The Soap Bubble - Episode 14. Diversion therapy

The hotel room was small, smelly and Spartan, much like every room in this decrepit fleapit of a hotel . The hotel once considered luxurious (yeah right) now filled a niche in the market between sleeping in the street and the tempur foam cubicles of the coffin hotels. It had a charm all of its own. Even the roaches refused to stay here. It was a good place to lay low while Paul regained some strength. Fortunately for me he appeared to be bouncing back pretty well from his incarceration and had picked up his camera once or twice without crying or shaking uncontrollably. He still screamed in his sleep for Jo O’Brien to put some clothes on, but other than that his progress was excellent.

The one nod to the 20th century was the television bolted to the wall. Moving images were still a new idea for the Bubble^tm^ and the main part of the programming was a stream of images from the popular and featured image streams with an occasional talking head giving a reading of poetry. I could handle all of these except those given by the six word cult , a strange mixed up bunch who only spoke in short clipped sentences.

Tonight, though, was the dawn of a new era for the Bubble Broadcasting Company^tm^ who were bringing entertainment to the masses in the shape of a visual spectacular to compete with the best HDR images . A sporting event unlike any other seen before! Well according to the talking head it was. I was just about to switch off and go back to interviewing Paul about the Bubblette plans when the TV got my full attention.
“Tonight’s Big Fight! Brought to you in conjunction with Melissa Vowell Enterprises , part of the Bubblette Trading Corporation , purveyors of ‘Superjuice’ the Bubble’s^tm^ first isotonic art drink.” Special effects span the image around the screen. Clearly someone got a new toy for Christmas.

The mention of Melissa Vowell caught my attention. The gangster who usually hid in the shadows was promoting this fight! What was her plan? There she was walking down to take her seat ringside wearing a huge fur jacket and smoking a ridiculously large cigar, she was flanked by her Henchmen, Babyface Poole and the beautiful yet deadly Imogene Munday . Whilst I sat transfixed, Paul sat on his bed giggling and making rude noises.

“Ladieeeee’s and Gentleeeeemen! Welcome to the Bubble^tm^ Stadium!”, the presenter was fighting to be heard over the roar of the crowd. “First came the Rumble in the Jungle, then the Thrilla in Manila! But that was then and this is now! Tonight’s main event is the Bitchfight of Bubble^tm^ Beach! For the Seascape Heavyweight Crown .” Not only was he fighting to be heard he was also very excited! “We’ll be back after a few short words from our sponsors.”

Adverts!!! Two minutes of programme and adverts! “ Superjuice! Now available from all good retailers!” Images flashed of amazing artwork , “You too can make your art this good! Just by drinking Superjuice! ” the screen cut to a photographer taking a big gulp of a vivid red drink before picking up a camera. As the flash fired, fantastic images appeared on the screen . “"Superjuice!": The first art improving drink! Buy some today!”

My heart sank. This red drink! As red as scarlet washing up liquid . The Bubblettes sure were planning domination on a grand scale. The other adverts flashed by, high contrast paints by Parkin’s comes in any colour you like, as long as it’s black or white ! . Holidays to where the beautiful people go from Dagobert travel. There were others but I missed them. Paul had become excited and was going on and on about the red medicine and how he wanted more. I calmed him down the old fashioned way (tea, milk, diazepam and sugar). He was still mumbling about his special medicine but was a lot less frantic.

The idiot box was now showing the build up to the main event, the stadium lights had been lowered and the square ring shone, an island in a sea of darkness. The compere called out with much gusto. “Ladies and Gentlemen! Tonight’s main event over seven three minute rounds!” There was a loud fanfare, the music from a certain Sylvester Stallone movie started to play. “Please welcome to the ring! Weighing in at cough cough cough and wearing a seaweed leotard! Fighting for the pride of the South ! I give you The Southern Cyclone! The Mad Mongrel! Mel Brackstone!!! ” Sure enough weaving down the access path was the Woman Mountain of south beach fame! In front of her was one of the Bubblette goons with a new waterproof tripod. Mel didn’t seem to be paying the crowd much attention. She was staring, hypnotised by the tripod. The crowd went mad, screaming and hollering. Clearly she had many people supporting her tonight. The presenter reeled off a load of statistics about portfolio size, views sales and comments. It was very impressive and very obvious she was the favourite for this bout.
“And making his debut tonight in the Bubble Stadium following his conquest of the northern shores! and Wearing silly shorts and a baseball cap! Ladies and Gentlemen! The Northern Nutter! Stuart ‘Psycho’ Chapman! ” The crowd roared again, cheesy eighties music blared out of the PA. I had heard of this brawler from the North, mainly stories of his upbringing in a tidal pool on the bitterly cold and barren north beaches , here on the screen he wasn’t what I was expecting. He was much shorter than Mel, his face hidden in shadow from his baseball cap while thin white wires ran up to his ears. His movements were sinuous and flowing and as he snaked towards the ring I got the feeling that he was here to prove himself. He meant business. The roar of the crowd fell as he approached the ring. They felt it too.

