‘I feel so stupid,’ said one, ‘He really convinced me he was full of it. How could I allow myself to be taken in like this?’ The man’s realism started from an early age, when a childhood trauma left him unable to make up stupid stuff to impress people. ‘Something about this awful event must have triggered a reaction in his psyche,’ said an expert, ‘it’s as if the scales had fallen from his eyes and he was able to see the world as it really is.’
Unable to describe any event in anything except plain terms, his measured tones and lack of hysteria soon convinced people he was a policeman, or doctor or nurse. Some even thought he might be a soldier who had seen more of life than most humans will ever be able to cope with. ‘He had that air of someone who thinks that nothing really matters,’ said one former admirer, ‘with this 100 yard stare and lack of interest in soap operas and celebrities, I imagined he must have come back from a particularly grim tour of Afghanistan.’
The man found his realism to be addictive. Pretty soon it had taken over his life. Friends noticed a change in him. ‘He wasn’t interested in supermarket BOGOF deals and saw straight through them. And he didn’t have time for reality TV shows,’ said another. ‘That convinced me that maybe he worked in marketing or the media, and had an inside view of the ruthless cynicism behind most forms of audience manipulation.’
But the man’s tissue of deceit was slowly unravelling. People began to compare notes and found he’d led them into an impossible set of mismatched assumptions. The psychological projections couldn’t all be true, they simply didn’t add up. When an angry torch bearing mob threatened him, during the ad break for Emmerdale, he disappeared.
‘If I could get my hands on him, I’d bloody throttle him,’ said one victim, ‘I don’t mind telling you, I’d do time. I’d easily survive in prison, because I was in the SAS with Andy McNab. I’m not allowed to say this, but I was at the siege of the Iranian Embassy.’