Imperator for a Day
The first thing I remember is a guy leaning over me in a surgical mask whispering, “Don’t worry Madame, it’s all just a dream.” Of course this statement instantly sent me into a nightmare panic because I am not female, in fact I never have been since birth—and on top of that had no idea where I was. Not one clue. The shock of it all caused me to sit up bolt-upright, on the hospital gurney where I was lying in what looked like an operating room and smack my face directly into the doctor. The pain was real enough. The bed felt real enough. The doctor’s face was fleshy and moist and real enough. He yelped in pain, feeling the magic, too.
Yeah. This was not a dream.
It looked a lot like they were about to operate on me in this place, wherever it was. I was peeved and was not polite about hiding it, “What the fuck, guy?” I said looking around. Yeah, this was an operating room; shiny green tile walls, institutional white ceiling and floor, metallic table with sharp instruments, adjustable medi-steel bed with all the plastic-tube trimmings, and of course myself—clad as I was in a surgical gown, my bare naked ass nestled with care on disposable foam-plastic linens. I was comfortable, in fact too damn comfortable for comfort because obviously that warm fuzziness, that quintessence of calm inside me, was not serenity, not fulfilment due to a happy sex life, and definitely not yuletide joy—no, it was a sedative, a powerful one designed to keep me fast asleep as they gutted me like a fish.
Whatever goofballs these jokers had dosed me with were wearing off. The doctor had not reacted at all to my question and just stood there stupefied—looking at me like he needed a firmware upgrade. Still clumsy, I reached a hand over, grabbed the front of his scrubs like an apex predator, and dragged his surgical mask face right up to mine, and screamed: “What the actual FUCK, guy? Who are you, where are we, and what are you doing? Answer now.” I got right down to the nitty-gritty, just like that.
I heard him mumble and sputter but it wasn’t mumbling at all, but some weird language: “Nygh ghrm phra anyi’mywen alhg’lip pa quanda f’taghn!” and then over it a second, softer, calmer voice interposed itself: “It is always asleep, pardon, she is usually sleeping becalmed, please repose!” and without a second thought I ripped off his surgical mask and figured it out. Right there, on the inside of the mast was a little Noiserock™ speaker and a Google™ amplifier—without a doubt he was one of those new-fangled GoogleDocs, half-trained med-techs from Central Asia or rural Indonesia that performed medical procedures, lived, worked, and played all using live translation apps. They worked for free and were entirely advertising supported.
I rolled my eyes. “Fuck this,” I said getting out of the surgical bed, unlatching heart monitors, doodads, and beeping buzzing things from my naked body. As I got up a nurse entered, a non-nonsense big burly woman wielding a tray of disposable syringes. The doctor, meanwhile, was scrambling around on the ground for the translating surgical mask that I had kicked across the room and under a cabinet at the far end of the operating room.
She looked at me with the authority of a middle school teacher: “Is there a problem?”
“Yeah.” I responded, “can I leave this dump?”
Before the nurse could respond, the doctor chimed in. It seemed he had chased down his mask rather quickly and put it back on his face. Maybe he had practice. “Certainly, you bête noire! Beat it!” The nurse set down her tray on a cabinet near the door. “Cover up your ass bro.” she said with a sigh as she let me through the door. “Your clothes are in the silver locker in the green room. And if you change your mind, go somewhere else. Frankly, I’ve had enough.”
“Well I have no future plans to return,” I replied and she slammed the OR door in my face. Is this customer service, I thought? My head was already putting together the pieces of just how I got here and what the hell was expected of me. I think it started with a show? A game show?
The green room was hard to find, but my clothes were not. They had thrown down my shit in a corner—not even inside a locker. The fancy lockers were left reserved for paying customers at the clinic, medical tourists they called them, people who came in for age-reverses, gender transformations, race-switches, or more exotic surgeries like having their faces turned into the likenesses of unicorns, gorillas, or famous stars. Procedures were god-awful expensive, from everything I’ve ever heard about the subject.
It wasn’t even 10 minutes after throwing on my clothes and exiting the clinic that my cell phone began to toot and send me the gentle electrical shocks associated with a premium™ cell phone call, causing me to consider if I had potentially fucked up badly in some manner.
