It started with a live demonstration, where the showrunner and his two assistants gathered in the town square and presented their product. The Tissue, a small device capable of altering one’s emotions with the push of a few buttons. The assistants clicked their heels together, anxious for their long-awaited moment in the spotlight.
For several days, the trio gathered, and each time they did, a larger crowd gravitated toward them. After all, who isn’t interested in controlling their emotions?
Whatever emotion you can think of, we’ve got it on this device!
The showrunner tapped his hat and called out to the crowd, asking for an example to start the demonstration.
The showrunner gestured to the man who called out the latter and instructed his partners to follow. They both punched in the emotion and immediately locked themselves in a sincere embrace that touched the hearts of everyone present.
Someone suggested “apprehension” and the assistants followed suit. They pulled away and eyed each other with dubious suspicion. Everyone in the crowd marveled at the sudden change.
“Hey, how do we know they aren’t just doing what he asked them to do?”
The showrunner smiled and patted a box by the stand he’d set up. He pulled back the cloth to reveal dozens of Tissues.
Why don’t you find out for yourselves?
The first batch sold out in a matter of hours. Whether to prove the showrunner’s fraudulence or his deliverance, it seemed nearly everyone had purchased a mood organ.
Despite the uptake in sales, the showrunner maintained the same pattern of marketing. Only now, the crowd itself willingly participated in the demonstrations. Any doubts of the contraption’s capabilities were quickly dispelled as everyone could compare their emotions to those around them.
Does it work, or doesn’t it?
As usual, someone called out an emotion, and the whole square dialed in unison.
Both the crowd and the pair onstage immediately clamored for another emotion:
Only a few members of the crowd dialed the emotion, and even fewer were willing to call out another.
The crowd dissipated, as they could no longer stand to be around their neighbors or continue using the unnatural machine. The assistants snarled at each other before separating.
How unpredictable emotions are!
As soon as the final emotion burned out, word spread to the surrounding towns of the miraculous invention. They quickly inherited the original skepticism of the first congregation and, more so, their curiosity. Droves headed to the square so that the next day was occupied entirely by the distribution of the device.
Word travels fast! Emotions travel faster!
The following day, an equally-sized crowd gathered. The showrunner eyed them cautiously. Few were there who hadn’t already purchased a Tissue for their own reasons. The only people properly at his disposal were his two assistants.
The showrunner shook his head but his assistants had already dialed the emotion. One welled with tears while the other sank to the floor with an empty expression.
They won’t want to dial anything now…
The pair dialed and turned their attention toward one another, commencing a muted argument over nothing. Several members of the loyal audience dialed in tandem.
One of the partners stood and viciously accused the other of monopolizing the spotlight. The showrunner’s voice was lost among the clamors of the crowd.
Only the assistants dialed. They both threw themselves to the ground and shivered uncontrollably. The crowd drew closer, laughing at the convulsing performers. Their wild eyes passed over the monstrous mass approaching them.
The showrunner shoved through the mob and forcibly dialed “docile” on the Tissues of both his assistants. He was met with vicious stares on behalf of his customers. The show had just begun.
Before the showrunner could say anything, the partners dialed and started fighting again, this time coming to blows while the crowd egged them on. A few bystanders dialed the emotion themselves for the full immersive experience.
The showrunner reached for the Tissues of his partners, but they continually batted him away. The crowd, inflamed by the interference, drew him into the horde and beat down on him. The showrunner, now swept along the friction of bodies, left a void to be filled. The crowd turned their rage against each other at the slightest provocation. Shoulder bumps led to fists in the face. Mild eye contact led to chokeholds. The few people trying to dial a different emotion or escape were suctioned into the frenzy as the square ejected a throbbing passion that dulled any sense of reason within them.
As the emotion burned out and the crowd slowly drew back to reveal the bloody cadavers, the weight of their actions pressed against them. A particular uncertainty briefly passed over the speechless congestion before they all dialed “indifference” and continued with the demonstration.
Christian Barragan is a recent graduate from California State University Northridge. Raised in Riverside, CA, he aims to become a novelist in the future. He currently reads submissions for Open Ceilings Magazine at UC Davis. His work has appeared in Pif Magazine, Moria Magazine, and Coffin Bell, among others.