Recording the Past

Originally posted on Patreon in March 2019 and part of the Great Patreon Crossposting to WordPress.

This story is of Eva, the main protagonist of the Aunt Family, and her nieces and nephews who have some spark or interest in the power.

It references Karen and Billy from Fated and Certain Things Remain (to one), as well as older Aunts in Eva’s family tree. 

Niblings:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/uk/newsid_3667000/3667379.stm ;  https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/nibling 

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“All right – this is the last of this set.  Our poor OCR is still having a hard time of them, but it’s doing better with Aunt Zenobia’s than it did with Beulah’s.”  Eva smiled at the pile of journals and the scanners taking up most of the dining room table.  “I wish I could hire someone to go through and keyword this all, but it’s going to have to be us —  don’t give me that look, Bellamy, you know I’m going to pay the five of you.  That’s not the problem.”

“The problem,” Beryl declared, with more than a bit of melodrama, “is that our Aunts talked a lot and wrote even more, and this branch has journals going back since before the family came to America.  And there’s only the six of us and Aunt Eva is making more of these as we speak.”

“Actually, I’m working on that,” Eva admitted.  “The ‘making more’ part, at least. Right now, I’m using a digital pen that records everything digitally as it records it on paper. But I don’t think- well, I believe there’s three functions to the journals, and only one of them can really be properly replicated digitally.  Improved on, mind you, at the same time, but that’s just one of the things it has to do.”

Bellamy leaned forward.  “What else does it do?  Is it a spell? Wait.  Wait.  If I keep a diary, is that a spell?”

“Well, this is a theory, but you know about the gestalt; we’ve been talking about that, right?”

All three nieces and two nephews nodded with varying degrees of impatience.

“So.  The gestalt is steered by the Aunt to a certain level — how much depends on the Aunt in question and the family and, I think, a number of different factors.  One of which — well, anyway, we don’t need the fancy lecture today.” She flapped her hand. How annoying your elders are was probably not a lesson she ought to be teaching the young and theoretically impressionable. “But I think that the focus of the diary is part of it. If you’re thinking about specific things and you have a routine for how you write down ‘things that are important to the Aunt’ – a ritual, if you will – then you’re focusing your attention on those things. So, Bellamy, if you’re focusing on ‘things that are important to, say, my studies’”— she paused for them to all giggle, because she’d picked the least likely and also least-likely-to-embarrass option “—then you’re doing something sort of like a spell on your studies.  But unless you’re really putting your will behind it, I think it’ll remain just a diary.”

“So that needs a pen?”  Stone frowned

“Well, almost everything we do, everything involving magic, has a physical component — or several.  I don’t know — I wonder if other Aunts use, like, black walnut ink from their own trees…” Eva trailed off.  “I think Aunt Asta used a ballpoint for almost everything.  I wonder if that matters.”

“Experiments,” Chalcedony stage-whispered.

“Experiments,” Eva agreed.

“Wait.  Wait.”  Beryl raised a hand like they were in a class.  “You said three components.  You have focusing the gestalt.  I think the second one is the one that can be replicated digitally — that’s what we’re doing, right?  A history of the family, no, um, a history of the magic in the family.  So what’s the third component.  Not focusing and not recording—”

“Memory.  It’s kind of both, actually,” Eva admitted.  “Focusing, recording, they work for sticking it in your memory.  Aunts start out kind of old and then they go for a long, long time.  That’s a lot of memory in a human brain that isn’t so good at holding it.  And there’ve been studies on how things like writing help to cement memories.  I think that could also be done with the digital pen, but I’m not certain about typing.  Besides, if we were going to start typing in all of our notes, Aunt Asta would have done it.  Remember, she typewrote a third of her Christmas cards?  She liked the sensation.”

“So.”  Stone leaned forward.  “You could write everything and then immediately also type it, but that seems like a waste of effort.  Maybe a voice-to-text would be quicker than an OCR? Though your handwriting is pretty neat, Aunt Eva,” he added politely.

“I figure we can try out every option I come up with and see which one works best,” she began.

Her phone cut her off with the Batman theme song.  Bellamy and Chalce giggled and rolled their eyes.

“One second; this is another Aunt.”  She accepted the call and set the phone down between us. “Hi Karen, Billy?  You’re on speaker with the niece-and-nephew set.”

“Oh hey, niblings!”  Billy always sounded so brilliantly cheerful.  “So, Eva, you said you were digitizing all your family’s records? ‘Cause I’ve got something I was hoping you could look up—”

Eva waved Beryl towards the laptop.

“—and, ah.”  He cleared his throat.  “I got Karen to agree to send over some of ours, an Aunt at a time, to add to the record.  How’s that going, anyway?”

“Oh, we’re working on it right now.  It’s slow going, so if you guys have any of your own ‘niblings’ to add to the cause-”

“Hey!” Chalce objected, and then, more thoughtfully, “cute niblings.”

“You heard the woman.  Cute niblings.”

“I’ll see what I can do.  We might have a couple in the right age range who could enjoy reading some dusty old diaries.  So the thing I’m wondering about has to do with grave dirt-”

Beryl typed in searches while Billy went on.  Eva found herself not so much smiling but grinning.  They were really going to do this.

“Score a win for that second purpose,” Stone murmured.  “And a win for Aunt Eva.”

She hadn’t been counting wins and losses, but Eva was going to take them where she got it.  “Score a win for knowledge and searchability,” she agreed.  “And research.”

Unlike her nieces, her nephew didn’t roll his eyes at her.  Then again, she thought maybe he understood how far a precedent and its recorded results could take one.

“And,” he muttered quietly, “‘Aunt’ Billy.”

Eva was struck with an idea. “Come on.”  She gestured him towards her office while Beryl chatted about Boolean searches and Aunt Zenobia’s weird terms for things.  “I have a pen and ink I want to give you.” She had a feeling he was going to be keeping his own journals.

A snip of the family tree.  Chalce, Stone, and Beryl, Bellamy and Storm are Evangaline’s nieces and nephews. 

(Lavender: female; green: male; orange, Aunt)

A broader snip showing the Aunts.  Greyish colors are married-in, and pinkish names have not been verified against current canon, as you can tell with Grandma Regan/Diandra.

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