“Freedom” by Catherine Nicholson, Paris

Borders September 9, 2011 12:36

topic: BORDERS medium: TEXT, AUDIO

as shared at a PenTales event in Paris

Listen to the Story!

It was a lovely way to wake up. The rising sun poking its golden fingers through the half-closed blinds, and bathing Dave in warm dappled light. He’d had a long week, and as he drifted awake, his first thought was that he’d make a breakfast of champions and a nice cup of tea to set himself up for the weekend ahead.

His second thought – occurred just a milisecond before he heard the helicopter. And it was a lot less pleasant.

“You idiot, you forgot to close the shutters”, said Dave’s brain, as the shadow of the helicopter blocked out the light, the whirring blocked out Dave’s thoughts…and the rest of Dave jumped out of bed.

But it was too late. The door burst open and before Dave could so much as cower behind the bathroom door, a journalist and cameraman were in the room, taking in every detail.

“No point mate, we can see you. And there’s photographers on the helicopter. You might as well come out and talk.”

Dave had got to the ripe old age of 29 without ever encountering this band of brigands, and he’d started to think he’d get away with it. But it seems everyone’s time must come, even for a nobody like Dave. So he pulled on the nearest dressing gown, and emerged.

“I suppose you’re from Murdoch News”, he said.

“That’s right” answered the journalist. Who really did look like the cliché – trench coat, dark eye bags, and a distinctly toxic whiff of espresso-breath.

“We heard you had one two many last night and got off with your mate Jono’s ex- girlfriend, why don’t you tell us about it? We’ve got the pictures of you now, you might as well give your side before we run it anyway. TV and print we thought, might as well get our money’s worth out of you.”

Dave’s brain recovered a little and searched through its file of recent memories. Friday night – there’d been the pub, a couple of drinks, on to a club, more drinks, and… hmm yeah maybe Claire had been involved. That’s right, they’d had a little tete a tete in the corner. Nothing wrong with that, she was actually pretty boring, going on about having different priorities in life or something… There was a hug, nothing more, but Jono and Claire had split up a couple of months ago, and Dave was a good mate who didn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. So he’d left a slightly drunken and probably not so understandable message on Jono’s voicemail afterwards, to clear things up.

Ah, said Dave’s brain. The voicemail. The journo hack bastards had obviously got hold of the voicemail, and wanted to run a story.

“But nothing happened, and anyway, I’m nobody, who cares about what Dave Scribbins does on a Friday night?”

The journalist laughed the laugh of a human who’s truly got no soul left.

“Nobody’s nobody any more” he chortled. “Not since my old boss Rupert, god rest his soul, won that privacy case in, what was it – 2011? Against those pathetic politicians. Any anyways, you aren’t a nobody. If you recall, your aunt’s neighbour’s husband’s boss was publicly ridiculed for his out of tune rendition of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ in the 2021 auditions of Britain’s Got Talent. And that makes you, my son, somebody.”

Dave groaned, outwardly and inwardly. The journalist had got him. 2011 was a long time ago but it cast an equally long shadow. NewsCorp had nearly gone under, after it had come out that it had used private investigators to hack into celebrities’ voicemails. There had been an inquiry, but somehow, they’d wriggled out of it, arguing that it was an attack on press freedom.
In fact, the whole thing had left them stronger than ever. After that, any time they wanted to snoop into anyone’s life, they said it was in the public interest.

The real change had come when they’d got into Nick Clegg’s wife’s wardrobe and taken secret photos of the pair of them with David Cameron masks on, singing love songs.
The paper argued it was in the public interest, Clegg got sacked as deputy prime minister, and from that moment on all politicians, celebrities and public figures had gone off to live in top security mansions that the journos couldn’t access.

Of course the Murdoch media empire still needed to churn out so-called news, so they decided to invent some new stars – and turned to the more defenceless, non mansion-dwelling nobodies. Most people had security on their voicemails, kept their homes locked up behind shutters, and had their kids schooled via e- learning to stop their little brains being picked for titbits of gossip.

Years after the inquiry, it was discovered the Murdoch press had snooped on the voicemails of a young murder victim. But by then things had gone too far, Murdoch had too much power, and the story got 50 words on page 42 of the once-monthly Guardian. Readership: almost nil.

By now most people had forgotten what real news was, apart from a few old people who nobody listened to anyway. Nowadays any old salacious gossip, no matter how souped-up and inconsequential, was what passed for journalism.

Dave had never bought a newspaper once in his life for all of those reasons, and he avoided the TV news too, which was little better. And most importantly he’d not once gone to bed without closing his shutters, to avoid becoming a tabloid target. But there it was, one little slip, and he had a camera crew in his bedroom, and a chopper hovering outside his window.

The journalist slipped a bottle of whisky from Dave’s cabinet into his pocket and gave a knowing grin. “Come on mate, you may as well give us a soundbite. It’ll only be worse for you if you don’t give your side, right?”

From the corner of his eye Dave spied one of the Murdoch-copter crew booting away a rival reporter, who’d managed to shimmy up the drainpipe.

There was a thud as the unfortunate woman hit the ground.

“Looks like I haven’t got a choice then”, he shrugged.

“Cheers mate” said the journalist. “It’s all in the public interest innit?”

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