Not as it seems

His name was Theodore Shadows, Theo for short; he was handsome, rich, successful, the happiest man in the world some would say. But for some strange reason, nothing he did would make him feel real, it always just felt as if his every achievement made no effect whatsoever, even though it was blatantly obvious that he was making huge changes to the world around him. He always felt that there was a huge void inside of him, and for his entire life he was just searching for something to fill it. His entire life spent searching for contentment, a feeling that he would never find, not in this life anyway. My guess is that it was for these reasons he lived his life the way he did, for these reasons there was a certain aspect of aid in everything he did. The only way he could ever describe how he felt, all though he did this very little as he was more concerned with the welfare of others and spent a large proportion of his life concentrating on them, or at least the way that he described this to the shrink, who one of his closest colleagues convinced him to go and see, who he only went to see to make his colleague happy, was that, it was like when your dreaming, and you know that everything you do whilst your inside your dream will not make any impact on the dream world of which you are situated, but whilst you are inside the dream you are content with your effects on the world around you. However on waking you have a sudden feeling of depression, where you know, that everything you have achieved is unreal. This is the feeling he told Dr. Elwood was moping in the very back of his mind, telling him, that nothing he did was worth it. Yet his still continued to prosper, to build upon his life and to create the foundations for a better world. They say that an individual cant change the world, whoever they are, they're wrong, it took only one Theodore Shadows to begin to mould the world he lived in to become an almost perfect empire, it was almost too bad that he wasn't able to stay to finish the job.

To everyone but himself it was plainly obvious that he was a wonderful man, and that no matter what he thought, he was going to change the world, he was their saviour, but he could never quite convince himself it was true, and besides, even if it was, he would never know what it was he was making a difference too, as strange as it sounds he never felt that he was supposed to be where he was. No one quite knew how Theo made a difference, but it was as if since he came along, everything was better, all his ideas were great, and everything he said, went. He was a mysterious man, and no one ever seemed to know where he came from, I'm not even sure that he knew himself, he never seemed to mention anything about his past, all people seemed to know was that he was an orphan, and that his parents died in the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, but little is known about them and what happened. Theo was only 2 at the time, it was only a day after his 2nd birthday, and he was under the care of his Nanny back in England. She took care of him for the three weeks that his parents had paid her for, but after that he was placed into the care of Sheffield Orphanage, where 4 years later he was adopted and cared for by a small family in the outskirts of Sheffield. No one really seems to know how it happened but some how, in the year 2004, when he was 30 years of age, his small environmentally friendly recycling company, 'Green Leaf' became a mass enterprise specialising in a large amount of Businesses that would one day save his world from its dramatic decline. It was only unfortunate that the world terminated the same day he did.

It was on 24th April 2004, the 30th anniversary of his rather fortunate birth when he met her for the first time. As they did every year, his colleagues and friends organised a huge surprise get-together, where every employee is welcome, as they do every year, so of course this year Theo wasn't expecting it at all. The whole thing took him by immense surprise as he wandered into his huge, silent apartment to be greeted by masses of chorused 'surprise's. A while into the party, as he sat at the bar, watching with a pleasant grin on his face, wearing this mask to hide the tortures beneath it, he noticed her, and for once, his first real smile spread across his face. He stared, intrigued at the woman of most radiance he had ever seen as she socialised politely and grinned widely at the other interested men crowded around her trying to act interesting and attract her attention. 'Her name is Kate,' the bar man told him, noticing his interest in the woman. He didn't turn away, just continued staring, 'How does she know me?' He asked embarrassed that he did not know. 'A new employee,' he replied, 'secretary to the fair trade co-ordinator.' 'How do you know all this?' He asked, still watching the woman closely, the waiter chose to ignore this, and walked away. Theo didn't notice, his attention still set upon Kate, who stood in the corner near the balcony window, her silky amber hair flowing with the breeze. She was about 5'7'', had a sleek but curvy figure, her lips were deep red, full and luscious, her piercing green eyes enhanced by her long eyelashes. She wore a radiant scarlet, flowing dress that stopped just above her deep red sandals.

