They were gathered around the table and, right on cue, they had reached Point Lull. They were all on their third coffee, the doughnut supply had dwindled to just the unpopular custard filled variety, and the only sound that could be heard was the incessant ticking of the clock.
It was always this way at the content meetings. The article updates had trundled by in the first hour, with everyone giving brief updates on where they stood, or sheepish excuses as to why they weren’t on schedule. And now it was the Dead-zone. The moment they were expected to field new article ideas.
The room was silent.
“Come on, guys!” Colin whined. He was dumping a fifth packet of sugar into his fourth coffee. “We need ideas!”
“We know that,” Kim groaned. “But what do you suggest?”
“That’s not my job,” Colin snapped, adding another couple of sugars to his drink. “I’m the editor. I pay you guys to be creative.”
“I could do another Top Ten list of reasons Game of Thrones failed,” Wallace suggested.
Beth rolled her eyes. “Game of Thrones hasn’t been relevant for years,” she groaned.
“Besides, last time,” Kim hissed, “half that list focused on the lack of tits.”
“Hey! I did a lot of research for that piece,” Wallace said. “The decline in quality exactly matches the sharp decrease in breast-screen-time.”
“No more Game of Thrones tit tirades,” Colin declared. “Even if it was our number one article for six months in a row, we can’t do it again! If just keep doing the same things people will think we’re out of ideas.”
“And we’re not?” Bethany asked.
Colin shot her a cold look. He didn’t say anything though, mainly because she was right.
It shouldn’t have been like this. It was, supposedly, the golden age of television. Hundreds upon hundreds of new series and channels were constantly being vomited out. For entertainment journalists like them it should have been a renaissance. A positive buffet for them to gorge on. But, with the glut of television came a similar glut of entertainment journalism. Every daft bugger with a laptop and a decent Wi-Fi connection seemed to have thrown their hat into the ring. The writers at Watch Out were a tiny bubble on the surface of an ocean.
It was becoming increasingly difficult to churn out the first reviews. They were never the first to post about that week’s biggest trending show. And Colin positively insisted they never venture into the ‘Which TV Character Are You?’ quiz territory. They were at a point where the sponsors were getting itchy feet. No one wanted to pump money into a website that wasn’t getting any visitors.
So, here they were. Stuck around the table, hoping an idea might drift through the room, as opposed to the tumbleweed.
Colin gave a disappointed sigh and then sat back. “We need something good!” he moaned.
“I’ve got something . . .” Glen said, plucking a doughnut from the plate. All eyes were fixed on the chubby-faced man. He ignored them, only pausing to wipe some custard from his chin.
“Well?” Bethany exclaimed.
“Hmm?” Glen asked, licking the sugar from his thumbs. “Oh, yeah, right. Well, have you guys heard of Ted Conseil?”
“Ted Conseil?” Kim said. “Who’s that?”
“That’s the thing,” Glen said, leaning forward with an eager grin. “No one knows!”
“Any of you remember an old American sitcom,” Glen went on, “in the late eighties, called All That’s Happening?”
“I remember that show,” Colin said, smiling wistfully. “It was crap.”
“Yeah, it was,” Glen said, nodding. “It hardly ever had repeats, and most of the cast had faded into obscurity. But, a few weeks ago, it had a bit of a revival and – well, it’s got a new character!”
Bethany frowned. “How do you mean?” she asked. “They made a new series?”
Glen shook his head. “No, they were all repeats,” he explained. “But they all had a brand-new character.”
“Called Ted Conseil?”
“What the Hell are you talking about, Glen?” Colin snapped.
“A third-rate American sitcom from the eighties has suddenly sprouted a new character that no-one’s ever seen or heard of before!” Glen said, snatching up the last doughnut.
“Bollocks!” Kim declared.
“It’s true,” Wallace said. He had his phone in his hands, his twiggy thumbs tapdancing across the screen. “There’s loads of stuff on here about him.”
“And?” Bethany asked. “That just makes it old news. How does that help us?”
“You don’t get it,” Glen said. “All those articles, they’re just asking the same question. What we need to do is answer it!”
“Who is Ted Conseil?”
Later, Bethany was called into Colin’s office. Well, it couldn’t really be called that. When starting up the site, Colin had been determined that he would be as up-to-date with the competition as possible. He had downloaded Facebook, he had spared a glance at YouTube, and he had even rented out an open-plan space for the team. Of course, he hadn’t realised until later that this meant he too was robbed of privacy. In order to combat this unwelcome development, he had erected three plyboard walls around his desk. They were far from perfect, but they gave him some peace of mind.
