“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?”Hillel
Stephanie played to win.
Thus far, she’d achieved every goal, personally and professionally, that she’d set for herself.
If someone had the misfortune of being in her way, well, that was their own damn fault. She wasn’t the world’s babysitter, for cripe’s sake.
Guilt? Hah! Guilt was for wimps.
Stephanie had not an ounce of remorse for the heartbreak and ruination left in her wake—until some goody-two-shoes from the Conscience Police deemed it necessary to point it out.
Even then, it was somewhere between an annoyance and an embarrassment: kind of like a droplet of ink on the cuff of a crisp white blouse, or someone calling attention to part of a dried-up booger peeking out of a nostril.
Business was business. Why can’t people get that?
Stephanie wished someone would invent something similar to a Mr. Clean® Magic Eraser that would instantly obliterate scuffed memories and annihilate the grimy details.
What she wouldn’t give for such a device!
Then, a carnival came to town. Usually, Stephanie wouldn’t bother but Willy the Wizard—sorcerer extraordinaire—would be there. She’d heard marvelous things about Willy.
Hell, who hadn’t?
She made it a point to be at the fairgrounds at ‘0 dark 30’ the day the carnival opened.
Stephanie stood outside his booth for nearly a half hour, waiting for him to show.
Finally, the purple velvet drapes parted and he appeared.
“Stephanie, isn’t it?” Willy peered at her through his John Lennon-style spectacles.
He was much smaller than she’d envisioned, and quite nerdy-looking. A chunk of his breakfast, or perhaps the remnants of a late night snack, dangled between his crooked front teeth.
“You know me?”
“I’m a wizard,” Willy shrugged. “It’s my job.”
He held the drapes open and motioned for her to take a seat in a forlorn papasan chair resting in the corner. Its faded orange cushion was stinky-stained with God only knew what, so Stephanie remained standing.
“You’re right,” Willy smiled. “Who knows what may lurk within such a cushion…”
Stephanie blanched and flashed an awkward grin.
“This is for you.” The Wizard produced a rectangular black box and handed it to her. “It’s your customized memory modification unit.”
Stephanie plucked the device from his outstretched hand. “Tell me how it works.”
“Oh, I will,” he grinned. “…for one hundred and eleven dollars and eleven cents…cash, please.”
She dug in her dusty rose Prada handbag and retrieved its matching wallet from which she carefully extracted two fifties, a ten and a one-dollar bill.
“The eleven cents, Stephanie?”
She rolled her eyes and found a dime and a penny in the left front pocket of her jeans.
“Excellent!” Willy beamed. “Now, you must read the entire manual before using your MMU.” He handed her a tattered scroll that looked like it was from the 16th century.
“Uh, thanks but…can you just give me the basics?”
Willy sighed. “In a nutshell, hold the box to your forehead, recall an unpleasant episode, and click the delete button.”
“That’s it? Point, think, and click?”
“Well, sort of. Please read the manual.” The Wizard repeated. “You must understand…”
“Yeah, sure…” Stephanie had already turned and walked away.
“…you must be absolutely certain!” he shouted after her.
Willy the Wizard watched as she ditched the manual in a trash barrel without taking her eyes off the black box.
“Idiot,” he muttered. “Memories are subjective.”
That evening, Stephanie kicked back with a glass of Louis Roederer Cristal champagne and set about purging memories.
The following day, she awoke to a world in which she had ceased to exist. All recollections of Stephanie, her accomplishments right or wrong, had been deleted.
Her name was missing from the telephone directory; her picture erased from her driver’s license.
Even Google had emptied its cache.
Stephanie screamed a silent scream upon discovering an empty reflection in the mirror.
After the shock wore off, Stephanie gathered her belongings and moved on.
It was time for a change anyway.
With that, she did as she had always done when things didn’t go as planned.
She never looked back; she moved ahead.