A man lies in his bedroom. The door is locked. Behind it lays his past life: unanswered phone messages, unopened post, a carton of milk with a worm in it. The world beyond the door is one he has left behind. It sits neglected and silent. Its worktops are dusty.
Windows. A memory long since shrouded by curtains. The land beyond them is all but forgotten now. He tries to remember leaves, he tries to remember asphalt, he attempts to picture a bus. All he can see is her.
The curtains are heavy and black. They weigh the room down, both trapping and protecting him. His eyes couldn’t handle the sunlight now, it has been too long. The breeze would peel his skin away, the air would break his lungs. She would never hurt him.
A Daewoo television/VCR player sits at the end of his bed. It is the room’s only light source. The colours and shapes of Channel 4 dance in his jaundiced eyes. The pallid white of the screen flickers across his sunken skin. An advert for shampoo is on. His eyes move down to the duvet, it is covered in hair. Hair that once grew on his head. Now no longer, his follicles clogged with grease and puss, it started falling out months ago. She has such nice hair.
A giant number four flashes across the screen. A woman with a non-specific regional accent announces it is eight thirty. She announces it is time for the man in the bed to be happy. It is time for him to forget the pain. To forget mortality. To forget himself. It is time for New Girl.
‘Zooey Deschanel bursts into a contrived domestic situation. She glides around a coffee table doing something spontaneous with one hand, and endearing with the other. A flatmate walks in with a baby he has found as the result of a hilarious misunderstanding. She throws a Molotov at his feet because she is quirky and does not know any better.’
The man watches from his bed. He is crying. His brain throbs sorely, his heart moans. Her eyes, so wide and blue, reflecting the sun and burning continents in their wake. Her voice, echoing with the whispered nothings of a thousand angel lovers. Her motions, soft but deliberate, doused with the grace of a million angels who are good at dancing. Her skin, like sheets of melted angel.
No man was meant to see perfection. No man, nor woman, nor child was meant to see Zooey Deschanel in an accessible situation.
Now she is all that can please him. All that gives him purpose. He has so much to teach her, if only she’d let him. He could buy her ice cream and she’d giggle and try to balance on a curb. She wouldn’t care about his hair. They’d be best friends.
The voice behind him is a man’s. It is not Zooey Deschanel’s voice. It is irrelevant.
‘She’s not real, James.’
James ignores the voice. On television Zooey is pointing whimsically at a bath filled with baby tigers.
A figure walks round the bed. He wears a rugged cowboy hat and a long leather jacket. His face has stubble. He stops beside the television. James doesn’t blink.
‘You think she’s perfect don’t you? You think she’d be your friend. She’s not like all those other nasty female celebrities. She wears pastel colours and jumps when she’s happy.’
The figure steps in front of the television. Zooey vanishes and so does the validity of life. James coughs tragically.
‘The other nasty female celebrities who use sex to sell their music, sex to sell their names.’
James nods, his spine creaking. Celebrity women are corrupt and evil. Only Zooey is true.
The figure shakes his head.
‘Zooey Deschanel is worse than all of them, James.’
James glares at the figure, eye-crust falling from his face as he tenses.
‘Zooey Deschanel may not use sex to sell her produce, James, but do you want to know what she does use?’
James tries to get out of the bed. He cannot hear this.
‘Do you want to know, James?’
James clutches at the bed sheets, fingers breaking.
‘Zooey Deschanel uses love.’
The unhappy bed-ridden man slumps back into the covers, panting hard, his rib-cage trembling.
‘She’s a lie, James. She uses the love of vulnerable and insane people like you to make money.’
James shakes his head half-heartedly, eyes closed, grimacing with pain.
‘It’s true, James, it’s true and you’ve known it all along.’
James’ mouth cracks open, dust rising from his withered tonsils. With a slow and painful moan he wheezes:
‘She… Zooey Deschanel is… everything… what else? what else do I have but… her…’
The figure stares at James, stony-faced.
‘I am about to show you something, James. But before I do you must promise to stay with me. No matter what happens. You must stay with me, James.’
