Dev awoke in the darkness of the early morning. The room was so quiet one could almost hear the tear of his eyelids opening. He didn’t move for some time. He listened to the silence and allowed his pupils to dilate enough for the darkness to form shapes. The sharp pinch of his bladder caused Dev to sigh and rise slowly from the bed. He shuffled to the bathroom, his right toe smashing against the nightstand. He cursed loudly and hopped the rest of the way. The sensors picked up the movement as he entered and the lights clicked to life. Dev quickly closed his eyes as the bright electronic glow assaulted his now darkness-honed vision.
He blindly flailed about, his hands finding the sink and toilet. Not taking any chances on blind aim, he sat down. As the pressure blissfully lifted, Dev slowly opened his eyes to the buzzing fluorescent glow. Rust-stained sink, shower large enough for him to stand in but not bend over, cracked and peeling linoleum floor, wilted and fungus dotted wallpaper. Check, check, and check.
He slowly rose from the porcelain throne, the sensors registered the movement and set the toilet to choke the water down in a torrential gulp. He rinsed his hands under a pitiful dribble of water and stared back at the broken reflection. Eyes red and bagged, a prickly carpet of black fuzz covering his mouth and jaw, and greasy hair jutting out in multiple angles as if it was trying to escape his head.
Dev could only sigh at the broken reflection. With slumped shoulders he left the bathroom and went back to bed. The lights didn’t turn on in here. Those he needed to command verbally or even physically if he wanted to walk to the switch on the wall. He decided to sit in the dark and wait to see if his feelings would work on their own.
As the minutes turned to hours with not even a glimmer of hope entering his conscience, Dev sighed again and decided to feed his rumbling stomach. The growls audibly echoed off the walls and intensified as he approached his food dispenser. He grabbed the only bowl he possessed and placed it under the tube. Pressing the large red button that would turn the machine on and churn the contents into an edible paste, Dev noticed the bowl still had dried moldy food in it. Cursing, he tossed the bowl into the sink and grabbed the next available container he saw. There was a coffee cup with about a third of the black liquid resting at the bottom. He quickly dumped the cold coffee into the sink and brought it under the dispenser just in time.
He brought the overflowing cup back to bed and placed it on the nightstand which was now askew from his toe’s earlier assault. He gave himself a little more time to see if any emotions would start to peak above the emptiness he currently felt.
Dev was awoken by loud knocking at his apartment door. His neck was sore from his head being slumped forward and he winced as he quickly turned his attention to the banging. He wiped a trail of drool from his mouth and glanced over at the coffee cup. A thin skin had hardened over the exposed surface of the food paste. He shrugged internally, telling himself he wasn’t even that hungry despite the protests of his roaring stomach.
The banging never stopped, as he rose from the bed and walked to the visibly vibrating door. He flicked the sliding deadbolt and the heavy knocking ceased. Taking a deep breath, Dev turned the handle and opened the door. His eyes did not need to adjust to any new foreign light as the bulb above his door burst months ago. Standing before him was a tall slender man with a smile almost too big to fit on his face.
“Good evening, Mr. Mallard,” the giant grin said. Dev was certain this man had too many teeth. “My name is Charles Wendell Bryant and I am inquiring about your stimulation status.”
Dev squinted slightly in confusion. “My what?” he asked through dry parched lips.
“We at Emotion Enterprises noticed you haven’t been ordering your usual dosage of HAPPY.” The tall man’s multiple teeth slightly ground together in this frustrated grin. “This concerns us greatly, as we at Emotion Enterprises take great care in our client’s well being. Why…a man with your…” he searched for words as his eyes looked past Dev and into what must look to be absolute squalor. “Let’s call it, current situation…why you seem to be the embodiment of what HAPPY wishes to eradicate.”
Dev’s head hurt. This jabbering and nagging thing was white noise. He wished he could bring up enough anger to tell the man off but he just ended up being sad he couldn’t bring himself to show any emotion. “Fuck off,” was all he could mutter and tried to close the door.
The tall man’s foot kept it from shutting. A long slender arm snaked through the opening and placed a small black bottle on the counter. When the arm was back on the other side the foot slipped away and the door closed with a loud thud. “Despite what you might think, Mr. Mallard, we at Emotion Enterprises do care about you. That bottle contains our newest iteration of HAPPY. Twice as strong and lasts for a full 48 hours. Free of charge, of course. Give it a spin and simply reach out to us if you wish to procure more.”
Dev was already back in bed. He had returned to his previous spot and his eyes drifted to the bottle on the countertop. Despite the headache and his empty stomach, he layed back down and drifted off to sleep.
Guaranteed pure unfiltered happiness for 48 hours or your money back!
Nausea, Dizziness, Diarrhea, Migraines, Nightmares, Insomnia, Depression, Suicidal Thoughts
Dev looked over the label several times. His eyes hovered over the side effects longer than the description. “What’s the fucking point?” he asked nobody. A sharp pain stabbed his stomach and he realized though he might be severely depressed he wasn’t going to let himself starve. Not feeling like cleaning any of his utensils or dishes, it was time to go out and grab a bite. He weakly rose from the bed and threw on some clothes. They didn’t smell fresh and clean but they also didn’t smell like sweat and body odor. A fair compromise, in his opinion.
