RESET: a short story (3161 words)

What was I doing?

There are doves outside the window. They’re white and they peck mechanically at the windowsill. I tumble out of bed and to the bathroom. My mirror image seems strange today. Beard stubble, dark hair and grey eyes, weren’t they green yesterday? Ah, who knows, who cares, right? Though there is something? Something I’m forgetting?
The morning chores come to me automatically. I even manage to shave without looking like I was part in some kind of a massacre. I’m sure that’s a first. I eat my breakfast quickly. It isn’t any better than I remember it being yesterday. Awful goo that’s supposed to be some kind of a rice pudding but looks more like something a dog would vomit up and it tastes like that too.

My cat gets his morning treats and a bowl of water. He looks up at me like he’s expecting something from me so I spend a few moments petting him and saying his name. I call him Mephistopheles, Phisto for short though usually I just say his whole name. It seems fitting. I can’t remember why though.

When the cat is happy I go out of the house. The streets are usually empty when I get out. A security car might swoosh by but not this morning. The sun is blazing, which makes the air on the streets between the tall buildings insufferable. I put the filter in my suit on and run down the street, through the alley with all the clothes hanging out to dry on lines that have been set up high above, between the houses. Today all the houses there are pink. I can’t remember if they were pink yesterday, though I doubt it.
At the end of the alley I swing over the wall. It’s easy for someone like me. I do this every day.

The other side is different and it takes me a while to process it.
There are trees everywhere, as far as the eye can see and this morning I seriously contemplate just swinging over the wall behind me again and go back to bed. I want to but I can’t do that. I need to continue. I need to head forward. I have to perform my daily task. I’ve never failed to do so and I’m not willing to find out what will happen if I don’t. So I start walking on the stony pathway through the forest. Still this annoying feeling that I’ve forgotten something won’t leave me alone.

I see a squirrel jumping on the branches of one of the trees. I stop to watch it. It has cog wheels instead of eyes and sharp metal ears, they look dangerously pointy. It stops to look at me, red light blinking at the centre of its cog-wheel eyes.
I sigh and start running, but my surroundings confuse me. The trees seem to shift slowly in the wind and sometimes I’m sure they quickly swap places so I slow down again and walk.

Suddenly there is a large animal in front of me, a deer maybe? Or a moose? It’s huge and it’s horns are made of black metal and they’re curled up in endless circles around its head. Its feet look relatively normal except it has small wheels instead of hoofs and the entire body is covered with metal plates, cog wheels of different sizes and shape and some form of bone seems to be sticking out of its side.

It stops to stare at me as if it’s never seen anything like me ever before and then it pushes itself forward, half running half wheeling itself onwards. It’s a strange sight.
The trees are the most astonishing part though. There are no leaves on them, nothing hanging in the black branches but the occasional clothing garment. I see a top hat, a colourful shawl and children’s dresses in different colors.

When I get closer I see that the stems are all made up of small wires twisted together to form the trees. An eternally large forest of wire trees and when I move forward the trees change, the wire becomes barbed wire and there are green emeralds hanging from the branches. They glimmer beautifully in the sun, casting the rays forward in a fantastic display. There are birds sitting in those trees. Not doves like in the city, but birds with blue feathers sticking out of their iron tails, with golden beaks and blue diamond eyes. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen I think, and I stop to take a mental picture.
When I’ve done that I move forward. Swiping through the forest fast enough, but not so fast that I get motion sickness from the trees that seem to swap places and move forward with me. That’s disconcerting.

When I get to the house I recognise it, though it looks nothing like what I’m used to. Nothing at all.
The lowest part of it seems to be an old boat. It’s blue and maybe it was in good shape once upon a time but now the color has faded and the rail is rusty. On top of the boat four iron pillars rise in the air, one of them acts as a staircase. On top of that there is a brick house with iron fenced windows and four blue, spiked towers are sticking up from the roof.
I climb the staircase and find the door on the other side. It’s a heavy iron door with four golden emblems on it and one large head of a lion in the middle with a golden bow hanging between its ears. I use it to knock, but no sound emanates from the thing so I turn the knob and step inside.

It’s brightly lit as per usual, and the room is more familiar than anything outside. It’s a white room with a few white tables at the far end. On top of the table there are several machines. One of the machines has my name on it. Not literally but I am the only one with the access codes for it. I don’t know what the other machines are for. I’ve never met anyone inside the room.

