The Memory Exchange

Meghan Lee smiled into the camera, awaiting Dan’s signal to begin and trying not to look too much like the enthusiastic newbie she was. But gah! Her very own segment! She was young. She was pretty. She was on fire!

“You’re go in five, four…” Dan held up three fingers, then two, then pointed at her.

“Hello,” Meghan said, intentionally letting her smile falter somewhat. “This is Meghan Lee reporting to you from Central Park where masses of empty shells are…” Meghan paused, thoughtfully. “Should I go with empty shells or human husks?”

“What?” Dan wasn’t paying attention to her; he had the camera pointed toward a hauntingly lovely young woman with dark hair, bronzed skin, and dull, empty eyes.

“Empty shells or human husks?” Meghan asked impatiently. “I need this first segment to be perfect. Some people are calling them zombies, but–”

“That’s offensive,” Dan replied.

“Exactly, so empty shells or human husks?”

“Have you ever known one?” He looked annoyed, suggesting he had. But he’d been a cameraman a lot longer than she’d been a reporter.

“I talked to some of these yesterday, before I pitched the segment.” Meghan waved vaguely at the people behind her. It hadn’t been precisely these people, although she thought she recognized a white-haired man sitting on a bench, but they’d all had more or less the same things to say: Can you spare some change for the memory exchange?


“My brother ended up like this,” Dan said with a scowl. “Kept trading up his memories for better memories until there was nothing left of him.”

“That’s why we’re doing the segment, to warn people away from disreputable memory brokers.”

Dan scowled again. He never seemed to approve of Meghan, no matter what she did, and he acted like he was at least a decade older than her when in fact, he was barely twenty-five. Maybe he’d gone to a disreputable memory exchange, too, and was remembering what it felt like to be an eighty-year-old man.

The thought made her smile.

“All right, let’s start over.” Meghan stood tall and stared at the camera.

“Go with lost souls,” Dan said as he reset the shot.

“A bit poetic, but…” Meghan shrugged. Maybe. She started rehearsing possible lines in her head as Dan once again cued her to begin.

“Hello, this is Meghan Lee reporting to you from Central Park where the scourge of lost souls continues to grow by the day. These people were once our brothers and sisters, moms and dads, daughters and sons, but now they wander aimlessly on errands not even they comprehend for they have forgotten even that which drives them.”

Meghan stared into the camera for another few heartbeats, then began walking along the path toward the white-haired man she was pretty sure she’d seen yesterday. He was particularly gruesome, and would punctuate her segment nicely.

“Excuse me, sir, may I have your name?”

He looked up at her vaguely, his eyes struggling but finally finding focus on her face. “Do you have some spare change? I’ve run out of memories to exchange.”

“Do you even know your name?”

“It might be Tom. Or Donald. Or Beth.”

“Which memory exchange do you use?”

“Do you have some change?” he asked again.

Meghan had been expecting this. She motioned to Dan to cut the recording while she passed a fistful of bills to the old man, knowing exactly what he would do with them. As soon as he had his cash in hand, he stood up from the bench and began to walk across the park.

Meghan and Dan followed.