Seventeen Seconds

Initial pain, hatred, sadness caused by another human being only lasts roughly seventeen seconds, after that all emotion felt is caused by our minds subconscious as a defence and survival mechanism, ourselves hurting ourselves. But imagine a world where this no longer applies, where a pill you took surpressed these feelings; sadness, depression and grief lasting not weeks, months or years, but only seventeen seconds; a world no longer controlled or infulenced by past emotions. What would it be like? Paradise? Eutopian? What if something went wrong, what if during those seventeen seconds the emotion you felt was mutliplied by how long you had been holding them back, what then?

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2. Dinner

"August 24, 2035
They said it was humanity's cure, a fix to all of our problems. A miracle remedy. Something to be grateful for. I saw it as just another pill to keep the working class working and the rich to get richer. A treatment to create slaves and a corruption of all what it meant to be human. I never took it, I refused, until I was forced when I was fifteen like everybody else, as was law, but like a handful of my friends we only pretended to take them. Only then would they leave us alone. Four years on and I'm still pretending, and as the whole world dies around me I for one am glad I did. I've kept my humanity, and this diary will be my legacy, and charter the destruction of those closest to me, those who believed their words, and took their pill, and fell victim to its effects. This record shall..."
 
Hanna stopped writing. She put her pen down; a gift from her uncle, a Parker sonnet stainless steel fountain pen with six cartridges, and gazed at her leather bound writing book. She couldn't write any more today, it had brought up too many memories. She closed the book for another day, sat on her bed and looked around her room.
It was a small damp room high in the attic of an abandoned house, Hanna and her family had made it here a few weeks prior to escape from the outside, hidden deep in the countryside, away from the world. Her room consisted of a small single person mattress pushed against the southern wall to create more space when it wasn't being used. The desk she sat at was originally found downstairs, leant up against the front door, a barricade from the outside, or perhaps trapping those already inside. Anyhow Hanna claimed it as hers the second they passed over the threshold. It was made from a deep red wood, mahogany perhaps but she couldn't be certain. Its flat top was covered in a green leather with beading around its edges and etch work on the wooden skirts. It was beautiful she thought immediately, and with finding beauty in the world being so rare she felt compelled to grab hold of it and never let go. It was a shame then, she mused, that she didn't grab more things, for other than the desk, the mattress and the broken chair on which she sat, there was nothing else of value. Just objects of memory and meaning that the old inhabitants had left behind, and assumed were not worth keeping. Broken toy dolls and picture frames, the faces on the pictures all but eaten away by the mites and the decay of life, a weathering of the world that only time can cause.

Her window was boarded up, it was safer this way, keep out the prying eyes of strangers. Not something that was necessary she knew as they were living out in the Styx, she put it down to habit for when they were living in the city. A time in her life that she originally tried hard to forget, but she couldn't, she didn't want to. To forget the ones we lost, she thought, is to discredit their existence, and in a hundred years no one will know of the hardships and the trouble that we all have gone through, unless I remember, write down their lives, only then will future historians know of the pain we've lived through, and the losses we've took.

A surge of inspiration flowed through her and she was about to delve back into her world of words and memories, but the sound of her mother calling her to dinner laid waste to that energy. With a sigh and a shake of her head she put down the pen once again, pushed her chair back under her elaborate desk and made for the spiral wooden stairs down to the dinning room. As she did every day, she would endure another meal with her family, under the light of a damaged candelabra, and shrouded in a thick dense atmosphere, palpable to the touch, as every word spoken had to be said without anger or sadness, nothing to set them off on their seventeen second rampage. As was the norm. 

The dinning room was as it always was, dark and cluttered with all kinds of useless artifacts left behind from whomever lived there last. A single bulb shone down from above, casting long dark shadows across the long oak dinning table, and leaving the food on the plates in darkness, which Hanna was oddly thankful for. It is a shame, she thought, that no matter how damp this room gets I can still smell Mother's cooking above it. She took her seat opposite her brother, Mark, and turned her nose up at the plate presented before her.

Her parents sat at the head of the table on either end and silently ingested the food, the odd clink of steel cutlery where the only noises to break the silence. Mark was sitting holding a dusty paperback book in one hand while negotiating the edible substances around his china plate with another. His eyes never left the words on the pages but no one seemed to be paying much attention to him, apart from Hanna who was straining to make out the title of the book past the thick layer of dust.

"Do and.. ..ream of ...ric.. eep?" Hanna attempted to make out the title but couldn't make heads or tails of it, "what are you reading? It looks old."

Mark didn't seem to hear her at first, but as he turned his current page he said, "'Do Android's Dream of Electric Sheep?' It is old, but its futuristic, so it's cool." Once more he became lost within the pages.

For Hanna it was strange seeing her younger brother so entranced by something other than tormenting her with small dead animals and gross bodily functions, she felt that he was finally growing up.

"Did you know," he continued not raising his eyes from the book, "that in here they have devices that can change mood? Like happy, content and even horny? I thought it was funny," he said with a grin, "it's sort of like our pills, they keep us happy. Don't they dad?"

"That's right son," the father said, again not raising his eyes from the his darkened plate and with about as much emotion as the 'animal' he was eating, "very happy." A noise of agreement came from the other end of the table where their mother sat, an unlit cigarette in her mouth as she always did, the last one of her last pack, more dear to her than anything else, but not as dear to her as her pills.

It was an unspoken rule never to ask how many pills they had left, it was a lot like having a ticking bomb in the house without any means to know how long it had left to blow, and no fail safe to disarm it if it ever went critical. That was how Hanna saw her family, ticking time bombs, inevitably running towards zero. Just like everybody else. No one even knew if CPC still produced the pill, no one was very sure of anything any more, everyone was living separate lives, civilization and society were dead.

Hanna suddenly had another wave of inspiration for her journal and left the table without another word or another bite and went back to her room, no one seemed to notice.

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