The End is Where We Start From
"In case I don't see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!"
With those words, the most successful reality show in the history of television ended... but it was human nature to want to know what happened next. Truman Burbank may have stepped off the set that was his life in Seahaven, but all he ended up doing was stepping onto a larger world stage.
Since he was born, he'd been the unknowing focus of millions of people. They watched him grow up, and the public was possessive about him. While they had all cheered as he stepped into the dark hole past the perfect sky, their happiness was short-lived. Truman had been a fixture in their lives, and they couldn't say good-bye as easily as he had.
They refused to let him go.
It started with the media, all seeking to secure interviews with the former star of The Truman Show. They tracked him down to Sylvia's house, and confronted him with brilliant camera lights and blazing questions. For Truman, who had been living some of the craziest days of his life, it was disconcerting to say the least, but it wasn't the weirdest thing he'd seen. After having his entire life turned upside-down, he embraced his exploration of the "real world."
It was strange to live in a world without product placements, and where perfect strangers came up to him to discuss the intimate details of his life, like they were all old friends. They talked about his relationship with Meryl (some encouraged him to get back together with her, while many others said he's better off without that bitch), the "story arc" of his father's death and amazing return, and incidents he'd forgotten through the natural attrition of memory.
He might have been freaked out by their over familiarity, if he hadn't seen how happy others were to see him. He may have been betrayed by Marlon (something he still hadn't entirely reconciled himself with), but everyone else in the world seemed to consider him a friend.
Truman was a true innocent, but he also possessed a peculiar sort of fortune. Everyone on the street recognized him, and everyone tried to help him on his way. Truman didn't realize it, but he could have walked safely through the slums of any American city at two in the morning, and all the gangs would hold temporary cease-fires to make sure "their" Truman was okay.
Sylvia was a godsend, the one person he tentatively trusted. His whole life had been a lie, but he remembered how she had tried to tell him the truth. She offered him a place on her couch, no strings attached, and helped him learn to navigate his new world.
The first thing she encouraged him to do was get a lawyer. Truman, confused, agreed, and shortly thereafter secured the services of one of the finest lawyers in Florida, pro-bono. The lawyer, a fifty-something lady with graying hair, svelte suits and hard eyes, treated him like her own child. She'd been a fan of his for more than two decades.
There was a lot of work to do: getting a divorce from Meryl (although there was some question about the legality of the whole marriage, since the priest who performed the ceremony was an actor, and all of the "governmental" paperwork was phony), suing Christof and everyone involved with The Truman Show for civil rights abuse and possible felony crimes (unlawful imprisonment was just the start), and arranging a corporation to protect his "creative" rights to his life.
"You might as well get some benefit from what was done to you," the lawyer advised him. "You need to think of your future, too. I doubt there's any way you'll be able to secure a traditional job, not with your fame."
Truman wasn't sure if he mourned the loss of his anonymity or not. For his entire life, he had been as average as possible, doing his very best to live a good life and treat people well. Nowadays, he had all sorts of offers falling at his feet, but he didn't feel like he'd done anything to earn them.
Sylvia understood, the way she always did. "You have a lot of opportunities you've never considered before," she said to him three weeks after he'd left his little world, "but you also lost everything you knew. It's okay to be uncertain, Truman."
He hugged her, and she sank into his embrace. It was very different from hugging Meryl; he hadn't known it at the time, but Meryl had always had a slight stiffness in her carriage before she responded to his touch. Finding out that she'd been a hired actress made sense, but that still didn't take the sting away from the knowledge that she'd been paid extra every time they'd had sex.
Truman won an insanely huge settlement to avoid the civil trial (including back pay, copyright and residuals), but the criminal trial proceeded without his input. The documentation was all there on film, and the prosecuting attorney didn't ask for his testimony. Numerous people were brought before the federal courts for a variety of felony charges, including the woman he thought of as his mother, Meryl and Marlon. Christof was taken into custody and put into a low-security prison, before being sent to a mental institution days later.
The news media couldn't get enough of the scandal, broadcasting special reports and investigations all day, and Truman was unable to look away. It hurt to watch all the secrets behind his life laid bare before the court, but it was also cathartic. He found himself glued to Sylvia's small television set, watching the court coverage live.
But after the first week, Sylvia intervened. "It's okay to want to stay informed, but you can't decide your life by what's on the television. I think you should limit yourself to newspapers or only an hour of news a night. It's not healthy to wallow."
"This is my life, though!" he protested, wincing as he realized he'd raised his voice. He didn't want to offend Sylvia; he was terrified of losing her again, since she was his only anchor in this mad world.
"No, it's not," she said gently. "It was your life, but that's over. You need to move on."
He felt uncharacteristically angry about the situation he found himself in. "Why did they let this happen in the first place?" he asked. "Why me?"
