4 min read

The Replay Weaver, by Amy Robinson

Abstract image with soft yellow, pink, and blue shapes
Photo by Sean Sinclair / Unsplash

Content warnings


Ember waited until the neuron traffic around her thinned and the darkness trended from grey to a deep, Mariana Trench blue black. Now was the time when most of the other sprites and muses rested, but this was when Ember moved in to work.

She floated lightly towards the crimson light, sparking on the left corner of her vision, riding a soft current of silken breeze until she reached Alison’s most recent memory storage.

Ember drew out her tools—needle and spool—and pulled the magnification lens down from her crown to her right eye, enhancing her precision, and began to collect the raw materials she needed for her craft.

Thin threads of thought swirled out from the needle, round and round the collection pod. Ember pinpointed the exact moment she had been looking for and tweezed out the specific tendrils she needed: Early in the party, Alison looking for a way to connect, joining an existing conversation by responding to a question that wasn’t directed at her, and figuring out she had no idea what they were talking about.

Ember pushed and pinched aside the unnecessary, delicately extracting sharp details: the expressions on the two faces staring quizzically at Alison, the sudden heat in Alison’s neck and face. Ember absent-mindedly stuck her tongue out between her teeth as she concentrated, using the lightest of touch to amplify that sensation of hot embarrassment, stretching the seconds, pulling at it to expand the mere moment of awkward silence so that it spanned a full, entire minute.

Ember snipped the recollection there. Taking what she needed, with a press of her palm on the grey matter wall, she sealed Alison’s memory capsule back up. She had enough with this to build and duplicate, making copy after copy.

With the raw material collected, Ember settled peacefully into the moment. Three decades of practice made Ember’s movements easy and relaxed, and joy bloomed in her with the prospect of a crafting this newly braided thought. From the bag of tools around her shoulder, she withdrew her loom and a catalog of older materials, and began to weave.

Two threaded repetitions of tonight’s conversation, then a well-worn, deeply etched thread of a childhood memory, one that was always available in her inventory: Two 7 year old girls telling Alison that she smelled and they didn’t want to talk to her any more, walking away while laughing. Followed by two more, no wait, four more ribbons of repetitions of the newer memory from tonight. What next?

This was Ember’s favorite part of the weaving, the life raft tossed into the ocean of anxious swirling. She had to pick exactly the right tendril for this next bit.

Ember dug around the bag full of recollections and beliefs. Some of the older memories, heavy as lead even though the detail had long eroded, some new stuff—therapy sessions and sudden positive realizations, rare as star dust and light as dandelion fluff. It was those precious strands that Ember plucked and held between her thumb and forefinger, pulling the thought taut in the loom. Making sure it fit snug into the pattern.

That moment is over. Nobody is going to be thinking about it and even if I’m awkward and odd, I still love me.

She’d made dozens of copies of these new pieces, but they always seemed to float away so easily that every time she used even the tiniest bit, she’d need to remember to duplicate, duplicate, duplicate. Otherwise there wouldn’t be even a scrap for the next time.

Alison’s dreams floated around Ember while she worked, rotating light and shadow across the patterns she was creating.

Ember stretched her arms, pulling the woven ribbon to its full length. It was good work for the night. She could live off this one piece for a week or more. Then the concoction would slowly dissolve over time and a new weave would be needed to take its place.

To finish, Ember only needed to connect the ending back to the beginning, so that the thoughts would loop without stopping. With a few quick stitches, it was final and Ember could attach it into place. She pushed herself up and drifted her way over to the limbic greenway.

The installation was always the trickiest part, sometimes it went as smooth as cream clouding in coffee, detectable but not chaotic. Sometimes it was a tad more jarring.

Focusing on the attachment point, Ember pressed the newly woven thought into the wrinkled crevice, waiting for it to signal acceptance by lighting up and spinning at a varied pace.

Just as the woven thought started to shimmer, Ember noticed the tail of her work was starting to disconnect from the top. Moving in a blur she whip stitched the spot together, the tiny needle pulling out of her grip. The weave was spinning and whirring, and the needle was stuck in the piece. Ember held the ribbon still for only a moment and yanked the needle free, but the damage was already done.

The clouds of dreams melted away and lights began to spring up in spots normally not on at this time of night, but only for a moment or two. Her muse cousins raising up for a few minutes, shaking heads and then settling back to rest.

But the whirling thought that Ember created tonight stayed bright, glowing and spinning. She knew this one would stick. She knew this weave would last.

Author's note

This little story was inspired by a single word prompt, "aftermath". As someone with social anxieties, dealing with the aftermath of second guessing all conversations after a party can be exhausting. I can replay a scene in my head 48million times after leaving a gathering. Most folks I know have similar noggin gobblins, and I wanted to give this character some relief and peace at the resolution. Because everybody deserves a little relief and peace.

Amy Robinson

Amy Robinson is an Owner/Editor at Apparition Literary magazine. Her writing can be found in Tree and Stone, Strange Horizons, Pearl Magazine, & Flash Fiction Press. She lives beside the ocean with her husband & their tortie cat, Olivia.