Max Arena

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Together We Win

Noon, 1st December (same time). Together We Win

‘Max?’ Sally asked. ‘You’re mysteriously quiet? Why so pensive?’

Max looked up at his host and searched her eyes for even the most remote possibility that she would ask anything other than another question about how he was feeling and unfortunately, he failed. So, Max decided to take matters into his own hands and usurp the interview, regardless of the consequences.

‘Sally, I don’t want to talk about myself anymore,’ he said plainly. ‘In all honesty, I’m just a regular bloke. Sure, in a month’s time I’m going to step into the arena and defend the world’s safety against God knows what sort of aliens, but today, right now, I’m not the most important story on the planet.’

Sally’s response as best Max could make out was mainly shock. At first she opened her eyes slightly wider and stiffened a little in her chair, but then slowly Max saw the wheels start to grind back into motion. Her eyes squinted marginally and then hardened around the edges as a slight tension gripped her jaw line.

‘So, Max,’ Sally said, probably a little more tersely than she would have liked, ’if you are not the biggest story on the planet today, what on Earth is?’

‘Us,’ Max replied, holding his hands out to the sides, palms open and looking from Sally to the audience. ‘All of us.’

’I don’t understand. All eyes are on you right now, Max, so why don’t we get back to you?’ Sally said, shifting in her seat and attempting to wrest control back of the interview.

‘Sally, I’m not a deep thinker,’ Max ploughed on, ’and I’m absolutely not a philosopher or a visionary. I’m no good at any of that stuff, but what I am good at is observing things. I see, hear and feel things around me and then react on instinct. I don’t think deeply about how I react. I just do it and that seems to have got me this far in life. So I must be observing things okay, so let me tell you what my observation is that explains why I think all of us are the biggest story in the world right now?’

If Sally had been allowed to stand up and rail at Max, she would have, but the queen of day time television does no such thing, so seeking guidance and support, she looked across at her stage producer, who immediately signalled back that she had to run with it. Sally’s return glare to the producer promised imminent discomfort, but she had to give in. Turning back to Max, she plucked up all her depths of professionalism and fashioned the most radiating, flawless and completely disingenuous smile. A weaker man would have flinched, but it bounced off Max like a bug off a windshield.

‘Please, go on, Max?’ she oozed. ‘What is this observation of your’s?’

‘Well,’ Max said, leaning back in his chair, ’five months ago when all this first started and that big, ugly alien popped up on the screen and threatened everyone, fear took over. Everywhere. I could see it. I could hear it and I could absolutely feel it. It was rampant and you didn’t need to be a good observer to know that fear was king back then.’

‘And now?’ Sally expertly cut-in. ‘Five months on, what do you observe now?’

‘Hope.’

Sally arched an eyebrow. ‘Hope? How can that be when we all know that big, ugly alien is still out there planning to kill us all?’

‘Sure, he’s still out there and yes, he’s still coming for us, but five months on, we’re not living in fear any more. Hope has taken over and my proof is in what I see, hear and feel.’

’And what exactly do you see, hear and feel?’

‘I see wars on hold. I see people trying to live normal lives. I see crime rates lower than before all this started. I hear new songs of hope and joy on the radio. I hear people being interviewed all over the world, encouraging others to get out of hiding and celebrate life. I even hear studio audiences laughing at my bad jokes.’

The audience cheered and clapped on cue.

Sally forced out a small smile. ’So what do you feel, Max? Do you feel hope around you?’

‘More than anything. Every time I lace up these orange shoes and run around in front of a crowd, it’s viral. The air is thick with it. If I had a butterfly net, I could catch it all day. I can even feel it right now. Right here. This audience is not sitting here in fear. They’re pumped. They’re up for whatever comes next. They’re not waiting for some big, dumb alien to come down and wipe us out, are you?’ Max said, turning to the audience. The crowd burst into action. Cheers, whoops and applause burst out.

Max and Sally patiently waited for the crowd to settle down, even though it took some time. As the noise dissipated, Max took in Sally’s expression and noted it had softened. The crinkles at the corners of her eyes had gone and the firmness of her jaw had eased. She sat silently watching the audience beyond the cameras, her eyes taking it all in. When the crowd finally fell quiet, Sally did not re-engage. Instead she sat looking beyond the bright lights and out into space. Max ventured gently in.

