FlashFic: Mind Games

Flash Fiction by JC Rosen

Photo by idleman

The money looked good. Better than the usual chump change for volunteering as a lab rat. “Clinical depression a plus,” the listing said. Charles laughed. At least it was a plus for someone.

He got to the psych lab early. Stacey gave him the forms. He used a little poetic license. “Do you think about suicide?” He checked “often.” “Have you ever attempted suicide?” “Are you currently taking medication?” Deciding to be cautious, Charles answered no for both. What they didn’t know wouldn’t keep him from that cash.

Stacey called the next day. “You’re in. Can you make it Saturday?” He sure could.

More forms, disclaimers listing possible complications. He had his appendix out, the consent forms were the same. Scary stuff listed, but never really happened. He signed and Stacey took the clipboard, nodding as she looked them over. Pity, Charles thought. She’d be pretty with her hair down.

He fidgeted in a small room with a big mirror. Finally Stacey opened the door. Putting a pill bottle and a Coke on the table, she sat. “It’s a new anti-depressant. We can begin today. You’ll return for one dose daily for ten days.”

“Wow, it works in ten days?” He shook the pill bottle.

“We anticipate beneficial changes in brain chemistry within 48 hours,” Stacey told him. She took the bottle and dropped a capsule into his hand. He popped it, washing it down with soda.

Sleepiness hit hard that night. Charles crashed before 11:00. Before he fell asleep, he muzzily wondered if he should stop taking his usual Prozac. Waking with a start, he was more than rested. He was ready to get the day going. Weird thing was it was only 4:00. He shrugged and dove into the history assignment. An hour later, he hit PRINT. He finished the paper in an hour? This stuff was good. It was better than they said.

The extra energy helped him do calculus homework the next day, but afterward he couldn’t stop doing proofs. New ideas chased one another, leaving no room for physical coordination. He stumbled through campus to the psych lab. This stuff was great. He just had to get control of it.

In the small room, he held his head and breathed deeply. Stacey frowned and turned to the mirror. A knock on the door echoed. He listened to the rumble of a man’s voice. Stacey returned and gave him a capsule.

“We’d like you to stay for an hour this time, okay?” He nodded, his brain sloshing in his skull.

Moments after it hit his bloodstream, the medication blossomed in his mind. He smelled colors, heard the vibrations of molecules. Thoughts blasted together, drilling through his head. He didn’t feel himself fall from the chair, curl up under the table, cover his ears. He didn’t hear his own screams.

He didn’t hear Stacey. “I don’t understand. He got the placebo.”



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8 thoughts on “FlashFic: Mind Games

  1. John Ross Barnes (@BarnestormJohn) December 14, 2012 at 10:29 am Reply

    Wow. Neverrr saw that coming. The power of the mind,. Loved this, Jesse. Reality, ‘tsa funny thing, no?


    • JC Rosen December 15, 2012 at 2:34 pm Reply

      As we geeks say, “Reality is for people who can’t handle science fiction.” Or, in this case, drug testing. I’m happy you enjoyed it, John. Thanks for letting me know.

      Take care,


  2. Johanna Harness December 14, 2012 at 11:42 am Reply

    Ah, poor Charles. I get the feeling this isn’t his first under-the-table curl.


    • JC Rosen December 15, 2012 at 2:36 pm Reply

      You may be right, considering his instinct to dive under the table. I enjoyed writing Charles and his descent. Poor guy. At least I didn’t kill him off.

      Take care,


  3. MarcNash (@21stCscribe) December 15, 2012 at 6:48 am Reply

    great exploration of the psychology of the placebo & the power of suggestion running wild!


    • JC Rosen December 15, 2012 at 2:38 pm Reply

      Thanks, Marc. I tried to capture that power of suggestion and expectation. It’s good to know it worked for you. I always said if the placebo worked for me, I’d be happy to use it.

      Take care,


  4. Larry Kollar December 15, 2012 at 9:03 am Reply

    Killer ending line! Reminds me of an old Fibber McGee gag: “These placebos are great medicine!”


    • JC Rosen December 15, 2012 at 2:42 pm Reply

      That’s great, I love it. Placebos can be great medicine when the patient is susceptible to suggestion. Unfortunately, some take it a bit too far, like poor Charles. Really glad you enjoyed it, Larry. Thanks.

      Take care,


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