As Theo began to walk over to her, se excused herself from her company and stepped out onto the balcony, leant against the fencing, and stretched her neck backwards and closed her eyes as she took a deep breath in. Theo stepped on the balcony with her, she didn't turn around, as Theo began to introduce himself she said 'I know who you are Theo,' she paused, 'I get so claustrophobic in there, surrounded by so many people, I bet your always surrounded by people.' 'What makes you think that?' He replied. 'Your Theodore Shadows, the most well known man in the world, I'd like to bet there's not a place you could go where you wouldn't be recognised.' 'That's not true, just last week, at the organic milk plant, not a cow knew who I was.' She laughed, 'You enjoy your work don't you.' 'There's not much I enjoy, but provided that what I do is enjoy, yes.' 'So what do you enjoy?' 'Standing here, and talking to the most beautiful woman I have ever met.' She smiled. 'So who would that be?' she enquired playfully. Theo smiled cheekily 'Ready to go back in there and face the world?' Theo asked her. 'Will you be there with me?' 'I'm afraid I'll be in there with the most beautiful woman in the world.' 'Oh well I'll just stay here then' she replied. He smiled, and took her arm, as they walked back into the crowded room.

It was the first time they had met, and Theo and Kate hit it off almost straight away, Kate had noticed, that in discussion, Theo almost always dodged around questions about his childhood, I don't think that Theo had ever opened up to anyone, I suppose he had figured that he would spare others the grief, not that he believed that anyone cared enough to grieve for him, but he would feel guilty if his lack of openness caused anyone pain, but he had known that anything he told them, would cause them more pain. When he went to see a shrink, he didn't tell him anything, he just thought he would stick by it to keep his friend happy. 'It's a hard job keeping everyone happy isn't it Theodore?' Dr. Elwood once said. 'Please, call me Theo,' He ignored this, 'you often feel like you have to keep everyone happy don't you,' he paused, 'Theo?' 'I don't know if I feel anything anymore.' He replied. 'How so?' Dr. Elwood asked. 'Hey looks like times up' the replied, dodging the question. 'It's ok, we have plenty of time.' Theo sighed, 'well, I'm just not convinced that anything I do, or feel, is real enough, that's all.' 'And how does that make you feel?' Dr Elwood asked 'See there you go again, what makes you think I do feel?' 'What makes you think I think?' he replied.

After the party that night Kate offered to stay back and help clean up, after all, although a surprise party was a nice idea, holding it in his own apartment may be a little inconsiderate. But at least they got to see each other a little longer. By the end of the night, nothing was arranged, no numbers were swapped, but for some reason, they both just knew, that one day, once a gain their paths would cross, and that they did. It was two weeks later, a Saturday, and as Theo got on a bus, as he liked to do to blend in with the general public, he noticed at the back of the bus, that there she was, he began to walk down the bus towards her, after paying the driver. He sat down jus a little away from her on the back seat and smiled, she smiled back and they both stared straight ahead not saying a word, yet connecting. Once they reached the next stop a large old woman got on the bus, and because of the lack of seats was forced to sit between them, she shuffled back wards into the seat and as she did so their smiles grew wider, as they tried to prevent themselves from laughing. A few stops down the woman got off, Theo and Kate caught eye contact and began laughing hysterically. A few stops down, after Kate managed to contain her laughter, she smiled at Theo, stood up, and began to walk down to the doors. Theo followed, although he was still six stops away from where he was going. Kate began to walk down the street and Theo caught her up. 'Fancy seeing you again,' he said. 'Must be fate.' She smiled. 'So where are you going?' Theo asked her. 'To the park, how about you?' 'Oh yeah same,' he replied. She bit her lip lightly and laughed, 'then why did you pay 47p for the bus?' 'What you mean I didn't need to?' He asked insincerely. She laughed. 'Look ill prove it, I even brought bread for the ducks,' he pulled a duck sandwich out of his pocket. 'Were you expecting cannibal ducks at this park?' She laughed, as he looked embarrassed. At the end of the day, as the sun went down, he sat, and he thought, of how no matter how unreal what he thought he was feeling was, it didn't even matter, because it was so intense, that he couldn't control it, and he knew, that no matter if it was real or not, it didn't even matter, because he was there now, and he had no choice. He smiled to himself and Kate noticed and she smiled to him. 'What are you thinking? She asked. 'That I think I may finally be able to feel, and to allow myself to feel.' This may have been the first time that he had spoken about this to anyone close to him, even if not at all in depth. She smiled, she was a little confused, but somehow she knew that she was not supposed to understand, and that she never truly would.

