“Well, I’m telling you I don’t.”
It was me and José, drinking whatever in whatever place we were at. A bohemian gathering or something, supposedly full of important artists and dealers and critics and more. Take another sip. Tasted like nothing.
“You are kidding. I cannot believe you,” insisted José.
“The fact that you keep irritating me about knowing that John will not make me know who the hell he is.”
“He is no John, he is Jacob. Jacob Spencer.”
I felt my eyebrows rise. “You mean Jacob Spencer the author of…”
“Yes,” interrupted José, “the celebrated author of many bestselling books. How can you not know, you said to me that you were a writer.”
“I am a writer. That doesn’t mean I have to know every writer there is or has been.”
“But come on! Everybody knows Jacob. He is a writer and painter and sculpture and… he even is some kind of… mecenas.”
“A what?” Tried to take another sip but couldn’t. The thirst was gone, now I was curious.
“A mecenas… the person that gives you money to make art.”
“Like a patron?”
“Yes, a patrón of some sort.”
I took a glimpse at Spencer. His black suit white shirt black tie combo worked out but was far too simplistic. My blue suit pink shirt pink tie combo, on the other hand, matched superbly. “He doesn’t look that impressive.”
“You, my friend, are too full of yourself. So I leave you,” José got up from the chair, “I leave you now.”
“Oh, come on! Why?”
“You have no boobs,” said José as he pointed towards a large-breasted blonde that was resting on the stairwell’s handrail. My gaze followed him for a bit and then returned to Spencer.
I had read two of the books he had written. They were good. There were some points in which he could improve but overall I understood why they were bestsellers. What really caught my attention though was the fact that the novels were not alike at all. It was not just the fact that they belonged to different genres: the style in which they were written seemed to belong to different people.
Finish my drink. Get up. I walk towards Spencer who is now talking to a woman. Redhead. Beautiful. Her lips are very red, yet I don’t think she is wearing any lipstick. Stop. A waiter walks in front of me and I grab another drink from his tray. Continue walking. I am in front of them but I don’t stop. I walk past them and say hi to a girl who is looking at a painting.
It is an art to talk while thinking of something else, while listening to something else. Spencer and Red are talking about some project Red has. Linda, the girl I’m chatting up, tells me she is an actress. Apparently Red is an up and coming writer with big aspirations and who is in need of money. Linda apologetically corrects herself: she is not an actress but she wants to become one. I am dead certain Red is going to get some sort of patronage from Spencer. Linda is from a small town and is now a waitress and I am glad I don’t need to listen anymore since I already know her whole story.
I hear phrases like ‘The chances we get in life are the ones we go and get for ourselves’ and ‘I don’t even need a fulcrum to move the world’ from the obviously optimistic Red. I can tell Linda is more of an idealist as she keeps sharing with me her fantasies of a better life. I keep eavesdropping on Red and Spencer’s conversation for a while but ultimately become uninterested. I nod and say yes and respond accordingly to what Linda is telling me, then I guide her towards another painting and when I’m certain we are far away enough from Spencer I ditch Linda, go outside and grab a cab. Half an hour later I am asleep.
The morning paper. Sad and depressing stories printed in a sad and depressing excuse of a journal. It’s all war and famine and a girl whose body was found in a ditch not far from where I live. The only reason I bought it is because I overheard Spencer say he was to publish a short story in it soon. Something about returning to his roots or something. But there is no Spencer in the paper so I throw it away. I see it wiggle in the wind and something makes me pick it up again. I stash it somewhere in my coat. I light a cigarette and keep on walking towards José’s and something makes my knees bend and my guts churn, just like the first time I smoke a cigarette. I have to stop for a minute but since I don’t discover what is it that bothers me I continue to walk towards José’s.
He, of course, is still asleep. He, of course, has company. There is something about that accent he has. I find it awful. People seem to find it awfully awesome. Forty-five minutes later we are at a coffee place and he is asking me if I got laid last night. When I don’t answer he waves at me, kind of like pointing out the fact that he doesn’t care for any other thing than my sex life. I ask him about the girl he spent the night with and when he starts to talk about it I wave in the same way he did. He flips me off and we continue to quietly sip the hell out of our coffees.
