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Happy Planet

by Adam C. Richardson

part 3

Corporate Decision Makers Experiment with a Raptura-Free Lifestyle
The Los Angeles Times, October 18, 2033

Are there any drawbacks to the use of Raptura? Binzer Corp. Vice President Yolanda Price says she believes there might be. “Don’t get me wrong,” she says. “We’re more productive than we’ve ever been. Our stock is up, our employees are satisfied. There’s no reason to believe things will ever change.”

So, what’s the problem? Binzer, the world’s leading manufacturer of cleaning supplies, has had record sales for three years straight.

“It’s clearly outlined in our ten-year vision statement that we want to expand our market share by being leaders in innovation and anticipating future market needs. In spite of that, we haven’t had a new product in five years, and there’s nothing in the pipeline. Our R&D department heads are struggling to find anything that would make an impact on the market.”

This sentiment is shared by other industry leaders. Business couldn’t be better, but innovations have not been a part of the upward trend. “We haven’t had a new patent for some time,” says Roberta Flagg, director of Research and Development at Gorman & Schneider Chemicals. “This shouldn’t be a problem, since we’re doing very well, but we have a corporate goal of leading the industry in new technology, and we’re not meeting that objective.”

Representatives from the U.S. Patent Office agree that patent applications have dropped off significantly in recent years. “Organizations just aren’t innovating like they used to,” says patent auditor Roger Bayliss. “They say necessity is the mother of invention. Perhaps we’ve finally gotten to the point that everyone has everything they need.”

But those committed to their corporate visions refuse to leave it at that. “If we are to lead in innovation,” says Roberta Flagg, “we’re going to have to examine the reason why innovation has ceased. There is a clear correlation between our drop in new patents and the widespread adoption of Raptura use by our employees.”

Flagg suggests radical measures must be taken. “Several of our top scientists agreed that in the interest of creativity, they would voluntarily stop taking Raptura.”

That’s right. As bizarre as it may sound, they’re suspending their intake of Raptura on purpose. For three months, five top researchers at Gorman & Schneider made the commitment to live a Raptura-free life. However, after the first two weeks, two of them chose to quit the experiment. The other three were able to hold out to the end.

The result? Patricia Weeks, one of the volunteers, said, “I still don’t know if this has been worth it. It’s like being knocked out of heaven. It’s true that ideas are coming more freely to me now. I’m able to think about the future. I’m able to think, ‘What if?’ But the truth is, ‘What if?’ just doesn’t seem that important when you know that everyone is having a much better time and that they’re not worried about the future at all. I doubt I’ll be able to continue my research for long under the circumstances.”

Similar experiments have been carried out in other businesses across the country with similar results. Predictably, those who choose to sacrifice the comfort of Raptura’s effects in the name of innovation find that, although their capacity for creativity increases, their enthusiasm for doing so drops significantly.

Psychologist Dylan Moffat says, “Creativity is stifled without drive and enthusiasm. And what drives an individual who already has everything they need anyway? The only thing that a person without Rapture needs is to get their hands on Raptura.”

Despite the discomfort, Patricia Weeks and her colleagues struggle onward. “I’ve committed myself to one more month without the drug. I’ve been able to make progress in my research for the first time in years. I need to see where it will take me.”

Whether Weeks succeeds or not, only time will tell. But one thing’s for sure. That time will be much more difficult for her and her colleagues than it will be for the rest of us.

John Darby Elected President in Landslide Victory!
The Washington Post, November 6, 2036

With a predictable 99 percent of the vote, John Darby, former president of Novaforte Pharmaceuticals and innovator of the revolutionary Raptura drug, becomes the nation’s 49th president. Although this comes as no surprise, there was nevertheless an atmosphere of celebration that permeated every corner of the country. Election parties were everywhere. People in cities and towns gathered around their televisions and watched with joyful anticipation as the nation’s new leader was endorsed by almost every citizen.

“The surprise isn’t that he did so well,” said professor of political science Julius Drake of Cornell University. “What’s surprising is that he didn’t get a full 100 percent of the vote.”

Few can disagree with that sentiment. Darby’s only competition, former Army General John Rigby, was not available for comment. “Rigby didn’t just have an uphill battle in facing Darby as an opponent,” Prefessor Drake says, “he never had a chance. You’re not going to win the population over by proposing pharmaceutical reforms that would limit Raptura’s use.”

