The Memorator 4000

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When the Memorator 4000 came out, Charlie wasn’t particularly interested. Andrew Johnson, the head of his department, had immediately purchased one and bragged to everybody about all the things it could do. It was much better than the predecessor, the Memorator 3000. Sure, the 3000 let you see your past through the visor, but the 4000? It didn’t end with just watching your past. It was engaging. It let you feel it. Relive it. 

Andrew Johnson reminded Charlie of one of the ads blinking on top of the buildings in the semi-darkness of the city night, blind to the people below whom they were trying to attract. His eyes shone with excited glee, a testament to the effect of the Memorator 4000. You could literally live in the past, he said. Charlie had nodded, politely.

Then, of course, had come the naysayers, the doomsday prophets who always crawled out of the woodwork at the emergence of new tech. Sure, they had a point. Some guy in Japan had died from dehydration after being hooked up to the Memorator for several days, and a group of Californian teenagers had gone hysterical over it. There would always be those who went overboard. The same had been the case with the previous Memorator, with the 3D pornbars, probably even with TV and archaic computer games back in their heydays. Charlie didn’t pay too much attention to all that, either. What would he do with such a thing? Relive his awkward teenage years? No, at that point, he had not understood what the fuss was about.

But that was before the accident. Everything had changed. All that Charlie had seemed to be the past, and now he was going to reclaim it.

He stood at the shop’s checkout for a moment with the box in his hands before he placed it on the counter and put his wrist against the scanner. There was a soft click, and then it was his. Months of saved up creds were gone, but the Memorator was his.
Charlie cradled the box on his way home. The ride on the hovertrain was slow, every station an unbearable delay before he would see Sylvia again. His fingers tightened around the package every time another passenger got close to him, but no one seemed to notice. Everyone else was engaged in their own quest for fulfilment, the promise of a hot meal or a drink waiting at home, getting out of the work uniform after a long day or reuniting with their loved ones.

Finally the doors of the hovertrain slid open with a sigh of relief at the last station, and Charlie and the few remaining commuters sidled out. There was just enough time to get home before tonight’s rainfall.

The ride up to Charlie’s flat on the 52nd floor took longer than usual. The fumbling with his sleeve in front of the old scanner at the door was a struggle. But finally he was home. He kicked off his shoes, let his prized possession wait on the coffee table while he shrugged out of his jacket. And then he unwrapped the Memorator, gently but urgently as if undressing a lover.

The visor slipped snugly into place over his eyes after he had plugged in the headpiece, and an empty field emerged around him. The ads called it ‘the canvas of your dreams’. Charlie knew he was still sitting in his living room couch, but he could no longer feel it. He could sense the grass under his feet, smell the flowers on the breeze playing with his hair, hear the quiet buzz of insects.

“Welcome to the Memorator 4000. What would you like to re-experience today?” said a melodic voice that was neither male nor female.

“Sylvia,” breathed Charlie. “Sylvia … ”

For a moment, nothing seemed to happen. Then a tingling sensation ran up Charlie’s spine and reverberated in his mind. And then … Then … “Sylvia!” Charlie said again, for there she was, beautiful like on the day they met. And it really was that day, wasn’t it? They were sitting in the same restaurant, and she was smiling, shyly, and she was wearing the necklace that had been lost in the accident a few years later.

“I am actually starving,” she said.

“Me too,” Charlie replied because that was what he had said that day, and it was, he found, the only thing he could say now.

As he lived through that first date once more, he felt as if he truly were there again, experiencing it all anew. It was just like Andrew Johnson and the ads had promised. Everything was exactly as he remembered it.

The next day, Charlie found himself thinking of nothing but the Memorator. It was hard to concentrate on his work. Filling out forms, making calls to disgruntled customers seemed so pointless when Sylvia was waiting for him. He had left her to get just a few hours of sleep before sunrise, but had tossed and turned in his bed, unable to focus on anything but her. Would he be experiencing their second date next? Or would the Memorator take him back to another time with her?

The hours crept by. Eventually it was time to leave the office. Charlie wasted no time wrapping up the assignment he was working on or drinking a beer with his colleagues. He wanted, no he needed, to get back to Sylvia.

“Welcome to the Memorator 4000. What would you like to re-experience today?” asked the disembodied voice when Charlie had fastened the headpiece and slid the visor into place.

“Sylvia,” he said again. No need for specifics. The Memorator would connect with his memory and extract what was hidden in the recesses of his mind using what the instruction manual called ‘innovative neuro-algorithms that connect with recollection patterns deeply embedded on a cellular level.’

This time, Charlie found himself in the kitchen of the old flat, the one he hadn’t been able to live in alone. Sylvia was standing by the fridge in the red dress she knew he liked so much, and Charlie was leaning against the table. His hand was strangling the neck of a wineglass.

“Can’t we just move on?” Sylvia asked. Her eyes were red and puffy. She looked years older than she was.

The air caught in Charlie’s throat and stung like tiny needles. No. Not this. They had moved on, he had all but forgotten it. Why was he back here? This was not what he wanted. Yet, he heard his own, wavering, broken voice say, “Move on? How the hell do you expect me to do that?”

“I told you it was a mistake. Stupid, stupid mistake, and it will never happen again. I know you’re upset now, but can’t we … work it out?”

Charlie took another swig of the red wine. He wanted to say something else this time. Tell her it was okay. Going through months of doubt and mistrust wasn’t worth it. Not when he knew what he knew. He should just forgive and forget this time … But he couldn’t, could he? He was living this memory now. Couldn’t change it. “I don’t know,” he said. Going through the motions and emotions.

“I was drunk, I don’t know what I was thinking! I didn’t think! I was such an idiot,” Sylvia continued. She was tearing up again.

Charlie knew what she had been thinking. That he was plain and a bit boring in bed. That she needed something more, that she wanted excitement … “Yes,” he agreed, “and a fucking whore.”

No! He hadn’t said that. Charlie wouldn’t have talked to her like that, not even under these circumstances … But he must have because there it was …

Charlie bawled, “Abort! Abort memory!”

The image of the crying Sylvia froze. Her face was screwed up in ugly remorse and hatred.

“Are you sure you wish to abort this memory?” the smug voice of the Memorator asked.

“Yes!” Charlie shouted.

The world grew white around him. And then he was standing in the green field once more. “Welcome to the Memorator 4000. What would… ”

He tore off the headpiece and threw it onto the coffee table. It skidded across the surface until it hit the box it had come in.

Charlie’s cheeks were wet. How could she do that to him? That bitch. He gasped, horrified at his own thought. It was all wrong. They had worked it out. It wasn’t important anymore. He had forgiven her.

But not forgotten. And the Memorator 4000 knew.

All he had wanted was to relive their beautiful, perfect moments together … But Sylvia had not been flawless. No one was. And the Memorator wasn’t going to let him pick and choose.

Charlie leaned back in the couch. He was drained. When had he last eaten a proper meal? Had a shower?

He wondered if the shop would take back the Memorator after the seal had been broken.