Science fiction by Jack Bragen

[dropcap]E[/dropcap]xperts had invented yet another new medication, and they predicted that this could be “the medication of medications” — something that would make psychiatric patients 100 percent manageable. They dubbed it the U Drug.
Its chemical name was so long as to be nearly unpronounceable, and they had not yet arrived at a good commercial name suitable for such a spectacular drug.
The U Drug still needed to be tested. Yet it proved to be next to impossible to find volunteers who would willingly allow themselves to be tested on this drug. It had a particular side-effect that was so undesirable that no one would voluntarily take the U Drug.
The company knew about this side-effect but believed psychiatrists would prescribe it anyway, at least to those psychiatric clients who regularly made trouble.
Enter Jonathan Baxter, a 25-year-old man who was assigned to the study. Baxter had gone off his medications several times and had been written up in his medical records as being uncooperative, “intolerable” and argumentative.
Mental health workers had grown tired of arguing with him. So they put Baxter on the U Drug. And they somehow failed to inform Baxter of this fact.
One morning, as Jonathan was eating breakfast, his mother Dorothy sat across from him, and he saw the look on her face.
“Johnny!” cried his mother. “Oh no! Oh God, no! Something is wrong!”
Jonathan replied, “Don’t worry about it, mom, everything’s fine.” He was unperturbed.
Jonathan’s mother said, “No! Something is very wrong with you. Go in the bathroom and look at yourself in the mirror!”
At that point, Baxter obediently stood up from his chair and walked into the bathroom. He looked at himself in the mirror and realized that he was badly disfigured. His facial disfigurement was nearly indescribable, and it was clear why his mother had become so distressed.
“Don’t worry about it, mom,” he said through the open door of the bathroom.
He wasn’t upset at all, even though obviously something horrible was happening to him.

The new psychiatric drug would alter the human mind and enable patients to be controlled. Art by MIRKO
The new psychiatric drug would alter the human mind and enable patients to be controlled. Art by MIRKO

“Son, why aren’t you upset?”
“I don’t know why, mom, I’m just not.” He paused. “Why am I not upset?” he wondered.
In the three weeks prior to this incident, Jonathan’s argumentativeness had evaporated, and his mother as well as his counselors were impressed by the progress he was making.
“I’m calling the hospital,” said Jonathan’s mother.
“Don’t bother,” said the young, disfigured man. “I’m okay with it,” he said.