Every age has its chemical crutch. Prozac, Oxycontin, Xanax, Ritalin, Viagra – they reflect how far off course we have gone in search of what our age values.
A vaccine was devised and the world returned to post-pandemic normal. But the long months of lockdown, feeding on the slush pile of memories in all forms, made us unbearable to ourselves. Entrepreneurs being what they are, a product was soon invented to deal with the need. Bluejohn, also known as JS, Johnsmith, and Blur, made the return to the ceaseless tyranny of today bearable by wiping out the stockpile of yesterdays which caused so much grief.
Originally designed by Doxis and marketed under the name Librimeme, the drug was a PKMζ inhibitor prescribed to veterans, asylum-seekers, and domestic abuse victims whose trauma-addled hippocampi could no longer cope with long-term memory. (The hippocampus files and planes short-term memories into some kind of shape, then sends them off to the unknown realms of long-term memory). Librimeme allowed tormented souls a brief respite from the task of making new long-term memories and allowed them a breathing space to deal with the stockpile of horrors they had been dealt by life. Most pleasing to the FDA, Librimeme left short-term memory unimpaired, which meant that you could still be expected to hold down a job while you dealt with memories of your legs being blown off.
Tweaked by business-minded chemists in ethics-free kitchens, Bluejohn was a more potent version of Librimeme. It released you from the permanent memory of stressful events, which meant that you were largely released from the impact of life. Once you embarked on Bluejohn, you were like the dead in Dante’s Divine Comedy, liberated from the (neural) bodies with which you made new memories. While Librimeme had been intended for extremely short-term use under strict supervision, Bluejohn had a devoted and long-term following. Graduates began to take it when they entered the workforce, to cope with the fact that two-thirds of their lives were unconscious or unbearable. Mothers began to take it after giving birth: you could remember the joys of pregnancy without the horrors of the post-birth sleeplessness, the inevitable quarrelling, the lonely disintegration of self in the face of a child’s rapacity for all your time and energy. Those orphaned or retrenched by the pandemic took it to prevent themselves realising the extent of their situation.
Upon starting Bluejohn, the world shrank to a space around four hours long. After that, everything was new again. Biographical, implicit, and procedural memory was entirely intact. Memories from before Bluejohn were intact: you still knew that you were Bill Tucker, who was a left-hander with a good golf-swing, a dentist, and who drove a vintage Buick. But your wife’s affair, discovered the previous week, or your despair at the prospect of more days staring at porous molars, and the exhaustion which caused you to look longingly at your own handgun, was gone, wiped clean like a kitchen surface in a commercial.
Addicted to this gentle amnesia, people found they could bear not only each other, but themselves. It was possible to enjoy each day when you could remember being a teenager, and events after lunch, but nothing in between. Like a gambler walking away from the tables, the trick was to judge when you’d accrued enough good long term memories, and were on the inevitable turn to the bad. The Bluejohn entered, not legally but not entirely illegally either. Arguments, stressors, disappointments and exhaustion were experienced for a maximum of four hours then neatly binned. Use of Post-It notes and electronic reminders surged, but the decline of health, life, and income insurance conclusively proved that fear of the future derived largely from memories of the past.
Bluejohn was quietly agreed to be the drug of the day, because it released us from the tyranny of every other time.