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Magic Contrails

I am happier now. Really, I am. A lot happier. Everybody said it would be dangerous. Some said it would be suicide. That was before, when I was not so happy. Often I would be not so happy with the people I knew. They called themselves friends but what does that really mean? I mean, when all is said and done? They did make me happy on occasion, I guess. and maybe I made them happy, too, sometimes. At least that’s what I seem to remember. Or maybe I just read it somewhere. A lot of the time I must have been unhappy. Just like everybody else, I think.

Thing is, I can’t remember the feeling of being unhappy in any detail. As I said I am a lot happier now. Just as well that even the memory of unhappiness is gone. Good riddance, I say.

And as for the others, the ones calling themselves friends, I proved them all wrong. Ha! Not that they would understand or even believe, mind you. If I told them, that is. You see, I am happy. Just as I am. Me, not anyone else. I know what you’re thinking, but you are just as wrong as they were. I don’t need anyone else anymore to make me happy. And I don’t need the satisfaction to prove to them that they were wrong. It is enough for me to be happy.

And, even if I wanted to, which I don’t, thank you very much, I’m not sure I could communicate with them. They seem to be somewhere else, if you know what I mean. I am completely happy. They are still not. Not so happy. Don’t have the guts to follow my lead. So I’m here, happy, and they seem to be somwhere else. I used to be there, too, so I should remember how to get there, but some memories are a little slippery these days, a little vague. Like an old Polaroid snapshot that has been lying in the sun too long. Faded, vague, know what I mean?

So I can’t talk to them. Tough luck. I am happy, that is what counts. Why would I want to do something or go somewhere that would change that? After all, happiness is what I came all this way for, isn’t it?

And it was a long way. I think. I mean, it must have been, I don’t even remember most of it anymore. I do seem to remember that it started with an ad of some sort. “Claim your constitutional right to happiness now”, or something like that. I don’t think I paid it much heed in the beginning. Just another happy-pill or botox for the mind or something like that, I figured. And who needs that? Life was false enough as it was. I mean, that was the root of the problem, wasn’t it? At least the root of my lack of happiness. I thought.

Then I dimly remember that there was a growing media hype around the service and the people offering it. Something to do with it being genuine, real, the results unbelievable. But mostly the super-nova of growth they showed. It made me even more suspicious of the whole thing. It smelled like a combination of cult and pyramid scheme. There was something fishy in the way they mixed promises about the product itself and the business generated by it. Everybody I knew was scorning them. Me no less than anyone else, probably a bit more.

But then, I don’t know. My unhappiness must have peaked. As I said, I don’t really remember the feeling, so I’m not sure what happened there, exactly. I think I was going to kill myself. Chose a nice tall bridge to jump off of with heavy metal in my pockets to make sure I’d sink. As a fallback option if the impact on the water didn’t kill me. Heavy metal is a bit imprecise. Silver and gold it was. Everything I had, which was substantial (didn’t help with my happiness, though, didn’t it now?) changed into shiny bits of yellow and white metal, stuffed in my pockets. I remember I could hardly walk.

I took a taxi to avoid breaking down exhausted or losing my resolve on the way. The cabby kept looking at me in the rear view mirror in a funny way. Talking and smiling non-stop. I didn’t listen, didn’t pay attention. Ironically, we got stuck in a massive traffic jam half-way to the bridge I had chosen. Nothing moved. The cabby’s mood didn’t seem to be affected. He kept chatting and grinning, if anything even more animatedly than before. Out of sheer boredom, I think, I finally caught a few words of what he was going in about, now pointing ahead towards the thickest of the jam.

It turned out the backup had been caused by a sizable crowd picketing an office building. And, this was what the cabby found so hilarious, the company they were protesting against was none other than that ridiculous happiness company. And I finally understood that the cabby was one of their acolytes. Hence all the happy chatter and the complete lack of perturbation at the traffic gridlock. I don’t know what drove me, but I suddenly saw that it didn’t matter. Even if the worst of what everyone around me thought about that stuff was true, what the heck! I had decided to kill myself. What did I have to lose? Maybe I was just bored of sitting in the taxi. And the company’s building was tall enough to give me a good alternative to the bridge if a closer look at their portfolio showed that suicide might be better after all.

