Jackson Pettigue straightened his tie and made sure his jacket was unbuttoned. He wanted to look serious, but not too serious. Looking in the full length mirror attached to the back of the hotel door he was extremely satisfied with his appearance, dark, handsome and dangerous. Tonight was his night to shine and put his critics in their place.
There was a polite knock at the door. Jackson was about to answer, but then he saw a stray thread on his sleeve. He managed to snap the offending cotton at the hem. This was definitely going to be his night. He opened the door with the sweep of his hand. There he saw the Claudia White.
“Hello, Miss White. Thank you for meeting me here,” Jackson said showing his perfect white teeth. Some said he was elected because of those teeth. He always laughed them off, knowing it wasn’t true, but it still felt good. “I know it was inconvenient, but it is almost impossible for me to get away from here lately.”
Claudia smiled weakly. “Well, I’m the one who wanted to talk to you, so it was the least I could do. May I come in?” she asked.
Her smile took a bit of the edge off Jackson’s confidence. Infuriating woman! Didn’t she know this was going to make her career? Still, Jackson knew this was for the greater good. To that end he put on his billion dollar charm and stepped back, pulling the door wide open. “But of course Miss White,” he said. “Please come in and make yourself at home. It isn’t much, but I enjoy it as a home away from home.”
“Thank you Jackson, and please call me Claudia,” she said entering the room.
Jackson let the door swing closed as he reached for her jacket, but Claudia either didn’t see the gesture, or chose to ignore him. Why again did he agree to this? Oh yeah, the cause. Do anything for the cause. “Can I get you something to drink?” asked Jackson. “I don’t have much, but what I have is at your disposal.”
Claudia pulled out the chair that sat at the small table by the closed window. “No thank you,” she said.” I would rather we begin.”
Jackson almost let escape an exasperated sigh, but he pressed on. The sooner his message was out there, and this woman as well, the better. And to think he was going to offer her a gin and tonic. “Let’s do so. Do you want to take pictures first?” he asked.
Claudia shook her head. “I don’t that that will be necessary,” she said.
She seemed to magically pull a pen and pad from nowhere which caused Jackson to blink. Why did they have a magician come interview him? Jackson was getting even more confused.
Claudia seemed to pick up on this and continued. “So you told my boss you had a new proposal?”
Jackson paused, trying to organize his thoughts, but they seemed scattered across all the planes of existence. “I, I don’t remember,” he said as he closed his eyes. Here in his personal dark he could see lights flashing at all around him, following invisible paths that sometimes tied themselves in knots. He could almost make out a new level of understanding. It was right there in front of him.
“Jackson, are you okay?” Claudia asked.
Her voice collapsed all those lights into one blob of putrid thought that Jackson purged immediately from his consciousness. Understanding was for those beneath him anyhow. Jackson had a higher calling. That’s right, now he remembered.
“I want to propose legislation banning altered states of reality,” he started. “These states can be dangerous to the human subconscious. Especially in the long term. Especially with respect to incarceration.”
Claudia smiled and placed the pencil down on the table. Why did she do that? How was she going to record the interview now? Jackson balled his hands involuntarily, but managed to calm himself within two heartbeats.
“Jackson, what brings you to that?” Claudia asked. “That isn’t what you said last week.”
Jackson silently counted to ten before continuing. Need to keep the anger at bay. “Said last week? Woman are you daft? We did not talk last week. I was on the Panama Canal handing out quinine to the locals. Unless you were part of my bikini team we did not talk.”
Claudia pursed her lips. “Jackson. I think it is time for us to adjust your medication.”
Jackson closed his eyes and saw those lights again. “Medication is for those that are looking for an altered state. I want to eliminate them. That and the virtual realities the young ones are messing around in. We need to be grounded in reality less we lose ourselves to the madness.”
Jackson could feel Claudia step up to him. Her breath smelled of elderberry wine and defeat. “You are lost already.”
The anger spike and Jackson opened his eyes and reached for Claudia’s throat. As his fingers brushed against her yielding flesh she disappeared from his grasp, his room, his world.
Claudia jacked out and blinked her eyes. One of her assistants helped her stand. “Are you okay Miss White?”
Her mind was still working out the real world after the virtual reality dump. “I’m fine…” She needed to get them name tags. She could never remember any of their names. “How are his vitals?” she asked as she looked at Jackson’s prone body. The man seemed to be in a dream, his eyes flashing back and forth. The only thing betraying this illusion was the cord coming out of the base of his neck.
“He seems to be fine, though his CAT scan seems more erratic then before,” said the intern.
What was his name? I have a PhD. I should remember the little people’s names. Claudia put on her best billion dollar smile. “Keep me posted. I’m going to go home and get some sleep.”
The intern shook his head. “You know you can’t leave Miss White.”
Claudia closed her eyes and counted to ten, watching the lights flashing behind her eyes.