It hadn’t been the first time she had come across the ad. The last time she had seen it was on TV late at night. It popped up when she was scrolling through her phone. It popped up while she was watching a video on the internet. And today she saw it in the newspaper.
“Those pesky feelings got you down? Tired of loving or not feeling loved? Tired of the monotony of the world and constantly having to smile? Are you just tired? Then, kill those emotions now!” Alice read it to herself. She couldn’t help but smile and snicker. It was so silly. There was no way anybody would believe this. But if it’s real…
She chased that thought away and put the paper down. She returned to her sweet, brown coffee. “If people weren’t so secretive and foolish. Things would be much easier,” Alice said to nobody. She looked back at the page. It was still open to the advertisement. “Oh, fuck off,” Alice cackled to herself. “This cannot be real.” Yet, she eyed the ad with lustful, hopeful eyes. “Well…it’s only a thirty-minute drive. And I have nothing to do today…”
Alice drained her cup of coffee into the sink. She hurried to her room and got ready. Alice entered her restroom and brushed her yellow stained teeth. She did her best to brush her hair and make it look somewhat presentable. The wavy hair never stayed still. A couple minutes out under the sun, in the open air and strands will be shooting this way and that. She grabbed her can of hairspray. She aimed the aerosol can at her head. She sprayed and sprayed. Then returned to brushing her, it finally stayed down. Next, she grabbed her outfit for the day.
A black and white striped short-sleeve, brown, slim pants, and black boots. She’d posed in front of her mirror. Her hair after being brushed twice still seemed wild and looked unpleasant to her. Then there was her body. She wasn’t as fat as she was before her diet. She wasn’t as skinny as she was after she took her diet too far. Nobody ever said anything bad about her shape, but nobody has said anything good. Alice poked her belly and pulled her shirt tight, examining her body underneath. The sight disgusted her. Alice slapped the bathroom counter and pushed her face against the mirror.
“Don’t do this. You always do this. Just go out. I always go out like this, and nobody makes fun of me. Go. Go!” She spun away from the mirror and left the restroom.
She turned off the lights in her house. Alice scooped her keys from a bowl. She hurried out her one-story home to her car. A beep and it was unlocked. The engine roared to life, and she was out of the driveway before she could convince herself to turn back.
She played music from her phone on her stereo. The drive was made short by her music. She parked in a small, empty lot in an outlet. There is a grocery store, a smoke shop, a thrift store, a salon, and Ayak’s Emotion Killer. There were no cars near Ayak’s store. She was the only one to park in front of it. She stepped out her car and took a look around the lot. The sky was blue, and the sun shone bright. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, just like how there was seemingly nobody around.
Alice closed her car door and went towards Ayak’s shop. She pushed a glass door, with blinds covering the inside, open and stepped in. The walls were a bland, purple color. The floor a dark brown carpet, she had entered the lobby. There was a counter with a receptionist behind it. There were chairs pushed against the wall of the lobby. At the other end, there’s a white, wooden door with a gold knob.
“Can I help you?” A raspy and rough voice asked. Alice looked over at the counter then walked closer to it as she could not see who was behind it. It was an old lady, she looked like a shriveled prune. The old woman was hidden by her computer screen. She had a couple of straw, white hair that barely covered her dark, spotted scalp. Her wrinkled lips had a bit of red from some lipstick and her eyes were sunken pits surrounded by papery, wrinkled skin. Her cheeks sagged and her nose is bulbous. “Can I help you?”
“Oh! Yes. Uh. Is Ayak in?” Alice asked nervously. She stared at the old woman and felt a tinge of disgust. She blushed and became sullen at the thought of her being disgusted by the old woman’s appearance.
“Yep. He’s in and you’re in luck. You’re his first customer of the day. Go through that door,” the old woman pointed at the door with a withered, boney finger.
“Thank you,” Alice said and hurried away from the counter.
The door opened to a dimly lit room. The walls were checkered green and red. The floor black tiles, the only furniture in the room is a black, oak desk, a metal folding chair opened and placed in front of the desk, and an empty leather chair. “Over here, miss.”
Alice turned to the left. A tall, lanky man wearing a white suit with coattails that reached the back of his knees. The man had a bald head, with wide, round brown eyes, and on his face was a wide smile. Alice could see all his teeth. The sides of his lips created wrinkles on his pock marked, olive brown skin. “Ayak is my name. I can cure whatever is bothering you. Let me get a better look.”
Ayak turned his body sharply to face Alice. He took three, long strides to reach Alice. He was a whole two feet taller than her and smelled like mint. Ayak stroke his hairless jaw with long, slim fingers. “Is it love? Hate? Lack of joy?” Ayak walked in circles around Alice. “Are you never happy? Are you feeling one emotion so much you cannot feel the rest? Are they holding you back?” Ayak stopped in front of her and stooped down so their faces were on the same level. “Mmm, well what is it?”
