Seven Days of Happiness

Seven Days of Happiness

A Story by TJ

Seven Days of Happiness

 

                A vast expanse of green covering the rolling, hilly plains. Unkept grass swaying gently in the steady, summer breeze; waving and rippling like the waters of a massive but gentle lake under warm zephyrs. And there she was, sitting atop a small knoll, under the shade of one of the few trees that dared to interrupt the never ending serenity of the plains.  Her dark hair flowed in the wind as the grass did, wave after wave gently rushing through it, saving their last massive flails for the tips before jumping away, only to be instantly replaced.  She was beautiful and she looked even more so sitting in our spot, waiting for me.

From that spot, with its slightly raised vantage point, you could look for miles and miles as the massive meadow rose and fell and stretched endlessly into the horizon. It was untouched, undefiled beauty, matched only by hers.  Even the rust-covered earth movers, and back hoes that had been dropped in a distant corner and left to die seemed to have grown in to become a natural and beautiful part of the scene; a part of our place.

I realized how lucky I was I sat in our spot in our secret place. To have all this beauty here just for me, no, for us. This place, hidden in the open, not twenty minutes away from the bustling world of downtown, only the dilapidated ghost-town that was the old business district separated this beautiful, natural place from the infinite of the city. Yes, traveling through the modern ruins was unpleasant, but don’t we have to suffer the unpleasant things in life if we want to get to the beautiful ones? Maybe some people refused to; maybe that’s why this place was still a secret.

“So, is it true? Do you have it?” I asked, crossing my legs in front of me as I sat down in the grass.

“Yea,” she said, nodding. Her voice sounded pleasant, cheerful even, and a grin persisted on her face, although I’m sure it was unwanted.

“What have they been saying in school?” she asked.

“Nothing,” I said flatly, keep my gaze fixed on the horizon. “They’ve all pretty much figured it out by now. It isn’t hard; you hardly ever miss a day and now you’ve been gone for three. We all pretty much figured…”

I looked at her. She was so beautiful, more now than she had ever been before.

“It’s nice to see you smile. I haven’t seen it in so long, your smile I mean. God, not since we were kids.” I felt a pang of pain saying these words as unwanted, unwelcomed memories began to play in my head.

“Yea,” she said, still grinning “I wish I could’ve had the chance to see yours ag-“

I raised my hand, pleadingly, hoping she wouldn’t finish what she was going to say, and, mercifully, she didn’t. I could not handle hearing the words that she was going to utter; my silent denial could not have taken the challenge.

I wanted to cry, she wanted to cry, but neither of us could, so instead we sat staring at each other. I gazed into her eyes and, to me, they were deeper, more beautiful, more alive, than they had ever been before. Just then the setting sun dipped down behind her, setting her aglow and one single tear managed to break free and roll down my cheek.

She scooted closer to me and leaned into my shoulder. I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her tightly into me. I was holding her, but it was she who was comforting me. Whether it made sense or not, we both knew I needed it more than she did.

“It feels good, ya know. I feel good, better than I’ve felt in so long…so long,” she reassured.

“What…” I paused, trying to think of the words. “How does it feel?

“It feels…I feel…happy. Not like high or anything like that just so…satisfied, like everything is perfect.”

 Like everything is perfect.

Everything was not perfect, but inside this moment it seemed it was, so I said nothing and held her tighter.

 

“Where were you? I went to pick you up from school today " figured I’d surprise you with a ride home " and, lo and behold, you aren’t there.”

I dropped my backpack in the floor of the coatroom just inside the door then peeled off my jacket and hung it on the rack. My dad - still dressed in a shirt, tie, and sweater-vest " folded his paper in his lap, and shot me an annoyed look through is business frames.

“I went to see Rachel, Dad.”

“Oh,” the edge left his voice a bit “I heard she was sick.”

I nodded, “Yea.”

“Well how long has " “

“Three days, Dad. Only three days.”

“Damn it, Trent, how can you be sure?” As quickly as it had left, the annoyed edge in his voice returned with a vengeance.

“I think I can tell the difference betw-“

“Son, you are not a doctor. I know you cared about this girl, but you cannot risk bringing something into this house!”

“Dad! It’s going to get into the house regardless! Whether I bring it in, or a fly brings it in, or the wind brings it in! it’s " “

I stopped myself and instead just shook my head and watched as my dad did the same. That’s how most of our arguments ended now, if you can even call them arguments. When what should be a screaming match sounds like a tense conversation between two librarians, you lose motivation to continue at all. Anger is a necessary component of an argument and when you can’t summon that, you end up just feeling silly. At some point both parties realize they sound like idiots going back and forth in their civil tones, and there’s an unspoken, mutual agreement just to stop.

