The Greek, Her, and I

14970910_10154870125126807_815849961_oWriters note: This is a fictional story, any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.  

I powder my nose, and check my eye makeup. Three days straight I have been smoking cones, and laying about my apartment. Masturbating once, or twice a day. Sending dirty nudes, and sexually charged photos of myself, in next to no clothes to boys on tinder. I enjoy messing with them. I get a kick out of how quickly they pronounce their love, and devotion for me – while simultaneously, sending me a picture of their throbbing dicks. On most occasions, I will delete them, almost instantaneously; but, every so often, If I receive one with a certain aesthetic, I will take a moment to admire it. Sometimes, if they catch my attention. Perhaps, a nice banana shaped one, or even one shaped like a slippery slide, I will draw up a sketch of it, and send it back to them. The reaction is usually sexually charged, and filled with misogynistic explicit desires of theirs:

I wanna bend you over, and fuck you like a dog. I wanna choke you till you cum. I can’t wait to make you drown in my cum. Ur cunt would look so good with my fist up inside.

So, on, and so forth. Although, occasionally, I attract a clicked-on victim, and they realise that I may be inclined, to upload my sketch to some online medium; at this point I am subjected to their anxiety attacks. The sexually charged threats dissipate, and they resort to threats of nonsexual violence. When this situation arises, I proceed to direct them to the URL, of my tumblr, where I keep the collection of dick-sketches I have illustrated over the last twelve months. Only once has their threats led to a dangerous situation. It was rather unfortunate. This small-dick, roided-up, monolithic bogan, just happened to run into me, one evening in the valley. It was a pretty scary situation. Fortunately, the security guard was nearby, and recognised his roid-rage behaviour; as he verbally abused me, spittle hitting me in the face, making threats to drag me out to the gutter, where he would proceed to stomp my head. The security guard – who was significantly larger in mass, and athleticism – grabbed the dick-weed by the ear, and dragged him down the steps. I thanked the gentlemen ever so graciously, and for once in my life, I was treated like a human being. He shared with me his story of how his sister was glassed by an ape, just like my aggressor, in a club two years ago; and how that incident brought him to this career.

That situation, however daunting, did not inhibit me from continuing with my hobby. I mean sure, you could say there was solicitation; but, my hobby of sending risqué photos, only began after a year, and a half of completely unsolicited nude pictures, from complete strangers. And, I only begun when the action slowed down, and I was in dire need for new material for my art collection. You could say, it became somewhat of an addiction. Nevertheless, this behaviour ought to stop for a while, as I have finally landed myself a full-time position.

I have spent the last eight months, in the most painful state of underemployment. Only being offered ten, to fifteen hours a week. Still working shitty jobs in hospitality, and customer service, despite my BA, with a major in fine arts. I am sure my parents would have been thrilled, had I returned, and completed some sort of graduate degree. Perhaps, in business, or psychology – not doubt with a hidden agenda, hoping that I could figure myself out, and quit with all the drug abuse, and “obscene promiscuous behaviour” – yet, the prospect of incurring any more debt seems entirely unappealing at this point. I’d sooner walk off the edge of the story bridge – had they not have put those damn fences up – then return to the nightmare that was university. Four years, of wasted youth, and a whole lot of blowies, with very few occasions where I was granted reciprocation for my efforts. So now, I begin my new journey, at a local Brisbane convenience store.

The convenience store has been open for around twelve months. It is quite chic, presenting its self as a European throwback. The gentlemen running the store, was a larger than life – physically too, might I add – Greek-Australian, in his mid-thirties named, Nick. He seems to be an endearing fellow. The concept of the store came about when he, and his partner, Anthony, embarked on a road trip around Europe. They happened to come across all sorts of nifty little convenience stores, that inspired them to open their own. The store is presented, as if you were whisked back to 1920’s France, with a whole section of the store designated to décor, and giftshop items. Pillows, mirrors, clocks, candles, almost anything you could think of – and, all with a considerably questionable price-tag. Although, it seems to be done in good taste, and from my brief work trial last week, the customers eat it up. Sometimes spending hundreds of dollars, as they call in to buy some milk.

I was hired, as Anthony, who used to work in the store with Nick, and their only other staff member Mandy, has decided to endeavour on his own side business project. Nick, seemed quite pleased about this, although, they had been working without Anthony’s assistance for a month now, and their relationship is having stramineous issues; no doubt due to their heavy work schedules. They both work seven days a week, and the only time they spend together, is when they eat dinner, and head to bed. I am however, grateful, that Anthony’s departure has enabled me to obtain full-time work, and it appears as if this is a dream position.

2.
The store is generally quiet, Mandy, Nick, and I, spend our days talking shit, and restocking the shelves, and cleaning. Nick, doesn’t do much, despite his assertion of being an extremely hard worker. He seems to have a lot of self-confidence, and a very much bravado alpha male personality. His physical mass presents that of a soft character however, and not the “sabretooth tiger”, that he suggested for his spirit animal. I happily went with a monkey, and Mandy no doubt a cat – if only for her physical resemblance – although, she contested my depiction of myself as a monkey, and presented the notion, that I would more likely be a Fox. Nick, reinforced the monkey position, but, instead, injected that I was more like a baboon who threw shit at people. I wasn’t exactly sure what brought him to this conclusion. We have found ourselves in heavily heated discussions, usually when he is blurting out racist nonsense, and declaring his devotion to Trump. For a Gay man, whose parents immigrated from Europe, and who appears to be overly concerned about the environment, and sustainability, he certainly has a funny way of showing it.

Often, I find his verbally presented views, heavily contradict his actions. He has been trying to convince me to watch a documentary on sustainability and red meat; yet, I have never seen someone so profusely in love with red meat. He will eat bacon and eggs for breakfast, a beef burger for lunch, usually some fried up steak strips for a snack, and declares his only ever dinner to be a fat 400g steak – which he eats well done; mind-boggling. Even without delving into his declaration of a devoted lifestyle to sustainability – might I add, the convenience store was just installed with solar panels – he adamantly supports the Liberals, and One Nation, and doesn’t find marriage equality to be a pressing issue. He believes in the banning of Muslim immigration, and asserts – sometimes multiple times a day – that his position as a small business owner in Australia, is the backbone of the economy.
“Liv, I am a business owner, do you understand? I am and the back bone of the Australian economy. This country is shit without me. I gave you a job, didn’t I? What would you be doing right now if I hadn’t of offered you this position? Rotting in debt, with your wasted degree.” Pause. I stare dead into his eyes. What is he aiming for here? … Should I speak, does he think I give a shit? Perhaps, if I just wait out this awkward silence, he will continue to spew…
“I have worked my way up from nothing. I was an accountant without a degree, I was a banker without a degree, I have run business’ since I was Nineteen, Liv. Do you understand? You don’t know shit.” Once you start him up, his chest pops out, and the colourful, light-hearted, egocentric feminine character is replaced. Out comes this overcompensated, Daddy didn’t love me character. Full of malicious anger, directed at anyone who will take it. I fear what kind of relationship he has with Anthony. I fear spousal abuse would be quite prevalent. Nick, easily weighs 80kg’s, or even more, than his fragile, petite partner.
“Nick, this is really unfair. I was just making a suggestion…”
“Well, Liv, I do the thinking around here. I don’t pay you to think, I pay you to do. Now, do as I say; do you understand?” He pulls out a cigarette, and lights it up, blowing smoke directly in my face, as we stand in the centre of the store. This would have to be the beginning of his third packet for the day. If there were a more fitting analogy I would surely use it, but, the vivid imagery of a chimney is more than adequate.

