Author : Aradhana Choudhuri
“John, I’m done. I’m getting rid of all of them.”
“Go for it. You don’t need to ask me.”
“Do you want something? There’s lots of vid, from when mom was little.”
“Where would I put it? Just…just flush it, ok?”
“Tomorrow. Federal Data Bureau will certify the wipe. Then I can sell the things. Do you want a part of the cash?”
“Nah, you keep it.”
“There’s a lot of them.”
“Wait a mo…” the vid-screen goes blank as John puts her on hold. So she counts the drives, in her head.
The oldest ones, each as big as her palm, black and utilitarian, are already on the truck. Then there are the cutsie-wootsie ladybugs and ballerinas and an entire array’s worth of koala bears from the thirties, barely a hundred TeraBytes each. They did get smaller for a while, till the superparamagnetic threshold was breached. The newest drive in the house is twenty years old, a striped orange cube the size of a small child.
The screen clears and John is back. “We’re doing ok, sis. Jill says you should buy yourself something.”
“That’s really nice of you two.”
“You’ve been paying Mom’s Datatax for years…” something in the background distracts John. “Mo…” He puts her on hold again.
She remembers sitting on the floor, playing with her bright blue rolling pin and ladle and a small sticky wad of dough, and her mother saying how Quantum Storage was just a year or so away. Then it was how Quantum ran into problems, but SpaceFold Memsisters would solve the data crisis. Give it a couple of years.
Her mother had stopped talking by the time she was in her teens. The pile of drives continued to grow, from the study into the spare bedroom and then into the hall.
The kitchen was half-full by the time mom retired. It took another two years for Social Services to send somebody around.
They all sat around the table, and the lady from Social took her mother’s hand, gently, and told her that hoarding pension payments – it took seven months of pension, by then, to buy a 400ExaByte drive – was not ok and there was more data generated every second than there was storage for it manufactured in a year, and did she really think she could save it all?
When her mother died, someone suggested getting it all into a government Anthro-study, but Nonessential Data doesn’t qualify. Some grad student, maybe from Socio-Analytics…But she doesn’t know any students. And renting a room at a Data Warehouse makes the taxrate go up not down, even if it means that she gets the kitchen back.
This time it’s Jill’s face on the screen when it clears.
“Sweetie,” says Jill, “I’m so glad you’re doing this. You need space. You need to make room for your own life.”
“It’s not that…I just can’t afford it anymore.” She hates explaining. Her sister-in-law always gets that pity-faux-therapist look on her face.
“Of course dear,” says Jill. “Tell us how it goes, ok?”
“Bye sweetie!” The vid-screen goes dark. Only the sensors above the panel, visible-spectrum and infrared and audio and chem-sig, record the fleeting expressions on her face, the slight wince, the microtaste of salt in the air. Nonessential. 6:00 AM sharp on Tuesday, all phones in the 5686 area-code purge their memories. There’s a huge fine if they don’t.
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