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Happy Planet

by Adam C. Richardson

part 1

The Transformation of a Monster
The New York Times, January 7, 2025

In the past decade, perhaps no recording artist has had as much of an impact on the music industry as the rock star publicly known as Blight. Few can forget his fiery career, and no one is ignorant of his very public downward spiral into madness.

Blight, the stage name of musician Daniel Packard, had undeniable talent and magnetism. At the peak of his popularity, there was never an empty seat at his concerts. His ravenous fans often travelled hundreds of miles just to catch a glimpse of him. Bringing the so-called “gothic underground” into the mainstream, Blight’s grinding lyrics and dramatic showmanship were hard to ignore, and everyone had an opinion about the mad genius and his music.

Despite the fiery debate whether his antics should be censored, his song Pain is the Engine that Drives the World stayed on Billboard’s Top Ten for nearly a year, hanging on to the number one spot for four months.

It may have been fame that took its toll on the rocker, or it may have been the message itself. For whatever reason, Blight’s lyrics gradually degenerated into indecipherable litanies of self-immolation and cursing, and his performances became so frenzied and chaotic that the music was lost in noise.

Most of his band rejected him, and Blight’s manager hired a team of replacements to keep the madness going through his final world tour. “It was a bad scene,” said former Blight bass player Ryan Gavin. “We didn’t recognize Dan anymore. He didn’t take drugs or drink. He didn’t need to. He was halfway to oblivion all on his own.”

The very public ending to Daniel “Blight” Packard’s career was witnessed by millions through chilling video footage posted on the Internet. Taken from a camera phone, it depicts his final concert in Sidney, Australia where he shouts the same lines from his own song repeatedly for over twenty-five minutes: “Stand and face the beating fists! Pain is proof that God exists.”

As he chanted, he swung a knife around and occasionally cut himself on the arms or the face. His bandmates finally wrestled him to the ground when he began sawing at his own left wrist. To this day, he does not have the use of his left thumb.

After that chilling incident, Blight disappeared from the world stage. Following the ugly final concert, his music plummeted in popularity, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of former fans. Blight was forgotten. Daniel Packard was locked away in a mental institution with no prospect of ever finding relief from his own madness.

Five years passed with absolutely no change in his disposition. Packard spent his days in a darkened, padded cell, chanting incoherently, often in restraints to prevent him from injuring himself. The orderlies feared to go near him.

* * *

Today however, only weeks after receiving his first treatment of Raptura, a mood-enhancement drug in its final stages of testing, Packard is smiling. The former rock star stands tall, ready to tell the world about his transformation.

Novaforte Pharmaceuticals held a news conference on Friday to announce the success of their drug. After nine years of clinical trials, they are ready to release Raptura as a prescriptive treatment for depression and anxiety. The centerpiece of their presentation is the bright-eyed Daniel Packard, former mad genius, happy to be alive for the first time ever.

“I realize I must be an odd sight,” Packard told reporters with a laugh. “The tattoos on my face are quite a contrast to the suit and tie, and I think I have my father’s haircut now. I intend to get the tattoos removed as soon as I have the resources and time to do so.”

When asked how he feels about the change, Packard replied, “I honestly don’t know how to respond to that. Do I feel good? Absolutely! But you’re asking about the change from damaged mental patient to happy citizen, and I still can’t fathom it. There’s no conceivable bridge between who I was and who I am.

“The pain is difficult for me to remember. I’m simply not that person anymore. Where he stood, I now stand. He and I have nothing in common... except that I still like onion rings.”

When asked about his plans for the future, Packard replied, “It doesn’t matter. I can do anything now. Put me anywhere and I’ll be happy.”

John Darby, president of Novaforte Pharmaceuticals stepped forward to answer questions on the drug Raptura. “The brain,” Darby says, “is a very delicate instrument with a symphony of chemical interactions that are easy to disrupt and extremely difficult to put into harmony. It is easy to get overwhelmed when trying to manipulate the immeasurable complexities of the brain. Then again, it is possible to find simple solutions to problems in brain chemistry when you understand the finite mechanisms.

“Raptura is aimed at enhancing brain function by focusing on one area of our cognitive process. Positive thought has a different chemistry than negative thought. We at Novaforte have found a way to inhibit negativity itself. It is a very simple, very effective way to change the function of the brain. In effect Raptura makes you happy.”

This statement is already being challenged by competitors, but there is no doubt that the capacity for transformation is profound. Daniel Packard is Blight no longer. He is a smiling, joking, positive man with a bright outlook on the future. If his success can be shared by others, then this transformation could spread like wildfire throughout the mental health industry, turning our traditional outlook on mental illness upside down.

