The Wild One.
Music, This Chapter: Flo Rida – Wild Ones ft. Sia [Original Video/Music].
“Liz.” It was Sara calling out.
Elizabeth McNeil was in the lounge watching the local evening news.
“That Xan of yours will be coming back here in a short while. You will be able to see him but no one else will. He will carry out whatever you request him to do.”
“What?! Xan is coming here! He might want to do something bad to me!”
“No, Liz. He is not going to do anything bad to you.”
“But aren’t you going to be here? Aren’t you going to stay with me?”
“I will know everything that is happening but I will stay right out of your way while it is all happening.”
“While what is all happening?!”
But Sara ignored it. “You are free to handle things in whatever way you choose, as you best judge them on the turn of the moment. These are living moments that will take place. Nothing is set in stone like some kind of pre-written script.”
“Well I wish it were!”
Liz McNeil clasped her hands together and unclasped them, and then clasped them again. “I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do.”
“Just do something new, Liz. Create something new.”
“You said you would help me with that...” Liz complained.
“Here.” Sara responded. “Come here with me and I’ll show you how to operate this coffee siphon.”
Sara went to a cabinet and opened it and took out a small shiny metal base contraption with a thick round attachment on top of it. It had a modest but easily-viewable digital control screen on its front.
Sara placed the thing down on the galley area long work surface, and plugged it into a power socket. And then she went back to the cabinet and took out a tripod segment with a bulbous glass container for water, that obviously went on the top of the heating base part.
Liz heard a rather high-tech sounding, though muted chime go off.
“That’s your Xan about to show up.”
Liz quickly went up to Sara and grabbed onto her shoulders as if to stand behind and make Sara her shield.
And then there he was again, different coloured clothing, pale pistachio green...
Liz sort of shook at Sara. “Tell him! Tell him, he’s not to kill me!”
“Xan.” Sara said, flatly, “Please don’t kill Elizabeth.”
“But your instructions -.” The creature wavered.
“Our instructions to you were to get the results from her first, anyway.”
“Well has she carried the matter out?”
“No, Xan. That is being unreasonable. Anyway, why are so concerned about not having to kill her now?”
The being literally bit down on one side of its lower lip. “I was not looking forward to having to do it at all. She is such a beautiful piece of craft.”
“Oh thanks! Now you tell me!” Liz shot back in a slightly raised voice.
Sara tried to turn her head back towards Liz. “Perhaps there is something I should tell you about the Xans, my dear. Do you recall I mentioned the dancing shoes that get worn out...?”
“Well, you are the dancing shoes, my dear - all you humans, and the Xans manufacture you. And so, when they have to take one of you apart and re-arrange its components, and permanently reject some, they – well, they blame themselves. Whereas it’s actually -,” And she lifted her arms and made a large sweeping gesture. “All your own faults entirely.”
She placed one hand back and took Liz out from behind her. “Now come on. Be nice to the Xan. She’s going to try and be nice to you.”
It seemed at that precise moment, almost as if the Xan turned its head away and slightly upwards so that Liz was not able to see a tear form in its eye.
Sara moved her head right up close to Liz’s left ear and whispered something, a quite long something. And then she disappeared completely and was gone from the room. ...As far as Liz was able to tell.
Liz lifted a palm up to Xan. “You just stay over there, where I can see you.”
She turned and scanned the large open-plan interior. This apartment was even more sparse and streamlined than the front one. Everything was stowed away behind cabinetry that was seamlessly part of the walls; lots of white everywhere, recessed radiant lighting that made everything gleam – just white.
“Xan. What is that champagne that is that yellow-coloured label one, you know that one?”
“Veueve Clicquot.” He replied.
“Yes. Please bring a chilled bottle here in an ice bucket, and leave it down...” She swung around again. “...There. Over there, on that low table.”
It was like the creature had not even moved although it had, and the ice-bucket and yellow-coloured non-vintage Veuve Clicquot champagne were both right there suddenly, instantaneously.
Liz murmured, “hunh. How about that...”
Just then there was the sound of someone softly, gently knocking at the door.
