>SUBTRACTION

>The sound of the side door sliding was a rockfall in a silent night. A Greek chorus of rust and sombre bent metal. Theo stared at the invoice again, straining his eyes in the near-dawn. BEING FOR. This particular heading confused him. He knew the amount of money, he knew the date (one short trip to a newspaper pile outside a shut-up kiosk, plus one day), he knew who he wanted to pay him. But the BEING FOR, that was the tricky bit.

Theo tracked his toes through the sand-dirt, leant back into the vague heat of his van. He had undertaken many jobs in his time, ones that he could describe in a few simple sentences, but this one was almost inexplicable. Not totally inexplicable, because he had done it, and you had to be able to describe something in order to do it. One time, Theo had found himself in the locked-off radio truck of a prominent senator during election week, being fitted with wires and microphones. Once the moustache had been attached to his face, it was a simple matter of walking through the gates of the television studios, flashing some mocked-up ID, and striding confidently past all those blown-up portraits and down to studio three.

The best thing was, set designers were not ever really expected to look a certain way. Key grips, gaffers, lighting techs—that was another story entirely, but set designers, now they were truly unnoticeable creatures. That was the beauty of the plan. A basic knowledge of human psychology and average upper body strength was all that was needed to drag a certain senatorial candidate’s chair five feet to the right, thereby placing a certain senatorial candidate’s head directly in front of the roaring flames of his supposedly confidence-assuring open fireplace. Theo made sure that when television viewers saw a certain senatorial candidate’s very expensive election advertisement the next day—during its first showing in the first break of a particularly popular afternoon soap opera—they were presented with not a caring, conscientious alternative to the incumbent senatorial candidate, but rather a startlingly sweaty man who appeared to have flames leaping from his forehead.

That was oh so easy, thought Theo, compared to this. He wished so dearly to be able to scrub down his brain, the same way the he swabbed and scoured the inside of his van after it was down. It was not that he felt dirty: it was more than that. He felt inhabited, lived in, by someone and something else. He pressed his fingers into his eyes.

BEING FOR. Damn it all to hell.

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