‘Sally, I know you can feel it too, can’t you?’ he asked.

Sally broke from her reverie and looked directly at Max. The facade was gone. It had broken and melted away. Just like that. No longer did the queen of day time television sit across from Max. Sally was just another human on the planet, living in the same moment and the same world as everyone else.

’I can feel it,’ she said quietly.

‘And now,’ Max added, ’do you want me to share with you the rare deep thinking that I’ve done and tell you why I think hope has replaced fear?’

Sally nodded.

Max leaned forward and over a billion television screens filled with a close-up of Maximilian Augustus Dyson.

‘Five months ago when we were first threatened, fear set in because we all retreated from the threat. We hid. We pulled back into ourselves. We ran away from the danger and ultimately, we all wound up alone. Not literally, although in many cases yes, but figuratively. Families pulled in and hid away. Individuals with nowhere to go, isolated themselves. We stopped going outside. We stopped trusting each other. We didn’t even talk to each other and by all of us hiding away, we allowed fear to take control and rule our lives. Then that fear drove many people to strike out and hurt others and that ramped the fear up even higher. We self-escalated and every day, we notched the fear level up again and again. We were all, each of us alone and under the control of fear.’

‘And then you came out and gave us something to hope for,’ Sally not so much asked, but just said.

‘Well, sure I was part of the catalyst to change, but you know what,’ Max said, ’I didn’t make hope. People don’t make hope. It’s an emotion, so it’s always there. Hope is always there inside people, it just has to have the courage to come out and while fear was ruling the roost, there was no way hope was coming out to play. So, sure, I gave hope a little bit of a leg up, but hope performs best when it has company, when it has friends. When one person hopes, it helps another person start to hope and then like any good virus, it becomes contagious and before you know it, hope is everywhere, fuelling itself and that’s what happened over the last few months. Our hope found its courage and it beat fear down. We found hope and we beat fear down. We did it, together and that’s why I say, the most important story in the world right now is all about us. All of us. We’ve stood up. We’ve said enough of this fear crap. We’re not going to hide in some hole and wait for whatever happens next. We’re going to get up and face it and live life while we can. This story is about the entire human race living in hope. That’s what this story is about and inside that story there’s a lesson to be learnt.’

Sally tilted her head. ‘A lesson? What lesson?’

’Alone, we will lose. Alone we are powerless. Alone we will destroy ourselves and each other and by the time the aliens turn up, we’ll have already killed ourselves, but together, we have real power. If we’re going to beat this alien thug and his armies, we can only do it together. Our real strength is in finding each other, standing next to each other and supporting each other. No one has to live in fear because if we all face this as one, we can do anything we want and that goes for me too. I’m no one on my own, but with my family and those that I care about by my side, together we’re a force to be reckoned with and then there’s the support all of you give me. The hope you instil in me is overwhelming. I may not be superman, but bloody hell, some days I sure feel like it. I have learned over the last few months I need all of you, just as much as you need me. The lesson in all this is, alone we lose, but together...together we win.’

Max rammed the last word out through gritted teeth, his clenched fist pumping the air. Instantly, the crowd ripped the air apart. It was like all the herds of Africa had rumbled into the studio at once. Even if Max had wanted to talk, it was pointless. Every single person in the audience was up and jumping or stamping their feet or clapping their hands red raw. Pandemonium reigned and then the Team Max anthem sounded and the noise levels escalated even higher with the overhead clapping and foot stomping.

Meanwhile, up on stage, Sally just stared at Max, all semblance of her television personality completely gone. Even her make-up looked dulled down. She was now just simply Sally and then she slowly got to her feet and took a step forward to stand in front of Max. He looked up at her and then she put her arms out wide. For a long moment, Max sat and looked up at her like a child beholding his mother and then, slowly, he too stood up and accepted Sally’s gentle, but firm embrace. Max hugged her in return like he would his own children. It was warm, genuine and honestly felt really good. Despite the rioting crowd and the fact he could not see Sally’s face, Max knew she was crying and that made him feel even better because he knew they were cleansing tears of joy. Max smiled probably one of the widest and happiest smiles he had ever felt and hugged Sally even harder.

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