The smell of sausage and egg brings a welcome whiff to an otherwise modern but dull kitchen. Rita is stood scrambling three former future chickens in to a welcome constitution to place on the hot buttered toast. Her long blonde hair cascades down her back which is covered only by one of my old Clash t-shirts. She’s saying something but I can’t understand her. It’s not that she’s speaking in her native Dutch. She’s just saying nothing, which for some reason doesn’t really bother me. She carries on talking nothing for a few minutes and in that time something feels increasingly wrong. Maybe it’s the fact that we have a pristine working new fridge. Our halls never had new kitchen appliances. Maybe it’s the fact that the posters are written in nothing – the same language that Rita continues to babble in.
I look out through the window. Our ground floor kitchen has a perfectly uninspired view of a perfectly dull car park. There are no cars. No sign of life. Even the usually active masses of Kamikaze seagulls are strangely absent. The sun shines a piercing white light which only highlights the flatness of the boring concrete car park. The half-wall at the far side of the car park shines brighter. It’s then I realise its not made traditionally. Not bricks or stone, but shiny silver metal. As I squint I notice random flashing red lights.
There’s a figure, shrouded in black, stood there with his hands on his hips, his blackened armoured head staring towards the sky. I assume he’s trying to look commanding but he just reminds me of a gay dancer at a fancy dress party.
I’m not sure what I’m looking at. I glance over at Rita who’s now focussed all her attention on making the perfect cup of peppermint tea. The fresh aroma fills my nostrils and for a split second I forget what I was looking at. I stare back out the window. The bright light has now focussed on that dark, metallic man. The surrounding area now shrouded in such blackness you can’t even make out shadows - just black. He’s now staring straight at me. There are no eyes from what I can tell, his face is just an expressionless piece of metal, but I can feel his gaze burning in to my forehead.
I turn with a growing dread back to Rita. She’s moved away from the kettle, my t-shirt replaced by a long flowing white gown. Her golden locks bunched up in to two tight buns, one over each ear. It’s an interesting fashion choice, for some reason I think nothing of it. Instead I look back out through the window and over to that wall. The black figure moves his arms up, slowly and commandingly. Without any warning hundreds of white armoured figures rush over the metal wall like a swarm of shiny metal bee’s, and head straight for the door.
I turn and grab Rita and head straight for the corridor. The blandness of the formerly dark corridors is replaced by shiny white metal, red and blue LED’s flash on and off randomly. I think nothing of it, dragging Rita to the exit, knowing full well that our attempt to escape is futile.
The white swarm is already at the front door. I was right. There are voices coming from above, telling us to hurry. The stairs. We bolt left and up following the railings as fast as we can, our feet struggling to keep up with our demands while the white swarm grasps at our legs. At the top now and we rush through another door in to another metal corridor. It seems endless no matter which way we look. But there are welcome friendly faces. Max, Lucy, Rick, Jenna and Karim are stood there, armed to the teeth with scary amounts of arsenal. Max throws me a gun and we take up positions at either side of the door, waiting to ambush the swarm.
Laser blasts fire around us, piercing holes in the corridor just inches from our heads. The white soldiers fall but more keep coming. The swarm just seems to build and build, but then suddenly everything is quiet. No more shooting or shouting.
Fear bursts in my stomach like a small nuclear explosion. Where’s Rita? I walk through the smoke, tripping over many a fallen white soldier, grasping through the smoke until it clears. There, in the distance, I’m too late. She’s surrounded by three white soldiers, though seemingly not held by force. Then he’s there, the black metal figure, approaching from behind her. I try to scream but nothing comes out. I start to run but barely move inches. I see Rita smile at me, almost snidely. The black man continues to stare at me. His mask continues to hide his face but I know he’s smiling. He looks down and a sharp red beam thrusts out from his groin, it hums and sparks in the clearing smoke. Rita turns to him and her flowing white gown drops to the floor, her naked back glistening against the metallic lights. She goes on to her knees, and I can see her opening her mouth at the tip of the huge red pole...
“Wotthefuckareyoudoing??!” The words escape from my mouth like a flock of crazed bats as I get shocked back to consciousness and jolt upright. A face looks up at me from my lap, half startled but half pleased with herself.
“Well I was trying to figure out the best way of waking you up and I came up with this”. She forces me back on the bed and looks at me with that grin before going back to chowing down on my meat-sabre.
While I lay there having the kind of wake up call that many a man and boy only dream of, I struggle to remember the sucker’s name. It even takes me a couple of seconds to work out where I am. The results of another heavy night, another night club, another winners party. Then I begin to remember. Last night was the last night for me. A time to draw a line under the past and start making some changes to my life. Over the last couple of years I’ve become someone, something I don’t like. Suzy said it was the job. A career in the public eye always means you live a kind of Jekyll and Hyde existence, that you have this persona you wear while you’re on the job so you can protect your real life from unwanted outside forces. And what she said made sense. The only problem is I’ve spent more and more time being Hyde. I’ve practically forgotten what Jekyll even looks like.