I let out a faint cough, and he snarks at me, with his daggered eyes.
“Go, and count the stock with Mandy, this conversation is over.”

Mandy, and I have a good friendship. She came off as a quiet, reserved person at first. Her dark hair, tattoos and piercings however, led me to believe that there was a lot more to her, and so I dug deeper. She’s a wonderful person, and has a long-time boyfriend, who she describes as her soul mate. We talk about our similar music tastes, and she’s also an avid film buff. I have been lending her books, although, she – like myself – is a constant bong head, although – unlike myself – she is unable to sink into book, if she is high. We get along well, but, whenever I try and bring up a conversation about Nick’s inappropriate behaviour, it seems like a discussion she is not willing to have. She very much presents herself as a person who doesn’t enjoy confrontation. She is quite mystical in her wisdom, constantly quoting Buddhism, and challenging my often pessimistic views on life. We have quite in-depth conversations about our upbringings, and both of us have had issues with drug abuse, and eating disorders; it’s funny how similar we are sometimes – scary almost. I walk out to the stock room in a huff, and she instantly looks up from her clipboard, and can sense there is something a bother.
“Is everything alright?” Her beautiful eyes, and warm concern, melt my soul. Just being in the same confined room as her, starts to ease my tension.
‘Yes, it’s all okay. It’s just frustrating being spoken to like that.’ I pick up a clipboard, and she offers her empathy, in a single compassionate look; one I am uncertain anyone could ever rival.
“How is your day going Mandy? I feel like I haven’t had a chance to speak with you all day…”

3.
Mandy, and I’s friendship begun to blossom overtime. After a few months of my employment, we started speaking even after work some days. She was the ultimate Girlfriend, one that offered the right amount of empathy, concern, and advice, without being a complete walkover. Every discussion, she could bring as much to the table as I could, and we would often help one another with our life situations, day after day. From boy troubles, to healthy food ideas, to films, and music. I felt like I hadn’t had a connection like this in years. It was almost magical. Our energy together, was like that of two sisters, who had spent every waking second as best friends.

Things with Nick, were always a hit and miss. Every so often, we were threes company, but it was all dependent upon his mood. He and I, often had a few hours together alone in the store before Mandy’s shift began. In this time, we spoke on a whole array of topics. His political opinions were always disgustingly offensive, although, my uncompromising intelligence, meant that he couldn’t flaunt his political spiels, in his usual unbridled way. He knew, as soon as he shared his thoughts on an issue, he would have to face my challenge, and this usually meant he presented his points of view a little softer. We shared a lot of interest in researching, and he had a reasonable taste in film – although, he had a horrendous taste in music which we endured day in, and day out, within the shop. All, and all, if he were in a reasonable mood, our relationship was good.

One area of politics that we did seem to agree on, was the unbalanced wealth distribution throughout the globe; yet, like many of his other opinions and points of views, his verbal spew, contradicted his objectives with his business, and his mentality towards the treatment of his own customers. Occasionally, after a customer had left the store, he would turn to me, and speak of how he wished they would shut their fucking mouths, and empty their wallets onto the counter. His foul moods would leak into his customer service persona, in a blatant patronising treatment of his loyal regulars. Although, most seemed to sense that despite the facade of his business persona, deep down he was actually a callous prick.

Nick, wanted to be rich. He had spoken of his wealthy upbringing, and his father who had a successful painting business, which turned sour for a while in his teenage years. At this point in time, his relationship with his father fizzled out. His Dad, and himself, still to this day, do not get along well. I heard it said once, that a man who strives for great success, must loathe his father, to an awful degree. And, that unquestionably seemed to be Nick’s situation. Nick, had once referred to his father, as: “A cunt, that I wished was dead.”

He said this to me, with his eyes welling up with tears, obviously holding back a floodgate of emotion. When this was revealed to me, I knew that I had successfully struck a deeper layer within his character. And, this conversation did wonders for our relationship. Finally, he begun to open up, and I started to understand this obscure man. It was not long after this, when he finally made me privy, to his secret life, with the others.

4.
I planned to quit smoking weed, and had failed within the first week of working at the store. Nick’s constant mood swings, had led me back to the bong. I was still sending pictures to strange guys, and even going as far, as to meet up with a few. There was this one gentlemen, who was quite a few years older than myself, who I saw regularly for around a month. The deal was simple. I would go to his house, and sit on his face, until I came. I would then put my clothes back on, and leave. He couldn’t pull his dick out; they were the rules, and he complied. I enjoyed the power, but one day he was struggling to get me there, so I decided to mount his cock. He came within the first half hour, which was unfortunate, but with some help from my hand, I was able to pull myself over the line. After that, I decided not to see him again. I made the mistake of not putting a condom on him, but I didn’t let him cum inside me. Fortunately, I got my period a few days later, and my mild an anxiety of perhaps conceiving, were relieved.

One morning when Nick, and I were talking, he asked about a regular customer of ours. This middle-aged gentleman named Grant, who came in once a week. Grant, only ever bought a bottle of water, although he was always in the store for a minimum of half an hour. He, and Nick would have long conversations. Generally, that made absolutely no sense. Grant, spoke in strange cryptic sentences, and I quickly assumed that they were in cult together, although, I made this assumption all in good humour… Until, Nick, brought him up in conversation.

‘So, you know how Grant and I are always talking about meetings and what not?’
‘Yes…’ I say rather cautiously.
‘Well, on your day off the other day, he was in here, and I made a suggestion to him, about you… You know how you are always talking about the system being corrupt, and toying with “conspiracy” theories… Well, they aren’t all theories Liv…’ Nick raises his eyebrows at me, making a face, expecting me to fall to my knees; mind blown in astonishment, at his apparent revelation.
‘Please elaborate…’
‘Listen, I can’t tell you anymore, but go to this website’ I am passed a piece of paper ‘have a read, and come back, and we’ll talk some more.’
‘Okie dokie…’

That night when I got home I looked up the website, titled: thestrawmenandyou.com

 

This is a picture of “The Houses of Parliament” in London, England.

 

Who meets there?

What is conducted within those walls?

How are they assisting you?

 

If you answered, along the lines of…

 

“Members of the upper, and lower houses”

“The passing, and dismissing of bills”

“They have been elected by the public, to represent the publics interests”

 

Then, let me congratulate you, you are in on their lie…

You have been FOOLED!

 

Paying tax is OPTIONAL!

Paying a fine is OPTIONAL!

Attending court is OPTIONAL!

 

That big mortgage of yours? Repaid from day one, there is no law that FORCES you to repay it again!

You are not, your STRAWMAN

What is a Strawman, and why have I never heard of it?

A Strawman is the fictional entity that is created at the moment of your birth. It is created when you parents are tricked into, indoctrinating you WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT into the public system. This is done with the registration of your birth. If you find you birth certificate, have a close look.

It will probably read:

Mr JOHN DOE, JOHN DOE, MR DOE, JOHN

When your parents simply named you:
John Doe

Now, look at any fine, or letter from a financial institute…

Who is it addressed to?

JOHN DOE?

Those fines, and the demanding of the repayments of debt, they are all for your Strawman, and not for your person.

