Mateo Prieto, Magnet High School

     As the hands on the clock inched closer to midnight, Marlene had already decided that this year had been the worst year of her life.

     Granted, it was the only year of her life that she actually remembered, but it was still horrendous, regardless. At that moment, with the clock’s minute hand slowly journeying between eight and nine, Marlene rested her head on her knees just thinking about all the things she had done wrong. Images flashed inside her mind, images she had tried to get rid of a thousand times already. The screaming, the laziness, the rudeness… She sighed desperately. It was too much, it overwhelmed her. And then, there was the worst thing of them all. She tried hard to forget, but it was pointless. The image was there, front and center in her mind.

     The image of Alex’s face, pained and angry, as he turned around and left her house.

     Marlene shook her head. Nevermind that, she thought to herself, soon that will all be gone. She smiled at the thought, comforted. Thank God for the Resetting.  

     She could still remember the first time she’d heard about the Resetting, the first time it had actually been explained to her. The microchip implanted in everyone’s brain at birth, the electric memory erasure, the whole thing. Sure, she thought, not everyone agrees with it. There’s that group, the Revolters as the officials call them. They’ve been wanting to topple the system for years. But, they don’t know how much good it does for people like me. They haven’t heard it described the way I’ve heard it. She recalled the words that so long ago had been spoken to her.

     When the clock hits midnight and the first second of the new year arrives, your chip will activate, everything you know, love, and hate will be forgotten, and you will get the chance to start anew.

     Marlene turned to look at the clock. Eleven forty-six, she thought. Fourteen minutes to go. Fourteen minutes, and then all her problems and troubles would  disappear. She would be able to start again, this time responsibly and wisely. She would never again have to think about him. She would never again have to think about the argument.

     Marlene sighed. The argument...

     Why did I react the way I did? she lamented. Alex had been in the wrong then. There was no doubt in her mind about that. But, she could have just spoken to him calmly; nothing had forced her to… Marlene smacked her head lightly, as she felt the memory emerging. She tried desperately to bury it back down, to cover it up, to toss it away, and never again bring it to mind.

     Flash. Alex apologizing and explaining himself.

     Flash. Marlene rejecting his apology and accusing him of cheating on her.

     Flash. Alex tearfully declaring he would never do such a thing, that he loved her.

     Flash. Marlene slapping him and calling him terrible and hurtful things.

     Flash. Alex’s face, pained and angry, as he turned around and left her house.

     Marlene squirmed as each memory bombarded her. I can’t take it anymore. She looked at the clock. Not even for ten more minutes. It became clear to her that she needed to reconcile with Alex. She would not be able to restart peacefully otherwise. Marlene stood up from the couch where she was sitting, and started walking towards the door, determined.

     “Marlene!” she heard her mother calling out from the kitchen. “Where are you going?”

     Marlene opened the door and stepped through it. The dark blue sky stretched far and wide, with clouds scattered throughout. Marlene admired it for a second, and then focused her mind on running as fast as she could. She was determined. Before she could continue, however, she was suddenly met by a large, humanoid metal figure that towered above her. It glared down at her with glowing red eyes that illuminated the ground like searchlights. It was a guardian, one of the robotic beings that guarded the city.

     “Citizen,” a deep voice resonated from within the guardian’s mechanical insides. “Citizen, please, return to your abode. The Resetting is soon to occur. Return to your abode.”

     Marlene ignored it, her mind fixed on the route to Alex’s house. She continued running without stopping, making a mental note of how many minutes she had before the Resetting. The odds were not in her favor. To her relief, it wasn’t long before she spotted a human-sized figure with its head looking to the pavement suddenly appear, make a turn, and start walking towards her. She couldn’t hold back a tearful smile as she recognized him. She was about to call out to him, but she stopped herself. He hates me, she reminded herself. He won’t want me to be the last thing he sees before the Resetting. What am I doing? He wants nothing to do with me. But she could not help herself. She could not keep quiet a second longer. “Alex!” The figure looked up, Alex’s face now fully visible. Marlene could already see in her mind the look of fury and hate that would inevitably spread on his face. To her surprise, however, what spread across his face instead was a smile, and his eyes lit up with recognition.

     “Marlene?”

     Marlene was still processing Alex’s unexpected amiability when the hands on the clock hit midnight, and the microchip inside her brain released a powerful electric current that electrocuted every neuron and nerve inside her head.

     The Resetting had arrived.

     Marlene immediately collapsed as an excruciating pain overtook her. Her head felt as if it was being split open from the inside. She laid there helpless on the pavement, violently seizing and screaming. Alex was screaming as well. In fact, now she heard a cacophonous wave of anguished screams filling the entire city. That was the last thing Marlene heard as she felt her consciousness shutting down, as if her very sense of self was fading like a candle in the wind. Her last thought was that she didn’t want to die, not like this, not right now. Then, every second she had lived over the past year flashed in her mind for a brief moment before disappearing into oblivion.

     Her first thought when she awoke was that her name was Marlene. Why she thought that, she didn't know. In fact, she didn’t know anything at all. Marlene opened her eyes and saw a dark blue ocean stretching out as far as she could see. She soon realized that this was the sky, and that she was lying on her back. She sat up, and to her right she noticed a teenage boy also sitting up. He rubbed his head and turned to look at her.

     “Who are you?” he asked.

     Marlene’s breathing quickened. “Mar… Marlene.”

     The boy smiled, seemingly without thinking. “That’s… That’s a beautiful name. I am Alex… I think.”

     Marlene felt a strange feeling in her head. She had never seen this person in her life. And yet, the way he looked at her, the way he spoke, it… it made her feel a warmth that indicated familiarity. And then, suddenly, an image, a ghost from a previous life, materialized in her mind.

     Flash. Alex’s face, pained and angry, as he turned around and left her house.

     Marlene’s eyes started to fill with tears, as she heard the clanging of metallic footsteps getting closer and closer. “Alex,” she called out to him, her voice trembling.

     Alex looked at her for a moment, confused. Then, just as the guardians arrived at the scene, he smiled, and his eyes gleamed with recognition.