Author : Julian Miles
It’s a cure worse than the condition, yet they sell it like it’s a panacea.
I saw another one today and I listened to her at the counter.
“How much is a week’s supply?”
“Five hundred euroyen, miss.”
“Oh, great. I’ll take a fortnight in day and night packs please.”
The alchemist beamed at her as he unlocked the cabinet and got out twenty-eight packs; fourteen orange, fourteen purple. She paid in scrip, presumably so her husband wouldn’t get any warning from seeing the transaction on his credfeed. As she moved toward the door I couldn’t stop myself as I gently touched her arm. She spun, eyes like a deer startled by a hunter as I spoke.
Her face showed a torrent of shifting emotions; Fear. Surprise. Resignation.
“He’s a good man really, it’s just that work is hard and he gets so stressed.”
“Which he uses to justify beating you.”
“No, he doesn’t touch me. Well, except when he wants… you know. It’s just, just, oh, you couldn’t understand.”
She looked at me then. Really looked at me. Her eyes widened.
“You’re him. The last one. I saw you on the newsfeed last week.”
I nodded, then pressed on. I already knew the conclusion, but one has to go through the motions.
“You were saying?”
“He’s my husband. He loved me. But times changed and so did we. He still supports me, still takes me out. He’s so nice; sometimes. I just wish –“
“That he could be nice all the time? That he would stop dictating your every thought and action? That he would just drop dead?”
The look of guilt broke my heart. Like a child caught stealing.
“No, no, nothing as bad as that. It’s just that Steady makes things better.”
“You mean having him reduced to being emotionally dependant on you stops him being a monster.”
She shook her head. The alchemist was staring daggers at us, so I guided our conversation outside before he called the Watch on me for harassment – again. She had gathered herself by the time we got outside and my window of opportunity was gone.
“He’s not dependant, just less controlling. It means we can have a life together.”
“Why not try to solve the problem?”
She looked stricken, then whispered,
“I tried. It got worse. Nothing he did left evidence, so it was me versus him and I’d been losing that fight for years. So when Steady came along it was a blessing, really.”
I looked at her, taking in this petite woman who had taken the only way out available to her. Steady had been launched as a ‘domestic harmony enhancer’. Originally used by both partners, it had gradually drifted to single partner use, and ninety percent of that was use by one on the other. In the last five years, marriage counselling and domestic violence centres had just vanished, the need officially gone. Good gods above, was I the only one who saw the crime?
“A blessing, or something else?”
I had to get her to see, to admit it. Just one. Please Lord, just one. Her brow furrowed as she idly nibbled her thumbnail. Then her eyes went wide. I felt a cold lump congeal in my stomach as she looked up at me. Her voice was cold with tightly reined anger, but more frightening was the intent writ plain on her expression.
With that, she turned swiftly and strode off into the light drizzle that had started while we talked. The weather towers were down again, but I welcomed it. I could walk and cry without drawing attention.
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows