F. wakes from a dream in which he is falling out of bed to discover that he is actually falling from the sky. The air is cold and thin. It hurts to breathe. Long black hair is spread over the sky behind his left arm making it a bit warmer than his right. Birds knock into him occasionally but catch a local thermal and fly away. How long does he have before he . . . ? One minute? Five? How did he get into such obvious danger?
He is a character. That much he knows. Been a character for more than three thousand years that makes him far older than almost any other character that he’s ever met. He’d held several positions in the Odyssey. Twice he was a oarsman. Once a pig. He’d even done one short speaking part but all his roles had been small. In fact he had always, until lately, played outside creatures, the blue bird on Cinderella’s shoulder, the forth Lilliputian from the left, the third son of the third son of the troll in Billy Goat Gruff. His latest wife had suggested that his longevity was simply a consequence of his inability to ever land a major role.
Now that F. considers his predicament he does recall overhearing a recent spate of theories about why characters were dying right and left in numbers far exceeding their rate of birth. Some said it was because writers now made their characters too real so death became inevitable. Others blamed the cinemas that revealed a character so completely that it could never be used again even in the most minor roles. Bereft of purpose these over-exposed characters had been known to erase themselves or reintegrate with alphabeta. The more intellectual characters had a suspicion that the fault belonged to one Sigmund Freud who had dissected the abstract qualities of character and allocated them to piles of ego, id and superego that were all under pressure from a deep desire for love and death.
None of this had affected F. until yesterday when no one else auditioned for the starring role in what promised to be the greatest novel of the decade so F. had won it by default. Yes, he remembers celebrating afterward. And the girl he took home to tumble in his sheets and the breakfast she made. Her kiss good-bye. “Good Luck!” she’d whispered sadly so that perhaps she had been aware that later in the day he would find himself costumed as a Victorian school-girl, falling from the sky with his hair streaming out above him and blood seeping from somewhere in his chest.
What will happen next? How will I be rescued? F. wonders as he falls and falls and falls still more until the sky becomes the sea and blue. Until his white dress spreads out upon the ocean and he tastes salt upon his lips, and realizes that the writer, committed to mawkish realism, has made it impossible for him to swim.