“I’m grateful to Novaforte,” Packard said in his final statements. “I’m grateful for life itself. It’s time I started living it.”

Daniel Packard’s Journal, February 22, 2025

Dr. Tanner suggested that I start writing a journal. He says it will help me to track my progress. I’m not sure what kind of progress he’s referring to. I was ill, now I’m well. What progress is left to talk about?

The fact is, Dr. Tanner clearly hates Raptura. It puts him out of a job. He’s been my shrink for almost six years now, and he’s used to seeing me writhe around on the floor as he watches through the little glass window on my door. Now he can’t even justify keeping me in the hospital. He’s looking for any excuse to say the drug won’t work, that it will eventually fail. Well, we’ve both seen the results of the clinical trials. It won’t fail.

Still, things are moving so fast now that I’m afraid I’m going to lose track if I don’t start writing it all down. My face has finally healed. No more tattoos. I’ve been staying with my father for the past week, but I’m anxious to get going, to do anything. I could flip burgers for a living and I’d be happy.

But Mr. Darby from Novaforte has plans for me. Last night he said to me, “Dan, you haven’t lost any of the appeal you had in your rock and roll days.”

“I’m nothing like I was,” I remind him.

“Of course. Your outlook has changed entirely. But back then, your message was a bitter pill — pain and misery — yet you preached it like a brilliant evangelist. Your audience couldn’t get enough of it.”

“Some people want pain and misery,” I said. “I profited from their need for unhappiness. I preached what they wanted to hear.”

“Well, now there’s something much better to preach, and I think even your old miserable fans will perk up and listen when you start talking.”

“You want me to do more press conferences?” I asked. It sounded like fun.

“I want you to be a spokesman for Raptura. I want to put you in front of the drug. I want you to tell the world about your own transformation and about everyone else who has benefited. The press loves you. Our marketing department loves you. Raptura is destined to change the world, and you can help to make that happen faster.”

Of course I accepted. How could I not? Like Mr. Darby said, this drug is going to change the world. Maybe even save the world. Why not?

Raptura: Overly Prescribed, or Not Prescribed Enough?
The San Francisco Chronicle, July 23, 2026

The controversy over the prescription of Raptura has changed its tone over the past year. In the early days, the drug was targeted strictly for the treatment for anxiety and mood disorders. Even this seemed too broad a scope for the use of the drug by many critics who observed that Raptura had never been tested against specific mental imbalances.

When physicians began to prescribe Raptura for a broader range of off-label uses including the treatment of eating disorders, personality disorders and even schizophrenia, critics became more vocal, and the FDA launched an investigation into the drug’s potential abuse.

But no one can deny that Raptura has been entirely successful in treating every ailment for which it has been prescribed. As a result, doctors are prescribing it for conditions entirely unrelated to mental imbalance.

A local physician who asked to remain anonymous confided, “I’ve prescribed it for acne. In many cases it actually works, probably because the condition was related to stress and negativity. As for those patients for whom it did not work, they’ve asked that they be allowed to continue their prescription anyway. They find that they’re happier, more productive, and more satisfied with whatever they do.”

Other physicians identify similar success with the treatment of headaches, gastrointestinal disorders and chronic pain. Dr. Bob Foster of Stanford claims, “Heck, it could be useful for treating the flu. It’s common folk knowledge that a good attitude is critical to making a quick recovery from any ailment.”

The only ailment Raptura appears to be ineffective against is Erectile Dysfunction, not because it fails to provide the required effect but because patients who have ED are no longer concerned with their condition once Raptura takes effect.

More miraculous still, it’s been determined that when Raptura is administered to high-functioning autistics, their brain chemistry is greatly normalized, allowing them to live relatively productive lives. Even the most severe cases of autism often show some signs of improvement. Clinical trials have begun at Novaforte in an effort to tune the drug for special needs.

The controversy is no longer over whether it’s appropriate to prescribe the drug. The question is, is it being prescribed enough?

Raptura advocate Mary McDaniel is a spokesperson for the Happy Planet Fan Club, an organization of successful Raptura patients who take their name from the Novaforte marketing slogan “Raptura, for a Happy Planet.”

McDaniel asks, “Do you see Raptura users fighting? Do you see them grabbing greedily for what isn’t theirs? Do you see them undermining each other? Rapture could mean an end to war, an end to poverty, an end to pain. Don’t tell the FDA to limit the use of Raptura. Tell them to give it to everyone. Tell all the regulatory organizations all over the world what it can do. This really could be a happy planet.”

Proceed to part 2...

Copyright © 2014 by Adam C. Richardson

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