The Art of Remembrance

Vista Concepción was seldom seen, but when she was, she was always with her paintbrush, which emerged from her fist like a gnarled finger. Her sole company in her moldy apartment was her belongings—hoarded, imbued with memories of her lifetime, and huddled together like cold children.

Vista wasn’t interested in portraits, still lives, or even the view outside her window. She preferred painting her memories. Her paintbrush was the only souvenir from her childhood. Its body was splintered and haphazardly carved with her name: Vista. A view, sight, vision. Something to behold. She liked to think she and her paintbrush were connected by fate, destined to transform blank slates into unforgettable art.

Currently, she was trying to capture the exact shade of pink the sunrise cast over her family’s farm. She couldn’t go back to witness it; her motherland was seduced by the lucrative industry of Memory Itemization, and her childhood home, once teeming with life, was now punctured by the blank faces of factories.

Vista nearly tossed the wet paintbrush in a violent streak across the canvas. She once made a humble living. People loved the realism of her watercolor landscapes. Now, with purchasable memories, no one wanted replicas. Art was a dying trade, and Vista, unable to let go of the past, often went hungry.

As her stomach growled, the unfortunate truth settled: memory is also a replica of the past. Everyone had convinced themselves that purchased memories portray the indisputable truth. Vista, too, had convinced herself that hoarding every afterimage got her one step closer to her past—but to remember is to constantly repaint a hazy ghost. Each time she conjured the fields of her childhood, the smell of cream skimmed off the top of fresh milk, and the laughter of her family, it moved her further away from the material truth.

If only there was a way to remember exactly as things were, without loss.

Remember. Each syllable reverberated like a clock striking midnight. Inspiration attached itself like a weed taking root straight to Vista’s heart. She began her work.

The Memory Liquidator hesitantly ducked under the caution tape. He’d been consulted for bizarre estate sales before, but nothing like this.

They found the woman’s body fused to her chair, and her hands fused to two bloody canvases. Police informed him that she attached herself with industrial-grade glue, but this was hardly the worst sight. Items were grafted into her scalp and skin, creating grotesque appendages. Her apartment was disgustingly cluttered, yet everything was linked to her limbs, fastened with zip ties, leaving her body a mangled amalgam of accumulation.

What struck the Liquidator most was the removal of her left breast, and the replacement of an old paintbrush shakily sewn to her skin, as if skimming the fat allowed the paintbrush closer access to her heart. A smile still graced her face. Every item here was tinged with deadly memories; nothing could be sold or taken from her, exactly as she wished.

Sara Santistevan

Sara Santistevan was born in California, where she grew up around vivid storytellers. She graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a B.A. in Literature and Legal Studies. During her time at UCSC, Sara received the 2021 Reyna Grande Scholarship for her poetry on the Latina identity. Her forthcoming chapbook, The Root from Which Freedom Blossoms, explores how complicated mythologies, histories, and cultural norms can live on in the internal lives of marginalized individuals. In her free time, Sara enjoys visiting local cafes, petting all her neighborhood cats, and discovering the magic of the written word.

Hailey Brown

Hailey Renee Brown (Ren) is a professional illustrator born and raised in mid Michigan. A former field biologist, they moved across the country from Michigan to Pennsylvania, also moving from science to commercial art. A professionally trained artist, they attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, NJ, where they were selected the recipient of the 2017 Norman Maurer Memorial Award as well as the 2019 Joe Kubert Jumpstart Project. They have since worked for a variety of clients from Dark Horse Comics and Dynamite Entertainment to the Brink Literacy Project.