Memories In Binary

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Hello, dear reader. It is a pleasure to write to you once more. Did you sleep well? A rather unusual question, I’m aware, but it ties in quite nicely with today’s story. Dreams have always been a very interesting matter to me, and I’ve studied them for a long, long time. So much so, in fact, that I’ve developed ways of entering them. It’s not often I find myself visiting others’ dreams. On more rare occasions, people’s dreams are the ones that come to me. Such was the case with my butler, but how we met is a story for another day. You see, in all my years of study, I could never have predicted what happened not too long ago. I did mention before that sometimes, others’ dreams simply come to me, but this one was… different, peculiar, and intriguing. I had already read about shared dreams, but I had never even considered the possibility of a human sharing a dream with, for lack of a better word, a "god ".

As such, I had to investigate. Dreams usually take the form of wisps, small orbs of flame-like light that float throughout the Cygnus Archive at random. This one, however, had a rather unique appearance. It flickered, as if two dreams overlapped, one human, immaculately round and bright, and a second one, always shifting, inconstant, a moving amalgamation of polygonal shapes and colors. This peculiar wisp seemed to shift between these two states quite often.

Curious as always, I entered this newfound wisp. I found myself in some sort of city. The dreamer was nowhere to be seen. I roamed around for a little while, following the city's empty roads, contemplating the buildings… it's not often I get to visit these urban spaces.

Dreams, however, rarely are accurate portrayals of human reality. I could not enter any of the buildings. The city seemed to be the same street, repeated ad infinitum. More importantly, though, something was off. The same strange polygonal mesh found in the wisp permeated the dream, and seemed to intensify as I moved further down the street. Entire buildings seemed to change colors for a split second and return to normal. The road vanished from beneath me only to reappear in an instant, and the sky… it looked as though it was a still image, unchanging, unmoving.

I kept floating deeper into the dream as the once regular cityscape gradually shifted into a chaotic, ungoverned mesh of oddly placed structures and polygons in various shades of grey punctuated by fragments of a still sky.

Eventually, I found the dreamer, sitting on a bench in the center of a white void, a blank space in the dream. I waved at the figure in the distance, but to no avail. I moved a bit closer, trying to see just who this mysterious person was.

Pink hair, marble skin, a flickering dream… It all fit into place. I had read plenty about the human on the bench.

A. River.

I had always wanted to know more about hir, and I felt joy knowing this would give me such a chance, but, simultaneously, I knew this meant I'd have to face… an old acquaintance of mine. Ze stood up, slowly taking a few steps towards me. I called out hir name. No response. Ze seemed to struggle with every step, as if some tremendous force held hir back.

So, I made my move. We stood face to face as I uttered my first words.

"Hello, dear."

It took hir a few seconds to answer.

"Have we… met before?"

I smiled.

"No, my dear. But I have known you for a long time, River."

Ze tried to speak, but it's hard to do so when your lips suddenly turn to marble… which reminds me of… the other one. I was, admittedly, rather surprised she stayed silent for this long.

"Oh.. What a surprise… It has been quite some time since our paths last crossed, dear-"

I interrupted her. "You and I both know that name is long forgotten. I had hoped you'd learn some manners."

Her voice was drenched in sarcasm.
“Haven’t you missed me? Do you like my new host?”

I sighed. “To think I once thought of you as my equal… as a sister, even. I pity you, Nostalgi Gaius, for you could have been so, so much more… but that is not what brings me here. So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to be alone with River.”

She replied, snarky as always.
"I am River, too, can't you see?"

Before I could respond, River intervened, and the marble in hir skin seemed to be gone in the blink of an eye.

"Sorry about that. Where were we?"

Ze stood still for a moment. A. River had already piqued my interest, long before this first contact, but I could have never predicted a human would be able to hold Nostalgi Gaius back by themselves.

"Right. Who are you?"

"I have gone by many names, dear, but you may call me Blanche."

I took a seat on a nearby bench. River did the same. It was quite the lovely image, a white void, a simple bench, and the two of us, sat side by side.

"And what brings you here, Blanche?"

"Curiosity, dear. Simply that."

"You don't seem to be part of my dream."

"As expected, you're quite sharp. I am merely a visitor."