I began walking towards the staircase to go to my room, then stopped and returned to the living room.

“I thought you’d understand,” I said in a raspy voice that was almost a whisper. “Now that I think about it, though, I should’ve known you wouldn’t.”

“I have to protect my house and my family as long as I can. You should understand and appreciate that!”

Before I could reply the front door swung open and through it burst my older brother.  He was the type of guy a person could look at and instantly know: the idiot, jerk, Neanderthal, all-star quarterback that got all the girls, and was an a*s to everyone.

“Trent! Heard Rachel caught it. She’s three days in right?”

I nodded.

“Good, well please do us all a favor and man up and hit that sometime in the next two days before you can’t anymore! I mean, even you should be able to talk your dying girlfriend into putting out.”

I drew back my elbow and buried it in his teeth. Blood spurted from his mouth and the unexpected blow sent him staggering backward. I charged him, grabbed his collar, and slammed him into a wall, shattering a lamp in the process. I reared back and punched him again, this time it land smack on the right side of his nose. He was disoriented and woozy, but he was also leaps and bounds stronger than I was and, even in his current state, he was able to power forward into me and send both of us sprawling through the coffee table. Now he had the advantage, and he used it to drop a couple punishing blows.

Luckily for me, fighting was like arguing in that anger was necessary to feed it on, hence they never lasted too long (probably why my dad decided not to intervene). After a few more seconds of rolling around on the floor, we climbed to our feet, bloodied about the face and hands, and decided it was enough.

“F**k off, Bryan.”

“Back at ya, little bro’.”

 

The rain had slowed from a downpour to a sprinkle, then to nothing at all, leaving only the dreary gray clouds, and a soggy, miserable day behind it. I was soaked, and cold, even colder now that the rain had stopped falling. With my hood over my head, I aimlessly roamed the midday streets. Every day I asked myself why I bothered lugging this heave backpack around with me, knowing I wasn’t going to school, but every day I brought it anyway. Perhaps it was to keep some sense of normalcy and routine, or perhaps, deep down, I really did intend to go to school every morning, but decided against it so quickly I didn’t even realize I had considered it.

As I trudged through the wet streets I made sure to walk past the elementary school, as I did every day at this time. And, like every day, they children were out in the playground having what was supposed to be recess, but it was hardly the recess I remember. The balls, the swings, the slides, the toys, they all sat, unbothered, unused. The kids didn’t laugh, or play freeze-tag, or basketball, or pick on the girls, instead they all stood around talking, some roamed around the playground but most just sat and chatted. The adult that was supposed to be there supervising was nearly asleep, but why not sleep, what was going to happen? These kids had no motivation to run, or laugh, or make trouble; they simply talked.

How long had it been since I heard a child’s laugh? Every day I came here hoping to here just one child laugh, not even a loud laugh, just a giggle, and every day I left disappointed. It was for them I had the most pity. At least I had known the joys of laughing and playing; I had known a world where the human race wasn’t so hopelessly damned; I had known a world before drugs turned us all into emotionless shells; a world where a smile was a smile, not the first system of a terrible disease the promised a horrible death. What was it like to be told from birth a smile was to be feared? That it was a symbol, not only of death, but of a lonely, quarantined death. What is this world?

 

“I’m done, Dad. I’m not taking these anymore.”

I rolled the pill bottle back and forth between my hands as my head moved across my dark room to sit next to me on my bed.

“Son,” Even buried under the layers of medication, I could hear the anxiety in his voice, “you can’t stop taking them; they’re our only protection.”

“They don’t protect us from anything.”

“They are the only way we know when someone has been infected.”

That part he was right about. This terrible flu, this horrible plague; before it turned you  into a fever-ridden biohazard, before it put you into constant unbearable pain, before it turned you into a chemical weapon more deadly than anything any human has ever created,  before it did that…it gave you seven days of happiness. For seven days it made you feel wonderful, not high or manic, just happier than you’d ever been in your life. It was during this period that you weren’t contagious, thus this was the only opportunity for quarantine; once the fever began to set in on day eight, it was too late, everyone in the whole town, maybe the whole county, was fucked. We’d all be infected.

No treatment.

No cure.

 The only hope was to slow down the infection by quarantining the sick before they become contagious, but to do that you had to be able to recognize the infected. So how do you make happy people stand out?

These pills.

                I shook my head, “Dad, we are all going to die anyway. The scientists said it; No cure! We’re all done.”

                “So what are we supposed to do?” he snapped. “Give up? Quit? Yea, maybe you’re right and maybe the scientists and doctors are right and we are headed for extinction, but, damn it, I’m gonna fight all the way down! We all are! That’s what makes us human!”

