Lucy Blues felt physically ill. This was her worst nightmare. The shame and frustration swirled around her head and the aspirin wasn’t kicking in. She watched as the man she thought she knew so well, the man she briefly believed she would spend the rest of her life with, sat next to Tony Holdsworth and told the world that she had provided them with nothing but a false prophet.
“As you know William Unston called Walter Wallace on a live taping that I was actually hosting.” Tony Holdsworth began as the program returned from commercial. He looked directly into the camera with his solemn, returned-from-the-other-side tone. Lucy found it very grating.
“At the time Walter was just starting out on his adventure and it was his first really structured interview. We opened up his mind to the in-studio audience and then to the greater public. It was here that William took Walter on in a heavy philosophical debate. It was a fairly one-sided affair, commentators have described it as a final nail in the coffin of Mr Unston. He was assured of his own disease and the need to end his life. Walter’s arguments – had they been strong enough – would have compelled him to live on. But of course we know that didn’t turn out to be the case.”
Lucy was fuming. She had not been around for that event but she had seen replays of it. It was an ambush by a sadistic depressive. Walter could not be expected to talk someone off the cliff edge on a live telecast without warning. Besides, the suicide was never confirmed – no body, no records. It was blatant hearsay and she was disgusted to see Sammy a part of it.
“Well it is a dramatic tale and one that perhaps hasn’t been given the proper attention. Let the record state that no William Unston was found to have committed suicide that night,” Tony nodded, knowingly, “and people have claimed he was using an alias and could have been one of the many people who did commit suicide within the subsequent 24 hours.”
“That’s right, there was a clear statistical spike in suicides that whole week if I’m not mistaken,” Tony offered.
“Yes, but the search for William’s body and a proof to his sour serve of pudding is missing the bigger picture – it is almost like searching for the snowball that sparked the avalanche. He is simply the first to feel the full effect but he was not the last: You mentioned the suicides that spiked that night, but statistics show that the mean - the average - from then on never quite settled down – there is a small but statistical upward trend. Then we had the train disaster as mentioned, and recently there was the attempted suicide bombing at Royal Theatre in Heartsfield.”
“Yes this one was actually at a Walter Wallace special.” Tony said.
Sam nodded, “It’s not as hard to link back to Walter, this one. The girl was swept up by the online movement known as The Band of William Unston. She acted out against what she could no longer suppress and was tragically shot as she was about to take her own and many others’ lives.”
“So what is it that causes this?” Tony asked.
Lucy’s phone rang, interrupting the torturous exchange. She was annoyed, both at what she was witnessing and at being dragged away from it – it was like juicy, gluttonous gossip and she struggled to contain herself.
She fumbled through her handbag, expecting to see Manny’s number pop up and planning to mute the ringtone. What she didn’t expect was to see Walter’s face, with his awkward smile staring at her. Her heart almost stopped. She wanted so desperately not to answer but she knew she had no choice. She pressed the green call button.
“Hello,” it was Walter’s voice, it sounded higher than usual. Like the times he would be nervous on stage and his voice would break – only this time there was a tenseness, an urgency. “Lucy. Hello.”
“H- Hi Walter, I’m here.” Lucy said weakly.
“Lucy...what is this? What the fuck is this?”
It was extremely rare to hear Walter curse, even as a joke he found it unnecessary to swear. “Walter, I’m sorry. I don’t know myself.”
“What do you mean “you don’t know”? You invented this. This guy says he worked with you and now he’s claiming that I am the cause of the Newport Train Disaster, that I’m inspiring teenage girls to strap bombs to their waists.”
The television went to commercial; Lucy wished she could go to commercial as well. “I don’t- I don’t know, Walter. I think what he is suggesting is that you are emitting at such a strength that it is having an adverse effect on the people who are receiving. It’s like when people see someone having a good time, they become jealous and actually wish negative things towards those people.”
“Who would do that? Why?” Walter replied, clearly frustrated and hurt.
Lucy felt so sorry for him right now – and overwhelmingly guilty about it. “Not you, Walter, but people do that.”
“But...fuck.” Walter sighed heavily through the receiver. “So it’s true,” he stated as a question.
“I don’t know.” Lucy said again, adding quickly, “I’m sorry.” There was a pause on the line for a while. Tony Holdsworth’s face had just come up on the screen again. Lucy muted the box and turned away. She racked her brain for thngs she could say to cheer Walter up. Walter spoke before she could think of anything.
“So what should I do? Brian told me to run and hide; said it only gets worse from here.”
“Yeah. He is doing the same apparently.”
Lucy was struck by this. Smithwaite always seemed to be the top dog, but now he was running. Where was this going? She looked back at the TV and saw Sammy’s mouth moving with that look in his eye of innocence and excitement. It aroused old memories; a nostalgia that blinded her of the real truths about the man. She wanted to watch on and listen to what he had to say. She reached for the remote, unaware that she was on the phone any longer.
“Alright Lucy, I’m think I’m going to run. I don’t know where or how but hopefully we can stay in touch somehow.”
“Walter wait!” Lucy said, snapping back into the present. But he had already hung up. The sickening feeling fortified in her stomach. She didn’t know what to do. This was all her fault and she had no way to help. The remote was still in her hand, and she wanted to keep watching, like a replay of a train wreck, but she had had enough train wrecks recently. She switched off the TV, picked up her keys and left the hotel room. She was going to find Walter before it was too late.