He was woken up by an artificial sunrise. Leaning over the side of his bed, he wiped the dry crust from around his eyes and felt around for his glasses.
The light that morning was the colour of yellow tin-foil, as unnatural as ever, a poor substitute for what they’d all lost. He had an important meeting to go to so needed to be on top of his game.
He set his Infuser Device to ‘Enthusiastic Citizen’ and got out of bed, shrugging his pyjamas to the floor before getting into the shower. As the hot water ran over him he thought how little he used the Infuser for pleasure these days. Maybe next week he’d try a new setting.
He had an interview at the Ministry and it promised to be a whole day affair. It would involve group work and lengthy interviewing, written reports and psychometric testing. He needed to be professional and yet had to retain enough of the ‘human’ about him if they were going to give him a job.
He dialled the Infuser to a new setting, one he’d found in the guidebook just a few days before. It was a mixture called ‘The Thoughtful Professional’.
He quickly dressed, and on the way out he met one of his neighbour’s who lived opposite. He was normally a quiet man but now talked excitedly about the air conditioning – it was obvious that he’d set his device too high.
On the way over to the Ministry he took one of the driverless cabs that loop endlessly around the city.
Once inside he noticed a magazine folded up and stuck down the rear seats. Paper was a real rarity these days and he thumbed its crinkled pages, savouring its smell and the ink that was left on his fingers.
It was an ancient edition, full of adverts for products which belonged in the city museum. There were ads for antidepressants and sedatives; sleepers, caffeine tablets and mood stabilisers, energy drinks and female Viagra, even alcohol.
He rolled it up and looked out at the sun, its neon beams heralding a false dawn. He wondered if all of this could have been prevented.
As the car drew silently up to the gates of the Ministry he felt a sudden tweak and surge of adrenaline. He hadn’t felt that for a while and he fiddled nervously with the Infuser device.
He clipped it back on to his belt, and its small hair-like needle flicked under the skin of his abdomen. He adjusted it to ‘Calm and in Control’ and stepped out of the cab.
Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Aberdeen