About a year ago I found myself on a swamp tour in the middle of Louisiana. It’s crazy to think back to those simpler times. For some reason I couldn’t shake the words, Hank, my charismatic tour guide let out. He seemed to have a routine of jokes he kept tucked away in his head. I wondered if these specific words were said to every group or if it was just mine. If you asked me that day I would have been sure every single group heard it but now I’m not so sure. Its almost like he was warning me and the words were meant to be trapped on repeat in my head.
I looked down at the tiny black tablet in front of me. I can still make out the letter “t”, but just barely. My palm must have worn it out from the many times I held it.
“Why tempt fate?”
These were the words Hank said that brisk April day. I put the pill back in one of those tiny baggies that I strongly believe are manufactured just for the benefit of dealers. I placed it back in the hidden bottom of my jewelry box then got back into bed next to Andrew. It was kind of a struggle because he is a lot larger than me and likes to do this thing he calls “koalaing” in which his leg takes up 90% of the bed. I used to be annoyed but after some time he started to remind me of those big dogs who sit on your lap thinking they are way smaller than they are. It became endearing. I stared at him for a minute thinking about what life would be like after. If I chose to do it. I turned over and put my body against his. Right now I felt happy here, next to him. Sometimes, I liked him better when he was sleeping. My eyes began to feel heavy and I began to drift in and out of sleep. “Why tempt fate?” I repeated until my thoughts turned to dreams.
The first time I heard about T, H3, Trinity, or whatever you want to call it, was through a friend, who heard it through a friend, who you know, most likely heard it through a friend. That’s how most gossip travels at Tulane- through a tricked down grapevine. Alexandra, texted in my friend group chat that we so cleverly named “Krewe De Schambles” to explain our outgoing personalities and the messes we usually find ourselves in.
As how most group chat conversations go I am always the last to reply as I’m never on my phone. Phones seem unnecessary sometimes.
Jackson is my friend who knows everything about the things you shouldn’t know about. In high school, he and his friends bought a fake ID machine in which they successfully made thousands of dollars off the riches of Long Islands finest minors. Freshman year I took my first bong rip with him, then months later first key bump. That summer he was sent away to a rehabilitation facility in which he made money off selling cigs to the other patients only to run away thirty miles in the desert without a phone or even shoes. Well allegedly. A lot of his life seems questionable but it’s more fun to believe him than not, so I do. Sophomore year he made me an account on the black market, which I was happier to have than ever use. I am also pretty sure he is constantly monitored by the government. Anyways, he is my go to friend for anything that falls into the category of illegal. I’m glad he’s still here.
He said he knew about “T” because he saw a thread about it on Reddit. He didn’t think it was real until Jordan. The comments said that most people die but in a way unlike anything else.“Godlike.” Some people live too, and those that have claim eternal happiness. He didn’t say much else but he told me to never do it. When Jackson says not to do it, I listen.
Everything since that day happened so fast. Almost like a bad dream the rest of us are stuck to live in. First came the news updates. “New Drug ‘Trinity’ Causes Death in 66% of Users.” “Heaven, Happiness and Hell: Inventor of Trinity Gives us an Inside Look at his Creation.” “Trinity: Meant to Cleanse the World.” “North Korea Incentives Citizens to Take H3with $5,000 Reward.” “Death Tolls Report Trinity Has Taken at Least 500,000 Lives Worldwide.” “Thanks to Trinity, India’s Overpopulation Issue is Fixed.”
It wasn’t long until Trinity affected my life directly. First, it was my mom. It came as a surprise but in her note to my brother and I, she talked about how she’s been depressed for a long time. That Trinity seemed like her way out. I like to think she went to Heaven although she was alone when she took it so I could never know. Thinking of her hurts. So I can’t, I don’t allow myself. I used to sit in crowded areas and think, “All these people and none of them will ever be my mom.” It wasn’t fair. I don’t think I ever even allowed myself to grieve. Since my parents are divorced and I had an estranged relationship with my father I moved my whole life into New Orleans. Home to me was now 6323 Magnolia Street and leaving my life behind in Chicago was the easiest way to avoid thinking of her.
Then it was my roommate Kelsey and her boyfriend Jack. They started dating at the beginning of this school year and before that, we were a close trio. They had their whole lives ahead of them but for some reason, their love blinded their better judgment. I honestly don’t know whether to be angry, upset, or jealous. It’s a bit of all three. Living without her is the hardest part. I have to pass her door to get to mine and for the first few weeks, I couldn’t bare sleeping at home so I slept at Andrew’s. We got a new sub-letter but having this new girl live in her place makes me nauseous. 6323 Magnolia street no longer feels like home.
