Author : J.D. Rice

“What’s wrong?” she asks, dialing her emotion control implant down to ‘concern.’ I watch as her brow furrows and her mouth turns from a smile to a frown. The shift is gradual, like a water droplet running down a window.

“The damn thing’s broken,” the words sound wrong coming from my smiling mouth.

“Stuck on happy?” she giggles, dialing up to a playful tone. She loves that setting.

“No, I want to be happy,” I explain. “But I know the damn thing’s broken.” I flick the wrist monitor with my finger. Not in annoyance. I can’t feel annoyed right now. I can only feel boyish restlessness and a bubbly feeling in my chest. Joy. Rapture. Emptiness.

“You seem happy enough to me,” she says, playing with the hair on my neck. “We could try another setting, if this one doesn’t do it for you.”

I know what she’s going to do before she does it. Sure enough, while one hand remains in my hair, the other moves to the implant on my wrist. But I’m not really in the. . . mood? I place my hand on hers.

“I’ll take it to the shop. Get it repaired.”

Her hands go back to her own dial and pause there. Perhaps she doesn’t know what emotion is appropriate. I don’t watch to see which emotion she chooses, but she sounds less playful when she speaks again.

“Maybe you should just be sad for a while, if that’s what you want.”


“No one ever wants to be sad,” I sigh, gazing at her dreamily. “Being happy is wonderful. No worries. No stress. That’s why we all carry these things around on our wrists.” Somewhere inside me I know this explanation won’t convince her, not when I refuse to change my setting to match hers. But I can’t let go of this happiness, this optimism. It’s what I need right now. What I so desperately want.

“Whatever, I’ll see what Bobby’s up to,” she says, standing abruptly. She’s moved on to anger. I swear, sometimes I don’t even see her hands move to her own implant. “Or maybe you could stop being paranoid, switch yourself over to jealousy for a while, and stop me.”

I sit in silence while she stands over me, eyes directed at my wrist. We’ve had this battle before. She wants an emotion from me, and normally, I would give it. Emotional adjustment is practically the only thing that keeps us together anymore. Without it, our relationship would fizzle out like a shorted circuit. Do I really want to risk her leaving me, her hooking up with someone else who I know is interested, just so I can keep an emotional setting that I don’t think is working properly in the first place?

In the end I just keep grinning up at her like an idiot, saying nothing. I choose to let her storm off, her fingers ready to change her implant to whatever emotional state she thinks will most convince Bobby to sleep with her. It’s funny, really. A simple switch over to horny for both of them would remove the need for such pleasantries. For whatever reason, the image of them both just flipping a switch and ravaging each other amuses more than anything else that entire day, and despite myself, I start to laugh.

I can’t help it. I laugh until my sides hurt. I laugh, despite having just lost one of the only good things left in my life. I laugh, even as the tears begin to roll down my face.

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