Another Excerpt from ‘Didact’

Below is another excerpt from a (somewhat protracted) short story I’m working on. Current word-count is 3000 words, of which you’ll find almost 600 below. It’s unclear how it’ll be incorporated, but it will. The lines are spoken, the words are the protagonist’s, not the narrator’s, which is not me. For the record.

Now, I want you to think long and hard about whether you think humanity is so good. Okay? Long and hard.
I want you to consider what you might see on one day’s news. Wars in the Middle East, gathering clouds over eastern Asia threatening to break into violent crashes and clashes and rains of tears, a group of poor Nicaraguans beheaded by narco-traffickers in a field within sight of the US border, right across the Rio Grande–no doubt fated so because they were unable to pay some final fee to their guides, or something, perhaps, much much darker, some totally random shooting of a congresswoman, bank heists, rape, murder, marauding, pillaging and general mayhem, all are the purview of one twenty-four hour stretch of broadcast punctuated only by commercials. And think of those commercials. How many of them are for antidepressants. It’s not like it used to be. Growing up in the 1990’s and in the early aughts, he remembered it was much more common. All were the same: generic, soft-focused images of people walking contemplatively in the waves, cutting to images of the same people inside on couches like something out of a dreary Pottery Barn spread, all in some capacity rubbing their foreheads, or with fingers splayed applying squeezing pressure to their temples. In this way, done with only one hand, the thumb and forefinger, though something of a massaging vice grip, are still unmistakably in the shape of a gun. Queue children in cowboy costumes running through the room, pointing cocked finger-guns at one another, clearly exclaiming “Pow! Pow! Bang! […] I got to reload. […] I’m hit! I’m hit! You’ll never take me alive…” The couched adult seems totally unexcited by this, and while it might be tempting to accuse him of being jaded or otherwise too sophisticated to bother with some child’s play, one can’t, really. Because they look too pitiful, just sitting there, being careful to let all the sagging pooch of their lower abdomens be exposed to the camera and lighting crew. The way that their hand just sits there limply after massaging their temples, it’s disgusting, really. And don’t forget that you aren’t able to hear the endearing children shout their little proto-explatives, or listen to the exhalation of the sighing actor. No, man. Remember: there’s that somewhat sad piano music that they always play, comprising its own genre: music composed to evoke feelings of empathy and understanding, guidance through difficult times, primarily for use by the pharmaceutical industry in obfuscatory advertisements. A kind female voice asks probing questions. “When you’re depressed, where do you want to go? (Nowhere) Who do you want to see? (No one) Depression hurts in so many ways: sadness, loss of interest, anxiety. Molleux can help.” And then she goes on to explain how Molleux can make you want to kill yourself, how it will react with a whole host of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, and may lead to psychosis, dementia, swelling of the head and neck, sexual disfunction, liver damage, especially when used in conjunction with monoamine oxidase inhibitors… all in the same, concerned voice as before, except quite a bit quicker. As if there’s a lot to hurry through. It ends with the adult playing with children in the waves, the grey hue of the previous 25 seconds having lifted right after the voiceover lady let him know that Molleux should not be taken if he was pregnant or intended to become pregnant, which was right at the beginning of all the verbalistic fine print. As if to make the drug’s risks seem, well, more colorful.


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