“One Pain”

We are only allowed the One Pain.

We see it once per year during Cry Time. The adults and children all view the video together. It’s hard to piece anything especially specific out of it, but over the years you get the general gist. At some point decades and decades ago a man saw his wife die in terrible vehicle accident. The man blamed the driver of a grocery delivery truck, a fight ensued, the driver was killed, and it bothered somebody else so much they decided to film it. That film spread over the Old Network and made the leaders in a community over the ocean very angry at the man who lost his wife. The community said that this man and his wife were bad people both. There was more anger, and before anybody knew it there was a terrible war. All of this was borne out of just one incident of pain and suffering.

The war was the result and continuation of hurts, twisting and compounding around and on top of each other until fire spread from the sky and destroyed most of the communities. The ones that were left had only sadness and nowhere to place it. From then on, pain and only pain was found worthy of destruction.

We’re all exposed to the video for the first time when we’re six years old. It’s just to give us a king of baseline for the minor hurts and dings that happen from day to day. Not getting picked for basketballs. Your best friend inviting somebody else over for a sleepover and not even telling you a party was on, or your mom getting angry at being interrupted and shouting at you. These are taken care of easily enough by Dose. Everyday when we arrive home from studies, we’re taken aside and administered Dose. That little green pill, once a day, a few hours before mealtime. Within twenty minutes, all that hurt starts to evaporate and it’s wonderful. You won’t forget that Bobby pushed you and took your ball, not immediately, but it’ll make you not care to the point that you forget anyway.

I was about eleven when I first started to notice a problem. One day, my friend Tracy and I were playing tether ball and Tony, an older boy who was about 14, came over. Tracy really didn’t like Tony, but deflecting him was fairly easy, and it wasn’t anything that Dose couldn’t alleviate later on if he got super annoying. He especially got on her nerves when he suggested that since their names share letters, they should be together. This line, he’d of course use over and over because Dose more or less made him forget this stupid line didn’t work and that he was being really perverted. Basically the main problem with Tony was that he was a massive creeper. He was consistently rejected by all the girls in his own age bracket, so on subsequent days, after Dose, he’d shoot lower for the kids who might give him the time of day, even if they wouldn’t. He came over and started his act, but this time for reasons I can’t possibly understand, she suddenly just looked at me and said “Tina, can you buzz off for awhile? Me and Tony wanna’ talk.” Like out of nowhere, she suddenly wanted to talk with this guy that I thought she didn’t give a damn about.

Now this cut me deep. I was angry at Tony, angry at Tina, was worried about Tina, and sad because I felt like I was second-tier friend because of…whatever it was that she wanted from him. As usual, after school I went to mom and told her what had happened, and she of course told me not to worry, that we’d kill this pain right away. I got my Dose and went to my room before dinner. The problem was this time it wasn’t working. It seemed like maybe it was kind of working a bit at first, but I couldn’t get it out of my head! In fact, it got worse the more I thought about it. I was getting overwhelmed by it all. I told mom I wasn’t hungry so I could try to get control of myself. I didn’t know at that point what happened if pain went on. Do I ask for another dose? Do I just tell a grownup? Is my Dose bad, like was all this just a fluke? I ended up just trying to push it all down and go to bed.

The next morning when I woke up I just went to studies and hoped that the afternoon’s dose would take effect. I met Tina, and we played Parcheesi in the recreation room at recess. She was totally fine and neither of us brought up the previous day’s problems—not that we ever did—and that helped a little because at least there I could reasonably assure myself that nothing too crazy had happened. If anything beyond some unwanted flirting had occurred, it’s more likely that neither Tina or Tony—who I saw later that day though he ignored us—would have been straight on their way to Machine, and we wouldn’t see them for a few days while they recovered from the process.

For the more simple and everyday types of mild and moderate pains, Dose works its magic well enough, but for more serious pains, we have Machine. Machine goes the next step above and beyond dose, actually wiping the memory entirely from your mind, along with its associated emotions. It’s carefully reserved only for the most troublesome of things because to overuse it would eventually make of us completely unable to function in Community. For instance, two years after I was born, there had apparently been a murder committed, an exceedingly rare thing in and of itself. It’s strictly forbidden to talk about of course though, because both the murderer, his family, and the victim’s family all had to go through Machine. In this way, all the pain is lost and there is no need for imprisonment or restitution. As for anyone else, the less the speak of it—combined with Dose—the less they remember or care.

That night when I got home, Dose didn’t help. I had done poorly on a mathematics quiz that I was quite sure I’d do quite well on, and even well after dinner it still ate at me. I was quite scared at this point having come to the conclusion that something was very seriously wrong with me. There wasn’t a great deal I could about it either. I couldn’t really predict how my parents would react or what it is they’d do if I told them. I definitely couldn’t tell my tutor. She’s bound by Law to contact Authority immediately. I could try going direct to authority myself, but I was terrified of that as I had absolutely no clue what they’d do or assume about me. The only time I’d ever seen an authority agent about was during the annual showing of the One Pain.

It was at this that I resolved to never ever reveal a single thing about what had been going on with me. I had to keep doing what I’d done for the past forty-eight hours and continuously suppress my negativity. If I was lucky, maybe I could try and feel super happy and that would cancel out the bad. Maybe Dose would start working fully then. And as the years went by, I continued to do this. During the annual video, that’s when I allowed all that hurt to come out at once, when it would be camouflaged and unable to distinguish away from a reaction to the violence, squalor, and mayhem in the video. Between that and the small amount of time between any given hurt and Dose where I was allowed a modicum of soon-to-be-gone pain, I could manage pretty well.

And it was a good thing all this worked and I could train myself to mostly come across as normal for as long as I did because after I got my first period, even the mild relief provided by Dose completely disappeared. I spent all of my years at studies steeling myself and faking it just that much more. I nursed the shame in bed at night and soon managed to figure out how to put that away too, or at least as best as could be expected. 

I excelled in all subjects ultimately and Authority granted me a great placement in the Academy Network. Not a month after I moved into the dormitories though, I got the most horrendous news I could have possibly gotten: Grandfather had died. I broke into tears the moment I heard. Grandfather was always around and always encouraged me in every aspect of my life. He was the pillar of my existence, especially after my problem had started. Where Dose had stopped working, just his presence in a room was more effective for me by orders of magnitude. I came so close sometimes to telling him. He felt like he could be trusted and maybe to even understand and help hold my secret. He was only just next week coming to visit me here, and oh did I need him there because the first week of Academy had been very stressful indeed. As I sat crying and writhing on the floor in Tina’s arms, Authority came in and seized me immediately. They whispered some comforts, but mostly just wanted to get me out of sight of everyone else.

Now I’m here. I’m a few hallways away from Machine. I’m writing this in my quarters over my lunch while I wait for my timeslot to come up. I don’t know why exactly except that I know this: I learned about Dose during studies. I researched it myself. It attacks the same neurons and connections that Machine does, only just in a much more touch-and-go fashion whereas Machine stops just short of snapping them like twigs. In other words, there is no reason whatsoever to believe this is going to work on me. I’m still crying over Grandfather as I write this and also the abject terror that I have for what happens when they pull me out and I’m still crying.

Pain is the bane of society. It is the killer of humanity. It is not worth keeping around in any measures beyond the absolute most necessary to demonstrate the better nature of Community. I know this. I want whoever reads this to know that I know this. Please Authority show mercy and find some way to fix me. Please don’t send me to Disposal. I can change. I can improve. I promise!

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