Something to Believe in, While Supplies Last
Carli pointed the BELIEF-B-GON at her would be ex-husband, Carl, and pressed the machine’s blue button. The instructions for the BELIEF-B-GON were clear:
STEP 1: Press red button to record new belief.
STEP 2: Aim front of device at target.
STEP 3: Press blue button.
They were written by a man of science marketing a product for the following purpose: “Watch as old beliefs get whisked away by those you desire.”
Carli wanted Carl to “love his wife above all else.” She could have just as easily recorded “you don’t need a man for anything” and pointed the device at herself. But she didn’t want to change her beliefs, only the beliefs of those around her. The tiny silver box hummed and whizzed with the sound of a Dixie band that only played the kazoo. Carl went into a trance. Then it stopped and Carl went crashing to the floor dropping the divorce papers and his favorite ballpoint pen.
Most people thought the BELIEF device was a hoax, but it did work. How it worked was not nearly as important as why it worked. Its inventor, Dr. Simon Molby, came to the conclusion that convictions were as replaceable as toothbrushes, tires, and light bulbs. No one should expect them to last forever. They were the product of conditioning and experience. They were constantly being changed to fit the moment. Dr. Molby thought, “Why not speed things up?”
At first, there was tremendous interest from his colleagues at MIT. The U.S. Army even gave him a grant. Everyone was convinced he was on the path to a perfect world. One where we no longer had to blow up countries full of brown people to get them to see our point of view. Instead, we need only make them forget that they ever believed otherwise.
Seven years of testing revealed several flaws, though. For one, the BELIEF-B-GON device could only be used on one target at a time. The army decided this was not nearly as effective at changing perspectives as say, melting the flesh of one’s friends and neighbors. This was not the final deterrent for Dr. Molby. A problem came with the way the beliefs were carried out by the targets as well. His initial tests were on himself. He would write on a small notebook, “Pink elephants did not create the universe.” Then he would record, “Pink elephants created the universe.” Next, he aimed the device at himself and pressed the blue button. As he made adjustments and the machine became more effective, the sudden rush of certainty followed by immediate doubt began to shatter the faith he had in anything, including the machine itself.
By the time he started using actual test subjects, Dr. Molby realized that the machine had removed the one thing that kept convictions in check, rationality. Yet he kept on. He instilled the belief in his subjects that “all men are created equally,” which naturally led to misogyny. He modified it to the more proper “all people are created equally,” which naturally led to an abuse of land, resources, and animals. This was shown instantly as one subject grabbed Molby’s prized swordfish out of its tank and snapped it in two.
Finally, he tried “all are created equally.” The test subject, a Mr. Robert Tots, awoke with a sense of tranquility. For two weeks, Mr. Tots lived a life like no other. He felt harmony with everyone and everything. But everywhere he went and everyone he encountered contradicted his belief that all was one and therefore, equal. If not for the BELIEF device, then Mr. Tots would have surely have adjusted his worldview. He would have realized the world could be a really crummy place and moved on. But the device did not allow for this at all. Knowing he couldn’t live a life believing something that simply had no proof, he returned to Dr. Molby’s office.
“Change me back, change me back,” he pleaded. Dr. Molby had no idea what “back” meant, but he could see that the man was suffering.
“Don’t believe in anything!” he recorded on the machine. After a press of the blue button, Mr. Tots awoke looking quite relieved.
“Thank ham sandwich for that!” he said and jumped out of Dr. Molby’s 20th story office window.
Not seeing any reason to argue, Dr. Molby turned the machine on himself and quickly followed suit.
The more practical use that Carli pursued could not possibly have such a tragic effect. After all, Carl and she had taken a vow to love one another above all else.
Carl opened his eyes to see Carli ask, “Are you alright?” She looked as beautiful to him as the day they met. Without answering, he gave his wife a kiss that lasted for several minutes. He followed this up with the best sex Carli ever had. Afterwards, they lay in bed wrapped in each other’s arms.
“Something to drink?” Carl asked.
“Water,” Carli replied. She wrapped her arms around her pillow as Carl headed to the kitchen, delighted in her contentment.
But she never heard the faucet come on. Carl was gone a long time and when she got up to check, she found him standing in the living room staring at the forgotten divorce papers in disbelief. He couldn’t understand why his signature was on it and not Carli’s. He could reason why she might ask for a divorce. After all, he knew he could never deserve someone so flawlessly made. But nothing could ever make him ask for one. He loved his wife above everything else.
“Guess I don’t know much about rhythm,” he said.
“There’s no denying a good bass player?” she replied.
“I don’t know what you’re asking.”
“You never do.”
Carl walked into the bedroom and shot himself with a .38 he kept underneath the mattress. Carli shrugged, pointed the BELIEF-B-GON at herself, pressed the blue button, and felt better than ever. From then on, she loved herself more than anything in the world.