There was a time when the reset button wasn’t known to Rob. Reset buttons were a fairly new invention, only appearing within the past 10 years to the select few who could afford them, lived in a country that allowed them, and weren’t afraid to use them.
The Synapse company produced the units, under an incredibly long and hard to remember name. When they hit the street, they were called reset buttons. They were originally designed to be used in lab environments in studies of memory, learning, and perception. The premise of the device was simple. Place on the forehead of the person and press the scan button, ask them to think about earlier events, such as the task they just learned, or the person they’d just met, and lock the device in. Press the “remove” button and those memories would be gone. Technically not erased, but suppressed to great extent. They could be retrieved again, with the device’s aid, if needed. However on the street, no one ever retrieved memories. They simply axed them away for a lifetime. Soon the corners formerly occupied by drug dealers and ladies of the evening were occupied by bookish looking people, willing to “reset” anyone for a fee. Bad dates could be forgotten, as could horrendous days, and even giant events such as the loss of a loved one. It took mere seconds, and you were back to baseline. Reset, and happy.
Rob hadn’t ever entertained the use of one before his mother died. Now thinking of her death plagued him night and day. He researched what the process would be like on the Internet, and the general consensus was that he would remember his mother, and be aware that she wasn’t around, but wouldn’t specifically know where she went, or how horribly she’d died. Rob felt the slight absent-mindedness would be worth the confusion, so he sought out the nerd on the corner, and slipped him a roll of 20’s.
“Think about the events”, the man said as he put the device up to Rob’s forehead, after cleaning off the business end with an alcohol wipe.
“Ah, it’s got a strong signal – must be the death of a loved one huh? Or maybe a divorce?”, the man said as he pressed the magic button.
“All done”, he said as he removed the device and walked away. Rob was left standing there, dazed but otherwise fine. He slowly began to remember that he’d come here to have something reset from his mind. Of course he couldn’t remember what that was. Since he was at a loss for what he wanted gone, he assumed that the process had gone correctly. He walked away.
Six months later he returned. This time it was to remove the break up he had experienced with his wife. She couldn’t work through losing her mother-in-law, which of course perplexed Rob. Sure it was odd she wasn’t around, and he missed her, but he couldn’t understand why her long trip was so upsetting to Reneé. They fought, she left, and he cried. He couldn’t live with that. A roll of 20’s later, and he had forgotten all about it. He knew he was single, and that he’d had a relationship that ended, but knew not why, nor cared. It was as if the beautiful machine had simply erased away the memory, smudging around the edges of his mind as to leave a nice smooth edge. No worries, no pain.
It was around the 5th visit to the reset man that he realized he should just purchase one of the machines. It was marvelous how easy it was to live a happier life. He stockpiled his rolls of 20’s and eventually found one, and found friends willing to help him use it.
About the 20th use was the first time he realized he could use it to help him forget how often he had to use it. Use 21 felt just like use 1 – he just couldn’t figure out why he would own something and have never tried it.
And so it was, for years and years. Each painful memory pushed out of consciousness, avoided, removed. All went fine until the day he asked his son to help him. How could he have known that the boy was so mad at him for being so happy. The last thing he remembered before his mind became a twisted sorrow of existence was his son pressing the wrong button. Not ‘reset’, but ‘restore all’.
Author’s Note: A certain reader tells me that I tend to write dark stories. Sorry that this one does indeed fit that description. But perhaps in its timeless message of ‘be careful what you wish for’, one might think harder about how not only do our triumphs make us who we are – so do our sorrows.