I have a question.
If everything about someone is erased from everyone else’s minds—every bit of significance, good or bad, that this person has imprinted on other’s minds—then can that person be considered as living, or even existing at all? After all, one’s personal existence is defined by the marks they make on the world, and those marks are remembered by other people.
That is the question, and it is one that has me captivated.
So if you erase all of the marks, can the thing that created them actually live, or exist, at all? Logically, I would say “No”—there must be residue of something existing for it to have any manifestation of existence by being observed by other things in the world, and if something is not observed by the world—the people around you, society—as existing, then can the thing be considered as something real? Even if it has a technical existence, something that left no marks on the world would be rendered obsolete by the world itself, because the world itself could not observe something as existing when the thing left no trace of interacting with the world, so even though the thing would exist to itself, the world would see something that seemingly isn’t there.
It is a simple question, really, and—for me—simple questions require simple answers. While I could philosophically muse on about which answer—yes or no—is correct, I shall not do so, for I am someone who wants answers on a literal level, otherwise they are not real answers to me.
As such, I decided I had to tackle the task of finding the answer in a literal way, so I began to prepare the creation of a plan to remove all of my marks from the world.
Finding an answer may not be easy, I realize, but it ultimately must be a simply answer. The question has complex concepts, but it is a simple question at its core, so it must receive a simple answer for the answer to be considered a true answer. Giving a complex answer to a fundamentally simple question would be absurd, for one cannot blow up the question out of proportion and transmute it into an answer and still call it the answer! It can be an answer, but not the answer. It would be akin to saying a panda is an all-knowing deity that created created all that exists when the original question was “What is a Panda?” That answer could be true, but it is needlessly excessive for the core simplicity of the question, so it is not the answer. The answer to “What is a panda?” can only be answered as something simple that describes the known facts of the creature itself, such as, “The panda is a bear with black patches around its eyes, ears, and across its body. They live off of bamboo in some forested mountains in central China.” It is not a short answer, but it is a simple and to-the-point answer, so it is the answer as it pertains to the question. Saying “The panda is an all-knowing deity” cannot be the answer itself merely because it is too complex an answer for the simplicity of the question—the answer can contain background information relating to the question, such as proof that the panda is an all-knowing deity, but that information cannot be the answer itself due to the nature of the question.
I realize I am rambling on possibly pointless thoughts of pandas, but I felt the necessity to emphasize that I require a “yes” or a “no” as an answer to the question—else I would never be satisfied with it.
For a while I pondered on how exactly to erase my footsteps from the minds of every person on the planet—I had to eradicate every last bit of information relating to me in every person’s head—but it ultimately did not take all that long for me to realize how to achieve that.
I could modify a memory wipe to pinpoint anything related to me in people’s minds, as well as to be activated in several successive waves across the planet in a short span of time in order to ensure the eradication of every last remnant of detail surrounding me in all living minds on the planet.
Memory wipes were illegal, of course, but not hard to acquire if you had a pretty penny to spare to purchase them—I, luckily, had plenty of pennies to spare.
Modifying the wipe to affect the whole world would take some effort, but it was completely in the realm of possibility, and I knew it would be worth it.
With my plan in line, I set forth on my journey to find the answer.
Everything is ready. Everything is in order to remove all evidence of my existence on the planet. All I had to do was hit Enter, and the program would send the memory wipe across all of the planet, penetrating into the heads of every human on the planet within a matter of minutes. I paused for a moment with my finger over the Enter key, thinking if I should really proceed with this. But I diminished the thought nearly as quickly as it came—I had to get the answer. The moment in which I first thought of the question was the point of no return.
With that, I hit the Enter key.
And then I waited—it would take a while to erase all relevancy to me from the memories of every person on the planet; despite the wipe reaching the minds of the whole population within a matter of minutes, it still required some time to covertly remove the information from a target’s mind. I estimated that it would take twelve hours for the wipe to completely erase everything about me and achieve one-hundred percent effectiveness.
The twelve hours passed without any hindrance to me.
And so, I ventured out into the world to see if I still lived on.
Outside, I watched the pedestrians walking along the sidewalks; I observed them to see if they observed me.
They didn’t observe me—not at all, from what I could tell. I saw not the smallest glint of recognition from any of them that I even stood by the side, peering at them as they passed me by. They simply ignored me as they continued on with their daily races.
This worried me, but I cast that worry aside by faulting my reliance on a single observance that only I made. I needed to test if they could tell I was there without relying on my own assumptions of if they could tell I was there.
So I yelled—possibly too loudly—”Can you see me?!”
Several of them momentarily eyed me curiously as they passed by, and one man muttered “No, but we can certainly hear you,” in a sarcastically negative tone as he passed me by.
Despite my slight annoyance at the passerby pessimist, I smiled; this was good news, indeed. It meant that the memory wipe worked exactly as it should have. I am a well-known face around here, so if people had noticed me—but not recognized me—it meant I had become just another random stranger to them. I had become someone that was made obsolete to all of society by blending into the blur that is human society—a speck of dust that floats through the light, occasionally noticed as existing, but never remembered or cared about.
It was perfect—exactly what I needed to be in order to find the answer. I meant nothing to every person on the planet, and that was fantastic.