"Some people might think it was a fated or lucky thing, but I don't know," Sylvia said, admitting she didn't have all the answers. "But it was you, and now you're the person who's going to have to deal with it."
It wasn't an answer Truman liked, but it was one he could accept. Sylvia had promised to never knowingly lie to him, and she was doing her best to keep her side of the bargain. And Truman was good-natured, almost painfully so. Dwelling on his anger would never get him anywhere, so he decided to reply optimistically.
"Maybe now would be a good time to visit New Orleans?" he suggested, rising to his feet and shaking off his somber mood. "Or we could see Fiji! Australia! Tokyo, with a quick stop in Hong Kong for dinner!"
"Or how about all of them?" Sylvia suggested.
He gave her the beaming grin that had made him famous, and she felt herself melt inside.
They went to all those places, and more. Cities kept extending invitations for Truman to visit, and he was offered VIP tours of every place he wanted to see. While getting behind-the-scenes access in the Louvre or a tour of the White House (guided by the First Lady herself) was a thrill, Truman enjoyed the little things more: the taste of a New York City hot dog, watching a sunset in Cancun, or listening to the children laugh in the hospital wards he visited as "guest celebrity."
The one place he avoided was Hollywood, since he already had enough of that type. To Truman, it was most important to meet "real people."
They traveled for over a year, and the lady-dragon of a lawyer Truman had hired won him an annulment from his marriage to Meryl. He was strangely saddened when he received the E-mail, finding himself staring at the words on the screen for several moments without blinking. His stomach felt tight and heavy, and he went to the nearest toilet to be sick.
Sylvia sat down beside him as he spewed out his guts, gently stroking his hair. "It's okay," she said soothingly. "I understand."
But Truman didn't, and he figured it was something he could puzzle out on his own. He couldn't rely on Sylvia to give him all the answers.
They were in Fiji when he had a dream. He couldn't remember much about it, except a feeling of compression in his chest that made it difficult to breathe, like he was struggling for oxygen while immersed in water over his head. There were people there, but they all had blank faces and voices that sounded like they'd been generated by computers.
They said things (I love you, we're so proud of you, the last thing I would ever do to you is lie to you) that should have been important, but came across as emotionless, like time and temperature on a telephone. He tried to reply, but his mouth wasn't his own, and all he could do was smile.
He woke up in a cold sweat, and suddenly the cause of his disquiet crystallized. Christof (and he still couldn't decide what to think of The Director, who'd been his unknowable God for thirty years), had said it best:
You were real.
And he had been.
Everything he felt, everything he'd done, had been real to him. The world of Seahaven had been his reality, and he was suffering from the loss. He'd loved Meryl and Marlon, his mother and father. He'd cared about his neighbors, and he'd believed in doing his job. The world he'd been in had been faked, but he had never been. He'd done his best to live a good, honest life, only to have everything he'd ever known withdrawn from him.
So he sat down and cried, letting the tears run unashamedly down his face as he curled up in the hotel bed, allowing himself to grieve for what had been done to him. He cried like a little baby, until his nose filled with snot and his eyes swelled painfully.
The next day, he asked Sylvia if she wanted to go to Las Vegas to get married.
She cried, too, but her tears were of happiness. "Are you sure you're ready?" she asked.
"I want us to be real," he answered, before capturing her lip for an ardent kiss.
The honeymoon was fabulous, although they rarely left the room. Sex with Sylvia was better than anything he'd experienced with Meryl; there was such a joy in touching someone who really loved him. And Sylvia seemed to get just as much pleasure touching him back.
But they did eventually have to leave their suite, and a week after their marriage they sat down to discuss the next step they'd take together.
"Traveling is wonderful, but it feels like I'm not part of the rest of the world," he said, gnawing his lip as he tried to express what was happening to him. "People want to see me, but they have a fixed image of who I should be."
"Who do you want to be?" Sylvia asked.
"Someone who can keep this from happening ever again to an innocent child."
It took him a couple of years (including two life-endangering encounters with the paparazzi, three stalkers, and one insane man who almost succeeded in kidnapping him in an attempt to force him "back into the box"), but he finally found his way. Sylvia supported him, as she always had in the past.
Truman Burbank accepted that he would never be able to escape the public's fascination with him. So he did what he did best, and endured with sunny-natured grace. When he turned thirty-five, he ran for the Florida 8th Congressional District Seat as an Independent. He won by a landslide; there were no secrets in his closet, and his opponent, although an incumbent, couldn't match his star power.
Fame was a duel-sided sword, he acknowledged in his acceptance speech, and he was determined to use his own fame to make the world – the real world he lived in, with his wife and two children – a better place.
(He doesn't know it yet, but in ten years he'll be the President of the United States, the most photographed man in the world. But although the cameras maintain their love-affair with him, he finally has the power to control his life.)