The events described in this story are fictional. The author makes no assertion about the lives or characters of the real people whose names and identities she has used in the writing of this story, and makes no money from it.

Waking Up

He was having a dream that he was swimming in some kind of orange lake, kind of gloopy and thick, like tomato soup. There didn't seem to be any problem with breathing, as far as he could tell, and he could see what he imagined was the sky up above, sort of lit up orange by the soupy stuff. It was so far away though, he couldn't see how he'd ever get up to it. He kept on swimming, he was swimming as hard as he could, but the light was getting further away, and he was sinking, why was he sinking…? Maybe it didn't matter. It was quite nice in the soup. Lovely and warm. But there was some kind of muffled noise, too, a kind of … drumming noise, rhythmical, coming at him through the orange liquid. It was like whale music…

Abruptly, he noticed that his eyelids appeared to be peeling themselves apart without his permission. He supposed he must be waking up. It was still dark though. Why was it still dark? Was it nighttime? If it was nighttime what was he doing waking up? You don't wake up at nighttime. You wake up in the morning. He managed to get his head to move far enough to catch a glimpse of the alarm clock. 4.00am. Why the hell was he waking up at 4.00am? He couldn't work it out. If he was awake at four o' clock in the morning, he should be at a party or something. And if he was waking up, then it should at least be light outside… His brain felt very confused. There seemed to be several random bits of information floating happily about in his head, and making absolutely no sense. Well, okay, that was fairly normal for him, but he usually managed to gather enough bits to knit together a reasonably convincing, if bizarre, approximation of reality. Kind of a … reality jumper, maybe… Reality scarf? Socks of reality? Anyway, just at the moment he felt that any kind of knitwear was probably beyond him. He had a vague memory of consuming unnecessarily vast amounts of alcohol at some point in the distant past, and supposed that might have something to do with the orange soup. Yeah, that was it -- someone spiked his soup.

He was just drifting back into the happy world of orange soup, when the whale music started up again. Except it wasn't whale music. It was Britney Spears. Suddenly he was really, absolutely and undeniably awake. And angry. Yeah, that was it, he was angry. Fucking angry. How dare people disturb his soup-swimming activities with bubble-gum chart music? In a sudden and terrible rage, he flung back the bed-covers and began to storm across the room to the window. He hadn't got very far, though, before he realised this was a journey he should have planned with more care. His head seemed to be going through some kind of shock syndrome at the sudden separation from the pillow, and his legs were telling him in no uncertain terms that they'd never been sure about the whole storming across the room project in the first place. Okay. He retreated to the bed in order to think the whole thing through properly. What was going on here? As far as he could remember, the salient points seemed to include vast amounts of alcohol, knitting, orange soup, some whales, being awake, and Britney Spears. Britney Spears seemed to be requesting that he hit her one more time, which bothered him, as he couldn't remember hitting her in the first place. Although, now he thought about it, it did seem quite a good idea. The noise seemed to be coming from somewhere outside the window, he mused… And there seemed to be some high-pitched screaming and giggling going on, too…

Ok, he was back on track, storming across the room. He knew where he was going, now. He was going to the window. Yeah, that was it, the window. But first he was going back to the bed again, because he'd remembered he wasn't wearing any clothes. If there was one thing fame had taught him, it was never to storm across to an un-curtained window without putting some clothes on first. Right, he really had this thing sorted now. He had clothes (well, close enough), he had a direction (window) and a purpose. What was that one again? Purpose… Hit Britney Spears… No. No, he didn't believe in violence. Didn't really solve anything… The annoying high-pitched noise kicked in again, piercing through his gentle meditations on pacifism and focussing his thoughts. Girls, he thought. Teenage girls. Next door. Party. Shouting. That was his purpose! Shouting. Really loud shouting.

He struggled a bit with the sash window (fucking Victorians) but he was on a mission now. There were girls out there, and they needing shouting at. The window shot upwards and the night air hit him like a mallet in the face. Suddenly, he noticed all sorts of things. There was a kind of almost-glow in the sky, which he supposed meant it wasn't going to be dark much longer. Also, there was a bird making a noise, which he was surprised he could hear, since it was having to compete with Craig David, who was keen to talk about the exciting week he'd been having. He also noticed that he had a terrible headache, and that the T-shirt he was wearing smelt disgustingly of beer and smoke. Oh, God, that was bad. He felt sick. He needed a fag…

A stifled choking noise from directly below reminded him abruptly of his mission. He felt something approaching alert now, and managed to direct his gaze fairly smartly toward the point from which the noise had come. He found himself staring at what he presumed was one of the things he'd come to shout at. He opened his mouth to begin, and stopped. Something was wrong here. Why was the teenage Britney-thing not next door, where it belonged? What was it doing on his balcony? Startled, the shout came out a few decibels higher than planned, and turned into a kind of yelp.

"What -- what -- what the fuck are you doing…?"