Once Bethany was sat down, Colin drew himself closer and lowered his voice. “I’m giving you this Conseil article,” he revealed.
Bethany groaned. “But I’m swamped!” she whined.
“With what? You haven’t given me anything substantial in weeks!”
“I’m – I’m working on things,” Beth murmured, avoiding his gaze.
“Yeah? Well, you can make this Conseil one of those things” Colin said. “Listen, the whole internet is starting to ask about this Ted Conseil guy, and I need someone to cover it!”
She rolled her eyes. “Oh, come on!” she said. “It’s just some film-student that’s photoshopped himself into some scenes for a laugh.”
“I don’t doubt that,” Colin said, absently tapping his cheeks. “But if we’re the first to prove it – well, it might just give us the edge to save our arses!” He leaned even closer. The smell of stale coffee bathed Bethany’s face. “You know, the hair-loss guys are talking about pulling their sponsorship.”
Colin nodded. “We’re up shit creek, and you can forget the paddle, we ain’t even got a bloody boat!”
“But, Colin,” she said, “do you really think this story’s going to save us? After all, we’re talking about a shit sitcom from the eighties!”
“It doesn’t matter how bad it was,” Colin snapped. “What matters is that people are talking about it. And if people are talking about it, then we need to be talking about it too. Preferably with something new to say.”
And that was that. Bethany was in no position to argue. With a heavy sigh, she traipsed back to her desk. Once more she pondered just why she had wound up with this job. In her opinion, entertainment journalists were only a couple of rungs above gossip columnists.
But she had a student debt to pay, and literary agents were incredibly reluctant to return her emails. Now that she thought about it, this might be the perfect chance to act like a real journalist. To get to the bottom of this mystery would require an ‘investigation’. Beth felt the unfamiliar bubbling of excitement in her stomach.
Beth scooted over towards Glen’s desk, planting an elbow on the only portion of desk that wasn’t littered with burrito wrappers, post-it notes, and old sci-fi magazines from the early 2000’s. Glen glanced at her with suspicion.
“Colin’s given me that Conseil story,” Beth declared.
Glen barely reacted.
“And I need more info,” she went on.
He leant back in his chair, causing it to squeal violently. If there was one thing Glen liked to do – apart from consume mass amounts of Mexican food – it was monologue.
All That’s Happening was first broadcast in 1986 to little fanfare, or praise from critics. However, in spite of this middling response, the show lasted until 1993, mainly due to its fervent fanbase. The show chronicled the exploits of the Faraday family: a dysfunctional, ragtag assembly of personality disorders that would make any psychiatrist weep. Seven seasons explored the family running a seemingly profitless ice-cream shop, until, in the series finale, the Faradays became millionaires after the youngest, Lil’ Rudy, concocted a brand-new ice-cream flavour: Orange and Pomegranate Delight.
“They did actually release a tie-in ice-cream a year later,” Glen added. “They had to recall it though when they discovered it gave you blisters on your tongue.”
“I don’t get it,” Beth said. “Where does this ‘Conseil’ guy come in?”
“I’m getting to that,” Glen snapped. “Once the show was cancelled, that was it. It never got reruns, and the cast barely appeared at conventions. I think the last time they were seen in public together was that disastrous slot on the Conan O’Brien show in ‘94.”
“Mackenzie Tilbury – the one who played Midge Faraday – got attacked by a ring-tailed lemur. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah. Eventually everyone just forgot about the show. Until last Summer, when Herbert Dangle – Olly Faraday – got ran over by a FedEx truck and took the company to court. Then – well, with the spotlight back on him, people started talking about the show again. It wasn’t long after that the show got released online –”
“And then Ted Conseil?” Beth asked irritably.
“I’m getting there, I’m getting there!” Glen shot her a dark glare. “As I was saying. They released the first four seasons a few days ago, and were planning on releasing the final three in the new year. But, after it got released, people noticed something was different.”
“This new character.”
“That’s right,” Glen said, narrowing his eyes as she interrupted yet again. “This new character appeared. Ted Conseil. The only problem is, he doesn’t do anything!”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean just that!” Glen insisted. “He just stands in the background and laughs at the jokes – well, I call them jokes, but they’re not.”
Bethany frowned. “He just stands in the background? Then how is he a ‘new character’? He’s obviously just someone who’s digitally inserted himself into the show.”
