Thoughtball – a drug (for story purposes, probably a drug/nanomachine combination of some sort to suit the story) that allows people to hallucinate a ball. They think of all the things, thoughts, memories, loves, pains, betrayals, hopes, hopeless feelings, that they want to get out of their mind, and place it inside this mental ball. After a while, the Thoughtball has removed either the memory itself or the feeling associated with the memory – depending on how the user wants the memory modified. For actually making this a story, after it does what it does, the nanomachines recollect, possibly under the tongue after a night of sleep, in a small ball that’s thrown out… usually.
Inspiration for this idea: Two inspirations, both from Japanese anime shows. First is from Bakuman, one of the first ideas for a manga the main characters had, a one-shot called “Money and Intelligence” – it is about buying and selling minds.
The second is from Code: Geass, the drug refrain. In the show it’s a drug that the elevens (the name for Japanese people in the show, since Japan is “Area 11”) take that lets people relive old memories.
As for the story itself:
The Thoughtball, an illegal substance that law enforcement mostly overlooks casual use of. And then people start turning up dead, prompting the hero of our story, a law-enforcement official, to look into it.
Thoughtball was mostly overlooked for a couple of reason, regardless of its legality. First, everyone used it. The ability to forget the worst of the worst that had happened to an individual is a powerful thing. The medical applications alone for victims of crimes and war were almost overwhelming when it came to public sentiment for legalizing the drug.
But it couldn’t be legalized, the USA couldn’t allow that. Both parties were against legalization, though you’d be hard-pressed to find a politician that hadn’t used it. But each party kept it illegal. One party had claimed that forgetting what had happened to a person was just another symptom of a drug-riddled nation, unable to stand on its own two feet. They claimed that a person was the sum of their experiences, and to forget any, regardless of the horror, was depriving them of humanity. They took the so-called moral approach, regardless of the hoards of people that claimed it was their right to forget the terrors that had happened to them.
The other party couldn’t allow it for a different reason. Although they claimed to sympathize, they claimed it would ruin the criminal justice system. Imagine if a witness could forget a crime they had seen, how would someone ever get convicted again? As terrible an event a person may have been put through, if they couldn’t repeat their testimony years later, for the Thoughtball had removed it, then how could they in good faith let any conviction based on eyewitnesses alone stand? They claimed it was a sad conundrum. They also pointed out that criminals with access could force eyewitnesses to take it and recant any testimony – it’d be far cleaner than killing the person.
With both parties in opposition, yet its use still widespread, it became an unenforced substance. Nobody talked about it, but everyone knew about it.
And then came the deaths, mentioned before. Thoughtball had another use. It could also be used to transfer memories. A black market appeared for those who would buy the memories and feelings of others. You had the downtrodden buying memories of those who were rich and famous and had good-looking spouses. You had people reliving in their minds things that they could never have dreamed of before. But not everyone got what they were looking for. Those who were depressed both bought and sold memories as well. Those in sorrow would pay for the feeling of someone else’s happiness.
And some sold their sorrow to a certain group, which paid well for something that it was assumed no one would purchase. It was an addiction those most vulnerable in society were most susceptible to.
The group sold “happiness” at a low rate, raking in the money. Then they’d move on to another area, as over the next few days the rate of suicide in a particular city would jump. Selling sorrowful, painful, depressive memories under the guise of “happiness” to those already depressed served as a cruel way to make a quick buck and also make sure the customer doesn’t come around later to ask about their product.
At first the connection isn’t seen, but the hero comes across it when investigating a certain suicide, something about it hadn’t added up. Even with the sudden jumps in death the police weren’t apt to look into it, as each death was legitimately suicide.
Rumors of tainted Thoughtball were around, but they stayed rumors.
After all this setup there’s still a question of how the plot progresses, but we can see from here on it’s a matter of circumstances and investigations that our hero will have to go through until finally blowing the lid off the Thoughtball sorrow scheme.
Once public people stop using it casually, and law enforcement starts taking its illegal status seriously.
That would be too easy an ending, so…
Does everyone just pop a new Thoughtball and forget it all?
Does our main character, even though all he’s discovered about the possible abuses, still decide to succumb to the temptation to forget his own troubles, both past and recent?
Does anything actually change, or is it just another example of a useful product that ends up being abused by those who would take advantage of others anyways?
Should any of the questions above be meaningful in the story and actually be answered, or should they all just hang in the air as the audience ponders what they would do in such a world?