The building was grey and seemed to not have any windows. Who constructs a building without windows? I hated working with artificial light, it just wasn’t the same as the sun. Pulling an all-nighter had never been an option for me because of that, I just couldn’t concentrate.
“Mom, do we really have to? It’s just a crush!” My mom’s hand was tightened around my wrist as she pulled me towards the building mercilessly. It hurt. I would probably develop bruises later.
“You know the rules, Aysha. It’s your first crush, I have to bring you in before you do something stupid.”
“I don’t even know if I really like her!”
“It doesn’t matter.”
I knew it didn’t matter. They had told us from the moment we had been old enough to understand. When you fall in love for the first time, you must get your treatment. The earlier they treat you the better, which is why we were supposed to report any crush we experienced immediately. @suesa
It had taken me sixteen years to develop a crush, but here I was. Her name was Eliza, and she was the most sublime being on this planet. For a few days, I had kept it a secret, but having all these emotions and not being allowed to pursue them … it had just become too much.
When we entered the building, the temperature immediately dropped several degrees. Or did it just feel like that because the sun had vanished behind the big, grey walls? I wasn’t sure, but I started to shiver. I didn’t want to be here. I wanted to go and see Eliza.
“Yeah?” I looked up to the nurse that had called my name. She was holding a clipboard and a pen.
“Your mother just finished signing you in. Would you please follow me?”
“Do I have a choice?”
The hallways were mostly empty, only one other kid, a boy a few years younger than me, was being escorted past me, towards the exit. He looked … dazed. Foggy. Drugged. Like me in a few hours.
I pulled my cardigan closer, trying to stop the shivering. But it wasn’t just the temperature.
“Please, enter.” The nurse held a door open for me to step through. In the middle of the room, there was a tube that looked like an MRI scanner. Well, it was an MRI scanner, but a modified one. The nurse gestured towards it so I would sit down on the bed belonging to the scanner.
“Any piercings I should know of? Implants? You shouldn’t take anything magnetic inside.”
“No, my mom made me take everything off before we left home. She wants to leave here again as fast as possible.”
“Sensible woman. It’s so much faster when everyone is properly prepared.”
Was I properly prepared? I didn’t feel like it. I wanted to leave. I didn’t want to go through with this. Eliza …
“Well then, please swallow these pills. We will do the scan now to locate the important areas, and then proceed with the treatment.”
Treatment they called it. Wasn’t a treatment supposed to make you better? To make you healthy? I know they claimed it was for the best of all of us, to spare us pain. And the effects couldn’t be denied, divorce rates had dropped to almost zero and so had domestic abuse.
But still …
The machine started to make noise the moment I was fully inside. I shifted a bit to be more comfortable. Or rather I tried to. I couldn’t move.
“Aysha, I see that you’re panicking”, said the voice of the nurse through a speaker presumably located somewhere in my tube. “The pills I gave you were supposed to suppress any pain you might otherwise experience. We can’t numb your emotions yet, because we first have to locate the exact locations of your brain that create love and affection towards other humans, you understand?”
Did she expect me to reply? How?
“On your submission papers, your mother made a note that your crush is on another girl. We will keep that info in your files and ensure that your eventual life partner will be female too, to minimise dissonance in your brain. Now please relax and think about that girl as intensely as you can.”
The sound of her voice, the smell of her hair that waved through the air when she walked past me.
Her beautiful laugh when someone told a joke. Her chocking, embarrassing love when I did something silly.
How she looked at me early in the morning before class, her hug to say hello.
Her … her … what was happening? I couldn’t think of more things about her, despite her dominating every thought I had for the past few weeks.
Panicked, I opened my eyes that had fallen shut while I had given in to my fantasies, just to see the big needles that were sticking everywhere in my skull. Had I been able to move, I would have screamed.
“Please, Aysha, relax. We have located the important areas and are now injecting a blocker. Only a little bit longer and you will be fine.”
I didn’t want to be fine! I didn’t want to stop loving Eliza, I didn’t want my love numbed until I was old enough to marry! What if I didn’t want to be with just one person? I wanted to fall in love many times! With whomever I wanted! I wanted to be with …
… with whom?
What had been her name?
Something with E.
Ellen? Eleonore? Emely? Eliza? Yea, Eliza, that had been it.
Why had her name been so important to me before? It was a common name, nothing special about it. Nothing special about her, really. Why had I been so scared?
The rest of the procedure didn’t take long. The needles withdrew, the nurse moved me out of the tube and gave me some more pills. I swallowed them and followed her out.
I passed a girl in the hallway, she looked scared. She looked … familiar?
“Aysha? Are you okay?”
“Oh, hi, Eliza.” I gave her a slight smile, she seemed to need it. She seemed upset, afraid of the procedure I had just gone through. “You’re here for the love blocker, huh? It’s fine, it’s not as bad as everyone thinks it is. See, I’m not even in love with you anymore!”
Eliza turned white as a sheet.
“You love me too?” She whispered before she was dragged away by a nurse.
Too? I didn’t love Eliza. Not anymore.
My mom greeted me in the waiting room.
“How was it?” She asked.
“It was fine. I’m feeling a bit groggy, can we go home?”
“Of course, dear. I’m glad we got this over with. Now you can concentrate on your studies and finding a job. And once you’re ready, the government will find you a suitable partner and make you love them, and make them love you. For all your life.”
How easy things could be.
The story was based on this paper.
Signature by @atopy