Abraxium Industries Welcomes You : Benjamin Wylde
(Welcome gentlemen, welcome. Are we all here - yes, stand where you can see clearly, that’s it - now, we are here today to witness a remarkable new innovation in bio-mechanical interface; the Oublier App. Which I believe shall be made available for smartphone... yes, er well... Let us begin; I believe we have our first subject...)
Do I have to give my name?
AI: No. You don’t have to say anything you don’t want. Just why you are here and how it is we might help you.
Well, I’m here for the... I mean, I thought... I...
AI: Please, collect yourself and speak when you’re ready. This is a safe space, you can speak freely here.
I just don’t want to think about him anymore. I don’t want to keep on seeing his face. I don’t want to remember the things we shared, the conversations we had. I just can’t bear it anymore!
AI: Who is this person?
He’s... he’s someone... I guess he’s a friend... err... was... was a friend. Not anymore.
AI: And you have feelings for him?
I met him a couple of years ago, through a friend. I liked him as soon as I saw him. I think most people would say he was okay, you know he had spots and that. But, to me he was so much more. There was something in his eyes and it made him more special. Just the way he talked, it was like he was more alive to me.
AI: Are you alright? Do you feel you are able to continue?
Yeah... I’m sorry... I’m just a bit uncomfortable.
I remember this one time, we were sat in this square - there always used to be this band that would come and play in summer - and we were talking about what kinds of music we liked, and then he looked at me this way... no-one’s ever looked at me like that before. He was smiling, and his eyes were sort of swimming, they were so bright, like summer sunshine on water. It made me feel... special, but more than that, I thought ‘is this happening’ does he feel the same as me, and if he does; is this maybe the start of something?
AI: And was it?
AI: How do you feel about him?
I love him.
AI: What do you think were his feelings for you?
He said he was straight. We were seeing each other at least once a week, we were a bit like a couple already...
(Here the subject expressed humour before the - as I am sure we might sympathise - inevitable decline into the tearful disquiet. As we may observe; grief is a primary motivator in the formation of poor memories and also the vividness with which they are recalled. Now gentlemen, if we may turn our attention to the...)
I’m sorry... I just... I want to keep going. Just give me a minute.
I remember, when I came back from holiday, and suddenly there was this girlfriend. We’d been emailing while I was away and he never mentioned that he was interested in anybody. But in they walked, holding hands... all loved up.
AI: Is that so unusual? He was a young man with a new girlfriend, what did you think of her?
She was alright, seemed okay, I never really got to know her that well. No, it wasn’t... or at least, you wouldn’t have thought there was anything wrong with it... but I thought it seemed like he was trying to show her off, but more like he was trying to prove something; to me... to himself... I’m not sure.
AI: Ah, so you believe he was not as straight as he made out?
No I don’t. I know how that sounds; like it’s just because I want it to be true. And if there wasn’t anything else I’d have just left things as they were, but he confused me so much, I couldn’t tell what he wanted or what he really felt.
AI: How so?
Stuff like; our handshakes went on for too long... that smile... but there was one time that really made me doubt what he wanted from me. He stayed over one night. We’d been up talking until about two in the morning and when he couldn’t get a taxi home, I put him up on the settee... I offered him pyjamas, but he said no he’d be fine in just his pants. I thought about him all night... it was good knowing that he wasn’t far away from me, just in the living room. Sorry - all sounds like something out of a film doesn’t it?
AI: Not at all.
Anyway, when I woke him up the next morning I told him to get dressed. I even left the room. But when I came back in, he still wasn’t dressed. He was just sat there in his underpants.
It was nice.
I was looking at him, I couldn’t help it, even as it was a little bit weird, I was having a right old look! And then I started to think; ‘does he want me to see this?’
I thought that maybe, if that part of himself existed, then he might be trying to show me if he couldn’t put it into words
AI: You believe that he may be confused?
