Your entire town is forced to take a drug to keep them permanently happy
I rubbed my eyes and reached over to my nightstand. The bottle was still empty. My heart felt heavy for a moment. I remembered running out last night before bed, but it seemed like everything was fine at the time. I couldn’t feel the meds at all right now. I was controlling my emotions on my own to some degree. I would have to put up a facade or else —
“You up, yet? Your mom made some amazing eggs!!” my dad called.
“Awesome, I’ll be down in a minute!” I rubbed the tire from my eyes and looked in the mirror. Not happy enough. I used my fingers to stretch my mouth into the smile and widened my eyes a bit more. That made me look passable. Like I was on the tail end of the meds. I froze my face in that fashion and made my way downstairs.
“Morning Mom! Morning Dad! Morning Kelsie! Morning Brandon!” I said as jovially as I could when I made it to the kitchen.
“Good morning, Dominic!!” they all called in unison, faces beaming.
“How did you sleep, honey?” Mom asked, dropping some eggs on my plate.
“It was ok — it was really good! I slept like a king. Err.. a baby. A baby king!”
Everyone at the table chuckled. They weren’t paying me too much attention. Good.
“Dad, can we grab some more meds as soon as we finish breakfast? I’m running low.”
“Sure thing, sport. Wouldn’t want you to be a degenerate.”
Everyone chuckled again and I joined in. That means I had a two-hour window to have to fake it. I’d never gone that long before.
I almost fell out of my seat. What was that? Fear? My body felt really tight. I made sure my smile was still on.
“Howdy Frank!” Dad jumped up to greet him, running to the window, “Join us for some eggs?”
“You know how much I love Debra’s cooking, but I’m gonna have to — “
He stopped talking. I looked up. Frank was staring daggers into me. His smile wide.
“Something wrong Frank?” Dad cocked his head to the side playfully.
“What’s up, Dom?” he asked, ignoring my father. “How’d you sleep?”
“Like a baby king!” I thrust a fist in the air for added effect.
“Excellent!” he broke eye-contact immediately. He pulled my dad in close to talk to him more privately.
“You excited for something?” asked Kelsie.
I was shaking. It took everything in my power to breathe out slowly and control myself without letting go of my smile.
“Yeah! I have a new game coming in the mail today! I’m gonna — “
“Don’t you know Dom?” Frank spoke up again from the window, “It’s Sunday. Mail won’t be coming in today.” It no longer sounded innocent. He was accusing me. He turned to Dad.
“You know, I am pretty famished.”
My dad put his hand up.
“Say no more! Come on in, buddy.”
Brandon hopped out of his seat to pull out another chair for him next to Dad’s seat. When Frank came in, he pulled the chair from Dad’s seat and set it right next to me. He slapped my back. Hard.
“Sorry to move the chair and take your elbow room! I just don’t like the sun in my eyes when I eat.” He gestured to the sun behind us.
He was lying. No one had ever lied on the meds before. Not unless they were on the hunt for someone off their meds.
My heart dropped.
I lied about the mail coming in. Frank was giving me a mischievous smile.
“No need to apologize!” I forced myself to say. “Dad probably smells, too!”
Everyone laughed again, Frank significantly louder than the rest. He leaned in close to me as Mom served him some eggs.
“Could you lend me your knife?”
He could probably hear my heart through my chest at this point. Sweat starting exiting from every pore I had.
“I would be happy to.” I moved to pick up the knife, but he lunged at it. He picked it up first.
“Ouch,” he said under his breath. He had cut himself when he grabbed my knife. Every head at the table had darted to look at him. Nobody moved. Not a single mouth chewed its contents.
“What was that Frank?” Mom asked, angelically.
Pain! That’s the answer!
I slowly moved to pick up my fork as he made his smooth response.
“All good! Everything’s fine here! Just nicked myself onnnn ouch!” His face gave way to a different emotion. In that split-instant of faltering, my family was at their feet. I twisted my fork in him beneath the table as he turned to stab me, but he faltered. The smile on my face was genuine. Relief.
“Is there something wrong with my wife’s cooking??” Dad couldn’t mask the venom in his voice.
I continued to twist, forcing Frank to only wince and groan instead of respond.
“That look just isn’t sitting well with me,” I said, shaking my head with a massive smile. There was nodding around the table.
Everyone picked up their knife and surrounded Frank, stabbing him repeatedly. The more he cried out in pain, the deeper everyone stabbed at him. I was showered in sprays of his blood. His cries finally stopped when Kelsie when straight for the neck and cut across. Everyone backed off as he started gagging and grabbing at his neck.
In his last act, he turned to make eye-contact with me. I saw something in his eyes. Pure, unadulterated, fear.
He collapsed on the table. My family went back to sit at their seat.
“Frank got his blood on my strawberries!” Kelsie said, sounding like it was a hair in her food.
“Don’t go eating degenerate blood.” Dad said, calmly.
I looked at all the blood on me and smiled as hard as I could.
“Can I go get cleaned up, please?”
“Sure, honey. Don’t let any of it seep into your system. And keep the clothes out to be burned.”
“Okie doke!” I got up slowly, resisting every urge to shake.
“Howdy neighbor!” Sally yelled from the window. “I heard all the commotion and wanted to — “ she stopped when she saw the scene. Wait, no, she was looking at me.
“Hey, Dom. How you feeling?”
I kept my gaze fixed on the blood on my clothes.
“Do you even need to ask, Sally?” I managed a chuckle at the end of that sentence.
“You’re right, how silly of me! What happened to Frank?” She pointed at him with a nod of her head.
“Degenerate!” Kelsie jumped as she said it.
“Ewwww,” she said playfully to her, “a degenerate at breakfast?”
