Author : Andy Bolt
I am hopeful and afraid. I am hateful and compassionate. I am selfish and embarrassed. Iâ€™m Garret Garvy, an emotive Botch.
We were a small number of neurological guinea pigs for Johns Hopkins a few years back, participating in the Mechanical Smile Project, an experiment in emotion control. Not in the vague, uncontrolled way of the old prescription medications, but in a real, conscious, push-this-button-and-feel-that-way style of emotion control. It was a combination of heavy hormone stimulants and post-hypnotic suggestion, and it would have been revolutionary. You literally would never have had to be sad again. With the push of a bio-button, your life could have been non-stop ecstasy. It was the end of human suffering as we knew it, according to Meghan Wells, the frenzy-eyed young grad student who injected me with a bluish substance before asking me to count backwards from one hundred.
It didnâ€™t work.
What it did was link, accidentally but inextricably, several of my neurochemical and hormonal processes. Virtually all of my emotions now come paired with another, and several of them arenâ€™t all that compatible. Love and depression, for example.
I am standing in my self-cleaning kitchen, staring aimlessly into space, a plate of uneaten mush behind me. Happiness comes with panic, so I donâ€™t eat anything with a pleasing taste anymore. I used to be pretty chunky. Iâ€™m twenty pounds underweight now. As I lean absently against my Stero-sink, my spine grate against porcelain. My polycotton smart shirt rubs against by elbows, and I concentrate on the sensation. Itâ€™s so neutral, neither pleasant nor painful. I have come to appreciate neutrality. Apathy comes paired with rage, so I have to care, but in a minimalist, nonspecific sort of way. Itâ€™s not as hard as it sounds.
Itâ€™s roughest on my fiancÃ©e. Mela shuffles into the kitchen, looking like a half-cooked slab of meat that has been left out for a few days. Her eyes are pink and barely opened, and the rest of her has taken on a faint grayish color. A few hundred reddish hairs are rebelling from her head, striking off in their own directions without regard for the collective will. She wears a purple bathrobe that is almost more hole than clothing. A jagged tear near her neck exposes the swell of her left breast. Sexual desire comes paired with grief. Not worth it.
â€œNisse just needs some milk,â€ she murmurs, shuffling past me and kneeling in front of the fridge, where she begins rifling through bottles. Nisseâ€™s our six-month old daughter and the only reason weâ€™re still together. Mela takes care of her, mostly. Sheâ€™s a good mother. I sit behind her, on the floor, and reach up to massage her shoulders. She sighs, shuddering at my touch.
â€œHow do you feel?â€ she asks without turning around. I think about it for a moment before wrapping my arms around her stomach and pulling her into my lap. Pressing my lips to her ear, I whisper,
â€œIâ€™m always depressed.â€