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The Numbers

Susan Taitel has spent nearly a year now inside her home and is no longer sure if it's a duplicate or not. She thinks she is still in Minnesota. She might be located on the web at susantaitel.com. She is fairly certain that this is her second appearance in Daily Science Fiction. You may also be able to find her work in Galaxy's Edge Magazine, Cast of Wonders, and Cossmass Infinites among others.

The set looks exactly like her apartment. Down to the smallest detail. Except it's larger and the walls can be moved to make room for the camera crew. There is no angle they can't shoot from. The actress who will be playing her wife doesn't look much like Katherine, but she's got the same gap-toothed grin and has obviously studied her mannerisms.
The first run-through is full of mistakes and flubs and goes much later than scheduled. Afterward, she goes home to her real apartment. Katherine is still up, waiting to reheat the Chicken Tikka Masala she made hours earlier and to hear how it went. She recounts it for her, exaggerating the errors to the point of farce. They agree that to greenlight it would be absurd. Katherine goes to bed and she soon follows, relieved that the experiment has come to an end.
She gets the call the following afternoon. It tested well. The numbers are great. It's going straight to series.
Filming takes all her energy and more. Some nights she doesn't bother going home, though it's only a short walk. She sleeps on set. The mattress is better. Sometimes Copy Kat, as she's come to think of her wife's stand-in, sleeps next to her. Nothing happens, they're both exhausted.
She considers not renewing her contract for the next season, but the producers assure her that the numbers are strong. She can recharge during the hiatus. She drunkenly kisses Copy Kat at the second season wrap party. It's only a kiss, plus a little over-the-clothes fondling. She resolves to be content with what she has.
When she gets the scripts for the first half of the new season Copy Kat has been written off. The numbers were dropping, the producers want to go in a new direction. The character is killed offscreen. She tries to reach out to Copy--the actress--but her phone has been disconnected. The camera operators have been replaced with drones to cut costs.
The numbers are back up. The audience is responding well to her new love interest, though a vocal minority are threatening to stop watching unless ze loses weight.
She doesn't think Katherine has watched the latest episodes. She "uh-hms" when asked what she thought. They don't talk much anymore.
Her love interest has been spun off onto zir own show. An inspiring journey of self-discovery and weight loss. Zir numbers are great.
The cameras are so small and silent now that she can't tell if she is on set or at home. Her wife has left her. She thinks the numbers are still good. She will be fine. The producers will come up with a new direction. She misses Copy Kat. She is excited for the new direction.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, May 3rd, 2021

Author Comments

The spark of this idea came from a short gag in a cartoon, involving the characters filming a movie in an exact replica of their real home. The gag devolved into poop jokes but the idea stuck with me. It seemed like reality would get slippery.

- Susan Taitel
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