River put hir hands on the pocket of hir pink sweater.

“I’ve heard about you, too. Eden used to spend a ton of time at your place.”

“Eden… indeed, she used to spend plenty of time studying entity behaviour. A pity she hasn’t visited as of late, I admit to missing her company.”

“That’s weird. Did something happen to her?”

“I do not know, dear. Last I heard from her, she sought out to study Reality Bugs.”

River seemed to be subject to the same anomaly that permeated the rest of the dream. Hir skin would shift, revealing stain-like patches of marble that moved, divided, appeared and vanished quickly and randomly. Every so often, distortions akin to those found in hir pictures would manifest on hir body, but none of it seemed to bother River that much. Ze noticed my curiosity at these phenomena.

“You get used to it. It doesn’t bother me nowhere near as much as her voice. Besides… It’s a lot worse on the outside.”

“May I ask you a question?”

“Sure thing.”

“Why subject yourself to this? What reasons led you to facing and eventually fusing with Nostalgi Gaius?”

River stared into my eyes. “It’s for the greater good. I endure this so that others are free from her reach.”, ze said, and in those words I found the most honorable of sacrifices. However… I couldn’t help but to notice a faint hint of sadness in hir tone.

“You seem to be more than well aware of the consequences of your act.”

“It’s hard to forget when you’re reminded of it every day. I know I’ll fade into her someday, but I intend to delay it as much as possible. For everyone.”

“I see… what about yourself, though?”

“Me? I’ll be gone, just another cluster of bits in this pool of sorrow. I’ll be forgotten, and I’ll drag her down with me.”

“The greatest honor is to be remembered, my dear, and one that underwent such a noble sacrifice is more than deserving of it.”

There was a moment of silence.

“I think I’ll pass. Nostalgi Gaius is a predator, she hunts with the sting of memory. The less people remember me, the less they’ll remember her too, and the less prey she’ll have.”

“I see.”

I stared around for a few moments. There were no longer any traces of the dream city, other than the bench we were sitting on, that is.

“Tell me, River, would you like a cup of tea? As fascinating as dreams can be, I don’t think a white void would be a pleasant scenery.”

River stood up.

“Sounds good to me.”

Somewhere between the flickering marble and the errorring skin, I saw a smile in River’s face.

“Very well, then. Could you close your eyes for a moment?”

River did as I asked, closing hir eyes for a moment. Plenty of time for me to paint over the white canvas of dreams. So, with a simple snap of my fingers, (it isn’t necessary, but it does add some flair to it, don’t you think?) River found hirself sitting comfortably in my Tea Room, or rather, a replica of it, with a nice, warm cup of jasmine chamomile tea and a plate of butter biscuits. Unlike most of my guests, ze didn’t seem to be surprised at all, calmly taking hir first sip of tea.

“This is some really good tea. I’m guessing you took it straight out of my memories, no?”

“Need I really answer that? I feel as though you’ve got everything figured out. You have excellent taste in tea, if I may add.”

River put hir cup of tea down.

“Almost everything. You see, ever since you’ve arrived, she hasn’t shut up about you. Called you a traitor. An error. A defect, among other things.”

I took another sip of tea.

“Straight to the point.. I suppose you want to know why, correct?”

“Exactly. It’s like you read my mind.”

“I see… sadly, I cannot answer you, at least not yet. You of all people should be familiar with Nostalgi Gaius and how she functions, feeding off of sorrow, the “sting of memory” as you called it. I may not be human, but I can feel sorrow, too, and I fear for what could happen, should she feed on my memory.”

“You don’t seem like you want to address the topic. Is this place the Cygnus Archive I heard so much about?

“A replica of it, but yes. The real Archive is much more vast.”

River crossed hir legs, taking another sip of tea. Have I mentioned that I had no complaints on hir etiquette? Truly flawless, at least from what I have seen.

“Mind if I ask you a question?”

“Anything you’d like, dear.”

“How did you end up here?”

“A long, long story… in short, I discovered that humans hold wonderful stories, and it truly is a pity that they seem to vanish in the blink of an eye… so, I decided that if I cannot save them, then I’ll do the next best thing. I will remember them, immortalize their memory in one of my many, many books.”

