Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Short Story - The Happy Pills

Note - I've noticed an increased number of people finding this story by searching for 'pills to make you happy' or similar. This is a work of fiction, and not what you're looking for. If you are feeling particularly vulnerable, I strongly recommend you speak to The Samaritans (UK) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (US). I hope this isn't taken as patronising, and I hope that you find whatever works best for you.

I bought my first packet of the Happy Pills two days after they became legal. I'd have bought them on the day itself, but they'd sold out everywhere. And walking down the street, you couldn't really tell. People were still working, were still rushing, but there was a slight change. Barely noticeable at first, but the closer you looked...the more you noticed that there was a bounce in more peoples steps. There were slightly more smiles on faces, slightly more animated conversation. The mood was almost infectious. 

The Happy Pills fired synapses in your brain that, normally, needed stimuli in order to fire up hard enough to push your mood. The kind of stimuli that would be caused by those few hours spent in the park, basking in the good weather with no pressures at all. The kind of stimuli that would be caused by totally unexpected, really good sex. No, you didn't feel like you'd been doing those things - but you got the same kind of good mood that I can only describe by relating it to euphoria.

It wasn't euphoria though. Euphoria tends to lead to you losing some element of control. It doesn't always, but it can do. The Happy Pills didn't. They had absolutely no negative side-effects whatsoever. They just put you in as good a mood as you could possibly be in. That was it.   

At the time, Karen and I were having problems. We'd been married for eight years, and it's fair to say that the passion had long, long since died. Sex had been non-existant for the three years prior, and it hadn't been much present after we became parents anyway. And while Karen and I were best friends as well as lovers, eight years of cabin fever were beginning to cause their problems. There was still love in our marriage, but it had been a long time since we were in love. We'd tried things to get the romance back into our lives, but it just wasn't happening.

And then the Happy Pills came out. We talked about it, about trying them. We thought they might help. And so, two days after the pills came out, we tried them. Both of us. And then we waited.

It wasn't something that happened immediately. It wasn't that noticeable, because it was subtle. We were sat talking, and after a few hours, we realised we were laughing more than we had done in a long time. It didn't seem artificial either. It was just like we'd remembered things that we liked about each other. It didn't sort everything, not immediately, but it was fun.

We took the pills daily. That weekend, we went out and just walked around Hyde Park for a few hours. It was the site of one of our first dates, and we hadn't done something like that for a long time. Just enjoyed each others company for the first time in years. The park was packed, but there was no hassle. Everyone was in a good mood.

The longer you took the pills, the more you noticed the change, and - conversely - the less it mattered. The pills had a way of just clarifying everything. It was like realising that, for the last however many years of your life, you'd been suffering from a constant migraine that finally lifted.

Within two years of the pill being launched in public, they were selling on a similar level as bread. Everybody bought them. And there were new kids turning eighteen every day, so it was an evergreen product too. A product base that was only growing.

It wasn't just Britain either. The Happy Pills were worldwide. And it was making a difference. It took a while for the wars to finish, but they did. Suddenly, religious and cultural differences stopped mattering. It was difficult to find the emotion necessary to kill someone when everyone was in a good mood.

Crime was down too. Not actually zero, but certainly at the lowest it had ever been. Perhaps it was because poverty wasn't as big an issue any more. People were happy, and didn't feel quite as much of a need to prove themselves through money any more. As a result, there were record amounts being given to charity. Although the pills made you happy, the happiness meant that people were more productive. People either found the joy that made them want the jobs they were in in the first place, or they felt more confident bout themselves, and went after the jobs they actually wanted. And rejections were a lot easier to deal with when you felt good.

And the sex. Oh God, the sex. It was amazing. And every time was good. Karen and I were back like we were in our first year of dating, rediscovering everything about each other. It was fun, it was happy.

Last year my mother died. She was in her late sixties, and she had died in surgery, in an attempt to remove a benign tumour. An infection led to her contracting an illness, and the illness killed her. The funeral was a beautiful affair, full of joy and love, as we all remembered everything that had been good about her as a person, and how much she enriched our lives. The only tears that day were tears of laughter. She would have loved it. We grieved. Of course we grieved, but it wasn't as important as remembering how wonderful her life had been.

The world had become a wonderful place. And not artificially either - the mood may have been caused by the pills, and maintained by them, but it wasn't just them. Once you were up and running, the pills just helped you keep to a certain level. The real highs were natural, and the real lows just didn't happen any more.

It was a utopia. A real utopia, right here on earth.

And then it ended.

We didn't realise that the synapses in the brain would wear out. We didn't realise that, one day, they would just stop working. It wasn't one day, all over the world or anything like that, but rather a little over six years after you started taking them.

Nobody realised for a while. The suicides of the original scientists, and the chairman of Abblexcon were puzzling, but nobody understood. They didn't tell us.

As a result, it took time for it to spread, and for people to realise what was happening. But all of a sudden, there were two classes in the world. There were those that were happy, and those that weren't. Those who had been poor in the past were still happy, since they were generally the last to start taking the pills. Those that were the first - those internet buyers - were the first large group to be affected.

There were murders. Lots of murders. There's nothing worse than watching other people constantly being happy when you're not. And there were a lot of suicides. The death toll, as it stands, is in the millions.

There are riots on the streets. Unhappiness and depression, and anger towards those that still were happy. Watching it happen was horrible, and we empathised, but we didn't understand what it felt like any more.

Until it happened to us. You remember how I told you that it felt like a migraine had suddenly been lifted? Imagine getting the migraine back, and realising that it was never, ever going to stop again.

Imagine spending the best six years of your life, and realising that the rest of your life is going to be spent living with the memory of all the good feelings, all the happiness, and realising that it's denied to you forever. Because you used a pill to burn out the part of your brain that makes you happy.

You can't understand, David. I don't expect you to understand, and I hope to God that you never understand. I need you to keep the next sentence in mind for the rest of your life. Never take them, no matter how good you're told they are. Because I love you, son, and I never want you to feel like I feel right now.

Your mother killed herself two hours ago. We had an argument and we fought. It's all my fault, and I love her, and I miss her, and I miss feeling like we used to feel, and I miss being who I was when I was with her, and I miss how much I loved her, and I miss how much she loved me. I miss my mother. I miss my wife. I will miss you so much.

My body will be upstairs, David. Don't look. Call the authorities, they have enough practice in dealing with it. Just know that it didn't hurt. And it's the only thing that can stop me feeling like this. From knowing how much I've lost.

You will never fully know how much I love you.

Your father.

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