Archive for May 16th, 2007

Kyle Anderson was lying with his feet on the edge of the sofa, surfing channels, when he realized he was missing his favorite show. He also realized that he had no idea what channel it was on. Shifting slightly, he began flicking through the channels faster.

In a world where he was finally having to admit to middle age and his co-wives and husbands had divorced him last year for not doing his share of the composting, the show was the one stable point in his life. He never missed an episode if he could. Actually, he had seen most of this season’s episodes twice.

Worried that the show had already started, he starting pressing his thumb harder against the buttons of the remote. So far, his favorite this year was the episode where the teams had to race Tamerlane’s army to reach the escape portal in Samarkand. Two teams hadn’t made it, and the surprised looks had still been on their faces when their heads were catapulted over the walls. Kyle supposed that it was cruel to laugh, but after a hard day of selling proprietary solutions in an increasingly free software world, you took your laughs where you could find them.

There was no such thing as a bad episode of the show, but last week’s had been a bit slow, he thought. Three teams had died of the Black Death outside Calais, and that was a little too close to the alligator flu that was threatening to spread out of South America these days. He had enjoyed the mugging in Southwark, though.

Last week’s episode had also featured the complaint from the funny-looking man from 19th Century England. The man claimed that his morning work had been interrupted by seventy-three successive persons from Porlock. The interruptions had agitated him so much, he said, that he had taken triple his usual dose of laudanum, and as a result had forgot most of the poem he was writing.

Personally, Kyle didn’t see what he was complaining about. “Spitalfields: A Fragment” was a great poem, so far as he was concerned. It had to be, because he remembered being forced to read it in twice high school and once in university.

There. Kyle found the channel, overshot it, and flipped back. Two of the remaining teams were crowded around a couple whom Kyle guessed were a king and queen in medieval times. “We were thinking of financing a voyage of discovery,” the queen said, her voice echoing faintly through the translation filter, “But our bankers assure us that your plans for a chain of bistros with outdoor seating and nude mud-wrestling is more likely to be profitable.”

“Sorry, Signor,” the king added to a man standing to one side. He looked like a sailor if ever there was one – tanned and callused, his doublet faded and stained, and a look on his face that said he was completely out his depth around royalty. “Maybe next year? Or could we interest you in a franchise?”

Kyle laughed at the way the sailor stifled a curse, then felt a jolt. It was as though he had started awake from a dream – but, this time, it was though the rest of the world had started while he stayed still. He raised himself up on his elbows, worry hovering around the edges of his mind.

He was fairly certain that the sofa beneath him had had cushions a moment ago, but here he was, lying on bare wood. There had been a carpet, too, not ceramic tiles. In growing panic, he looked up at the TV.

To his relief, his fifty-six inch wall unit was still there. It had a wooden frame with carvings that he couldn’t quite remember, and one or two extra buttons, but the sight calmed him. Who cared about the buttons when he had the remote?

Best of all, the show was still there, the same as always. But he must have missed part of it.

“– And, next week, it’s the final in the Royal Game of the Sun, live from Teotihuacan,” The announcer was saying.

Kyle thought that the announcer must have just come back from holidays to be so deeply tanned, then forgot about everything except what the man was saying. “We’re talking now with Fifteen Peach Face Lovebird, captain of the losing side in the final for the past seven years. Mr. Lovebird, the world wants to know: Is your team really that clumsy?”

A stocky black man, wearing nothing but a loincloth and some feathers in his hair, shrugged as a microphone was thrust in his face. “Well, I don’t think that’s altogether fair, Tyler,” he said, sounding faintly embarrassed, “We always say that if the gods want us for a sacrifice, they’ll arrange things that way. We just come to play ball.”

“And the eighty-five own goals?”

Kyle forgot his momentary confusion and sat back with a sigh. In a world full of faster and faster changes, the show was still the one stable thing in his life.

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