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Pills to End Pain?

Once upon a time, long ago, when life was still very young, the Pill Fairy arrived on her first official visit to the people of planet Earth. She came on an errand of mercy. Her job was to help end the reign of pain and suffering that kept people from enjoying the full fruits of their labors. And so she set to work.

Assuming many disguises and dispensing her gifts in various forms - sometimes as magical chants accompanied by ritual dancing, often as strong-smelling brews concocted from the herbs and roots of fields and forest, frequently as salves spread lavishly over the body - there seemed no end to the ways of her magic. She was honored and sought after everywhere.

Slowly, however, the people began to suspect that hers was a temporary power. Though sometimes lasting for many weeks, her interventions often brought only a short-term release. Sooner or later the people had to seek her out again, queuing up on longer and longer lines to receive her healing potions or magical charms. But what else were they to do?

As time passed, some of the people began to question, to voice their doubts, to accuse her of playing favorites or of trying to take them under her spell to gain power. Was she really such a good fairy after all? they wondered. Wasn't there a better way?

The Pill Fairy still lives today. No longer dwelling in caves, or administering around campfires, she has been promoted to an almost godly rank. Her shrines are found in great cities as well as in backwoods outposts. They are called hospitals. Her attendants receive long years of intensive training, and with their initiation they are rewarded with a white robe to signify their special function. They are sometimes called nurses or doctors. Their magic is called medicine, and it is now dispensed by special agents called pharmacists. Pill Fairy magic is awesome in its effects and dearly bought; and as it gets ever more complex, the side effects sometimes outweigh the advantages. Doctors and nurses, like the Pill Fairy herself, are powerful and mostly benevolent, laboring long hours to help the suffering masses who expect them to have a prescription or a procedure for every pain. Recently, less invasive procedures, such as body therapies, and less toxic substances, like herbs and homeopathic remedies, have become popular, but the paradigm in which they are used remains similar to that of the Pill Fairy.

More and more, even doctors and nurses have begun to wonder if there is, perhaps, another way. But then the people still need them so desperately, and reward some of them so handsomely, that they have little time to look elsewhere.

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