He luckily avoided running into any neighbors or even a vagrant trying to get some sleep in the apartment vestibule. Once he made it outside he knew why. It was hot. The kind of heat that made his clothes instantly stick to his now sweating skin. The tenants of his building were staying put in their air-conditioned apartments and the homeless were probably going underground into the miles of deserted subway tunnels. Dev had a taste for a cheap tofu and soy slice of “pizza” but that would be about a mile hike. He chose the noodle stand on the corner of his block instead.
The vendor was not one for small talk which suited Dev just fine considering how he was feeling or the lack of feeling. Dev pointed a finger at the picture of order number one. Just a plain bowl of tofu noodles and what tasted like a chicken broth. He shook his head as the vendor pointed at different additions like mushrooms and green onions. The vendor gave a sour look and passed the steaming bowl to Dev. He looked for napkins and chopsticks but saw none. When he pointed at the empty receptacles, the vendor shrugged.
Dev brought his newly purchased food to a nearby bench, alternating the bowl between each hand as it became too hot to hold. He instantly regretted taking a sip as the heat of the day helped him ingest steaming broth and warm dripping sweat. He placed the bowl next to him, deciding to let the noodles cool off. His left hand unintentionally slipped into his pants pocket and pulled out a small black bottle.
Dev stared at the faded label, his thumb sliding over the letters as he read the inscriptions over and over. Laughter snapped him back to reality and he spotted a young couple across the street arms locked together. They were pointing at different signs and landmarks saying a letter and then saying the word the letter began with. As they rounded the corner, Dev could hear them arguing who spotted the letter “W” first followed by more laughter.
When Dev looked down at his hands, the bottle had been opened and a single pill lay in his open right palm. He didn’t remember doing that. He could definitely say he watched the couple with jealousy but not enough to force him to consider the drugs. He wasn’t fine, but he also wasn’t suicidal. Sure, he wondered sometimes if it would just be better to walk into traffic, but he wouldn’t ever do that. Maybe sometimes when he layed in bed he wondered if the exposed rafters were structurally sound enough to hold his weight. The rusted and cracked bars would occasionally respond that there was only one way to find out. They didn’t actually talk but Dev knew that’s what they would say.
The pill was in his mouth, his tongue rolling it around and his teeth experimentally pressing down on the malleable casing. Once again, no memory of putting it there. Dev thought about how easy it would be to feel happy. Just bite and swallow. Less than ten seconds later and he could be skipping down the street whistling a tune. Or, it doesn’t work and he feels worse. His mind flashed to the word “Depression” and “Suicidal Thoughts” on the bottle’s label. Dev didn’t trust suicidal Dev.
He spits the pill back into the small bottle he was still clutching in his hand. Dev then picks up the bowl of noodles next to him and swallows the now tepid food in two loud slurps. He drops the black bottle into the empty wet bowl and dumps them both in a nearby trash can. Dev walks back towards his apartment complex and continues on once he gets to the entrance. Despite the heat, he decides to take a walk. As he drifts slowly further away, shaking the thoughts of throwing himself in front of a bus or continuing until he hits the bridge overlooking the river, Dev chuckled.
He passed an android missing its lower half and holding a sign asking for credits. He dug a single chip from his right pocket and placed it into a mechanical hand with strips of synthetic skin peeling off at the wrist. The android nodded, servos grinding and its voice box sparking. Dev just held up a hand, keeping it from burning itself out. The android stopped trying to thank him and leaned back against the wall. He felt a smile crack his lips.
As the light of the sun faded, Dev continued to walk. He stopped and helped push-start a stalled kinetic taxi, he let an elderly woman, ancient corded implants running across her face and neck, place her arm through his and led her across a busy intersection. He stopped and watched a street performer use his modified eye implants to project a black and white silent film onto an old brick building while twisting and gyrating to a tinny stream of music coming from a nearby rusted soundbox.
When the light of the day was gone and the solar-panel fueled street lights winked to life, Dev came across a small white building that immediately caught his interest. There was only one sign posted above the door that simply read ALL ARE WELCOME. Dev was intrigued. Watching a few disheveled and slump-shouldered figures pass him and enter the doorway made him even more curious.
He soon realized a woman was standing behind him watching. Dev gave a half-hearted smile. She smiled back. “Are you coming in?” she asked. Her clothes were in tatters and her pink hair was not what most would call combed.
Dev looked back at the door and then at the mystery woman. “I don’t know,” he answered.
She smiled, old makeup cracking at the corner of her lips. “All are welcome,” she answered with a smile that showed streaks of red on her teeth.
“Is it therapy? AA?” Dev asked.
“It’s what you make of it. You don’t have to talk or even stay.” She walked past him and stopped at the door. She gave one final glance and said, “All are welcome” and disappeared into the building.
Dev didn’t move. He thought about the woman, he thought about the android, he thought about the black bottle he tossed into the garbage, and he thought about himself. Dev didn’t know what to expect. He had no expectation to walk through that door and be cured. But, he knew that he needed something. Dev knew that there was something keeping him from feeling. With a heavy but hopefully sigh, Dev walked through the door.