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Genre: Contemporary fantasy
Summary: What if it were possible to store and transfer emotions?
It was a Thursday morning and business was slow, so Marayal sat behind the counter of her shop and repackaged the wares Thea had delivered the day before. She picked up each clear bottle with its pencil-written tag tied to its neck, one by one, and felt for its contents to double-check Thea’s classification and pick a fitting, fancier container.
Number 3256 was warm to the touch, and smelled of sweet smoke. Relaxed contentment was just right, and a bulbous, rust orange bottle suited it well.
Number 3257 was melancholy, bittersweet, but soft enough someone might still buy it. Marayal picked the darkest blue conical bottle she had. The original tag said “nostalgia”, so she made a note to talk to Thea about the difference.
Number 3254 startled her with its brightness. Delight so clear she could hear the laughter, it was obviously drawn from a small child. It seemed like such a precious mood to sell. It had to have been the parents…
The door stirring a windchime distracted her; she put the bottles down out of immediate sight from customer side and smiled at the new arrival. “Can I help you?”
The young man who looked at her licked his lips and wiped a hand on his threadbare parka.
Considering his sunken cheeks and lived-in smell, Marayal suspected the backpack he carried held all of his physical belongings.
His gaze flitted through the shop, skimming over candles, incense, crystals and other tchokes.
“Well, I heard you buy feelings?”
“Yes, moods, emotions, feelings… Something other people would be interested in buying. How do you feel?”
You didn’t have to be an empath to tell that that explanation embarrassed him. “Hungry, right now.”
“I can’t pay much for that - we’re a bit oversupplied right now - but I’ll buy.” At his surprised look she explained, “It’s helpful for some kinds of eating disorders.”
Marayal flipped the sign at the door to “back in 10 minutes”, and gave her client the usual descriptions while she guided him to the back room and had him sit down and fill out a form. The address requirement made him uncomfortable, but he gave one. Marayal did not care much if it was somewhere he could be reached; she just needed it for bookkeeping.
She added some points about the process while he was writing. At her warning at the end, he actually grinned.
“Getting rid of the feeling seems like a bonus.”
Children… “In the case of hunger, that’s a definite no.”
He looked aside and frowned, nodding tentatively after a moment. “If you don’t notice you’re starving...”
“Exactly. But I’ll be careful. You should be back to normal within twenty-four hours, probably less. Ready?” Getting a nod in return, Marayal said, “Then concentrate on feeling hungry. Maybe imagine your favourite meal, if that helps.” She pulled a plain brown bottle off a shelf. “Close your eyes, feel, and let me do my work.”
He took a deep breath and did as he was told.
Marayal felt, too, grasping the strongest strand of his body-feeling, a long, feathered band like cotton rovings. She curled it up and slipped it into the bottle, ripping it with minimum damage when the vessel was full. Counter-intuitively, the strand he had remaining was as long as before, but far thinner.
“All right, then.”
Her client jerked as if he had been about to nod off.
“Come on, you need your payment, and I need to re-open the shop.” She smiled at him and held the curtain open.
In addition to the small bill she handed him a brown paper bag.
“Lunch. Eat it. Now. Even if you don’t feel hungry. I insist.” She could get something else later.
After he had thanked her, and everything else was in order again, Marayal went back to yesterday’s bottles. She transferred the child’s delight into a bottle made up of a handful of spheres, each a different shade of orange, pink or peach, and wished that family all the best.