10: Margaret Gaines

Margaret Gaines has a face like an appetizer plate at a very fancy restaurant: a lot of blank surface area with a couple of tiny, immaculate features in the center. Her skin is pale, her cheeks are flabby, and she has no chin to speak of. Her lips are so small she could french kiss a Ken doll, and her eyes are beady and black. Her petite ears are hidden under straight black hair that has never been cut for more than twenty dollars. In short, Margaret Gaines has a face made for radio.

It’s a joke she’s been told from an early age, and some part of it must have stuck with her, because radio is where she works now. She has perfect pitch. Better than perfect, actually, because she’s aware of not only the note but the emotional payload it carries as well. She could have been an opera singer. She could have forced tears into the eyes of audiences all over the world. But she isn’t. She’s the single most successful commercial voice actress of all time.

When Margaret Gaines shows up to an audition, the waiting room empties. Everyone knows by now that she will read the lines perfectly on the first try, with such flawless execution that auditioners have been known to run out of the studio and immediately purchase their own products. Every microscopic change of pitch is under Margaret’s conscious control. Every frequency in her voice resonates with a precisely calculated sector of the human mind. When her commercials air, sales explode. She has more money than she knows how to spend.

Of course, Margaret isn’t human. Not entirely. She’s biologically human, certainly, but something of the humanity has been trained out of her. The perfect pitch was hers from the beginning, but it was a psychology professor at her University who – at her request – devised the regimen of voice recordings and hypnotherapy that has made Margaret what she is. Every spare fold of Margaret’s brain is packed with high-quality recordings of pitch, emotion, emphasis. She keeps a day planner religiously because if she doesn’t, details of her life simply slip away. She can go through whole conversations only to realize afterward that she remembers the way the entire conversation sounded in minute detail, but cannot recall a word that was said. She can only go to sleep with the radio on.

Margaret doesn’t live much differently now than when she didn’t have money. She’s not famous, either – it’s in the companies’ best interests to keep it that way. She didn’t undergo two years of therapy with Dr. Pengrove to be rich or famous. She was frustrated with the imprecision of language, the way people can mean one thing and communicate another. But now, she’s starting to teach classes. It’s becoming an industry, the training. And more and more now, as Margaret falls asleep, she can listen to the radio and understand exactly what it wants her to know.

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