Glen shook his head – the closest he’d get to exercise that day. “It’s easier if you just watch it.”
“Watch it? Where? I tried looking on Netflix and Amazon –”
“No, no,” he said. “After Conseil got trending on Twitter, the whole series got taken down. Obviously, the producers don’t know what’s going on either.”
“How do I watch it then?”
With a resigned sigh, Glen let his fingers dance across his keyboard. He then sat back and opened a fresh burrito. “Sent you a link,” he said. “Let me know if you need anything else. But wait until after my nap,” he added.
The show was not good. It didn’t plumb the depths of awful like some shows Beth had been forced to watch, but it only just escaped that grade. When the jokes weren’t homophobic, sexist, or deeply mired in the social context of the late eighties, they were just boring. It was the sort of the show that was perfect to watch whilst you did something more interesting, like clip your toenails.
Luckily Beth didn’t have to watch it for too long. Glen had only managed to download the first two seasons before the producers yanked it offline. But those eighteen episodes had been more than enough. She was sure she would survive without discovering if Lil’ Rudy defeated his archnemesis: Big Trudy from the neighbouring doughnut shop. She had also seen enough of Ted Conseil to know that there was more to the enigma than she had first believed.
If it was editing, then it was some of the best she’d seen in a long time. Making his names appear in the opening and closing credits wouldn’t be difficult to achieve, nor making himself simply appear in the scenes. But he interacted with things within the set. He opened doors, he moved ornaments, he made an impression on things! Except for one important detail. None of the other characters made any acknowledgement of his appearance. Sure, their eyes might flicker towards him, and a momentary crease of confusion may appear on their brows, but the pace of their routine was never broken. It had to be editing, Beth reminded herself. But the way he helped himself to the Raspberry ripple was too seamless. The condensation he left on the ice-cream freezer was too detailed. And she kept returning to the worried looks on the characters’ faces as he laughed at their weary jokes. Those weren’t digital, she was sure of it. Something gnawed at the back of her mind. This wasn’t right.
She skipped lunch, which was strange as it was a Thursday and that meant it was Kim’s turn to order in the pizzas. Instead, Beth made a series of expensive phone calls. The first was to Desdemona Battenburg, the original producer for All That’s Happening.
“No, I don’t know who this freaking ‘Ted Conseil’ is,” the woman croaked, her voice baked dry from years of nicotine abuse. “But if I did, I’d tear his Goddamn guts out and wear ‘em as a scarf!” It took thirty minutes for Beth to extract herself from the producer’s foul-mouthed tirade against the phantom. Not a publicity stunt then, she decided. Also, she mused, seemingly not someone who worked on the production team, otherwise the person would already be caught.
That was when Beth had her brainwave. This time her wandering wheely-chair took her to Wallace’s desk. He watched her with careful eyes, and half a slice of Hawaiian pizza sticking out of his mouth. “Yeah?” he asked suspiciously.
“How’d All That’s Happening get converted into digital form?” she asked, lowering her voice as if she was embarking down the dark roads of conspiracy.
Wallace gave this a thought, munching slowly on the stuffed crust. “Interesting question,” he murmured. “The production company would probably have sent it to an external company who convert old film into a digital format.”
Beth waited for a moment, then realised that Wallace had imparted all the wisdom he had. “Yes,” she hissed, “I guessed that! But what company would they use?”
He gave her a limp shrug. “Try Google?” he suggested.
She tried Google.
Within ten minutes she had tracked down the dusty company that had been in charge of transferring the seven seasons into the new technological era. She was rather surprised to find the company was based in Acton. When she tried calling, the voice on the other end had been guarded. “Hello?” the voice said. “Who’s this?”
“Hi, my name is Bethany Trounce, and I work for Watch Out, an entertainment website that – hello? Hello?”
The line was dead.
Damn, she thought. She hadn’t been the first to track them down. As she mulled her next steps, she started scrolling through the company’s website. Her eyes drifted to list of staff. One name in particular caught her attention. Theodore Constable. It may not be the exact match, but it was too close to ignore.
Suddenly feeling a burning of excitement in her stomach, Beth went stalking the depths of Facebook. It amazed her to find how popular the name was. Of the thirty-seven Theodore Constables, she was able to eliminate the first fourteen, simply based on the fact they lived in either Venezuela, Russia, Pakistan, or Kuala Lumpur. After that, the process became more refined. One was a retired professor of etymology, another was a life coach who lived in the back of his mother’s mini-van, and several seemed to work as Ricky Gervais look-a-likes. But then there was just one.
