In life, we face many difficulties, troubles and problems. When things get bad, some might think “it would’ve been so good if life was like back then!” But time can’t flow backwards, and usually we’ll deal with the problem. But what if I tell you that there is a way to go back in time, when everything’s just great? Would you still face all the problems in life? Or would you choose to avoid them?
This is exactly what happened in my story “Memory Booth”, where the main protagonist, John, was fired, and now unemployed. He was given the choice to struggle and face life, or use his happy memories to shield away from the ugly truth.
John is a normal businessman working in a small office out of millions in this world. I chose to characterize him as someone normal because that’s what most of the us on this planet are. We’re not Steven Hawkins, or Bill Gates. We may not have abilities that makes us millionaires, or stand out from the other billions of humans. But that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve a good life, but we have to fight for it.
The Memory Booth is a symbol for all the excuses we make in life. Not just “my dog ate it”, or “I lost it”, but everything we do to escape from the reality that might not be as good as we wish. In the story I called it “relive your memory”, but the effects are just like drugs. They make people feel “high”, but also makes people addicted and in the end destroying their life.
The story is written in third person because it can offer a full perspective of the setting and story. The protagonist’s point of view is too narrow, although it is easier to show his thoughts and feelings, but the same could also be done in third person. Personally I am also more used to writing in third perspective. But the most important reason is that it would make more sense given the context of the story.
The time is near midnight, the sky is drizzling with rain. In a dark corner of a small street lies a store that seems to belong elsewhere. The name of the store is “Memory Booth”, it’s written in bright red lights, the store owner certainly doesn’t want anyone to miss it. Below it the small text “relive your past through your memories” helps to explain what is the store for.
The main character of this story is a man named John. Don’t think of him as someone special: he’s just an ordinary man, with an ordinary height, an ordinary look, who used to work in a small office.
His life used to be just fine, but now, he’s just like a disabled person living on life support.
But first, let me explain how he ended up like this. Our story starts several days ago. The day he was fired. It was a raining night. Cold, lonely, lost. John was walking down this street, where he saw Memory Booth for the first time. He noticed it, but didn’t take action. His top priority, back then, is to get rehired.
So he sent e-mails to companies that seeks to employ someone like him. This is exactly what I mentioned. He’s ordinary, useless. But he still thinks he’ll be special, he’ll be successful. This drag him down into the dark waters even more. We’ll see for that later, for now we just watch him make his last struggle. So he waited, waited for someone to reply. It was quick for him, after all there was nothing for him to do.
After a long time, a new message popped up in his e-mail inbox. John opened it, it’s from one of the companies. The e-mail said that they’re interested in hiring him. But before that, they want John to come by next day for an interview.
A rope to save John, but it will it hold John’s weight?
So next day morning, John woke up at seven. He opened his closet and took out his usual suit which he used to wear to work. The suit’s bit dirty, and the shirt needs ironing. Usually John would take his suit to a local laundry store. But after he got fired, there’s no need to wash it, so John didn’t. Now looking back, it might’ve been a bad idea. But now John doesn’t have the time. His meeting is in an hour, and he certainly doesn’t want to be late on the interview.
Now we fast forward to after the interview is finished. The interview wasn’t a pleasure sight, just like a cat playing with the mouse before it consumes it. John being the mouse, and the cat is his unavoidable fate.
The interview was a disaster. John was chill at the start, but when the interviewer asked about what’s special about John, he was done for. He knew that he’s just an ordinary, hoping to have the life of someone that’s special. He couldn’t answer the questions, and the following question, and all questions after that. Even he could see, from the expression of the interviewer, that he won’t be hired by this company after such a bad job interview.
The rope snapped. John fell back into the dark abyss. His hope is scattered into pieces, and now that he finally recognizes that there is no place for him the world. John drank some booze before he went back home. He passed Memory Booth again, because it’s on John’s usual route home.
Isn’t it convenient?
John stood outside Memory Booth, wondering if he should go in and have a look. He’s curious about what’s it like. The booze encouraged him more or less. So John pushed the door open, and stepped in.
The store seems bigger on the inside. On the wall are many posters, including posters of Elvis Presley, Coca-Cola, and other things that John doesn’t recognize. The wall is painted in red. Red carpet on the wooden floor stretched from the entrance to the very back. The store is in a rectangular shape, with many doors on the left and right hand side, which makes the room seem like a hallway. John wanted to open the door and see what’s inside. He put his hands on the handle, but at this moment a voice came behind John.
“Can I help you, sir?”
The mysterious voice made John jump. He looked back. An old man with white hair, wearing goggles, and only half John’s height stood behind him. “I’m sorry, I’m just curious…” John explained.
“You came here because you’re interested, right?” The old man stared so into John eyes, his eagle-like eyes made John felt like as if he could see his soul through his eyes
“How does it work?” John asked. “The ‘relive your memory’ thing.”
The man opened the door that John was about to open. Inside the room is a medical bed, a machine consisting mainly a monitor and a headgear is next to the bed. The old man walked towards the machine and picked up the headgear. John can see that lots of wired are attached to it. “You’ll lie on the bed with this piece of headgear on. I’ll use drugs to put you to sleep, then this thing will stimulate your brain. It’ll be like a dream.”