Liz almost ran over to it and opened the door. There was ‘*’ standing there, an average-height individual, lifted taller slightly in her pink mules, and wearing pink Chanel velour pants and a cream cotton top with matching but in a slightly different shade of pink, zipper jacket.
“Hi. I’m ‘*.’ I just came over to thank you personally for letting me use your penthouse.”
“Oh my pleasure. Totally. I’m a big fan of course. Won’t you please come in – if you have a few minutes that is. I don’t want to disrupt your schedule. You must have to study all those lines and everything. My god. What a thing. Goodness. How do you do it?”
‘*’ stood there for a moment and then tossed her head back with a short dismissive laugh. “I never properly learn my lines!” She said. “I just try and understand the story, follow the flow, and then it all just comes to me. Or else I make stuff up.” She almost whispered: “I’d love to come in...”
She took steps forward and entered and Liz stood away from the door to let the girl in.
“Damn. You have champagne. They’ll kill me if I have any of that.”
“The lady up the road told me you drink coffee. Would you let me make you a cup?”
“Oh god yeah! No cigarettes inside though right?” The young girl winced at herself. She was fairly young and the beauty of her perfect raw natural complexion was not making it any less so that she was relatively young.
Liz’s mind was not racing. Somehow everything going on inside there seemed extraordinarily calm and calculating all of a sudden – as if she had been programmed beforehand in detail about what to do, even what to think.
“I tried to give up, you know.” The young woman added. “What on earth is that?!” She was looking over to where Liz McNeil was playing around with the siphon coffee unit.
“Digital halogen beam heater coffee machine.” Liz replied.
“May I see?” She came over and stood right beside Liz, and leaned forward, looking at the thing with interest.
“Yes. Yes. Beam heater coffee. Never burns the coffee. Water triple-filtered through topaz crystals.”
“And the coffee beans... Now, well... ...Personally hand-roasted by Amal Clooney herself, exactly at the precise moments George Clooney is making love to her.”
‘*’ put a hand out to Liz’s shoulders and gave her a little shove. “Get outta here!” She grinned.
“Yes, and it’s also fair trade coffee too. Everyone who was ever part of its production is paid fairly. Part of the wholesale cost goes to Amal for her work as a skilled roaster.”
“Oh you are!!”
Liz herself was laughing at all of what was coming out of her mouth. And from wherever in her brain that it was coming out from exactly, she had no idea.
“Yeah nah it isn’t true.” She recovered quickly. “But -.” She took one of the plain white coffee cups and poured out a cup, and handed it to the girl. “But, it is kinda interesting to think that it might be true, though, right? As you sip that.” She nodded to ‘*,’ to get her to give assent to a passing belief in the fairy tale she had spun.
She eyed the girl. “Or hand-roasted by George Clooney, as he made love... Which one do want it to be? Whichever one, we have the beans.”
“Aargh don’t remind me. My partner is not with me at the moment. She won’t be here until after the main filming days. And I have no cigarettes. And there is no smoking in here.”
“Come let’s sit down for a minute.” Liz said. She looked over at where Xan was standing, unseen of course. There was a holographic kind of ‘screen’ that opened up to the right side of her forward vision field, about a meter away from her face. And she found she was able to ‘write’ words onto the screen space there, just with her mind, by thinking things into it.
‘Fuentes Fuentes OpusX PerfecXion. Xan. Please. Go get. And cutters. And lighters.’
...And quickly then a message scrolled up there: top drawer where you can see the red cross-hairs.
“Oh yes, there.” She enunciated out aloud.
“Excuse me?” The young girl asked.
“Oh no, nothing. Talking to myself. Which I do a lot because I am all on my own here. So it’s just me – and other me for company.”
“How do you manage?” The girl inquired, almost sounding like she was deeply interested in knowing, for some reason. “You’re an artist, right?”
“No, no, no. Art sales manager. I can paint but certainly not like all these geniuses around the place.”
“And you do all this charity work too. You help with the recovery of lost and stolen art?”
“Ah well, yes – that. Yes I do that.”
