BLISS

The world may be stricken with misery and suffering, but at least the blessed few who live inside the city are happy. With the invention of a revolutionary new antidepressant named BLISS, the Government can finally award happiness, compliance and coexistence to whoever uses it. Of course, it comes at a price - your free will.

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1. CHAPTER ONE // THE WALL THAT HOLDS US IN

Apparently, if you stand beside the deep lightning gashes on the Northern walls of the city and hold your breath, you’ll be able to hear the crying of the Miserables as they try and find an entrance or a handhold that they can use to climb up. Of course, it’s just an old wives’ tale that parents use to make sure their children don’t venture into the cracks and crush themselves in the unstable stone barriers, but I’ve always wondered if there’s any truth to the story.

 

    Sometimes, when I can’t sleep at night and the creature in my belly feels as if it’s about to gnaw through my stomach lining and rip apart my flesh, I’ll slide down the drainpipe beside my bedroom window and take as many right turns as I can until I reach the splinters in the wall. I never say it out loud, but sometimes I worry that the Government will find out I’m a freak and throw me out of the city to live with the Miserables, wandering the uninhabitable outskirts in a perpetual state of sadness and confusion.

 

    I know I shouldn’t feel like this; that the crushing on my windpipe and the grinding in my mind is freakish and I’m a defective problem child. I’m painfully aware that the monster in my chest shouldn’t exist and it shouldn’t try to claw through my ribcage every time someone says something careless or rude. BLISS should make all the pain and misery and confusion disappear, leaving my mind sparkly and clean and numb, just like everyone else’s. I used to be glad for my uniqueness, glad that I still had a small part of my identity and free will intact, but now I would rather become nothing more than a smiling, dribbling carcass if it meant the sirens in my skull would go away.  

 

    “What’re you doing out here, Saku?”

 

I turned, pulling my hand away from the decrepit stone as if it had suddenly turned into lava and burned my fingers. My pulse hammered against my skin as I swallowed hard; I was breaking curfew again, and if the police caught me I’d be in serious trouble.

 

    “Oh, thank God, Erris, I thought you were the police,” I sighed, my voice trembling only slightly as I turned my back on him once more. I could hear him breathing only a few yards behind me, but I couldn’t bring myself to meet his eyes. Not when I was like this.

 

    “You always seem to forget that I live ‘round here. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen you on your nightly wanders, Saku,” he pointed out, his voice lighter than I suspected he really felt. A cold, harsh bark of a laugh escaped my lips and I almost felt like crying, but I held it together. Barely.

 

    “Why did you follow me, Erris?” I asked, the words nothing more than a whisper carried away by the wind. He seemed to have heard me, however, because after a pause of deliberation he managed to answer.

 

    “I… I wanted to know if you’re okay, Saku. People say things about you behind your back, ever since that thing in junior year and I just… I just wanted to make sure.”

I laughed again, the sound harsh and alien on my tongue as I finally tore my eyes away from the impenetrable wall of stone and rubble before me. Smiling, I met Erris’ troubled gaze, watching silently as his expression changed from confusion to terror to something between relief and satisfaction.

 

    “Let them talk, Erris. We both know I’m not some sort of werewolf that sheds its skin and howls at the fucking moon whenever it’s not completely doped up with happy drug, so what does it matter that they all think I am. I just get a little crazy some nights, and the fresh air helps me when I can’t sleep. It’s nothing BLISS can’t fix, right? I’m sure everyone in this city is halfway fucked up in the head, and are only still here because of our own little antidepressant that makes them nice and compliant and happy enough not to get carted away to a correctional centre. You have a bad mood too, right? BLISS fixes it, right? Exactly. BLISS fixes everything.”  

 

    Erris let his features relax into a smile as my words faded into silence, striding across the dusky grass and closing the space between us before I could think twice. I returned his gesture with a crooked half-smile of my own, letting him press our palms together as he pulled me away from the wall and the Miserables and all my stupid dysfunctional thoughts. He was too trusting and gentle and took one too many BLISS pills in the morning, but my idiot of a best friend was the only person I’d ever met who could make me feel like a normal girl, even if it was just for a moment.

 

    “Do you want me to walk you home?” Erris asked as we made our way up the gentle incline and began to head towards the city’s outskirts, his fingers still tangled between mine. I knew he lived near here so I let him lead the way, strangely glad for the unexpected company.

 

As he glanced back at me with raised eyebrows, his face bathed silver from the moonlight, I was suddenly grateful that neither of us had fallen in love with each other. I needed Erris as a permanent best friend, not a temporary lover. I nodded my confirmation before he could start to give me funny looks, letting him take me along a route that wouldn’t get us spotted by any nosey civilians fancying themselves as neighbourhood watchmen or impromptu police officials.


I felt only the slightest twinge of guilt at having to lie about the extent of my disorder to Erris, even though I knew he wouldn’t think any differently of me for it. I just knew that he was bound to let it slip someday because he was human after all, and it only took the smallest of pushes to send me tumbling into a spectacular downwards spiral. The truth was, the effects of BLISS were starting to fade quicker every day, leaving me unstable for longer periods of time. I was already taking three times the recommended legal dosage of the goddamned drug, and it looked like I was going to have to increase it. I wonder how many happy pills it takes to make a person go insane?

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