Prompt Day #172: Invent an antidote for a social sickness that either backfires or comes at a very high “price”
“Grandpa, do you think we’ll ever get to see the surface?” The pasty little boy asked; his pupils dilated in the dim light of the lard candles.
“I hope so, Sport, but I just don’t know.” He worried his hands together, their rough surface raspy. “The population down here keeps growing, and those of us who remember the before are trying to impart all our wisdom. Now that we have free-thinkers again, it will depend on when they can start to come up with plans and inventions to allow us to take our country back.
“Plans like Jefferson’s?” The boy, Benjamin, asked. “Like that cooking thing he drew for you?”
“The Microwave? Yes. Jefferson is a wonderful artist, I haven’t seen talent like that since about five years after the peace-pills became mandatory.”
“Well, because it was an unfortunate side effect of the treatments. In 2015, this country was in chaos. There were two main political factions and their beliefs and plans for this country were so extremely different, this country came close to another civil war. People were so passionate about their stance, they killed over it. Mental illness was rampant and women were still fighting for equality. It got pretty ugly. People fought with each other and nothing was getting accomplished. Political correctness ruined us. Everyone walked on eggshells so as not to offend anyone else with different views. Kids were passed through school like an assembly line, with no hard stops for failing.
So the government’s scientists in all their wisdom, developed a medication of sorts, it basically numbed our emotion centers, kept us all at an even keel. It was supposed to affect only the anger/irritation centers and the depression centers. The idea was, we would all be able to think with a rationality without emotions interfering.” The old man wiped a tear away before it slid down his cheek.
“Was it bad?” the boy climbed up onto the man’s lap and snuggled into the crook of his arm. “Did it help people not be so angry all the time?”
“Oh, it helped alright. For a year or so, we were a peaceful nation again. But something else was happening and we didn’t even notice, we were so busy scrambling for the medicine. Suicide rates were almost non-existent and because people weren’t so angry, they were more productive at their jobs. After a couple years, the government decided to make the medication mandatory. The medication was inserted under the skin and lasted ten years. A tattoo was placed over the area so that there was proof you’d received it. Babies received it at birth and kids were not allowed in school without it. At first those who took the insert were given free health care for life and those that didn’t were not given any aid at all. Eventually you could be arrested if you didn’t get the insert.” He rubbed his wrists remembering.
“But isn’t that a good thing, Grandpa? I mean, why don’t we have the implants? I don’t like to be sad.” Benjamin wondered innocently
“Well, Benjamin, remember what I said about Jefferson’s talent, how I hadn’t seen anything like it in a long time? That’s because the side effects of the implant was far worse for this country than any perceived benefit. People quit feeling anything, no feelings, no art. No new ideas, no inventions, no imagination. All of a sudden this country was filled with human drones. I mean everyone was average. No one disagreed, no one argued and no one felt. No one saw the world differently. Soon, America couldn’t sustain itself. We were worker bees with no queen. China came along and snatched us all up. China, Goddamn it! China moved all of its plants and factories here. Cheap labor. We couldn’t disagree and we didn’t think we could do any better. We just let ‘em come in and start pushing us around.”
“Is that when we became Chimerica instead of America?” Ben asked
“Yep, Sport, that’s it. But see, there were a few of us who still remembered life before, whose emotional memories weren’t erased. I don’t know why it is, but some of us kept our memories stored elsewhere in the brain so the implant didn’t have the same effect. The thing was, you dare not speak to anyone else about it for fear you’d be found out. So we all went into hiding individually. And individually, we dug those damn things out with our own fingernails. We started living underground. Eventually we found each other; sneaking out at night to steal provisions. We started our own community down here, agreeing to teach our children about the past, telling them stories, letting them explore their own talents. It took three generations before the effects of the implant diluted enough to see spontaneous artistic creativities. Like Jefferson’s.”
“And mine!” Benjamin jumped up and ran out of the room. He came padding back with a pile of paper wrapped in twine. He handed them proudly to his great grandfather who took them and leaned toward the lard candle. He shuffled through them slowly. Gasping and muttering at what his little six year old great-grandchild drew.
In the old man’s hands schematics worthy of Leonardo da Vinci. Here were drawings of generators that ran on soil, formulas of chemical compounds never before considered. The boy was a genius. He even had sketched human organs meshed with mechanical motors and gears. A steampunk’s dream yet all of these, based on the calculations and the child-like drawings would actually work. The old man looked at Benjamin, and he grinned.
“How’d you like to head up to the surface, Benny?”