The Ventriloquist (Part One)
"So tell us about yourself."
"I uh... like to write and umm..."
"Let me help you out. So, what kind of food do you like?"
"Any significant other?"
"...looks like we're running out of things to talk about."
Quatre wrung his hands together. Although he was on the phone, the stress of having to deal with a radio talk show was something he wasn't used to. Try as he might, he couldn't stop the strange feeling at the pit of his stomach that triggered his lack of response. There was just something about being on air, heard by millions of listeners that had him in a knot. Never mind that he was making a complete fool of himself. He just wasn't used to it and he doubted that he would get used to it in the next few minutes he was to talk to the host of the said radio show.
He had to remind himself that the reason he was there was to promote his newest book, a surprising hit among readers of all ages. If he'd known popularity would be that difficult, he wouldn't have published the book in the first place. Now he was a nervous, stuttering wreck trying to get through the next ten minutes of his life. He wondered just what he should say to win his audience back.
Quatre let out a nervous chuckle and hoped that the host might give him a break, maybe talk instead about something he was familiar with or at least something he was comfortable with.
"I'm sure the audience would love to hear the rest of this young lady's voice. Now then, don't be shy. A genius such as yourself should be proud of your work."
Quatre swallowed the lump in his throat. Did the host just refer to him as a woman? Sure, his name was of neutral gender but then he did sound like a man, didn't he? He thought it best to clear up the misunderstanding before he'd have to deal with the rest of his career as a woman.
"Umm, I'm a he."
There was a bit of silence before the host finally regained his composure. Such a mistake was not good for the ratings after all.
"I was just kidding," the man on the other end of the line said and then chuckled. "I was just hoping to get a reaction from you. So now that we all know you're still on the line, why don't you tell us more about the author of this bestseller?"
He was locked in place again. Why was he making the encounter more complicated than he should? He was only making things more difficult for himself and the host.
"Have any pets?"
Quatre covered the receiver before letting out a long breath. Now that was a topic he was familiar with.
"Yes," he answered.
"Bingo!" was the exclamation from the other end of the line. "So tell me Quatre, how many cats do you have?"
Quatre's eyes narrowed in confusion. Why ever would someone think that he was a cat person? Perhaps it was the way he wrote? He thought it best to clear the matter up again lest his dear pet get jealous.
"I don't have any cats," he said. "I just have a dog."
"Ooh, interesting. Is it a Chihuahua by any chance?"
"So you're making me guess, huh? How about a Yorkshire Terrier?"
"A Shih Tzu?"
Quatre's unease was slowly turning into annoyance. Did he sound at all like he was into tiny dogs? Did he write like such a pansy that he not only sounded like a woman but also sounded like a woman with twelve cats or possibly a man with a small dog? If that was what the readers suspected then he was not going to stand for it. Besides, his pal would be outraged if he found out that he was being taken for a Chihuahua.
"Time's up," Quatre said, hoping that he sounded like he was enjoying the little game. "He's an Old English Sheepdog."
"Oh, I didn't take you for a big, shaggy dog lover. Who would've known you'd go for the dumb ones?"
Quatre sighed and then groaned but not before putting his hand over the receiver. It was going to be a long night. His pal suddenly barked a loud one, probably protesting the comment.
"Shows you just how much he knows," Quatre muttered before uncovering his hold on the phone and letting out another chuckle, one that tricked people into thinking that he was enjoying the talk. He just had to hold on for another few minutes before his time was up. He just hoped that he didn't end up lecturing the man on just how intelligent his dog was.
"You need the break."
"Then why won't you accept?"
"Because I like where I live right now."
"Like I said Quat, you're going to love this new place. It's close to nature and far away from humanity. Noam's going to love it there."
"I highly doubt that," Quatre answered, ignoring the obvious whoops of excitement coming from his companion. Let it not be said that he was giving in to his dog's requests without a fight.
"Look, after that first bestseller of yours, we're going to need something new. You just can't leave the rest of the population wondering what happened to you. You need a new book, a new romance, something to spark more life into your blossoming career."
"Yeah, yeah," Quatre said. "After making a fool of myself on live broadcast I'm sure they're excited about what I'm going to cook up next."
"I was being sarcastic."
Quatre had to massage his temple. Was he ready to make such a drastic change in his life? Could he not work just as peacefully in his current living situation?"
All of a sudden, a loud car crash resounded from outside his window. What followed was a heated argument followed by blaring loud sirens that went on and on until his impending headache was blown into tremendous proportions. So maybe he needed to be somewhere quiet. Couldn't he just uproot his current apartment and transfer it elsewhere, preferably somewhere where the population was more than 1500?