The profile photo was a picture of the cartoon Top-Cat, and the cover picture was a collage of various famous television shows from the eighties and nineties. Then there was the curious little fact that this particular Mr Constable was the admin for the All That’s Happening fan page.
Bethany grinned. “Got you!”
It was amazing what a few hours of detective work could achieve. And even more amazing what one carefully worded Facebook message to Constable’s mother could accomplish. Posing as a concerned friend, Beth had managed to procure the man’s home address.
“I haven’t heard from him in weeks,” his mum had written back. “But that’s no surprise. He only ever calls if he needs money.”
Now Bethany found herself standing on the street below Theodore Constable’s flat. She stepped up to the three-storey building and rang the top bell. After a minute, she rang it again. After two more minutes she rang the next bell. This time there was a response. The front door opened a crack, revealing a walnut-like face and one suspicious eye.
“Yeah?” a thick Korean voice asked.
“I’m looking for Theodore?” Beth said. “Theodore Constable?”
The eye scanned her up and down. “You his sister?”
“What? No, I’m – I’m his friend.”
The Korean woman continued to regard her with faint suspicion. “He said his sister had his rent money.”
“I’m not his sister.”
“Every week I ask where the rent money is,” the landlady went on, “and every week he says his sister has it.”
“Well, as I said –”
“He’s not here.”
“You deaf? I said he’s not here! Hasn’t been here for nearly a month now!” The eye narrowed. “You said you were his friend?”
“That’s right. Do you know where he might have –?”
The door slammed shut. Beth was stunned for a second, until she heard the sound of a chain being pulled away. Then the door opened again, revealing the diminutive, but sour-looking landlady. “You come to collect his stuff?” she asked, not waiting for a reply before she started clomping up the steps.
Realising that this was her only chance to investigate further, Beth chose not to contradict the woman. Instead, offering a non-committal grunt, she followed the landlady upstairs. The door was unlocked and thrown open, and Beth immediately knew she had hit gold.
“It’s all yours,” the landlady grunted. “Except this,” she added, snatching up a lamp. “I’m keeping this. And when you see him, tell him I want my rent!” And then, with the lamp tucked under her arm, she returned to her own flat.
Beth closed the door behind her and continued to stare in amazement. The living room had been transformed into a celebration of eighties’ television. Posters of various shows had been plastered on the walls. Photos of Theodore with celebrities of a bygone era stood on shelves, the windowsill, a chest of drawers, and any other surface that hadn’t yet been claimed by tacky memorabilia. The floor was also littered with piles and piles of old TV guides, and special, commemorative mugs. But the centrepiece of his shrine was the far-right wall. That space had been dedicated entirely to everything that was All That’s Happening.
A signed promotional poster had been blue-tacked in the centre of the wall, and around it was dozens more similar pictures. There were some that had been cut out of magazines, and there were others that Theodore had taken himself; awkward selfies with the ambushed stars. A bookcase was stuffed with VHS tapes, recorded by the man himself on an old set that lurked in the corner of the room. So, Beth thought, feeling her skin crawl, she knew the ‘why’, but what about the ‘how’? Feeling like she was stepping into the lair of a serial killer, Bethany began to dig deeper.
She moved out of the living room and made her way into the man’s bedroom. The pungent odour almost defeated her but, covering her nostrils with her glove, she shuffled further inside. On the desk, in an expensive-looking frame, was clearly what Theodore considered the jewel in his collection. It was a photo of him standing between Lil’ Rudy and Big Trudy. Only Theodore was smiling, the other two looked pained and embarrassed. Next to this frame was a stack of papers, bound together with string. Nervously, Beth picked it up. She flinched at the sound of crackling paper. “I need to get out of here,” she murmured to herself. But not yet, she silently added. She glanced at what was typed on the front page:
ALL THAT’S HAPPENING: REUNION EPISODE – written by Ted Conseil.
She didn’t bother to read anymore. Anything that came from the same warped mind responsible for the living room would be bound to haunt her. Instead, her eyes drifted up to a pinboard above the desk. There wasn’t much there; a work rota, an out-of-date calendar, and a business card. She was about to disregard it, but then thought better. She plucked it from the board and felt her heart begin to quicken.