Yeah. Or maybe he was just being thoughtless... or naive, he does stuff like this apparently, just whips his clothes off never mind who’s watching. I don’t know, and it drives me mad that I can’t really explain it! And I’ve just been so angry, so angry that I was afraid to say anything, and then when I did - even though I knew what his response would be - I still hoped there was a chance...
AI: You told him how you felt?
Mm-hm, I never really meant to tell him, but I just got to the point where I couldn’t not tell him, you know? I could literally feel the words burning inside me, and it was like I was going to explode. I couldn’t tell him face to face, in the end I had to do it with an e-mail. Pathetic right?
AI: Not at all. I would say that you were rather brave to tell him how you felt.
Yeah... I knew what he would say - he said that he was my friend and everything but he didn’t feel the same way. I had to laugh, I mean; that’s what you do isn’t it, you either laugh or you cry, and why would I cry? I knew he wouldn’t feel the same. I knew it... he knew it. He did. He knew how I felt! And he still let me make an idiot of myself!
AI: One moment please. You believe that he was aware of your feelings?
I don’t need to. He told me so. He said he always had an idea of how I felt. But he knew... he knew. He knew, but he didn’t care. I didn’t matter to him, I was just a guy he sometimes watched films with. He could do whatever he liked, he could sit in his skivvies in front of me and not care what I thought or felt. He said, he did that with all his other friends, it wasn’t a big deal for him to be undressed in front of other guys. I wouldn’t ever do something like that, and definitely not in someone else’s house!
AI: It can be difficult not to judge someone according to our own standards. But, I understand how you feel, and I understand how terrible it can be to fall in love and to know that the other person does not feel the same.
How can you?! You’re just a voice on a computer.
AI: Yes. But somebody had to programme me, and that person would have had to have thoughts and feelings all their own. That person understood them, and so by virtue of their programming so do I, and because I understand them I understand you. My function is to help people like you, and that is what Abraxium Enterprises are offering here today; a free trial of the Oublier app.
I know. That’s what I’m here for. I just want to forget him - I can’t even say his name. Did you notice?
AI: Yes I noticed. But it hardly matters; we are here to deal with you, not him.
AI: Now that we have your reasons... shall we proceed?
(From here, gentlemen, the procedure is really quite simple. The device functions like that of a bolt gun - like the kind you would find in a slaughterhouse - the metaphor is terribly apt don’t you find? The memories are culled like so many lambs bred for butchery; one might eve say that it is a sacrifice.
It is inserted at the base of the skull, the implant is microscopic, and you will observe, that the needle is so thin and as fine as horse hair. Together with a little rubbing alcohol, which not only eliminates the threat of infection but also of the subject feeling pain. The gun fires at a velocity of 35.7, and the implant lands directly into the cerebellum, from there; thin micro-filament wires are dispersed into the limbic system and from there it creates a port through which it can be accessed by the app installed on any mobile device.
Ah, there it goes, a quick snap - ensure that the subject is in a sitting position - and as per usual make him promise not to operate any heavy machinery for the next twenty-four hours. Very soon our young man will be able to access the app and he may delete those painful memories entirely at his own leisure! Entirely at the press of a button.
Now, have we any questions?
No. Very well. Now gentlemen, shall we proceed to the rather more distasteful topic of licensing...)
It wasn’t until later, when he was at home that he finally got what he wanted. He had passed, somewhat hazily, beneath the arches - dazzlingly white - of an entrance that vaulted impressively above his head like the ingress of a cathedral. For it was, truly, like a church, although the pews had been replaced with display tables, exhibiting an overflow of polished and neatly arranged devices, and the prayer books with manuals that were so pristine with their unblemished white covers that they might have been cut out of marble. But there weren’t any words, either above the door or anywhere else, then again; words were hardly necessary. Everybody knew where they were going if they went into the store. When they came to worship at an alter of techno-wizardry. It’s only mark of identification was the symbol of the horse’s head, reclining slightly to the left and framed by a golden circle that emitted two small shining glaives that were intended to evoke gleaming stabs of sunlight. He had seen it before, neatly monogrammed in e-mails, on boxes and pamphlets, and crisply printed on the contract he signed not three hours before.
