Pills are kind of funny if you think about them. Little capsules of chemistry that we swallow, and then they alter our internal chemistry, and we just accept it. It's like we ingest all these little chemistry sets every day, which is funny because whenever I think about chemistry sets I think about people accidentally blowing themselves up, like in cartoons. What if someone mixed up the wrong pills one day and blew themselves up? Like spontaneous combustion! Did you know that Charles Dickens once wrote a book in which a character spontaneously combusted? It's true! In Bleak House!

              I don't think that would actually happen, though. I work with pills. Well, I work at a place that works with pills. I do data entry at a pill place. There's a joke that goes around the pill place where I work that people who work with pills must love their work so much because they take it home with them. The joke there is that everybody takes pills, like a lot of pills. It's kind of funny, if you think about it. I once walked in on a boss of mine taking a pill in her office. I asked her what it was for, “out of professional curiosity,” I said, which was another joke. She said it was something to “help get her through the day,” so I'm assuming it was some sort of mood stabilizer, like Paxil or something. Although I guess you never really know. All pills look pretty much the same, it could have been a recreational drug, which I don't really think is that different from some of the drugs you can get prescriptions for. One time I asked one of my bosses what the real difference was between recreational and prescription drugs, and he got really uncomfortable and made a note in some notepad he had and walked away. Maybe I hit a nerve.

              I don't take recreational drugs. I bet some people think that I do, but I don't. I only take drugs prescribed to me by my physician or my therapist, which is a lot, actually. I have pills for blood pressure, anxiety, cholesterol, gastro-intestinal correctives, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, hypertension, mood stabilizers, liver, migraines, a couple others as well. I'm afraid of mixing them up badly, you know, like with the spontaneous combustion thing, so I spread them out throughout the day, which is tricky because a few of them you have to take with meals, so I end up eating more meals in a day than an average person. Which reminds me, I also take weight stabilizers. I keep all my pills in a little pill container my therapist gave me with a guide to what I take when. My work therapist, not my prison therapist. Although I guess my work therapist is still kind of my prison therapist, 'cause I'm working there on a commuted prison sentence. I'm still under pretty strict observation. The apartment I live in is more of a cross between a prison and a hotel, which is fine by me, because I like hotels and, frankly, I didn't mind prison that much either. The only thing is I don't have a kitchen or a dining room or anything, but that's ok, I don't really cook, and I can't imagine myself doing any entertaining. Wouldn't that be a hoot?! Me playing host?! Not on your life, buster!

              It does get a little lonely sometimes, though. But I'll tell you something, here's a little trick I figured out. I like to think of somebody I know really, really well, right? The kind of person where when you have a conversation with them, you know exactly what they're going to say. Then here's what I do: I have a conversation with them in my head, BUT, and here's the trick, I only talk with them about stuff we would disagree on. That way, when I think of what they'd say, I completely have to think differently than the way I normally think. It's interesting, you'd be amazed how easy it is to do with a little practice, thinking something completely different from your normal thoughts. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I concentrated too hard on the other person's thoughts and I got stuck in that other person's perceptions and thought patterns. Would I still be me but just thinking like somebody else, or would I actually be somebody else, like a totally different person? I don't know! Isn't that funny to think about?

              I talk about this stuff with my therapist sometimes. My work therapist. My prison therapist mostly wanted to know how I'd gotten to be so violent. He said it was because I felt disenfranchised and I struck out at people to feel powerful and in control. I said that there were a lot of obnoxious people out there, and maybe trouncing a few of them wasn't the worst thing in the world a person could do.  I don't know that we made a lot of progress, although I do have conversations in my head with my old therapist from time to time. I think I've gotten pretty good at him. The new therapist likes to talk about how I'm feeling right now, which is nice, as I'm feeling much nicer now than I was then. The work therapist is very interested in the pills I'm taking. I have to fill out little charts about when I take them and how I feel before and after. The work therapist wants me to feel content, which I do, by and large. He asks me if I feel any of the rage I used to, and I say I don't, which is true, and he seems very pleased with the whole situation. But you want to hear something weird? I kind of miss it. The rage and stuff. I mean, it wasn't good, I know that, but to not feel it, I can't help wondering - where did it go? It was part of my chemistry, and now it's gone. Funny, huh?

              They get worried about me getting bored. It can be kind of a dull existence, just going to work, going to therapy, coming home. They want me to feel fulfilled, which is kind of funny to me in a way because the most fulfilled I've ever felt is when I was trouncing some jerk who didn't have the good sense God gave a cow. I don't say that, though. Plus, I'll tell you a little secret I figured out. Whenever you get bored, just do something to change things up. Like a couple of days ago I was having a crummy day, the kind of day where I used to go out and get into trouble, but since I don't do that anymore I was just sitting around my apartment, and all of a sudden I thought, “You know what I'll do? I'll put Kleenex boxes on my feet.” And I did! Howard Hughes used to do it! Seriously! And he was super-rich! So I put Kleenex boxes on my feet, and it was great! I got so much done; I cleaned the bathroom, washed the dishes, ironed all my shirts for next week, and it all seemed so different and funny because I was wearing my Kleenex boxes on my feet. It's much more productive than going out and trouncing some dude, I suppose, plus no one gets hurt. Unless Kleenex boxes have feelings?! Just kidding, I don't think they do. But if they did, wouldn't that be weird?

