touching my shoulder, pointing at the marigolds and the poppies not yet in bloom around the village pond. Fresh bread and cool paya juice as the fireworks erupt above the Towers during the New Sun dance. Then, below the shore rocks we clambered onto, the rich Oversea folk filing in and out of their boats—their strange memories gleaming in impenetrable designs, fractals upon fractals. Mother’s breath curling warmly in the cold night onto my scalp and tips of my ears, running her thin fingers through my memories while we watched the beautiful people glisten. One day, her voice sounds as if she were still beside me, you’ll have memories like that.Keep reading“The Memory Dresser – Nicholas M. Stillman”