But I still needed to test the most important factor: to see if the people close to me still clung to any significance that I once was to them. I needed to find my family, and I needed to find my friends. It was essential that they saw me as a piece of dust, else the answer would be impossibly to find.
With my next step planned out, I set off to find my mother.
I found her at her house.
I rang the doorbell, and a few moments later she opened the door and greeted me with her characteristic smile.
“Hello, who may you be?”
I told her that we used to work in the same building, but that we never actually interacted much due to the differences in our jobs.
“Hmm, I thought you looked familiar—something in the back of my head told me I had seen you somewhere before, but I couldn’t place where,” she casually replied.
While this was worrisome to me, it did make sense—hardened memories were near impossible to completely eradicate from someone’s mind. The wipe seemed to make her memories that related to me be locked away in a vault, but they occasionally came back knocking on their vault, showing they still existed. In this case, the fact that my mother held slight familiarity with me was no problem, as I had simply become a small collection of dust to her—nowhere near enough to be significant.
It meant I had become an obsolete stranger to my mother—I meant nothing to her, and I would be forgotten as some meaningless stranger from her past—and it was perfect. I can still find the answer.
With this knowledge at hand, I bode my leave, saying I was simply on a trip to retrieve old memories as an excuse.
As I turned around, she said, “It was nice to see you,” and she close the door softly without another word.
“Nice to see you, too,” I whispered back.
I set off to find my father.
I found him at his work, and I introduced myself in much the same way as I did with my mother.
At first, he made no reply, hoping I was speaking towards one of the passerby workers. He was a man who stood his best in silence.
After a short bout of silence, he acknowledged my statement, and replied, “Well, you don’t work with me now, so whaddya want?”
He was a man who hated embellished talk, so I asked, simply, “Do you know me?”
“I don’t remember seein’ you in my life,” he snapped, angry at being interrupted from his work, “What do you really want?”
After a short pause, I replied, “Nothing… sorry for bothering you,” and I took my leave without another word.
My father did not know me, and that was good. I could still find the answer.
I proceeded on to find my brother.
I found him in the same store that he worked at years ago.
I told him that we used to go to school together—something that was true for most of our childhood lives.
“Sorry, but I can’t even begin to guess your name,” he said, “Do you need help with anything else?”
“No, thank you,” I replied.
“Well, have a good day, then.”
I told him the same, and I bid my adieu.
My brother did not remember me, and that was good. The answer was nearing possibility.
I set off to find my sister.
I found her at the hospital—still the proud manager of a facility that saved lives every day.
I told her the same thing as my brother, and she replied, “I don’t recognize you, sorry. Would you like any assistance with anything?” she smiled.
“No, thanks,” I forcibly smiled back.
“Ok, have a good day, then,” she replied cheerfully.
My sister did not remember me, but I could still find the answer—my answer—the one I needed.
To try to find the answer faster and still confirm I meant nothing to the world, I decided I must confirm that my two closest friends retained no scrap of significance related to me. Then I could locate the answer, and finally find it.
I left the hospital to find the best friend of my high school years.
He was hard to find, but I still found him.
He was an engineer—and a brilliant one, at that. It seems that the college that separated us was worth it.
I told him the truth: we used to be old friends in high school, and that I just wanted to say “Hi.”
He looked at me, sympathetically, “Oh, man, I’m really sorry, but I can’t remember you—” I looked down “—It was a long time ago, though, and I didn’t really have any friends in high school; I was a bit of a loner, hehe.”
We were both loners in high school—we both hung out with each other, and virtually no one else.
My best friend from high school didn’t remember me. He didn’t remember all of the hardships that we went through, the tests we cheated on, or the pranks we played. And he couldn’t laugh with me about how trivial those hardships now seemed, how easy those tests actually were, or how silly our pranks were.
All memories are gone, and he doesn’t remember me.
“Oh... ok,” I replied, then immediately turned and left before he could reply—it didn’t matter, anyways. I was just dust to him.
I set out to find the best friend I ever had—the best relationship I ever had with anyone, period.
But I couldn’t find her. I had no idea where to find her. I had lost her long ago, and she was still lost to me.
Try and try, it may, but a dust particle can only hope that by chance, when drifting aimlessly around the world, it would settle where it wanted.
It didn’t matter—it shouldn’t matter, really—that I would find her. I already knew what she would say, but I still had to know—to confirm. I had to ask her: “Do you know me?”
But I can’t ask, because I’m a dust particle. I would be as obsolete to her as any other piece of dust floating listlessly in the sky.
As dust I could do nothing, but I could still aimlessly and freely float on the winds through the skies of the world.
I know not how long I floated, nor do I care, but I know I traveled the world for an uncountable time.
I never found her, but at that point it mattered not, for I had come to settle somewhere else.
I came to settle in an empty green prairie as soon as I realized that there was someone else I could ask—someone I could have always asked.
I could ask the world.
And so I yelled as loud as I could muster, for no one to hear:
“Do you know me?!”
“I know you…” I whispered for no one to hear.
The world did not reply.
. . .
Well, that was a fun little thought exercise, wasn’t it?
I enjoyed imagining all of that quite a lot, and it was the perfect way to tackle my question; It was also most certainly not time wasted, especially because of the fact that, from it, I even received a great benefit:
I have an answer.
© Copyright 2016 Reel Greene. All rights reserved.
Short Story / Other
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