It all started with a hiccup.
Linda was sitting in the live audience of Getting Chatty with Dave Meerket. This was Linda’s thirteenth live viewing this month. There was something comforting about the illuminated prompters which glowed with a warm, yellow light. The sense of belonging was addictive, she was indistinguishable and invisible to persecution and confrontation in her safe haven. Linda had suffered from social awkwardness her whole life where social cues were not as obvious as the delightfully simple commands “Laugh”, “Gasp” and “”Jeer”. Occasionally the camera panned over her during the intro, she would wince and hide her face.
Two celebrities were twittering about the latest fashion trends when it happened.
Linda covered her mouth, but it was too late. The entirety of the room swung their heads in her direction. Linda was now different.
The two celebrities wedged Linda between on the velvet couch.
“What’s your name love?” Dave asked.
One of the celebs pipped up.
“Lovely name Linda, that’s my mum’s name.”
“Oh, t-thank *hic* you”
She blushed with embarrassment and froze like a deer in the headlights as the limelight shone from her sweating forehead.
Suddenly the pale yellow light was reflected on the audience’s face. They burst into laughter; Linda joined them with a delay. More than anything Linda wished she was in better view of the prompters.
David Meerket put his finger to his ear. He raised his eye brow, “Well well, what is this?”
The audience was on the edge of their seat.
“I’ve just been told you are a singer, have you been hiding this from us Linda?” He asked with a smirk.
“Uh, I’m not a very good one… -hic- …though.”
A yellow flash, more laughter.
She loved them and they loved her.
It slowly dawned on Linda that the laugh command corresponded with her hiccups. The thought was mind-blowing.
More than just being able to fit in with other people, people were fitting in with her. They were laughing for her and because of her.
With each successive hiccup she grew bolder.
The euphoria at her power grew from the butterflies in her stomach and rose like hot lava to erupt out of her mouth.
“Yes, I studied at Baldwin High school from 1996 to … –hic-… 2003”
The spray tanned woman with the puffy lips next to Linda suggested that she sing a song.
Linda started the singing ‘When I’m a Star’.
As she sung a hiccup interrupted her every twenty seconds, and then every forty seconds, until eventually it was only once a minute.
The laughter subsided and she stood there for a moment waiting for one last hiccup before she sat back down.
Her throat clinched as she attempted to force one last hiccup. It finally came out a pathetically quiet. She smiled and waited for the prompter to flash. It remained off.
David Meerket stood up and broke the silence.
“Thanks everyone we’ll be back after this short break.”
The lights dimmed and a quiet murmur took hold of the room as the audience members discussed what had happened.
Meerket came up to Linda and led her to a waiting room. He pointed to the minibar and winked, “That might help with the old…” he pointed to his throat and laughed.
She found some champagne and drank a glass. Linda looking at the bottom of the glass she realised she hadn’t hiccuped since she had left the stage. She poured another glass.
The hiccups were now only supported by Linda’s alcohol habit. She sipped from a miniature bottle of Tequila and belched. The laughs were stifled by the foul stench that erupted from her throat. She smudged her eyeliner brushing her fringe from her eyes.
“Linda can I ask you just one thing?”
“How did it come to this?”
“I’m… –hic- …fine.” She slurred
“We had such hope for you. Didn’t we?” He gestured to the audience.
The prompter flashed for him without hesitation.
“YEAH,” the audience said in a monotonous blur of voice.
Linda went blank she didn’t know what to do. She was sobering up.
One of the celebrities put her hand on Linda’s shoulder.
“We’re here for you love”
Linda shrugged her hand off.
“I don’t need any of you.”
Linda stumbled up from the couch in a rage.
“I don’t need ANY of you!!” She screamed at the audience.
Dave’s face went stern, “The media are going to absolutely crucify you if you don’t pick up your game”
A red flash illuminated the audience’s innumerable faces.
“Boo!” the audience droned as they were commanded.
“Stop, STOP!” she held her hands to her ears
The abysmal droning continued, Linda stumbled backwards.
Suddenly silence smothered the room as the red light turned off.
The quiet was broke by an abrupt hic-cup.
Linda looked up to the prompters, begging and praying to the studio executives for one last flash of that friendly yellow light.
The quiet came again, this time only interrupted by her quiet sobs. She slunk out of the studio to the exit sign.
The doors swung open and hundreds of reporters bustled around Linda their microphones prodding into her face. She tried to push pass them but more and more surrounded her blinding her with the bright flashes of their numerous cameras.
“Is it true you dropped a year in high school?”
They clung to her clothing which was ripped to shreds.
“How many months have you been pregnant? Or are you just a fat?”
Hordes of them piled in like Sharks at the smell of fresh blood, they gripped her carried her up the street.
Delirious she caught sight of her destination. A neon crucifix loomed in the distance, its bright colours contrasting against the night sky.
They propped her up against the cross, the hot luminescent glass burning her fair skin.
She screamed and was stabbed in the ribs with a sharpened boom mic before falling silent again.
“Why?” she wailed.
They had set up a press conference podium, microphones lined it.
Fox News, CNN, Sky, ABC, Seven and Nine were littered below the stand as she moaned in agony recording her final moments.
The wound in her stomach bled out as she slowly lost consciousness.
“What do you want to be remembered for Hiccup Woman?” A man shouted
Her body dropped and swung forward.
Linda’s lifeless eyes absorbed the camera flashes with no reaction.
As the ravenous reporters were herded away from the scene a voice echoed from the TV Station.
Coming up next
“Remembering Linda RIP 1984-2014”