It still makes me crazy that the two of them did this to each other, to me, to their families. Their chances of being together and getting Happy or Heaven were so slim. Jack always thought he had the world figured out and talked her into it, I’m sure. He always told me he knew exactly how to get the H you want. How it was easy. I’m glad I wasn’t the one who found them during the process. Noah, Jack’s roommate made in just in time to know where they went.
He said he found them laying next to each other hand in hand. I had never seen someone trip on T in real life, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to watch the trip on YouTube. As soon as someone swallows the pill they go into a blank state. Whatever position they were sitting or standing doesn’t change. In fact, they don’t move even a centimeter. Then their eyes widen so large that the veins pop through the whites of their eyes. The timing their fate is decided varies but everyone either dies or wake up at exactly the same time. Three hours, thirty-three minutes, and thirty-three seconds. The inventor must like the number three. You can tell where someone ends up based on the color their iris changes. Blue for Heaven, Red for Hell, Yellow for Happiness. The colors are so vibrant they appear to glow. I don’t recommend watching videos of someone who ends up in hell, the eyes are haunting. I’m not really a spiritual person but I wonder where their souls go. Do they follow you? I wonder what god, if he really exists, makes of all this.
Noah scanned their eyes, it was too late to save them but at least the rest of us could have peace of mind. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know, but before I could even make up my mind he told me.
Continue the story:
- If you want Kelsey and Jack to end up in Heaven together continue on Pathway A.
- If you want Kelsey to end up in Heaven and Jack in Hell go to Pathway B.
Both blue. Jack must have actually figured it out. The inventor said the deciding factor had nothing to do with who you are or who you’ve been in this life, completely random. I wonder if it actually was chance or if there was any reason. I wish I could ask Jack what his groundbreaking idea was. I hope they’re happy now.
Then came my brother. This wasn’t as surprising as the other three deaths. After my mom passed he was never the same. He dropped out of college his sophomore year, began taking depression medicine, was smoking way too much weed, and only communicated with the outside world through video games. I flew home that week to help my dad clean up his stuff. As hard as it was for me, I couldn’t imagine what my dad was going through, I often wonder if he will be next. While cleaning up his things I came across it. More pills. While they were somewhat easy to get, especially in a college town, I figured why not hold onto it. I didn’t plan on taking one but having it with me served as some sort of reminder. I took one and flushed the other down the toilet. It’s been hidden in the bottom of my Jewelry box ever since. I didn’t want anyone to come across it.
When I woke up the next morning Andrew was already up on his phone. He must have heard my rustling so he turned over and kissed me on my forehead before turning back over and stretching. I smiled and grabbed my phone. Mostly just texts from my group chat about plans for tonight. Ever since Kelsey passed we used a new chat but none of us could bring ourselves to rename it. It felt like an unspoken rule. Once I went through the more pressing notifications I saw a News App message that caught my eye, “New Test Can Determine Those who have Already Taken T”. I nudged Andrew to show him. His eyes squinted while he adjusted to the bright light of my phone.
“Cool, wonder what that means. Maybe there will be Happy only jobs, Happy only bathrooms.” He laughed to himself and it seemed out of place. “I feel like this will make everything worse, it will only polarize the world, cause more deaths,” I said. “Don’t worry Syd, we still have each other don’t we? You still have Katie, and Jamie, and Alexandra. I’m not going anywhere I promise.” I smiled but I wasn’t convinced. I rolled onto my side and squeezed my pillow close to me thinking about the pill in my box. Where I would even go? Knowing my luck, probably Hell. I wondered if I’d ever attempt to find out.
I continued my day and was so distracted I hardly thought about the craziness of the world. I went to the gym to workout, painting class, and finished my day at service learning. I like busy days because it keeps my mind from wandering- it keeps me sane. Since it was a Wednesday I knew we’d be deciding between Wrong Iron or Bulldog for drinks later. I showered quickly, then Facetimed Andrew to catch up on his day while I got ready to go out. It was seeming like Wrong Iron was the move tonight, it would be busy but most likely not with the Tulane crowd.