Now, pick up your birth certificate again… See that registration number in the top corner? That is the number for the bond, which has been sold on the open market, under the name of your Strawman.

How?

We can teach you

Fight the system, become a Sovereign Citizen

 

Freedom is slavery

Ignorance is strength

-George Orwell

 

I mulled over the pages, of grammatically incorrect information. It had numerous links to poorly designed websites. I thought back to my Grade Ten, high school graphics class, and our lesson in HTML design. I mean; my Myspace looked better than this in the mid-noughties. Was Nick, truly this naïve? Did he seriously believe this tripe?

I spent the night heavily investigating the movement. There were numerous subgenres, and offshoots of the movement scattered throughout the globe. The movement in which he seemed to be involved in, was heavily centred around the concept of obtaining the wealth attached to your “Strawman’s bond”. From the basic few hours of research that I could obtain, it would appear, it were all a con. A pretty simple one at that. You would be fixated on this elaborate lie, of a multi-international syndicate, run by the power elites, who were openly trading your name, as a security bond; this bond, was slowly accumulating wealth under “your strawman”. The people perpetuating the con, were suggesting that they had obtained – after following their due process, of course – in some cases over a billion dollars US, by accessing their strawman’s bond.

The con was transparent enough. You handed over ten points of identity, filled out a form, and you would wait for the money to roll into your bank account. Was I really working for a man this ignorant?

I decided to head to bed, and ponder on it over the next few days.

Surely enough, after a while my suspicions grew stronger, and I was compelled to find out a little more about Nick. A simple google of the store’s ABN, notified me that it was all under Anthony’s name, and Nick’s name didn’t appear anywhere. After a few searches, of Nicholas King, and his hometown in Sydney, I was finally made privy to some of his past “successful” endeavours.

Only a year ago, Nick, and his younger brother, were found guilty by the Department of Fair Trading. They were operating an online store selling luxury spa’s, sauna’s, and home supplies, under the brand:
Ultimate Greek Boutique

The company required a 70% deposit for all orders, and suggested that the product would be delivered within six to eight weeks. Per the information online, the Department of Fair Trading also issued an: URGENT PUBLIC SAFETY NOTICE, not to deal with company, as they were knowingly selling spa models, that were banned within Australia. The model of spas that were banned, were linked with numerous incidents, that had at times caused fatal injury. The Department of Fair Trading, requested that Ebay, and Gumtree remove all the dangerous models from their sites.

Nick, and his brother pleaded guilty, to: Accepting a payment, and not providing, goods or services in time, and acting in contravention of an embargo notice.

They were forced to pay, $18,000 in fines and almost $46,000 in compensation to their victims. The commissioner for the Department of Fair Trading, issued a warning to the public, not to be involved with the two brothers, and any of their business’.

I was a little startled. Who the fuck was I working for? The conspiracy theories, and his blatant lunacy were one thing… But a convicted criminal? Now operating scratch free, in Brisbane… What else is he hiding…

5.
I returned to work, and just let my new information simmer for a little while. I was reluctant to make any rash movements, as I was thoroughly enjoying spending time with Mandy each day. Our relationship was growing stronger every work day. I would be excited to go to work, just to talk shit with her. But, it was hard to justify staying at the establishment, given the new information I had, on my employer. Nick, followed up with me, and asked if I had a chance to consider the website.

‘Nick, I just need some more time to research. There’s so much information about, I can’t get a clean grasp onto the movement. I would like to truly have an auspicious understanding of everything, before we talk some more…. Is that okay?’ I turn to him, staring him dead in the eye. Whenever I give him, a clean-dead-stare, straight into his pupil, he becomes a little intimidated. I am unsure if this is because he is not used to a young girl being so assertive with him. I suspect he is used to being the alpha in the room, and anyone challenging that makes him feel uneasy – especially, if it is small fragile young person, with a quarter of his physical mass…
‘Okay Liv, well we are ready for you, whenever you are…’ He trails off, in his overtly friendly persona. A front he always presents in times of confrontation.

I whip down the back of the store, to find Mandy, who has just walked in. Her perfume radiates through the store as soon as she enters each morning.
‘Good morning my love’ She says, as she turns to face me, her elegant eyes meeting mine in a short glance, I wish would last a life time. Her dark red lip-stick, and her heavy eye makeup, only highlighting her natural beauty, and never deterring you from the true goddess that lies beneath.
‘How do you do Mandy?’ I say trying to reflect her endearing look as best I can. Although, any attempt at imitating, and emanating her warmth, feels futile.
“Wonderful, just wonderful!’ She says in her uplifting chipper tone.

The rest of the work week plays out like any other within the shop. Mandy, and I, spend a good portion of our days bonding over music, and films, and life dilemmas; talking shit, and trading advice and perspectives. Sometimes, I would feel a slight anger towards customers for interrupting and impeding on our time together; although, I never reflected this to the customer, as I know how misplaced, and childish such a thing would be. We were after all, there to work, and we were getting paid; yet, I would often forget that the circumstances of our friendship were built in this place: with him.

After the end of the working week, I spent my weekend drawing, and working on my art. It had been a few weeks since I endeavoured to toy with the fragile plight of a sexually charged hyper masculine boy, with misguided views. Instead, I had switched my interest to the female form. Churning out, sketch after sketch, of faceless female bodies, in various stages of undress. They were all highly sexual, depicting women masturbating, and staring at themselves in the mirror. My psychoanalysis of my art, and subsequent subconscious ideals, was that I was depicting myself, and my sexual frustration, along with my long embedded body issues; although, some of the girls I depicted more closely resembled Mandy’s body shape, than my own. I started to question what my true intention was with our relationship, and I felt a deeper longing for a closer connection with her. I was unsure, if I were just hoping that we would engage in a more social relationship outside of the work place, or, if perhaps there was some other motive behind all of this from my side. Was I perhaps suppressing deeper desires of a physical connection?

My sexuality has not always been strictly heterosexual; in fact, I had often experimented over the years with other girls. I would not go as far to say that I was a “lesbian”, nor would I choose to identity as a “bisexual”, although, there is no doubt that I hold no inhibitions about being with a female, whether just for sexual pleasure, or for a fulfilling relationship. It hadn’t occurred to me up until I realised who I was drawing, that perhaps I was looking for more from her. It would explain a lot, my desire to continue working there, my excitement to go to work each day, and the hot restless nights I have had recently, with quite heavily sexualised dreams… But, Mandy was in love, and she was very much committed to her man, and I in no way wanted to play a part in the dismantling of a happy relationship. Especially one that she herself, described as being, “the one”. My desires would have to be tossed aside, for the greater good of everyone involved. Yet, I did not wish to leave the work place, and time was running out. Nick, would no doubt be incredibly offended if I did not appease his lunacy, and accept his offer to be involved with this movement… There was also the safety of Mandy at stake, I did not wish for her to continue to work for this man unknowingly, and perhaps eventually be roped into his cult, and con…

6.
I went into work, armed with a plan. Armed with the plan to appease Nick, and see how far I would be taken into the circle of his con, without having to compromise my integrity… There was always the backseat fear, that I could be brainwashed by these people. I had the utmost confidence in my mental strength, and ability to read through their bullshit, although, one can never be truly certain at how powerful their brainwashing tactics would be. Apparently greater minds than my own, had be susceptible to such propaganda before – take any member of scientology for instance. I had genuine fear, that I would be transformed into a lobotomised, Manchurian Candidate-esque victim, perpetuating the very same lies, that were now being spewed out upon me by Nick. Although, I figured, what’s the point in staring into the gates of hell, and not at least taking a stroll down the pebbled driveway, for a peer at what lies inside.

