57 plus 57: Back-ups

Posted: 13 October 2021 in 57 plus, fiction, writing
Tags: , ,

Housekeeping note 1: I went out last night, and I fully intended to use today to do a write up of the event. But it was too much… I mean, I loved the show – David Baddiel’s Trolls: Not The Dolls – and I’d recommend you go see it, but I was thinking about it all the way home, and I’ve been thinking some more about it today.

I’ll do a proper write up during the interregnum in a week or so. (The show’s running for a bit yet.)

Housekeeping note 2: This is the final ’57 plus…’ post. Or at least it was intended to be. 57 posts for ’57 minus…’ and 57 posts for ’57 plus…’. Except I like writing the new fiction on a Thursday so you’re getting one more post tomorrow.

So, something else today. Another tale from the very, very long ago fiction vaults.

I wrote the following story for an anthology that never actually saw the light of day. I can’t remember exactly why not; something to do with rights or the cost of printing. Anyway, it didn’t happen.

I wrote this in 2003. It seems more than a little prescient today.


They have a revolving door.

I hate them just for that. Just for the symbolism. In. Out. And it’s done.

The woman at the desk doesn’t even look up as I approach the reception desk.

“Seventy-third floor,” she says. A ‘path, I realise.

“Yes,” she says in a bored tone. She still hasn’t looked up at me. “I’m a telepath, which means I know what you’re thinking even though you haven’t thought it yet.”

Now she looks up at me. She smiles, but I know it’s a smile she’s practiced in front of the mirror. “And what you really want to do with me is still illegal in fourteen states.”

I believe her. Even though all I’d thought about was what she looked like. Not bad, I think. Not bad at all.

“Fuck you,” she says, that smile unchanged. “I’m a lot better than ‘not bad’.”

Now it’s me that smiles at her, as I head for the elevator.

There are two others already there, both of them carrying MemScan brochures. The man’s flipping through a book while the woman has her eyes half-closed and is mouthing something in what looks like fright. They both look at me, and then return to their own practices. Curious, I think obscene thoughts. Neither of them even blink and it takes me a moment to realise that the woman is genuinely scared.

To make conversation, and to try to reassure her, I tell her, “Nothing to worry about, really.”

“How the hell would you know?” comes the response from the man. “Done it before, have you?”

If it’s a challenge, it’s a bloody stupid one. “Yes,” I say, “three times actually.”

That gets their attention. This thing costs. A lot.

“You’ve been backed up three times?” There’s something approaching awe in the woman’s voice now. She’s not bad looking either, not now, not with the look of fright replaced with a mixture of curiosity and admiration.

The elevator arrives and we get on. He looks at the panel of buttons and I lean forward to hit the buttons for the seventy-third floor. MEMORY SCANS INC, RECORDING AND RESTORATIONS.

I lean back against the wall as the elevator starts up. I wonder what the two of them would think if they knew that right now, as we’re moving upwards through the vast building, we’re being scanned by about thirty telepaths. Each of them scanning for one thing, and one thing only.

They’re still looking at me, the woman bashfully so, the man less so. The curiosity is palpable, almost oppressive in the enclosed area. I learned long ago the easiest way to deflect it is to manufacture some of my own. “So,” I point to the brochures, “why MemScan?”

When they come, the reasons are the usual. I mean, give MemScan credit. Their advertising boys have come up with about seven different angles, all of them playing on the gloriously perfect discovery that humans are inherently neurotic.

They’re paranoid about telepaths stealing their memories, for a start. Funny how MemScan conveniently forget to mention that there’s never been a single case recorded of a telepath erasing a memory they’ve read. That’s why the woman is here, to back up her memories, so if anyone steals them, she can restore them later.

The man’s excuse for being there is slightly more understandable. Slightly. His father has Alzheimer’s and is slowly losing his memories, one by one. But the old man’s 122. What the hell did he expect? How old are you, I ask the man.


42 and he’s getting a MemScan in case he gets Alzheimer’s. I want to hit him.

But then, is my justification any better? In a world of telepaths, how the hell do you protect a copyright? Posting something to yourself in a sealed envelope is no protection, not when on the way to the mailbox, someone in the street can scan your brain, see what it is in the envelope and file a precept before you’ve returned home.

So, for the past three months, I’ve had my mind scanned. Not just the memories, not just the cheap option, but the full whack. The whole thing. Memories, stray thoughts, sexual fantasies, and story ideas. Everything.

Because I’m a writer. Yeah, a writer. Remember them?

Remember what it was like to have an original idea?

Before you had the option of going to MemScan Rental and hiring someone else’s thoughts for a day. Or, if you’ve really got the money, a whole week?

Of course the real trick is to make sure that when you have a back up made, you’re thinking of something really horrific. Then, if anyone’s daft enough to download you, the first image they get is of, say, The President screwing a goat. Or a razor blade cutting open an eyeball. Or, if you’re really cruel and heartless, your last divorce. Pretty soon the word goes around; leave this brain alone.

The elevator arrives and the three of us step out.

The armed guard at the side of the door isn’t needed, of course. If any of us had been part of the Abolitionist Movement, we’d never had made it out of the elevator. They’d have flooded it with nerve gas and killed everyone in the enclosed space? Don’t believe me? Tch – you don’t read the small print in the brochure then.

The receptionist upstairs confirms my identity with a retinal scan and a tongue print. There’s not been a system yet that’s beaten both of them at the same time. And then I’m in the small room as they place the helmet on me.

And the last thought I have as they lower it onto me is the same one I had last time and the time before that.

I know it’s perfectly safe. I know that the stories of brains being sucked up and leaving the person a mindless husk are urban myths.

I also know that this machine was built by the company that tendered the lowest bid.

There – that should give the next downloader a few nightmares.

© Lee Barnett, 2003 


See you tomorrow, with… something else.


Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.

I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

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