Showman

By Benjamin Hayes

sfgenreJim Poise went so far as to say the extra-terrestrials harboured no ill will towards him. In fact, they appreciated his flair for decoration and keen eye for detail. Mostly he specialised in carpentry and furniture design but sometimes turned his hand to interior design whenever the situation presented itself.

Those who worked at the sanatorium, however, regarded Jim’s account of extra-terrestrials as fictitious.

“I may be a lot of things,” the nurse said, “but I’m not a fool.”

“Neither am I,” Jim said from his bed, grimacing. He added that the extra-terrestrials rewarded his efforts by revealing the true nature of their observations, insisting it was chiefly for entertainment purposes and nothing improper.

“Sounds fanciful.”

“Hardly.”

The nurse checked his medical chart again. He’d sustained a badly broken tibia and femur and a groin injury. The injury occurred onsite while creating a mock-up of someone’s bedroom, based on meticulous sketches and photographs. He’d fallen from a ladder. Unfortunately, the extra-terrestrials loathed trade unions, therefore, their occupational health and safety record remained abysmal.

“We require you to stay overnight for observation,” the nurse said.

“Okay.”

“But please refrain from using the television. The reception is poor.”

“Can I have a glass of water?” Jim asked.

“Of course,” she said. “And Mr Poise?”

“Yes?”

“The doctor will be with you shortly to update you on your condition.”

“Thank you.”

She left the room to empty out his bedpan. The patient next to Jim stirred out of his anaesthetic sleep. Jim encouraged conversation by mentioning to the man of his many experiences as an abductee.

The man said, “You can’t expect me to believe such nonsense.”

Jim, rather irritated, said, “Well, it’s the truth.”

“Is it?”

“Sure.”

“Have you thought that maybe all of this, this place, is a mock-up of an actual sanatorium?”

“I don’t know,” Jim said, angered.

Jim, though, had already considered the possibility. He could easily envision the backstage beyond the door, where actors practiced their lines to themselves in the spacecraft’s voluminous space. Furthermore, it was even easier for him to imagine the spacecraft thousands of lightyears from Earth, with tradesmen not unlike himself building more mock-up rooms on soundstages.

Jim, a rather inquisitive character, decided to turn the television on. After some manual tuning, the reception improved superbly. The news bulletin broadcast a scene of a downed spacecraft, similar to the kind Jim had worked and lived in. The journalist appeared flippant.

“There,” Jim said, pointing. “Do you believe me now?”

The man scowled. “Oh, that. That’s just a hoax.”

“Is it?”

“Sure.”

Irked, Jim climbed out of bed, removing catheters from his body. Although his cast leg caused him some discomfort, he managed to hobble over to the man to shake some sense into him. “Oh, you stupid man! Look. It’s not a hoax. How dumb can you possibly be?”

“Let me go!” the man said.

“No.”

“This is improper!”

“Quiet!” Jim said.

“Unhand me, you fool!”

“I said be quiet.”

The doctor entered the room with a glass of water for Jim, alarmed. He restrained Jim from inflicting any more trauma to the other patient. Jim listed to one side, then to the other, woozy. “Take your hands off me,” he told the doctor. “What’s the matter with you? Haven’t you heard the news?”

“He’s talking about the UFO hoax, doc,” the other patient said, spluttering.

“It’s real.”

“Oh,” the doctor said, smiling. “Please remain calm, Mr Poise. You have nothing to fear. Someone is playing a silly hoax on us. It’s rather entertaining, though, don’t you think, Mr Poise?” He turned the television off.

“We’re not fools,” the other patient said, tending to his own groin dressing.

The doctor took Jim by the shoulders. “Are you a fool, Mr Poise?”

“No.”

“Come now. You’re exhausted. Here’s your water.”

“Okay,” Jim said. “Thank you.”

While the doctor explained the extent of his groin injury, Jim lay back down in bed. He closed his eyes, and then opened them. He saw the doctor leaving the room, his head shaking displeasingly, possibly at Jim’s inability to understand fact from fiction.

The patient next to him leered at Jim’s groin. Another nurse, the buxom, desirable type, sashayed into the room with her lips pouting. “Mr Poise,” she said, “it’s time for your sponge bath.”

“Don’t be a fool,” the patient said to Jim.

Jim furrowed his brow, confused. “Where am I?”

“In the sanatorium, you fool.”

The nurse asked Jim if he was a fool, to which the other patient jeered, and then gave Jim the thumbs up as the nurse drew the curtain partition close around Jim’s bed. “Are you a fool, Mr Poise?”

“No,” he said to the nurse.

“Good.”

“But maybe that other fella is.”

“Shhh,” she said. “That’s quite enough foolery, Mr Poise.” She leaned over him and kissed him passionately on the lips. The surveillance camera directly over the head of his bed tilted down towards them both. “You’re so tense.”

“I am?”

“Relax and smile. Forget that ridiculous nonsense about extraterrestrials and UFOs, Mr Poise.”

Jim gave a submissive nod, realising then that they were all fools, he himself included. He wished for his bedpan back, but that would have to wait. First, he would have to receive his reward of sorts. To think otherwise would have been foolish, or so they would have led him to believe. “Be gentle,” he said to the nurse.

“I always am.”

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About The Author

Benjamin Hayes

Inspired by authors such as John Steinbeck, Richard Matheson and Roald Dahl's collection of short stories for adults, Benjamin Hayes's interests in literature is arguably diverse. His most recent fiction, however, emulates the hardships of ordinary people in extraordinary situations. He lives in Western Australia.

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In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 224

A Bushmeat Addiction
by Wes Parish

A Kernel of Wisdom
by Michael T. Schaper

A Self Long Forgotten
by Ariel Braago

Breathe, Little Greel
by George Nikolopoulos

City Limits
by Matthew Harrison

Drawing Down The Demon
by Nick Clark

Minties
by Rob Riel

No More Doors, No More Windows
by Andrew Kozma

One Shot
by Griffyn Goodall

One Universe At A Time
by Kevin J. Phuland

AntiSF February 2017

AntipodeanSF

ISSUE 223

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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