The Debt of Memory


J wanted to live now, pay later, or preferably not pay at all. She had no savings, a small income from part time work, and a family background of generation after generation of poverty. She didn’t want to find herself old, and poor, having travelled nowhere and experienced nothing.

She perused the search results on her cheap laptop’s screen. She was looking for a loan, or a line of credit, that she could exploit to this end. She had no security, no property, nothing to be able to guarantee that she could pay anyone back. She’d done this before, six years ago. She hadn’t even bothered to go bankrupt, just moved to another place, another job, another bank, dropped off the electoral register. After six years, the financial records were reset, her old debts sold on so many times as to be virtually untraceable. She didn’t spend the money she borrowed on physical things, like cars, or technology, or furniture, but on experiences. Travel. Cultural experiences. Drug experiences. She never took out any kind of payment protection insurance, never read the small print. It didn’t matter to her, she had no intention of making any repayments.

She opened up her photos app. Smiling, she remembered her time in Belarus and Bratislava, the people she’d met, the fun they’d had. J had been to nearly every continent. Hadn’t done Antarctica yet. That was next on the list, and some South American countries too.

There was a knock at her door. She jumped. She wasn’t expecting anyone. The doorbell was disconnected. She had a Bedsit, with shared bathrooms, in a less prosperous area of Exeter. She couldn’t think who it could be. Probably a neighbour, wanting some change for the electricity meter, or asking for her help with technology. She got that a lot, from the older people in her house.

She opens the door. A man is there. Short, rotund, grey haired, smiling, slightly familiar. He asks her name. She tells him, almost in a trance. “I’m from the company that you had a credit agreement with, about six years ago, Oblitus Credit”

“You can’t come in. I know my rights, that was an unsecured loan”, J said.

“You didn’t read the small print, did you?”, said the man.

“Are you able to make a payment today?”

“No” replied J. “You’ll have to take me to court before you get anything!”.

“Oh, that won’t be necessary,” he said. He pulled something out of his dark blue Uniglo jacket. J saw a glimpse of metal, then a flash of bright light. The man gave her a business card.

“I’m sure I’ll be hearing from you soon”.

He walked away, into the gloom of the corridor. J stood there, at her door, until the main door slammed shut. She sat on her bed. What had just happened? How had they found her? She. Needed to move out, and quick. She went back to her laptop. The photos app was still open, but something was wrong. Where she’d been looking at images of her travels, there were now just grey boxes of static. She tried to remember which pictures she’d been browsing. Then it hit her. No memories. She had no memories of her travelling. Just a blank. What had he meant, by the small print?

She googled Oblitus, the credit company. Terms and Conditions. Lots of text, scanning through it,

‘In the event of non payment, unsecured loans or credit may incur the repossession of memories deemed by the company to have been made possible by this credit agreement’.

Fuck. They’ve repossessed my memories. That thing he flashed me with. How did that work? J knew she was stuck. Without those memories, she may as well have spent her life in one place, working endless low paid jobs. She looked at the mans business card. No name. Just a phone number, an email address, and a central ‘Oblitus’ logo. She tried to remember how much she owed them. About £10k. Plus some interest, she was sure.

J couldn’t handle a phone conversation. This was just too weird. An email. Find out what they wanted. She hit send. Almost immediately, a reply. No interest if she agreed to their payment terms. Memories to be restored sequentially upon receipt of each payment. They already knew her income, and their prediction of her outgoings was surprisingly close to her actual budget.

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