Life, Unsupplemented
by Dan Devine
forum: Life, Unsupplemented
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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Life, Unsupplemented


        There was something wrong with me. There had been since the day I was born.

        Alicia regarded me thoughtfully with her stunning green eyes, her petite little hand impaling a piece of lettuce on her fork. I saw the salad dressing glimmer in the candlelight as she lifted the leaf to her mouth.

        "You aren't eating much, Harold."

        "Having more than one course tends to make me fat."

        Out bubbled an alluring feminine giggle, but it died on her glittering smile, as something in my expression made it occur to her I'm wasn't entirely joking.

        "And please, call me Harry. Alright?"

        I gave her a reassuring wink, and immediately got the impression that it looked just as cheesy as it had felt. I hated first dates.

        It was my brain that wasn't quite right—caused all the trouble. Oh, I was sane enough. Well, maybe. Who could ever tell? If anything, the problem was that I liked my brain to be a little too normal.

        Our conversation had reminded Alicia of the horrors an evening meal could work on her waistline if left unchecked. She leaned over her chair to rifle quickly through the contents of her fashionable black leather purse. With impressive speed, she located and withdrew a small semi-opaque plastic box, about the size of a pack of cigarettes. It was decorated with a dozen differently colored buttons. She pressed the black, and a tiny black pill rolled down a shoot and out into her hand. Alicia tossed it back with a swig of champagne. She brushed a long stray red hair—which had somehow come loose during this entire process—back behind her ear.

        There was no danger in taking the medicine with alcohol. It was a dinner pill, after all, specifically tailored to the occasion, and I'm sure no one would be buying it if it meant the un-American hassle of quitting drinking. Our society was nothing, if not built for convenience.

        The pill's chemicals sent messages to the enzymes in her muscles and adipose cells, basically telling them not to store any of this in-between-meal salad (and whatever else Alicia ate) as unsightly fat, but instead to burn as much as possible for energy. Alicia would keep her hourglass figure, enjoy her guiltless supper, and even feel a bit perkier for the rest of the night. To be honest, there was no reason I couldn't take one of those myself. Other than a stupid, self-restricting bias. The sort of thing I called personality when I was feeling less cynical. Which wasn't often.

        A small detachment of waiters arrived. Our sculpted glass salad plates were removed and replaced with white china upon which was artfully arranged the next course—a seafood dish, vibrantly pink salmon covered in a thick white sauce of strong lemony aroma. Two tall glasses of the recommended white wine were poured to sparkle besides our meal.

        The lead waiter paused to ask if everything was satisfactory, and if there was any other service he could be delighted to perform for us. He did so with precisely the proper amount of concern for our happiness, showing not a hint of frustration or disrespect. I noted his smooth, unmarred complexion; the unerring symmetry of his face; and the way his defining features were emphasized in just the right amounts, his jaw firm and manly but not jutting, his cheek-bones strong and regal, but not arrogant. When he moved, his muscles rippled visibly beneath his dinner jacket. The other waiters showed slight differences in style, but seemed to me only minor variations on the theme of "unflawed". I scanned around the restaurant, looking at every perfect couple, each table a movie star heart-throb with his calendar pin-up-girl date.

        I cleared my throat. Alicia finished chewing on her first bite of salmon and gave a throaty sigh of approval.

        "So, what made a pretty girl like you want to go out with a guy like me?" I gave a her a playful smile. "I suspect you had other options."

        "I dunno," she said with a bit of a nervous shrug. "You just struck me as sort of different, which I thought might be nice for a change."

        She hesitated for a moment, then the box came out again. A blue pill this time, a calming agent. The shrug probably worried her. Didn't want me to think she was someone who lacked confidence.

        Alicia went back to attacking her salmon. I nibbled at the edges of mine. The sauce was a little much, but the fish itself was quite good. She glanced up from her plate suddenly, looked me in the eye.

        "I don't think I've ever met anyone who tried to live without supplements before." Her voice was firmer now, her questions more direct. The medicine was working its magic. "I can't even imagine what that would be like."

        I assume she suppressed a shudder here, and a comment along the lines of, 'It's so primitive!'

        "In my case, it's not so much a choice as a health condition," I told her. I liked to think it would have been my choice if I'd had one, but I wasn't sure she'd approve of that. "The supplements, even the alternatives and the generics, all use pretty similar delivery systems. There's something about what they call my blood brain barrier, it's the membrane that decides what gets let into my brain and what doesn't, it reacts badly to them."

        "Consider it an allergy. There are others who have them, but not many. The pharmaceutical companies do an impressive job of making them work for everybody, and they're still making breakthroughs all the time.

        "So, it may not be long before they find a way to beat your allergy!"

        Alicia's expression indicated that I ought to be pleased about this. I did my best to appear excited about the possibility.

        "There's always hope," I told her. In a way, I wished there wasn't. If a cure for me was ever found, I'd have to actually turn down a perfect body and mind. The moral high-ground is always a lot easier to stand on for someone who doesn't have anywhere else to go.

