“Merridew of Abominable Memory” — Chris Roberson

Chris Roberson’s latest novels are Three Unbroken, Dawn of War II, End of the Century, and Book of Secrets, the first in his Nekropolis series. His short stories have appeared in several anthologies, such as The Many Faces of Van Helsing, FutureShocks, and Sideways in Crime, and in a variety of magazines, including Asimov’s and Interzone. He is a winner of the Sidewise Award for best works of alternate history, and his novel The Dragon’s Nine Sons was a finalist for this year’s award. In addition to being a writer, Roberson (along with his wife, Allison) is the publisher of indie press MonkeyBrain Books.

William Faulkner wrote, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” The past is always with us, the only guide we have for judging how we should act in the present and in the future. And yet our understanding of even our own pasts is gravely limited by our memory. Many people would likely be shocked to be confronted with just how unreliable their memory can be. Eyewitness testimony is often hopelessly confused, and many innocent people have gone to prison on the basis of false memories of childhood abuse. On the other hand there are people with staggeringly precise memories, who can recite pi to thousands of decimal places, or remember what they were doing on any day for the past several decades. Often such exceptional memory comes at the price of some other cognitive impairment. Sherlock Holmes, upon his return from the dead in “The Adventure of the Empty House,” remarks on various criminals of his acquaintance whose names begin with M. “Moriarty himself is enough to make any letter illustrious,” says Holmes, “and here is Morgan the poisoner, and Merridew of abominable memory.” What follows is the story of this Merridew—a tale you won’t soon forget.