A Bottle Full of Happiness - by K H Simmons
'I'm sorry sir, but we're all out of Happiness.'
The words hung in the air between us like a dark cloud. I smiled through the haze.
'Not to worry,' I said, still floating on the last dose.
The twinge in my stomach warned me that a come down was imminent.
'Do you know when you'll get in more?' I asked.
The shop clerk gave me an apologetic shrug.
'I'm sorry, the shortage has us struggling,' he replied.
The word shortage threatened to tug my smile down. I gave him a nod and continued along the road. I tapped my watch and examined the projected map. I slid my finger through the air, scrolling across the city. I'd been to every shop. That was the last one. There was no Happiness to be found anywhere. The dark cloud followed me, it bounced off my fading bubble, just waiting for the moment when it could get in. My finger reached a shadowy area of the map. It wasn't clear what any of the buildings were and it popped up with a warning. Stay clear, it said.
I made up my mind. It was the only way I could find Happiness. I closed the map program and made my way to the shuttle stop. The first shuttle ignored me, that was OK though, it must have been full. The second one pulled up and I climbed aboard. I tapped my watch against the screen at the front, it charged me the fare, it was reasonable considering how far I was going. The automated driver system welcomed me and asked me to take a seat.
The shuttle was relatively full. I took a seat near the front and smiled at the passenger next to me. They didn't smile back. Their hands shook as they moved their bag out of my way.
'It's a lovely day,' I commented.
The dark cloud pressing at my bubble told me that it wasn't a lovely day, it was grey and a fine rain was beginning to fleck the windows of the shuttle. I ignored it. Rain could still be beautiful.
As we neared my destination the buildings grew closer together. Neon lights attempted to make up for the dark walls and blacked out windows. The shuttle emptied. Not many people were travelling to my destination, although perhaps more than usual. The passenger next to me stood up and left. Mine was the next stop. The rain was coming down harder now. I wasn't expecting it to rain and so I hadn't brought an umbrella. Not to worry though, the rain would be refreshing. And cold, the black cloud whispered as it imposed upon my bubble.
The shuttle slowed to a halt. The automated driver thanked me as I passed by. I stepped out into the rain. The closely packed tall buildings cast this area into perpetual gloom. I wasn't sure exactly what I was looking for, only that I had to find it. If there was any Happiness left anywhere, it would be here.
I didn't have to go far to find what I was looking for, or more precisely, for them to find me.
'You look a little lost,' she said.
She had electric blue hair and eyes to match. I stopped and waited as she approached. The rain formed droplets on her skintight white bodysuit, making her look like she was adorned with pearls.
'What might someone like you be looking for down here?' she asked with a smile.
I hesitated. The dark cloud was pressing in on me, telling me that she had no Happiness, there was no Happiness left. I pushed back, urging strength into my wavering bubble. She couldn't see the bubble of course, but I could see from the way that she looked at me, that she knew exactly what I was looking for.
'Happiness,' I muttered.
'Come with me,' she said. 'I know what you need.'
'You have some?' I peered around desperately, searching for her stash.
'Come with me,' she took hold of my hand.
Her fingers were cold to the touch. The dark cloud was whispering to me, telling me she was going to hurt me, she was going to steal from me, there was no Happiness here. My bubble was shrinking, it had almost gone. I tried to stop my hands from shaking. A stomach ache twisted within my guts and a thin sheen of sweat began to bead upon my forehead, despite the chill of the rain.
She led me through a dark doorway and into a lift.
'Who are you?' I asked.
'Faye,' she replied.
My eyes stared around the lift, looking for an escape route. I should have stayed at home, in bed. My heart hammered within my chest and I found myself thinking that maybe Allia was right, I was worthless. She hadn't said those exact words, but I felt them. I thought she had been the one. She had thought differently. I didn't want to feel this way again. This cold pit of emptiness was opening back up inside me and the only thing that could fill it was Happiness.
The lift slid up, higher than I would have expected. Finally it slowed to a stop and the doors slid open. Whatever I had been expecting to see on the other side of those doors, was not what was there.
The blue haired woman led me out into a large open area, protected from the rain by a glass dome. Despite the grey clouds it was surprisingly bright up here. Droplets of water slid down the dome creating shimmers of light. I don't think I'd ever seen the sky so clearly, the patterns in the clouds were almost hypnotic. I tore my eyes away to take in the rest of the dome. Trees stretched up to the glass, spearing wide green leaves to absorb the light. I pulled my hand away from the woman's and stepped close to one, placing my hand against the rough bark. I had expected it to be plastic, but it wasn't. It was real. The earthy scent filled my nostrils as I stared up into the branches.
A sudden movement made me jump. A bird hopped down and peered at me with yellow eyes. At first the bird appeared to be black, but the longer I looked the more colours I saw. The feathers had an iridescent sheen to them which turned them blue or green or purple depending on how the light caught them. The blue haired woman took hold of my hand again and guided me through the trees to the centre of the dome. Here a fountain bubbled to itself. Several benches surrounded it, looking over the dancing water. A handful of people were gathered here. None of them were armed. None of them were shouting or fighting. They all looked...I struggled to find the word.
The woman led me to the edge of the fountain and we sat upon the stone wall. I trailed my fingers in the cool water and let the noise wash over me.
'Why did you bring me here?' I asked, barely raising my voice above a whisper.
'I was once lost like you. I thought that bottles of Happiness were the answer, how could I possibly carry on any other way?' she smiled and stretched. 'It hurts. Life hurts. But it doesn't have to. Not all the time. It's a roller-coaster ride. It has ups and it has downs. Sometimes the downs feel like they go on forever, but they don't. You can't get rid of them by pretending you're going up.'
I stared at her. Without the bubble I could see what she was saying was true. The bubble wasn't fixing anything. It wasn't making anything better.
'There is no Happiness here, there's no Anger or Lust or anything that comes in a bottle. There's just us and the trees and the endless sky. I can't offer you a bottle to fix all your problems, but perhaps I can offer you peace and someone to talk to. Maybe that will be enough.'
I'm Katy, but go by K H Simmons officially. I write a lot of sci-fi, dark fantasy and dystopian fiction. If you're here for sparkly vampires, you're in the wrong place ;)
When I'm not writing, I can usually be found cuddling dogs, reading, at the gym or playing video games.