The Sun was cartoonishly bright, glaring off of the dozens of zirconia plaques and frames in the office, each commemorating a different "atta boy" at the hands of some Organization of Esteem that had decided that Applied Chem had done good- or, even worse and more cheaply produced, there were the ones which AC had given Stephan himself for being a team player, wearing dull neck ties, looking concerned and anxious when things with the company (read: his job security) weren't going so well, etc. The whole thing gave an effect of being trapped in a polygonal soap bubble, with rainbows quivering in miniature all across the walls, tables, and now Stephan's hands.
Licking his thumb to whiz back through the report titled "The Low Class in Search of High Quality: Penetrating the Urban Market," all words became temporarily meaningless and he knew it was time to set this all down long enough to let the damn of praise that had built up in his brain deteriorate a little. Sighing, he rubbed his temples just beneath his glasses.
"You're too deep in- we got no power, captain! Hahahahaha" (what a terrible fake Scottish accent, Christ just don't try to be funny, right now- that's too much energy)
"Yeah, I really don't." Stephan's lips hung open, dumb flopped fishmouth. "Eccgh. All right, it's time for lunch, dinner, going home and fuckin' jacking the cable box into my face until I can get enough stimulus to wake up, whatever." He got up and slid all of the paperwork into his brown leather briefcase with gold numerical lock system- no way he was going to rifle through all of this redundant crap at home, but it looked good to pull a bunch of paperwork out when you came in every morning. Burning the midnight oil (of course, in the case of half of the people actually copying and distributing these reports, that meant hash oil and it was no wonder that they stared at the Xerox like it was a spirit guide from the astral realm of multiplicity).
Chris pounded down the last of his coffee with the obvious physical signs of pride that he really should have saved for scotch, brandy, or really anything that couldn't be slammed just as easily by an artistic twelve year old. Of course, Stephan thought, when Chris was twelve he probably thought coffee was for people who work boring jobs and eat sliced ham and potatoes with their slowly melting, balding, jiggling families every night. Having met Chris's wife, Rita, Stephan had to admit- Karma's a bitch, maybe, but Irony is her manipulative best friend working the crowd.
"Weeeeeell Stevie, I guess this is goodbye. Unless you finally want to take me up on that drink. Your treat! Haaaaaaaahahahahahaha, nah I'm jus' kiddin'."
Twitch. Half a second of rapid processing, cross referencing alibi database, inserting importance and somber regret into facial tissues. "Ahh no can do tonight, sorry. I really have to make sense out of these reports, somebody's gotta figure out what we're missing. At least if we want total world domination."
"I thought that boring shit was why you were leaving in the first place!"
"I'm leaving 'cause it's time to leave, man, I just didn't notice because I was so caught up in the boring shit haha" (ooooh monotone laugh, smacked of insincerity, minus ten points- he's nipping at your heels) "but I still need to finish this up. Home will just be a new atmosphere, easier to think, I can grab a bite to eat."
Chris swelled up with the look of a man who pities another's work ethic, and for a moment looked like he really should have been wearing suspenders. Maybe later, when his fledgling potbelly finally took flight. "Suit yourself. I'm grabbing a beer before I do anything. You got the cell number in case you change your mind, right?"
Deleted it weeks after saving it. "Yeah, I'll think about it, no doubt."
"All right." Big C gathered up his mug and jacket, stepped out into the long baby-blue hallway, cramped with doors all along like the inside of a train car. "G'night, mein herr."
Stephan's head was still giving little twinges. It meant it was time to smoke. Smoking gave him a headache, but he told himself ages ago that it cured headaches so the placebo effect and the actual damage balanced out to leave the score at nothing more than the classic Halitosis and Cancer +1, Stephan 0. He undid his tie- the business equivalent of waving a white flag for the day- and headed out, remembering (as always) to lock his office behind him. Nothing in there was of any value to any living human being other than those who needed office furniture, but it was the principle of the thing.
