Thanks to Char off FF.net for beta reading.
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House of Mirrors
by Becky Thompson
Another trailer. He changed the channel. A commercial. He kept changing the channels in a furious attempt to get rid of him. It didn't seem to matter what channel you were on, he always turned up in one form or another. After ten channels he pressed the red button and turned the television off. He heaved a sigh. Apparently you couldn't escape from that man, or the world's interpretation of him. The world and the media had him so very wrong. He knew they had, because he knew the man very well. He had known him for years, and he knew that there was more to him than met the eye.
Chuck walked over to the fridge and opened it. Pushing aside a carton of milk he pulled out a beer. Shutting the door, Chuck leaned against the kitchen workbench and took a long drink. How was it that everywhere he turned he could see the face of his friend? It was so strange, like being in some bizarre carnival fun house. Chuck laughed sarcastically under his breath. It hadn't been fun for him, and it hadn't been fun for Gary either. It still wasn't. It was about six months since it had happened. Since she had "let it slip" to the world. After it happened, Chuck had begun to understand why Gary was always so cautious about who he told about the paper. Gary had always worried about people using the information in the paper for their own gain, or just to generally use it badly. Chuck always pestered Gary for the sports section, but he'd never do anything worse than place a couple of bets. However much he talked about what he and Gary could do with the paper, Chuck knew in his heart that the paper wasn't meant to be used like that, and that Gary's way of doing things was the right way.
Gary had talked to Marissa and I a couple of times about what he thought could happen if other people found out about the paper. He thought they might misuse the information, try and get rich off it, and he'd always worried about someone thinking he was crazy and shutting him away somewhere. We'd all agreed that we didn't want any of those things to happen, Chuck thought, but how come we overlooked what really did happen?
We all knew that Gary wanted to be in a relationship.
We knew he wanted a family, and he and I both felt that the paper was keeping
him from having that. Marissa was often telling Gar that he should be honest
with women when it came to the paper, if he wanted to make a relationship
work. Perhaps there was some truth in what Marissa was saying. We both know
well, but that's what went wrong.
Her name was Jennifer. Gary had saved her from a fire in her apartment. One of her cigarettes had fallen out of her ashtray and onto her rug. She told Gary that she was sure she had put it out, and she was unbelievably grateful that he had come. She insisted that she should take him out for a drink to say thank you. It made me laugh. He owns a bar for crying out loud! I guess she didn't know that. Well Gary went with her, he told me he'd finished everything the paper wanted him for that day. He must have had a good time, because he couldn't stop talking about her when he got back. I don't even think he realised he was doing it. Marissa and I both found it amusing. He can be just like a teenager when he's taken with someone.
Well Gary thought that he wouldn't ever see her again, but she turned up at McGinty's two days later. One look at her, and I could see why Gary was so smitten with her. She was gorgeous. Long thick blonde hair, and eyes like emeralds. She could have easily been a model. He was surprised to see her, that was clear, and after talking to her for a little while, I could tell it wasn't just her face that Gary liked. She was very witty and charming. Now I look back at it, I suppose you could say she was a little too charming. But she and Gary went out for about a month before she starting asking questions about where he went all the time. This is when he followed Marissa's advice. He told her about the paper.
At first she didn't believe him. Gary was expecting that, but after a while she seemed to come around to the idea, and kept asking him questions. Lots of them, which we all thought was slightly odd, but Gary wanted to make a go of the relationship and answered them. I think he thought it'd show her that he had nothing to hide from her. For a while she seemed happy with it, and Gary was happy with her as well. But then Jennifer disappeared. Gary was frantic with worry about what might have happened to her, but he didn't have to wait too long to find out. Not long at all. Because it wasn't long before what Jennifer had done came to light. It started with one television crew. They wanted to know about tomorrow's newspaper. They wanted to meet the hero who went out every day to save the world. Wanted to see the paper, meet the cat, ask all sorts of questions. Jennifer had told the world. When he told her, Gary had made her promise to keep it to herself, and she had betrayed his trust.