James does not listen. He sighs, closes his eyes and waits for death.
‘I’m trying to save you, James! Look at me! I can still help you!’
James opens one eye tiredly. The figure nods supportively.
‘Okay. I want you to look at this, James, I want you to look at this and tell me what you see.’
The figure goes into his really cool leather jacket and takes out a piece of paper. He lifts it up to James. It is a picture.
James starts to shake.
‘Stay with me, James! What’s in the picture? Do you remember what this is?’
James closes his eyes and looks away. He is not ready for this.
‘James! James, look at the picture! James you need to look at the picture!!’
James groans, head turned away as far as his fraying neck tissue will allow.
‘James! Okay. Okay, James. You don’t have to look at the picture. Just look at me. Can you do that? Just look at me, look at my face, James.’
Slowly James peers hesitantly back to the figure. The figure smiles at him encouragingly. Then quickly he raises the picture in front of his face. James lets out a strangled gasp but cannot look away, caught in the headlights. His eyes widen as his brain struggles to process the shape in front of him. At first he thinks it is Zooey Deschanel, his brain unused to interpreting something other than her face. But then, slowly, emerging like a saturated tennis ball floating in a dark but relatively translucent pond, a word takes form in his mind. He hiccups.
The figure grins, he knows James has remembered.
‘That’s right, James! You’ve got it!’
James is transfixed to the image. It is a bus. He knows it’s a bus. And with the word come memories…
The figure shoves his hand back into his coat and pulls out a dozen more images, throwing them at James, shouting.
‘BUSES, JAMES!! REMEMBER THE BUSES!!!’
‘BUSES ARE FROM THE REAL WORLD, JAMES!!’
‘THEY ARE FILLED WITH REAL PEOPLE, WITH REAL JOBS AND DRIVE TO REAL PLACES!!!’
‘ZOOEY DESCHANEL HATES BUSES, JAMES! SHE WANTS TO KILL THEM!!!’
‘YOU REMEMBER THOUGH, JAMES, YOU REMEMBER BUSES! AND FOR AS LONG AS YOU DO THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE!’
‘YOU ARE FROM THE REAL WORLD, JAMES, A REAL WORLD WITH LEAVES AND ASPHALT AND BUSES! ZOOEY CAN NEVER BE PART OF THAT.’
James did remember, James remembered everything. Every bus ride he’d ever taken came flooding back. His life before Zooey Deschanel… he’d had fun before her, he’d been happy…
The figure throws the rest of the pictures down and rips open the dark black curtains. Sunlight explodes into the room, casting radiance into every corner. James inhales sharply as the rays hit him. He fears he will disintegrate instantly but, as he comes to the end of his inhale, slowly he finds himself… warm.
Continuing the frenzy, the figure runs to the Daewoo, still playing New Girl, picks it up and tosses it through the window. The glass shatters and the Daewoo plummets to the flower beds below.
James lays, staring in shock. The man in the cowboy hat stands panting for a moment. Then, brushing down his jacket and straightening his hat, he walks over to the broken window. He turns to James and says:
‘I called an ambulance before I came, they’re on their way. You’re going to be alright, James, everything is going to be alright.’
He turns back to the window and prepares to exit.
‘W-wait’, James coughs.
The figure turns back around.
‘What is it?’ he replies.
Slowly and carefully James sits himself up in the bed. Once settled, he looks at the figure, mystified, and asks:
‘Why… why did you help me?’
The figure looks at the floor, thinking. Almost unconsciously he lifts his hand up to the back of his neck, tracing the bullet scar left behind by his failed suicide.
‘Lets just say I used to be like you, James. I killed the love in me. Now I liberate others. Zooey Deschanel only wins if we let her, James. Just remember that.’
Then, with a wink and a nod, he leaps from the building, gliding on his really cool leather jacket off into the distance, back to his home, back to Channel 4 +1, back to New Girl. Soon he will be the only man who loves Zooey Deschanel. Soon he will be her only option for a viable partner. Soon, she shall be his.