Halfway across town Lucy Blues was standing backstage at the Channel 8 studios. She was pacing back and forth restlessly. She was a nervous wreck. Fifteen years of her life had been dedicated to the results that were finally about to come into fruition. The whole country was watching and she was responsible.
“And before we apply the machine, we are going to hear from the creator, the pioneer of this marvellous concept.” The presenter spoke so clear and confident. Lucy felt like she was unable to speak.
A rushed looking girl with an awkward contraption wrapped around her head came up and stood in front of Lucy. She smoothed out Lucy’s suit while speaking rapidly, “You look great. Remember not to look directly at the camera. Speak with a strong but not too loud voice, OK? You’ll be fine!” She turned her head with a finger on the contraption, “Yup. Yup. Yup. Yup. Yup…” she said ‘yup’ so many times that Lucy began to think she was speaking to a dog. “Yup.” she said with finality, “OK, you’re on!”
Lucy was pushed out by the rushed girl and looked up to hear the announcer standing and mouthing the words ‘Lucyyyyyyyy Bluuuuuuuuueees.’ Was this a celebration of science or fight night at the Garden? She had no time to share or appreciate her thought; she was taking long confident strides on legs that felt like tooth picks in jelly. She met the announcer, Tony Holdsworth, with a polite kiss and took her seat confidently. She rose again with feigned humility as the applause continued to echo throughout the studio. People were standing and whistling in anticipation. This woman was here to guide them to a greater life.
As the noise began to settle Lucy felt the rush of emotion begin to drain from her like a vampire draining her body of life giving blood. She felt weak. Her hands would be shaking uncontrollably if not for her clasping them firmly on the edge of her knee. She smiled warmly at Tony as he began to speak, “You are a truly exquisite woman,” he said using all his might not to stare at her long legs, professional cleavage. “It is just amazing that in this day and age we have the minds to develop technology such as yours which will bring unlimited benefits to the whole population.” The crowd erupted in applause all over again. There were a few too many wolf whistles for Lucy’s liking but she played along tucking her hair behind her ear but still letting it drape down her neck and towards her breasts.
The nerves had left her as she absorbed the adoration of the people but the sick feeling in her stomach remained. It was as if her intestines were being gripped by a menacingly large hand that threatens one by the scruff of the neck; squeezing and jolting her tighter and closer. None of this was visible on camera.
“So how did you come across the idea to create such a machine as this?” Tony probed as the show needed some element of formality. The producers were hoping to string along viewers for as long as possible so formalities were a necessary – and desirable - evil.
“Well I saw the world and what it was becoming. I felt myself alone and unhappy at times,” Lucy answered with honesty. Tony added some brevity with a warm smile as if to say ‘oh don’t be so modest. You are too smart and beautiful to feel unhappy.’ “I thought” ‘Who out there is truly happy? Who has the secret of life all figured out?’”
“Well if you ask me I would say it is you who has figured it all out, Lucy. For all we knoe it could be your name that shows up on the display panel after we pull the Bud Light Lever?”
Not a chance! “Oh you never know, Tony. Perhaps it will be your name.” Not a chance.
“Oh we’ll just have to wait and see! Remember folks the Bud Light Lever will be pulled and we will know who is the happiest person in the world! That’s right! We have an estimated viewing audience of two billion people worldwide” – Lucy nearly choked at this piece of information – “and we are going to show each and every one of you who is the happiest person in the world. It could be you! Stay tuned and when we come back we will find out who is the happiest person in the world!” Tony Holdsworth smiled so broadly that it bordered on looking evil before the red light above the camera went out. “Jesus Christ somebody get me a Xanax before I explode,” he muttered under his breath. The small rushed girl with the headset sprinted over nearly tripping on some wiring and handed Tony a pill and a cup of water. “Don’t need the water, love,” he said, the condescension in his voice adding ‘I told you a thousand fucking times before!’
Tony popped the pill into his mouth and swallowed it sourly. It looked like he desperately needed the water but Lucy thought better than to tell him so. “Maybe if your little machine works we can find someone who can teach me how to live without these.” Lucy smiled but the comedown from the introduction had left her feeling numb and unresponsive. “Well you just get hotter and hotter don’t you, love?” Lucy reeled back a little. It was unnerving the way Tony could change the tone of his voice in a second. “I think this machine just might sow my name if you just wander over here onto my lap.” Reeling wasn’t enough this time. She visibly gagged and looked around for support. When she turned back to face him he was smiling his evil broad smile and a little foam was starting to bubble in the corners of his mouth. He saw her expression change from disgust to disgust and concern and he put a hand up to his mouth. “Fuck, not again,” he cursed softly before shouting, “Water!”
The rushed girl rushed out again with the cup and again nearly tripped. “Twenty seconds!” she said, bracing herself for an onslaught of abuse.
“Fuck!” Tony cursed again, this time specks of spit shot out of his newly lubricated mouth. He gargled the last of the water, spat it back into the cup and handed it to rushed girl. He swung his chair around and shook his head furiously making a long ‘brrrr’ sound and swung back just in time to catch the count in. “Welcome back ladies and gentlemen! We are here with Lucy Blues the creator of the machine which will tell us who is the happiest person in the world. In a very short amount of time we will find out by pulling the Bud Light Lever!”
The show continued in the same horrible vain. Lucy was asked about how the machine actually works. Nobody listened but everybody watched. the producers would have loved every minute of it. A professional intelligent woman talking science with a short dress and sponsorship; the whole world watching. An expert in happiness who had written 25 self help books discussed the likelihood that a monk or hermit would show up on the display. A famous paparazzo, who currently had his own show (on Channel 8 of course) discussed which celebrities were most likely to show up on the display. A highly appointed religious figure purported that perhaps Jesus has returned already and this machine will locate his whereabouts because the Son of God is surely the happiest person in the world. There was a poll running, asking if any viewers thought they were the happiest person in the world. Not surprisingly it was a resounding ‘no’. The feature was littered with advertising and promos and the commercials in the breaks promised quick fix diets and self help videos. Lucy’s stomach continued to twist and contort at the insanity that she had apparently caused. Tony downed a new Xanax each commercial break and was growing hysterical. Around the country the TV sets droned on with the drawn out suspense. People cursed every new stalling technique and ad break but they all waited obligingly.