“We’re all going to die, Dad! Eighteen months from now there won’t be a human left alive on this planet! NONE! I don’t know if I have another week, or a month, or a year, but I ain’t livin’ it like this anymore! Living life so f****n’…numb!”

                He sighed and let his head droop down, then got up and headed for the door.

                “Son, if you’re not gonna take the meds, you can’t stay here anymore. I love you, but I can’t jeopardize this family. I have your two younger brothers two think about.”

                “What about me, Dad? Putting me out is not jeopardizing your family? Putting Mom out wasn’t jeopardizing your family?!” I screamed.

                “Your meds are wearing off,” he responded flatly, “you need to take more, or go.”

                And with that, he disappeared into the darkness of the hallway.


© 2011 TJ



Author's Note

TJ
this was actually a novel i was working on and got stuck so i widdled what i had down to a short story and here it is! Ideas are welcomed :)

My Review

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Featured Review

It's really interesting. I like the ideas and especially the way you set it up with the introduction!

There are a lot of grammatical errors like the double quotation marks at the end of cut-off sentences. There should be a dash and then the closing quotation mark. Also there are spelling mistakes, like "system" instead of "symptom" and "they" instead of "the". I know grammar is kind of a secondary thing but it's really distracting when I'm enjoying a story and have to reread a sentence in order to have it make sense.

Some of the interactions seem a little.....quick or forced. Like there needs to be pauses where you describe the emotions on the characters faces and give them time to think between answering. The fight with the two brothers especially doesn't seem natural to me. (I myself am terrible at writing fight scenes, so I can't give you too much help there.) I think the way you write into it with "I drew back my elbow and buried it in his teeth." is too weird. I feel like it should be something like...."I gritted my teeth and just as he went to move away, I thrust my fist into his teeth." (Or something kind of like that, to make it more surprising.)

The ideas are absolutely fantastic! I love the idea of a pill that makes you unhappy but that you have to take it. That a smile is dangerous. I love the title too! I think this would be a fantastic novel and I'd like to know where you got stuck with it. I also like a lot of the ways you describe things. Like the field at the beginning and the children talking instead of playing.

I think it could just use a little more work. Read, re-read and re-read again. Make sure you're happy with every word of every line. You should be sick of your story by the time you've done. And if you ever get stuck I find it's good to take a little break and return to it later with a fresh perspective!

(Sorry for the long review!) Keep up the good work!

Posted 6 Years Ago


5 of 5 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

This is fantastic - I hope you write the novel :)

Posted 2 Years Ago


So very expressive, the way you write. I admire your style. You weave a stark contrast between the beautiful and the harsh. Great storyline. The first few paragraphs really pulled me in.

Posted 4 Years Ago


There are such beautiful descriptive narrative bits in this compared to the harsh theme of the story. I can see where this would lend itself to a novel but it does also work as a short piece of fiction. I found myself empathetic for the characters at the end - wishing for that elusive happy ending.

Posted 5 Years Ago


Kind of makes you wonder if it wouldn't be better for everyone to go off their meds at the same time and go out in one big happy group.

Posted 5 Years Ago


This is very interesting. : ) I like the idea of the plague you had and I was hooked to every word. Excellent write!

Posted 6 Years Ago


It's really good :) Can't wait to read more!

Posted 6 Years Ago


It's good. We think about chemical and biology warfare and you show us a tale that may happen.
I have to say I love the title.

Posted 6 Years Ago


you have an intensity about you that every story has me wanting more of it, do you think you will do follow ups to your stories? i love some of the lines you wrote like" yes traveling through the modern ruins was unpleasant, but don't we have to suffer the unpleasant things in life if we want to gt to the beautiful ones"? AND " like everything is perfect, but everything is not perfect but inside this moment it seemed it was, so i said nothing and held her tighter" AND " i had known a world before drigs turnd us into emotionless shells". i was a little confused at first how you went from this amazing story about the girl n guy relationship, then dropped to the dad and brother, but i did get where it was going at some point and how you draw a cirlce of color and visulation, it makes me think back to something a sister friend once said to me, sometimes god has go through difficult times to see if we are ready to go to anothr place, n if we are the next step is waiting for us, if not it is time to find another path. there is such an explosion of rawness between dad, the brother, n the main character, you have way with words in a very artful way. keep writing.

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I can't wait to read more of your work....another excellent write!

Posted 6 Years Ago



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Added on May 16, 2011
Last Updated on May 16, 2011

Author

TJ
TJ

Virginia Beach, VA



About
My name is TJ and I'm still just your typical aspiring author :) Follow me on twitter @tj_coles And for some short stories in 140 characters or less follow @timmystales more..

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