Part II - Live on Television
up near the RAW studio Tom could see the tower, like that of
Sauron's, sticking up and out, a pillar of communications technology
erected from the fertile earth, made of iron and steel and satellite,
beacon of commerce. Every roll of the car wheels brought him closer
and closer towards mass-consumed, televised, commercial break-ed
suicide. No, no, this wasn't suicide anymore, not in this
programming block, this was murder.
Two hours ago when a gentleman jumped from an Olympic height diving board into the pool below him with a cement block tied to his legs, breaking his ankles, knees, femur, hip and pelvic bones, before drowning slowly at the bottom of the chlorinated water stinging his open wounds, that was suicide.
Last week, in one of the most watched, highest rated, most Tweeted suicides the network has ever broadcast in its 13 years running, when a 75-year old woman with non-Hodgkin lymphoma decided she'd have it enough, it was time to fucking die, and drove out of a cargo plane's doors at full speed in a Toyota Echo, falling thousands of feet to the desert floor in New Mexico where the car blew up into an exquisite HD fireball, that was suicide, and incredible entertainment.
This? This was just plain old fashioned murder.
And who wants to see that anymore?
We've been Carpentered and Cravenized and Rothed to the core with dismemberings, decapitations, castrations, mutilations of all shapes and sizes and lengths and widths, we've moved on and seen the all-day murder marathons flooding YouTube in recent years, psychopathic web series' evolving into the diary of serial killers all across North America and Europe. We are decentralized from ourselves and desensitized from it all. We've watched the cannibals get jail time only to wind up getting out with a book slash movie deal and child rapists moving from one parish to the next to the next and horses fucking men to death in online videos next to streamed video of Islamic terrorist groups cutting off the heads of journalists in low quality resolution, because it's so much more real that way, and everybody's seen the girls, the cup, singular, with the shit and the shitty kisses and the cup with more shit in it.
Nobody wants murder anymore. They want to see a life willingly taken by its owner. We need more. We need to see someone take their misery and their pain, all that hurt inside them, we need to watch them exorcise it like Pazuzu, bring it forth, expel it on live television, along with the residual life clinging to it that no longer matters.
People say it's a selfish act, but doesn't it take an immense hatred towards the self to make a person go out, on live network television no less, for an audience of millions, and, often violently, kill themselves?
People, they, we, want to watch suicides. We want to know there's someone out there who hates their god damn life as much as we do and has the brave sort of balls to go out there, sign up, and kill themselves in front of everyone else just to say fuck you all I'm outta here and there's no attempts this time I'm not screaming for help I'M FUCKING GONE!
And Tom was not a case for suicide. He was neither brave nor suicidal.
Unfortunately, his pleas fell only on deaf ears, or more that the pleas fell on several ears, sets of them, including one completely deaf ear, but none of them, including the deaf one, were truly listening. The two men dragged him on into the studio, through security, through the boardrooms and offices and staff farms consisting of rows of cubicles with digital troughs, on in past the actors of other celebrity shows like Survivor, now a show where innocent young women with wide hips and big breasts are locked alone in a house with a masked maniac who is, literally, trying to kill, and or rape, her; if she survives, a brand new car and one million dollars cash. Or Man Vs Wild, where they take people with no experience in the outdoors, break their leg, and throw them from a helicopter, leaving them to survive 48-hours in the wilderness without dying from animal attacks, weather conditions, Bear Grylls with a knife naked in the bush on psylocibin, or simply just their festering, open wounds. Tom could see people who knew but couldn't seem to figure out who they really were; what did they do? He recognized faces from magazines like People and Variety, he just didn't seem to know why they were on the covers, in the pages. They were all the same. They looked plastic, fake.
He caught a glimpse of his own reflection in a pocket mirror held by a pretty redheaded girl standing in one of the hallways where he was being dragged. His face looked bruised, not bloody, the hair on his head shined slick with perspiration, it ran down over his forehead and down his nose, around his eyes and mouth; his own face now looked plastic.
Soon the two big idiots came to a big empty room, away from the people. Cameras were everywhere. There was no set, no stage, barely lighting, cameras, a small stool in the middle of an empty, black room. They pushed Tom onto the stool, untying his hands.
And then they were gone.
Tom looked around. He felt alone, utterly and completely, entirely, alone. As if an unending, parabolic echo would bounce off the floors, ceiling, walls, booming until the end of time.
The lights dim.
A spotlight washed over Tom.
Voices whispering came out over an intercom. A shush from someone sounding stern, his voice droning deep and loud, but not boring, full of some regal nature yet with attitude, like Alan Rickman or Professor Snape or a drunken Jeremy Irons.
“Mr. James,” it said.
“It seems today there was a little mix-up.”
“But you're here now, so all is settled. We have a routine that we follow strictly when one of these... mix-ups, happens. So sit still a few moments, we'll be right back with you.”
Those few moments dripped by, slow, steady, stretching on forever into a memory of sempiternal fog.
The voice, the man behind the curtain, came back.
“Bring him in.”
Then after a little time a man wheeled him out, there for Tom to look at, there, beaten and pulpy, crying under a gag: Taz. One of his eyes had swollen into a sort of plum-like fruit shape, a bit of leakage seeping from a cut above it, part blood part brain meat or who knew what. It looked bad. All of it. It was all bad. The poor guy beaten, on top of all that probably coming down hard needing his next media fix, unable to plug in and tune out.
Tom only stared in at Taz behind the shimmery glass between them, who looked back at his dear friend with eyes, one good eye, that said please for the love of all that's fucking sacred help me for fucksakes man do something don't just sit there, and they stared and stared at one another, mirroring the other, Tom's eyes looking back, accusing Taz of being a junkie, of always getting himself into trouble he couldn't fix, of cramming himself time after time so haggardly between rocks and the hardest of places, of never ever standing up for himself and doing what needed to be done, of letting others take away every part of him that could be seen as human, of falling head on into his addiction and never once trying to get clean.
Their eyes burned. They both stopped, looking away from the other.
The voice from above, from somewhere, came back again. “Your friend here- Travis, or Taz, I believe- is about to be skinned. Well, not completely or anything. Just his face. In network television they are a commodity. A hot one. So hot it could burn your fingertips right off. Do you see? Anyhow, you can do one of two things- either let us take Mr. Travis' face, or pick up the gun on the table next to you, put it right against your heart, and end it all for the cameras. Then, we'll take your face. You won't be needing it.”
The toughest decision a man like Tom might ever have to face.
Only took a few moments though, all things considering, for Tom to think about life, everything, ex-Mrs. Tom, her face gone, throat slashed looking like a plastic grocery bag being torn apart slowly in strands, Travis, Taz, how a man that paranoid might actually have a better chance in this world than himself, how it was all just one network or another, we're all apart of one or the other, the thoughts of Mr. Thomas, James, hanging, swinging back and forth and back and forth off the pipe in the apartment above him caught in perpetual motion.
He picked the gun up from the table next to him.
Tom positioned his heart against the gun's barrel.
His heart, beating.
The hammer cocked.
And with a long, slow, beautiful click, Tom became a star.
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