The Ingredient of Happiness

  • 20 Jan - 26 Jan, 2024
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Fiction

She was smiling, and he was occasionally looking at my wife. He looked nervous and excited, and I could see his teeth beginning to show.

“Just what is this all about?” I said.

He looked like he was about to burst. My wife looked as if she was trying to hold something back inside her.

“Just try it,” she said. She was trying to sound calm, but there was an energy in her voice that sounded excited and high.


I put my mouth around the spoon, and pulled the sauce into my mouth with my lips. It was like strawberries. It was not hot. It was cool, very cool. It was as if the world, for a moment, was a dream, a beautiful one, and one that I was no longer a victim of…

“It’s happening, madam, it’s happening…” the waiter sounded disturbed. I felt him approach me and hold me. My body limped off to the side, and I wasn’t sure where I was. My limbs were no longer mine, I didn’t have any limbs. The room was moving in ways that it should not, my head felt like it was beneath me, my legs were to the side, my arms were coming out of my head, and where I was, exactly where I was located, and I wasn’t sure…”

“Nope, he can’t handle it. Geoff! Geoff he’s not taken it well!”

The waiter was calling someone called Geoff. I couldn’t see. I didn’t know if my wife was there. She had poisoned me. I was outraged, realising that this was what it was like to be dead, to be nowhere, but to be everywhere, and for what seemed like days, I cursed her for the trickery, I cursed myself for the gullibility, I cursed the waiter for serving me. I should have just stayed at home, I should have never gotten myself involved with any kind of strange sauce that costs 10 pounds per teaspoon. No!

And then after those long days, I realised my resentments were getting me nowhere, and I gave up. And when I gave up, I entered a void inside myself that gave me everything I ever wanted – peace, joy and freedom.

When I woke up I was in hospital. Immediately I was happy. It was not like a normal happiness, one that could be taken from me at any moment by something changing in the world. This was different. I was keenly aware that this thing was inside me, or it WAS me, and it wasn’t anything to do with what was happening in the world.

My wife was sitting beside me, and she gasped.

“Oh, yes!” she said. “Thank goodness!”

The whole room around me was alive. I don’t mean it looked bright and vibrant. I mean the room itself was conscious. It knew me. I knew it. It responded to me. It knew I was here. It was as alive and as conscious as a person. It was a friendly room.

My wife looked like God. Whatever that was. She was perfect. Every flaw of hers was my own invention; it was always in my own mind.

She took my hand, and the joy inside me that was so full was so inexplicable that it grabbed my throat and did not let me spoil it by saying anything.

I just laughed, without my voice. I kept exhaling quickly, like I was on the gas and air that they gave me once when I dislocated my shoulder.

The doctor walked in. I would have described him as a thin, balding old man with a certain grace in his walk. He was the kind of man that did not leach energy throughout the day. He was at rest. But as he walked in, I didn’t describe him to myself.

He looked over his glasses at me, and smiled.

“You see, Mrs Thompson, we told you he was fine.”

“Yes,” she said. Her eyes were shining with tears as she was looking at me. I felt flooded with good, tingling feelings.

“Where are we?” I said. The doctor looked at me.

“You are at your local hospital. We deal with people who have taken a turn for the worse after ingesting the happiness sauce. It is a risky business, because there are plenty of people who do not actually want to be happy, because they think something bad will happen, or they think they will lose their motivation in life, or they think some other terrible thing might result from being happy without a reason. But it seemed you were just about ready.”

“The what?”

“The happiness sauce. It shows you the happiness source. But it is not safe. For most people, when they take it, it is happiness or death.”

I looked at my wife.

“So, I could have died? You could have killed me?”

“Yes,” she said. “Maybe. But you were ready for it all to end, weren’t you? Did you actually want to live another day?”

I tried to cast my mind back to the darker place.

“No, I didn’t.” I said.

“And that’s why I did it. I didn’t want to see you hurting yourself anymore. I didn’t like to see you like so many other people, wasting time being unhappy, thinking they are never going to die. So, when Jane told me about it, I knew I had to consider it. She told me that she had given it to her own husband who was talking about killing himself. He took it, and now it is like he has fresh life in him again.”

“That’s how I feel.”

The doctor was writing something down, he tore it off and gave it to me.

“Here is your release form. Hand that in at reception, and you are free to go.”

“Free,” I said. “Thank you.”

When I was dressed and ready, I put my arm around my wife. She leaned into me and put her arm around my waist. We walked out of the room and made our way slowly over to the reception desk. It seemed like there was no one else in the hospital. Everything was immaculate and empty, like no one had even walked through the corridor. There was no smell, no history, and no fear in this place. It was clean. I felt like I did when I first met her. Fresh and alive.

The woman behind the desk had her eyes closed, and her eyes popped opened just as I arrived. She smiled. I handed her the paper, she took it and she tore it up and threw it in the bin beside her.

“Free to go,” she said, holding her arm up towards the door.

“Thank you,” I said, and as I turned to face the door, still holding my wife, I walked out of that hospital a free man.