We got there around 10:30 and as the minutes passed by, more and more people we knew showed up. It seemed that we wouldn’t escape the Tulane bubble as easily as we had hoped. To cope with the uncomfortableness of seeing past hookups and girls I dramatically lost touch with, I made sure I always had a Blue Moon in my hand to sip on. It served as a sort of shield against the world. The more I drank, the easier my night went, and the more fun I had. Between the words and drunken laughter, Noah pulled me aside. Given the number of drinks I had the words he was trying to say didn’t quite stick. Something about Andrew being friends with Jordan. Andrew never talked about Jordan, not even when we first began hooking up. “Apparently, Andrew was the one they interviewed,” he whispered. “One who interviewed? Noah can we talk about this tomorrow? You aren’t making any sense, let’s just have fun.”
“Beeeeep, beeep, beeeeep, beeep..” These noises pieced my ears. I put one hand on my forehead to help the pain of my hangover and reached the other over to my nightstand to turn off my alarm. I usually forget to change my alarm on nights out so I wasn’t surprised that it said 7:00 a.m. Andrew and I must have ubered back to my place last night. I was wearing only a shirt so we must have had sex. Shit, I hope I took my birth control. I grabbed the half full glass of water next to me only to notice a plate of half-eaten nachos. The sight made me want to throw up, but again, so did everything else. Andrew sat up. He looked like he got a wonderful night of sleep which slightly annoyed me. “Hungover?” He guessed. I nodded while burying my head in my pillow. All of last night was just blurred images collaged into one massive headache. He got up and came back with something in his hand.
“Advil.” he said, “Should help your current state.”
Without looking I put them into my mouth and grabbed the water glass again. I gulped and felt the cool water running against my throat. But something wasn’t right. I began losing feeling in my body. Things began to go black and I couldn’t see. Panicking, I tried to scream but I couldn’t speak. The last thing I could make out was Andrew’s voice, “Don’t worry, you’ll become a Happy like me. I’m sur-” before I lost all consciousness.
Reader chooses the ending:
- Sydney goes to Heaven
- Sydney goes to Hell
- Sydney gets Happiness
“Kelsey was Blue.” I let out a sigh of relief, but then there was a long silence. “Jack?” I asked frantically. “Jack….. Jack was Red.” I don’t remember if I hung up but I definitely didn’t listen to another word. I didn’t want to hear anything other than the sound of their voices. I collapsed into the closest chair and grasped the armrest harder than I have ever clenched anything before. Before Jack, I didn’t know of anyone this close to me who got Hell. Sure there were some peers from Tulane, friends of my parents, but no one that makes my heart race like Jack. He is still the only one. I wonder if it was because he thought he could beat the system. We don’t even know for sure what Hell is even like. I hope it isn’t as bad as this world made it out to be. A part of me wishes it was all fake, for Jack’s sake. Maybe people just died and that the end of them. I mean, how could we have really known, how could we be sure?
Andrew was amazing in supporting me during those extremely tough weeks. His positivity through it all never ceases to amaze me. I honestly don’t know what I would do if I ever lost him. He attempts to be so strong that he never allows me to see him upset. I always tell him that it’s okay to show that side, but I guess he copes by being my rock. His happiness gives me hope.
Next, after Kelsey and Jack came my brother. This wasn’t as surprising as the other three deaths. After my mom passed he was never the same. He dropped out of college his sophomore year, began taking depression medicine, was smoking way too much weed, and only communicated with the outside world through video games. I flew home that week to help my dad clean up his stuff. As hard as it was for me, I couldn’t imagine what my dad was going through, I often wonder if he will be next. While cleaning up his things I came across it. More pills. While they were somewhat easy to get, especially in a college town, I figured why not hold onto it. I didn’t plan on taking one, but having it with me served as some sort of reminder. I took one and flushed the other down the toilet. It’s been hidden in the bottom my Jewelry box ever since. I didn’t want anyone to come across it.
When I woke up the next morning Andrew was already up on his phone. He must have heard my rustling so he turned over and kissed me on my forehead before turning back over and stretching. I smiled and grabbed my phone. Mostly just texts from my group chat about plans for tonight. Ever since Kelsey passed we used a new chat but none of us could bring ourselves to rename it. It felt like an unspoken rule. Once I went through the more pressing notifications I saw a News App message that caught my eye, “From Housing to Jobs to Dating Apps: What Only Happys Can Do”. My mind began racing off to so many different places. I thought for sure in America T would always be outlawed but if this wasn’t propaganda I didn’t know what was. Sure, other countries basically forced every citizen to take them but we lived in America for Christ sake. I thought about my future, was I going to be forced to take it? If I don’t will I have the same freedom or any chance at happiness? All these uncertainties left me to break down. I couldn’t hold back the tears and giving in seemed easier.
