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The Happiness Pill
They dreamed of a world with no sorrow. There was no suffering that could not be soothed. No tears that could not be dried. They conceived the idea of a pill. A quick fix to all the problems that existed. Sunshine would spill from every corner.
They went about and collected all things that made happiness. Contentment, passion, sunshine, joy, lightness. They threw them all together and melted them down. They put the pale yellow miracle into molds. They had created the Happiness pill.
The first to take it was a mother. She would sit in the dark with the shutters drawn closed like her leaky eyes. Her baby would cry and her nose dripped. She was desperate. And the miracle pill offered hope. It was not perfect then, so while she no longer felt pain, she no longer felt much else but a pearly white lightness.
Her pale eyes watched the sun arch across the sky. Her baby wailed but she could not find anything in herself to care. The milky whiteness ate at her until she was nothing but dreamy smiles and reflected sunlight.
They mixed it again. “Less contentment this time.” They said. “It was too soft.” So, they halved the contentment and added a touch more sunshine. This time the pill was a brilliant yellow that almost matched the sun
It was given away again, this time to a young man. A dark emptiness with teeth and claws had built its nest in his chest. It was slowly growing and building its nest larger and larger. He was drowning and the pill was white light on the surface of the water.
It worked. For a while.
The pill had shown a bright sunshine into the bleakness that was devouring him. It had driven out the emptiness. But the small sun that had settled between his ribs began to infect his head. He was laughter and he no longer knew fear. He wanted to taste the sun and the Happiness inside him whispered that he could fly. So, he climbed and climbed until blueness was all around him. He stood with his toes wiggling over the edge and he imagined himself still on the ground. He looked up at the sun and could smell its fire.
The Happiness whispered again. “You can fly!”
So, he lept. He spread his arms like wings.
The Happiness lied again. “Feel the wind under your feathers? You soar!”
Like a bird with a broken wing he fell. The ground reached up and he broke against its surface. The Happiness laughed.
“There was too much sunshine”, they said. “It was too bright, too powerful.” So, they took a third of the sunshine and added a sprinkle of passion. The pill was almost orange and it smelled like a sunburst.
A daughter came this time. She was broken and alone. Sadness poured over her like rain and her dreams spilled over with broken glass and red. She was empty of anything but sweeping waves of sorrow. The kitchen was lacking her mother’s soft voice and the living room was empty of her father’s strong arms. She was swallowed by grief and loneliness and the pill was a rope of light out of the darkness.
At first the pill cleared her mind and she slept at night. She was lit by passion and grief could not touch her. She did not feel the emptiness of her home. The Happiness did not let her.
It took longer this time but eventually the Happiness took over and she could not focus. She could not dim the light inside of herself enough to sleep. Her mind buzzed and she could not find the time to eat. She slowly withered away and madness ate at her mind.
The Happiness spoke softly to her. “You do not need food, your accomplishments will feed you. You do not need sleep, your work will revive you.”
She worked until her eyes bled tears and her fingers shook. She worked until she was nothing but hopes and dripping bones.
“Hmmmm”, they said. “There was too much passion.” They began to worry that they could not heal the world, that their pill would not fix anything. They left only a hint of passion and threw in a good helping of lightness. The pill was pale again.
A student asked for the pill this time. He was drowning in worries and his schoolwork was strangling him. His hands shook and his mind lied to him. His heart ran too fast and his lungs would not fill. His mouth would not shape words and his stomach would tie itself into knots.
The pill saved him. He took it and he could breathe again. Words followed like a stream from his lips. His stomach sat in stillness and his mind no longer lied. A lightness filled him and he floated above the worries that had been drowning him.
But that lightness soon became too powerful. He no longer knew worry and he lost the rationality that guided him. His tongue held back no cruelty and words crashed from his lips. His mind wandered and his feet followed. He could not see danger and he did not know fear’s name. He tasted all of the world he could and the Happiness told him that he was safe.
He was walking on light and it soon shattered. He could not taste the darkness that approached him. It swallowed him and he was nothing but a glimmering shadow.
“Will we ever succeed?” They worried, “how do we kill the darkness? How would the lightness not win?” They took away much of the lightness and poured joy into every empty space. The pill was a bright happy yellow.
“All we have left is joy.” They whispered.
A girl came and she begged. She could not control the inky blackness that seeped through her. It had its fingers sunk into her skull and she could not shake free. It had a foot in her mouth and she was choking. She was sticky with darkness and her eyes leaked nightmares. She could not breathe. She was breaking and no one saw.
She took the pill and it worked. The blackness receded and the light did not blind her. It was balanced and she could breathe. The Happiness mended her. It was glue on her edges and tape over her seams.
The Happiness replaced the darkness’s claws on her skin. It whispered away all her troubles. It did not kill her like it had those before her. She did not feel sadness.
They had done it. They had defeated sorrow. They held the cure for the world. They had power and they would wield it.
They sent the Happiness pill everywhere. Everyone was given one. The world no longer knew sadness.
The boy still had tears drying on his skin. His lips were still wet with salt and his eyes were still circled in pinky-red. Darkness did not invade him but sadness had settled on his skin like ashes. Sorrow was blowing around his fingers and through his hair. He was not drowning but his ankles were chilled by water.
His mother handed him a bit of yellow light. It was gentle on his palm. He licked his lips and looked into his mother’s eyes. They were soft but they did not hold any understanding.
“Would you like a glass of water? Or do you want to swallow it dry?” Her voice was gentle but empty.
“Water, please.” His voice was harsh and rasping. She turned away from him and his throat clenched. “Do you feel sad? Anymore, I mean. After you take it?”
She stopped and looked back at him. “No.”
“Do you always feel happy?”
She paused and a look of confusion passed over her face. “Of course you feel happy. It’s the Happiness pill.” She left.
The pill looked so dull and lifeless in his fingers. It killed sadness but did it give happiness? Why was sadness so evil that it had to be killed? This heaviness in his chest was not so awful.
His mother returned. She sat next to him and handed him the glass of water. It felt smooth and unbreakable in his fingers. Light glinted off the water. The pill in his hand felt warm and rough.
“Take it before the sadness becomes too awful.” She seemed nervous.
“Okay.” He set the pill on his tongue. He put the glass to his lips and swallowed. It went down his throat thickly and the water swished in his stomach. Warmth like a small sun heated in his chest. It leaked down his arms and into his fingers. His head was light, it was a balloon. He swayed and his mother’s soft hands were on his shoulders, lying him down. The ceiling was moving like an ocean.
“Is the absence of sadness, happiness?” He whispered at the bright sun that had risen into his eyes. The Happiness smiled behind its golden fingers.