SHORT STORY: Reality TV, by Keith Baker

Great white shark Picture: Shutterstock
Great white shark Picture: Shutterstock
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‘Well I hope you’re satisfied. That’s two years’ holiday money we’ve spent.’

Ron grinned and gave his wife a quick peck on the cheek. ‘I still think it’s too big for the house,’ Vera said, not convinced about their new purchase. Before them, dominating the lounge, stood a 72-inch curved TV screen. The Reality TV had just been delivered.

Two doors propped up in the kitchen and scrapes along the hall wall, testified to the difficulty they had in getting the unit into their small semi-detached house. Sitting at the recommended distance from the screen, Ron turned on the unit.

The noise of howling monkeys and the screeching of parrots, from the stereophonic speakers, filled the room. Three dimensional images, of rain-soaked forests, hit the back of Ron’s eyes.

Sound and vision permeated his brain twisting reality until his mind was transported to a distant land.

‘Turn the volume down,’ Vera shouted as she covered her ears, but Ron was 5,000 miles away.

Braving the cacophony around her she grabbed the controls and pressed the Off button. She heaved a sigh of relief as the last echoes and images faded away. Ron still sat there mesmerised. ‘Awesome,’ was all he breathed. Vera knew then she was in the losing corner of a love triangle.

Two weeks and Vera admitted defeat. Ron was spending more and more time in front of her rival.

He would come home from work and head straight for the lounge. She had won a couple of minor battles, insisting their meals be eaten in the dining room, but Ron stayed up late and rose early to maximise his viewing time. Vera had tried to embrace their new lifestyle.

However, she soon tired of watching endless nature programmes, Ron’s favourite, and left him to stare alone at the screen.

The arguments took on a repetitive nature. Vera trying to persuade Ron there was more to life than the TV,

Ron, resisting her suggestions and extolling the virtues of the Reality TV, said: ‘Just look at the colour of that snake and listen to the birds calling in the canopy,’ during a typical argument. ‘Reality TV really does bring the jungle into the room.’

Vera shuddered as she looked at a deadly Eastern Green Mamba sliding along a high branch in the coastal rainforest of Kenya.

‘I can almost smell the nearby ocean and taste the saltiness of the breeze,’ continued Ron, warming to his pet subject. ‘I can even feel the smooth dry surface of its skin,’ he said touching the screen.

The snake, as if startled, turned and lunged. Ron recoiled in horror clutching his finger in pain. ‘It bit me!’

‘Don’t be silly,’ Vera countered. ‘You triggered a static discharge. It warned in the instructions not to stand too close to the screen.’ But like Ron she was shaken by the reality of the attack.

Ron by now had started to tremble, his face ashen. Vera went over to comfort him. On the top of his finger were two puncture marks glistening with blood.

By the time the paramedics arrived, Ron was in a bad way. His hand was swollen and his breathing was rapidly deteriorating.

‘This will be the third incident involving these screens,’ one of the paramedics said, as Vera explained what happened.

He didn’t add that one casualty had claimed he was mauled by a lion, although it was understandable looking at the mess of his arm. The result was an amputation.

The widow of the other casualty had announced her husband was shot in the chest by a laser gun while watching a space adventure.

Vera didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to Ron. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

Like the previous incidents, cause of death was registered as heart failure due to a high discharge of static electricity. Still in a state of shock at Ron’s sudden departure, Vera worried over the coroner’s verdict.

Before his funeral Vera made up her mind. She pulled a few strings at the hospital where she once worked and asked for a private autopsy. The report confirmed her wild suspicion.

Venom was found in Ron’s bloodstream.

A few days after the funeral, Vera heard the satisfying thud and the cracking of glass as she watched the workmen drop the TV into the skip.

A voice from across the fence interrupted her revengeful thoughts against the skip’s contents.

‘We’ve just bought a Reality TV like yours. Arthur was so impressed when he came round to watch with Ron, he was determined we’d have one. Like your Ron, Arthur loves the nature programmes. He says there’s a special programme coming up soon about sharks. He’s going to stand right up to the screen so he can see eyeball to eyeball with a Great White...’