"Here's the address. Get ready with your things because the movers are going to be here tomorrow morning at 11am sharp. Oh, and give Noam a doggie treat on me. I'm sure he hated that Chihuahua comment."
"Fine," Quatre said in defeat. It had been planned all along and he knew he was going to move to his new place whether he liked it or not. The only redeeming value to it was that his house had already been paid for, furniture and all. All he had to do was live in it and write.
"And you look like you need food. Eat up or else you'll look like a pansy. Order take-out or delivery. It's on me."
Quatre groaned again and watched as his manager left for the door. So, they thought he was a little too soft? Was there a problem with that?
He sat back on his couch and thought of the more important reason why he didn't want to leave in the first place. If they expected him to live in the middle of the woods then he would be moved further away from human contact. He had very little friends as it was. Well, he had no friends except for Noam who was a constant companion. If he were to move away from the city then he'd really be the loner he was beginning to blame himself of becoming.
"Noam," he said as he wove his fingers through the thick coat of his dog. "I hope you're happy. I can't believe you'd betray me just like that. Don't come running to me when you find out all the friends you're going to meet are the raccoons eating through the house."
His pal let out a pathetic cry as he chuckled and started to throw random objects into the box located on the far corner of his living room. If he was going to suffer isolation then he might as well suffer with his only friend. They were going to be a pair of loners.
For some reason, he started wondering what it would be like to be a woman with twelve cats and an extensive writing career. He had to laugh at the thought. Perhaps the life of that woman would be more interesting than his after all.
He couldn't do anything but stare at the large living area he was supposed to live in. He thought that maybe it wasn't such a bad idea to move after all. He loved open spaces and his new home would most certainly offer him the luxury that his old, cramped apartment couldn't. The only flaw he'd seen so far was the way the place looked from a certain angle. To say it was creepy was being modest. Sure, it was one elegant structure in the middle of nowhere but there was that certain chill that went through him as he looked around.
He looked down at his pal to confirm his suspicions. Apparently, Noam had the same thoughts going through his head as they walked around. The wag to his tail was a bit forced and his ears kept perking up at the slightest sounds.
"Don't look at me. This was your idea," Quatre said, making a stop for an old door. He turned the knob and peeked in cautiously before turning the lights on and stepping in. "Wow! This is one beautiful room," he said before making a jump for the large four post bed in the middle of his newest claimed bedroom.
The look of relief on Quatre's face seemed to put his dog at ease as the four legged giant jumped into the bed and landed right on Quatre's exposed stomach. A loud yelp of surprise reverberated throughout the almost empty room.
"Noam!" Quatre reprimanded. "Don't do that. I'm going to end up throwing up what I had for lunch."
The large head of his dog drooped down before licking his face in apology. Quatre accepted it, laughing as his face was tickled mercilessly by the gigantic tongue.
It was a little after his laughing session that he noticed a strange doll located on top of the drawer in the corner of the room. Although it looked harmless, it looked as if it was mocking him. He thought then that his paranoia was beginning to get the better of him. So he had to deal with a creepy house. It wasn't a big surprise that he'd have to deal with the rest of the creepy items inside it as well.
He looked cautiously at the doll, came closer toward it before blowing the dust that was on its face. He sneezed and all of a sudden, the mouth of the doll dropped down the wooden drawer with a loud clatter. He was so terrified that he ran into the bed and under the covers only to discover that the sheets smelled like they'd been kept in an attic for the past decade. He pushed the sheets aside and hid instead behind his all purpose giant guardian.
Noam didn't look like he minded the doll's presence at all. Leaving Quatre to cower back in the bed, he moved up to the now disassembled doll and sniffed. Quatre merely watched in anticipation. He felt like he was waiting for something, but he didn't know what.
After a few moments of waiting, he chuckled to himself for his lack of courage and called Noam to join him to bring the rest of their belongings into their new home. He wasn't prepared for what happened next. Too suddenly, his buddy's face, fur and all faced him with his mouth opened.
"What's wrong? Scared of the little dummy?" came the deep voice from the dog's mouth.
Quatre screamed to the top of his lungs until he couldn't breathe anymore. When he did stop, he screamed again and looked in horror at his now talking pal who he noted, was not supposed to carry on an intelligent conversation with him. All thoughts of proving that he wasn't such a frail individual left his mind as he passed out in the middle of his four post bed.