‘Nick, I have concluded my research. I have come across the numerous court cases, and fines, that have been thrown out, and not followed through by the establishments, because of the movement. I am ready to learn more; I am ready to find out whether you are all onto something… What do I need to do?’ I say this to him, interrupting him from his cigarette, as he sits in the shops dark office, with only the screen of his laptop, illuminating his chubby face.
‘Ahhh, I knew you would come around Liv. You want to have the power, to enable yourself access to interest free loans. You want to be rich after all, not all this rubbish about non-for-profit, positive life for everyone bullshit… I knew you would.’ He takes a long drag of his durrie, and looks at me with a smug look. His ego has now been inflated to an inconceivable size, and it is all my doing.  I wait out the silence. Knowing he will be unable to resist continuing on…
‘Okay, well, there are a few things we must go over first. You may not allow anyone to know, you are going through with this. These people do not take kindly, to people who fuck with them. They are happy to help, but not with anyone who is not seriously invested in improving their lives. You must discard with all this, do good, leftist political shit. These people are a lot smarter than you; they know the system is fucked, they know that every elected official is corrupt, and they are working to create a way, where those who wish to, can truly live freely, without abiding by the system, which we have all been enslaved in. You must discard of the idea, that they control you, they own you. You are not your strawman, and you will be liberated as a sovereign citizen of the world… But, you must follow them. You can’t do your usual, “investigatory” tactics, with all your loaded questions. That has to stop. Listen, pay attention, and they will explain everything to you. And, it will all make sense, but allow them the opportunity, before you jump down their throats.’ He pauses for another long drag of his ciggeratte.
‘I understand completely, I am ready. I want to know the answers I have been searching for. I want the truth…’
He blows smoke out the side of his mouth, in my direction, as I stand in the doorway of his office.
’All in good time Liv, all in good time. I will speak with Grant, when I see him next, and we will arrange for your orientation. Be ready, it’s all going to be very confusing at first, but if you give it time, it will make sense…’ He smiles again, and I can tell that he is ever so pleased with himself. Perhaps, this was a task of theirs, to find another recruit, and he had finally succeeded. Or, perhaps he truly thinks he is helping me, find a better path. He surely seems to believe that they really do have the answers. But, this is also a man who wears a rubber band on his wrist, and believes it can balance his “biosphere”.

The fear spewed out of me, in a collection of abstract art. I went home and smoked cone, after cone, and drew violent picture, after violent picture. Girls, staring into full length mirrors, bodies bare, and faces overcome with fear, or shadows. The art got darker, and darker, and eventually, I smoked myself sober. Whenever I get to this point, I stroll down to the local petrol station, and purchase a pack of cigarettes. I have never been much of a tobacco smoker, in fact, I wouldn’t go as far to say that it was even a true vice for me, but, occasionally when I cannot smoke anymore green, I feel the need to carry on through with further self-destruction, and smoke inhalation.

Alcohol abuse, has always been a part of my life, and it’s so socially acceptable in Australia, that I would be hesitant to identify as “having a problem”. Yet, given I easily down a bottle of wine, or two, or three, every evening, one could say it is somewhat of an issue… I don’t suffer from withdrawals, and can easily go a week, or two without even a drop… But, my issue seems to lie in my inability to stop after the first glass… On very few occasions does one glass of red, or white, not result in the polishing off, of the entire bottle. But, so it goes in this miserable life of mine, a big ole’ empty apartment, on the edge of the city, a bottle of wine, or three, and at least a stick of weed. Throw up some old films on my screen, some Sarah Vaughn, or Billie Holiday for me to scream, and I will usually pass out with pencil in hand, strewn half naked across my couch. An endless cycle, only broken by the very brief relationships I consistently have; they usually hang around for a week or two, great passionate sex is always had, with very little communication between us, up until they realise my insanity, and split for the hills. It’s in these times, of heartache, and anguish, that my art thrives. Sketches usually flood every bare surface of my apartment floor, black hands from the charcoal, stains my satin robes. It’s also, not very often that I bring myself to tears, usually I numb the pain with weed or alcohol. Yet, this evening after I lit up my second ciggeratte on my balcony, overlooking the city lights, I felt the warm dampness of a single tear stream down the right side of my cheek. I didn’t wipe it away. I just let it run to my jawline, where I felt it part from my face, and splash into a thousand microparticles, as it collided with the top of my bare thigh. I felt pain, and loneliness, and it was unbearable. So, I closed my eyes, took another drag… And behind the lids of my eyes, I was greeted with the warm concerned gaze, of Mandy. No matter how deeply engrained my anguish, and pain had been lately, I always found solace in just the thought of her…

7.
Nick has given me the address to a house, on the north side, in the Samford Valley. The drive out there is dark, and I have only ventured into the village once or twice, for breakfast. It is a quiet little town, with a real rural vibe that distracts you from how close it is from the hustle and bustle of Brisbane. Fortunately, that seems to be that case with our fine city, only twenty minutes, or half an hour, and you find yourself in another place of paradise unlike the city centre. It’s probably the most rewarding part of coming from a smaller city in Australia. Although, with every pro, there is a con. Brisbane, whilst having a reasonable entertainment district, suffers from what any other smaller town suffers, and that is a very streamlined, narrow artistic community. With very few opportunities for those who don’t fit into the parameters already at play, within the confines of the city’s community. Very few of the other creatives I bonded with through my degree, are still perusing art as a career, be it musicians, writers, or visual creatives like myself; only one, or two, are still hacking away, trying to open a corner in the world for their exposure. Most of the others sucked it up, and submitted to the pressures of society, and followed through with a graduate degree. Some in education, some in business; the usual easy outlets, for a mediocre career, of mild displeasure, that still affords you the opportunities to grasp at that white picket fence. Yet, here I was, all dressed in black, stoned out of my eyeballs, going to be initiated into some cult; funny how you only realise the errors of your ways, when it’s all too late.

I pull up to a gated fence, the drive way is long, and I sit in my car, with my headlights illuminating the long stretch of gravel that leads further into darkness. I am a little confused, with what to do… Should I call Nick, is there an intercom?… Then suddenly, the gate opens automatically, and I slowly make my way down. The house is enormous, a modern monstrosity, mixed up in a horrendous concoction, of eclectic 19th century garden pieces, big water fountains, and hedges. I park with the line of about fifteen other vehicles, I presume to be the other guests. I take a big breath, and put on my interior light, to check my makeup.