In the ring Mel’s keepers/trainers were having a hard time of keeping her calm! Whatever sedatives they had given her were wearing off and she was getting angrier. Psycho Chapman stood there, impassive opposite the mighty Mel. His trainers had removed his cap and earphones as he entered the ring. The talking head burst into life again rattling off another set of statistics this time concerning Stuart’s portfolio .
More adverts, clearly the BBC were out to make the most of this. “Tired of low view numbers? Lack of comments getting you down? You need Superjuice! A blend of exotic fruits and isotonic balanced minerals. Superjuice! is guaranteed to improve your art performance, buy some today!”
Paul was going crazy, “Special medicine! I need special medicine. Please Jo, please I been gooood.” He whined. Each time the Superjuice advert came on he hit the roof for this special medicine. I was putting pieces together here but I had a nasty feeling that this Superjuice! contained Scarlet Washing Up Liquid and that Paul had been used as a guinea pig to get the dose right! So now it fell to me to straighten him out, the diazepam I had spiked his tea with was working for now but It wouldn’t be long before I would need some antidote. I wish Sharon Bishop and Melinda Kerr had given me some (antidote you mucky buggers).

The fight was starting. The ring was empty of press and associated hangers on, the referee stood in the middle between the two gladiators who appeared ready for battle, Mel let out a blood curdling screaming howl. The dolly bird parading around the ring with the big bit of card with a number 1 on it appeared shocked and cut short her parade as Mel swatted at her. The bell rang. Round one was under way. I was expecting boxing, most of the crowd were expecting boxing, however nobody had mentioned this to Mel. She shot out of her corner and across the ring to crush Stuart in a body slam against the turnbuckle. Stuart just stood there as the juggernaut descended upon him. I was expecting the fight to be over before it began but Stuart deftly sidestepped at the last second and Mel crashed into the turnbuckle where Stuart had just been standing. Clearly there was something to be said for being more nimble in your portfolio. Where Mel had weight in numbers, Stuart was focused on quality over quantity. As she pulled away from the ropes, Stuart landed an opener . Clearly he was going to be as slippery as a bucket full of jellied eels. Maybe this fight was a bit more equal than people were expecting. Mel the Bubble Giant bellowed and howled demanding respect from all as she attempted to dominate the ring with her size. Stuart, meanwhile, was more measured, using minimum effort to get maximum results. Even naming his pictures was done by picking random song names from his i-Pod rather than wasting effort thinking about them.

First blood had gone to Stuart . Mel appeared confused. The fight was not going as she expected. You could see it flash across her face. She needed to relax, the red mist was not helping. For once, control was needed. Think calm she mouthed. The talking head was excitedly rabbiting on about David and Goliath and the class shown in that opening shot. Mel grinned showing her sharpened dragons teeth . It was not a pretty sight.

Mad Mel and Psycho Chapman started to circle each other in a fighters dance. Each time they collided was like the sea on a rocky shore: neither gave an inch, both appeared relentless. The time ticked down, in the final seconds of the first round Mel feinted, pulled a funny face and landed a curly shot to the side of Stuart’s head. The bell rang to signal the end of the round. The talking head babbled on about how equally matched these two were. I had to agree. That round was definitely a tie. Despite the use of more imagery, Mel’s domination had been cancelled out by Stuarts determination.

Another dolly bird was doing the round. This one appeared less phased by the giant woman in the seaweed leotard. The cameraman and director were both taken by this young lady and were more focused on her than what was going on in the fighters’ corners. Realising what they should be doing, they cut to a different angle to show the gladiators being coached by their trainers. Mel’s had set up a small easel and were drawing stick men diagrams for her to follow. They were rather graphic, especially the one where the stick man resembling Stuart had been decapitated and the Mel stick man was kicking the severed head into the audience. The talking heads wittered on about styles and techniques used, while a review of the comments received so far identified that Stuarts shot had received some critical acclaim , but with the support of her massive watchlist Mel’s glancing shot at the end of the round was receiving the lion’s share of comments and repeat views. Their opinion was that this was going to give Mad Mel a boost!