I enter my password, pull up a terminal and write my daily command: “/cd reset /r /v”.
And I’m done for the day. That’s it.
I’ve become skilled at finding the house. At first it often took me the entire day to do so and once I almost failed to push the code in the machine before my time was up. Now it’s a breeze, no matter what the world throws at me.
I take a look around the room because from time to time there is something there, something for me.

It’s sitting on a bookshelf filled otherwise with DVD’s. It’s a time piece. It’s large, dark and the cog wheel in the middle seems fitting for the day. The wheel turns as time ticks forward and it fits my wrist well. It doesn’t tell time very well though but the letters t c k are written horizontally on the cog wheel and through a hole I can see the letters i and o forever interchanging. Tick tock tick tock. I put it on, sigh as I was hoping for coffee or some kind of sustenance but I’ll take what I get.

I head outside again, climb down the staircase, jump over the rails on the boat at the bottom and start running the same way I came, forgetting the queasiness accompanied with moving quickly in this place.

As I’m closing to the wall that I need to climb to get back to the city I see something I’ve never seen before. At least I don’t think so. Not that I’ve seen a moose on wheels before, but I wrote that off as quirkiness of the place. This however is something else entirely.
It’s a human being. It’s a woman. I recognise her by the form. She has a large bosom, hips I can’t even dream of and hair that seems real and not made of straw, nylon or some other synthetic material. I’m quite skilled at picking up on those things, and I could swear her hair is organic.

The only thing that seems inorganic about her is the small binocular that’s sowed to her left eye, and her clothes of course. She is wearing a green, laced dress which pushes her bosom up and the skirt has been ripped off so you can see most of her legs. Her blond hair is tied in a ponytail at the back and she’s wearing a top hat I swear I could see in a tree before. It’s brown, worn and has several cog wheels sown to it. This day is making me sick of cog wheels. Whatever are they good for anyway?

She’s wearing a colourful shawl around her shoulders and she has something in her hands I know is a weapon of some sort. It scares me but she is the first human being I’ve met for a long time, I have no idea how long, so I can’t help but greet her. My voice feels raspy and unused and I make a mental reminder to practice my voice from time to time so it doesn’t feel like I’m swallowing razorblades when I try to speak.

“Who are you?” I ask her. I realise that I’m being unfriendly and not conducting myself after the regular rules of etiquette but I can’t help myself.
She looks at me with a glimpse in her eye and a smile on her face. I used to be skilled at reading people, but apparently that’s a talent that needs to be used to stick. I can’t tell if she’s being coy or if she’s actually happy to see me.
“So here you are, are you done?” she asks and walks closer. Her hat seems to change color as she gets closer. It was brown but now it looks green.
“I don’t think I’ve been here before, though who can tell?” I smile to seem polite. She smiles back. It’s awkward.
“Do you remember?” she says.

I hesitate as I don’t quite understand her. “I feel like I’ve seen you before,” I say and it isn’t until I’ve said it that I realise that I’m not lying. It’s the truth.

“I look familiar to you? I should. We meet every day, though I’ve never seen you looking this handsome before,” she smiles and I still can’t tell if she’s pulling my leg or if she’s actually flirting with me.

“Every day?” I say sceptically.
“You have issues with your memory,” she says.
And I know this to be true. I can’t remember why but it’s important that I don’t question it. I should just do my daily task and get on with it. It’s not so important that I remember every detail. And I remember the important parts. I’m pretty sure I’d remember if I met a dame like her every day. I’d remember, surely I would, and I wouldn’t feel as lonely as I do every day?

I walk closer and look at her.
“What’s your name?” she asks.
“My cat is called Mephistopheles,” I tell her.
“I know,” she says. “It likes looking at the doves outside your window, you’ve told me.”
I swallow hard. I must have told her this, how else would she know?
“My name is B,” and I find I can’t quite remember. It’s not important anyway.
“Your name is Robert, you used to be called Bobby,” she says.
“Right,” I tell her.
“And who are you?”

She sighs. “Look it’s not important,” she says, “Have you done your task today?”
“Yes,” I tell her, “Of course.”
“Now you don’t have to remember me, but please try to remember what I’m about to tell you, alright?”
I just nod my head.
“You need to stop doing your daily task, stop resetting. You cannot wake up and do it again tomorrow. Just stop it. Don’t do it again. It’s not doing any good, just fucking up our lives now.” She sighs. “Goddamn thing that I can never get to you in time, and you keep getting faster and faster.”

I look at her and wonder if I haven’t heard her telling me this before.
“But it’s important that I reset, otherwise the…”
“You have to stop. Please remember to stop. You do remember some things. Please remember this, ok?”