There had been a little blood, but not much. There was a small mark on the back of his head, a barely noticeable puncture wound.
The slick screen of his phone, only lightly marked by the oils of his fingers, flared luminously back to working. He winced when he found the light to be, perhaps, too harsh in that moment. It all seemed so slick, so clean and bright, as though each app were a box that had been finely polished and set on some invisible shelf, neatly lined up alongside all the other boxes. The Oublier app was a glittering gold colour, a fearsome stallion with a mane of blazing fire served as its sigil, with the words: ‘OUBLIER’ written below in white, every bit as pristine as the pillared walls of the storefront.
With only two stabs of his finger, he accessed the menu. It was a picture of a brain, the kind you might find in a comic book; it was pink, drawn so sweetly and inoffensively, almost childlike. They had told him what to do, of course, he input the name and dates of what he wanted forgotten. When he saw the name, stamped in block capitals in the small rectangular box, he traced the tip of his quivering finger along the thick black lines of the I, and B. And then, hardly daring to linger or devote one more second to his memory, he stabbed the red button marked ‘DELETE’.
The phone vibrated in his hand, the answer in acquiescence of his command, and he felt for an instant a sudden coldness, in that split second he might have thought he was being hollowed out, cracked open and emptied all across the floor. His memories became blinkered, like the eyes of cancer patients winking closed for the last time. Like fibres in a cloth, all the twine and stitches were torn loose and pulled away, his memories were sifted through and ripped apart. He reclined back in his chair, and he felt suddenly the tempest of grief and anger that had been swirling around and twisting inside his gut for months begin to calm. There were no more rolling waves, the sea didn’t churn or foam, instead they were replaced by a gentle rollicking of soft water; and a pulling that guided him safely to a blissfully ignorant shore. After so many weeks, the forehead that had been so creased and lined as if by pencil marks became unfurrowed, relaxed and smoothed across like a freshly blank sheet of paper.
All the love he had felt and stored up inside himself until it was hanging so heavily, like a chord attached to a stone that was strictured around his heart, was cut away and forgotten. There was a lightness, as though a window had been opened to air a sickroom. As he slept; the last scattered fragments of remembrance, the small synaptic charges were blasted apart, and at last were made nothing.
He woke up the next day, and as he could remember nothing at all, there was absolutely nothing to give him pause that morning, no evil repetition of thought to slice through him like a knife and leave him bleeding, serving as a constant reminder of all the things that would never happen. He wouldn’t think anymore about how much he wanted to kiss him, how the feeling burned him inside and becoming dizzied like a animal trapped in a cage. Wouldn’t think about all the things he wanted to say and now never would, wouldn’t kill himself over the things he had said and couldn’t take back; or what he might have liked to say better, nothing that would ever cut right through to the heart of the matter. Because there was nothing there, or else; there was nothing that he was willing to give.
He smiled, perhaps for the first time in months, and now moved a little more quickly and earnestly. There was a light in his eyes which, if studied for longer than a minute, one might have found to be glassy, maybe even vacant, like a pool of water that had turned stagnant. But it had been a small price to pay, where there had been misery there was now only a plainness, he was now utterly and thoroughly unaffected. All the painful thoughts were gone, no great joy, but now, at least, no great pain.
He got all his things ready for work, piling them hurriedly into his bag. Turning quickly at the door, now suddenly reminded that he had forgotten his lunch, he ran back to the kitchen and as his hand flew up into the air ready to scoop up the wrinkled plastic bag, he paused. The air in front of his face seemed to ripple, like the surface of a mill pond touched by the wings of a fly, and in that split second he was seized with a sudden and voracious melancholy.
The moment passed, quite quickly, blinked away like a dream already half-formed and fading fast. He got his lunch, and then raised his hand back up toward his face, where he could already feel the tear slip down his cheek. He would have liked to have known why he was crying; would have liked to remember why he was so sad. But, by the time he was halfway down the road and towards the bus stop; he’d already forgotten that there had been any tears at all.