“That’s fantastic. I love that you do that. How did you get involved there?”
“One day I just decided that I just felt sorry for all those artists whose work has been stolen, some of it hidden away somewhere, right... Who knows where...”
“Like – you mean dead artists, though?”
“Well dead, yes. But that made me feel all the worse for them if anything. I mean sure people are going to care about giving back art to living families and all that, but, what about the poor dead artists? Who’s going to care about them?”
“You care about them.”
“I care about them. Other people care too, I’m sure.”
“I just love that you do. Can I come over and talk with you sometimes? About the art and all of that. I don’t really like being too alone -, all by myself. The schedules are one thing, but later, afterwards... People think I just switch off and learn lines and sleep or something. But I cannot. I don’t need to learn lines like most other actors. It just all comes to me like there is a big screen in my head or something.”
“Sure. Sure.” Liz placed an emphasis on it the second time. “Certainly of course you may, god! Of course!”
Liz lifted a hand and motioned ‘wait there’ as she got up herself and went over to the drawer beneath the sideboard.
“Just hang on a second,” she breathed. And opened the drawer and got out the small box of cigars that had been placed there by Xan seconds ago. Next to them was one cutter and a jet flame gas lighter, which Liz also took out.
She went back to the seat opposite where the girl was sitting, and presented the box of cigars to her.
“No cigarettes, I’m afraid. Just these.”
“Oh yes. Wow. You can handle these, yes?”
“But what about the smoke alarms?”
“Nah I can modify all of that. And there is a humidifier there -” She pointed. “And smoke extractors up there.”
The girl just sat back in her chair and sighed a sigh of relaxation. “Sometimes I just want to go to a British pub and smoke cigarettes with all the other people there and drink beers and just chill.”
Liz chuckled. “British beer is rubbish though. Belgian beer – now that, that is something, if you have not ever had that ‘on tap’ sometime in an actual Belgian beer café, with some ‘meals that go with beer,’ well, you have not lived.
“Actually it’s more than that...” Liz was watching the girl closely now. “You haven’t properly worshipped god and you are not doing religion properly, if you haven’t been to a Belgian beer café, you know - because, you see, the beer there is made by the hands...”
The girl’s serious face suddenly burst into a beaming grin again. “Yes, I know – by the hands of Amal Clooney. It wouldn’t be Amal Clooney though, right? It would be...” She was thinking.
Liz McNeil stopped her from trying to think too hard: “By the hands of monks. And some of the monks never speak, which is handy to have them be like that, if you have to be around men all the time – which I don’t though, sad to say.”
The girl’s face went serious again. “I never can go do anything like that. I get mobbed.”
“Oh shame. Because it is quite something to observe – old people enjoying a pint, and a young couple, maybe, in the early throes of romance, hopeful about -, well, the guy will be hopeful about sex naturally!”
Liz found herself making the same kind of mannerisms that Sara often did -, for instance - stretching out an arm, as if to magically depict a scene unfolding. “And then, as they walk back to the tables from the bar, the old fashioned electric lights in the dusky café, glow through the glasses they are carrying, making the amber fluid luminous like it is something supernatural that is happening actually.”
’*’s′ mouth had dropped slightly open, as she was taking in the imaginary scene and following it like it was all totally real and happening right there in front of her eyes that second.
And Liz continued. “And the monks have given them their vicarious blessing, and soon, in any case, the love birds will be under the effects of the alcohol and it will all pretty much seem supernatural anyway!”
The young girl shook her head as though to shake away the dream vision.
“I will never be able to do that.” She almost whispered.
“Yes you will!” Liz retorted. “You have a bodyguard. This is a backwater joint and no one does anything to annoy celebrities here. And, and, besides you can wear a cap all tugged down, and a Covid mask and no one here will even recognise you. And then you can go watch the people having fun. And drink a real beer made by real monks.”
“Fuck me, if my girlfriend heard the conversation we are having, she would throw something at me!”
Liz laughed. “So, no George Clooney for you then?”
“You better hand over that cigar – what is it called, this one?”
