Fiction · Stream of Consciousness

The Muse

I volunteered to take over the department inventory. This led me to running between office spaces and jotting down what was kept in what room, what occupied which filing cabinets, and what was housed in which cubbies. At the end of it, I settled that things were too spread apart. Items went missing before I took over, falling between the proverbial cracks. 

I printed the list of items we should have and just went at it. I counted single, loose items and jotted down the amount we had coupled with the amount still packaged. I reorganized the cubbies and shelves, making sure to compartmentalize the items within the columns. 

“You’re good at that,” Evelin said. 

“Let me walk you through,” I responded, dusting off my jeans. “In the first column here, we have repressed feelings. Secret affections on the top, followed by inner anger, pride, and sexuality. Right on the counter underneath that, we have, of course, fear of rejection that comes with each. As you can see, that’s way too much to shelve with the other items.”

“And what about these?” she asked, motioning to the pile I have laid out on the tables. 

“The first table here contains the memories I don’t know what to do with,” I shrugged. “Minor things that hold no significance to the Host. Bits of trivia that aren’t conversation starters. Really don’t know where to file these away.”

Evelin assessed the cluttered and the organized and nodded. “Seems like you have a better knack at this than the last person. This job really drove them up the wall.”

“What can I say,” I said. “I’m a natural.”

I kept up with work, making sure to sort anger in the proper receptacle, labeling the serotonin and dopamine properly, filing away the important, life-changing memories in their proper storage bin. I cataloged conversations by subject and audience. Archived text messages and letters. And tucked away the sentimental value of objects in their proper exhibitions.

But one day, something happened. 

I awoke to alarms blaring. Reaching for my phone, I saw several missed phone calls and messages from Evelin and Halcourt from HR. It seemed that something had arrived and no one could explain where it had come from. 

“It’s a memory,” I said as I examined what the Mind had considered the anomaly. 

Evelin glared at me from over her glasses as she scribbled something on her notepad. “Yes, but where do we catalog it?”

“Is it romantic?” I asked.

“Yes. But…” she trailed. 

“But?” 

“The Heart doesn’t recognize it as romantic.”

“Since when did the Mind listen to the Heart?” I asked. “We have always done things our own way. If the Heart wants to open its own library, it can do so.”

“It’s not that simple,” Evelin told me. She placed her notepad down on the desk and replayed the memory for me. “Watch carefully.”

It was my umpteenth viewing of the reel. There were no words, the dialogue between the women was too low to be audible. The Host walked past the group of ladies, eyeing on the shorter one in pink. Her ponytail bobbed as she walked beside her friends. And there, the side glance. That smirk. Both the Host and the woman had given each other the same look. And in the process, it had triggered the Host’s heart rate to speed. The pupils dilated at the moment of contact. 

“Why isn’t the Heart seeing what we’re seeing?”

Evelin began to speak, but the alarm blared as a new memory entered the department. Another encounter with the woman. The same results. Upon viewing, I caught something different. 

“Let me review the other memories,” I told Evelin before leaving. “I’ll get you the correct metadata for this. We’ll catalog it properly.”

I spent nights reviewing the memories, comparing them to those that came before. Those that were cataloged before my time. I began to drift back to the inventory. Looked at the items I labeled. Second guessing my previous work. I re-catalogued each fear, each random thought. I poured over the boxed memories, trying to gather if I had overlooked something significant. I filed away emotions that I misinterpreted earlier. Soon the organization was retooled. New labels printed, categories made. A new system of metadata was created.

“When is something romantic not romance?” I asked Evelin as I boxed the belongings that filled my office. It was my last day of work. I had turned in my resignation letter with the promise to assist in the transition process. 

Evelin looked up from her tablet; she spent my last days trying to conjure up a way to fix what I had undone.

“I don’t have answers for you,” she responded. “I don’t think any of us do.”

In the weeks that followed the first anomaly, several other romantic unromantic memories were made. Each one contained the woman in pink. Each time the Host’s heart rate accelerated. 

I asked someone from the Heart what they thought, but they could offer no explanation either. 

“What will you do now?” Evelin asked as I turned to leave.

“Maybe I’ll write about this,” I said. “Maybe I’ll figure it out.”

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

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