Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Mediamakers (short story)

I was inside a bungalow. One of the shutters on the window was open a little, allowing a glimpse of green foliage outside. I heard rustling amongst the trees and through the opening my eyes locked with two others, a curious monkey. I was standing in a tropical hideaway, a bungalow nestled amidst a jungle with the sounds only exotic bird life can make. The bungalow had a balcony and on a sunlounge lay a woman, clad in a revealing pink bikini. She was reading, oblivious to any other presence. In front, a short distance away was a beach, providing a vista of paradise. Private and secluded. Perfect.
I looked at this woman, and as I watched her, emotion washed over me: Jealousy, envy, disgust and animalistic anger. This creature, lying their flexing her long legs had stolen the man I was to marry and had married him herself. I knew he was away at the main house, arranging for a hire car that would take them both sightseeing tomorrow. I pictured them driving, his arm flung carelessly over her shoulders, she leaning into him smiling. This was supposed to be my honeymoon, not hers. I felt bile rise at the back of my throat and reached into the purse I was clutching, feeling my fingers close upon the cold handle of a knife. I felt myself succumb to rage.

With a sigh I flicked the switch that allowed the room’s screens to pause and dim. The bungalow in the tropics faded into the background. I could hear an incessant beep and knew I had to answer it, as it hadn’t stopped for the last two minutes. I had a fair idea who it was.
“Hello” I answered.
“Trevor?” I was right. The voice I could hear in my mind was Angus. “Listen Trevor, have you voted yet?”
“Just about to mate. I’m watching it now.” My eyes flicked up, and my screen room showed the curled lip and anguish upon Conzuela Kleinrock’s face as she is about to do murder.
“Look, before you do, can you meet me at Murphy’s?”
I sighed. Angus was a Justice Activist and for weeks now had been trying to get me on board for his cause. Really I was just a sympathetic ear.
“Murphy’s for real then,” I told him. “I’ll meet you in about twenty.” As Angus switched off, the red light in my peripheral vision did too.

Murphy’s was on Lennox Street. Traffic swelled past me and the hum of aerated engines filled the air. The streets were a blaze of neon, advertising life. I’d decided to switch off. Not exactly legal, but you could get away with an hour or so each day. This was because of the health nuts. They claimed that being switched on whilst working out made exercise pointless because of the constant interruptions.
I saw Angus in the corner, seated on a leather armchair. He raised his hand when he saw me.
“Thanks for meeting me Trev. Good idea Murphy’s Real, not too many people about. I bet that if we had paid the entry fee to go virtual the placed would be noisy, standing room only.”
I looked down at the table to see the drink options in front of me. Quickly finding my favourite, whisky and dry, I pushed a button and entered my code to pay.
“What part did you get up to in the murder?” Angus asked.
“Only the beginning. She was about to do the deed,” I said.
“I don’t like what the Mediamakers have done with this case. I know for a fact that additions have been made.”
This made me sit up. “What do you mean?”
Angus lowered his voice. “I’ve been contacted by a Mediamaker. They know all about the Justice Cause, and whoever it is, reckons they can give me some information. According to them it’s enough to make your head spin.”
My drink arrived and I slowly took a sip. Angus was on a mission to save the world’s justice system. He wanted to go back to the old claptrap of judge and jury. He was especially passionate because some ancestor of his hundreds of years ago was a high court judge or something.
“I can’t stand this! What’s our world become? I was going through some of Judge Baker’s journals the other day. You know, his emails and stuff…”
“Emails!” I interjected. “You’re talking dark ages Angus. Whose going to want to go back to all that?”
“I don’t mean the technology.” Angus hastily corrected this assumption. “I’m talking about the ideals. Where learned men and women are making the decisions.”
I shook my head at him. “It’s not going to work. You’re also talking about a time when crime was rife. It happened everyday. Everyday Angus. Can you imagine reading and watching about murder everyday? It’s been five years since our last murder and that’s only because this Kleinrock woman was half outta her mind. No body puts a foot wrong anymore. They know what the outcome will be.”
“But that’s exactly what I mean. Global voting to decide guilt and what punishment will be? And do you know how it all started? According to these Baker journals, it’s from a concept called Reality TV. This all comes from a Mediamaker’s mind! It’s just wrong.” Angus had set his face into hard lines of stubbornness.
“Well I don’t know what’s wrong about it. It’s what the world thinks. If eighty-five percent or more vote she’s guilty, then that’s it. She’s dead.”
“But don’t you see. Where’s all the evidence coming from? I’m not talking about all the re-enactment bullshit we use to vote on, I’m talking about real evidence. Forensic, not hearsay.”
“Forensic?” I asked. This was something new.
“Yes, it’s medical, to do with the body. DNA. Not when some Corporation thinks that this is how it happened, but the real truth.”
“I don’t get it.” I replied.
Angus was obviously switched on. I could tell by the way his body had suddenly frozen, that he was listening to a message. He looked at me apologetically. “Do you mind? I was waiting to hear from this Mediamaker”.
I nodded for him to go ahead and sipped my drink as I watched him. Angus’s body language was showing things weren’t good. After a few minutes he slowly shook his head and ordered another drink. I noticed he pushed for a double scotch, straight.
“It’s not going to happen,” he said dejectedly. “He reckons someone’s gonna get to me. That he’s putting himself in danger.”
“Well,” I shrugged my shoulders to show the helplessness of the situation. “Look, I’d better go. Voting deadline is tomorrow midnight and I still have to watch the murder and listen to the evidence.” Angus sighed at my words and looked despondent as I left.

As I walked back I switched on to check for any messages. Nothing as yet. At home I sat in my screen room and watched the murder take place. I could feel Conzuela’s emotions, how she felt by her betrayal and her anger at this. The Mediamakers had done a good job. I really felt as if I was there. It wasn’t looking good for Conzuela. Without a doubt she did it, and unfortunately for her we live in a society that didn’t condone murder. I settled back to watch the statements. Vitriolic hatred from the husband and mother of the dead woman and a plea from Kleinrock herself. I hadn’t seen a murderer in five years so I watched her closely. She looked pretty normal to me, wearing a blue navy suit, her voice soft and sad. The final moments were of the funeral and a montage of the murdered woman’s life. Anita, my sometimes girlfriend had said, this had her reaching for the tissues. It was emotional and it’s easy to feel as though it’s happening to you. A screen room does that.
A red light blinked on. This had to be what I was waiting for. I grinned as I read the message and pushed a button on the desk. The machine by my side made a whoosh sound and a cheque fluttered out with the embossed markings of Mediamaker Corporation. I thought back to Angus, feeling a little sorry for him. His informant was right, he had been got to. Only Angus didn’t know that it was by me. The money was too good to refuse, and I knew that convincing Angus to let go of his cause would take a bit of time. I hoped to stretch it out for as long as possible.I sat for a few minutes more, thinking about the Kleinrock case. I worked through the information that had been shown to me, came to a decision, and nodded to myself as I put my vote through.

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