If you haven’t already, please read Part 1 of this short story first.
“Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome once again to When In The World! Please put your hands together and welcome your host, the unparalleled, the monumental, the one-and-only Mr DAMIEN DARRT!”
From somewhere there was a loud cheer, clapping and whistling. I had no idea if it was from an audience or a pre-recorded track. The lights on the set were dazzlingly bright, I could only just make out the the cameras, and as Damien Darrt appeared the spotlight that came on made them disappear too.
“You’re too kind! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Darrts’s teeth actually glimmered as he spoke, as if somebody had inserted tiny diamonds in his teeth. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit.
“We have six new contestants ready to play When In The World – let’s introduce the first one!” He paused, looked around at us and then at a random point somewhere in the back of the studio. I guess it must have been where the Director or Producers or someone were sat.
“What the hell’s this?” He screamed. “Are you people really that fucking incompetent?? There’s only four people on this stage! Where’s the other two?!” Some unseen shuffling, movement and mumbled oh shit type moments and somebody spoke to Darrt, presumably in his earpiece.
“I don’t give a fucking monkeys left bollock,” he replied. “Get it sorted! I’ll be in my dressing room. MAKE-UP!” Darrt disappeared from the stage and the lights came up.
No audience, so the applause must have been pre-recorded. No camera crew either. Everything must be remote controlled. The only people apart from the four of us contestants were the two assistants that had herded us to this point. They were muttering between themselves, communicating with the box and exchanging animated looks. Then they ran from the stage leaving us all alone.
“What do we do now?” I asked, looking at the other three. They looked around, shrugged and just stood there. No response. Should I go and find someone? Should I just stand, robot like, at my podium, staring at the stage? The answer came in the form of a voice from the darkness.
“Contestants. Please do not leave the stage, we will be back with you in a couple of minutes.”
And for a couple of minutes we just stood. And stood. And stood.
Andy, the Assistant’s Assistant whatever he was, reappeared on the set with two other people. I could only assume that they were contestants, both female, as they were ushered onto the stage. No other instructions for us.
Darrt reappeared from his dressing room, still looking perfect but with a face that suggested he would kill someone if things didn’t go smoothly.
The voice from the darkness spoke again.
“Mr Darrt, we’re ready whenever you are. If we could take it from the introductions, that would be great.”
He shuffled to his position, the lighting came back up and we were straight back into it.
“Contestant one, would you introduce yourself and tell us what you normally do?”
I paused before answering, gathering my thoughts. I had expected a little warning before get launched into the spotlight.
“Hi Damien,” I said. “My name’s Finch, I am 29 and I am from Hampshire. My day job is a Data Entry Clerk.”
Darrt looked me in the eye and I think I withered under his gaze.
“Just, ‘Finch’? No other names?” A canned laughter track sounded.
What, like only famous people can have only one name?
“No Damien, just ‘Finch'”.
“Okay then, what do you hope to achieve by appearing on What In The World?”
What was I supposed to say? I really hope to meet a famous world leader that would help the needy to be in a better place? Kill Hitler? Use my expansive knowledge of the future to make myself a multimillionaire by placing the long bets? Nope.
“Win ten million quid or die trying!” Not even a sniff of a laugh from the non-existent audience. Perhaps they would add a laugh later. Or maybe not.
Oops, possibly not the right response. Darrt’s face flashed with anger before returning to its usual perfect form.
“Well, that’s quite ambitious! I assume by now that you understand the rules and the process of this game?” Didn’t everyone? I really wanted to punch him in the face. I knew of his reputation for being an arsehole but I hadn’t realised how justified the reputation was.
“Yes Damien, thank you.”
“Okay then, let’s get you kitted up and on your way! First up you need to choose your tools and weapons.” He directed me over to the weapon table.
On the table were a variety of implements ranging from pliers and screwdrivers to a Molotov cocktail, a shiv, a Bowie knife, a dehydrated meal pack, various other weapons including a crossbow, and a number of pistols. Everything on the table looked second hand, some of it in worse condition than you would think is possible. I mean, who has a use for a hundred year old rusty spoon?
I eventually chose possibly the newest weapon on the table, an old west style 6 shooter revolver. I also took the Bowie knife and the spoon because you never know when a rusty spoon might come in handy! I was tempted by the meal pack but not knowing where on when I would be dropped I couldn’t guarantee enough hot water to be able to use it.
I looked back at Damien, nodded at informed him I was ready.
“Right then, let’s do this! If you would like to take your position at the hole we’ll get you on your way.”
I stepped up to the edge of the pedestal that housed the black hole and looked down. Then the nerves set in. I wobbled a little and thought for a moment I may feint. What the hell was I doing? Was I really ready to die? I had so much to live for! Oh, wait…
“Finch! Your time is now, you may jump when ready!”
The fake audience started up again with a “Jump! Jump! Jump!” chant. I thought about a clever quip, something about kippers and breakfast, but when I tried to say it I garbled it so much that it came out more like “Spell me a breekfost, I’m a fish!”