Memory City

The city remembers you even better than I do. I have fragments of you in my memory, things I'll only forget when I die: your smell, your voice, your eyes locked on my own. But the city knows more, and I have the power to ask for those memories.

I query databases in machines across the sea, and the city guides me to a corner just in time to see somebody crossing the street. She looks just like you as she walks away. Only from that angle, but that's the angle the city told me to look from.

I sit in a coffee shop, my back to the window, and the city whispers a detached countdown into my ears. Three blocks, two, one. Somebody walks by, and the cadence of her steps is just like yours. With my eyes closed they seem to echo through the void of your absence, and they are yours.

I keep roaming the streets for pieces of you. A handful of glimpses a day. Fragments of your voice. The dress I last saw you in, through the window of a cab. They get better and more frequent, as if the city were closing on you inside some truer city made from everything it has ever sensed and stored, and its cameras and sensors sense many things, and the machines that are the city's mind remember them all.

I feel hope grow inside me. I know the insanity of what I'm doing, but knowing is less than nothing when I see more of you each day.

One night the city takes me to an alley. It's not the street where I met you, and it's a different season, but the urgency of the city's summons infects me with a foreshadowing of deja vu.

And then I see you. You've changed your haircut, and I don't recognize your clothes, and there's something about your mouth...

But your eyes. I know those eyes. And you recognize me, of course, impossibly and unavoidably. How else to explain the frightened scream I cut short?

I have been told by engineers, people I pay to know what I don't, that the city's mind is somehow like a person's. That it learns from what it does, and does it better the next time. I don't understand how, but I know this to be so. We find you more quickly every time, and I could swear the city no longer waits for me to ask it to. Maybe it shares some of my love for you now.

Maybe you'll never be alone.