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.



Insanity. That’s what I fear more than anything in this world; the tendrils of madness creeping into my mind and slowly rotting my brain until I become a ghost of the child I once was. BLISS doesn’t bring me happiness, but it brings me relief, which is better than the alternative - go crazy and get transferred from the city to one of the correctional centres the government built in the South of America only a few years after BLISS had been perfected.


Ohayō, Sakura. Have you finished breakfast yet?”


Mother swept breezily into the kitchen as per usual, her demeanour as poised and professional as ever. Although most citizens in the city spoke English, this place was also a goldmine of cultural and ethnic diversities, with my family’s native language happening to be Japanese. Mother leant over the table and pressed a quick, hurried kiss against my cheek, her distinctive lemon and sea-salt scent lingering in the space between us for a moment.


“Have you taken your BLISS this morning, Sakura?” She asked after a moment’s pause, her suddenly strained gaze not quite meeting my eyes. I looked back down at the bowl of cereal in front of me and nodded, my fingers playing nervously with the now empty packet of pills in my lap. It was strange how quickly the mood could change in here.


“... and don’t forget to SMILE, people! Stay smiling, always!”


I could partially make out the chatter of the television presenters from the living room as Shion turned up the volume several notches, humming along with the cheerful jingles blaring out of the speakers. Mother frowned, her handsome face creasing as she strode into the living room, ready to lecture my little brother on the dangers of loud noises at close range. I sighed and shoved another spoonful of cornflakes into my mouth, waiting wearily for the effects of the BLISS I’d taken to kick in.


My mind began to wander back to last night and how Erris had found me beneath the Northern walls, just standing there and staring at the lightning cracks. Heat rose to my cheeks as I remembered how I’d acted, the strange words I’d said to him becoming more and more difficult to recall as BLISS began to numb my mind. I rubbed a hand across my eyes and rose to my feet, throwing the empty packet of BLISS into the trashcan and following Mother into the living room.


    Shion glanced up at me from his sprawling position in front of the TV, a toothy smile plastered across his face. A picture of a tall, dark-skinned woman flashed onto the screen, her mouth widening into a perfect grin as she held out some new teeth-whitening product for the viewer to observe.


    Oneesan! Time for school!” Shion declared, scrambling to his feet and tugging insistently at my wrist.


    “You shouldn’t let him lie like that, Mother. It’ll ruin his back,” I said, bundling Shion into a coat and ushering him out of the room. She murmured something in an agreeable sort of tone, already absorbed in her computer’s holographic screen and completely switched off from any and all outside distractions. Something bitter began to form in my mind, but as soon as I registered the words the thought simply vanished. Shrugging, I followed my little brother into the hallway, a tentative half-smile curling at my lips as I realised BLISS was starting to work once more.  




    I slumped down into my allocated seat, punching in the activation code on the underside of my desk that would automatically register me for the morning’s lessons. Once the flashing letters switched from ‘pending’ to ‘complete’, I tipped my chair backwards and swivelled round so I could properly face Erris.


    “Hey, you,” he remarked, his wide grey eyes focusing in on me. His movements were sluggish and robotic, as if I was watching him in slow-motion. My mouth broke into a customary grin without me even having to force it, an unexplainable surge of joy swelling in my chest as my eyes settled on his clean, innocent features.


    “Hey Erris… do you remember what happened last night?” I asked, a prickle of shame running down my spine. I’d been totally spoiled - no, miserable, last night, and I felt awful about it. I should feel awful about it.


    “Not really,” he replied, suddenly breaking into a spontaneous fit of laughter. I joined him a few moments later, my shoulders shaking as we laughed about something we barely even remembered. I understood that his amusement signalled the end of that particular branch of conversation, and didn’t question him any further.


    The casual hum of conversation died down as Mrs Fletcher hobbled into the room, her stick-like legs trembling atop bright blue kitten heels. She dumped a stack of old-fashioned admin papers onto her desk before turning to face the students, peering pensively at each of us in turn over the rims of thick, milk-bottle glasses.


    “Good morning, class. Now, before we begin, I have a few important announcements. First up, the Government is hosting its first annual mental stability assessment on 26th of May, and attendance is absolutely mandatory. The use of BLISS to alter your test results is strictly prohibited, and anyone with any serious or antisocial mental disorders will be escorted to a suitable correctional facility immediately. Now, the headmistress has issued a ban on…”  

    The rest of Mrs Fletcher’s words faded into white noise as I sat rigid at my desk, this morning’s cereal threatening to reappear on my stainless steel desk. No amount of BLISS would be able to stop the sickening thud of my heartbeat as my stomach dropped into the depths of my school shoes while desperate, hysterical thoughts seeped through BLISS’s mental blocks and swam to the forefront of my mind. This meant one thing, and one thing only. After all these years of pretending and faking and lying, I was going to be discovered.

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