Author : Andy Bolt

I am hopeful and afraid. I am hateful and compassionate. I am selfish and embarrassed. I’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 didn’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 aren’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 don’t eat anything with a pleasing taste anymore. I used to be pretty chunky. I’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. It’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. It’s not as hard as it sounds.

It’s roughest on my fiancée. 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.

“Nisse just needs some milk,” she murmurs, shuffling past me and kneeling in front of the fridge, where she begins rifling through bottles. Nisse’s our six-month old daughter and the only reason we’re still together. Mela takes care of her, mostly. She’s a good mother. I sit behind her, on the floor, and reach up to massage her shoulders. She sighs, shuddering at my touch.

“How do you feel?” 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,

“I’m always depressed.”

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