Home > Uncategorized > Day One Hundred and Nine: Mystery Man

Day One Hundred and Nine: Mystery Man

The only life I’ve ever lived is my own, and nothing will ever change that.

I’ve come to grips with it, really. I think I have. When my brother was dating, he was a poor black woman, a single mother and an eldest of five daughters before he finally got married to a girl who studied human sexuality because a cousin had felt her up when she was ten and she’s never been truly comfortable around men ever since then. Something about that resonated with my brother, and there must have been something in his life that she liked, but I have no idea why.

Which is, come to think of it, kind of the problem.

The women I meet get frustrated with me because I can’t understand them. At first we talk, we smile and exchange pleasantries. Then she takes out her Memory and offers it to me, and that’s pretty much the end of the date. A real man, a whole man, would do the same, and they would spend a few minutes plugged into each other. They would know each other inside and out, soup to nuts, warts and all, and then decide if they wanted to stay together. Their Memory, and the microscopic robots that recorded every instant of their existences, would be all they needed to know about each other. If they thought it could work, then it would be off to the city hall to register. Otherwise they’d shake hands, split the bill and be on their way.

I sweep floors in a bar for a living. I could do more, but most jobs require that you hand over your Memory so they can decide if you’re a good hire or not. Some guy from HR takes a look at what you’ve done from birth until five minutes ago and makes the decision right there. It’s a perfectly reasonable decision, There’d have to be this whole process of interviewing, like they did when my great grandfather was just out of college, and that was never really reliable. People could lie, they could put up a good first impression to hide glaring flaws.

Not anymore. Now a quick assessment can be made and the risk is next to nothing.

All that means a guy like me isn’t going to get hired for much more than what I’m doing now. I have no Memory, at least not one that anyone else can see. When I was a newborn I nearly died because my body rejected the nanobots. My parents told me later that it was rare, but not unheard-of. “Your brain is defective,” my father said. “You’ll never be a full member of society.”

That was probably the most intimate conversation I’d ever had with him.

My boss calls me “Mystery Man,” and I cringe when he does, but it’s true. Without the hardware that everyone else has, no one can know who I am.

The weekly news was on as I swept up. The anchor, Ellis Cerrano, was very popular at the Life Library – my boss had been him several times, and I think my mother had a subscription. The big story was a criminal trial, something that we hadn’t seen in a very long time. There was no point to committing crimes anymore, at least unless you were absolutely sure you’d get away with it. If the police caught you and subpoenaed your Memory, you were convicted. The whole trial process took less than half an hour from arrest to conviction. If by some misfortune you were innocent, you were back on the streets with an apology and a small sum for your troubles.

I leaned on my broom and watched Cerrano breathlessly tell the story to the world of the criminal mastermind Nuseto KoyKozy, the man who had managed to anonymously steal millions from the richest people in the country. He kept it up for five years, hiding behind aliases and managing to never give up his Memory to anyone. In the end, though, he was tracked down, caught, and his Memory acquired by the police. Within a few weeks, all of the stolen money he had hidden away would be retrieved and returned to its rightful owner.

“Damn shame,” a man said. I stood up straight and looked around. A man in a white suit was standing at the bar, the only person there in the middle of the afternoon. He looked over at me and said it again: “Damn shame.”

I just went back to sweeping. The afternoon was a dead time, but when dinner rolled around, the place would fill up and I’d have a lot more to do.

“I’m talking to you, big man,” he said. I looked up and he was looking at me.

“Me?” I said.

He laughed, and it was a mean laugh. “No, jackass. The broom.” He stood up, his hand outstretched, and I flinched. “Of course I’m talking to you,” he said. He reached down and took my hand. “I’m Tyrone Nikaido. And you must be the Mystery Man that Ibaino has told me so much about.”

I didn’t like the name. I especially didn’t like knowing that my boss talked about me. I took my hand away. “My name’s Narr,” I said, and went back to sweeping.

Tyrone watched me for a little while, his hands in his pockets and his lips pursed as he examined what I was doing. I started sweeping the same spot over and over again, and I could feel him watching me. I could have just hit him with the broom, but then I’d be out of a job. In jail, maybe. Probably.

“You are a unique man, Narr,” he said. I didn’t look up. “There are some people – some very interesting people – who would love to meet you.”

“I don’t want to meet anybody,” I said.

He shrugged. “But they still want to meet you.” He leaned towards me, his voice dropping to stage whisper. “The man with no Memory.”

I dropped the broom and started walking to the back. Inside, I was cursing myself. I’d have to move, get a new job, start the whole thing all over again. I wanted to cry.

Tyrone grabbed my arm, spun me around and looked up at me. “Don’t be stupid, kid,” he said.

“Let go of me.”

“When I’ve had my say.” He led me to one of the booths and had me sit down. I kept glancing around, waiting for my boss to come in and blow up at me, to remind me that without him, I’d be living on the streets.

“You’re a unique man,” Tyrone said again. He glanced over at the TV, which was still playing samples from KoyKozy’s Memory. “That guy did well enough, but it was his Memory that got him, in the end.” He looked back at me. “Once they have that, the game is over. The cops have all the evidence they need to convict, and you’re spending time being reprogrammed.” He said it with a sneer, and I could understand why. There was only one real punishment for crime these days, and the Memory made it simple: re-live the lives of those you wronged. Over and over again until the state was convinced you’d learned your lesson. KoyKozy had wronged a whole lot of people – he’d be spending a long time in rehab.

“A man with no Memory could go a long way,” Tyrone said. He stared at me for a while, to let it sink in.

I didn’t need a while. “I’m not a crook,” I said, standing up. “And I’m leaving.”

Disappearing wouldn’t be too hard. I didn’t have much. All I’d have to do was find another job that barely paid my rent, another landlord who didn’t care who lived in his place. Another city where I could vanish and not be noticed.

I stopped in the doorway and clenched my fists. I knew – I knew – this was a bad idea.


Tyrone was grinning when I turned around. He hadn’t moved from the booth. He was just waiting there like he knew what I would do. My feet dragged as I walked back towards him, and the smile on his face never faltered. I closed my eyes and let out a breath that seemed to have been in my chest forever.

“What do you want me to do?”

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