Disaster Area Stuart 'Stevie' Leitch's Web Site

The Other Man's Jukleberry Shrub

"Just a few checks before we proceed, Mr. Smith," said the Doctor flipping through his patient's files. "First, are you aware of the potential dangers of mind erasing?"

"Yes," said Smith.

"And have you signed the contract stating this?"

"Yes," said Smith.

"And are you aware of the almost certain dangers of undertaking this process more than once?"

"Yes," said Smith.

"And are you sure that you've never had a mind erase before?"

"Yes," said Smith.


"How what?"

"How can you be sure that you didn't have your mind erased? If you did then you'd have forgotten."

"Then why did you ask?" said Smith.

"It's for our insurance," explained the Doctor, his attention still focussed more on the file than on the patient sat opposite. "If you had had your mind erased but did not declare it, you'd be one hundred per cent contributory negligent and your lawyer wouldn't have a leg to stand on. You wouldn't be able to sue and I'd get to keep my nice car." In the famously law obsessed America, this is what passed for bedside manner. "Now once again for the tape, do you truthfully declare that you've never undergone this process before?"

"Um, yes," said Smith. He got the feeling that he wouldn't get his operation if answered any differently. The Doctor ticked another box and moved on.

"Have you discussed your situation with the consultant psychiatrist?"

"Yes," said Smith.

"And did you have your warrant signed by him?"

"Her," corrected Smith.

"It, actually," said the Doctor without looking up. "All our psychiatrists are androids. You wouldn't expect a real human to deal with that sort of thing now would you?"

"Well it might be a nice..."

"Is it signed, Mr. Smith?" interrupted the Doctor, his voice ever so slightly more impatient and patronising than usual.

"Yes, it is signed," said Smith.

The Doctor handed a form to Smith. "Sign here, here and here. Date here and here." he demanded.

Smith did as instructed.

"This is your final chance," said the Doctor. "Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Yes," said Smith.

"A little louder for the tape, please."

"Yes," repeated Smith.

"Then let us proceed," said the Doctor. If this was a 1950s B-movie there would have been a crack of thunder and an evil cackle from the Doctor. But this isn't. In fact the Doctor couldn't care less. This was an entirely routine operation he'd done four times already this week. The only reason the hospital didn't get a robot to do this work was because it complicated the insurance.

"Just out of interest, Mr Smith, why do you want your mind erased?"

In fact the Doctor wasn't at all interested. He just needed Smith to talk to generate some brain activity so he could insert the probes.

"Well," sighed Smith, "I want to start a new life. I want to be rid of this world. I don't even want a memory of this God forsaken world. I want to be blissfully ignorant of the way that mankind has abandoned all morality and true justice and become so obsessed with triviality."

There was a brief pause. "That's nice," said the Doctor after seeing the brain activity readout settle down. "Why don't you enjoy your life here in America?"

"People have just lost all will to have a meaningful life. There are no individuals. All the people here are just cloned robots who do their eight hours a day in the office and then follow meaningless leisure pursuits. If it's not indoor virtual golf then it's a couple of hours at the gym pretending to cycle or ski or row on some expensive metal contraption. If it's not that it's a wasted evening slumped in front of the telly watching the same old TV dramas about a lawyer and his drug addict wife and his gay son who saves the hospital from getting torn down."

Another pause. "Really?" said the Doctor glancing longingly at his watch and his top of the range set of graphite shaft pro golf clubs. "Go on."

"And have you ever noticed that no-one is nice to people just for the sake of being nice? No-one wishes anyone a good day, no-one waves to their friends (remember them?) in the street, people on the subway stare stony-faced at nothing for fear that they get sued. Remember that guy who got sued for looking at someone in a funny way? The lawyer made out that it was some sort of harassment! Just for making eye contact in a packed subway train. The lawyers have taken over our lives. We are afraid to live for fear that it might break some interpretation of the law. Well that's not for me. I'm headed for Mars. When I wake up from this with my synthetic memories implanted I'll be going to my new home on Sector 5. No lawyers there. No laws. People make their own justice and live as they want unbothered by the state. I don't like the word 'anarchy'. I prefer to see it as true justice and true freedom in a society mature enough to look after itself. I've got a friend who lives there already and he says that all the propaganda we've been fed is simply ..."

"We're ready to perform the operation now, Mr. Smith," interrupted the Doctor. "Your new memories are ready to be uploaded. When you wake up you'll remember none of this and simply pick up your life where these memories stop." The doctor stood behind the shielding wall and pressed the little white button.

* * *

Mr. Jones woke up in a hotel room on the last day of his holiday in America. He remembered everything he did in the last two weeks. He remembered always being self-conscious. You could so easily get into trouble here. The Americans were so obsessed with their trivial little laws. They were so obsessed with catching you out if you made the tiniest slip. It renewed his pride as a Martian. Mr. Jones loved his home on Mars. He had lived on Mars all his life and he was proud to live in a mature anarchic society.

He got up, took a shower, ate a rather synthetic tasting breakfast (bloody Americans!) and started to pack his suitcase. He found that his case was already neatly packed with the flight passes already attached. He must have done it last night.

Five hours later as he boarded the plane he took his last look at Earth. He had only been here two weeks but he felt a certain affinity towards it. He wouldn't go as far as to say that he actually liked the place but, well the place grew on him. He got used to it. It was as if he had been living here all his life. But he knew that once he got back to home sweet home on Mars he wouldn't give it a second thought.

Twenty-six hours later the plane touched down at Mars Interplanetary Airport. The doors opened, filling the cabin with the unmistakably different Martian air. Jones took a good lungful. It rasped his throat and he coughed and spluttered for a good minute or so.

"Bloody terran air," he thought. "I'll need some time to reacclimatize to the low oxygen here."

Jones grabbed his bags, walked along the gangway and bounded down the steps to his home soil. Well, he meant to bound down the steps. Actually, he bounded off the first one, missed the second and third ones, hit the fourth one awkwardly and stumbled into the person in front.

"Sorry!" said Jones, cheerily.

"Watch what you're doing, moron!" yelled the other passenger. "If you can't handle the gravity take the lift. That's what it's for."

Mr. Jones limped onto the bus that takes passengers the 50 yards between the plane and the terminal building. He sat down opposite an elderly fellow with a cheery face.

"Morning," said Jones to the cheery fellow.

"What?" the cheery fellow asked, surprised.

"I said good morning," said Jones to the apparently slightly deaf gent. "I was wishing you a good morning."

"Why? Are you a yank? Have I just bought a double goat burger and fries from Burger Bastard? Am I being ordered to have a nice day now sir? Look, I spent three years in that arse hole country and what I want, returning home to Mars is to be left alone and spared the constant artificial niceties of the American populace! We're not on Earth now sunny-jim. And I'll have a good morning if and only if I feel like it. Clear?"

Jones decided that the chap opposite was perhaps not so cheery after all and stared stony-faced out of the window instead.

* * *

(18 months later)

"Well," sighed Jones, "I want to start a new life. I'm just feeling bored with my life. I feel like I've been stuck in a rut. The last time I really enjoyed myself was last year when I went on holiday to Earth."

The doctor looked up at Jones. "And what do you want me to do about that? I can't make you be happy."

"No," said Jones. "But I'm just so bored of me. I've decided that I don't want to live the rest of my life as Mr. Jones. I want a new identity. I want a new me."

"Ah, you mean a mind erase? You want to take up a new identity and leave the old one behind?"

"Actually, I was thinking about a sex change but now that you mention it..."

Stuart Leitch, April 2003. Apologies to Philip K Dick. Call this fan-fic if you like.