“So, what’s it going to be?” The nurse asked him.
Mike had hoped the choice would be clear as soon as he was offered The Cure. It wasn’t, not for Mike, who stood humming the national anthem. The nurse had seen all sorts of reactions to the question. As a professional healthcare provider, Nancy was well-versed in human behaviour, both physical and emotional. Nancy had seen more than one grab The Cure and throw it against the wall. She had had one girl grab her by the throat and try and choke her to death. Good thing Nancy had taken judo classes, and the girl had been the size of a garden gnome.
This boy simply seemed stunned. Nancy got into healthcare because she had compassion. Still, after over twenty years handing out The Cure to thousands of eighteen year olds, her patience frayed.
“Come on, kid, what’s it gonna be? Cure or no Cure? You’ve had your whole life to prepare for this and you still don’t know?”
“I’m waiting for a sign,” Mike mumbled.
“A sign? Here’s a sign: hurry up and do the first thing that pops into your mind.”
The first thing into Mike’s mind was a short story he’d written about this very moment. He had written himself being so much more confident in the story. In the story he had gone for The Cure.
“No cure,” he said.
“Ok, so why are you here?”
“Maybe I want it,” Mike hedged his bets.
“Maybe I want it,” Nancy mimicked. She was a pretty good mimic, she got the tone of his confusion mixed with fear, with an air of teenage apathy.
Mike, loathe to be mimicked, stepped up and made a decision: “Give me The Cure!” He said with more than a smack of false bravado. He knew he was giving up the chance at being an artist.
“You sure? Maybe you wanna change your mind a couple more times before the people behind you in line come up and strangle you?” Whatever empathy that led Nancy into the field of healthcare, died with every mealy mouthed slacker that came to make the biggest decision of their life without having thought it through. Nancy heard herself snapping at the boy, and thought it best to take a little Empathy to calm down. Nancy punched the prescription up on her wrist-unit, that popped out a pill Nancy then popped into her mouth, and suddenly the kid needed her help. “Are you comfortable with this decision? You should understand The Cure is irreversible. Once taken, you will be Cured forever, or for 150 years, whatever comes first, usually the 150 years.”
Mike had seen her take the pill. “You Cured, right?”
“I did, and I want to help you make the right choice.”
“Are you glad you Cured?”
Having had her imagination scorched by The Cure, Nancy couldn’t imagine any other way. “Yes, I am glad,” she answered automatically.
“Really? You’d recommend it?”
The Empathy was starting to wear off. Nancy, always a professional, popped another hit. “Of course I’d recommend it. You’ll never feel bad again, unless you want to. There’s Bad. There’s Rotten. There’s even Evil, if you want to be Evil, just punch in the prescription on your wrist and, hello! You’re on Evil. You’d be surprised how popular it is.”
Mike wasn’t into Evil. “What about Love?”
Nancy clapped her hands. “A romantic! Of course there’s Love! I’m on Love for so many people all the time. Love is one of the best drugs. Only thing better than Love is Fame. In fact, I’m going to pop some Love for you right now, how bout that? You want Commitment? I could take some of that, too.” Then Nancy swallowed two more pills, Love and Commitment. “Now I’m committed to loving you and everyone else I choose to take these drugs for.” It sold Mike on The Cure.
“Cure me, please,” Mike asked.
“Absolutely,” said nurse Nancy, before handing Mike a tiny white pill. Once in Mike’s hand, he didn’t hesitate to toss it in his mouth.
Mike could feel his brain melt. It was completely painless, though, he could feel every brain cell fizzle and die. A minute later the fizzling stopped. Exhausted, Mike wanted to go to sleep.
“You’re exhausted and you want to go to sleep?” Nancy asked.
“Order up an emotion on your wrist-unit.”
“Any emotion that makes you feel any way you want to feel.”
“I don’t know how I want to feel. I don’t feel anything. I know I should feel confusion, fear, excitement, but all I feel is tired. I can see the mathematical equations that lead me to deduce these are the emotions I should be feeling, but, because I can see them in mathematical terms, I understand them, I don’t feel them.”
“What you’re experiencing is perfectly normal. Let me suggest for your first emotional pill, Acceptance. It’ll make this whole thing easier to accept. You’ll see, go on.”
“I can’t imagine any thing,” Mike said, holding his head in his hands and squeezing. Not a drop of imagination came out.
“You don’t need to imagine any thing,” Nancy tried to soothe, “just take a pill, and let the pill do the work. That’s why those that Cure are never sad. They once made Sad, but, do know how quickly that went off the market? Who popped Sad? Or, they used to make Calvin Klein’s Depression For Men. Do you know how fast that line was discontinued? Who’s going to spray on Depression? No, stick with Happy, and Acceptance, and if you are celebrating, Ecstasy, if you want to go big.”
Mike punched, ‘Acceptance’ into his wrist unit. He threw back the pill and instantly the fatigue gave way to a feeling that everything was just as it should be. All fears of being an artist were airbrushed, like putting lipstick on the Mona Lisa.