“Yeah! We were just having some eggs that Momma made, then Frank started getting really ugly and mean. He was being mean to Dominic for no reason. We got rid of him, though, so everything is okay now!” Kelsie explained.
“Mean to Dominic? Why I can’t imagine what for…” she said, never ceasing eye contact with me as she said it.
“I’m gonna go get into a nicer pair of clothes!” I ran up the stairs two at a time and slammed the door to my room.
I threw off my clothes and ran into my bathroom, one of the few rooms in the house with a lock on it. I locked the door and took a moment to catch my breath and listen to what was going on downstairs. I was especially keen to make sure nobody was following me up the stairs… Nothing. They were just talking.
I checked the clock on the counter and made note of the time before I hopped into the shower. My shower shouldn’t be any longer than five minutes. It was a fact that only depressed people showered for a longer period of time. It was only when I turned on the shower that I realized that I was still smiling. I allowed my face to go slack and closed my eyes.
It couldn’t be long now. I just needed to get through a car ride with Dad and I would be fine. He wasn’t much of a talker, so I could even pull off the whole ride in silence and ask him to go inside by himself to avoid risking anything. I started scrubbing the blood off my skin and allowed my body to shake away all of the new sensations I was experiencing.
Fear. Anxiety. Anger. I manipulated my family to kill a man. I frowned. Then I forced a smile. I couldn’t let myself be complacent with my isolated situation. I would be out again in only a few minutes.
I scanned my body and was satisfied with the result. No more red. I turned off the water and checked the time. Good, it’d only been three minutes. Once I dried myself, I put my ear up to my bathroom door again to listen to the conversation downstairs again. I heard a clang of silverware against plates. They were eating again? Again, I made sure nobody was coming up the stairs. I put my towel around my waist and opened my bathroom door.
Sally was sitting at the edge of my bed, facing me. I yelped and immediately stepped back and slammed the door behind me, locking it.
“Dom!” The one syllable sounded like she was admonishing me. I realized I didn’t take the time to start smiling before I exited the bathroom and she had seen that. “Dom!!” she yelled a bit louder.
She started banging at the door with something metal. My baseball bat? This was insane. I couldn’t climb out!
“Everything ok up there?” my mom called up, in her motherly fashion.
“Everything’s fine!!” Sally yelled, her voice incredibly even for the smashing she was doing to my door. Cracks were beginning to appear.
Everything is fine? She was lying. The door was starting to fall apart now, a few splinters falling in on my side. How intent were she and Frank in the hunt to be able to lie so casually? Wait, what was stopping me from lying? But what would get me out of this with one lie?
“Sally!” I screamed, making it seem like a loud conversation I was having, “Why are you frowning!?”
Two things happened at once. The head of my bat broke through the door and all of the silverware was dropped on the table downstairs. My family stomped their way upstairs. I noticed through the hole in the door that Sally was checking her reflection out in the mirror in my room. She was touching the edges of her lips. Did she believe my lie as well? She noticed me looking and turned toward me, smiling.
“Sally, that frown really makes you look like a degenerate!!” I yelled, keeping my desperation as suppressed as possible.
“NOT IN MY HOUSE!” Dad bellowed as he climbed the last few steps. It was a stroke of luck that Sally was turned towards me when he came through the door. He may have stopped if he saw the smile on her face. He raised his fist and dropped her to the floor with one swing. I watched as Sally’s face turned from her smile to shock as she fell.
The bat clanged next to her and Dad pounced for it, grabbed it, and raised it high above his head.
“Stay away from my family!!!” he brought it down, but it didn’t clang as it made contact. It squelched. I watched through the broken door, my fingers keeping my face in a happy placement. The worst part was watching Dad hammer her head into a pancake with the happiest look on his face. Like he wouldn’t trade his place smashing her corpse for anything in the world.
I would have asked for him to stop, but I was afraid that I would let some of my fear show. Instead, I heard Kelsie and Brandon from my doorway.
“Yeah, Dad, get her!” yelled Brandon.
“Show her who’s boss!” yelled Kelsie.
I noticed that even through the small hole, I was again covered in blood. Twice in the span of ten minutes. I started shivering. I needed to get away from them. Not even the bathroom was safe.
“Thanks, Dad! I’m gonna take another shower to — “ I tasted bile in my mouth and had to suppress it — “to wash this degenerate blood off!”
Dad eyed me warily, noticing the hesitation in my voice. He approached the door, his cheeks curving even further upwards.
“Sure thing, sport” he was speaking very cautiously, “just hand me the bloody towel through the door, all right? I’ll take that right off your hands.”
“Thanks, Dad!” I said again, passing it through the hole. He grabbed my wrist, tightly. He started pulling me through the hole, slowly.
“Everything all right, sport? They didn’t get to you did they?”
It took all my power not to squirm or shake. He couldn’t see my face. I had no options. I was done. Naked and covered in blood. What a pathetic way to go. What a laughable way to go!
Mustering the last of my energy, I started laughing at the top of my lungs. A forced laugh, sure but it sounded like a laugh nonetheless. I immediately felt the grip on me loosen. I didn’t pull away.
“That tickles Dad!”
With that, he released me and put his face up to the hole in the door, a caring smile on his face.
“I’m gonna go get your meds, all right, sport? You sit tight and get cleaned up. I’ll ask Brandon and Kelsie to clean your room in the meantime.”
“Thanks, Dad! Love you!” I said, no longer forcing my laughter. I was almost crying with relief.
“Love you, too, sport.”
He left my room and I did the only thing I could do. I collapsed to the floor, all my energy spent. And I allowed myself to fall asleep. With a huge smile on my face.