‘REEL FANTASY’ – Making what you watch, what you live! There was both a number, and an address on the front. On the back was a handwritten note: ‘What do you think of the tagline? I’m still not sure.’
Bethany tucked the card into her breast pocket. This story was taking a strange new direction, she was sure of it. She quietly snuck out of the flat, careful to avoid another encounter with the landlady. When she was outside, and safely several streets away, she called Colin to tell him she wouldn’t be in the office for the rest of the day. And, because memories of the flat still sent a shudder down her spine, and she had seen too many movies, she made sure Colin knew exactly where she was going.
She continued to hammer on the door to the small warehouse, ignoring the worried looks from passers-by. Her first knock had caused some frantic scuffling from within, so she was damned if she was going to leave now.
Reel Fantasy was hidden away inside a labyrinth-like industrial estate. It had taken Beth almost an hour and a half just to track it down. The building was squat and in a state of disrepair. The façade was weather-beaten, and the windows covered with plyboard. But it wasn’t empty.
Eventually, the door opened a crack. “What do you want?” the petulant voice whined.
“Is this Reel Fantasy?” Beth asked, already knowing the answer.
Of what little she could see of the face, the man behind the door was sweating anxiously. His forehead gleamed in the early evening light. “How’d you find me?! I mean – no, we’re closed – out of business. Go away!”
The man tried to slam the door shut, but Beth had swiftly shoved her foot into the gap. “I’m looking for someone,” she said, trying to push the door open.
“No one’s here!” the man wailed, throwing his weight behind the door.
“I’m looking for Ted Conseil!”
The figure emitted a squeal of horror, then doubled his efforts to shut her out. “D-Don’t know what you’re on about!” he cried.
“Do you want me to call the police?” Beth tried.
The man turned a cadaverous pale. He looked at her with fearful eyes. “Who – who are you?”
“Bethany Trounce,” she declared, flashing what she hoped he wouldn’t realise was a Starbucks loyalty card. “Journalist.”
This time the figure blanched with terror. “I – I think I’ll try my luck with the police,” he announced, once more trying to slam the door shut. Beth threw her shoulder against the door and succeeded in thrusting it into the man’s face. He gave a yelp of pain, then stumbled back. Beth quickly slipped into the building before he could recover. “Now then,” she said, slightly out of breath, “I have some questions I want answered!”
Now she could get a better look at the man; he was a short, rakish figure that, with a prominent bald patch. Beth felt herself recoil slightly at the man’s face. It was gaunt and dashed with premature lines. His eyes were sunken, and his lips were thin, almost completely white. He glanced up at Beth with animalistic fear. “I suppose I’ll have to tell you everything,” he murmured, fiddling with the buttons on his coat. He led her down the dimly lit corridor and into a surprisingly comfortable room. An assortment of film reels had been nailed to one wall, and on the other was a plastic sign with the company name. A kitchen counter top ran at the back of the room, with several cupboards above it. “My name’s Alonzo,” the man said, collapsing onto a purplish sofa. Beth chose to sit at the table in the centre of the room. “Help yourself to coffee if you want,” Alonzo went on. As she set about making her drink, he reached beneath the sofa and salvaged half a bottle of vodka.
“So,” Beth said, flicking the kettle on. “Where’s Ted?”
Alonzo heaved a sigh, then took a long swig from the bottle. He winced slightly before settling back. “Like I said, I’ll have to tell you everything.”
Quickly, Bethany extracted her phone and pressed the record button. In spite of everything, the fire of excitement inside her was nowhere close to being snuffed out. She listened eagerly as the man began his story.
Theodore – or Ted, as he preferred, and Alonzo first met about six years ago. They were both waiting in line at a convention for an autograph from Patrick Stewart’s stunt double on Star Trek: Next Generations. They struck up a conversation and quickly bonded over their love of Fantasy Island. That bonding eventually developed into a friendship and then, after time, a business partnership. “That’s this place,” Alonzo said, pausing to wave the now nearly empty bottle around the rom. “Reel Fantasy was our big plan to get rich!”
“And this is . . .?” Beth asked encouragingly.
“You know about virtual reality?” Alonzo asked. “You put on a headset and you feel as if you’re in a game, or whatever. Well, it was basically that, only better. The idea was that, using the same principals, we could make people feel as if they were in their favourite TV shows, or films!”
The pieces suddenly began to fit.
“I see!” Beth exclaimed. “Using this virtual reality technology, you put Ted inside some episodes of All That’s Happening, only somehow you ended up recording his experience?”
