Lanett Bagley

Shivers pulsed through her body in time with the light flickering eerily off the peeling and grime wallpaper. The voices whispered around her. Do it… take them… you’ll feel better… you’ll feel Happyyyy. She shook her head quickly, latching her arms tightly around her legs. “Not true, not true,” she murmured. The tiny, inconspicuous pack of pills lay in the middle of her lopsided coffee table. So easy to reach for… just reach for it… stretch your arm out., the voices purred.

            “No!” She slammed her hands down on the floor. “Leave me alone!” she shouted but her fingers ached to grab them, to just do what the voices wanted. Her veins were empty without Happy coursing through them. Her limbs felt heavy and numb. Greg had tried to warn her to stay away from the street stuff when her insurance stopped covering the pharm-grade. But she’d wanted it so much, there was no helping it.

            She jumped as the light flickered off overhead, casting the room into near total darkness. The city lights from the window and the flickering holoscreen were just enough to stave off the darkness. 

            “No,” the word whispered this time, panic flooding her chest. The voices were always worse in the dark. They whispered to her more fervently, coaxing her towards the little packet of Happy. It looked so innocuous lying where it was but the numbness spreading deeper in her warned of its dangers. The effects of the pharm grade Happy that she was used to were subtler than this stuff. These pills were a torrent in her veins and burned out much faster leaving her with a desperate craving.

            “Okay, okay,” she whispered to herself. “Just one more time.” Heaving a sigh, she reached trembling hands towards. Her fingers fumbled and sent the packet tumbling to the floor, scattering the pill on the stained and torn carpet.

            “No!” she screamed, throwing her body over the coffee table. The impact rattled her, hands scrabbled at the carpet, pulling the spilled Happy towards her.

            She managed to get five of them in her palm. Yes, the voices said with glee. Yes… take it… feel better… feel Happy. As she stared at the innocent little pills in her palm, her hand began shaking with anticipation. It was a bad idea to take so many, she knew it, but she wanted it to last, wanted it to stay. She tossed the pills back, swallowing hard. They scrapped down her dry throat. Seconds slothed by as the Happy started to take effect. The warmth of it started in her veins, filling up the emptiness that caused her body to ache. A giddy burst of laughter filled the air.

            “Yesss, oh yes,” she cried gleefully into the air. The warmth was a heady feeling, her body becoming light and airy under its touch.

            So light you could just float away, the voices cooed.

            “Float away,” she agreed, pushing up from the floor. Stumbling as her unsteady feet found their balance, she started to hum softly. The sound filled the static air and it thrilled her as she swayed to the beat of her heart. The beginnings of thunder rumbled through the building, adding to her music. Rain pattered against her window.

            “Outside, outside,” she sang, skipping her way to the door. The sound of the rain and the thunder was drowning out the horrible voices.  

            The hallway of the apartment building was lit by an unsettling greenish light. She’d always hated it but now she could see the in it beauty. It reminded her of far-off summer days spent on in the forest, sun filtering greenly through the leaves. Those forests only existed in dreams and holoscreens.

            She skipped along the hall singing an offbeat tune and delighting in the way it echoed back at her off the grimy grey walls, imaging instead that it was lush, soft grass beneath her feet and big, arching canopies of trees overhead.. Her balance carried her from one side to another.

            “Oh boy,” she said, smiling as she lost her balance entirely and collapsed on weak knees. Bruises were sure to follow.

            One of the apartment doors opened; it was Mrs. Hock, her annoying, wall-pounding neighbor. The older woman stopped on her way out of her apartment and stared down at her. Mrs. Hock merely shook her head and continued on her way, a murmured “Pathetic,” leaving her lips.

            She can think what she likes she’s not Happyyyy, the voices assured her.

            “Pathetic,” she mocked in Mrs. Hock’s wake as she struggled back to her feet, her knees protesting her weight. Thunder shook the building again, reminding her of what she was doing, and she continued her stumbling walk to the end of the hall and the stairs to the roof-garden. 

            The stairs looked daunting to her now-shimmering vision. She could see the voices now, the words that they whispered to her etched in white scrawling writing before her eyes. They made the stairs a challenge. The giggling started again as she took a step and immediately fell face-first into the steps. Her nose made a crunching noise in her ears as she collided with the solid wood.

            Sitting up, she lifted a hand to her nose and wiped at it, leaving streaks of dark red on the back of her hand. She stared at it and lifted a finger, feeling more of the sticky substance leaking down her face, and smeared it around more. There was no helping the joy she took in it, she was like a child who smeared jelly across her mouth just to annoy her mother. And it tasted just as good.

            She pulled herself back up using the railing and started to climb. Her feet were so light she couldn’t keep control of them, and she tripped and stumbled the rest of the way up. The door to the roof was ajar and she kicked it open hard, bursting through the doorway and rushing out into the torrential rain.

            “Rain, rain, go away,” she sang as finally, finally, the voices were drowned out. Spinning round and round, she screeched in glee. Everything was spinning. “Isn’t it wonderful!” She shouted. No more voices, no more pesky voices. She was light as air and Happy as could be.

            She was Happy.

            How could anyone live without this?

            People lived moment to moment without so much as a twinge of emotion in their body. They used emotions when it was convenient for them, when it was planned, and when it was controlled. Emotions are messy, but she loved them.

            The rain felt wonderful on her skin. Skin that was rapidly starting to prickle with heat. The warmth in her veins from the Happy was starting to burn. Hotter and hotter. It hurt now that she really thought about it; it was hard for pain to reach her in this place, but it really hurt. It felt like flames licking their way up her limbs. The giggling that had become so incessant in her Happiness turned quickly to screams. It hurt so much. Her hands smacked her legs and arms ineffectually. Nothing was helping. The rain was acid on her skin, burning, stinging. She wanted to make it all stop. And then, Happy began to ebb from her veins.

            “No,” she moaned. “Not so soon. It’s too soon don’t go!” And with the ebbing of Happy, the voices returned.

            Fly, you’ll be happy if you fly, they said.

            “Get out of my head!” She clapped her hands over her ears.

            If you fly, we’ll go away.

            She tore her hands through her hair, screaming louder to drown them out, to dull the pain.

            “I just want to be Happy!” she shrieked, falling to her knees oh so close to the ledge. “I just want to be Happy.” The screams turned to sobs.

            The Happiness burned out. She didn’t want it to go she wanted to be happy forever.

            Her eyes fixed on the heavy, grey clouds above her head. A bird gliding overhead caught her attention. You’ll be Happy if you fly. The voices were screams in her ears now, repeating over and over that she’d be Happy if she could just fly.

            “I want to fly.”

            The numbness sank back into her limps, the last of the Happy finally dissipating. Happy, Happy, Happy. The voices were a mantra in her ears. Her shaking fingers reached out and wrapped around the ledge. She pulled herself up onto it and looked down. Blazing neon and LED adverts blinked at her, a car sped by on the almost empty street. The ledge was wet and slippery under her feet. Happy.

            She pushed off from the ledge into the open air. For a second, just a second, the voices stopped whispering and her head was finally quiet. She was airborne and she wanted to stay there, caught between time and space to just exist without the voices and her worries. Here it was peaceful, she was Happy. And it felt good.

            She pushed off from the ledge into the open air. For a second, just a second, the voices stopped whispering and her head was finally quiet. She was airborne and she wanted to stay there, caught between time and space to just exist without the voices and her worries. Here it was peaceful, she was Happy. And it felt good.

            She shrieked in happiness, it felt so good. She felt free. And then she was falling.

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