He'd really had enough now. He wanted to go back to sleep, swim with whales in soup, knit socks, whatever, he didn't care. He just didn't want to be dealing with Britney fans on his balcony. There were two of them, he noticed. They were making some kind of hysterical squealing noise.

"What the fuck-- Look, Jesus, it's not even a proper balcony. It's just for show, for fuck's sake, you're not supposed to go on it, you're not supposed to stand on it! Why do you think -- look, see this? It's a window, yes? If they'd meant you to go on the balcony, they'd have put a bloody door in, wouldn't they? Wouldn't they?"

He was aware that perhaps he was over-explaining the reasons for not going on the balcony.

"Do you know how fucking dangerous this is? Do you?"

One of the Britney things opened its mouth. "You're not … happy, are you?" It's speech was slightly slurred. The other thing collapsed in helpless giggles, leaning over the balcony rail in a way that caused visions of courtrooms to float before his eyes.

"No!" He was doing a good job with the shouting now. "No, I'm not fucking happy! Just -- what -- what the fuck do you think you're doing?"

The Britneys had gone very quiet. The shouting had obviously been a good plan. One of them was also turning a strange shade of green. The other suddenly burst into tears.

"We just … we were having a party, and … cos I live next door? … And we think you're really funny, yeah? And we were playing, you know, Truth or Dare? … and they dared us? … and Chloe, yeah? She like, really fancies you… So we had to climb over, and Chloe wants to know why you always wear that T-shirt with the star on, actually you're wearing it now, and -- cos she thinks you look really good with the makeup and everything? … and … and I'm really, really sorry … but I can't … I can't get back… I've got all your videos, you know, and … an' I'm scared of heights..."

Her voice had diminished to a pathetic whimper. Tears had smudged mascara down her face in a particularly unattractive way, and she had green stains from the mossy balcony rail on her skimpy dress. He felt his anger lessen slightly. He supposed getting back to his soup swimming was out of the question now, anyway.

"You should invest in some waterproof mascara, you know." He offered her something that was nearly a smile, and sighed. It was definitely lighter. He could see odd bits of Notting Hill start to detach themselves from the night. His eyes hurt. He could hear the aspirins calling to him…

"Okay, well, if you're not going back the way you came, you'd better come in."

The Britney thing looked up at him with big, tequila-glazed eyes. "What, through the window?"

"Well … yeah. Unless you can think of a better way."

She looked as though she might be about to get hysterical again. "Is that -- is that your bedroom?"

"Yeah. Look -- where the hell are your parents, anyway?"

She thought for a while. "Well, Mum's in Switzerland with Piers. Or Jason. I can't remember. Anyway, they've gone skiing. I dunno about Dad…. Mum's narrowed it down to South America. I think Chloe's gonna be sick…"

There was some more noise at that point, which reminded him strangely of an episode of ER he'd seen in some unimaginably distant past. He presumed it was Chloe being sick. Jesus… Oh well. At least she already had her head over the balcony rail. He waited for a bit, trying to think about nice things, but he couldn't think of any.

"You feeling okay now?" He was trying not to smile, but really, the whole situation was so fucking ridiculous… " Come on then. Yeah, through the window… Yeah, that's right, it is my bedroom, good observation there... Where I sleep. Yeah. When people aren't climbing onto my bloody balcony…"

"Can we see your makeup?"

"No, you fucking can't, it's nearly five o' clock in the bloody morning! Come on, down the stairs, that's right… Look, maybe it'd be easier if you took the shoes off completely. Okay, yeah, but don't leave them there, take them with you. No, I don't want them, they wouldn't fit. Just… see if you can carry them. Good. Well done… Okay, look, that's your house just there, see? Got a key? Oh. Well, there's people in there, right, and they can let you in? Okay. Go and have a nice cup of coffee or something. No, I'm not making you coffee, you can make your own. With a spoon in it, yeah… Look, just get some sleep. Okay… Yes, nice to have met you too. Try the door next time… Bye…"

He pulled the door shut with what he felt was a delicate slamming motion, and collapsed on the mat. Fuck. He was really sober now. And really hungover. Everything hurt. His lungs were complaining. They'd be asking to see the manager soon. He decided to have a quiet rest there on the doormat. Bit scratchy, but not uncomfortable, really. The soup and the whales were nothing but a distant memory now. He moved his head and swore as his sleep-tangled hair caught on a bristle in the mat. Perhaps he should go back to bed after all.

As he dragged himself to something approaching a standing position, he caught sight of himself in the hall mirror. Bloody hell! He looked awful! He hadn't remembered looking like that earlier. Shit… Maybe he should cut down on smoking. Or drinking. Maybe he should cut down on rescuing teenage girls from his balcony in the middle of the night. Morning. Whatever. He looked down at his T-shirt. Just to see what would happen, he gathered a fold in his hand, held it up to his face, and breathed in. Wow. That was really bad. Maybe the Britney girls were right. He supposed he did wear it a lot. He'd find a different one tomorrow.