“Opus-SEX. You’re supposed to say it -, just so – ‘Opus-SEX.’”
“You are a special person, aren’t you?” The young girl said, as Liz held forward the small box of cigars.
‘*’ took one of the cellophane-wrapped six-and-a-quarter-inch long cigars.
“Anyway.” Liz continued. “What about your hot bodyguard? Doesn’t he appeal?”
“I hate men. I think I hate ’em. I trust my bodyguard but I still hate men. And anyway look at you! You say you are all alone – because?”
“Yes I know. You are not the only one who has told me about my attitude!”
“There is no solution with men. They are all a pain in the freaken’ neck.”
Liz McNeil just burst out laughing loudly. “Ah yes. And you are so right. I agree with you. Now, do you know how to cut these and light them?”
“Yeah yeah I know how.”
“And who taught you how?”
“My dad taught me how.”
“Well see there then? There’s one man you can think positively about.”
The other woman scoffed. “He is also a pain in the freaken’ neck, don’t you worry about that!”
Liz unwrapped a cigar herself, and picked up the cutter and cut off the cap end neatly with the required not-too-big incision. “Now see, what you do -” She looked directly into ’*’s′ face, feigning seriousness. “And let me mansplain it to you here now. Since you are just a... Well since you are wearing pants you can be an ingenu. Ingenué is for females, right, as you know - and ingenu, is what we call the boys.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“Yes. What we call the nice, young, innocent, boys.”
Liz puffed up the foot of her cigar, after she had toasted around the whole of it with the jet flame.
And then she did that, ‘looking off into the distance, master of everything’ look that the old men did at the old fashioned men’s clubs, when they had those back in the old days.
“What do you think? Do you think we girls should be allowed into the men’s clubs?” She handed the gas lighter over to ‘*.’
“They let us in if we strip though. I know that!”
“Oh so you’re not so innocent after all then. Ah.”
“Do you have any water, please?”
“Xan!” Liz called out, unthinking.
“Oh. Oh. Yes, sorry. If you catch a glimpse of this, um, this -” She made a gesture across her eyes with two fingers. “This Chinese-looking person, it’s my valet.”
“You have a valet?”
“Not here today though. I forgot. Yes, sure we have water. I’ll get some. Just relax. I’ll get some ashtrays too.”
By the time Liz returned with two glasses of fridge-cold water, the girl had got her own cigar all perfectly lit up and was puffing thick clouds of sweet and spicy aromatic smoke up into the air. Liz went back and found two heavy crystal glass ashtrays in the galley and brought them over and set them down on the coffee table
They both went silent for a while, smoking cigars.
The girl had her iPhone tucked away into her bra evidently, because it gave a couple of muffled ‘beeps’ suddenly and she extracted it from there to read the short messages. And she placed her cigar down and thumb-texted brutally swiftly a couple of messages back. One was to her girlfriend and the other was to her bodyguard.
“They all want you in bed by whatever time kids go to sleep, right.” Liz jibed.
“I’m old now, man!” ‘*’ responded. “I’m over thirty now. But you’re right. They want to treat me like a kid all the time. And they would do that too if I let them.”
They smoked, they drank some water, and some lukewarm coffee.
“Unusual location you’ve come out to...” Liz ventured.
“Amazing script, amazing story. It’s about this driven marine architect who is trying to build a replica old three-masted merchant barque. That’s a ship...”
She ashed her cigar by tapping its foot lightly against the edge of her ashtray.
“There’s history with that particular ship here, see.”
“Oh. I’m not actually from here. Don’t know very much about the place at all, really.” Liz explained. “I just came here because the penthouse was available to me, and I do everything I need to on the internet these days anyway. ...Don’t meet anyone, don’t see anyone. I mean after all, all the actual relevant artists themselves are all very much deceased, aren’t they? No need to meet with them. I just deal with a Foundation - bureaucratically, pretty much.