“I read that you can get rid of emotions,” Alice didn’t intend to sound so desperate. She didn’t believe one bit of this or so she thought. Deep down she hoped it was real.
“Of course, I can,” Ayak turned sharply again to face his desk. “Follow,” Ayak said then took long, exaggerated steps to reach his desk. He sat in his chair and spun. “My service…is for those…who cannot handle…the whirlwind…our emotions…can cause…” Ayak stopped himself and put his pointy elbows on the desk. He pushed forward so his face reached the edge of his desk. Alice sat across from him on the metal chair.
“Yes! I can get rid of your emotions,” Ayak flung open a drawer. “Here,” he placed a picture of an Asian man down on the table. “This was Eric. Look at him. Look at those eyes, sad eyes those were. Now this is him.” He placed a picture of the same man beside the first one. “Look at the two faces and tell me the differences.”
Alice examined each photograph. She held them up, side-by-side. “In this photo,” she shook the picture in her left hand. “His eyes are sad, like you said. The sides of his lips are a bit turned down and you can kind of see his shoulders are slumped.” Alice put down that photograph and looked at the other. The man was wearing the same clothing as in the other photo. “Were these taken in the same day?”
“They were,” Ayak tapped his fingers on the desk. “Now tell me the difference.”
“Well, in this photo he seems more relaxed a bit serious. His eyes are expressionless. His lips are pursed and straight. He looks to be standing straight,” Alice put down the photo and shook her head. “What are you showing me? An actor’s head shots or something?”
Ayak laughed loudly. “No, my dear. Eric was sad. His father put pressure on him to be a good employee. To be a better man than he. But Eric’s father runs a million-dollar company, how can Eric be greater than that? So, he asked me to kill his emotions. That second photo, Eric had his emotions killed. Now? Eric does well and left his family far behind to find his own place to grow in. Without those pesky emotions to get in the way. Chun was able to focus on his work and life. He’s doing just fine.”
Alice squinted and tilted her head. She wanted to believe him but it just seemed too much like a scam. “I don’t know…”
“Hold on my dear! Here, read this paper,” Ayak opened another drawer. This drawer he opened carefully and slower. He pulled out a paper, a contract. “This contract states that if after the procedure you still have emotions. You do not owe me a dime. In fact, for the time I wasted you will be reimbursed with a free meal from me! So…” Ayak smiled at her. His thin, black eyebrows going up and down.
Alice grimaced and asked, “What kind of procedure?”
“OH!” Ayak stood with his hand over his mouth, shocked. “How could I be so foolish? Oh, my dear! I forgot to tell you about the procedure and I’m over here shoving a contract in your face. Come.” Ayak motioned for her to rise and rise she did.
There was a door in the corner of the room she hadn’t noticed before. It led to a white room with a bed in the center, a stool on wheels, a cabinet, sink, and a mirror. There was a window to the right of the entrance letting in sunlight. “You will lay here,” Ayak’s hand swept over the bed. “Then, I’ll grab my special spice,” Ayak opened the cabinet. He pulled out a glass jar filled with purple powder. “I’ll mix it with this and this.” Ayak placed the powder back inside the cabinet and grabbed a bottle of brown liquid and a clear flask half-full of thick, yellow liquid. “Finally, I mix it all in this.” Ayak put the bottle and flask back then produced a ball. “You pop out the top half and then put something inside. You shake, shake, and done.” Ayak shook the ball to show her. “Then I put it in a needle and inject my special elixir into the back of your neck. You’ll feel a prick. I’ll keep you around for an hour to keep watch over you. Then, after the hour you should begin to feel its affects. Slowly, all that weight brought by those feelings we all hold will slough away. What do you say?”
Alice tilted her head. She made a curious face. Alice approached the cabinet Ayak stood in front of, “What is your elixir made of?”
“That is a secret. Only workers of Ayak may now the recipe,” Ayak put the ball away and closed the cabinet. He sauntered over to the open door leading to his office. “Do you want procedure or no?”
Alice bit her lip and stared at the closed cabinet then at the bed. She wanted to cry. She wanted to believe. But she couldn’t…then she thought of her days and sat down on the bed. “Can I sign the contract in here?”
“Of course, my dear. Let me bring it to you,” Ayak said then left. He came back shortly with the contract on a clipboard and a silver, fountain pen in his other hand. Alice signed her name and showed that she had proof of payment. The price for Ayak’s procedure was one hundred. A cheap price to bring her peace.
Alice fidgeted on the bed and clutched the sheets as Ayak made his elixir. She kept her eyes on the window. Never had she noticed the beauty of the blue sky. If all went well today, she would never know it again.
“Ready?” Ayak stood over her with a needle in hand. The glass tube was lightly filled with a dark, muddy colored liquid.
Alice took a deep breath and shuddered. “I am,” she said, then the wavy hair off her neck.
Alice once knew the pain of love and loss. Alice once knew joy and anger. Alice once knew how to feel. Alice could not cry or laugh but she was no longer suffering.