As I approach the door, it opens, and Nick greets me with a big smile, Anthony – who I have only met a handful of times – is by his side.
‘Liv, you made it!’ Nick, expels in his overdone hyper-friendly persona, which up until this point, I have only associated with his thinly veiled fake presence.
‘Hi Darling, how was your drive?’ Anthony, chimes in, evening out the keel between the two, offering something more genuine.
‘Great, not an issue. Glad I made it. Is, what I’m wearing okay?’ Both the boys are in dress shirts, and pants, with leather shoes. I have arrived in a small black dress, topped with my favourite leather biker jacket, and some black boots. My outfit is always pretty standard, and you would be hard strung to ever find me in something not heavily centred around the colour black. And, although I know I looking fucking fabulous, I offer them this question, as if to instil some form of nervousness, on my part. But the truth is, my only fear is that I may get gang raped here; or worse, brainwashed.
‘Don’t be silly darling, you will stand out like the petite little pocket rocket you are! Be careful now, there are some seedy lawyers, and doctors here, that would love to snap you up, if you aren’t careful!’ This is the first time I have socialised with the boys outside of the shop, and truth be told they don’t really know much about me, or my life. They know that I have a degree, and that I do art, but they haven’t seen my work, nor have they ever shown much of an interest in anything I produce, or do with my spare time. However, all focus is centred on me this evening, and that becomes abundantly clear as we make our way into the large house.

There is maybe thirty, or so, guests inhabiting the living room, all with flutes of champagne in their hands. The boys, are by far the youngest couple here, and I am without a doubt the youngest person in the room. The other guests, seem to range from mid-forties, to early sixties. Some better dressed than others, but most are your standard middle aged Australians; mildly overweight, with an air of masked boganisim about them. There is a Frank Sinatra song playing softly in the background, no doubt to give some sense of mild sophistication, and culture, to the gathering. The house is well decorated, with your standard minimalistic, upper class Australian fittings. A large TV mounted to the wall, a white leather chase couch placed in front, a bar to the left of the room; overdone with various bottles of whisky, and scotch, with barely a glass or two, poured from some. They do however, have a large wine selection, ripe for the picking, and this grabs my attention rather quickly. Although, shortly after I make this discovery, my hopes and dreams of getting shit-faced on rare wine, I have never heard of, or care to truly appreciate on my palate, are crushed, with the face of a moustached man, holding a champagne in hand, and hastily approaching me. His eyes, locked onto my figure, and a smile heavy on his face. Nick, grabs my arm, as he closes in on us, and pulls me to his side.
‘Ahhhh, you must be Olivia! How wonderful you could make it! Would you like a glass of Moet?’ He offers the flute to me, as he stares directly into my eyes. Is he the cult leader, is this the man?
‘It’s actually just Liv, but yes, I am very happy to be here.’ I take the champagne from his outstretched arm, and take a slight step away from him. He had moved in quite close, and used the offering of the champagne as a tool to invade my space. His presence was like that of a high-end real estate agent from the Gold Coast, or perhaps, the head of a Mercedes Benz dealership. An insisting charm was ruthlessly displayed, although, it was transparent enough; he was clearly a business man, and he had business with me. I shoot a quick look at Nick, and Anthony, to gauge their reaction to his presence, and they were clearly in awe of him. Their eyes lit up, like the tiny LED’s of fairy lights, only briefly going dark with each short blink of their eyelids.
‘My apologies, Liv, we are very pleased that you could make it. Please, take some time. We have some delicious hors d’oeuvres about, help yourself. Get immersed with the guests; these people are much like yourself. They have searched hard and long, for the answers to an easier life, and fortunately, like yourself, have come across the one and only answer to their liberation. If you are patient and kind, Liv, they will help you find your own salvation. We’re all here for the same thing dear. Go on now, get some food in your belly, you don’t want all that champers going to your head.’ He ushers me with a gentle pat on my back, towards the food and the other guests. His charm is bedevilling, and I have a slight urge to spit in his face. Yet, I arm myself with a plastic smile, and try to remember why I am here. And, already, I have been rewarded with the bizarre collection of humans, all confined in this large living room; talking amongst themselves, each one of them giving off uncomfortable glances in my direction. The men are all practically panting at me, with their jaws unhinged, and their tongues at their feet. Their wives all shoot looks, like that of an estranged relative, who hasn’t seen you since you were five, but still insists that you have some deeper connection – family.

I look behind, to see if the boys have followed, but, as I suspected the cult leader has them engaged, with every inch of their cognitive focus. He spills – I suspect – streams of bullshit, which they eat with a fork in hand, and a smile upon their face. I am already halfway through my champagne flute, when I get close to the man holding a plate of food. To be honest, I don’t even know what is plated, It looks like: salmon, with brie, on some sort of cracker. I pick up one, and scoff it down my throat, in a probably less than ladylike fashion, but the champagne has hit my head fast, and my belly lay an empty wasteland. I had an abundance of cones, before I left my apartment, trying to simulate some form of courage, to make it out here, in a faux state of excitement for my “journey”, into their realm. I hold my champagne flute with a slight tremor, undoubtedly due to the light-headedness I feel. Although, this state of faltering uneasiness, is somewhat second nature to me, and is generally how I venture out into all social events these days. It would be a grand lie to myself, to dispel the notion that it gives me a social edge, in fact, it slows my reaction time, and affects my good judgement – which usually ends with me, winding up in a stranger’s bed – yet, tonight I’d like to present the notion, that it has allowed me to engage in these people’s world of lunacy, for whatever result, good, or ill.

I finish my champagne, and hunt down another, and scoff down another appetizer, or two, before I stand still long enough for someone to approach me.
‘Hi, there, you must be Liv. I am Carly, and this is Robert.’ Robert nods. ‘We’re so glad you could come; this is really exciting! As you can see, we don’t generally get a lot of people from your generation interested in all of this. I think, maybe, they are sort of scared of their uncertain financial situations, and any risk to their future, seems like a gamble not worth taking…’ She pauses, eyes lit with panic.
‘I am so sorry, I just realised, you probably don’t know all that much, other than what you found online, and what Nick, and Anthony have shared with you. Maybe, that was all a bit too much… I didn’t mean to scare you. Oh, darling! Have I said the wrong thing here?’ She looks up to Robert – who I can only presume is her husband – for support. She seems like a strange nervous Woman, not too sure of herself, and not a lot of self-confidence. The other Women in the room, all hanging from the side of the prospective partners, like baby monkey’s, clinging on for dear life, embody a certain nervousness as well. Robert decides to step in, cleaning up his wife’s misspoken words, a task I can see, from the look upon his face, he is all too familiar with.
‘What Carly is trying to articulate here, is that your generation don’t have enough integrity – usually might I add; you are clearly the exception – to throw themselves into something like this. They have grown up with the internet. The world of unlimited information. And, whilst that is an empowering medium; it can also be quite damaging. As, I am sure you know, with every new piece of information you uncover, on any topic, you can find twenty more articles, or websites, or papers, discrediting your new find. This, in turn, leaves you completely unsure. Left in a perpetual state of uncertainty. Who do I trust? What is the truth?’ He pauses, takes a sip of his champagne, and Carly’s smile returns. She is reassured by her Husband’s ability to communicate on a reasonable level. ‘Now, you have clearly gone with your gut here Liv. You have utilised that inner instinct of yours, and trusted in the good people you have contact with, and had faith that they would not lead you astray. And, I can assure you, you will be rewarded.’ He grabs a hors d’oeuvre off a passing tray, and pops it into his mouth, with a quick flick. He grins, as he chews loudly, washing it down with the last few ml’s of his champagne.
‘Well, I am very excited to be here, and to find out more about all of this. I appreciate your welcomeness; if you excuse me, I just need to run off to the ladies. Would you mind directing me?’ I chime in, hoping to escape this couple. Giving bathroom directions is clearly, Carly’s moment to shine.
‘Just go through there, past the stairs, and elevator doors, and it will be on your right.’ She points towards the open entrance way, in the same direction as the foyer where we entered the living room.