The second he had waved in such a manner as to almost deliberately indicate his ambivalent, ghostly relationship with the front desk lady (another equally un/important daily ritual), he opened the hefty logo-seared doors and rooted around in his beautiful briefcase for the Camels. Sure, there's better stuff on the market, sure somebody in the health business should know better, but that's just what he smoked. Besides, Stephan didn't think of himself as a person concerned with health- he was concerned with using his MBA to survive, and AC was, right now, an aviary offering adorable flying snacks up to the big cats of money. The image of Galston getting a nosebleed and shoving the Shroud of Turin up to block it popped into his head, and the excess and spooky truth of it all gave him a queasy moment.
Was everyone in the building he had just walked out of hopped up on Prosolveril? Would Chris still be a mild alcoholic and generally abrasive and dull person if he had a flowing river of controlled, affordable serotonin soaking his brainstem? When people become happy, do they remain what they are, or is it impossible to take your inner nature with you into the other side, when it has always been so stained and thick? Every person you ever talk to seems like a huge mountain of fear and heartbreak with a few favorite songs and movies coated over it to make it palletable. So if you take that core away, are they just the shell of bubbly preferences and memories of vacation and hikes up to the mountain to share a granola bar with their new lover who is just absolutely a bright shining soul and you really must meet them? I'D LOVE FOR YOU TO MEET THEM?!?
"Raindrops on sidewalks and fixing transmissions, comets and Moonshine and drying the dishes; Walks in the forest and Prosolveril B- these are a few of my fay-vor-it thiiiiings"
That was the ad with the different shots of people going through everyday activities interspersed with them being in wildly relaxing locations that nobody who actually needs antidepressants would ever even think to go to in the first place. The guy working on the car, that one was believable- he probably gave up years ago. But if you're comet gazing after walking in the woods all day, you probably didn't mind doing the dishes or being surrounded by sidewalks all the time, to begin with.
"Sometimes life can be hard." Cue minor key synthesizer tones and greyscale images of flowing, slightly slow-mo'd curtains. "Living day to day, paycheck to paycheck, losing everything as soon as we gain it." A woman's face, staring dead into the camera as she sits in an upright fetal position at the edge of her bed, expressionless. "Sometimes, the second we think we've got it all figured out, we lose everything we held dear." Seagulls, shakier camera work. "Help can be hard to find, and we don't always have the time to get the help we deserve." Shot of a doctor's back as he flips through x-rays on a clipboard. "But now, help is everywhere. Prosolveril B is the first clinical antidepressant readily available for everyone- regardless of age, insurance, or income. No prescription is required."
The internet, one of the greatest havens of naysayers left in the world of people rapidly cheering up, was on fire. Analyzing, discussing, bashing, and creating wild theories about Pro-B was now as popular as speculating on UFOs, chemicals in the water, and whether or not the President had ever killed a man atop a granite slate while wearing the Maroon Cloak of El-Thoor so as to fill the pentagram carved beneath the altar with enough blood to sate the thirst of the blind, branded whore on her hands and knees who sucked the sanguine runoff from the ridges in the ground as part of the ritual he supposedly went through to gain the trust of the true directors of world commerce (the late Senator Heinrich McApplebaum confirms that he witnessed this first hand, but refused to comment on whether or not he had participated).
An internet wunderkind by the name of AzraelsFire23 (later revealed to be Graham Teekan, a graduate student at Cal Tech notorious for "community organization projects") started the website HeadWatch.com. Originally billed as a compendium of independent lab results from research on Prosolveril, doubled with a forum which encouraged "User Reports," the site quickly became filled with what one former user who wished to remain anonymous dubbed "paranoid rancor." Nearly eight months after the resource's inception, the content had converted almost entirely from the initial compendium of objective and subjective reports on the substance's effect to complicated theories and accusations relating to a vast plot in favor of, as one update phrased it, "the homogenization of the human mind for the sake of producing a more easily manipulated uniform public." Continuing, it established- without the citing of any sources to as so confirm these theories- that "the only difference between the Nazi army, every other thoughtless pile of government-shorn sheep and the people currently taking Prosolveril B is that the Nazis and Red Army never had to live under the illusion that they were being considered distinct by their masters because they only wore their uniforms on the outside. We are being made uniform internally, and society without diversity is doomed to stagnation and ruin."
