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A power from within

By Kristen SladePublished 2 years ago 10 min read
Photo by Sandra Seitamaa on Unsplash

Everyone thought it would be pollution, or global warming, or nuclear war. In the end, it was something far more ordinary. Mankind’s inability to tolerate differences.

War didn’t break out. Not in the usual sense of the word. But tensions rose, treaties and deals were severed, and nations slowly splintered apart. Economies crashed, innovation was stalled.

The world might have been able to survive that. But people cannot be content to agree to disagree. No, they had to be right. And then the real fighting began. There were never any formal wars, just bloody massacres and thieves in the night. Even still, millions were murdered within a five year span.

In the year 2262, tragedy was about to strike. The cluster of peoples that once made up the US were growing increasingly violent, and someone had their finger on a nuclear launch code.

And then the Peacemakers arrived. An organization as eclectic as it was radical, they proclaimed they had a way to end all wars. They were, of course, scoffed at. They insisted. Just try our product, and you will see. Eventually, in order to avoid world decimation, the broken US tentatively agreed to a two-month trial.

With that, the Emotilizers were born. The Peacemakers became the wealthiest organization ever to grace the face of the Earth as others across sea came begging.

And, very subtly, the world ended a second time.

Layden Horris sat back in his favorite chair, basking in the sensation of pure contentment. He closed his eyes and inhaled sharply through his nose, sinking further into his seat upon exhalation. He turned the small pill bottle over and over in his fingers, feeling its smooth exterior with a shiver of pleasure. This was how life should be, how it always should have been. How had he ever lived before the advent of Emotilizers? The sensation of perfect emotion, synthesized into a pill and then absorbed nearly instantaneously into his body.

Carlin Horris, the lady of the house, was more wary. She thought Emotilizers took away ‘free will’ and dampened ‘resilience’. Layden frowned, feeling a minor glint of irritation at his wife. It was soothed away almost immediately, and he relaxed again, smiling.

Carlin set Addi’s food on the table, giving the six-year-old a quick peck on the cheek before standing and brushing a strand of hair from her face. She turned back towards the sitting room and felt her mouth tug down at the corners. Layden was still sitting there, staring at a 3-D holographic video. He seemed entirely enthralled, and completely content to ignore her.

“Lay,” she called out, trying to sound patient. “I said dinner is ready.”

He glanced over at her, but didn’t seem to see her. He didn’t move.

“Lay,” she said more sharply. Addi glanced up, apparently noting the change in her mother’s tone.

Layden finally stood, shutting off his tablet, causing the hologram to vanish. He strode to the table, eyes vacant and half-closed.

“How many have you had today?” Carlin asked, trying to keep her voice even.


“How many pills?” she said, nearly spitting the last word at him.

He finally seemed to see her, and his eyes narrowed. “I’ll have as many of the blasted things as I want, bi-”

“Lay,” she hissed, cutting him off quickly. It was one thing for him to curse at her in private. It was entirely another matter to do it in front of their daughter.

Addi’s eyes were wide and an empty fork drooped in one hand. Lay glanced at her, grunted, and sat down.

Carlin tried to make small talk, but Lay didn’t respond. He didn’t seem moody or irritable, simply…empty. Like a whitewashed canvas. He always got this way after taking too many of the pills. The effect used to take longer. He would have a couple hours of intense emotion, followed by apathy. Now, the pills seemed only to last for a few minutes of ecstasy before wearing off. Afterwards, he became nothing more than a hollow shell, as if his body had forgotten how to produce emotions naturally. It worried Carlin more than she liked to admit. She decided she would bring it up later, when Addi was asleep.

Layden slipped three pills into his mouth at once. Carlin had gone upstairs to put Addi in bed, so she wasn’t there to glare at him. He felt a shudder of pleasure as a feeling of ecstasy washed over him, brighter than the passion of a first kiss. This was one of the new Emotilizers, one that packed a big punch and was designed to last for hours. This had better work, he thought. He had paid good money for the tiny bottle.

Carlin came down a few minutes later. A small heart-shaped locket hung around her neck. It had been an engagement present, given to her by Layden nearly nine years ago.

Layden could see the fight on her face before she spoke. He found he didn’t mind. The energy pumping through his veins made him almost eager.

“How much did you spend on those?” she asked, nodding towards the bottle in his hand. Oops. Forgot to put that in his pocket. He smiled widely.

“Don’t you worry your pretty little mind,” he said in a mockingly smooth voice. She stiffened visibly.

“Lay, this isn’t healthy. You don’t feel anything anymore. I’m worried.”

He stood, stretching languidly. “I’m feeling great, actually.”

She frowned, stepping forward and placing a hand on his arm. The touch was nothing compared to the burning already inside his body. “Please,” she whispered. “Stop. I can’t stand it anymore. The only emotions you have are fake.”

He snorted, pulling his arm free. “They feel more real than anything you ever aroused in me.”

She looked as if she had been slapped. He smiled, exhilarated to have provoked such a reaction. He didn’t feel angry at her. He just felt energized, alive. It made him want to act, to move, to speak freely and not hold a single thing back.