I sit down on the toilet, and pull out my phone. I quickly shoot Mandy a message:

Babe, I am at this bizzaro party with Nick and Anthony. Send halp, middle age creepos everywhere!!!

I check my makeup, and fix my lipstick. Fortunately, I still look amazing. And, as I leave the bathroom my phone dings with Mandy’s reply:

What the! Be careful lovely, don’t get too drunk now!

I lock my phone, and place it in my small purse. I take a second, close my eyes, and take a deep breath. I think of Mandy’s eyes, and her beautiful warm smile, and reassuring gaze; as I do this, and exhale, all the anxiety and fear I held within exits, and is replaced with a warm tingling sensation throughout my body. The hairs on my arms stand up, and goose-bumps spread across my bare legs. Just for that second, everything in the world seems okay, and I find peace.

8.
I return to the living room, where the whole collective gathering is now turned to face the man with the moustache. As I enter the space, he looks directly at me, and smiles.
‘Ahhh, Olivia has finally returned.’ He says this loudly, drawing the whole crowd’s attention towards my entrance at the back of the room. I feel my cheeks go bright red, and I am overcome with embarrassment. Anthony, fortunately, is quick to gauge my discomfort, and shoots over, grabbing my hand, and leading me closer to him, and Nick, within the gathering.
‘We shall now begin, and I will hand things over to Grant.’ The moustache man, still has a dealership grin stricken across his face, and his eyes are yet to avert my direction, until he spins to Grant, to signify that he now has the floors attention. Grant looks up from his phone, and takes a sip of his champagne, before returning a warm look to the moustache man, and replacing his position, at the front of the crowd.
‘Thank you, Thomas.’ Grant begins.

‘Another gathering, in Thomas’ wonderful house. One of his many beautiful properties across this great country of ours, might I add for those that aren’t aware. Yes, he is a finely successful man, and we are so lucky, to be involved, and bestowed with his knowledge of the system, and corrupt officials, and their ploys against us. He, like myself started his career in finance. Working for one of the big four, and trading on the ASX, in his spare time. He made a small fortune back then, but nothing compared to what he has now. A bad investment, here and there – don’t we all know that pain – and, finally he was fed up. He knew there had to be some secret to getting ahead. He knew things were pitted against us all, from the beginning of our lives… And, so began his own journey. Over the years, he came across many different people, from many different backgrounds. Some, with a high profile public lives, and others, with a huge wealth, but a very conservative lifestyle. He travelled, from New York, to LA, Vegas, to the UK, Switzerland, to France, and even Moscow! Along the way, he learnt the secrets that have brought us all here today. He discovered the truth, about the international syndicate that controls the wealth throughout the globe; he learnt the secrets, of their ways. He began to realise how to be liberated from their slavery. How to free himself from the shackles of their mind games. How to not be fooled by their tricks, and tactics, that keep us all ignorant to their control. Now, of course some people use terms like the illuminati, or the thirteen families, and they all shouldn’t go ignored; but, it’s all just a bit too simple. We can’t know for sure all of the answers, to every question we have, these people simply wouldn’t spill… What we do know, is how to get out of their system, how to take control of your persons, and remove it from their open market. How to become a sovereign citizen…’

Grant, went on for a good forty minutes, mainly going over the same material, and hogwash that was on that first website that Nick directed me to. He spoke about reclaiming your identity, and gaining access to the wealth that has been generated in your name. It was unclear however, whether anyone in that room, except for Thomas, had successfully done this… There was a lot of talk, about being in the process, filling out the forms… Yet, no one there appeared to have reached the destination, which would enable them access to all this wealth. I spoke to a few of the other guests, and drank some more champagne, they all had the same glazed eyes, circuits fried into hypnotism, look upon their faces. Graced with the presence and greatness, of Thomas, and his liberating ways. I was well and truly drunk, by the time it hit around nine Pm, and I wasn’t exactly sure what was next. I was trying to have as many social interactions as possible, although, each new person I began to converse with, would offer no more information about any of this, than the last. They almost had a script. It reminded me of footage of interviews, conducted with anyone in North Korea, very little information about their personal situations, and lots of information, about the collective group; patriotism for the movement, and total devotion to their leader, and saviour.

I stumbled around some more, and ate an appetiser, or two. Although, I was drinking Moet, it still didn’t prevent the usual sickness that comes with mass champagne consumption. My high had clearly dissipated, and I was eager for a ciggeratte. Hoping to come across Nick, I searched the living room floor full of strangers, who now had familiar faces. Although, I knew almost every one of the guests, from a brief conversation, and personal introduction, it still felt as if I were on strange planet, with brainwashed lemmings, trawling around spilling more bullshit onto one another. I could not overhear any discussion being had, about families, or children, or careers. Only talk of the movement, and how joyous they all were, with what Thomas was doing for them. Suddenly, I was tapped on the shoulder, in a very cold and confronting way, and before I heard my name leave his mouth, I knew exactly who it would be. I felt a cold shiver of fear, run through me…

‘Olivia, come with me please’ Thomas turns without hesitation, not waiting for my response. This was not a request, this was a clear direction, and he had little doubt that I would comply. He leads me out through the foyer, and I shoot a brief glance around the room, hoping to make eye contact with Nick, or Anthony, signalling that I need help; but, they are both engorged in conversation with other brainwashed android friends of theirs. I am led to the elevator doors, and he presses the button, and the elevator dings, instantly, and the doors opened. He stepped inside, and asks me to join, and I hesitantly followed. There were only three floors on the panel, and he pressed the number two. Given this house was large, but not quite large enough that I would suspect it needed an elevator, other than for show – or perhaps older guests, or residents – I presumed this was just him flaunting some of his wealth to me. I shoot a quick glance at his face, which had his usual smug grin upon it. The ride was short, and I would guess it may have been quicker to take the stairs. He exits onto the second floor, and leads me down a long hallway. The lights are dim, and the walls are white, with dark mahogany floor boards beneath our feet. There are pictures nicely framed along the walls, of various cities. Professional photos, you could probably find with a quick google of each of the city’s. Yet, I would presume he is pretending they were either taken by him, on his many trips, or, that they were produced by some professional photographer, via commission. I didn’t bother to ask, the small details seemed unimportant in the grand scheme of his con, and I knew, there would be some elaborate story to each question I flung. Midway down the hall, we came to a double door, which he promptly opened.

