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"Jarod!" Miss Parker yelled at the top of her lungs. She drew her gun, but as usual the Pretender continued to flee, despite her threat.
Frustrated, she lowered her gun and gave chase. He ducked around a brick building and she followed in hot pursuit. She felt herself gaining ground. Perhaps this time she would catch him!
Her pace slowed as she found herself in a dark alley. The wind blew full into her face. She put her hand up to protect her eyes from the debri that came with it and peered down the narrow alleyway. At the end, she spied something. A hole in the brick wall. An entrance to a tunnel.
There was no other way Jarod could have gone. She ran to the mouth of the tunnel and then plunged into the darkness. At first, she could see nothing. Then, she spied it, a light at the end of tunnel.
She walked towards it and squinted as she exited, again finding herself in the bright daylight. Surprisingly enough the wind seemed to have totally abated.
Miss Parker looked around. She felt slightly disconcerted as she noted that the scenery around her looked identical to the scene she had just left before she had entered the tunnel. The alleyway she stood in, might as well have been the same one she had left.
"Coincidence," Miss Parker shrugged and ran out of the alleyway, quickly concealing her firearm in the realization she had entered a street full of people.
Where could they have all come from, she thought. On the other side of the tunnel most of the streets had been deserted.
But most surprising of all, she saw a man standing at the end of the sidewalk, surrounded by a small crowd.
"Jarod!" she cried. He turned and looked at her, then smiled unconcernedly and went back to a conversation he was having.
Some of the crowd, broke away from Jarod and came towards her.
"Oh, it's so good to meet you!" one person said.
"Wow!" another cried.
Miss Parker was getting edgy. She took a few steps back and kept an eye on Jarod.
A third person held out a pen towards her and asked, "Would you sign this please?"
"What?" Miss Parker barked. "Excuse me," she said, pushing her way through the crowd, headed towards Jarod.
"She sounds just like that, doesn't she?" a girl said.
"Yeah," another agreed.
The boy who had asked for the autograph grumbled, "She didn't have to be so rude about it."
"That's Miss Parker," the girl shrugged.
By this time, Miss Parker had finally managed to reach those who were grouped around Jarod. He was smiling at them, answering questions, and chewing bubble gum.
Miss Parker cleared her throat. He looked at her again and greeted her, "Hi, nice of you to join me. Well, what do you think?" She gave him a killer look. "Enough games. What's this? Some sort of setup?"
An interruption occurred as someone shoved a microphone in front of her face. "Excuse me, quick question. I'm from EN, Entertaiment News. How does it feel to be Miss Parker?"
The reporter would undoubtedly have gotten a reply that would have blown her away, but before Miss Parker exploded, Jarod intervened.
"Alright folks. That's enough for today." As cries of "Aw!" went up from the crowd went into the air, Jarod added, "Don't worry about it! See you tomorrow."
The streets began to clear as the crowds broke and people went on with their busy lives. Jarod waved to them as they were leaving.
Miss Parker stared at Jarod. "I don't even want to ask," she said.
"What?" asked Jarod. "You mean you're not enjoying this?"
"What IS this?"
"It's a place I discovered," Jarod said in the tone of disclosing secret information. He removed his gum and began to eat a few salted peanuts. "It's called," he whispered. "Reality!"
"That's it!" Miss Parker snapped. She pulled out her headset. "Sweeper Team, move in on my position and grab this lunatic."
"It won't work," Jarod said, between mouthfuls of peanuts.
Miss Parker pulled out her gun. "Well, this will!"
"No, it won't," Jarod smirked at her. "It's a prop. Want a peanut? They're very good."
Miss Parker looked at the 9mm in her hands in consternation. Amazement overtook as she realized it was a fake gun. "What in the world!"
"The sweepers, they don't exist here. As matter of fact, neither do you or I."
"As soon as we get you back to the Centre, you're going to have a long session with Sydney," Miss Parker said, clutching her head and trying to forestall an oncoming headache. She wasn't going to even try to figure out how he had switched guns on her.
"Excuse me," a photographer interrupted. "Would you two group in?" Almost mechanically, Jarod and Miss Parker moved closer together, following his directions.
"Alright, smile big!" FLASH! The light blinded them for a moment. "Thank you very much, Mr. Weiss." The snapshot taker walked away.
"That's just my point," Jarod said, as if the interruption had never occurred. "There is no Centre here." Suddenly, with his stealth-like agility, he disappeared from her side. A few moments later, she heard a voice overhead. It was saying,
"You have entered a world of light and shadows, where all that you once knew has become something else and who you appear to be is not what you really are."
Miss Parker looked in all directions, trying to orientate herself. She was tired of all of Jarod's games...."Don't be ridiculuous, Jarod!" Things just didn't seem to be making any sense. "Weiss?" she repeated. "Who are you pretending to be today?"
Jarod hopped down from his platform and came up beside her. He grinned widely. "Another good point. I'm not pretending."
"Apparently we're famous here. The people think my name is Michael T. Weiss. Kind of catchy, isn't it? And I'm a TV star. To borrow an expression, Way cool!" Miss Parker was literally speechless. She shook her head and waved her fake gun around, finally finding her tongue and repeating the name,
"Michael? If we're both here and the Centre doesn't exist and your name's Michael then who am I?" she asked, deciding to humor this whimsical fancy of his.
She pointed at him and snapped her fingers. "There. There I got you. I figured out your game, Jarod. Why in the world would someone named Andrea Parker play someone named Miss Parker? Now what's this really about?"
"Well, obvious," Jarod replied, finishing his peanuts and pulling out his Pez canister. "How could she refuse the role? Her name was written all over the script!"
Jarod looked down. "Miss Parker? Miss Parker?" He helped the fainting victim to her feet. He carried her back through the windy tunnel and lay her carefully on the sidewalk.
"There he goes!" Sam the Sweeper cried from the street corner.
Jarod quickly ran away, shaking his head as he did so. Who would have guessed REALITY would be such a shock to her?