As soon as Andrew realized he was quick to comfort me. “Syd what’s wrong?” he asked while rubbing my arm.
“Everything! Everything in this fucking world is going to shit. I lost my mom, my brother, Kelsey, and Jack. Soon everyone is going to be forced into taking T.”
I took a deep breath to catch up for the loss of air during this rant and sniffled in the snot from crying. I began hyperventilating because I didn’t see a way anything would ever feel normal again.
“Everything will be okay Syd, I promise. I’ll never leave you alone in this.” His certainty throughout all of this made me angry.
“Why are you being so positive? Would it hurt you to wake up and realize the shit we are living in?”
The expression in his face changed. My skin was boiling and the heaviness of the sheets touching me felt suffocating. If I didn’t throw them off of me I thought I might die. I angrily threw my clothes off, grabbed my robe, and walked down the hall to take a shower. It will help cool me off, plus I wanted to be alone. Sometimes I just need to sulk in my own thoughts. I heard a knock and then the door open. I opened the curtain just enough to make my face visible.
“There is something I need to tell you.”
Andrew didn’t continue, it seemed like he was waiting for my permission to speak so I nodded slightly.
“I’m not sure if this is the best thing to say, but I feel like I have to. I don’t think I should keep it from you any longer.”
My mind went into a million places, not one of them was a good place to be. I felt the weight of my body and my stomach ache.
“Right before we started dating, I did it.”
“t” he mumbled softly. “It was before we really knew what it was. I was talked into it during Mardi Gras.”
My jaw dropped. He was a Happy.
Our whole relationship was a lie, I looked at him and didn’t recognize the person in front of me. I leaned up against the shower wall and slowly collapsed onto the wet floor. This changes everything.
“I need to be alone. I need you to go.”
“Sydney, I love you. I know I should have told you sooner but I didn’t want it to change anything.”
“Andrew this changes everything.”
His eyes were piercing down at me but I couldn’t look at him. I felt betrayed. “Can you please call me later? I know you need some space, but promise you’ll call tonight?” I didn’t answer. He bent down to my level. “Promise?” He reiterated.
It took me two days to call him. I wanted to every second of every hour since, but it wouldn’t have helped. He couldn’t be who he used to be, he couldn’t be my rock. We could never be in it together; any happiness wouldn’t feel real. I knew what I needed to do, I hadn’t been more certain of anything before. He answered so quickly that he must have been staring at his phone just waiting for my call.
“We can’t stay together like this. You’re a Happy, and I’m… well, me,” I said before he could even say anything. “It would never work, not long term.”
“That’s not true! I had always known and loved you regardless,” he said. His voice soothed me at first but the feeling quickly wore off. I put him on speaker and began pacing my room. “When we were hooking up before, I liked you- a lot. And after I took it, my love only grew stronger. I’m Happiest with you. If anything the pill has only made our relationship better.” He was still talking but I walked over to my jewelry box and took the baggie out of the hidden compartment.
In the back of my mind, I can hear Hank say, “Why tempt fate?” It felt like fate was tempting me. I stared at the black tablet and held it in my palm. I thought about my options. I could live the rest of my life without taking it, but I would always be tempted. I could never be truly happy knowing others are living in pure happiness and there was a possibility I could too.
…or I could take it. I wouldn’t feel as isolated. Maybe I’d end up with my mom, or Kelsey, or Jack, or Andrew. If I took it, Andrew and I could be Happy together. It was the only viable option, I had to do it. The clarity felt refreshing and a burst of adrenaline rushed over my body. I lifted my palm up to my mouth. “Sydney…? Sydney are you there?” I heard Andrew nervously ask through the phone.
“I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it too.” I threw the pill to the back of my throat and swallowed.
“It?…” he asked confused. I tried to tell him but the words wouldn’t come out. “Syd, what are you going to do?” I still couldn’t respond. My lack of words must have helped him figure it out because about three seconds later he said, “Don’t do anything! Stay on the phone with me, you aren’t thinking clearly. I love you the way you are!” I wondered if he would mourn for me if I didn’t make it back. How does a Happy mourn without being sad? I began to lose feeling in my body and then my vision went completely black. “I’m on my way, don’t…,” were the last words I heard before I lost all consciousness.
Reader chooses the ending:
- Sydney goes to Heaven
- Sydney goes to Hell
- Sydney gets Happiness