So I was explaining this to Monique and Sandra last night at the party. That I was turning over a new leaf, that I desperately wanted to change things in my life and move on. No more hardcore parties. Cut down on the work. Less one night stands, more meaningful relationships. Last night was that night everything would start to change.
“You thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?” Monique asks after removing me from her mouth. At least she has good manners; I hate it when people talk with their mouths full. .
“I doubt it” I respond, trying not to sound as bored as I feel. That’s not necessarily a reflection on her or her oral skills you understand. I’ve been bored for a while now.
She starts climbing up me, that glint in her eye seeming to grow and showing clearly that she’s not going to take the hint. Her hand reaches over to the bedside cabinet, skilfully avoiding the empty vodka bottle and three glasses. She coughs a little, which ain’t exactly the sexiest bit of foreplay you’ll ever see. She grabs hold of a blue inhaler and gives that a good suck, before reaching back to the cabinet and plucking out the last condom from the packet. Again avoiding those Vodka bottles, she brings her hand back. It’s like she’s playing a weird life-size version of Operation. She says nothing more, ripping the last condom open with her teeth and using her mouth to dress me for one final ride.
She straddles me again, removing my t-shirt from her body and showing me the two reasons I suspect she ended up in my flat in the first place. I feel sick. It’s not the vodka, well maybe. More than likely it’s the guilt. I promised myself I wouldn’t do this again. Last night was forgivable. I’m pretty sure we got back to my flat before midnight, so that’s ok. But this morning was supposed to be a new start, that new leaf. But here I am living the same old life.
I lie my head back, spying a couple of cracks in the ceiling while I feel her slide on to me. I don’t complain. I’ve become a lot of things over the last few years but I’ve never been rude.
* * *
I take a quick shower and make an attempt to look half decent before persuading Monique to leave. I would have offered her some coffee but her phone message taking skills weren’t exactly up to par.
“Some woman called Liz just rang asking for you. I told her I’d just worn you out and she’d have to get in line.”
Granted Monique wasn’t to know that Liz is my stepmother, but even so, manners cost nothing. No coffee for her. She eventually leaves, taking Sandra’s bag with her and saying that she had an amazing night, and reminding me that if I fancied doing it again I should look her up. No pressure. She wasn’t leaving me her number or anything. I barely say a word, just nod and smile. Usually I would have asked her not to tell anyone about this, not anyone, but as I walk her down the stairs to the front door I know it’s pointless. She kisses me on the cheek and heads towards the bus stop, hugging herself in her big coat whilst trying to contain herself after a satisfying night. It’s all she can do not to fling her bags in the air and go skipping down the road, carried on the crest of a satisfied wave. I wish I could feel half has happy as she does right now, and by the look on my neighbours face, who I decided to nickname ‘Misery Mike’ (his name’s Mike, and I don’t ever think I’ve seen him smile) so does he. My street is fairly heavily populated but we all seem to keep to ourselves for the most part, so really he’s the only one of my neighbours I know even exists. We often bump in to each other in the mornings. By the looks of him he’s just getting back in. Looks like the wife kicked him out again, poor sod. He gives me a nod of acknowledgement and lets out an audible sigh which screams “would you like to swap places, please?” before heading indoors. I want to change a few things in my life sure, but not to that!
I head back upstairs and straight for the bedroom, opening every single window as I go and start stripping the bed. An envelope falls out of the pillow case - a note with a phone number, and a self-taken Polaroid of her breasts. That’s a novelty. Usually I just get a piece of paper with some x’s, or a small pornographic doodle, but this is actually quite good. She could be her own photographer. I throw the Polaroid and the note in the bin bag with the empty vodka bottle, the cigarette ash and the used condoms I rediscover on the floor, or in the case of one, scrape off my foot. Even safe sex is a messy business.
I deposit the bin bag in the communal waste disposal area in the basement, and return to assess the damage of the flat. I’m proud of my flat. Should be too - top floor, two bedrooms, large lounge. Slap bang in the middle of Kensington on the illustrious Kensington Close. All mine too, with a little help from the family funds and the local bank manager who probably wouldn’t have been so easy going on me if I was trying to buy such a place now. I love my flat, and I’m relieved to see it’s not in as bad a state as history would suggest. The ashtrays hadn’t overflowed and stained the coffee table. The sofa cushions are creased but nothing that a good shaking won’t sort out. The mixing desks are still turned on, but surprisingly all the material is still in their cases. Even more surprisingly, everything remains catalogued correctly. Not that it matters, they won’t be used for a while. My prized Gibson Explorer is still linked in to the switched on amp. I pick it up and play a couple of chords. Doesn’t even need re-tuning!