The morning paper. Again. Sad and depressing. War and famine but no dead girl now. No Spencer story but the paper claims we will get it tomorrow. This paper I do throw away. The other one ended up in my kitchen’s wastebasket anyway. Back home. I try to write a little but I can’t. I stand up and start to walk. I walk to the kitchen and then to the living room through the dining room and then to the bedroom. I stand in front of the bed for a moment and then I walk all the way back to the kitchen. Thoughts race through my head and I keep on overanalysing stuff. Past stuff. Future stuff. Time goes by. Eleven thirty. Twelve. The witching hour, it is time to sleep now.
The paper. Spencer’s story. A story about an optimistic man and his struggle for freedom in a cruel world. Not my cup of tea. Realism is often unrealistic. Second opportunities seldom happen and most of the times you don’t have the time to go and search for those chances. Get those chances for yourself. Something echoes in my brain and I have that feeling in my stomach again. Calm myself down with a cigarette. The rest of the day is uneventful. Eating, going to the bathroom. Breathing. The sun goes down.
It hits me right in the middle of the night. There, caressed by the sheets and the warm embrace of my pillows, it hits me. Go to the kitchen. Garbage. A day before. Two days before. I salvage it. The paper shows a picture of a redheaded woman found dead in the vicinity. Her lips have a strange glow, a crimson red that seems unnatural. But it is natural. It was natural. A man that didn’t need a fulcrum to move the world. He just needed a redheaded woman. There isn’t much information about the girl, about her death. Yet, I start to connect the dots.
Morning. No paper. I couldn’t get any sleep either. Thinking. Overthinking. Overanalysing stuff. Mecenas. Brilliant artist. Plagiarism. Plague. And in a crazy world sane people are crazy, never believed. And when you get crazy you don’t take the easy choices. Sadly, you don’t choose wisely either. When you lose your marbles the only way of getting them back is through action. And good action brings good reward. But since you are crazy good action is never good action. Doesn’t matter, you are going to act and you are going to act fast. When you should stall and overanalyse you jump right there in the middle of the whole mess.
What sane person breaks into a rich man’s house in the middle of the night? I’m not a sane person, but you already know that. There is a dark secret to one Jacob Spencer. When you try to uncover such a secret and things seem to go your way you should probably want to be careful, take a couple of steps back and see that you are not making any mistakes. When you trespass into a house and it seems like you are being invited in, trust me, you are not. This is at the core of every single horror story. There is a dark secret to one Jacob Spencer, probably some arcane magician with the power of sucking other more talented people’s ideas.
I lost consciousness almost instantly but I’m pretty sure he used a bat –or a golf club –to knock me out.
“Are you awake now?” asked Spencer with a wide smile.
There is no response. My head is still spinning, my eyes rolling and my hands sweating. I am tied to a chair. Then I remember where am I, waiting for my life to be sucked, for my ideas to be stolen. “Cast your spell wizard, curse me and be done with it!”
Laughter. “Boy, you are something. What do you think I am? A superhuman with control over the powers that be?”
“You tell me… this is your horror story.”
“Oh no… you’ve got it all wrong. See, this isn’t a horror story… this is science fiction,” says Spencer as I become aware of the contraption I am stuck in. I try to move my head but it seems to be stuck, lodged in some kind of tube. Spencer grabs a pair of pliers and comes closer, “and it isn’t my story.”
Spencer yanks one of my fingernails. Index finger. Left hand. He lets my screams die before he continues talking. “I am not cruel, you know? The first version of this machine required me to insert electric conductors between the person’s finger and nail,” he yanks another fingernail –different hand but same finger –and more screams are born and die again, “that was much worse than this.
I know you. I mean, I don’t know you know you but I know your type. You think you have the most creative juices. You are eager to move up. You are arrogant. You are weak,” Spencer straps two metal pieces to my newly deformed fingers, “and your hubris made you pick up the idiot ball. You didn’t think I watch every corner of this house? You didn’t see the cameras watching your every move as you were creeping through my house? It’s science and technology baby, the best ones money can buy.”
My fingertips, electrified. I feel a strange numbness in the back of my neck. My head races on and my sight gets blurry. And I escape from my body to become something more than a man. Well… maybe not something more… just something different. I become bits and bytes. Forty kilobytes in disk space in some machine that will print my life in ink. Or maybe one of those fancy computer documents that you download, an e-book. An opus magnum to be read, a bestselling novel by one Jacob Spencer with a dark secret… a state of the art dark secret. Then I hear that distinct sound, like someone flushing a toilet, as my new form is dragged to what resembles a wastebasket.
Short Story. October, 2011.