Chapter 11:


The Pill That Killed Romance

A few weeks went by. I visited the old man every day. The more time I spent with him, the happier I was.

His passion, his kindness, his emotions…all of that slowly made me question exactly why anyone would ever want to ignore such wonderful things.

So, I didn’t ignore my feelings any longer. I quit. No more pills for me.

Finally, emotions flooded into my body in waves. Some days felt more exhausting than others, but once I got over the hump, it became easy to manage out in public.

People often noticed tiny quarks in the way I’d act, but most of them believed that anyone off their pills instantly became something of a deranged Neanderthal, unable to communicate with the masses. Lucky me, it wasn’t hard to abuse that belief to blend in.

One day however, everything changed. Because a very specific emotion took my breath away. It was a strange one, because it only came up when I thought of someone in my class…

My heart would pound. My body would tremble. I wanted nothing more than to be close, but always keep my distance.

Since the old man was my emotional guru, I had to bring it up.

“Hey! Ekko!” he cheered seeing me. “Got something for you…”

He put down his stringed instrument and handed me a letter.

“Some kid in a mask came by and wanted me to give you this.”

The letter had an email address attached to it. According to this message, they wanted me to contact them after school through it.

“Did they look like they worked with the government?”

If the government caught wind of me being a pill dodger, I’d be on a one way street to rehabilitation. I don’t know what happens during rehab and I didn’t want to find out either.

“Nah. It was just some little punk who probably wants to mess with you. Be careful, okay?”

Whoever was trying to contact me probably had some info I didn’t want them to. Trying to imagine who they were only added to my lists of reasons to not trudge around like I owned the world.

But still, I was curious to see where this would go.

“Anyways…” I put the letter in my backpack. “L…listen…I had a question.”

For a moment I debated bringing my feeling up. It almost felt embarrassing, but I had to do it.

“Hmm?” his brow furrowed with concern. “Something wrong?”

“Ehem…” I cleared my throat, kneeling on the ground and hitting my cheeks to pep up. “Whenever I think about someone in my class…I…I start to feel all…”

“Oooh…” whatever was going on, he’d figured it out. “Let me guess…a boy?”

“Gah…” I blushed. “Uh…” I turned my head without answering.

“Mmm…yep…I’m on the money.” He nodded with a confident face. “Wish my wife were here for this. Guess it’s time I told you the birds and the bees.”

I knew what birds were, but what the heck were bees? Moreover, what do either of those have to do with anything I’m feeling?

“So, Ekko…when a girl meets a guy she thinks is attractive, and the guy is dense, she has to push pretty hard to get his attention.”

“But, he’s not dense,” I said. “He’s really smart.”

“Trust me…” he put a firm hand on my shoulder, “with these pills, you're all dense.”

Point taken.

He continued. “I think it's obvious you’ve got a crush. This is one of the most natural things a person can have. Question is, how do you tell him?”

Unfortunately, the old man didn’t have much of an idea how to do that. He did tell me how he asked out his own wife…

“I tricked her to go out with me by saying we'd be studying together,” he snickered with a tinge of maniacal tone. “She had no idea…”

That actually sounded…easy? A study date seemed like a pretty average way to start dating someone. I’d have to keep that in mind.

But still, it wouldn’t do any good if I couldn’t get someone to stop taking their pills. Otherwise a relationship wouldn’t even start.

While he was telling me stories of dating his wife, I realized it was getting late. I needed to get to the bus or I’d miss it.

Bidding the old man farewell, I made off. That letter I’d gotten was pretty fresh on my mind, so I curiously pulled it out and typed up a greeting to the email address written in it.

I got a reply almost instantly.

-Are you tired of this world?-” it read.

Such a blunt response.

Constantly needing to hide my emotions from others did have me in a perpetual state of mental exhaustion. Nothing felt better than talking to the old man.

“-What if I told you that you could change it?-”

I replied by saying “-I wouldn’t believe you.-”

I’m just one person. One person doesn't have much power to change anything.

Whoever was on the other end of this message, they were tricky. Was this the beginning of a blackmail scheme?

Their next message got to the heart of their matter, saying that if I really wanted to make a change, I "should make some friends." A little gift under the mailbox next to the bus station would help me do that, apparently.

As promised, there was a little bag hidden there. I pulled it out and checked inside…


It was just a pretty large container of pills. But there was a note inside…

According to the note, these were sugar pills…whatever that meant. I guess they were fakes.

Before anyone saw, I hid the fakes in my bag, then went to school like any other day.


When I got home, I did some thinking over what that person in the email wanted me to do. If they handed me fake pills, then that really only could mean one thing…

“They want me to trick people into taking them.”

That had to be the only thing. I’d be forcing people to experience emotion.

A dark thought began brewing in the cauldron of my mind. When I first started down my path of expression, I had the old man guiding me so it didn’t drive me crazy. He sure did influence me a lot. I had a lot of respect for him…

Everyone needed a little guidance, right? Imagine if others were to go through a little emotional turmoil, only to have me swoop in and lead them down the primrose path. That’d be a quick way to make a lot of “friends” indeed.


Over the next few days, I put a plan in motion. I started with people in the student council. Finding an excuse to go into their homes and swap their pills out. It was so simple that after the first one, all the pressure of doing it went out the window.

Before I knew it, a few people were showing visible signs of discontent. I knew what to look for, since I went through it too.

I hated myself for what I did next, but it had to be done if I wanted to get people to see my way…

“Excuse me, but I’ve noticed that lately you’ve seemed a bit odd…is something wrong?” I said to a student.

“N…no! Why would you ever think…?”

“Hmmm…” I took a closer look at them, clearly seeing fear spilling from their eyes. “Are you taking your medication? You seem to be displaying hints of emotion.”

From there, they’d all grovel and plead with me, saying that their "pills weren’t working anymore" and that they didn’t want me to report them.

I smirked like the witch I was.

“Tell you what…I’ll keep quiet about your emotions…if you do me a favour...”

“O-of course!” he cried tears of desperation. “I just…I don’t want to tell anyone my pills are failing!”

Putty in my hands.

I felt rotten to the core, but getting another ally secured me more influence over the student body. Before I knew it, I repeated this song and dance so many times that it looked like a small army of students would bend to my will.

Finally, it came time for me to get one more student. One who was very special to me.

The one I loved.

With all my practice, this would be easy. That’s what I kept telling myself. But for some reason, pulling this one off made me the most nervous of all. This was the one I needed the most. Nobody else mattered if I couldn't get him.

Mario Nakano 64
Taylor J
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