The TV is still on, tuned in to the Wii channel. Sandra had suggested she and Monique give each other a game of strip-boxing, kind of like strip-poker only every time a round is lost the loser disrobes an item of clothing, three if it’s a knock-out. It took about five minutes for them to be down to their underwear, six for Monique’s tits to be out. I’d often thought about setting a video camera in the corner of my lounge, I could’ve made a fortune by now. But I don’t do that. Shame others don’t share my sentiment for privacy.
I turn the radio on. So called popular music blares out of my 4.1 surround sound stereo system. The Boogie Bods latest number one smash Bring On The Heat, using a sample of Duran Duran’s The Reflex infects every inch of my flat, perforating my ear drums. I quickly switch channels, all too aware that now my flat needs a really thorough clean. My stomach sinks a little. No original ideas any more.
I change the station to pre-set 5 and the soothing tones of The Daily washes away the audio evil, and calm surrounds me again. I make myself a much-needed cup of coffee, three sugars just to be on the safe side, and manage to avoid the open cigarette pack which I notice still has three smokes in. I’m tempted but I avoid it – have to turn over a new leaf some time. I head back to my computer, which I’m loathe to say has been on all night. I jiggle the mouse and the screen wakes up, showing me a message that the download is complete. I pray it was legal. I press play and Windows Media Player promptly springs to life, showing footage apparently shot exclusively for Good Laad Magazine. Sat in a make-up chair is Monique, welcoming me to her latest photo shoot. The next ninety seconds are a slow moving montage of Monique in a number of provocative but tasteful poses. No full on nudity, but the film has enough flesh and questionable soft-porn-esq music to inspire many a spotty teen or dirty old man to relieve his testicles of any extra weight it may have produced in the time since they were last evacuated. Monique thanks me for watching. I quickly delete the file.
The eight o’clock news fires off - the state of the economy once again making the main headlines. Nothing changes. The coffee sends my body in to hyper drive and I start with my daily rituals. Firstly I connect my iPod to start downloading any new (what passes for) music. Next I check all the news and gossip sites I have saved in my favourite’s folder - more shameful half truths about actors, singers and other ‘famous for being famous’ celebrities. Social faux-pas like stumbling out of a night-club intoxicated or without any underwear, rumours of celebrity splits, affairs and sex tapes - nothing new at all. I start making notes for later.
The phone rings. I instantly know who it is. Every ring seems to have a different tone or rhythm depending on who’s on the other end. It also helps when you have a large pre-programmed caller display. I take a deep breath. “Hi Liz how are you?” My stepmother is her usual happy self, just calling to check if I’ve changed my mind, even though she’ll know I haven’t. Once that’s clarified we shoot the breeze a little. The weather is hot and sunny as always in Spain. They’ve just got back from their weekly shop. Dad’s off dealing with some dodgy customers and sorting out bills. He’ll ring next week when things have quietened down. They both laughed at the latest podcast. Jason, Marie and the kids are planning a two week trip there in a few months. I love Liz. She keeps things simple but still lets you know she cares. And she makes Dad happy which I guess is the main thing. Plus it’s a bonus that she knows not to ask much about my own personal life, especially women, which given how she was spoken to earlier is a huge relief. She only asked about Suzy once after I’d told her it was over. And she liked Suzy. Everyone liked Suzy. Soon enough she signs off, more customers to look after. She says she’ll call at the weekend, but I remind her I won’t be here. She wishes me a good time. I doubt her wish will be fulfilled.
I start to check my email. I have four accounts. My hotmail I tend to use to get emails about special offers and other random adverts. Once again I get a two-for-one offer at some high street pizza joint, a free cocktail offer from Chonga’s the local dim-sum restaurant, and a dozen adverts for such things as ‘Increased Male Potency’ or ‘Extra Length and Girth’, or ‘How to Keep Your Women Satisfied’. I chuckle to myself. Where’s the advice about how to get them to leave? Then there’s my Yahoo account. This was set up for much more intimate, personal usage. Only given to friends and contacts I may find useful now or in the future. The first page is taken up mainly with friend requests for various social networking sites. The same is true on most of the next page, save one from Lucy Bannister, the subject: ‘Change of Venue’. I shiver like I’ve just walked through a cold shower. I’d almost forgotten why I wouldn’t be around this weekend. I check my email linked to my own website, but there’s nothing there. I’ve only just started using is anyway.
Usually I would go on to check my work email, but I don’t have time. 08:21. I’m already six minutes behind schedule. Good, a challenge. I make sure everything in the flat is turned off, closing all the windows and curtains before grabbing my bag and all important iPod with fresh new tunes and heading for the front door. I double back to the kitchen top and pick up the packet of cigarettes, gripping them tight in my hand. I turn the key hoping I’ve just closed the door on a chapter of my life and run down to the fresh-ish air of London, ceremonially chucking the cigarettes in to the waste bin on the street. I officially quit smoking today, for the fifth time this week!