              That dullness can really freak some people out, though. Like there's a few of us around the pill place who are commuted sentencers, and we all go to counseling and we all get the pills, but sometimes one of the others starts feeling kind of paranoid or whatever and feeling like our bosses and the therapists and whoever are trying to control us and take away all souls or whatever, which is of course a bunch of malarkey. They're just trying to make us feel better! But sometimes feeling better doesn't feel better, I guess, to some people. Like sometimes when I'm sad I like listening to a sad song, which you think you wouldn't want to do, but you do. These guys miss those bad feelings more than I do, I guess. Plus you do tend to get a little fuzzy on the pills, which seems totally understandable to me because I think about all the chemicals getting all mixed up inside and making some big hazy cloud of pill chemicals in your head, and so of course you're going to get a little fuzzy. I think the problem with these guys is they can't adapt to their new way of living. My work therapist talks about that a lot. Adapting, acclimating, all that stuff. I think I do a pretty good job of it, probably because of all the practice I've had trying to think differently by pretending to be other people. The thing about this whole fuzziness issue is that you can get lost in it if you freak out, but if you work through it, it's totally fine! I'll tell you a little trick I figured out. Try and focus through the fuzziness by concentrating your mind. It's kind of like those old Magic Eye pictures where you look at a big old mess of colors, and then if you stare through it you see shapes? Well, what I like to do when I'm feeling fuzzy is just go somewhere real quiet and peaceful. Then find something you can really stare at, it helps if it's something really bland, like a beige wall or a crummy landscape painting or something. Then you just concentrate and try to stare through whatever you're looking at. Sometimes it might take a while, like maybe a couple hours or so, but if you really stick with it then all of a sudden things you didn't even know were blurry start coming into focus!

              Take my pills, for instance. No please, take them! Haha, I'm just kidding! Seriously, though, so many people see pills as a big chore that they don't ever think about them, they just throw them down their throats and try and move along. But because of my looking through the fuzziness I started really paying attention to the pills. Before I swallowed them I began rolling them around on my tongue, trying to get to know each individual weight, taste, texture, composition, and reaction, and I noticed something. They changed our pills without telling us. It happened quite a while ago now, and no one noticed but me. It was the mood stabilizer. Same look, same texture, BUT!  Slightly different weight, totally different composition! I think they're testing out something new on us. It's probably a double blind test, which I've learned about here at the pill place. There's a control group, which is given a placebo, and then an observed group (or the out of control group, as I like to call them! Haha!), which gets the new drug. I'm pretty sure I'm in the observed group. Placebos used to be called “sugar pills” because that's what they were, but they had to stop making them out of sugar, I guess because everybody's all fat now. Regardless, they're supposed to be made up to be just like the actual pills, but they never make a truly good replication because they don't think anybody notices. But I do.

              They told me to report any adverse side effects to the medication, but that sort of brings up the question of what's really adverse, right? I think the medication works better than they even realize. It's made my sight so much better. I'm seeing things I've never even thought I could see before. I tried to tell my therapist about it, but he sort of scribbled some notes down in a pad and said “great” and anything that's too outlandish he says I was just dreaming, and that's ok. So I didn't even tell him when I realized this little trick I'm about to tell you. If you look at people real hard, you can take them apart, sort of dismantle them, like? Take off the clothes and the skin and the muscle and the organs, you can whittle everyone down to bones with just your eyes! It's a fantastic simplification. It makes me wonder if I would have done all those things I did that put me in jail if I'd seen everyone as just skeletons. I wonder if I'd have been so upset about my mother dying when I was a kid if she'd just been a skeleton that simply stopped moving? Some days I like to go around looking at everyone's skeletons. Just a bunch of skeletons walking around all day. So many bones! It's like one of those old cartoons where the skeletons are all dancing in a graveyard somewhere. Sometimes the sight of all those skeletons just makes me laugh and laugh and laugh! Once, one of my bosses caught me laughing and asked me what was so funny. I said “farts,” which is true, farts are pretty funny, but it wasn't what I was actually thinking about. However, thinking about skeletons and talking about farts made me think about farting skeletons, and boy did THAT get me laughing! My boss started laughing too, with his big skeleton mouth, and he said “you're all right, buddy,” and then he put his big bony hand on my shoulder. As I was walking away I saw him jot down some notes in a notepad.

              Whatever he wrote, it obviously wasn't too upsetting because the pills are being sent out to market in a couple weeks, which makes me super-happy. One of these days they're going to let me out of here. In my review hearings they say I'm very well behaved, and I'll probably get early release, which is kind of exciting, but it also used to be pretty scary because I was really worried about what it would be like on the outside. It's been a while, you know? But if there's other people like me, other people who can see through the fuzziness, who live among skeletons, I think that would be really exciting. Everything would be so easy and effortless! A world full of skeletons! Sounds like paradise.

Jake Thomas

Story Writer. Marvel Comics Editor. Wrangler of Squids.