On the other side of the door, was a poorly decorated office, trying to emanated your usual standard, “study/library”. It had the cliché bar stand, with various scotch’s and bourbons, a book collection, with newly bought editions of encyclopedia’s and law texts, and a large oak desk, which almost clashed with the leather chairs, and floorboards. Each item, placed around the room carefully, dismantled his lie for me. Although, I am sure the intention was indeed to strengthen the entire con, it all seemed a little ingenuine. Plus, all this shit was new. It was not old. It clashed with the entire aesthetic of the modernism throughout the rest of the house, and even the light fitting’s in the room were yet to be changed to better suit the vibe of the office. He invited me to have a drink, and poured two glasses of Glenfidich. I do not like scotch, and he didn’t even bother to offer me bourbon, but his overbearing insolent charm was in full swing, and he thought he had truly roped me in. He turned to me, and put the cheap crystal tumbler into my hand, clinking his glass with mine, and giving me a wink. He took a swig, and insisted I followed.
‘Come on now Olivia, that’s good scotch there, we don’t want it going to waste…’ And, before I was afforded the opportunity, he corrected himself.
‘Ahh, my apologies dear, yes, we know it is Liv. I am sorry, but my late Aunts name was Olivia, and she did not take kindly to the abbreviation. Clearly, you two are polar opposites, which is a good thing, because I wasn’t very fond of her…’ He smiles at me, in a disgustingly sexually charged way. I can feel his hard on throbbing inside his suit pants, just by the energy he is putting off. He touches my hand softly, and gently lifts the glass to my lips. I begrudgingly take a small sip, and the scotch burns my throat. I make a slight facial wince, which he picks up on, and seems to enjoy.
‘It’s a bit different from that fine Moet out there, isn’t it love.’ He moves in closer, and I feel cornered. Pressured. He has me squished into a corner, between the open door, and the bar stand. He takes a sip from his drink, only a few inches from my face. Words escape me, and I feel genuine fear. I feel my body suddenly begin to perspire at a rapid rate, and my muscles tense. While his left hand holds his glass just below his lips, and I watch him swallow the scotch, I feel a cold touch on my inner thigh. I feel his fingers, slowly caress the inside of my leg, and hastily make their way up into my dress. At this point, his fingers are at the edge of my underwear. I quickly react. I smack his hand away, with fierce velocity. My eyes widen, and immense panic sets in. Although I want to scream, and shout, and throw fists at his face, I am overcome by his calmness, and locked gaze.
‘Oh, I thought you were a little wild Darl, it’s okay. Your safe here, relax, just relax.’ His hand makes another quick move up my dress. I am without any option at this point, and the only quick smart action, that I seem to come up with, is to throw my tumbler at his feet. It smashes, and he steps back with the loud explosion, and splash that covers both of us. Scotch, is splattered across his suit pants, and shoes, and my legs, and dress.
‘Oh fuck, what have I done. I am so sorry! I guess I just lost hold of it. I have had so much to drink, dizzy head, silly girl. Let me go get something to clean this up.’ In a flash, I shoot out of the room, at running pace. I make my way down the large stair case, scotch still covering my legs. I can hear him calling out in the distance.
‘Olivia, it’s fine honey, I can clean it up, up here. Come on back, I have a towel.’ By the time, he finishes his sentence, I am already in the foyer, and his voice has begun to fade out. The music down stairs is loud, and the guests still engaged in pointless conversations with one another. I grab my bag, which I have left hanging over a coat rack by the door, and whip out to my car.

Before I know it, I am out through the gate, and on the road. My drunken state, overcome with the clean-shot of adrenalin now pumping hard and fast through my body. My eyes are wide, and the road clear. I have my foot firmly pressed on the accelerator as I drive, fast, and far from the property. I am almost back in the city, when I realise, that I haven’t even been driving towards my apartment, and I promptly find myself driving through Spring Hill. I pull over, to gather myself. It’s near twelve, and I am an absolute mess. There’s no way I should be behind the wheel of my car, and the worst place you can be driving drunk, is through the city at this hour. I am overcome with stress, and anxiety. The words: sexual assault, briefly enter my mind, and I realise, that’s what has just occurred… Should I go to the police? What about the cult, what about Nick, and Anthony? What am I to do? All of it finally culminates on me, and I burst out in uncontrollable tears.

A few minutes of solid crying goes by, when I finally begin to gather my breath, and my thoughts. I have the engine turned off, and my face pressed into the palms of my hands. My hands are black with eye makeup, and it reminds me of how my hands look like after a long night of sketching. I pull my phone out of my bag, and without even truly considering the time, I text Mandy.

Are you awake?

A minute or two, goes by and I finally begin to gather myself, and my extreme session of pain, morphs into a slight sob. I turn the key of my ignition over just one click, so that I can hear the radio. Triple J is playing the typical late night music, and so I quickly put on something a little more soothing, going for Lana Del Rey’s record, Ultraviolence. I let her voice calm me, with her lyrically apt words of pain. Only a track or so deep, and my phone vibrates in the tight grasp of my hand.

Whats up lovely? Is everything ok?

I have been watching the drunk people, walk the desolate city streets. Most the patrons of the night, are heading for the 7/11 on the corner, from where I am parked. I want to see Mandy, but it is an obscene hour. My apartment is only ten minutes from here, and she lives close by.

I had an extremely rough night. I am going to head back to my place now, not far away. I could really use someone to talk to… If it’s not too late, can I call you when I get home? I am sorry its so late, I just don’t want to be alone.

I turn my ignition over, and search for an old water bottle that is bound to be lying about on the floor of the passenger side. Surely enough there is one, and I take a huge gulp, despite its stale taste. I check my mirrors, and drive off.

Once I arrive home, I unlock my door, kick off my shoes, and slide out of my dress, and underwear. I feel disgusting, and immediately crawl into the shower. My phone lay by the bathroom sink, and it is yet to vibrate, with reply from Mandy. I figure she has passed out, and so I take my place on the floor of my shower, and let the tears overcome me once again. I wallow, legs pressed to my chest. What an idiot. Why did you even go? What was the point? Were you looking to be amused? You fool. You fool…

Suddenly, my phone begins to vibrate. A phone call. I slowly get up from the shower floor, and step out, drenched, wetting my bathroom floor. Mandy has called twice, and has sent three texts. I must have passed out, or been oblivious to the noise. She texts again.

At your door…

I grab a towel, and make my way through my apartment, still covered in beads of water, and leaving pools behind with every step. I open the door, and sure enough there she is. With her warm eyes, and caring smile; I collapse, straight into her arms, letting out screams of pain, and anger. But, she is there, and she catches me with her warm embrace.

We stay up all night, sitting out on my balcony, smoking splifs, and I detail the horrible account of my evening. She doesn’t add anything, or ask any questions, just listens, and comforts me. She doesn’t question why I went, or who all the people were, where Nick, and Anthony were, and why they knew these people at all. All she does, is put her arm around me, and offers the warmest comfort, a soul could ever wish to have. The sun soon rises over the city, and I fall asleep in her arms not long after. She wakes me, and takes me to bed. Offering to stay until I awake again, but I insist she returns home, knowing her boyfriend would be wondering where she was.

I slept for a good twelve hours, and woke in the middle of the night, the next day. I knew I was meant to return to work shortly, but I just turned my phone off and returned to bed. Sleeping for a further fifteen hours. When I finally managed to pull myself out of slumber, and attend to basic grooming process’s, like brushing my hair, and teeth, and showering. I finally switched my phone back on. Mandy, had text me several times, but concluded early on, that I would be having a big rest, and checked in periodically, three or four times. I promptly replied to her, making her aware that I was finally awake, and moving about. Nick had also called, once, no doubt to find out why I wasn’t at work, and why I left the party so early. I decided not to text him, or return his call. Choosing instead, to open a bottle of wine, and pack myself a large cone.

9.
It had been three, or four days, and I was in a very clear manic state. Staying up for twenty hours at a time, fuelled on weed, wine, and avocado on toast. I had been working from the floor of my small apartment, ignoring texts, and calls from Nick and my parents, and friends. The only person I was responding to was Mandy. She had asked, if she could come by and visit, and I politely declined. I was honest about it though. I had barely showered, and the place was a mess. I was living in my underwear, and a stained satin robe. Nick texted me one final time, letting me know that he had finally spoken to Thomas, and Thomas had informed him, how I had disrespected him, and thrown a glass. Nick, said that I was fired, via text, and that I should not return to the workplace, if I did not wish to lead myself into further trouble with the movement. I hadn’t planned to return to work, regardless of the circumstances of my employment. I didn’t want anything to do with those people, the movement, Nick, Anthony, and their lunacy. All I wanted to do, was work.

