This story is by Franklin Murphy and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
Location: Medical Facilities, Aztlan Outpost
Excerpts from Mental Record Implant, Roll Number: TY430-GL00025894-DRM010
Dimensional Classification: 42
Contemporary Cycle and Temporal Designations: Monday, 21 April 2016, 11:03 GMT
Now, I’m guessing from this transcript that you’re a fielder, so where’s it gonna be? South America and the Pacific are popular choices, on account of the bugs and such. Europe and North America are pretty much picked clean, although to be honest, most people like to spend a week or two there anyway.
Look, kid, you don’t HAVE to get on the rolls if you don’t want to. There are plenty of decent jobs that don’t require any classification at all. I’ve got a cousin who works in the . . . Well, okay then, where to?
You sure? That’s, like, four miles from here. Okay, whatever you say. You’re the boss.
Oh yeah, almost forgot the paperwork.
“I, TY430-GL00025894-DRM010, hereby swear to accompany Roll Candidate . . . uh . . . 420S_R599 on the final Catalog Exercise and to oversee, blah blah blah, so as to make an original contribution to the Archive, blah dee blah, adhere to established Best Practices set forth by the Interdimensional Confederation of Archivists, blah blah blah, and upon completion bestow appointed Classification Number.”
Just make your mark above my number here . . . and here.
Congratulations, you’re stuck with me until you either make a new entry in the Archive or drop out. Meet back here in half an hour with your gear.
CD/TD: Monday, 21 April 2016/16:54 GMT
Aaaaand, that’s four hours we’ve been sitting here watching a pair of campfires. Are we going to, I don’t know, explore and look for stuff? I realize this expedition can basically continue indefinitely, but it’s generally understood that you’ll actually conduct research.
No, I would not like a cookie.
Well, maybe just one.
Listen, I’m glad we each get our own fire, but wouldn’t one have done just as well? No, I’m not suggesting we put one out, I’m just asking.
For comparison? What are you comparing?
Life is like a flame, huh? Always beautiful and always unique?
Well, that seems . . . excessively complicated.
Sure, I’d be the first to admit that finding a new kind of bug or plankton is about as boring as it gets, but at least you get a number so you can move on with life. Do the simple thing so you start on the important stuff, right?
What do you mean that’s pointless? Haven’t you read the part of the manual that talks about preserving dimensional memory by recording all aspects of its existence? How is taking notes about fires pursuing that goal?
Fine. Whatever. It’s your future.
Oh, the book has been closed, ladies and gentlemen! Get all the notes you needed? I can start another fire if you want to get more comparisons. No? Same thing tomorrow night?
Oh, you’re ready to leave? Where to next?
You do realize that it will be literally freezing there this time of year?
Fine. We’ll get started in the morning.
CD/TD: Thursday, 11 August 2016/09:03 GMT
I don’t know if I told you this, but I took this job so I could travel the world and spend lots of time in warm climates. I assumed that since not much lives in the cold, there wouldn’t be much call for…
Yeah, I got my number about fifty cycles ago. Just a little beetle in the Andes. No big deal.
And it was definitely warmer there, in case you were wondering.
No, I don’t want a cookie.
Fine, but only because it’s all I’ve had since lunch.
Also, it’s starting to get dark, which I assume means you’ll want to start making more fires for the night, even though we have about two dozen other ways to generate heat that are both more efficient and less likely to charbroil more body parts.
Yes, I still have the matches. And that’s another thing! Using these stupid things puts us about one step above cave man. We do have more modern ways to set stuff on fire, ya know?
Looks like that notebook’s about full. We’ll have to venture back into civilization if you want to restock again. And I still don’t know why we had to come this far away from all that’s decent and comfy in the first place.
So, let me see if I understand: you want to observe and catalog different fires in different places to see if there are any changes depending on where we are?
I’ll try to figure that out when my brain thaws.
Yes, I know I signed up for being outdoors when I took the job. Blizzards make me grumpy, is all.
Where we headed tomorrow? More scenic winter vistas?
Really? Where, then?
You must be joking.
CD/TD: Sunday, 18 December 2016/20:28 GMT
Look, I’m sorry if the rocking makes writing difficult! I’ve never sailed anything this small in a storm this big, okay? If it gets any wetter, I’ll be able to delay ballgames by wringing out my shirt.
NO! I DON’T WANT A COOKIE!
You’ve dragged me across nearly every continent, through blizzards and deserts, and now we’re in the middle of a freaking hurricane!
Fine. I’ll take one cookie if you answer one question.
I get that you want to compare a bunch of different flames because you think they’re a metaphor for life and looking at bugs is pointless, but I’m still curious why you want to do this for your Catalog Exercise. No offense, but should something this deep be left to more experienced heads?
Well, you might have a point there, but we’ll have to resume this discussion later. I don’t like the look of those clouds, and I think we’ve gotten a little too far from shore. Put those out and hold on to something.
Yeah, I see it! Well, you’re the one who wanted to take this little tour! And if you offer me another cookie, you get to swim back!
Here it comes! Hang tight!
CD/TD: Monday, 19 December 2016/10:51 GMT
Location: Medical Facilities, Aztlan Outpost
Hey, kid! Good to see you up and around again. Doc said if you take it easy today, we might get out of here in the morning.
Are you kidding? Of course I want to keep going! Escorting a Candidate hasn’t been this exciting since that expedition went looking for live magma crickets. Besides, I think you might have a point about watching the fires.
Now, don’t get all jumpy, I didn’t say this project will be a hit or anything. But maybe you’re right about the Archive’s mission. How can we truly preserve the memory of this dimension if we don’t catalog everything, even the stuff that’s hard to define?
And you can wipe that smile off your face. I didn’t stop being you’re superior officer, ya know?
Oh, yeah, almost forgot to give you a little get-better-soon gift.
Try not to tilt it too much, or the wax will drip. Yeah, well, it’s the only open flame they’d let me bring in here. Not as big as we’re used to, but I thought it would tide us over until tomorrow.
You said it, kid.
Life does come in all kinds of interesting forms.
Now that you mention it, I’d love a cookie.
Analysis to Follow . . .