After discussing everything they could possibly think of they decided to leave, walked hand in hand out of the park, before the sunset, like a beautiful scene from a movie, where you just know, that although it would be nice for it to last forever, it just isn't going to happen, and the twist has to come soon. It's all very well wanting the happy ever after, but after all, that's not what makes good TV, and that's never what happens in life, so why not have the truth for a change, nothing ever works the way we want it, not even in Theo's case, the truth is, no matter how nice you are, no matter what you do, life always has a way of kicking you up the behind. Once they left the park, they went their separate ways, no one went back home with the other, but just as before, just as had happened, they each knew, that their paths would cross once more, only this time, they were wrong. Little did they know that this would be the last time they would see each other, but better this than after they struggled through a relationship and broken up, after all everything had to end sometime, as Theo had always thought. But he didn't know that he was right about most things, right that what he felt wasn't real, right that nothing he did ever did make any effect. The next day Theo had to go to the recycling plant to present a safety award, which the company had, for some odd reason asked him to present, it was like it was fate or something, like it was fate that he loved to blend in with the 'real' people, like it was fate that he got on the train that day, that day, that day when the world ended, when Theo's world terminated for good. The train Theo got on, never made it all the way to the plant, Theo never made it too the plant, and after that, the plant was gone, it was all gone, only the was left, but not as Theo, never to be Theo again.

But a split second in his so-called 'existence' there was harmony, peace of mind, where everything was united, where all his worlds collided. Then I woke up, opened my eyes for the first time, took my first true breath. I looked around frantically at the first true image I ever saw, a spacious, well lit, white room, full of busy looking people and a lot of unusual machinery, like nothing I had ever seen before, yet I suppose, I had never seen before. Not really anyway. I tried to ask someone if I was in heaven, of course this was the first thought that came into my well-trained mind. But of course I had never used my vocal chords before, it was hard enough just to open my mouth. The lighting was bright so I had to glare my eyes; I suppose I that must have looked strange form where all the people were standing, fortunately my eyes soon adjusted to being used. There was a woman standing just a few feet away from me as I lay covered in white sheets, she looked as if she was staring straight at me, but it took her a few seconds to notice I was moving, her hair was slick with grease and tied behind her head where it perched in a tight bun, her white pinafore was greasy with hand prints and was stretched by her large swelling body, and her hands were covered with vile looking grubby rubber gloves. She called to a near by woman and exclaimed something of which I do not recollect, all I wanted to know was what had happened, where was I, was I in hospital? Had I survived the crash? The answer, rather unfortunately was no.

'He's alive?!?' Someone exclaimed. 'What?' Another asked, 'But the chance of that is 1 in 1000.' 'Well there was 1500 of them' I heard someone-else say. I lay, puzzled, what did she mean? 1500 of what? For a while they all just wandered around like robots, every-so-often just frantically conferring something. A few of them fussed over me, and answered 'Someone will be here to see you soon darling, don't you worry your self' to any questions I asked, and rather patronisingly might I add.

