Day One. And as the theme tune builds to a crescendo we see a hatch in the ground open and a head pop up and look around in awe. Adam Newman has entered the garden! The audience applauds wildly as he climbs the steps and emerges, blinking, into the dazzling sunlight. Just a few more steps to go and… Omigod omigod omigod! He’s naked!
* * *
—This is Vera Qutra, bringing you exclusive access inside the control room of The Garden, the latest reality TV craze that has rocketed into the nation’s hearts. With me is the show’s creator, Primo Gordon-Downing. So, G-D, can you tell me what makes this show unique?
—Hi Vera, and thanks for asking. Well, The Garden turns the whole reality thing on its head. We’re used to seeing a contrived set full of housemates, who get booted out one by one as the show progresses.
—And indeed, G-D, the Big Brother format has been a huge global success. —Indeed it has, Vera. But we take the opposite approach: we start with a single contestant, no tasks, no technology allowed, just one man against the elements. We might give him a tool or two as things progress. And then, one by one, we’ll introduce the other Garden Guests.
—And, G-D, I couldn’t help noticing… he appears to be completely nude. Is this just a ratings-grabbing gimmick?
—Not at all, Vera. His nakedness, his defencelessness, these are essential to capture the sense of him as a solitary, vulnerable human being. He’s all alone in The Garden, with only his wits to sustain him.
—Thank you, G-D. This is Vera Qutra, Sky News, in The Garden.
* * *
Adam Newman sat on a smooth log in the shade of a leafy pear tree, the dappled sunlight dancing in his hair. He plucked a pear from the tree and bit into it, gazing thoughtfully into the middle distance. With the other hand he scratched his navel.
* * *
—He hasn’t found the spade, G-D.
—No, Angelica, that’s disappointing. Where did you put it?
—Right behind the rose bush, as we agreed. The trouble is, he just doesn’t seem very curious.
—How about the labels? Has he been filling in the labels?
—Only a few of them. He found the labels and the permanent marker, and he’s figured out the clips to attach them to the animoids. He’s given a couple of them names, and he’s been quite inventive: there’s now a horsikitty, a ratbird, and a spottiwoof.
—Spottiwoof, I like that.
—But I think he’s running short of ideas, G-D. Ratings are starting to plateau.
—Hmm. He was supposed to carry on solo for at least the first week. I think it’s time to send in the next Guest.
—Shall I get her ready?
—No, we won’t use the woman. That’s too obvious. Let’s see if we can make the Daily Mail scream.
* * *
Adam looked up eagerly as a shaft of light illuminated the hatch in the evening light. It started to open, and a dark head emerged. A head with a beard. Slowly, one step at a time, a naked figure climbed into the Garden.
‘Bonjour,’ he said. ‘My name is Yves.’
* * *
—This is Vera Qutra for Sky News, back in the control room of The Garden. Well, G-D, the second Guest seems to have split the nation. Some of the papers are fuming, not least the Daily Mail, who word has it had cleared the first three spreads for a photo special on the new Garden Guest. When they found it was a naked man—well, let’s say they weren’t very happy about it.
—Ha ha, Vera, well, we aren’t here to help the Daily Mail sell newspapers!
—Perhaps not, G-D. But how long do you think the viewers will put up with watching two naked men? I hear many pubs have already stopped showing the programme.
—Oh, your viewers can rest assured, Vera. We’ll have plenty of naked women joining The Garden in the days and weeks to come.
* * *
‘To tell the truth,’ Adam said, ‘it’s all been rather boring.’ He stood up, rearranged the animoid label he’d attached around his waist, and sat back on the log.
‘Mais oui,’ agreed Yves, ‘I can see you ’ave not found very much pour s’amuser dans le jardin. Zere is not much fun, hein? But perhaps togezer, we can make zis work. I ’ave made discoveries.’ He gestured to a spade and, surprisingly, a spinning wheel.
‘Look what I ’ave found,’ he said. ‘I will make us some proper pantalons, to replace zese inefficient labels.’
‘And what shall I do?’ said Adam, petulantly.
Yves shrugged. ‘You can dig.’
* * *
—That label thing wasn’t supposed to happen, G-D.
—No indeed. Inventive chap, our second Guest.
—We have to get rid of the rest of the labels before the women arrive. If they’re not naked the ratings will plummet.
—That spinning wheel will have to go.
—Absolutely, G-D. I can’t imagine why you put it there in the first place.
—It was well hidden, Angelica. They weren’t supposed to discover it until week six.
—Things don’t seem to be working out quite as you intended, G-D.
* * *
‘What are you doing?’ asked Adam, brushing aside the overhanging branch that concealed Yves in the shadows.
‘Playing a game of Snake,’ replied Yves.
‘On your phone?’ said Adam, incredulously. ‘You smuggled a phone in here?’
Yves shrugged, and held the phone out to Adam.
‘You want a go?’
* * *
—Shit, shit, shit.
—It’s a bugger, G-D.
—How the hell did he smuggle a smartphone in there?
—As you say, G-D, Yves is an inventive chap.
—Damn them both to hell. That’s ruined everything.
—Yes, G-D. They have access to the news media. They’ll know everything.
—We’ll have to kick them out and start again.
—Just one thing. I can’t quite make it out on my screen. What make of smartphone is it?