Thursday, November 22, 2007
Warren was a sales technician. It was not much of a job when he took it, and not much of a job now. He was facing an inadequate retirement, if he hoped to make up for the sacrifices he had made for his family. Warren did not really regret his life, but he did sometimes wonder what it might have been like to do it again. Differently.
He had joined the Temporal Research Institute while still in college. They needed test subjects. He got some money for school by letting them wire his brain and do silly experiments.
At least, he thought they were silly. He couldn’t ever remember them clearly. Those memories were like the tail end of dreams that fade upon waking.
Apparently they thought he was a good subject. They offered him the reset button. Just like in a computer game or multidimensional experience theater production. He laughed quietly to himself at those analogies mentioned when he was so young. Still, the analogy held, even if technologies have moved far along other paths.
Warren ordered a cup of tea from his kitchen, and took the steaming cup with him out onto his deck. Humble housing, but still a good view. He always enjoyed it in light of his grandfather’s recollections of the last days of urban crowding and the last of the era of polluted air. Technology and government had matured over that time, and the populations had been dispersed to better suit the needs of the earth and all who lived upon it.
Idyllic, but boring. He reflected on a very good life. His wife and kids had provided enough positive feedback to counteract the tedium of his job and a life with few prospects beyond safety and comfort. Yet, at any juncture that might offer a decision to follow adventure and danger, he had opted for safety and security.
He sipped at his tea, and accepted its predictable goodness. When he had realized that the reset button that the Institute had given him provided a license for all sorts of misadventures, he surprised himself by adopting a very conservative approach to living his life.
He still surprised himself. It might well be time.
Leaving his tea, he went to the closet in his bedroom. Moving a few items, he was able to reach the door to a small safe. He pressed his thumb to the lock, and the door opened. Warren extracted a small item that looked like a common remote.
It was a small instrument, of some form of plastic. A place to put his right thumb on one side, and a similar place for his left thumb on the other. It was intentionally awkward to hold while activating. The experiment required that the initiation of a reset must be intentional. That was also why the unit included voice recognition.
Warren held the object carefully by its edges, and intoned, “There’s no place like home.” A silly password, but it had seemed both amusing and appropriate in that long ago time when the experiment was fresh and new. With his thumbs so far from the reading surfaces, there was no danger of a reset.
He took the object with him, this button that held an entirely different future for him. He carried it with him as he returned to the porch. He took up his tea, and sipped at it. Still warm. Everything in Warren’s world was designed to serve him. The cup would not let the tea grow cold.
Warren thought about his wife. How they had grown apart, but complacently so. He thought about his children, who had lives of their own. He thought about his grandchildren, who loved him just as vaguely as he loved them.
As he thought, he placed the plastic object between his hands. Thumbs found their ways to the reading surface. There was no change in the device, but he knew that it awaited the voice code. It felt anxious in his hands.
Warren faced the setting sun. It was quite near the horizon.
What would happen if he said the words? How would the reset affect the world? He had stood like this, countless times before, and thought these thoughts. How many times might he have done this, already? Was this life the result of multiple resets?
Though many times he had been tempted to do so, he had only made one reset point in all of his years. Just before getting married. Just before starting this long, boring, yet vaguely satisfying life.
Warren watched the sun dip slowly past the horizon. The passage of time presented visually before him. He stood, hands together, thumbs on the plate. Darkness grew around him.
Between past and future, Warren stood.