        "You're in pretty good shape for someone who can't burn off the fat," she observed, with a fairly flirtatious summation of my physique, but it was probably the that I might be curable that made me more attractive to her.

        I could imagine. I'd be a novelty for a while; she could show me off to her friends. Maybe try and gain some social points for being the suffering caregiver for a man with a horrible disease. If things ever got serious, though, she could always send me off to the doctor to get fixed. Didn't want some freak as a husband, after all.

        "I spend a lot of time lifting weights," I informed her.

        "Lifting weights," she giggled. "How old-fashioned. I remember my dad doing that when I was a kid."

        I nodded at that. "I'm pretty old-fashioned guy, you'll find."

        Or maybe she wouldn't. Alicia seemed nice, and was something of a knock-out—wasn't everybody these days? My bitterness was getting the best of me, though, and I couldn't seem to bring myself to fully enjoy her company. I suspected this was no doubt causing me to give off confusing vibes.

        I sipped at my wine repeatedly for a lack of anything better to do with my hands. I discovered that it went well with the meal as advertised. I was probably drinking a bit too much, but every time I set my glass down, it seemed to refill itself. The waiters must be sprinting over to top it off every time I turned my head.

        They swooped in now, as Alicia finished her course. The white wine was removed and replaced with fresh glasses of a red dessert. My date pondered a proffered tray heaped with after dinner delights.

        "Would you help me with a slice of French Mousse Cake, if I ordered it?" she asked, indicating with her fork a dark wedge of chocolate, dusted white with powdery confectionary sugar.

        "I'd be happy to oblige," I responded chivalrously.

        I didn't really have room for it, but the chef had outdone himself, and I stuffed myself to a point I was certain to regret later in the evening. Given her deep sighs of pleasure, my date was happy with her selection as well. We quickly made short work of the slice then regarded each other slightly awkwardly, neither wishing to be the first to suggest that we leave.

        "Yum," I said, with a theatrical rub of my tummy. "That was a great meal."


        "Thanks for coming out," I said, immediately regretting how lame that sounded.

        "You, too," replied Alicia. "I'm glad Trish suggested we get together."

        Trish was the wife of a friend of mine, the sort who could occasionally become obsessed with pairing up every single person she knew. Co-worker Alicia was only the latest in a growing list of attempts to tie me off.

        The check arrived, and Alicia made the necessary nominal attempt to pay, then allowed me to be generous. The price was high, but not beyond what I expected, and certainly not beyond my means.

        Transaction complete, we rose and made our way outside. I took her arm as we walked towards the door, a move of which she approved, though I suspect my slight inebriation made me more of a danger to her balance than a support. The skin of her arm was cool and smooth, and she smelled faintly of flowers I couldn't possibly identify.

        Her car was parked close to the entrance.

        "I had a great night!" she told me as we reached its door, metallic silver reflecting the street lamp above. A finely manicured hand reached into her purse, and I caught a glimpse of yellow as she dry-swallowed another tablet with a grimace. A wake-up pill then, to make her more alert for the drive home.

        That was a hint, possibly intentional, that she wasn't expecting a move on my part. Otherwise, she would have gone with the red pill to provide a more emotional experience. This didn't really surprise me; I hadn't exactly been at my best. I gave her a hug that attempted to convey I wasn't entirely disinterested. For her part, she didn't appear repulsed.

        "Think you can make it home okay?" I asked her, not that she'd have any trouble.

        "What a gentleman," she teased me. She had a cute smile. "I'll be fine. Drive safe yourself."

        I took this as a dismisal.

        "Tell Trish I said hi when you talk to her tomorrow," I told her with a wink. "And share all the gory details."

        Alicia laughed and waved goodbye.

        I steered sloppily back to my house along roads full of drivers drugged to pinpoint reflexes. No wonder my tipsiness didn't worry me in the least. I could probably drive home with my eyes closed, as long as I didn't hit any parked cars.

        I pulled into my driveway without incident. Half my neighbors' lights were still on—they were likely similarly stimulated. Why waste the precious hours of the weekend feeling tired? The other half were no doubt downered into a perfectly restful sleep.

        I stripped down and got into my own bed, but found myself lying awake.

        Most of the time I was alright with it, but sometimes it got to me. Every now and then it hit me real bad.

        There were even times when I considered ending it. One thing always stopped me, though. I knew just what they'd say when they found me.

        'What a pity! If only we could have put him on the right anti-depressant!"

copyright 2006 Dan Devine.

Dan Devine is a scientist by day and an aspiring science fiction author by night, though he'll write any genre that pops into his head. For a short time he served as editor of Fools Motley Internet Magazine, but recently he shut it down to focus on improving his own writing.

Dan Devine has been published several times online. Most recently he has appeared in Flash Tales Magazine, Afterburn SF Magazine, and Dark Fire.

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