I worked fiercely for another four days, leaving my apartment once, whipping down to the store in the late afternoon, in all black, and dark rimmed sunglasses, hiding my face. I was out of avocado, and bread, and needed a little more nutrition, so I opted for some Salento tomatoes, for my feats; I also bought a dozen free range eggs, in case my appetite increased. I stopped in at the bottle shop, and bought a case of cheap wine, before promptly returning to my apartment, for another intense fourteen hours of work.

I stand in my bathroom naked, looking at my fragile, slim frame. My ribs protruding from my body, without the need to inhale, even the slightest. I look, pale, white and sick. With a glass of red, in my hand, I take a sip, and continued to stare. I feel the urge for an orgasm, to derive some pleasure from myself, to alleviate my stress, and feel some form of sexual integrity again. Yet, I couldn’t bring myself to touch any part of my body, without a shivering in disgust. The thought of his cold fat fingers slowly, ascending my inner thigh, flashes into my mind. I screamed at my reflection, and throw my glass at the mirror, and watch it shatter in front of my eyes, in what seems like slow motion; breaking into tiny shards. The red wine, splattering across the mirror, and sink, like the whisky upon his shoes, and my legs. I was instantly brought back to that moment, when I threw the glass at his feet, and fled. I burst into tears, and crumble to my knees.

A few days, or more, pass by, and I finally begin to make sense of the sketches I had been working on. I had done profiles of every person at that house. Each couple; the sad wives, with their articulately brainwashed pair, spilling bullshit, and encouraging one another. It was a collection, of snapshots from the evening. People, with dull faces, and glazed eyes, robotic facial expressions, as they feed off one another’s ignorance. The grand piece of it all, was a massive sketch of the entire party, alive, and synchronised with one another. Talking, and sharing their mediocracy with great pride. Their faces, so dull, and bare of emotion, that it was hard to distinguish one from the last, only their barely individualist outfits leaving any clue, they weren’t indeed cyborgs, straight off the production line. Except for two. Two individuals, away in the corner, off in a separate room. A girl, filled with fear across her face, and a man filled with lust, and anger, and selfishness. Feeding, on his pray. The devil, behind the gates of hell. His demons walking about aimlessly devoted, to his plight. And, this poor girl, trapped, and cornered in the deepest depths of hell, with his hands, wrapped around her throat. Her screams muted by his strength. This was the centre piece to the collection.

And, it was masterful.

I fine-tuned, the pieces, and cleaned up any smudges. I left the apartment to meet Mandy for coffee, and we spoke. I informed her that I was doing a lot better, and had taken a brief break from drinking.
‘You look really thin lovely… Are you doing okay?’
‘I finally am coming around, I promise’ I smile at her, and she knows that it is genuine. There is something about our connection. Sometimes, I feel we know exactly what the other is thinking, even if the words are not spoken. There is no doubt in my mind any more, that I long for something more from her. She was there for me, in a way that I am uncertain a man could have ever been. I wish, that I could convey this to her, but, it almost doesn’t feel necessary… Despite all that has transpired in my life recently, things in her life are very much the same. She is still with her boyfriend, and they happy together. Their future is written. Although I feel she has played a crucial part these last few months, in the person that I have become, it does not avert her own course, and there is a level of maturity that must be had on my behalf to realise this; and I do. There are some situations in life, where having some of one thing, is far better than having none – especially, when you are unable to have things the way you may desire them to be. And so, our coffee date is concluded, with a brief walk by the riverside. I walk her back to her car, and we share a warm embrace. Her scent lingers on me, as I walk further along the riverside, hoping the thought of her never leaves my mind.

10.
I uploaded the collection to my art page on Instagram, and Facebook, and thought nothing more of it. I collected a considerably more amount of attention for this work, than any of my others, displayed under my art name. Although, Instagram likes, do very little for you, other than build you a larger following online, something I had been hoping to do, but which has never been a true objective of mine. A few weeks pass by, and I am once again on the search for another fulltime position. Life returns to normal, yet, all of this seems to have broken some of my old cycles, shocked my system into the realisation of the mistakes, which my wayward lifestyle had led me towards. Not that I believe any of it was my own doing, although I still question why I even bothered to go. I should have promptly found a new position, the instant I uncovered all of Nick’s past, and his cult. The prospect, that Mandy and I would be unable to continue our friendship after my departure was obscene, and I still am holding it against myself, for entertaining such lunacy. But this is where I am now, and things are getting a little better. I am smoking less weed, and Mandy and I are still talking almost daily. I may be unemployed, but I am working harder on my art, and there will surely be another position I can acquire.

11.
Months pass. I have been working at a Café in the city. They have big emphasis on creatives, and a large portion of their clientele are local artists, and musicians. The café owner, used to work for GOMA, and she is a big fan of my work. She has a few of my quite absurd pieces displayed around the shop, in beautiful frames, that she paid for herself. She has asked me bring in my portfolio this morning, and has mentioned a good friend from GOMA was interested in my work.

Not long after this, I had my first exhibition at GOMA. Linda’s friend was so excited by my work, she managed to get me a spot within a two-week period. I sold a few of my older pieces, as result of the exhibition, and finally things in my life were beginning to pan out. It was a rainy afternoon, when I was out on my balcony, and received a phone called. A woman from London, had seen my collection in GOMA, on a recent trip, and was offering me a job. She offered to fly me over to London, put me up in an apartment, so that I could work as the creative director for her gallery in town. It was a dream, a dream come true… But, after a few days of living off the high, of finally being saved from this barren culture city, I was overcome with sadness.

Mandy, and I, had just become closer than I ever dreamed we would be. And, telling her that I was leaving, felt like breaking the heart of your one true love. I invited her over to dinner one evening, and we cooked up some vegetarian stir fry. We sat out on my balcony, and shared a joint, as we ate our meals. The only emotion she displayed when I broke the news, was stupendous joy for my new journey. But, I couldn’t help feel as if there was something underneath all of that, perhaps a slight feeling of sadness; of grief. Yet, she was not the kind of person that would let her selfish motives get in the way. Her life was led with true altruism, and never less. When she was leaving my apartment, to return home, we shared a long embrace, and just before be broke apart, I placed my lips onto hers, and we engaged in a soft and delicate kiss. Our fragile hearts melted into each other in those few seconds, and behind the lids of my eyes, I watched as stars exploded; spreading matter far across the vast plains of the universe; members of parliament stopped in their tracks, and looked up from their chambers, directly to us, as if we were their gods, and only in that brief second did they recognise our interventionalist ways. It was heaven, and it felt like a moment that would never end, churning its self into endless cycles. Longer than any lysergic acid trip, and deeper than any dimethyl tryptamine journey. But, then, the soft flesh of our lips began to part, and my self-awareness returned; it was over. All I had were her eyes locked onto my mine, and although I could never be sure if it were the same experience for her, her endearing look, told a different story; and her eyes signified what I had always known. But, our love would have to blossom in another lifetime, one where we could grow together, far from this material plain…

Written By,

LIV

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