Happy Pills

Alicia wrung the box in her hands like a towel. She looked at the floor. The doctor across the desk stared at Alicia’s forehead. The blister pack within the box spoke up, singing the mournful song of autumns come and gone, plastic crackling and pills rattling in time with footsteps through a foliage-stricken trail.

“Do you have any questions?” said the doctor. Alicia kept eye contact with the floor. A moment elapsed.

“Are these happy pills?” said Alicia.

“Not quite,” said the doctor. “They’re more like regular pills. They might not make you happy, but they can make it easier for you to not feel sad as often.” Alicia continued playing with the box.

“Regular pills,” she said.

“Usually we don’t prescribe them to young people, but your mother and I agreed that you’re mature enough to try.”

She set the box down and looked at the doctor. “Isn’t regular what happens naturally? I don’t want to change.”

“The brain is a complex organ, you see…”

“I do see. What if this is how I’m supposed to be?”

“No one’s condemned to be a certain way,” said the doctor.

“But what if someone wants to be who they are, for better or worse? What about people who just want to be sad?” said Alicia.

I Can Hear Them

I wonder about the nature of photographs. Are they dead representations of life, or living images of a dead moment? Before the accident, I never had time to think about such things. Now all I can do is think.

They don’t respond when I scream. They shine lights in my eyes and talk as if I can’t hear them. Well, I can hear them. They set photos on the table by my side, the dog, the kids, my wife, and point my head in that direction. I’ve memorized every detail in those frozen artifacts. I see them when I sleep. It helps me think of my situation less, but after the staff directs my vision back to the ceiling, I’m back to my regular despair.

Am I a dead body with a living mind? Or am I a living personality with a dead person? I have plenty of time to ponder that. Either way, I’ve decided that if I ever get out of here, the first thing I’m going to do is buy a camera.

Anniversary

“Happy Anniversary, sweetheart.” Charlie sat at the table, wearing a grin. “The suit you got me was a big hit. Danielle at the reception desk said I looked ten years younger!”

“How rude,” Gina said, sitting down. “Why would she lie like that? And right to your face!”

Simmons Tune Device

“Try it on,” said Dad. “It’s not that heavy.” I stepped forward and he pounced. He put the helmet on my head and twisted some knobs. “See, it’s like a radio hat!” he said. I crossed my eyes, trying to look at the thing. Dad hurried to the closet and grabbed the camera. He ambushed me with snaps from all directions. Smooth jazz wafted from my temples.

“Dad, I look stupid,” I said.

“Bah,” said Dad. “You look great. Like a real rad modern kid, to use the parlance.” No rad person ever said “parlance.” I glanced at the mirror, confirming that I looked as dumb as I felt.

“Can’t I get a Walkman?”

“Why be a follower, when you can be on the ground floor of the cutting-edge?” Dad kept taking pictures. I cringed. “All the kids have those Walking-Men. You’re the first to have a Simmons Tune Device!”

“I want a Walkman,” I said. A vein bulged in Dad’s forehead, but he swallowed the anger. “I like this. It’s just weird.”

“It won’t be so weird when every kid is begging for an S.T.D. for Christmas! And when we’re living in a villa in Hawaii because of it.”

“I told you, Dad, I like it here. Besides, how would I see Mom if we lived in Hawaii?”

“Let’s worry about that later, ok, son?”

Dad snatched up the hat and donned it himself.

“The trade show starts in an hour. You stay put and watch some TV. And get to bed at a decent time, I’m going to be back late. There’s ten bucks on the table for a pizza.”

Wall of Dreams

We’re going to build the wall. A wall of dreams. It’s going to be fifty feet tall and we’re all going to pay for it. We’re building it to keep the monsters in, safe with us. Everyone is going to contribute what they can. Some will weave sections out of memories and fantasies. Others will use their hatred to weld pieces together, or their love to mortar the bricks in place. If any light comes through a crack, we’ll spackle it up so the sun stays above us forever. Either that, or we’ll cover the holes with posters made of our most sacred pages. We’re all going to build this, and we’re all going to own it. Cuddled tight with the monsters, we’ll work day and night until we’ve created a prison yard out of our freedom. Then we’ll all get into sleeping bags, and smile as rays melt our faces.

Listing #45808

Position Title: Content Filter, Grade III

Position Type: Exempt Government Non-Union

Available: Immediately

Reports To: Division Supervisor; various Corporate Benefaction Liaisons as necessary

Salary: $70,00 annually (middle-class plus tier) with eligibility for benefits, including Federal Medicharge, after one year of service

Description: Join one of the fastest growing tech industries and serve your country at the same time! The United States Department of Civil Data and Corrections is seeking qualified applicants for available monitoring and redirection positions. Ideal candidates will have a passion for narrative advancement, a keen sense of fidelity, and a desire to maintain the status quo at all times.

Responsibilities:

  • content filtering for up to 20 control-mandated cases
  • removal of undesirable seeds
  • newsfeed scrubbing
  • viable re-creation of unapproved materials
  • redirection to proper follows and likes

Requirements:

  • Degree in Social Media Architecture, Network Monitoring, or a related field
  • 3-5 years’ experience working with control-mandated individuals
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  • Dirt world alias training preferred

*Background check, drug/alcohol screening, and loyalty pledge MANDATORY*

THE USDCDSC IS AN EQUAL-OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER OF ALL CITIZENS WITH A PATRIGRADE SCORE OF 150 OR GREATER.

Pests

“There’s another one, kill it!” the wife said, sprinting up the stairs. Her husband peered up from his newspaper and chuckled. He rolled the paper into a tube and headed for the basement. “Don’t laugh,” she said. “It was huge!”

He went downstairs and spotted it in a corner. The creature cowered and froze in place. He watched it for a moment. His wife would scream if she even touched a creature’s sweater, as scientists called it. She just called it bug skin. His mouth formed a straight line. Sometimes one must kill for love.

The husband tightened his grip around the newspaper, wound up, and smashed the pest. He looked down at the paper. His wife was right; it was a big one.