Either way, I got out of the cab, tossed a gold coin at the cabby that would buy him a new car, and dragged myself the few hundred steps to the company’s main entrance. By the time I got in front of one of their happiness agents as they called their sales reps I was so tired of carrying all that metal that I may have signed the contract just to get rid of all that weight. It turned out that the amount I had on me, literally, was the exact a price for their full package. Including eternal shareholder status, whatever that was supposed to mean. I didn’t care much about the details. The contract turned out to be almost a thousand pages, but my happiness agent joked and said that I needn’t bother, nobody had ever read the whole thing, and they had zero customer complaints. He gave me the executive summary, which I didn’t listen to. I was getting impatient. All I wanted at that point was to get it over with, get rid of the ballast weighing me down.

He handed me a strange-looking pen with the brightest smile I had ever seen. If I hadn’t been so impatient this might have made me suspicious. But as things stood I just took the pen and got ready to sign. It was one of those old-fashioned ballpoint pens that you had to push in a button at one end on in order to extend the ball point at the other end. The happiness agent had handed it to me with the point retracted, which was a bit odd. I pressed the button to extend it and almost dropped the pen. Something had stung my thumb just as I pressed the thing. But as I let go and shook my hand to get rid of the pain, the pen stuck to my thumb for a surprisingly long time. I used the other hand to pull it off, but by then the pain had eased already, and when I looked at my thumb I couldn’t see more than a small and slightly reddened indentation the shape of the oen’s button.

I looked up at the happiness agent and he shrugged apologetically, but still smiling. He mumbled something about brand name pens not being what they used to and helped me find the signature page in the contract. I shrugged inwardly, copying his gesture in my mind, and signed the document. There was something strange about the ball pen’s ink color. But maybe this was an antique pen and they were supposed to write in brown. I didn’t have time to ponder this as he stood up and pulled the contract and the pen in one fluent motion, slotting them into his briefcase and beckoned me to follow him to the cashier and then on to the procedure room.

After getting rid of my excess baggage I felt so light I thought I might float away, but my happiness agent didn’t give me enough time to enjoy or even explore that sensation. He lead the way with long strides and I had to hurry to keep up. I am by no means short of leg, but that guy was outpacing me by a rather generous margin. I followed him as closely as I could through a labyrinth of hallways and doors and up ramps, briefly wondering why we didn’t take an elevator. But then we were apparently already there. He opened the last door with a flourish and gestured for me to enter the room ahead of him.

That was the last thing I remember of my old life, and the memory is fading fast. It is almost painful trying to recall the details of it all. The next thing I knew was me walking out of the room, probably the same room, maybe a different one, feeling so light as to be buoyant. I almost skipped on the way out, grinning insanely at the people I met. I had no money left to get a cab but I didn’t mind. No, I was happy about that. The traffic was still standing outside the building, the picketers still going strong. I waved happily at them, thanking them for stopping my taxi and allowing me to come here. Not sure they got the right message, but it didn’t matter. I turned back the way I had come earlier and almost ran, skipping a little every few steps, all the way back home.

The exuberance of those first hours has mellowed a little, or maybe I just got used to a state of constant happiness. Hard to say. I am happy now, did I mention that? The shareholder dividends are nice, too. They started arriving soon after the procedure. Not that I ever worried about having given away everything I had. Worry is a theoretical concept now, anyway. As are all those other negative feelings people complain about.

I never returned to my old job, whatever that was. This is so much better, although I’m not sure how I know that. But I know that I do know that. With one hundred percent certainty.

This is about the size of my own story. I hope I haven’t bored you with it. But you know, boredom could be behind you in an instant, together with worry, dread, and all the other unhappy stuff. Do you have any more questions, or shall we proceed?

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