A Story by Tom Aubin

The short story of an actor playing an actor.


George was sitting on a bench, staring at the sleeping city. 
He was looking at the lights on the hill, playing a scenario in his head about what the people in these houses would be doing. He was also trying to remember the reasons that led him to this bench. 
A name came into his mind: Roger. That was his name, at least in his other life. His fictional life. George was an actor. 
Roger was the character he was impersonating in a television show he starred in. He had been Roger for so long that sometimes he felt it had been his whole life. His hair was thick and dark when he had started the show. Now it was thin and dry like grass under an unmerciful sun. 
In the show, the character George was playing was also an actor. Roger was going through ups and downs - mostly downs - in a tragic-comical way. They had just shot the season’s last episode today, and it ended on Roger escaping the studio after an umpteenth disastrous dismissal from a shooting he had just started. 
George liked the show, as well as his character, but it had started to change when they finished to shoot the eighth season. And now they were done with the tenth. He was feeling as if Roger was not fresh anymore. He did not like the fact that he was forcing himself to incarnate him. 
Something else was bothering him, and it was probably the worst: they were all calling him Roger. The fans, the people on the street. As if he was not George anymore, but simply Roger. He had become his character, and it was frightening, as if he was not existing anymore. 
And today had been the strangest day of his life. Before it was only the fans, but now EVERYBODY was calling him Roger. His wife, his friends, his son. He ran away from them, passing every shop, every street corner, following the path through the dark woods that was ending right here, at this view point. 
“I’m not Roger’’ he whispered to himself. “My name is George.’’
And he felt even more frightened because he could not manage to believe himself. 
“I knew I would find you here.’’ said a voice behind his back. 
He turned, although he already knew who that voice belonged to: Chris, his son. He was walking toward him with his hands in his pockets.
“Everybody is looking for you.’’
He took a seat next to his father. George just looked at his son, thinking about all the times he had been up here with him, at this exact spot, looking at the lights on the hill and imagining funny stories about the people living over there. 
“What is happening to me?’’ asked George. 
Chris just kept looking at the hills while he talked. 
“I think you know it already. But I can refresh your memories if you want me to.’’
George considered it for a moment. He thought he knew the truth. He was almost sure of it, but somehow he felt incapable of admitting it. He felt like a kid, so ashamed of what he had done that he could not confess, and this feeling brought a warm and growing pain in his chest. 
“Please tell me, son.’’
“We sat on this bench a year ago. Do you remember that?’’
George searched his memories, and he did remember. 
“It was at the end of the ninth season of the show, right?’’
Chris looked at his father with a bitter pain in his eyes. 
“There never was a ninth season, dad. Last year, you escaped and ran here, just like today.’’
“Escaped? What are you talking ab…’’
And it came back in a flash. A part of it at least. He remembered the white shirts, with little badges on them. The silence, and the noises after the silence. He remembered his friend John, who once told him he used to be a famous and rich lawyer, a long time ago, before they put him in… 
“The madhouse.’’ George whispered to himself. 
Chris did not say a word. He was just looking at his father with an expression that seemed to hold all the patience in the world. 
“I remember.’’ George said. “I think I remember everything.’’
He had been fired from the show after the eight season, and it had been the worst day of his life. They had literally killed him, giving his character a rare disease, and after he had died they replaced him as a main character with someone else. Someone younger. 
He had very vague memories of that time, but he could remember the look of the people upon him. He was still going at the studio everyday, and more than once they had to call security to take him out. After that, it was not so clear. This part of his memories was foggy and blurry, but now he knew one thing. He finally understood why he felt as if he was playing Roger his whole life. 
“My name is Roger. George was my character.’’
“That’s right.” Chris said in a low voice. 
“George died, and I could not handle it. Since then, I carried on being him, and… they locked me away.’’
Chris put his hand on his father’s shoulder. 
“Last year, at this exact spot where we stand today, I told you I was bringing you home, and instead I brought you back to the clinic. Do you remember that?’’
George looked thoughtful, a mixture of confusion and tiredness. “No.’’
“This time I won’t.’’ Chris said. “You can go wherever you want. I will not tell them that I saw you.’’
He paused and asked : “What’s your name?’’
“Roger. It’s Roger.’’
“Good. Really good.’’
Roger got up and said : “I think it’s the best ending I could have hoped for the show.’’
He blinked at his son, and they both smiled.  
“Sorry dad, but it was a bad show anyway.’’
They looked at each other, shared a quiet laugh that dissolved itself into the silent wind, and Roger disappeared in the dark woods. He was not feeling confused, for the first time in a long time. 


© 2017 Tom Aubin

Author's Note

Tom Aubin
I enjoyed writing this story. Please let me know if some parts are too confusing.
I hope you will enjoy it.

My Review

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Confusing? Yes, but wasn't it supposed to be confusing. I shared the character's confusion. I bought into the "unreliable" narrator hook line and sinker , and I was relieved when the son unraveled everything and set me straight.

Good story, well written. thanks for sharing.

Posted 6 Years Ago

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Added on July 17, 2017
Last Updated on July 17, 2017
Tags: short story, actor, roger, dream, reality