It crushed Gary. He couldn't believe that she would do that to him. He had trusted her too much. Gary always believed in the goodness of humanity. But thanks to her he couldn't escape from the public eye. There were non-stop calls to his loft. Calls from talk shows who wanted to interview him, advertising deals, television deals. When he removed the phone from his place, the calls just came to McGinty's instead. McGinty's was another thing. The place was packed out. It was full to the brim with people trying to get a glimpse of Gary. It was so frustrating. Not just for Gary, for Marissa and I as well. We both got letters and telephone calls. So did most people who knew Gary. We both ignored the calls and threw the letters away, but some people tried to cash in on their relationships with Gary. Jennifer most definitely did. She appeared on countless chat shows and was interviewed for numerous newspapers. But she wasn't the only one. About a month after Jennifer betrayed Gary there was an 'exclusive exposi' with Marcia "Hobson" in some women's magazine. It was on every news-stand in Chicago. I couldn't resist buying it. It was a pile of bull, just like I had expected, and I didn't want Gary to see it, but somehow he ended up reading it. He was all for calling Marcia, and asking her what the hell she was playing at, but in the end he just couldn't do it. He wanted answers, off Marcia, and off Jennifer, but he couldn't ask the questions. I think he was still shocked that either of them would be so treacherous. Even though Marcia had cheated on him, he was sure she still had some feelings for him, even if they weren't romantic.
We thought that the Gary Hobson hype would die down after a while, but we were wrong. We were so very wrong. Even though Gary refused to take up any of the offers that were presented to him, somehow photographs of him ended up being taken, and these appeared all over the place. Billboards, magazines all that jazz. "Be like the man who saves the world: drink Super-energy sports drink!" "How does Gary Hobson always get there on time? He wears Smithson watches!" All sorts of adverts and endorsements, none of which he had agreed to. It was the TV show that did it. They didn't waste any time putting the show into production after the pilot came out. They called it 'Ahead of the Times'. I saw it. It made me sick to my stomach. It was awful. The actor who played Gary, or Jason as they called him in the show was one of those up and coming actors; the teenage heart-throbs. Pin up material. The way they portrayed Gary was so far from the truth it was painful to watch. A cross between Superman and Super-stud. He would get up in the morning, read the paper, save some beautiful woman and they'd get it on. It was so light hearted and whimsical that it was belittling the work that Gary did. It was all beautiful women and happy endings. There was none of the problems that Gary had. There were no missed rescues or lonely nights. And of course, as well as the actor playing Jason, Gary was still unable to go anywhere without being bombarded with people wanting to talk, wanting to sign deals, wanting his autograph.
Gary tried to keep a low profile, but it didn't work. You can't be the man who gets tomorrow's newspaper and try and keep a low profile.it's not possible.
So the time came when Gary had enough. He couldn't be Gary Hobson any more. There is no Gary Hobson now. My friend with the dark hair and quiet manner has gone. I haven't seen him in a long time. Because there's Tony Hawkes now. He looks rather like Gary Hobson, and if it weren't for Jennifer, he'd still be Gary Hobson, not the blond haired Tony who is constantly looking over his shoulder, trying to make sure no-one ever finds out who he really is. But it's hard for him. Trying to do a rescue is just as hard. The typical response off the person being saved is "You're not Gary Hobson, stop trying to be like him.". If only they knew.
I saw Jennifer the other day. On the street that is. She got what she wanted. She got her money and her fame. She found a new job as a chat show host. She lives in a penthouse in one of those amazingly smart apartment buildings now. She lives in glitz and glamour, whilst the man she betrayed had his life shattered. For he's basically got nothing left now. He'll go down in history as the man who got tomorrow's paper today. But none of the history books will bother to write about who he really was. I said it was like some carnival fun house, but I was wrong. All it is is a house of mirrors. The picture has been twisted and replicated so many times that you can't see the truth any more. The truth about Gary Hobson has been pushed aside for what people want to believe. And that's wrong. So very wrong.
Chuck sighed and took another swig of his beer. It
was wrong, but he knew that you were never going to convince people to look
closer. Everything was taken at face value. But what face had everyone put
on Gary Hobson? Not the right one, that was for sure, and Chuck knew it.
He picked up the TV remote, and turned the set back on. Maybe he'd be able
to find a movie or
something. Something where "Gary Hobson" wasn't.
Commercial, series, trailer.
He turned it off again.
Then again, maybe not.
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