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.



The only thing worse than feeling everything at once is feeling nothing at all, I had decided. I almost missed the manic frenzy of emotions I had grown so familiar with; I almost wished to feel sadness or despair or the creeping doubt that I despised so much just one last time. It seemed, however, that the universe extracted some sort of twisted pleasure from the cruel and sadistic irony of my situation, as all I could ever - can ever - feel is harrowing fatigue and the numb, bittersweet almost-something you'd imagine you would feel in the moments before you died. Maybe I'm overthinking this entirely, but what else are you supposed to do when you're chained to yourself in a padded cell except from wonder why you're even there in the first place? 


But of course, I know why I'm here. The cruelest, most callous thing of all is that if I'd only felt this gaping, salient void of nothingness back in the city I wouldn't even be here in here listening as my companions, my fellow patients, slowly descend into their own personal variant of hell.


It's a curious thing, but I'm sure if someone asked me now what insanity feels like I would be able to supply them with enough information to last a lifetime. The entire English language couldn't encompass the dull, sallow horror of pure craziness; I'm not sure even my native tongue would be able to supply a word or phrase sufficient to the ocean of rancid terror and hatred bubbling in my chest. I could give you sounds and sights and smells though; oh, the stink of sweat and tears and grease clinging to your skin that you're not permitted to scrub yourself clean of; how it makes you want to tear your flesh away and start anew because you're certain the filth is going to seep into your blood and bone and taint you from the inside out; the sight of white, alabaster, ivory, silver, pearl, chalk, snow; the colour that used to represent purity but is now just the dirtiest, filthiest, most disgusting thing you've ever laid eyes on; the sound of your own heartbeat and breathing, frustratingly regular and completely ordinary and the constant barrage of what-if-what-if-what-if; what-if-my-heart-stopped-beating, what-if-my-breaths-stopped-coming, what-if-I-was-saved, what-if-I-never-am, what-if-I-die-here, what-if-I-don't. 


I honestly had no idea how long I'd actually been locked up in this cage and left to rot like a corpse on the highway. I'd tried keeping track at first, scratching tally marks into my arm to count the days, but it was difficult when there was no natural lighting in the cell and all my meals were delivered at random points in the day, as if the place actually wanted me to forget. Now I just dug into my skin for fun and sport or to try and punish this useless prison of a body, maybe. All I knew was that the dried blood on the floor of my cell did nothing to lighten the mood. 


I could only guess at two or three months, then, when things finally started to happen. I'd gotten very good at distinguishing screams, you see - the wardens liked to use us as playthings or stress balls, relieving weeks of pent-up tension on a half-crazed Miserable, so I'd heard plenty of wails and cries around here - so I knew that this particular one was unusual. I almost looked up. 


Then three gunshots rang out in the static quiet of the centre, steady and fast and very, very close. Was that...? No. Or was it? Excitement? Fear? Maybe. Finally. I tried to reach out, to twist and cradle and wrench back the flickers of somethings that burned weakly at the edges of my consciousness, but they escaped before I could solidify them and make them my own. Oh well. 


Heavy footsteps, running towards my cell, and light, distracted muttering. Not a warden. Please not a warden. No. I would scream. I would fight this time, I promised myself I would. I would rather eat myself alive. No no no no no NO. Please. Please please please please - 


The cell door burst open after a few dull thumps, the hinges rattling with the force of the blows. I looked up, raking my gaze over the sheen of leather boots and black material and grey eyes, as cold and impassive as in my dreams except - 


Hmm. Curious. But not now. 


She ripped off the bandana with a hand that may have been trembling and tried to move forwards. She stumbled once then righted herself again, rigid as a flagpole. A soft mouth, a kind mouth, lips pulled into a hard line. Creases around her eyes, worry lines carved into her brow. Here she was again. I almost laughed. 


"We have to stop meeting like this, you know," she whispered. The something in her voice made me feel like things might be okay again. 

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