Teekan laid claim to having a number of contacts within Applied Chem, the government, and certain radical organizations that he said had "access to the real truth." Since none of these sources were ever brought to light and there was never a definitive paper trail revealing the legitimacy of any of the plots listed on the site, attention paid to the effort waned as Pro-B sales increased. The whole initiative, in the end, was primarily glossed over by most of society as simply another conspiracy resource gone wild. A Twilight Zone nightmare posing as nonfiction, yelling and yelling that a monster was on the wing of the plane, when nobody else could see it.
We live in Alabama, me and Mommy and Daddy, so it doesn't look like how Christmas looks on Rudolph and in the other movies and cards and stuff. It's okay, I don't mind cuz I don't even know what snow looks like really except in those things so I guess I don't know if I like snow or not but I'd like to see someday. It doesn't have to be Christmas, though.
Since it's Christmas I'm going to wear my favorite slippers, the ones that are Bugs Bunny's face and they're really big and soft and they feel like how I always wanted my slippers to feel.
I'm excited, but I don't want to wake Mommy and Daddy up so I just walk on my tippiest-toes, holding my hands over my mouth so I don't breathe too hard, to the Christmas tree. Oh my GOODNESS there are so many presents!
Mommy sees me, I guess I must have woken her up anyway, I feel bad that I didn't try hard enough but maybe she and Daddy got up before me or at the same time, today.
"Hey, sweetheart, what are you doing up?" Mommy talks really quiet when she's sleepy, like she has a cold or something.
"I just woke up, and it's Chriiiiistmas, and I wanted to look at the tree and see if Santa brought us all our preeeesents."
Mommy smiles because she loves me and she knows I love presents. "Well, I hope you like what you see."
"I do, I do!"
"Okay, sweetie. I'm gonna make me and Daddy some coffee, can you be a good girl and brush your teeth, go pottie, and take your vitamins while we get ready and then we can open presents?"
I blush when she says pottie. "Okay, okay, okay. Christmaaaaaas!"
Mommy laughs like she's hiccuping. "Yaaaay, Christmas!" She holds her robe shut with one hand and goes into the kitchen. I gotta go to the bathroom, now.
I go potty, and brush my teeth with as much toothpaste as the size of a pea, and then take my vitamins. I like my Flintstones vitamins because they taste good and kind of sour and I like that I can chew them. I have a vitamin now that I have to swallow, and it kind of hurts, but Mommy says I'm a big girl and she got me a special cup for the bathroom sink with a Disney castle on it and so I get to learn how to take pills like grown ups.
I pour a biiiig glass because if I don't have enough water it feels like it gets stuck in my throat and hurts a lot so I need to drink a lot really fast. I open up my little vitamin box, and get out my special vitamin for today. It looks like it would taste good, but it's ucky. It's bright blue, like Blue Moon ice cream, and has five or six sides (I forget which one, sometimes). I look at it for a second, and see how pretty it is. I wish I had jewels like this on my princess shirt! Oh my princess shirt would look so pretty with pretty blue spots all over it! But I think if I used my vitamins they would break, or maybe I would get sick from putting them on my clothes and not taking them, so I put it in my mouth (YUCK) and drink the water as fast as I can.
Before I go out to see Mommy and Daddy, I stand still for a second. I'm dizzy. It feels like I have a scraped knee in my heart.
All rights reserved.
Another day's work on Prosolveril B. Tackling this project slowly- have been mostly writing poetry for a while so busting out four interwoven pages a day like this is more than I've done in a while. Wish it were twenty, but no need to rush things (yet). Anyway, here's day 2 of this novel-in-progress!