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.



“Dai… Sakura?”


My head jerked upwards at the mention of my name, even if it had been completely butchered by the security guard. Hundreds of eyes followed me as I rose from my seat and began my trek to the double doors positioned at the opposite end of the room, the dull silence blanketing the foyer broken only by my footsteps. Despite the weary smile of the female official who’d called my name, I couldn’t help but feel like a lamb being sent to slaughter.


The foyer was painted in bright, childlike blues and golds and decorated with deep purples and reds that gave you a thumping headache if you stared at them for too long. Originally a Government-controlled administrative building, roughly half of the city’s under 18s had been herded into its various rooms to await their examination, the building entirely too cheerful for the crowd’s leaden mood.


The moment we arrived in the Workers’ Pavilion my mother and father had been sent into an adjacent building on account of them being over 35, leaving me to take care of a little brother that had probably never gone more than two hours without a dose of BLISS. However, it seemed that the Government was intent on splitting us all up, because he’d been sent to the infant quarters almost immediately after we’d entered our allocated building, leaving me alone in a sea of morbid teenagers suffering from extreme withdrawals.


As I continued forwards, my limbs feeling heavy yet oddly weightless at the same time, a shrill, panicky scream echoed throughout the neighbouring room, followed by a few shouted orders and a dull, ominous thump. I could almost picture the figure of a mother, desperate and hysterical, as she cried out for the child who’d been taken away from her, pushing her way past guards and examiners as she fought to catch one last glimpse of her son or daughter. I grimaced, trying not to let the faceless woman in my imagination take on the form of my own mother.


“Let’s hurry it up, Dai. We’ve got lots of other kids to test today,” the guard called out, her mouth pulled into a seemingly permanent frown. I knew that low-level guards and officials didn’t take BLISS so that their minds were sharp enough to carry out orders without relying on outside help, but it looked as if the woman craved the drug more than anything else right now.


There was nothing I could do as I passed the now bored-looking guard and stepped through the automatic doors, my vision blurring as yet more tears pooled behind my closed eyelids. Blinking away the moisture, I jumped as the doors slid shut behind me, sealing me off from the silent waiting room and the occasional anguished scream.


The corridor that lay before me was a harsh yellow and lit with bright fluorescent strips, which wasn’t exactly easy on the eyes. It took a few moments of getting adjusted to, but once it seemed safe to look at the walls I began to move again, passing countless bolted doors and strange alcoves covered with tasteless green curtain. The desperation that coursed through my veins would have driven me to try and force one of the doors open or hide in an alcove had I not spotted the security cameras dotted at intervals along the ceiling, whirring quietly to themselves as they followed me down the hallway.


I finally reached the intersection at the end of the corridor as it branched off to my left and right, leaving a single door directly in front of me. Black tape cordoned off both branches of corridor, obviously meaning for me to open the door looming before me. This was finally happening, and I didn’t feel a thing. I had at least expected to break down into tears or collapse in a trembling heap on the floor, but now that the examination was upon me I couldn’t feel a damn thing. All I could do now was twist the doorknob, enter the room and wait for this nightmare to end.


What happened next, however, was not entirely expected. The first thing I noticed was the chair in the centre of the room. Resembling a dentist’s chair for all intents and purposes, it was probably the nicest piece of furniture I’d seen all day - a lovely shade of pale cream and upholstered with smooth leather - which was why it was such a shame that the headrest was stained a deep crimson.


The second thing I saw was my examiner. Well, the corpse of him, anyway. He seemed to be around thirty years old, with shoulder-length hair, a small tattoo on his right hand and a silver-hilted knife protruding from his neck. There was one awful moment where I was frozen in place, my brain still registering what my eyes were drinking in, before I began to scream.


“Shut the fuck up!”


My shrieks were promptly stifled by a rough hand clapping firmly over my mouth and yanking me in the shadows of the room, an accompanying arm snaking around my waist and lifting my lanky body into the air as if it was made of dust. Panic and complete hysteria took root in my brain, my limbs thrashing blindly from side to side as I fought to free myself from my attacker. Although I was still screaming myself hoarse nothing could be heard except a few muffled cries, my voice almost completely stifled by the mystery hand clamped over my mouth. I felt them hiss in silent pain as my heel connected with what I assumed to be their shin, my body tingling with triumph at the lucky shot. However, only moments later they pulled my head upwards to meet their lips, my ear tingling from the sudden warmth of their breath on my skin.

“Listen here, princess. I’m a Miserable, and you’re coming with me.”

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