This story contains sensitive content

Trigger warning: This story contains mental health problems and to some extent substance abuse. If you are uncomfortable then please skip this story.

I am awake. I feel the sun burn on my forehead. The usual odour of exhaust fumes hangs in the air. I cough. Blood lands in my hand. Something is hanging at the end of my bed. What is it? I manage to sit up in bed. Ah, good, it is only some clothes. They aren’t mine, though. There is something odd about them. It’s women’s clothing. High Heels, a dress and a leather jacket. I have bigger feet than that. They are also covered in blood.

I look around. My window is open as usual. I have a headache. Something is stinging in the back of my neck. I feel for it. There is blood on my neck. What happened to me last night? Did I get bitten by a vampire and immediately proceed to kill some random woman? No, I am sitting in the sun. So not a vampire. Sad. I look around the room. Not that there is much to look at. Some shelves with a pretentious book collection. I haven’t read any of them. An open closet with clothing. The latest fashion. I look like every other guy. Nothing could tell me what happened last night.

I get up. Maybe there is more information in the other room. I step into the living room. No sign of a woman. My head is killing me. I look for my pills. Ah, there they are. I have to take them. They are good for me. Everyone tells me so. I am conflicted. I put the box of pills down again. I hear the bathroom door open.

I turn around. A woman stands in the middle of the room. A woman, very much alive. She smiles at me. There is a small cut on her arm. The blood must have tripped down from it onto her clothes. She could have picked them up. The apartment is messy enough as it is. She walks towards my pills. She takes one. She doesn’t swallow it. She laughs at it and puts it back.

I ask her. “Good morning. Did you sleep well?”

She looks at me for a second. No expression on her face. Her eyes are piercing me. She answers. “Morning. Good. I really enjoyed last night.”

“Yes. It was great.”

“Sorry about the mess I made. It got a bit rough.”

“Oh no, I am sorry. Does it hurt a lot?”

“No, don’t worry.”

I am silent. Why can’t I remember what we did last night? How did I even meet her? I usually go straight home after work. My daily routine is to wake up, eat, work, eat, work, eat, relax, and sleep. I don’t go out. I have no time for anything else. I need to check the time. There is still time before work. I can still be productive.

“Did you already take yours?” She points at the bottle.

“No, not yet. Did you?”

“I don’t take them.”


“I like to make my own decisions. Have my own head.”

“That dangerous. How can you be sure you are making the right decision?”

“I am not. But do you think you would even know? Do these pills ‘cure’ you?”

“We all know they are. Take one a day and keep the sadness away. Don’t you remember ten years ago?”

“I do. I was working in the health sector.”

“Then you know why we need them.”

“Are you sure? I don’t think so.”

I look away. She keeps her eyes on me. There is no emotion in her look. I can’t understand how she rejects the pills. They are part of our daily life. We need them to be a society. Everything will collapse if we stop taking them. I look back at her. Her smile is empty. She thinks I am pitiful. She opens her mouth again. I want to cover my ears.

“Sit down. Please.” Her hands show me to a chair across from her. “Let me explain why I am not taking those pills.”

“Please do.”

“I remember ten years ago. ‘The Great Sadness’ - or ‘Madness’ depending on who you ask. I was working as a psychologist, researching new treatments for depression. We were alarmed at the rising number of cases. So naturally, we look into other mental disorders. Same pattern. All of them were rising in an alarming but still subtle way. You know, like when the tide comes in, but you are too occupied with the sun to notice. Eventually, all your stuff will be soaking wet.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I am getting to it, just have a bit of patience. We were alarmed and went to the government and disclosed our findings to them. At first, nobody cares. Mental disorders are not a public problem. It’s an individualised problem. We loved to pretend that it was okay and that one could talk about it, but it was still a stigma in the end. Something that they have to fix or go to therapy and get it fixed. For an appropriate hourly rate, of course. Nothing the government can do.”

“As it should be.”

“How cute you are. Let’s assume for a second that it is actually an individual’s problem. How would you explain the sudden rise in diagnoses between 1990 and 2030?”

“Better understanding.”

“Do you really believe that? Also, that still wouldn’t explain the rapid rise we observed.” She paused for a second “In the end, the idea of the ‘individual problem’ would lead us to two conclusions. Firstly, mental disorders were always present within 40% of the population. And secondly, we were simply completely bling for thousands of years and didn’t notice such a large part of our population had problems. Am I right?”

“Yes, I guess.”

“Wouldn’t it make more sense that the environment changed? That is more sensible than assuming either of the previous conclusions.”

“That is heresy, and you know that. Even insinuating it has been banned since 2031.”

“Yeah, calm down. Are you going to report me? I didn’t think so. Now let me continue.”

I am dumbfounded. How could she even think the environment had something to do with it. Research showed that it was a pandemic. People were struggling all over the country. The new laws saved us. They saved our way of life. I have to report her. I have to get more evidence as well.

“Yes, please continue.”

“We were reporting our findings to the government. Telling them that our way of life was making us sick. All the work. All the conflict. All the media. You get what I mean. Humans are not designed to live under the constant stress we are exposed to. We found that it was one of the main reasons why the cases were rising. But no. A pill was developed. Something to cure everything. Well, a cure would assume that there would be a singular underlying cause. Naturally, that would be true if mental disorders weren’t a network of symptoms that create the disorder.”

“But it is a normal disease! That’s why we have Happenied. We have to take it! Depression is a sickness of the brain.” I was reaching for the bottle. She slapped it away. I am angry. I need my pills. My head is killing me. Sadness is overcoming. I want to be happy.

“No. A pill can never cure us from it. Mental disorders are not treatable by just throwing a pill on them, and that’s it. Pills help, don’t get me wrong, and we had good ones but not Happenied. It just makes you docile. Your brain ignores its environment, coupled with methamphetamines keeping you awake. You aren’t cured, just kept in a perpetual state of intoxication.”

I push her. She falls to the ground. I managed to knock her out of the way. I call the orderlies. I get my pills. I swallow two at once. I am happy. The world lights up in the most vibrant colours imaginable. The sweet smell of blooming flowers in spring, multiplied by industrial progress, flows in through the window. I am free.

May 12, 2023 16:00

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Genoveva Baumann
19:17 May 18, 2023

This is nicely written, depression and mental disorders are so real. I also like how you made it so that the reader and the main character are slowly unfolding everything. Im sure the judges will love it!


Marvin Reif
14:56 May 19, 2023

Thank you! It means a lot to get such a nice feedback!


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Karen McDermott
07:00 May 18, 2023

I like how the staccato nature of the first part reflects the narrator's state as he's woken up, piecing things slowly together, then it gets into the flow of dialogue and wakefulness. Having just finished reading a book called 'Heavy Light', psychiatry and medication has been playing on my mind (particularly how the drug companies just want to keep selling you shit instead of helping you actually address the source of the problems), so it was interesting I got this in the critique circle to read. Nice first submission.


Marvin Reif
16:32 May 18, 2023

Thank you for your nice feedback!


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