“The greatest honor is to be remembered, right?”

“Correct. Though I can understand why you’d disagree. You’re more than familiar with the painful side of memory, the loose threads, that which could have been, and that which you will never live again.”

River stared at hir reflection on the cup of tea.

“Memory doesn’t always have to be painful, my dear. I feel as though you wish not to be forgotten. You wish only for Nostalgi Gaius to lose her prey. Am I correct?”

Ze didn’t answer. Ze didn’t need to, to be honest. Silence can often tell more than a million words. Ze flickered, and just a split second later, I was back in the white void, a marble statue standing in front of me.

“Ze’ll let go, and you’ll be powerless to stop it.” she said.

Before I could answer, the void vanished, and I found myself once again in the comfort of my tea room.

"Something wrong, Blanche? You've been staring blankly for a few seconds now." River took a bite out of one of the biscuits.

"No, dear. Merely a passing thought. You need not worry."

River finished hir biscuit, wiping the crumbs off hir marble lips.

"Can I ask you another question, Blanche?"

"Ask away."

"Can I draw you? It's been awhile since I last got to draw anything, and I could use some practice."

"An… unexpected request, but not an unwelcome one. I can provide you with the necessary material for it."

"Alright, feel free to talk to me while I draw, don't worry about distracting me."

"Very well. Do you mind telling me your full name? You appear as A. River in every single written record I could find…"

"Aelita River."

"My, quite the lovely name you have."

"Thanks, I suppose."

It was around this time that I noticed Berry walking into the room, sneakingly trying to steal some food…

"If you'll excuse me for a second…" I got up from my seat and picked Berry up, placing him on my lap as I returned to my seat. River didn't look up from the paper, focused on hir portrait.

"If you wanted food, you could just ask, Berry… or did you just want the attention? Oh, you want some pets… I'll be more than happy to provide." He curled up on my lap, purring as I pet him… my gosh, isn't he a lovely, adorable little fellow? Oh, pardon me, dear reader. I got carried away. Back to our story, shall we?

I tried not to disturb River while talking to Berry, but I… failed to do so. Whether that is to blame on River's sharp mind or on… my affection for Berry is up to your interpretation.

Regardless, River's eyes were no longer fixated on hir drawing. Instead, hir gaze was set on the near-spherical pile of black fur on my lap.

"You have a cat?!?"

Now, up until this point, River's form in dream was unstable, "glitchy", as ze put it, an amalgamated mesh of humanity and cold, polished stone.

As such, you can probably imagine my astonishment when River stood up, taking a few steps towards me and Berry, and there were no traces of stone on hir, not a sign of Nostalgi Gaius's presence. To this very day, the only explanation I have for this is that River's love for cats far surpasses mine, to such a degree that it overpowers even so-called "gods".

"Can I pet him?"

I couldn't help it but to laugh a little.

"Of course, dear. As much as you'd like, Berry is usually docile."

River tried to call Berry to hir. To my surprise, he answered the call, jumping off my lap and slowly walking over to River's seat. A few moments later, River was sitting again, albeit with Berry on hir lap this time.

"Seems he's rather fond of you! Isn't he a lovely little fellow?"

River smiled, dragging hir hands through Berry's fur.

Shortly after, Berry fell asleep, curled up on my guest's lap.

"I know I've asked this a few times already, but do you mind me asking you a few questions? I like to know the people I draw."

"Keep in mind that there are a few questions I may not be able to answer."

"Got it. Where'd you get that pendant? I feel like I've seen it somewhere else."

"It was gifted to me, a long, long time ago. Eventually, I learned to make them myself, and gifted a few of these pendants to friends of mine. Given your affiliation with the M.E.G., I assume that you've seen Dawn Marchesa of Team New Horizons wear a similar necklace."

"Dawn… oh, the one with blue hair. Never talked to her much."

"She's a real sweetheart, despite her tough-looking exterior."

"What do you do when there's no guests around?"

"I usually tend to my research, or to Berry."

"Research? What kind?"

"I do have plenty of free time on my hands, so my research ends up covering a myriad of topics. As for my current work, most of it has some ties to the human world, I do find your customs and history to be quite fascinating. I've spent many, many years learning about them. Aside from that, I have plenty of notes on liminal space and it's inner workings, as well as a… linguistics project, of sorts."

