Epistemic status: FICTION

The startup I was interning at didn't figure out curing disease but it did figure out creating good diseases. Strength and acuity and prudence. These spread just as quickly or quicker because people tried to pass them to their friends. Whole social circles would cough on each other to give a week of wisdom. I got long empathy, permanently a little thoughtful. The startup became rich beyond belief fighting immunity, perfecting it.

There were a few people who didn't want to get infected. They didn't want to become extraordinarily strong or kind or sexy. They wanted to get there through their own means. They hid in their houses and made DIY vaccines. Because of my empathy the startup made me the official ambassador to these people. Meanwhile we were churning out new, stronger diseases.

The avoiders talked to me over video. I had just caught the new empathy strain and felt very keenly their values, their worries, the soundness of their position. When the video stuttered I only thought about how it must annoy them. They did not look like anybody I knew: They were not beautiful or muscular and their eyes did not glisten with perception and their arguments were less than perfect. Yet still, I respected them. We talked for an hour and we didn't get anywhere.

Afterwards one of them messaged me privately. She had been convinced. She wanted to be infected. She wanted to become beautiful and kind.

Officially I wasn't supposed to interact with the avoiders in a personal capacity but I felt, probably because of the empathy, that I couldn't refuse. She came over to my house where I had a custom strain for her. She was not beautiful but I felt that her desire to be kind was beautiful. I felt that her desire to be kind must mean she was kind.

She took it as a nasal spray. I told her the effects should come overnight. She told me she couldn't go home now, everybody would know what she'd done. She said she didn't care about her family anymore. Her parents were idiots and her siblings were worse. She asked if I'd get in trouble and I told her it'd be our secret. She told me the sky had been perfectly orange when she walked over and it had made her happy. I asked what her plans were tomorrow and she said: if you're free, we could go to the park, and you could take pictures of me. She talked like this until we fell asleep.

When I woke, there was a perfectly beautiful and kind woman weeping beside me. She told me she had made a mistake. She should have just become kind. She could have hidden it from her family, who deserved every sweetness, but now she was trapped. She should have just become kind.