A few hours later an important looking man wandered in and guided all the fussing women out of the door. He explained to me that I had been part of an experiment to allow those who would not be able to lead their lives functionally or were unconscious at birth and in a critical condition to lead what they could create to be the closest to a normal life as they could construct. I am not entirely sure as to how the program works since it is difficult to catch up on 200 years of technological development; I guess that in my whole life I have never really managed. He explained that it was the year 2213 at the moment, but they had constructed my virtual life in the early 20th century so that the technology and knowledge would not be as hard to recreate, although admittedly certain aspects of my surroundings may have been a little inaccurate, and certain factors were still based upon present times. He explained that sometimes children who were still born were still able to be kept alive using life support, in the past these children were revoked medication and allowed to die as they were presumed to be brain-dead. However although deemed to be brain dead, 'Second Chance' were able to tap into their subconscious mind and allow them to create and structure a life around them, supported by a team of script writers, it would allow their life to encompass their inner most desires, for them to lead a happy, contented life. However lately their company became bankrupt, meaning that they were given forewarning that the database of virtual lives, 1500 in total would be shut down and be inaccessible, this meant that the deaths of the 'customers' was apparent and a practical death would be written into their virtual lives. 'When you were plugged into Second Chance we were still on a trial period, and your parents, alongside 1499 others donated their child to take part and to, in a sense, offer you, a second chance. The chances of a single one of you surviving after all the machines were shut down were 1000 to 1, and clearly, so far, you are the only known survivor. You are fortunate enough to have the chance of leading, two lives.'

I was happy enough with the one I had, I thought, but at least I guess this would explain a lot about what I felt during my so called life. 'So what is to come of me now?' I asked, slowly getting used to the sound of my voice. 'I'm sorry,' he said, 'but because our company has gone bankrupt we can offer you… well… nothing at all, unfortunately for you your parents signed a contract to ensure that in the case of anything like this you are no longer our responsibility.' 'What? After all this? Is there nothing you can do?' 'I'm afraid, that the cold hard truth is, that there's nothing we want to do, all we can do is suggest that you apply for benefits.' 'And what of my parents, where are they?' 'We have been looking into it,' he put his hand on my shoulder, 'I'm afraid that a few years back, they were in an unfortunate accident, they both passed away.'

A week or so later, they let me out of the Company building, and sent me on my way, not before forcing me to sign a confidentiality form beforehand of course. They wrote a letter to the government during the week I was there, and a reply came back confirming that due to lack of funding they would not be able to supply me with benefits, they told me it was harsh, but fair. I certainly didn't think so. I just couldn't cut it in the real world; I had nowhere to go, no money, no real knowledge of what to do. For the first few days I slept in a B&B the company were supposedly kind enough to supply me with, but once the two days were up I was sent out onto the streets, with my single blanket, a pair of white overalls, and this tall gangly excuse for a body that I found myself in as I awoke for the first time. In my virtual life I was handsome, with a fit muscular body, and now, now that I had nothing, I was a creep if ever I saw one, my face was thin and pale, my eyes looked as if they constantly followed you, if anyone saw me in the street they would probably expect me to preach to them. I found a bus stop, just a little way down from the bed sit, and here I have sat ever since, every-so-often a passer-by would throw me some change, I would keep it, until I had enough to buy myself some cheap cider, that was the only time I would leave my little habitat, sometimes I find things on the floor, last week a safety pin, I always keep them, you never do know when they'll come in handy, I have a small doll I found around a month ago, well a month is the closest I can estimate, its easy to lose track of time with this lifestyle, I named her Lucy, she's my only friend, I know that she would never throw me out into the streets with nothing at all. I think that the little girl who lost it came back to look for it at some point, her mother noticed her in my arms, but she didn't say a word, I think she was frightened, anyway, Lucy's mine now. Anywhere she goes, I do, and anywhere I go, she does. She's coming with me right now, where I'm going, I found some rope around the corner about an hour ago, I like to think of what I can do with all the things I find, I thought this one was a good idea. You would too. Now all me and Lucy have to do now is take a step, a step off this wall, so the rope tightens, and who knows, maybe we can take a step straight into happiness, maybe we'll just disappear completely, but anywhere has to be better than this, right? I'm just not used to this way of life. I'm going to do it. See you in a bit Lucy.

Then I woke up, opened my eyes for the first time, took my first true breath. Didn't I???