Mr Semile walked across the busy street with an errant confidence which portrayed a man who had accomplished all that he had wished to accomplish. His briskly measured strides and a prim, upturned nose gave him the appearance of a hawk only to be accentuated by his crisp black suit. He ignored the oncoming traffic with the nonchalance of a Traffic Inspector and waved away the exasperated honks of the interrupted. He took out the grey, metallic card from his breast-pocket and glanced at it. This was indeed the appropriate street and the appropriate time. Whatever doubt he may have had in his mind was dispersed by the glass plate over one of the lobby doors, on which were written the cryptic words – “Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit”. Mr Semile promptly proceeded to push the red button on the door and waited as he had been instructed.
“Welcome to 1Mortimers. This is where you relive your happiness.” – The female voice seemed to be coming from nowhere in particular. “Please state your name.”
“Uh-Hi, my name is Nuovo Semile. I have an appointment ?”
“Yes. Welcome to 1Mortimers, Monsieur Semile.”
The sounds of the streets faded away the moment he closed the door. The dimly-lit hallway was adorned on both sides by life-size portraits of writers and poets. Nothing ever captivated Mr Semile. He was an 85-year-old man who had been around the world, seen wonders no one ever gotten a chance to see. Yet he stood transfixed in front of those solemn faces. Hundreds of years ago they wrote life into manuscripts and now, hundreds of years later their books returned the favour.
“Monsieur Semile ?” – A portly looking man stood near one of the doors, showing him into the room.
“Yes, that’s me. Sorry, I just…”
“It’s okay sir. Please step in here, if you may.”
“Yes, thank you.”
“The configurations are almost complete. The final step of the procedure would require you to plug in for synchronisation.”
“Sure, I understand. Is that the chair ?”
“Yes, sir. Kindly make yourself comfortable.”
Mr Semile was suddenly aware of the physicality of the situation. The soft fabric of the chair he lay on, the dull murmurs of the technicians as they moved in blurry shapes in a transcendental urgency, the rhythmic clicks of an instrument in the vicinity and the subliminal echo of his own heartbeat. The shimmering water in the glass next to him seemed like the only object in the room which grounded him to normalcy.
“Bonjour Monsieur Semile. I am your Resetter for today. How’re you feeling ?” – The plastic smile of the humanoid was supposed to calm his nerves.
“I am okay. Are we ready ?”
“In a moment. Your request that was submitted to our firm was very precisely written but it’s a legal procedure to have a recorded confirmation from the subject. In your request, you stated that you wish to reset all classics from the 19th till the 21st century, all science fiction, all best-selling works of fantasy, all autobiographies, Pulitzer Prize Winners, Booker Prize Winners, Nobel pr-?”
“Yes yes, that is correct. I want you to wipe them all.” Mr Semile was getting a tad impatient. This kind of an establishment wasn’t strictly legal. “And make sure it’s wiped clean. I don’t want any remnants lingering around in my consciousness.”
“Sir, I must assure you that our Neurophisor technology is unlike any that is present in the market. We don’t just disconnect dendrites. We fully dissimilate them, creating space for new ones. This not only provides our consumers a fresher experience each time, it also helps them remember that information for a shorter period than other service providers.”
“Your promises sound more promiscuous than impressive, I must say.”
“Oh quite the contrary, sir. We have tested and retested our technology several times with willing participants, of course. Every single Test result has been seen to provide a complete neuron degeneration of selective areas while the other sections of the brain remain untouched. Our process was just too good for the competition so they spread rumours about resettings gone wrong and such, which is why we couldn’t get the license.”
“What about that gentleman who, most inconveniently, lost his entire vocabulary ? The Gazette said that the poor guy had to be admitted to Nursery school, just to be taught the alphabet again. Imagine the humiliation he must have gone through – to be a grown-up man and babble like a child… I become irritable for trifles like when I am describing something to a person and can’t remember just the right word for it, just one word. Dreadful feeling !” – he shuddered.
“That was an unfortunate incident indeed. Our engineers were baffled for months, trying to understand the root cause of such a tragedy. But we found it and fixed it. We have had hundreds of resettings performed after that with a 100% success rate, at the risk of being boastful.”
“I don’t care about your license, to be honest. I just want to understand this – when I pick up The Tale of Two Cities again and start reading, I would be reading it for the first time ?”
“Precisely. And all the other books in your request-list as specified.”
“And I won’t remember even a single detail from The Song of Ice and Fire ?”
“Not one. When you go home today, your shelf will have hundreds of the most astounding works of literature just waiting to be read, your favourites.”
“So what are we waiting for then ? Let’s get on with it.”
The Resetter sprang into action. The neural net was swiftly placed over Mr. Semile’s head as the assistants buzzed around the control panel. Lying on the chair, Mr. Semile’s mind fleetingly recollected Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and how he was going to be one for a short period of time when his brain would be technically killed and then revived. His thoughts wavered to those chilly winter nights when he used to sit by the fire with his wife (bless her !) reading Shakespeare. How good would it feel to explore Dostoevsky again ? He made a note that he would keep Dickens for last but would he even remember Dickens? He wouldn’t even know where to start from. Then a horrifying notion struck him. What if his tastes changed ? What if he should develop a craving for cheap knock-offs that the pauper sold just a few blocks down the street ?
“The synchronisation has been initiated sir. Your brain looks perfectly healthy, beautiful synapses. You should begin to feel a bit drowsy in a few seconds, at which point you may close your eyes.”
True enough, Mr. Semile felt an overwhelming weight descend on his eye-lids as the world started to blur together into one shapeless mass. He would be waking up with a different perspective of the world as his former one would be wiped clean. But he would be able to enjoy his beloved books once again, his second first love. The chair by the window…a slight hum now emanated from somewhere inside his head or was it the neural net…yes, the chair by the window, the fluttering pages of an unread book, yellow with age…the hum continued…the cup of coffee…hum…the what’s that thing, the one with the..the thing…