“I see,” she said slowly. “Well, then. If that’s how you really feel.” She took a deep breath, then walked towards the kitchen. He followed close on her heels, reaching out and flicking her long brown hair once, just for fun. She stiffened but otherwise didn’t respond. She opened a drawer and pulled out her tablet.

“Code 662,” she said, voice quavering. The tablet flickered on, and a holographic image appeared. It seemed to be…a sheet of paper? Layden leaned in. One word caught his eye.


He let out a guffaw, waving his hand through the image as if to brush it away. He turned around, still chuckling to himself.

“I’m serious, Layden,” she snapped, grabbing his wrist in a tight grip. “I can’t do this anymore. You are no longer capable of love. I can’t have little Addi growing up like this. I won’t.”

He turned to smirk at her, the physical confrontation sparking the adrenaline inside of him. Without even thinking, he slapped her across the face. She stumbled back with a gasp.

He felt a little thrill at the outburst. He stepped forward, striking her again. She fell to the ground with a cry of pain, trying and failing to catch herself against the counter. She looked up at him, eyes wide with terror. He laughed, bending down over her.

“You’re wrong,” he whispered excitedly. “If you would only try it, you would know. It’s incredible. It’s more amazing than anything I could ever experience on my own. Can’t you see? I never have to feel sad, angry, or pained. Just an indescribably ecstasy.” He leaned in so close that he could feel her ragged breath on his face. “Don’t you want to feel it too?”

She cringed back, eyes going even wider. “Get away from me,” she hissed.

He laughed. “I never have to feel fear either!” He kicked at her. Not hard, just enough to make her flinch. “I never have to worry! I am completely free!”

She scrambled back and climbed to her feet, watching him warily. “I’m going to bed,” she said slowly. She began to move past him. He grabbed her arm, squeezing tightly enough to make her gasp. The sound thrilled him.

“You think so?” he asked softly.

The terror in her eyes was beautiful.

Carlin slipped into Addi’s room before the sun had fully risen. Layden was sleeping on the couch, and likely wouldn’t wake up for a good long while. He had fallen asleep only a couple hours ago.

Carlin shook Addi awake. The little girl groaned, turning over and blinking blearily. Carlin put a finger to her lips. Even still, Addi gasped, eyes going wide.

“Mommy,” she whispered, “what happened to your face?”

Carlin had looked at the mirror earlier. A black eye, bruised cheekbone, and swollen lip were only the start of her injuries. Layden had begun like a crazed lunatic, laughing and telling her how much fun they would have together if she would take the pills too. As the night drew on, the pills’ effects faded, and he grew angry. He had started to really hurt her then, telling her that it was her fault that he had to use the pills. If she wasn’t so pathetic, so critical, so useless, then he wouldn’t need outside stimulation.

His words, his actions, left her shaking inside. If it was just her she had to worry about, she would have curled up in a corner and cried. But she had a beautiful, blue-eyed girl staring up at her in terror. And Carlin would go to Hell and back before letting anything happen to Addi.

“We are going for a trip,” Carlin said softly.

Seven hours later, Addi and Carlin sat in Carlin’s sister’s sitting room. Addi was curled up against her mother, sleeping. The sister, Glen, talked quietly with her husband, Jordel in the kitchen. After a while, Glen finally came back.

“You can stay with us for a while,” she said uncomfortably, glancing at the door.

“Layden won’t be coming after us,” Carlin said tiredly. “He doesn’t care about us anymore.”

Glen didn’t seem convinced. “Well, in any case, Jor has sent a report to the authorities.”

Carlin nodded. Nothing would come of it, of course. This area was not well governed enough to have a stable policing force.

Glen still seemed uncomfortable about something. “You are still determined to do…what you said earlier?”

Carlin nodded numbly.

Glen frowned. “You sure you can’t just…drop it? I mean, the Emotilizers aren’t bad. They make people feel better. What happened was Layden’s fault.”

Carlin focused on her sister, eyes growing hard. “The Emotilizers are destroying people from the inside out, Glen. And it’s not just Layden. Don’t pretend. I’m not blind. I see what it has done to…others.”

She didn’t get specific, but Glen’s expression still darkened. Glen herself had admitted to taking the pills more frequently in order to raise her emotions to even normal levels.

“No one will listen to you,” Glen said stiffly. “They like it this way.”

“I’ll find someone who will,” Carlin replied stubbornly. “Those cursed pills are not only destroying people’s ability to cope with negative emotions, they are taking away our ability to feel positive emotions naturally.”

Glen sniffed. “I see you still feel superior to the rest of us.” She stomped away. Carlin didn’t miss that she pulled a little bottle out of her pocket and slipped something into her mouth. Likely something to take away her frustration.

Carlin felt sick, but along with that came a burning determination. She sat up straighter, and Addi stirred, sitting up.

“Hello, beautiful,” Carlin said, smiling as best as she could through her swollen lip.

Addi looked terrified. “Mommy,” she said, voice quivering. “What are we going to do?”

Carlin brushed a lock of blond hair out of Addi’s face. “We will be resilient. Like always.”

Short Story

About the Creator

Kristen Slade

Hey all! I am a graduate from BYU in Provo with a masters in PE. I have a passion for the outdoors, physical activity, sports, and health, but I also love writing! I love my parents and all eleven of my siblings!

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