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Double Life

Ted basked in the applause, smiling contentedly. He waited for the applause to die away, allowing himself the luxury of enjoying his moment. After all, this was what he had worked so hard for. He returned to his table, where his wife and editor were waiting, on their feet, tears in their eyes. As he walked past the other tables, hands reached out to pat him on the back.

He reached his table and his wife, her eyes shining brighter than the sparkling diamonds in her ears, stretched up to kiss him, a kiss full of promise. He took his seat and glanced across at her, shaking his head in mild bewilderment.

It seemed only this morning that they had been fighting yet again, her screaming like a banshee, belittling him, telling him what a waste of space he was and how he was never going to make it and why didn't he just get a job.

And the bills. He smiled now as he remembered. They had been close to eviction. Eviction! From that grotty little flat on the fifteenth floor of the concrete tower block. How times had changed, and so fast.

Why, his wife was more beautiful now, slimmer, glossier, younger. How had that happened, he wondered. Money seemed limitless in its power. He had never lost the faith, hammering away at his battered old typewriter at all hours.

As he sat back, sipping the glorious ice-cold champagne, he nodded to himself. It really had all been worth it. His wife slipped her hand into his, staring meaningfully into his eyes.

'Time to go, darling,' she whispered.

'Not just yet.'

'Now, Ted. Time to go.'

'No, not yet,' he said with a frown, irritation creeping into his voice.

'Yes now, Ted. Come on. Time's up.'

Ted opened his eyes, puzzled by the bright light. A face appeared in front of him. He grimaced at the stench of garlic breath. He was wet. Had he spilled his champagne?

'Wow, you were in deep! You back with us yet, Ted?'

Ted looked down in confusion. He was standing in a white pod of warm water. 'What?'

The man grabbed him and began ripping electrodes from his scalp. Ted screamed in pain. 'I need some help in here!' yelled the man.

A door opened, sending a draft across the room that chilled Ted's wet body. Another man in a white lab coat hurried in. 'What's the problem?' he demanded.

'Ted's in deep!' said the first man, still ripping electrodes from Ted's scalp.

Ted thrashed against his assailants. 'Get off me! Where's my wife? Who are you?' he wrenched free of the man and crashed into the wall of the pod. 'What is this place?'

The second man grasped his shoulders, pinning him in place. 'Ted, I'm Frank Hawks, this is my assistant, Graham. You've just come back from a trip in the Sensory Stimulator.'

'What?' Ted struggled against the man, furious at being wrenched from the awards ceremony. 'Let me go, this instant!'

Hawks and his assistant exchanged looks. Hawks nodded and Graham hurried away to a medicine cabinet. He returned with a syringe. 'Ted, this is just to calm you down,' said Hawks, as he injected Ted's arm.

Ted glared at him. 'Where is my wife?'

Hawks sighed and stepped away, signalling his assistant to do the same. 'You don't have a wife, Ted.'

Ted snorted. 'I was with her, at the ceremony.'

Hawks shook his head. 'Ted, I'm afraid you weren't with your wife, you weren't at a ceremony.'

Ted stared at the men. 'I'm a famous author! I demand you release me!'

Hawks looked at Graham. 'It's always worse when they've had a good trip. Reality is so much harder.'

'What the hell is this place?' demanded Ted.

'This is Double Life. What you just experienced was ... think of it as an enhanced dream,' explained Hawks, edging forwards cautiously. 'You're brain was artificially stimulated to allow you to explore your fantasies in a safe environment.'

Ted shook his head frantically. 'No! I'm … a world famous best-selling author!' Both men shook their heads apologetically. 'A … best-selling … author.'

Ted slowly sank down, lowering himself back into the water of the pod. He wasn't a famous author. He had no beautiful wife, just an angry, overweight and really rather ugly girlfriend. His manuscripts were stacked, unpublished, in a grotty flat on the fifteenth floor of a tower block. He was just Ted.


© 2011 Kay Lawrence.


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