So, what does President-Elect Darby plan in the coming years? “Environmental reform,” he says in his acceptance speech. “It’s what we’ve been preaching all along. We need to make the planet safe for the future. This is not a national effort. It’s a world effort, and we can lead the charge. I’m proposing that we begin work on secure compounds throughout the country and the world where the work of environmental research and development will take place.”

Gene Radcliffe, Darby’s vice-president, is behind the president’s message 100 percent. “There’s nothing to stop us now. This is an era of global prosperity. It’s time to clean up the sins of the past and make the planet perfect. The transformation within each of us is completed, thanks to pharmaceutical innovation. Now we can transform what’s outside.”

Darby has already chosen most of his cabinet, a bi-partisan committee united in the interest of making our future brighter. It comes as no surprise to any that the Secretary of State slot will be filled by Novaforte promoter Daniel Packard. The former rock star has stood as a symbolic reminder of the potential for positive change, and he will no doubt be an ambassador for world change in the years to come.

Daniel Packard’s Journal, February 27, 2037

Up until two days ago, I felt confident in my new position as President Darby’s secretary of state. Why am I having doubts now? Three days ago, I spoke at the U.N. before an audience of world leaders, addressing our agenda on global environmental reforms. I had a standing ovation that lasted for well over five minutes. I was confident and secure.

Where has my confidence gone?

I’ve told Dylan that I’m unwell, and he’s cancelled all of my appointments for the rest of the week. I’ve sequestered myself in my apartment. I cannot abide the doubts and anguish that now infect me.

I’ve thought a lot about the old days, my time as the monster Blight. I remember things that I normally can’t even comprehend. I remember sitting in that padded cell, my left hand bandaged from where I’d tried to cut myself, beating my head against a wall and whispering over and over and over again, “Stand and face the beating fists. Pain is proof that God exists.” Not only do I remember it, I remember how delicious it was. I loved feeling that way. How is that possible?

I remember a conversation I had with Ryan Gavin a couple years ago, back when we ate at some Italian restaurant in D.C. He said that no one on Raptura is having sex anymore. No one is having children. It’s the end of the world as far as he’s concerned.

That’s never occurred to me. I’m not married, so I’m not preoccupied with ideas about children. He’s right, though. You don’t see children anymore. I mean, President Darby and Vice-President Radcliffe both have huge families, but they’re the exception. I go all over the world, and I don’t see any children. Why isn’t anyone concerned about this? Why isn’t anyone thinking about the future?

I can’t write anymore! I can’t think anymore. It’s too terrible. Too painful.

Daniel Packard’s Journal, March 1, 2037

I read over my last journal entry, and it’s as if I’m reading an ancient manuscript. It’s barely decipherable.

I’m functioning like a human being again. In fact, I’m feeling super-human. My problem? It was a simple matter of a medication mix-up. Several evenings ago, I went with President Darby to the U.N. for a forum on environmental reform. We rode together in the presidential limousine, and I inadvertently picked up his bottle of Raptura, thinking it was my own.

As it turns out, President Darby is on a special formula of the drug, tailored to his own metabolism. It didn’t work for me, and I was left floundering in the darkness of my old self. Darby himself oversaw my check-up with the physician and has been keeping tabs on my progress.

Well, onward and upward. We’re going to move mountains in this administration. Great strides are already being taken domestically to clean up carbon emissions and water treatment. Next week I’ll be touring Asia, the first part of a global campaign to spread the new message.

Plague Death Toll in Pakistan may be in the Millions
The New York Times, July 5, 2039

U.N. aid workers say there is little to be done for the countless victims of the mysterious plague outbreak that struck in Pakistan last week. Despite efforts by a force of rescuing physicians, the strange ailment has no chemical, bacterial or viral signature, leaving field researchers with no ideas on how to proceed with treatment.

World Health Organization researcher Omar Gautamdas told reporters, “The ‘Smile Plague’, as this epidemic has been termed, manifests itself in an unprecedented fashion. Victims never report any discomfort or concern. They actually grow happier as the disease is manifested, resulting in an enigmatic smile. The patients gradually lose the desire to talk, to eat, and to move. They are content to lie down and stare. Eventually, even breathing becomes a chore, although there is no apparent physiological reason for the cessation of respiratory function.”

Outside witnesses claim there are bodies lining the streets and people lying in their cars, dead or dying. Survivors of the mysterious disease are told to avoid drinking tap water or any domestic beverages. An analysis of the affected area indicates that the likely cause of the disease is a contamination of local ground water.

