A Solitary Task

One step was not enough. My entire body yearned to understand whatever this miraculous device could be. Already within feet of the woman, I extended a hand so that I might be able to touch what lay beyond the fluttering divide. Instead, the curtain was loosed onto my fingertips.

“We've been working on this for…years, it must be,” the man told me, appearing by my side. He looked to the lanky female scientist for confirmation.

She bobbed her head. “Years, certainly.”

“This project that we’ve been working on, well, it could change your life.”

“The last time someone said that to me…” But I bit my own tongue, unsure if there was any necessity in scratching old wounds. I pushed down the guilt that rebelled in my throat, and concentrated on the same of the future, my task here. “Okay. What is this…box?” What a flat ending to finish on, but the scientists would have to find their own way to change my words into glamour.

“This…oh, to begin to explain-”

“It is a Happiness Machine,” interjected the man, unveiling his words with the most pride.

“A happiness machine? What’s that?”

“Does it need any other prompt? This is the machine that will provide you with happiness, with whatever you have ever needed.”

Although my jaw hung slack, I couldn’t help looking at the man with a scepticism novel to myself.

“How does it work?” When I spoke, my words slipped out in an untamed whisper.

“That’s what we need you to confirm for us,” the woman said. “We need you to enter the machine alone, to enter the dimension that lies beyond, whilst we will control your biorhythm-statistics from out here, in that lab. Before you propose the question, there are sensors in the machine that negate the use of electrodes to your brain; we are able to use a remote monitoring system. And, indeed, you will be fine.”

“That’s our opinion of the machine.”

“Yes, but how does it work? Happiness: how can you force an emotion into being?”

“Not force,” the woman told me. “Entice. You’ll experience it swiftly soaking through your subconscious like a true emotion. That’s the joy of the Happiness Machine. It creates for you, whenever you want the simplicity of a moment’s happiness, you can have it safely, without the hassle of creating it yourself. Instant peace.”

Simplicity? Already they were tangling with morality, branches I had only briefly touched upon, but it was too much of a vinestream to pick clarity out from it.

“Peace…” I stumbled on all versions of the word.

“Well?” asked the women. “Do you accept to be part of our experiment?”

I studied the veil once more, listening to its resonance, of the eternal world beyond that blissfully tempted me. In this laboratory, this one state, the only complete piece was that magical chamber that lay beyond. Tantalising feelings stuck my tongue to the roof of my mouth, and all I could do in response was to nod at their waiting expressions. I could do no more than gawk, as stupid as it seemed.

“This ‘Happiness Machine’… I just enter, believe, and it will create whatever I wish?” I eventually asked, two minutes after nobody had moved.

“Absolutely whatever will make you happy will come to life in the Happiness Dimension. We hope to make it so that others will be fulfilled by its unique properties.”

“I…” At the back of everything, reminding of the lump at the back of my silent throat, was that lack of trust. I hadn’t trusted Daniel to be able to provide the kind of satisfying life I yearned for, and still, I could not pass on trust to this couple of bizarre science.

“What can we say to further entice you?”

“It’s not that, thank you. I’m just…considering my options for the time-being.”

“Of course,” the man said; “it would be unfair to think that you had no choice in the matter. Our only interest is in testing the Happiness Machine so that, one day, it will be available for all society who wish to understand happiness.”

“Yeah.” A smile crossed my lips. “I’m in.”

The woman, who had stepped forward again (for she seemed indecisive in where to stand in my presence), sized me up with her opalescent eyes, checking my figures for its possible problems.

“Dress in this,” she eventually said, handing me a long white robe from nowhere, which almost looked like a dress, were it not for the ties that folded over each other in the same manner that the scientists’ clothes did. The woman informed me that a bathroom lay beyond the rightward passage, in which I quickly changed.

Less than five minutes later, I had returned back down the dark passageway to the whitened room, seeing it with eyes afresh, now that I myself had dressed in the cloak that also concealed the scientists. I wandered close to the veil once more, on surprising tiptoes, and secretly watched the female scientists archaic movements from out of the corner of my eye.

“Ready?” she murmured, her silken voice hot in my ear.

As I turned to face the woman fully, I nodded in a slight, odd movement.

“I want to see what the Happiness Machine is like. If it can help the world… Show me, please.”

“All you need to do is enter, stay for a while, and then tell us what the experience comes to and mention any technical issues you think we should resolve. We won’t open up the communications system until you say to, as that’s only fair.”

Her smile was entrancing; through the aura of mysteriousness that clung to her hair, I noticed a gentler side that had not been obvious to me when I had entered. The woman lifted a hand and caressed away the veil. Even at this moment, it was hard to imagine that the rail actually existed, instead only the noise of the veil sliding along it revealed what might not have been there at all.

This time, instead of showing the colourless exterior that I had glimpsed before, the woman leant forward and tugged at the handle lodged into the door-front. The darkest piece of the machine she clutched in her hand, holding it open to expose the world beyond.

The End

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