The Tape
by Colin Gee, 31st October 2022

If there is anything more terrifying than industrial tape coming unstuck from its roll I guess I don’t know what it is. That sound is the signal that the bargaining is over, see, that all that is left to decide is how exactly to take off your arms and legs, and your last few minutes are going to be the most horrifying you will ever experience. Sad.

 

In the next life you will be famous and hundreds of thousands of people will follow your every movement as you lead your fascinating life on their screens, but instead of it being a vindication of your self-worth, of the value of your thoughts and movements and work, it will become your prison, a glass cage surrounded by hooting rubes. The only real value of your actions will be whether they give the neanderthals some kind of instant gratification: the dope rush of terror, pity, love, or laughter.

 

And that is how you find yourself, in that next and far-off existence, forced to perform ever more intricate and dangerous stunts.

 

Such as the one for which you will finally cement your name into the boardwalk of the stars, in which you deride and physically intimidate a small child, who of course clutches a pathetically threadbare teddy bear, because you decide you can’t stand her irritating mewling. Who is this child in my TADPOLE talk? you demand of the producer, who shrugs. Simultaneously the glass walls of the studio are contracting and warping and rotating so that the technicians and actors inside and yourself the host are tumbled slowly, walking and jumping as the walls and ceilings become floors, and then the whole thing begins to fill with warm water with a creepy biotic burp so that it feels like you’ve pissed yourself and it’s filling up your jeans and socks.

 

Great, you think, now I have to do this show with them thinking I’ve wet the bed, and in fact that is how today’s TADPOLE talk starts out, with some sneering mother accusing you of being a bedwetter.

 

How can we trust our children with you, she shrieks, but only so you would notice, a known bedwetter and assassin?

 

It was too clever, for you were forced first off to defend your reputation as a peaceloving non-murderer, which you realized later, too late, left the bedwetting hanging in the air.

 

You said, I was not in Belarus in 2014, as my declassified file on display in many bookshops in Boston has proven. Next question.

 

But by now you were a convicted bedwetter, and the toddler that had taken your hand began to weep, probably because you were all in a very scary place, and you kept walking the walls and the pitter-patter of adults talking went on and on, like a washing machine that belongs to someone else that they have placed right next to the apartment wall. Neighbors you have never seen but would murder.

 

Assassin, smile for the camera, flashes the prompter, and you do, squeezing the little hand, knowing what you have to do next.