Alonzo shook his head. When Ted had discovered that his company was in charge of transferring his favourite television show into a digital format, the man hadn’t been able to resist. “He called me in the middle of the night,” Alonzo went on, “he said this was the perfect chance to test out the system.” Up until that point Alonzo had been tinkering with the software on his own. He hadn’t even been sure if it was ready to be tested, but Ted had been adamant. “He wouldn’t take no for an answer, so . . . we gave decided to give it a go.”
“That’s . . . that’s what I said, didn’t I?”
“Except . . . something went wrong.”
Beth felt her blood go cold. “What . . . what went wrong?”
“Ted didn’t just feel like he was in the show, he . . . he actually is in the show!”
“I – I don’t understand?”
“He put on the headset, and I plugged the digital version of the show into the software, and then . . . I don’t know what happened! But Ted’s consciousness ended up being uploaded, and what was left behind . . . well, I can show you what’s left of him.”
Slowly, staggering drunkenly as he went, Alonzo approached one of the cupboards. Bethany’s mouth went dry as the man pulled down a small Tupperware box. He stumbled over towards her. “My brother-in-law is a coroner, and he owed me a favour, so . . .”
“You . . . you killed him?”
“It was an accident! I didn’t know the machine would leave him braindead!” Alonzo wailed, fat tears rolling down his yellowing cheeks. “I – I – I tried reversing it, but it wouldn’t work! And – and – and I couldn’t take him to hospital, because then they’d start asking questions! Then the police would get involved, and they’d find out Ted stole the copies from his company, and – and I panicked! All I could do was pull the plug and make my own copies of the show, which I then sent back to Ted’s work – but I had no idea he’d – he’d – he’d still be in that copy as well!”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Beth said, taking a step back, her eyes unable to leave that unassuming Tupperware container. “You . . . you have a copy of the show?”
“It’s all that’s left of Ted,” Alonzo blubbered. “But . . . the final episode . . .”
This time it felt like a blade of ice had been plunged in Beth’s back. But journalistic curiosity forced her to ask the question. “Can . . . can I watch it?”
Alonzo hadn’t stuck around to watch with her. He had dumped the laptop in front of her, then escaped to the bathroom before he vomited over the floor. That was fine with her. If this was what she thought it was, she didn’t want anyone to see her reaction.
Silently, feeling the blood crashing in her ears, Bethany watched the final episode. It was the usual fare for a show that had limped its away to a conclusion. The jokes were stale, but received with generosity by the audience, mainly, she reasoned, out of relief that they were finally over. But her eyes were glued to Ted. He looked just as he did in all the photos in his flat. That inane, childish grin, the awkward haircut, and the milky-blue eyes. But those eyes changed as the show went on.
He laughed loyally at the stilted jokes, he cheered manically when Mr Wallingsworth told the Faradays that they were millionaires, and he began to tear up when Lil’ Rudy graduated from Ice-Cream College. But then the final scene approached. As the main characters went through the mandated trip down memory lane, Ted began to eye the door.
“Okay,” he called aloud, “I’m ready Alonzo. I’m ready to come out now.” He walked towards the door and opened it. “Alonzo? It’s like this, right?” He stepped out. “Alonzo? There’s nothing here?” He stepped back inside, a haunted grimace on his face. The Faradays began to walk towards the kitchen. “Hey, hey!” Ted began chasing after them. “Hey, wait! Wait, not yet!” One by one, the Faradays stepped through the door, making their final exit. “Alonzo! Alonzo, get me out of here!” Only Olly Faraday, the father, remained. He took a final, wistful look at the living room. “Well, old pal,” he growled.
Ted made a leap towards the character, grabbing onto his lapels. A worried flare appeared in Olly’s eyes, but the rest of his face remained the same. “Don’t go!” Ted pleaded, tears appearing in his own eyes.
“I guess that’s . . .” Olly went on.
“Don’t – don’t!” Ted was desperately holding onto the man, trying to drag him back into the heart of the room.
“. . . All that’s happened.” Olly pulled himself free of Ted, pausing only for a fraction, then made his own exit.
“No . . . no . . . no!” Ted was back in the centre of the room, his face streaked with tears. The screen began to go dark. “Somebody!” he wailed. “Help me!”
The credits ran, backed up the cheerful theme tune that had played for seven seasons. But, this time, beneath them you could hear the agonised and terrified screams of Ted Conseil.
Then the show ended.