Wait. I thought. Did I sign something? It was still hazy in my mind, the drugs were still floating around somewhere inside me, making my memories into multiple choice tests and myself a student completely ignorant of the answers. There had been a game show, sure as shit, at least that I knew.
I answered the phone.
“Jackie!” said the voice with false jollity, “Jackie Perez, right? We need your help. We need you to go back to Doctor TheFacePlace.com’s office. I mean, you have to, you’re our winner.”
“Huh?” and then I asked for an explanation, politely. He said it wasn’t unusual to forget. I won a game show Imperator for a Day. Everyone here, reading this on the form, will know what show I am talking about. It is the usual stuff: You audition, you work out, you get abs and learn the capitals of Europe and brush up on your Brazilian Portuguese, you fly down to Rio, and you do the quizzes and the dares—and if you are lucky the viewers acclaim you Imperator for a Day. They sing FELIX IMPERATOR and DOMINVS ET DIEUS NATUS and throw a big orgy filled with product placement and a cash prize along with one government policy you put on your civic wishlist way back when you first auditioned.
Now it came back to me. Yeah. I thought. Wow. I won. The quantum superposition question. The hoola-hoop contest. The sniper-rifle disaster relief race.
Then the man on the telephone, João Doente, explained the catch: after we filmed the contest, the singing, the dancing and then the win—including the throwing of the donative gold coins to the Praetorians, and the ritual filatio—all of it, the producers decided, down in their heart of hears, they were not happy. They had seen the raw footage. They had meditated on the daily rough cuts, and resolved it was just not good enough. Sure, maybe it would fly in the Latin market but definitely not in Eastern Europe and definitely not in the Lunar Colonies. No way.
So they needed more. First of all, they wanted raw bareback sex, lots of it, and the needed Jackie Perez to embrace his feminine side. They needed an Imperatrix not an Imperator to get those viewer eyeballs really wet and greasy, really drooling and ready for the new season, and for this reason they invoked an obscure part of the Imperator for a Day contract: all contestants will make themselves available for free cosmetic surgery, so far as they show demands and under the penalty of non-participation in the show, should they choose to otherwise.
“Look,” said João, after all the pleading was said and done, “the produces have shareholders to think about.”
“No way in hell am I getting a sex-change and reshooting the episode,” I replied.
“It’s just a reshoot,” he continued to plead, “You won. You already won. Square and fair.”
“Yah,” I interrupted him, “I burned off my eyebrows in that flamethrower unicycle challenge. I’m not doing it again, and much less am I doing it while recovering from a sex-change, it’s a non-starter.”
“You’re unreasonable.” João soured. “Look, we’ll change you right back after the show is done.”
A little pissed, I told him to do the surgery to himself it he was so hot to find a star, and then to and fuck himself right in his brand-new pussy afterwards. He hung up before I did.
I thought that was the end of my experience, but six months later sitting in the community room of the Dr. Diet Cocaine rehab centre where I was chilling out in Santiago, Chile I switched on the wall screen only to see that fucking asshole, that nobody unit producer João Doente was fully transitioned into a woman and passing out solid gold Roman coins to Praetorian guards as if she had won the right to be Imperator for a Day and not me. Turns out the producers decided reshooting was too much of a hassle, tapped João to do the surgery, and then simply edited all the footage to make it appear as if she had won all those challenges—and not yours truly.
To say the least, I was beside myself with fury. The achievement was mine, and they had stolen that from me, not even allowing me to keep any prize money or public recognition simply because I wasn’t willing to film the whole thing all over again as a woman.
I hope all you readers out there on the forums understand my frustration.
I know my story is not a unique one—a lot of potential contestants get lured into game shows thinking they can just win and that is it, but the producers often come back to the winners and ask them to do it all over again as the other gender, as double amputees, or even a talking dog in one case, but personally I am drawing the line here, I think enough is enough and I believe the public should be made aware.
In the future, I urge each and every freelance actor or athlete to carefully revise the content of his contract with a licensed entertainment lawyer and an accountant, and no matter what you do—never get taken in by those big bright shining showbiz lights.
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