Shrine, to joke, bar

It is the year 3001, and humanity has almost reached the point of no return: only a select few humans—known as “The Feelers”—are able to experience emotions, and a governmental program has decreed that they be medicated to ensure they to adopt the detached, unfeeling dispositions of the younger generations…

After the Feeler’s ashes were buried and her shrine was decorated, the small crowd made its way to the Arlington bar for the wake. They were all there: the administrator, the med tech, the director of nursing—and of course Dr. Albright, who stood apart from the others in a deliberate attempt to flaunt her sobriety. A couple of the Feeler’s nursing assistants had also shown up, which was unexpected. They were young and therefore less likely to believe in the antiquated superstition that mandated a Feeler be buried in the traditional way. 

As the guests enjoyed their beverages, the mood imperceptibly changed, and it wasn’t long before people could be heard joking, their laughter echoing in the bare, dimly lit bar. Among them was Carmen, one of the nursing assistants, who remained silent but nodded in agreement every now and again. A woman of few words, she delighted the people around her with her strong, reliable presence and her decisiveness. She was also a sight to behold, her bright green eyes glistening against her olive colored skin.

“So, whose job have you set your sights on now, Carm?” goaded the med tech. “You made it to the Feeler’s team in your first year, there’s not much higher up the ladder to go. Let’s just say, the hospital’s chief executive better watch out!” Carmen looked at him and smirked, seemingly undisturbed by his taunting. “I wouldn’t put it past her” said the administrator, and he winked at Carmen aggressively. After taking a swig of her cold beer, the young nursing assistant smiled slightly and reminded both of them that elections for city mayor were coming up. 

Carmen thought back on when she first came to town, about a year ago. Her colleagues were right—she had accomplished a lot in this short time. Her dedication and her expert knowledge had quickly led her onto the Feeler’s care team, one of the most coveted positions in the hospital. But what others recounted as a success story, Carmen considered to be the most tragic event of her life. Standing there, beer in hand, with an expression of ease on her face—that is all Carmen did, precisely because that is all she could muster. On the outside, she looked just like the rest of them, perhaps even more detached and robotic. But inside, a storm was ranging.

You took my mother from me, thought Carmen. You took my colorful, lively, passionate mother from me. Carmen had not come to town to climb the career ladder, as so many of her peers assumed. No—she had come because she got word that her mother, the Feeler, had turned up in the conservative Northern town. Carmen had travelled as quickly as she could, but it was not quick enough. By the time she arrived, the cure had been administered, and her once spectacular mother resembled every other boring fool on the planet. Carmen spent the next few months tending to what remained of her mother, while learning all she could about the wretched system that had stripped her of all her personality. And now that her mother had finally died and was out of harm’s way, all hell was about to break loose. 

The game: you give Nina ([email protected]) a Buddhist-themed noun, an action, and a location, and she creates the story. Today, she was given the noun “shrine,” the action “to joke,” and a location “bar.”

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