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Festival

I’m standing with others in the bright sunshine when I notice the tiny ornithopters swarming beside my face. I look closely and can see they’re recording me from every angle, tiny cameras focused on my eye movements, face, profile. I can hear them now. ‘He’s staring at the coptors, pan to the side, profile shot so he looks like he’s looking into the distance. Check. Good profile. Hold.’ I find I can access all the nano-coptor information - skin tone mapped against colour charts, adjustments for the time of day and current shadow factors, blood flow in my cheeks. As I move my face a swarm of excited activity occurs as the coptors rush to readjust for best angle.

Confused I sit down on my white leather sofa which curves round the giant window overlooking the city. I’m in my apartment tower it seems, it’s quite luxurious. Slightly panicky now I find that if I lie still the ornithopters calm down and don’t do much. My friends are here now, chatting in the corner. They’re discussing supplements and drinks and how they alter the delicate balance of electrolytes and nutrients in the body. I take a peek and see that I can see mine too. My friends can see that I’m checking and wonder why, and adjust their inner levels to match mine, assuming it’s an elaborate scheme or joke. I pretend not to notice, they notice this and we all pretend nothing is happening.

Then it seems some kind of break is over and an entire crew are waiting with a countdown until I’m back on air. Air? I think. And the crew inwardly laugh as if I’m playing dumb. 3. 2. 1. Live! Silently the world watches my reality TV show, I’m dressed in my snow leopard outfit and a million people excitedly see me rise and walk across a field. I’m interested to notice that I can see a heads-up-display informing me of a number of things I’m fairly sure I don’t need to know. Included is the current air speed in Shanghai and the temperature of the air above someone’s back under a shirt in Thailand at this very moment. My current skin tone and possible alterations possible seems to be a particular preoccupation.

Next up is a shaving cream advert. This involves me standing around pulling various classic model-poses at different angles whilst trying to look natural. I have no idea what’s going on but just pretend I do, then when this is noticed explain that I’m a bit pre-occupied. Then I find myself standing with a famous musician who also has a reality TV show, the team are a-buzz with the combination. As we stand and hold each other the swarms of coptors capture the emotion. Excitement builds, we appear to be pitching for ‘Buddies’, ‘Just for the Hell of It 2’ and the World Cup. I have no idea what on earth any of this means, but it’s unheard of. The world is going crazy. The musician starts to tell The Pie Story. People gasp. ‘The pie story? No way…’ The radio crackles. Not just the pie story, but the BIG pie story. A choir appears and starts to sing backing vocals for the pie story. A crowd gathers. The pie is wheeled in by caterers. It’s a multi-storey pie. As the pie story gets bigger and bigger more layers are added. This is ridiculous, it can’t get any bigger. The world cup, buddies, what the hell 2 and the biggest pie story ever? Wow, just wow. At the climax the musician fluffs it and the pie story is left without an end. In a second we lose network ratings as people’s attention wanders. We lose all the bids and everyone starts to walk away. I’ve lost. I’m crushed. I’m out of job.

At this point a man I don’t know wanders up and tells me he’s just arrived and isn’t the field nice? Hello, my name is, etc. I stare. ‘Are you okay?’ He asks. ‘I’ve had a busy day,’ I say. He suggests a drink. ‘I still have staff,’ I tell him, ‘for a while… Come this way.’ I find a crew lounge and make space, sit down and ask for drinks, ‘What would you like?’ I ask, ‘I can get you anything.’ He insists he’s fine with his can of bitter. I shrug and ask some assistants for Gin and Tonic, which appears after some apparent confusion. After a few sips I get up and wander off.

I go back to my apartment, which is now a blanket next to someone’s tent. He’s fallen on hard times too and seems to be sleeping with vagrants for money to survive. He remains cheery as a ragged women wanders over and asks if he’s clean and how much it is?

As I sit down and relax in the sun people start to wander over. The site becomes a protest camp for everything. The anti-fascists set up shop and start singing protest songs. The local neighbours look over and I decide I’d better go and calm them, tell them this isn’t my fault. I find a local and explain things to him. He regards me silently for a while and then just looks into the distance. ‘You,’ he hits my chest with some force, ‘me,’ he hits his own, ‘that.’ He points to the horizon. ‘Do you have any problems with that?’ He asks. ‘No.’ I say. He shrugs and walks away.

I return to the protest camp where someone has built a pub which seems busy. The protest camp has become the site of the beginning and end of charity walks and a popular location for weddings. ‘I Just want a quiet life!’ I tell someone, ‘I have to live here!’ Upset I walk away from the camp and am confronted by a local dressed in black and white like me. ‘I don’t want any trouble,’ I tell him, ‘I just want peace.’ ‘It’s me, you don’t have to tell me!’. I have no idea who he is, but I hug him as a crowd watches. ‘The violence has to stop!’ I yell, as tears roll down my cheek. I pull off my leopard claws and throw them to the ground. ‘No more violence.’ I mutter and exit the scene.

Now I notice the security barriers. To get in and out of the field there seems to be a screening process. Liquids are checked thoroughly. Certain people seem to be prevented from being left alone with other people. I ask a friend why that is. She tells me it is like that, but the segregated people get very lonely so the guards sometimes turn their backs so people can sneak off to the bushes for a minute and exchange fluids. Oh yes? I raise an eyebrow. ‘Yes,’ she says, ‘we take bags and mix them, we only have a minute.’ I nod, oh, right.

I’m introduced to an egg carrier. I pretend I know what this is. He’s busy asking if anyone wants any eggs carrying, he apparently can keep them at the optimum temperature, no one knows how he does it. A group of excited women hand over bags and he puts them in a carrier bag full of water and then under his jacket. Money is exchanged. All the women then excitedly talk about odds and and the men gamble on the outcome or success, or the rare ‘triple’. I ask what exactly is going on but no one seems willing to explain it to me. I shrug and move on.

I now seem to be in the village square and the locals are celebrating some kind of old pagan festival by burning an ox and dancing in circles. I’m told to just stop asking too many questions and just accept things. I’ve now I know what’s happened - I’ve accidentally slipped into a parallel dimension, it now seems obvious. A dimension almost the same but not quite.

I decide to seek out someone who might have some answers. There he is, an eccentric that I assume would be slightly outside the system in this world too. I drag him into another field near the electric segregation barriers and ask if he’ll explain things to me honestly. ‘I’ll try,’ he says. I explain, whilst getting a little upset, about the nano-coptors, reality TV, losing my stardom, the protest camp and the egg-liquid-bush-exchange gambling. ‘I can’t operate in this world!’ I wail. He insists he’ll ask about the egg gambling as he wasn’t aware of it and suggests I might be happy as a writer in this world. I go away a little happier.

Maybe, I secretly hope, when I wake up in the morning, everything will be back to normal…

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