Love Potion Number 91736

The door chimed, and he ignored it.

It was a bright morning, but he had the window tinting dialed up almost to maximum, letting in just enough light so that he could see where he was going if, by some miracle, he decided to get up off the couch.

The door chimed again. This time his phone chimed with it, and then played a message: Mr. Alfonse B1227 Apt. 21390, we are performing a welfare check, please allow the agent entry.

He didn’t get up. He could have, had he wanted to. There was nothing really wrong with him, whatever his telltales might say. Anyhow, it would override the door lock and come in after receiving no response; asking to be let in was part of the test.

Sure enough, the door slid open and a drone floated in, one of the armored ones, followed by a medical drone. “How’s it, fellas?”

“Good morning, can you confirm that you are Mr. Roland Alfonse B1227 Apt. 21390?”

It already knew the answer. Did he, still? “Sure.”

The security drone landed just inside the door, just far enough away that it would close. The medical drone floated across the room and landed on the coffee table in front of him, a little to the side so as not to block the view of the wallscreen. “Roland, you have not taken your medication for seven days. You still have pills in your dispensary. Is there a problem?”

“I don’t like how they make me feel.”

“You did not go to work today, or for the last two days. You have not showered or brushed your teeth. Your—”

“I didn’t feel like it.”

“—medication makes it possible for you to function normally in society, to go to work, to go to social engagements, to perform errands, and to look after your personal hygiene.”

He shrugged. Again: “I don’t like  how they make me feel.”

“My records show this as an ongoing issue. Perhaps an adjustment to the dosage would help. Please stand by.”

This was the part where it checked in to home base. Some only-on-paper Doctor in a call center somewhere would review his records, scan his telltale readouts, and sign off on the drone’s carefully-programmed judgement. Usually it took minutes. Once it took almost an hour: he thought the thing had malfunctioned.

“Roland, I will be replacing your medication with a newer alternative, and adding a secondary medication that should alleviate the unpleasant side-effects you have been experiencing.” A small arm slid out of its front panel, with a small measuring-cup attachment at its end, containing two pills; the arm rotated and the pills dropped to the tabletop, next to his tea. His regular pill, but smaller, and a new one, blue-and purple swirled with a white band around the middle. “Please take them now while I restock and reprogram your dispensary. Thank you for your cooperation.”

The tea was cold, but he washed the pills down with it anyway. The medical drone hovered at the dispensary, making all sorts of noises. When it was done, it headed out the door without another word, followed by the security drone.

An hour later he’d made fresh, hot tea. He was showered and dressed. He found himself headed down the elevator towards the garden level, with the intention of sitting by one of the man-made ponds. After a short walk he found a bench in the shade and sat and watched the ducks drift sedately by.

“Can I join you?” A girl, a little younger than him, pretty but not intimidating, dressed for a summer day at the park. “The other benches are taken…”

He looked around. He hadn’t really noticed the other people, but the garden level was busy, busier than the last time he’d been, which was… when? He couldn’t remember. There were other benches with space on them, but… “Be my guest.”

They talked. She was bright, disarming, sweet, and interested in his work stories, which were usually a natural soporific. She had stories of her own, funny ones, mostly about nights out with friends. Roland was ensorcelled. It was as if fate had brought them together.

She was halfway through one such tale when her phone chimed. “Sorry, just reminding me to take my meds.” She fished a small plastic baggie out of a pocket and emptied it out into her hand. One he didn’t recognize, but he recognized the other pill immediately: blue-and-purple swirled with a white band around the middle.

“Sorry, I have to… I’ve gotta go. Sorry.” He paused for a second, and another, reconsidering, but pushed himself up off the bench in a sheer act of will and walked away, towards the elevator banks. He didn’t look back.

When he got back up to level 213, and into his apartment, he locked the door behind him, leaned against it, feeling panic subsiding. He went to the dispensary, pulled at the plastic cover until it tore off, and surveyed its workings. He’d need tools he didn’t own to get into it without damaging anything.

Roland ended up smashing it with a square stone planter pot that had come with the apartment. The pills poured out like candy from a piƱata. He separated his normal pills out, put them carefully in a bowl; the blue-and-purple swirled with a white band around the middle he put down the disposal.

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