“But also,” she added, musing just ever so slightly, “This place is so remote from any place else. There was never any real lock-down here. So I’m happy to be here, to remain here for however long now. Everything has been so great here, while all the rest of the world has been suffering. I think my friend who lends me the place here has ‘insights,’ you could say, into how the world is run, if you know what I mean... Prolly Satanic Illuminati Reptilian and all of that.” Liz smiled to see what would reflect on ’*’s′ face if anything at all did.
Liz prodded with a finger. “What? Aren’t you into parody conspiracies?”
The girl’s face was now also doing that ‘deep, intelligent look away into the distance’ thing herself now.
“What?” Liz opened her hands, palms held questioningly outward, though with her cigar still in one hand, its shaft stuck expertly between two fingers.
“That’s my problem with guys.” The girl reflected, her eyes still looking off somewhere into imaginary space. “Can you keep a secret?” She asked Liz.
“Well, I don’t know anyone, dear. I’m not likely to say anything to anyone because I don’t know anyone and I don’t speak to anyone.”
“Every single man that I have ever dated, had this thing about ‘making it big,’ about being ‘on the inside’ – about ‘going to the masked balls’ with that damned secret society... ...you know. That thing. Kubrick has a lot to answer for, damn him.” Her eyes looked up to the heavens. “I don’t mean that Stanley, you know that I don’t. Please forgive me.
“That’s what keeps my head out of the clouds, you know, Liz – I can call you that, right?”
“What keeps your head out of the clouds?” Liz asked, tapping the end ash, and then laying her cigar down onto the side of the ashtray.
“Well if I’m such a great actress, how come I never acted for F. W. Murnau, or DeMille, or Kubrick. I even missed out on Kubrick.”
“Ah. I can tell you the answer to that.”
“Yes...” She picked up her cigar again and drew on it in small puffs to keep the thing evenly lit, rather than to inhale anything.
“Vadim – you see – well he can be your Svengali. And Phillips and Spielberg, well they will let you ‘see the light.’ ...And Kubrick -”
The girl propped herself forward, completely unselfconsciously, and leaned into the words that Liz was about to say next.
“Kubrick will take you to the Promised Land, but then after that, you will have to cross the River Jordan all on your own, ‘*,’ - all by yourself.”
“Fuck. Who are you?” She was smiling but with a little uncertainty. “I wish I could understand exactly what all of that meant. It sounded so amazing and cool. I have this gut-feel that I think I know what you were saying, but I cannot get the specifics right into my head.” She tapped away at her own cigar again, feverishly, tapping it against the edge of her ashtray. “Explain. Explain it to me. Explain it all properly to me... Please.” Her eyes were blinking away excitedly.
Liz resisted the powerful temptation to say to her: ‘you know, you are so pretty.’ And she was, indeed, such a pretty girl. And so young, really. There was just that ever-so-slight touch of a womanly layer over what would otherwise have been, almost scrawny, youthful muscle and that youthful strength of well-kept, fit body. But her shoulders particularly, were womanly soft.
“Men all think that they want to be in those masked parties, to gain power and money – because they figure it’s a secret society that’s behind everything, but then, they are not too sure whether they themselves simply want the power and the money because they can get the girls along with it. And, of course simply everyone thinks in any case that the money and power will certainly get you what else you might want after a fashion in one way or the other.
“But you - you’ve realised at some stage, that the males are not actually looking at you specifically, as a person individually -, and they will throw you aside callously in order to reach out for the fruit of power that is always just a little higher than the particular level of power they already had at the time when they got you into bed. For all the eternal oaths they uttered to you along the way early on, they never knew you at all, and maybe even, they don’t even really like you or won’t really like you for who you are inside. Because in any case they never spent enough focus seeing who you ever were inside.
“So good-looking women particularly are stuck with easy physical gratification at a cost, but impossibly difficult spiritual -, that is, soul fulfilment. And men are presented with the monk’s path for spiritual fulfilment, and the Illuminati’s secret masked parties myth for the physical side of things.”
“It’s not a myth.”
“No it is not a myth – but then, I will show you a third way.”
“Liz. I want to hear this but I want to ask you also right now – what food goes with cigars? Because I can get someone to call out for something.”
“We are not doing pizza! That is for guys watching football!”
