Concept Art Writing Prompt: Human Emotions Bottled as Drugs

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Let's talk about love in today's Concept Art Writing Prompt. Or maybe rage, or grief, or hope, or joy. What happens in your story when concentrated emotions are sold by the bottle?

This concept, simply titled "Human Feelings as Drugs," was created by Valerio Loi, a London-based photography student, via Design You Trust. To get a closer look at the labels, visit Loi's Tumblr, and to see more of his photography, check out his Flickr stream.

If this photo inspires you to write a story, please post it in the comments. Here's my attempt:

I shouldn't have worn black. Before I'd left my dorm room, I had felt like a ninja, but then Gillian had popped out of Perkins wearing jeans and a dark blue t-shirt. She'd brushed a few flakes of dandruff from my turtleneck, and grinned. "We're just going to Grad Center, Catwoman," she said. Now that we were out in the evening air, among the other freshmen in their best Friday night tank tops and the seniors shuffling to the campus bar in their pajamas, I realized how much I stood out. I almost wanted to dash back to Keeney and at least change out of my yoga pants, but if I did that, I'd lose my nerve. Even as we were getting close to Grad Center, I felt hamsters clawing up my stomach, threatening to vomit their way out. I made a low, trembling moan.

Gillian patted me on the back. "Don't worry," she said. "My friend at MIT does this all the time. Slips his TA a little Empathy, and it's a guaranteed B-plus average — and that's on problem sets."

I tapped my fingers across my lips. Even though she was halfway across the country, I could almost hear my mother's admonition not to touch my face so much. "Can I see it?" I asked, and Gillian pressed the vial into my free hand. I cupped it so no one else could see it. It looked just like the vials of Peace I'd taken every week in high school, except that the liquid inside was green instead of blue. I tapped the little Empathy symbol on the corner of the label, a tiny oval, half pink, half blue, with two Ys, each stretching from one side to the other. I'm sure Professor Fleets would have some brilliant lecture that would start with him deconstructing that symbol and end with him constructing a better one. The vomit hamsters raced faster at the very thought of it.

I slipped the vial back into Gillian's purse. "And you're sure she won't know?" I asked.

Gillian's smile went Cheshire Cat-wide. "That's the best part," she whispered. "Bebe's working on her thesis, right? She's snorting Focus like there's no tomorrow. Empathy and Peace are, like, the only things that don't interfere with Focus. And she's going to be so single-minded that she won't even notice the warm and fuzzies creeping up on her."

We jogged up the concrete steps to the platform where the Grad Center towers met, the click of Gillian's heels outclassing the shuffle of my Pumas. "And we don't have to inject it?" I asked, remembering how long it had taken me to stop viewing the injection needle as the enemy.

"Nope, oral dose."

I stopped and starred at her. "How did you swing that?"

She shrugged. "I told health services I was afraid of needles."

"Wait, you what?" My brain didn't have time to wrap around that bit of information before Gillian shoved me toward the door to Tower C, which a burly guy in a yellow polo was gamely holding open for us. The building famously had no hallways, and as soon as we entered, we were standing at the bottom of a cinderblock stairwell. Overhead, we could hear the indistinct sounds of a party — echoes of chatter mixed with an unsteady wubbing of music.

"Oh, this is too perfect," Gillian said, and she grabbed my arm, pulling me up the stairs. We did a few spirals when I spotted Bebe's suite, the door wide open. I paused to go inside, but Gillian just kept tugging and didn't stop until we had found the party. Upperclassmen were spilling out into the stairwell, clutching red plastic cups and screaming at one another over the music. Now I felt even stupider for my black-on-black combo.

"Wait here," Gillian said. She took a deep breath and squeezed inside.

The guy with the yellow polo shirt had trailed us up the stairs, and once he reached the top, he looked at me and smiled. He shouted something, but I couldn't hear him, so I just pointed to my ears in apology. He pressed his lips into a tight smile, shrugged, and followed Gillian's lead, shimmying into the packed suite.

A few minutes later, Gillian reemerged holding a red cup out from her body. She handed me the cup and brushed back her hair, now drenched in sweat. "Holy balls, it's hot in there." She turned and hopped hopped down the steps to the next landing. I followed sniffing the contents of the cup. It held a dark red wine and the smell was almost musty. Gillian leaned over the railing, making sure that no one else was coming up. "Quick," she said, "give me the cup." I handed it over and she cupped her hand over the top as she emptied the vial inside. After shaking out the last drop, she plopped the vial back into her purse and gave the cup a few gentle swirls. She gave the cup back to me. It still smelled musty. "All done," she said. "Now for the delivery."

Gillian let both of her feet come to a rest on each stair, savoring the repeating click of each heel. When we reached Bebe's suite, she bowed toward me twisting her arms in a welcoming gesture. "Apres vous."

Bebe's was the only bedroom door that was open. She had managed to transform the gray cube into something resembling comfort, with robin's egg fabric pinned to each wall and soft lamps standing in for the overhead fluorescent lights. She was nestled into rose-pink Papasan chair, her legs obscured by flannel penguins and her thick black hair held up in a claw clip. She was engrossed in her tablet, tapping her stylus across the screen. I realized she might be grading papers. She might be grading our papers. I rapped on the open door.

Bebe looked up and her head tilted slightly to one side. "Hello, ladies," she said. "What are you two doing her?"

Gillian took the cup from my hand and swung in, ignoring the glare Bebe shot to outside shoes on her white shag rug. Gillian pointed upward, "We came to check out the party, but it's just too crazy. So we thought we'd bring you a souvenir." She extended the cup.

Bebe frowned. "I don't like beer."

Gillian reached the cup out a little farther and gave it a shake. "It's Yellowtail," she said in a sing-song voice. "Cheap and delicious."

A small laugh escaped Bebe, and she leaned forward to accept the cup. "Not like my thesis is getting anywhere tonight."

We made a little small talk before Gillian claimed to be tired and Bebe bade us goodnight. Once we were safely outside Grad Center, I asked, "Okay, how did you get health services to give you Empathy?"

Gillian beamed at this, as if it was the question she'd been waiting for all night. "I didn't even ask them for it. The RCs sent me to psych services. Apparently Ashlynn complained that I have boundary issues."