“It is a hopeless situation for the locals,” says rescue worker Anne Bonham, “more hopeless than you can imagine, since Pakistan is the last nation to ban Raptura.” Bonham says there are rumors that Secretary Daniel Packard will personally address what’s left of Pakistan’s parliament to suggest a temporary lift on the drug ban to give Pakistanis an emotional lift in this time of turmoil.

Daniel Packer’s Journal, April 6, 2040

I visited one of the environmental reform compounds today in Alabama. This compound will be a template for others that will be built throughout the world. I cannot express how impressive the entire facility was. It’s driven entirely by wind and solar power. The water reclamation system is entirely self-contained.

And the scale! One of the research leads told me that a city of 20,000 people could be sustained within those walls indefinitely. Both President Darby and Vice-President Radcliffe have set up second homes within the compound. Darby put me up for the night in his guest house.

There are children here. Quite a few, in fact. I’m unaccustomed to seeing so many in one place, but as I flew over the compound during the tour, I spotted a schoolyard bursting with kids.

I’ll be helping with the expansion of the research compound program throughout the world. I realize I’m only the figurehead here, that the scientists are doing the real work. But it’s gratifying to be a part of such a momentous work.

There’s something I’m forgetting to mention. Some conversation that I was a part of, or... I don’t know. There’s something important that I need to remember. I believe it has something to do with my visit to Pakistan last year. That’s possible, since Pakistan was such a dark time, and I have difficulty remembering dark times.

Daniel Packard’s Journal, April 18, 2040

I’ve been repeatedly waking from the same dream. It’s so vivid until I wake up. Then it goes away. First I think I’m in Pakistan flying over the streets and seeing all the...

That’s a memory too dark to recall. But that’s not where the dream ends. The dream ends in Gene Radcliffe’s house in the Alabama compound. I’m staring at the back of his head. President Darby is sitting across from him, facing me, but he doesn’t see me, and he says...

I don’t know what he said. The dream loses focus after that moment. I’ll have to talk to my physician. Maybe my Raptura prescription needs to be adjusted. If President Radcliffe has his own formula, then perhaps I should as well.

Daniel Packard’s Journal, April 30, 2040

I arrived in Stockholm this morning. I’ll be introducing the environmental program at a science forum later this afternoon. On the flight over, Dylan told me I was talking in my sleep. I kept saying the word “Sledgehammer.” It seems an odd thing to dream about, but the fact is, the word sledgehammer stirs up unpleasant feelings. I didn’t think that was possible anymore. What does it mean?

Daniel Packard’s Journal, May 4, 2040

I’m still in Stockholm. I’ve shut everyone out of my suite and given Dylan explicit instructions to divert all calls, claiming I’m suffering from a serious migraine. I’ve had them before, so it’s a viable excuse. I’ve flushed my entire bottle of Raptura down the toilet. I’ve turned out all the lights. Now I brace myself for the wave of misery that I know is coming.

Why would I do this? I’m not sure. I keep thinking about an old news article I once read that said scientists were voluntarily abstaining from Raptura in an effort to reclaim lost cognitive function. Well, I don’t know if I’ve lost brain function, but I know I’ve lost a memory, an important memory, something that I cannot think about because it is negative. It’s so negative that only my dreams can tell me it ever happened, so negative that I can’t even remember the dreams.

My first night in this suite, I had set up my smartphone to record audio while I slept. I was concerned about what Dylan had said about me talking in my sleep. If I recorded myself, perhaps I could decipher the dream. I slept.

I startled myself awake, crying out the word “sledgehammer” repeatedly. When my head cleared, I picked up the phone and reviewed the record of my night’s sleep. Most of the recording was snoring and garbled muttering. But I heard a few snatches that had chilly significance, although I don’t know why.

The phrase that disturbed me the most is: “aren’t dying off fast enough...” Other phrases are less disturbing, and I have no idea what they mean. “Unable to synthesize.” “Too hasty.” And “additive causes an exponential...” That was followed up by the part where I woke up, shouting.

Something inside me doesn’t want to forget what my enhanced brain chemicals won’t allow. I know that if I put this behind me, I’ll eventually forget it. The drug can bury that memory, just as it’s buried so much of my past.

Why would anyone voluntarily quit Raptura? I may fail. I may give up. My hands are already beginning to shake.

Proceed to part 4...

Copyright © 2014 by Adam C. Richardson

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