|I wish I still had a phone like this.|
The phone rings merrily away, blasting me out of a pleasant dream involving grilled cheese sandwiches, a TARDIS and the complete boxset of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. I grunt, brushing aside cheese-encrusted dream felt. The phone chirps again.
“Gruuurgh,” says my girlfriend, nudging me with a foot.
“Mrrrrrr,” I reply, holding my pillow over my face in a bid to suffocate myself back into the world of dreams. The phone clears its throat and rings again.
A sudden snarl, a whistle of displaced air. I’m now on the floor, pillow still clutched in white-knuckled hands.
“I’ll just answer that, then, shall I?” I mumble, slinking downstairs in defeat. The phone rings mockingly.
I pause in the living room doorway, taking in my surroundings. Through the haze of sleep it’s one half magical mystery wonderland of chocolate tables and gingerbread chairs, one half nightmarish dystopia of clutter and dirty dishes. I briefly fear that I know which is the more accurate. I pull up a chair and eye it warily. I lick it. I sigh. I answer the phone.
“HI!” screams a female voice with artificial cheeriness.
“You may have been involved in an accident!”
The world spins around me. What? An accident? When? I haven’t had an accident, have I? Have I? I mean, surely I’d remember that sort of thing.
“What are you-“
I’m rudely interrupted by this mystery caller with no regard for the basic tenants of human conversation.
“If you feel you were not at fault and are entitled to compensation, press 9 now and quote the following reference code…”
Wait, wait, wait, lady, slow down. I’m still reeling here. I’m certain I haven’t had an accident. I mean, there was that time when my girlfriend knocked a 2ltr bottle of coke off the counter and onto my foot and bruised it quite badly but I don’t really think that counts. Besides, I didn’t tell the police or anyone, so how would this random woman know?
Which raises a valid point, I realise with growing horror. Whatever terrible accident that has clearly befallen me is obviously serious, otherwise I wouldn’t be getting a phone call at the early hour of – I check my watch – 11.30am. But why do they know about it when I can’t remember a damend thing?
Unless I can’t remember it because … because it never happened? No, that doesn’t make sense. No, the only logical solution is that my memories have been tampered with to ensure I don’t seek compensation! Those bastards! Those hypothetical shay sinister bastards! They must have kidnapped me and wiped the relevant parts of my brain! Well, that or lured me away with the promise of a pre-release Game of Thrones boxset, that would totally have worked. But either way, I’ve clearly been mentally violated by a superior force!
Wait … if they’re that superior to me, what if it’s even worse? Rather than wiping away my memories like an annoyed teacher wipes rude doodles off a blackboard first thing in the morning, perhaps my nefarious nemeses (henceforth referred to simply as THE AGENCY or THEM or THOSE BASTARDS) are even more pervasive a threat. Perhaps, rather than go to the hassle of dealing with me on an individual basis, perhaps they rewrote the ontology of the entire world to make it so the accident had never occurred. Whole groups of people going about their every day lives, not knowing that I had suffered some horrible tragedy, thanks to them, The Agency, those bastards. This valiant woman, my phonely saviour, must be the only person in the world to resist their metaphysical rewrite. Bless you, madam. Bless you.
I briefly wonder what kind of accident it was. Was I hit by a car? Did someone drop a filing cabinet onto me off an office block? Perhaps I was hit by a ladder in a cracking bit of old-school Chuckle-Brothers-style slapstick? All I know is, it must have been pretty damned serious if I’d caused such a stink about compensation that someone felt the need to make sure it had never happened. I make up my mind. I must know more.
“What do you mean, accident?” I blurt out, but it’s too late. She’s gone. A harsh dial tone screams in my ear as panic rises in my chest. What was the number I was supposed to dial? I stab at the 9 button, press it a couple more times for good measure.
“Hello, Emergency Services, which service do you require?”
I shriek, hang up, fling the phone across the room. Emergency Services! A codename for The Agency if ever I’ve heard one! It’s a trap! The room lurches wildly and everything dissolves into strips of primary colours and the smell of bacon. Harsh laughter rings in my ears as I sink to my knees, banging my fists on the carpet and bawling like a baby. It’s over. It’s all over. Someone taps me on the shoulder and I stumble, roll onto my back, helpless as a tortoise in a desert. I stare up at my attacker, blinking away the tears.
It’s my girlfriend. She gives me coffee.
“You’re an idiot,” she says, lovingly. “Good morning.”
“Good morning,” I whisper into my coffee.
Perhaps … I may have overreacted.