by Sophia Laughlin
“Don’t you see the sign? No soliciting.”
“I’m not a solicitor. I’m a salesman.”
The man started to close his door. It shuddered. Stopped with a sickening thunk. One of the Salesman’s sleek black loafers was wedged between the door and its frame. His pale, matte skin melded into hair leached of all color, and blue veins slithered across his skin, making his sickly, purple-tinged lips even brighter. His eyes—blue the color of glacial ice—pierced the man. The man considered the Salesman’s gaze, and a shudder rolled up his spine.
Inhuman. Unemotional. Uncaring.
This Salesman was everything a salesman should not be.
“Get your foot out of my door,” the man grumbled.
“Don’t you want to know what I’m selling?”
“The sign, man… Read the sign! In case you can’t read, it says ‘No Soliciting!’”
The Salesman glanced at the sign. “Yes. I can read. I read the sign. I’m not a solicitor.”
The man’s eyes rolled skyward. “Jesus Christ. Look, if you don’t get off my property, I’m gonna call the cops.”
“You miss them, don’t you? Your memories?”
The man stiffened. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“What do you know about that?” The man’s grip on the door turned his knuckles white.
The Salesman glanced into the house’s interior. “Do you want to let me in?”
“You need memories. I have some.”
“Memories. I sell memories.”
The man blinked through his confusion. “O-Okay, you really just need to—”
“I can sell you memories.”
The man opened his mouth to refuse the offer, but the words caught in his throat. He coughed and shifted on his feet. The Salesman seemed to tower over him, a cold marble pillar. The man’s heart was slow in his chest, as it often was these days, after the accident. Blackness plagued the deep recesses of his mind. It had become a physical thing, a barricade of sorts, keeping him from the delights of the past. He knew only what he saw in pictures. Knew only what he had heard from friends—when there were still friends around.
The man considered the Salesman as he tapped his fingers against the door. The Salesmen, for his part, did not say a word. He spoke without speaking—the almost imperceptible twist of his lips came as a reply to words the man had not yet spoken. The man gulped. Then he opened the door wider.
“Come in, I guess.”
The Salesmen grinned. Ah… a shark. That’s what it was. The Salesman reminded him of a shark.
When the man shut the door behind the Salesman, dense black once more fell over the house. Heavy curtains hung over two-story windows. Narrow slivers of light slipped through the small gaps to illuminate the floating dust as it wandered through the great expanse and settled on every surface throughout the room. Dust carpet on the wooden floors, dust tablecloths on tables, dust screens over picture frames. Though the man’s nose was no longer accustomed to the scent, his house reeked of must and depression. The smell climbed up the massive foyer and circled the glass chandelier.
As the two moved into the kitchen, the man cleared dirty dishes from the counter and tossed them into an already full sink.
It had been like this ever since she had left.
“You have five minutes,” the man said. He didn’t know why he had allowed the Salesman into his house. He’d taken leave of his senses for a moment, but perhaps a deeper, more primal part of his soul called for it.
The Salesmen set his black briefcase down on the recently cleared counter. “You are missing memories. Do you want memories? Happy ones?”
The man licked his lips. “It’s not possible. Things like that aren’t possible.”
“But they are, if you know how to do it.”
“How do you know how to do it?”
The man shook his head. “That isn’t an answer.”
“It is an answer. It is the one I have given you. I can give you memories if you want. I can sell them to you. Looking around”—the Salesman cast a disinterested gaze at the room—“the only memories you have are covered in dust.”
“Zoe’s gone. Zoe, she, uh…she was my girlfriend. I think. That’s what they tell me. It’s what I see in the photos.”
“And even those have collected dust.”
The man ground his teeth together. He ought to just kick the Salesman out, but instead he found himself asking, “How much are they?”
“What price would you put on a memory?”
“It depends on what the memory is about.”
The man should have hesitated more, should have stopped and considered what buying these memories, if they were even such a thing, meant. But his heart ached, and his head hurt, and he wanted something—anything—to replace the emptiness inside him.
“Okay,” the man finally said. “I’ll buy them.”
The Salesman smiled. “Wonderful.”
“Only because I miss having something there, okay? Not for any other reason.”
The Salesman’s upturned lips twitched. “Of course not.”
The man watched the Salesman search through his briefcase for a small bag of pills and then slide them across the counter. “Here you are. And as for payment…”
For a second, the man could not tear his gaze from the pills. They curled him into an enchanted embrace, whispering words of temptation. The Salesman cleared his throat, and the man snapped out of his thoughts.
“Oh. Yeah,” the man said. He walked to a cluttered countertop and snatched up his wallet. “You take card?”
“In this day and age?” The Salesman turned slowly. His lips slithered into a grin. “Of course.”
The two completed their transaction with little words. When the exchange was complete, the Salesman slinked away, leaving the dark house like a ghost cast from a haunted home. The man locked the front door and returned to the kitchen. He stopped in the doorway, looked at the pills—the memories—and took a deep breath. He was a fool for doing this. For what he had just paid. This couldn’t be real.
But he needed to have something. He needed to not feel so empty.
The man reached the counter in two steps. He held the pills in the palm of his hand and stared at them for a lengthy time. He counted his breaths, measured his heartbeat. A long internal monologue rambled on his head. Oh, how he was a fool. Oh, how he was desperate. Pathetic. Weak.
Oh, but how he wanted them.
So he knocked the pills back with a glass of water.
And he remembered everything. He remembered looking at the clouds, and he remembered studying the deep mahogany of her eyes, admiring the way her lips moved as she muttered what shapes the clouds made above her, smiling at the small dimple pressing into her cheek. He remembered morning hikes and watching the sunrise with her head on his shoulder. He remembered their debates at dinner, the walks in the park, the time he first laid eyes on her and the way her nose crinkled when she smiled. He remembered the seven years they had spent together, and he remembered the promises they had made to spend years more.
He remembered Zoe.
He remembered how she died. The boat he’d insisted they take, the frigid water they’d tumbled into, the waves battering her again and again. Her hands had clawed at the sky as the boat teetered in the distance. The current swept them toward the rocky shore.
The ocean stole his memories. It stole her life.
The man released a broken sob. He curled in on himself, letting the memories wash over him, pummel him, and he cried salty tears as he again choked on salty ocean water. He did not hear the click of the lock, nor the creak of the heavy front door as it swung inward. Black loafers tapped on the floor as the Salesman neared. He dropped into a crouch.
“Does it hurt?” the Salesman asked.
“Yes,” the man cried.
“Do you want me to make it stop hurting?”
“I want to see her again.”
“Even if it hurts?”
“I need to see her again.”
The Salesman dabbed a sponge on the man’s cheeks, collecting his tears. With the tears, he once again took the memories. The man’s pain fell away, and numbness seeped into him, quelling the agony of loss. He laid limp and tired on the floor, staring straight ahead, wondering what had happened—wondering why he felt so hollow.
The Salesman smiled.
Ah, the things people paid for. The things people always said yes to, year after year. Month after month. Day after day. 1,023 days of selling the same memories—soon to be 1,024. The Salesman patted the man’s cheek. “Don’t worry. You’ll see her again tomorrow.”