I shake my head and then I look into her eyes.
I see something familiar there. Something I can’t place.
“Look,” she says and takes my hand. I want to snatch it away from her but find that her touch is warm and comforting. It’s personal and familiar too. I grab her by the shoulder, surprised I look at her.
“I know you,” I tell her. “Who are you?”
“You don’t trust me, not really but I’m telling you the truth,” she says.
“I don’t trust you?” I’m surprised, “I think I love you.” I tell her.
She looks genuinely surprised. “You remember that?” she whispers.
“I think I do,” I tell her. “I remember kissing you, I have done that, haven’t I?” It is a question but she seems to take it more like a statement for some reason. Instead of answering my question she seems sad, but she comes close and kisses me delicately on the mouth. I feel an overwhelming surge of emotion rise in me and my strange body reacts in a surprising way.

“We used to kiss,” she says, “We were not on the same team, but we’ve both lost now. You have to stop resetting, please if you remember nothing else, remember that you cannot go to reset again. Stop the daily task. It just hurts us.”
“We used to be enemies?” I mumble. “But I love you, and you must like me – at least just a little?” I’m suddenly terrified of her.

“I love you too, which is why I haven’t shot you yet,” she says. “Love doesn’t mean we play on the same team or think the same things. It just means that we love and respect one another and I hope you try to remember me enough tomorrow so that you don’t reset.”
“We’ve had this conversation before,” I tell her.
“And you never remember,” she says.
“We’ve tried that,” she says.
“All we can hope for is that one day you’ll remember not to reset. Please.”
“Why don’t you come with me and be there to remind me?”
“It doesn’t work that way,” she says. “We’ve tried, but it doesn’t work that way.”

I sigh. It feels important. This feels important. Very important. “If I don’t push reset, can we be together?” I ask her.
“I want nothing more,” she tells me and I can feel my heart skip a beat and I’m not sure I know why but this too feels important.
“I’m overwhelming you, now you’ll never remember,” she sighs as if she’s failed at her important task for the day.

“You promise that you’re not pulling my leg? You’re not deceiving me?” I ask her. I feel I don’t trust her completely, but at the same time I feel as if my heart is about to escape my body as I look at her.
“I promise, there is nothing left to fight for. We’re stuck in a limbo of sort and you keep resetting things. It used to be important for your side. It used to be important but it isn’t anymore because there are so few of us left. We aren’t on the brink of…” she shakes her head a little and tries to smile.
“And we will be together afterwards? I won’t be alone anymore?”
“You won’t be alone anymore, if you just stop resetting everything. It’s …” she stops herself once more and I feel curious about what it is she doesn’t want to tell me. I have the feeling that I don’t want to know. I have the feeling that I’ve been told.

Overwhelmed. I feel warm and bothered. I need to get back to the apartment. I need to get back fast. “I have to get back,” I tell her. “It’s important. I have to get back.”
“Just remember,” she sighs and kisses me. It’s a deep kiss, a kiss I’m quite sure I haven’t experienced in a very long time. “Please don’t forget me at least?” she whispers.
“I’ll try,” it feels impossible to forget someone like her. It feels impossible but I know that it is possible because it’s happened before. I also know that I need to get back to the apartment before the reset sets in. I have to get back.
“I have to run,” I tell her. “I have to be there when …”
“I know,” she says and I can feel her eyes in the back of my neck as I start to run.

I run down the forest path, jump over the wall. The houses in the alley are all purple now. I run as fast as I can to the apartment. Mephistopheles greets me with a yowl. I drink a bit of yoghurt that’s in the fridge, feed the cat and then I go to bed but of course I’m to exalted to be able to sleep so I get up again and sit down by the window and look over the street.
It’s empty of people. There is no one there at all. I’m sure it used to be buzzing with life. I was sure it was full of people later in the day but there is no one here now. The doves come flying.

What was I doing?

There are doves outside the window. They are white and their metal beaks seem to glisten in the sun. They remind me of someone. I feel my lips with my tongue. There was something I should remember. It was important. What was it? But surely I can’t sit here and recollect I have a job to do.

The cat meows at me. It’s hungry. I feed it and fill the water bowl. I’m glad I have the cat. I’d be so lonely without it. I should get going. And yet I sit still. What was it that was so important? There was something I should remember? I touch my lips with my forefinger.
Then I look at my hand. There is a strange clock on my arm. It counts the seconds with a tick and then a tock. The cog wheel in the middle of the roundel is green.

I sit back and continue to stare at the watch. Time ticks away. The cat gets agitated but I don’t move. I see a face before me. It’s the face of someone I love. She is smiling.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
I go back to bed.


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