[Satire] The secret to the happiest man on Earth
—Redacted, do not broadcast under any circumstances or face dire consequences—
“Welcome to China Forum. I am your host, Xu Yuting, and today we have invited a very special guest to talk about this groundbreaking milestone China has just achieved.” A pale-skinned woman with collar-length silky hair that glowed auburn bowed, revealing her pearly white teeth behind scarlet lips as she smiled towards the screen. Her gaze panned towards a blue-suited man to her left who returned a nervous smile as his eyes darted back and forth at her and the screen. Perhaps he was wearing too many layers as streaks of sweat reflected off his temple down his neck. “I present to you, Mr. Tian Yi, Henan’s Happiness Ambassador!”
“Yup, that’s me!” Mr. Tian managed to say that without stuttering as he took a gulp and looked at the screen. He shuffled a bit on his seat, noticed that his right sleeve crept up his forearm, and pulled the cuffs down immediately. He knew he should have thrown away this shirt that probably shrunk in the washing machine. “It is an honor to be featured in this esteemed program.”
“And it is also an honor for me to meet a Happiness Ambassador face to face!” Ms. Xu leaned back onto her chair, crossed her legs, and laid her hands on her thighs. “Do tell us your secrets to happiness.”
“Well, we live in an age where materialism dominates not only our personal lives, but also our society!” Mr. Tian dug his fingers underneath his collar and adjusted it, trying to soak up any sweat in the process. “What good is that if we have such attachments that bind ourselves to desire and greed? Uhm, speaking of desire, that is what we must learn how to get rid of in order to achieve true happiness!”
“Mr. Tian, that sounds very philosophical, but it does make sense in a way.” Ms. Xu nodded as she acknowledged his points. “And how does one do that?”
“It all goes back to the pillars that hold up our Party’s beliefs! Sharing is caring! Only those who give are more blessed than those who receive! Then this is how you can achieve true happiness!” Mr. Tian’s heart raced as he passionately recited the same lines he repeated over and over again ever since he attained his title. He raised his right fist in the air to show a bit more enthusiasm. The moment it was on level with his face, the sleeves have crept down an inch or two, revealing scabbed-over excoriations. His hand shot back down to his lap, with his other one tugging his cuff back down to cover it as if he were a leper. Hopefully, he was quick enough that no one saw that.
“Thanks to your enthusiastic messages and promoting the Party’s ways, our country has become one of the happiest countries in the world! We finally toppled the United States on the Universal Happiness Index! This required a multi-pronged approach, things the Americans would never dare to think of. They would never mandate happy endings in movies like we did! Or introduce a smiling score into the social credit system! And you and the Happiness Ambassadors are indispensable in this movement, so thanks for all of your hard work and contributions!” An infographic popped behind them as it showed a bar with the American flag on it being quite close to the y-axis, while another bar bearing the Chinese flag shot up and dwarfed it.
“No, no, no. I believe the real heroes are the Chinese people themselves! You all deserve a pat on the back!” Mr. Tian took a deep breath, held it in, and slowly exhaled. His eyelid twitched as if someone placed an invisible metal wire to give it a mild electric shock, before coming to a halt after he blinked a few times and rubbed them. It was so quick, he could have sworn that it might have passed down his neck, down his torso and branched into both his legs. “We could not have reached this far without all of you!”
“You’re too humble, Mr. Tian.” Ms. Xu’s wavy eyelashes quivered as she gave him a smile that left dimples on her cheeks. “Moving onto our next topic, thanks to this National Happiness Movement you and your colleagues are leading, the National Health Commission saw a record decrease in clinical depression in our country to a point where the Minister deemed antidepressants to be obsolete. What are your thoughts on that?”
“He… He absolutely did the right thing!” Mr. Tian stuttered as his vision came to a blur momentarily, as if someone placed invisible concave lenses right before his eyes. Just as it was over, the finger joints on his left hand started to shake back and forth arrhythmically, only noticed by him when he looked down to look at his watch. When would this interview be ever over? It was a matter of time before his lie was made known nation-wide. Of course he was lying, or why else would he be in this sorry state? Seriously why did he even agree to be interviewed? He could have just made up some excuse, but that would just be delaying the inevitable. “By… By diverting our resources from something so… so redundant. We… we are another step to p… pushing the b… boundaries of what our c… country is c… capable of…”
“Mr. Tian?” Ms. Xu raised her perfectly-plucked eyebrows in concern as she shuffled across the panel to approach him. “Mr. Tian, are you okay?”
“Ye… Yeah…” Of course not. Mr. Tian scuffled further away from his host and found himself on the floor with a bloody nose as he pushed his chair a bit more than he thought he should have. Fuck, this was the worst time for this to happen. He thought having just two pills instead of the usual three was good enough. He was obviously mistaken. The very medicine that made him the happiest man in the province was his own downfall. Ever since the last pharmaceutical company in the country removed it from production lines, fluoxetine quickly disappeared from pharmacies. Only a less-than-half-full bottle of that sat pitifully on his bathroom cupboard. It was only a matter of time before it ran out and the symptoms are going to kick in. Well, it already had.
“Oh dear! Mr. Tian!” Ms. Xu exclaimed in disbelief, seeing Mr. Tian on the ground in such an unpresentable state. A few men could be seen rushing into the scene, grabbing the startled guest by the arms to help him on his feet, only to be greeted by his fists as his arms flung uncontrollably. His cuffs slid back down, revealing the self-inflicted scars on his forearms, which aroused a high-pitched scream from his host.
“G… Get away from me!” The anxious guest scrambled his elbows and kneecaps to crawl away from these dark hooded figures with a malicious aura floating around them. The entire room was spinning, his ears were ringing with chants of those that perished who were more than keen that he joined their ranks. “H… Help! P… Please, I don’t want to die…”
“Cut the cameras! Now!” A deep voice bellowed before the screen turned into a void of darkness.