“Well okay not pizza then. So what goes with cigars?” She stopped, and then looked hard at Liz. “You are making fun of me about pizza and football though, right?”
“I would not make fun of you.” Liz replied earnestly. “...But yes, I was pulling your leg ever so slightly. Can we get a smile now? There, there we go. Lovely beautiful happy smile. So food, eh. You have strict calorie limits no doubt. If your producers can get away with it. So okay. No problem. We can do that. So you think you were going to get your bodyguard to order pizza? Hah! So you have a valet or butler whatever too! Who doubles as a head-kicker...
“But no. Don’t disturb him. I already have open-faced biscuit and sandwich snacks right here in the fridge. Total calories well under what your producer expects.”
“N-o-o-o! I love those. You mean like those Scandinavian things? I love those! My parents used to know this European embassy lady who would throw morning tea parties and I would just see all those beautiful big plates spread out with all those little different squares and triangles and whatnot on them and all the gorgeous colours of different little things everywhere.”
Liz got up and went to the kitchen-galley and opened the large double-door fridge and there, indeed, was everything she had said would be there. Under her breath she whispered ‘thanks, Xan. I love you, Xan.’
She took out just two large platters first. There were more in there, if they were going to be needed later...
The young woman beamed when Liz set the platters down before her. Nothing really clicked in the young woman’s head about the ridiculous absolute utter freshness of the edible flowers arranged all over the platters; never mind the ‘real food’ on there. ...The completely fresh-cut micro pansies, or the African violets, or the viola flowers, or the tulips, or even the carnations –, how any of that could come to be just like that, all of a sudden without anyone immediately being right there seconds before preparing it all, cutting all the wilted stalk ends off. And there was no plastic covering over anything. It was just all completely freshly-made, open faced sandwiches and crackers. With very fresh edible flowers. Of one too many different kinds.
She stuffed her mouth with something right away. And then attempted to speak with her mouth still chewing voraciously. “So, so, erm, yum, yeah, okay – so, what about this, what you were going to tell me?”
“Well I’m going to read to you, a bedtime story.”
“Um, okay. Go ahead,” she said, eating away happily.
“It’s called, ‘The Shoes That Were Danced To Pieces.’”
“Yeah I know that one.”
“You don’t know this one.”
“So go on, go on. I’m listening.”
“Once upon a time, there was a king who had twelve daughters, each one more beautiful than the others. Did you note that – each one, more beautiful, than the others... They slept together in one room, where their beds stood next to each other. At night when they were lying there, the king closed their door and barred it. However, when he opened it next morning he saw that their shoes had been danced to pieces. No one could determine how it had happened. Then the king proclaimed that whoever could discover where they went dancing each night could choose one of them for his wife and become king after his death. However, anyone who attempted this, but failed to make the discovery after three days and nights, would forfeit his life.
“A prince soon presented himself, offering to undertake the venture.”
Needless to say, that it was not very long, before ‘*’ moved across to the sofa, and removed her shoes, and raised her legs and feet and tucked them under herself briefly, before stretching them out and then lying to one side, her body still facing Liz who was relating the rest of the story to her.
Presently, she turned around facing the back of the sofa, away from Liz and was fast asleep before very long at all.
Liz got up and got a soft blanket from the bedroom, and placed it over the girl.
As she turned down the lounge lights to a very low ambient subtle glow source each one evident only from inside their recessed locations, so that the room was mostly in shadow, she noticed Xan disappear from her view entirely, and Sara reappear at the doorway to the bedroom suite. Liz was feeling quite sleepy herself too now, and she went straight to the bedroom doorway and whispered to Sara: “Did you do all that? I had no idea I could say all those things like that!”
Sara spoke softly back to her in return, and winked: “Thank you for allowing me to borrow your body.”
“Well right, you don’t have to tell me no bedtime story, but you have to hop into bed with me and make sure you stay right there next to me, because I don’t want to ever feel scared or alone again any more ever again. Ever. If that’s all right with you.”
Sara smiled and just nodded her answer.
And so before too long at all everyone in the whole place was quite asleep.