More adverts. “Do you like travelling to far away places? Like to see strange new sights but can’t afford the travel costs? Then don’t despair! Try Uncle Tom Godfrey’s new and improved travel pills! Now you don’t have to leave the comfort of your own home to see the world differently! Do not take with any other stimulants Slight discomfort behind the eyeballs is to be expected May cause mild paranoia and neurotic episodes. Users must follow the directions stated. Do not take after midnight or allow tablets to meet direct contact with daylight.^”
“Out soon Bubble Rocks Greatest Hits. First they gave you an eyeful! Now they are coming in your ears! Bubblerock! Yes Bubblerock! The biggest baddest band in the Bubbleverse^tm
out soon!”

The screen cut back to the fight. Clearly the director had messed up the link as they hadn’t shown another ‘Superjuice!’ advert. Paul had stopped asking for his ‘medicine’ and the diazepam was starting to wear off. It hadn’t lasted as long as I’d hoped. Round Two was just starting. Stuart took the early advantage again catching Mel with an awesome morning shot. She wasn’t expecting this and it dropped her to her knees. An audible gasp of shock was heard from around the ring. The Southern Cyclone had been knocked down! Paul wasn’t interested in the big fight, he was leaning out of the window and staring down the street. It was not a pretty sight from where I sat, I’m not sure the view down the street was any better either. Mel was still on her knees holding onto the bottom rope in her right hand, the referee was giving a slow count. Had Stuart’s shot been that good?

She rose slowly from her knees. It had been a ruse. In her left hand she held the tripod that the goon had used to lure her into the ring! She swung her makeshift club checking the weight. An evil grin appeared on her face. The referee, realising that it wasn’t safe to be in a confined space with the likes of Mel and Stuart made himself scarce. The last view of him were the bottoms of his shoes as he slid out of the ring. The fight descended into a scene of comedy, the audience hooting and hollering as Mel chased Stuart around the ring with the tripod held high, the bell was being rung frantically to signal the end of the fight as Mel’s trainers loaded the tranquilizer dart gun to bring her down.

Before the BBC cut back to showing the popular and featured montage the camera was swung around to show the crowd. There in the front row and in perfect focus sat Melissa Vowell and her ‘associates’. She was livid. The colour had completely drained from her face. She sat tight-lipped and impassive, staring at the chaos unfolding in the ring. Clearly this was not what she had planned!

Paul was still hanging out the window . Maybe the fresh air was helping as he seemed to be calming down. Checking my bag of many useless items gathered on my journey I double-checked just in case I had some antidote to Scarlet Washing Up Liquid. Nope, nothing like that. I pulled out my journal to review what had happened so far. With the notebook came out a small pink childs bracelet which fell onto Paul’s bed. Bored with the view, Paul was watching me idly, looking for entertainment. He snatched the bracelet. “ Siena would like this.” he stated clutching the small plastic trinket tightly.

The phone rang. An old fashioned loud bell sound! Odd that we had been here a week and I hadn’t noticed the phone before. It was an old Bakelite brick but where the number dial should have been was a plain disk. Clearly this was not for outgoing calls. It was sat on a small table with a lamp. I was certain that it hadn’t been there five minutes before! Lifting the receiver I spoke hesitantly. ”Hello?”
“May I please speak with Mr Vanzella?”, the voice was distant, my confusion was growing and I felt obliged to hand the receiver to Paul.
“It’s for you” I stated.
“Is this Paul?”
“Paul Vanzella?"
“Paul ‘The Vanman’ Vanzella?”
Yes. Paul’s face became slack, his features softened and a grin spread across his face. He picked up the phone and walked towards the tiny bathroom. I noticed that the phone was not connected to the wall. There was no wire! He entered the bathroom and closed the door behind him. It would have been really cool if at this point a masked team of doctors pulled him through a hole in the wall (like in the Manchurian candidate). Unfortunately the hotel was that cheap that there was no latch on the door and it swung back open. There was no team of masked doctors. He simply stood next to the wash basin and slowly vanished, just like Jake had done in Trinity . The phone clattered to the tiled floor.
“Is there anybody there?” I spoke into the receiver expecting nothing in return.
“Another one in the bag!” came the distant reply, “I must say Voice, for a coward you are doing very well.” He sounded like he was speaking through a sock, but I could make that it was the old man who had started me on this crazy adventure in the first place.
“What’s going on?” I demanded, my grasp on reality slipping, “Why are you taking the artists like this?”.
“It’s like this, Voice. A good story needs lots of drama! Taking the artists like this adds drama and besides it keeps you on your toes. You’d best run, the Moderators will have picked up the transfer” . The phone went dead.
The siren of a Moderator prowler could be heard getting closer. I had to dash. I knew the old man was right, this corner of the Bubble was going to get lots of drama very quickly!

The Soap Bubble - Episode 14. Diversion therapy

Drew Walker

Joined July 2007

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