Challenge #01595-D134: The Memory Lingers OnsteemCreated with Sketch.

in fiction •  2 years ago

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The culch (useful junk), box for those glorious moments when. "I've got to be a Insert costume here tomorrow." arrive. -- Anon Guest

JOAT Erin had passed from this life and into whichever afterlife ze found the most entertaining. Pantheists such as Erin were expected to shop around in several for a few years and send a sign when they'd found the right one. Since Erin had no family that accepted hir, and no progeny to take up their work, the assembled JOAT community was holding a Memorial Rummage.

Rael attended, of course. He was an atheist and couldn't find a Belief that took him over like it seemed to in others. Besides, it was hard to revere ones creators when one had witnessed them bumbling around before their morning stimulants, and often wearing last week's custard stains. This was to be the fate of his belongings when he met his inevitable demise. Assuming that he didn't have time to make a will. Or couldn't bother, like the late Erin had.

Three to five Aunties were rearranging Erin's things on tables. Tools were laid out with reverence. Clothing, too. Even the underwear. These were the things that JOAT Erin had touched the most, and therefore the closest things to Erin's spirit. Any residual energies from Erin were likely to remain there. The local chapter of the Nae'hyn arrived to give rites to them.

To Rael, it was like murmuring a chant of nonsense to rid ordinary objects of "bad juju". But he would never say such a thing out loud. Rites like this were for the comfort of the living, not the peace of the dead. His views on life and whatever came next belonged solely to him.

He still lined up to at least pay reverence to JOAT Erin's closest things. Some would lay a bid-mark on a piece. They would either claim it later if no-one else put their mark on it, or enter negotiations with all others who had left their mark.

Next, came the culch. The collections of bits, pieces, gadgets and assorted scrattle that JOAT Erin had deemed "useful someday", keepsakes of past adventures and memorabilia from hir travels. Rael left his marker on some reels of wire and an automated snow globe claiming to be from Hitizzy. He didn't know why, precisely, he wanted it. If he were more spiritual, he could have said that it called to him. But he wasn't, so he called it an irrational impulse.

Other things, like beads, feathers, and a stunning archive of entertainments, were merely to be gawked at. There was going to be quite the battle over some of it, judging by the crowds of marks on some things. Even the furniture was under scrutiny, with other JOATs taking their turn trying out how well it fit them.

Rael had no interest in the furniture. He had accomodations for himself and a hypothetical guest to sit and share food in his public room. He had an entertainment player that he rarely activated. He had his heated tank and a specially-calibrated personal cleanser in his private room. He had everything he could need. Or so he told himself.

Therefore, he hung back and observed the others. Those who knew JOAT Erin told stories to others. Keeping the name and memory alive when the one who inspired the stories was no longer so. Some believed that as long as a name was on other's lips, the soul that belonged with that name would not perish. Some felt it their duty to leave such names at designated graffiti zones, so that others might speak that name. So much so that there was now a patch for memorials.

That graffiti was never painted over. The names were allowed to stay so long as others maintained them.

Aunty Fan-Fan found him. She had a large platter of rich food, which just showed how well she knew what he needed. "It's all ham rolls and kosher-halal nibbles, everywhere," she said. "So I whipped this up for you."

"Out of JOAT Erin's kitchen?" Rael guessed.

"And hir food stored, yes. You know how it is. Waste not."

More normal humans would have inserted a 'want not' after that. JOATs knew otherwise. They wasted nothing and, with a few exceptions, wanted all the shiny things.

Rael accepted the platter and tried to consume its contents at a respectful pace. There were more people here who didn't know him than people who did. And he did not want to cause and upset by being seen as disrespectful. "Did you know JOAT Erin?" he asked.

"No, ze was Uncle Vrexx's charge. I'm just helping out. I know you didn't know hir. You're new."

New. New to JOATing or new to the community, it didn't matter. "I'd expect my newness to rub off after a couple of months," he jibed. Someone at a neighbouring cluster burst into tears, and the cluster turned into a comforting huddle.

"You're new until you've settled in," stated Aunty Fan-Fan. "You've been here two months and you haven't made any friends. You haven't networked. You aren't socialising."

Human worries pressed on to someone decidedly not human. "Maybe I'm not a social creature. Maybe I haven't got any data on socialising that doesn't assume I wasn't born into a family. Maybe I'm happy as I am. I have you, Officer Marken, and Nik."

"You have two people whose job it is to care for others and one for whom it's their religion," said Fan-Fan. "And only one who you refer to by a given name. And even then, it's a nickname."

"All social activities cost calories I can't afford."

Fan-Fan sighed. "Well. After the last lot has gone to a new home, I insist on introducing you to one of your kind."

That was... galvanising. There had to be a word for simultaneous excitement, interest, and utter abject terror that thrilled through his body. Alas, his mind could not supply one. "There's another Faiize on this station?"

"Her name is Eyah. She identifies female, and has elected to be an engineer. You two could bond over Unsuitable Food, I'm sure."

"But I don't know the first thing about--"

Fan-Fan stopped him with a raised finger. "Just make a friend. Whatever happens next is between you and her. As it should be. Who knows? You might make an unauthorised discovery together."

Catching a break on Wave of the Future's proprietary information had to have some allure and Fan-Fan knew it. Nevertheless, he still had vivid flashbacks to that one time when Hippo Station's miners had thrown him into the Cleaners Breeding Pit for a laugh. "I don't think we will, but it's a good hope," he allowed.

Aunties were ferrying things to others. The distribution had begun. Recipients - or the recipients not entering a bidding war - were expected to thank JOAT Erin and hir memory for the gift.

Fan-Fan left to assist in the distribution. Rael called 'no contest' on the wire reels that he was very quickly outbid on, and received a surprise. Nobody else had bid on the Hitizzy snow globe.

Now he had a piece of someone else's life to decorate his home with. Something useless, for someone who was not comfortable with being anyone's friend. Something to talk about, for someone who didn't like to talk. At least he knew what to say. "Thank you, JOAT Erin, for the memory."

[AN: I looked it up, Nonny, and apparently, Culch is not spelled with a K. At all. So I fixed it for you]

[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / ironjohn

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