"Are you and the M.E.G. on good terms, still?"

"Yes, they often come to me for information. I've grown fond of them, they've mostly been wonderful guests."

"You're a great host, so it's no surprise you keep getting guests."

"Oh, I'm flattered… I strive to be as welcoming as possible… but I confess to feeling rather lonely when there's no guests in my library."

"Have you ever tried to set up a chatroom or something of the sort?"

"I'm not sure I follow…"

"Are you familiar with computers, Blanche?"

"Not exactly. I prefer paper over digital means, and I'm a bit sad to see humans move towards the latter… but I'll learn to adapt accordingly. Perhaps this "chatroom" is a first step?"

"I used to program stuff for the M.E.G. database all the time. Chatrooms aren't too difficult to set up, I'm sure that you could ask them about it and they'd set it up for you."

"I see… how would that work?"

"Well, a chat room boils down to a page where people can send you text messages. Sounds like a good way to play around the eventual lack of guests. Anyone out there with internet access could join in.”

“How convenient… I’ll be sure to keep it in mind.”

“Finished the drawing. Here, take a look.”


“Oh, it’s such a lovely portrait… I’ll be sure to hang it in my office.”

“I’m glad to hear you liked it.”

River finished hir tea. Ze was flickering once again, more frequently this time.

"I think I'll have to leave soon, Blanche."

"I see… May I ask you something?"

"Sure thing."

"I wanted to ask for permission to delve a little deeper into your mind. I've seen how this… fusion affects your body, I've seen how it affects your dreams. I'd like to know how it affects your memory and identity."

River stared at me in silence for a few seconds.

"You have been a wonderful guest, River. I'd like to have the pleasure of chatting with you as many times as possible. I need to know the full extent of her effects on you. There may be something that can be done to slow down or sculpt your integration. Perhaps, it can even be prevented. I want to help, but you'll have to let me know what we're dealing with."

"Very well. Feel free to look."

I placed my index finger on hir forehead.

"This may sting a little, dear."

For the sake of my guest’s privacy, I will refrain from describing hir memories. I was, however, quite relieved to see that Nostalgi Gaius’s presence on River’s memory was minimal. River has held on to hirself quite well. Perhaps, with a little luck… some semblance of River may live on.

“So… what’d you find?”

“Your memories are mostly intact, and so is your identity… but she’s trying to corrupt you, in a sense. For every one of your memories, there’s another, distorted copy belonging to Nostalgi Gaius. Those copies are… leaking into the original, slowly filling in the gaps.”

River stared blankly at me, completely silent.

“Tell me, River, how familiar are you with geology? More specifically, lava?”

“I learned a thing or two, but I’m far from an expert.”

“Your current state shares a lot of similarities with the crystallization of hybrid lava. The environmental circumstances dictate the pace and, consequently, the result of the process. In your scenario, this means that both you and her have a say on the end result of this fusion. There’s a chance you fade into her, yes, but… there’s also a chance that, if you hold on to yourself, the outcome of this is a new entity. Part human, part god.”

River held Berry closer to hir.

“I cannot save you, my dear… but I can remember you. I can store your unadulterated memories on paper… and one day, perhaps… one day what’s left of you will read those memories, and hold on to them.”

I noticed River was holding back tears.

“There’s no shame in crying, my dear. You’ve made an honorable sacrifice. Thanks to you, human life in the Backrooms has become a lot easier. I admire your selflessness, dear."

I couldn't handle staring at hir in such a state… I know it's rather rude not to ask beforehand, but I gave hir a hug. And ze hugged back. It dragged on for a minute or two… not that I mind it. River took a deep breath.

"You have my permission to write that book. Just don't mention her at all."

"Very well. Oh, and one last thing before you go…"


I gave River a pendant identical to mine.

"Consider this a gift, dear. It should allow me to visit you more often, if you'd like."

"Thanks, Blanche…. and goodbye."

"Farewell, River. Do take care."

As soon as ze left, I started working on a new book, writing down A. River's memories. Berry kept me company the whole time. How kind of him… I suppose that concludes today's story, dear reader. Do take care, will you? We will meet again soon enough.

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