John’s still undecided. To be honest, it does look like a dangerous piece of equipment. Too much electricity could fry his brain. Also John is still unemployed, so he can’t spend much money.
The old man seems to read John’s mind. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, there’s nothing you need to worry about.”
“But the price…”
“You don’t need to worry about anything. We always welcome new costumers to our store. The first time will be free. After that is ten dollars each time.”
John thought for a while, and decided to have a try. The old man made it sound so good.
John lay on the bed. The old man took out an injector. “I’ll first put you to sleep, it’s not going to hurt.” He injected the anesthetics into John’s arms. John felt dizzy, and lost his conciseness.
John can’t see anything, doesn’t feel anything. Then out of nowhere, John sees light. The light surrounded him. Everything went white. Then John saw a sight that he thought he’ll never see again. He’s in the living room of a house, everything in the house seems exactly same as the house he lived in with his mother during childhood.
A woman with the same exact appearance as John’s mother came out of the kitchen and walked to another room. John followed her and entered the room. The room is exactly same as John’s bedroom, and on the bed lies young John.
Tears began falling from John’s eyes, he knew this place well. This was John’s home when he was small. The old man wasn’t lying, he is in his own memory.
John’s mom whispered at young John’s ears to wake him up. She took out his school uniforms, and dressed him up just like a doll for school. Young John brushed his teeth and washed his face. He walked to the dining room. By this time his mother had finished preparing breakfasts. John’s mom asked young John about school, how’s it going and about his friends. John stood by the table silently and watched while the two talked.
After breakfast, John left home to go to school and John’s mom washed the dishes. Her mother had cancer and died when John was in university, he didn’t even had the chance to see her one last time. John cried a bit when he thought of it again, and now his mother is right in front of him. John moved his hand, he tried to stroke his mom’s hair. But instead his fingers went through her body.
Then John felt dizzy. Everything went black.
When John opened his eyes again, he found himself on bed, the journey has ended. The old man sat on a chair by the bed, looking at John. He saw John wake up. “How is it?” He asked.
“Why can’t I touch her?” John said.
“You cannot interact with objects and people in your memory. That’d be changing the history.” The old man replied. “So, do you want to try again?”
“Yes.” John said without thinking. He’s curious what will be next, also he’s using his past memories to comfort himself from the events that happened lately.
The old man opened his hand. John know what that meant. He took out his wallet and pulled a ten-dollar bill. The old man took the bill and injected John with anesthetics. John went to sleep.
This time when he woke up, he found himself in a park. He knew this park, he used to come here almost every day after school. At this moment, a tennis ball flew past, followed by a dog. The dog fetched the tennis ball with its mouth, and brought it back to its owner. John recognized the dog, it looked similar to the dog he had when he was small. Just as he thought, the dog brought the tennis ball back to young John, he then through the ball again for the dog to play fetch.
John did this a lot, he spends almost his entire free time during childhood playing with his dog. But dogs have a shorter lifespan compared to humans, the dog died when John was in middle school. It was very sad for him, and he never had another pet.
John isn’t the type of person who is out-going, and the dog is pretty much his only friend during his childhood. After the death of the dog, John became even more antisocial. Which, to an extent, caused his current situation.
John’s memory of his dog is very special to him, it marked John’s childhood memory, and it shaped John’s personality. John left the park, and returned to reality.
John woke up. The old man was sitting by the bed. “How is it?” He asked again, as if it is a routine when customers wake up.
“I want to do it again.”
John was injected with anesthetics again. He went to sleep.
This time the setting of his memory is different from the previous two. Before he could figure out where he is, the loud music in the background bombarded his eardrums. This time John’s in a party. He wondered if this is actually part of his memory. He’s not a party animal, and he doesn’t like the idea of dancing with loud music.
But he’s here, so this must be in his memory.
It took him a while, but he finally remembered this place. This is the high school graduation party. Everyone in the high school is invited, including John. He’s curious what it will be like, so now he’s here.
John located his past self easily, partly because he knew where he was, partly because he could go through the crowd. He found his past self holding a cup of drink while talking to another girl. He remembered this part. They said a lot that night. John’s glad that they found each other, that have many similarities, like soul mates. They still had contact after, but soon lost contact after John went to university.
John closed his eyes. All the recent events flew past his head. Being fired, sending letters, the interview, his failed in his life. Everything couldn’t be even worse. Then he thought of the Memory Booth, all the scenes of his life that is so wonderful, but hidden in his brain. Now he has the chance to replay them. He could hide, in his memories, from the fact that the world is over for him, the fact that he’s done in this world.
In his memories there would be no pain, no loss, no sadness. That’s the clever part of the machine.
John woke up again. “How is it?” The old man asked
“How is it?”
And that’s the end of John. He gave up and fell for my trap. Even though he doesn’t have a talent or specialty, there was still a chance of him. He could start again from something small, and try his best to climb back to the top of the stairs. But instead he chose the sweet poison, and ended his future.