I mentioned recently I was working on a variety of books. I’m working on my Young Adult Series (I’ve finished the draft of novel 2 but want to review and write novel 3 and translate before publishing), I have a romantic book nudging me to be written, but I’ve decided the next one should be Family, lust and cameras a novella about surveillance, voyeurism and psychological mind-games I wrote a while back. I’ve finished the translation and I’m editing at the moment and a friend is creating a cover for me. I hope it should be ready for publication within the next couple of months or so.
I’ve shared a small sample before but I thought I’d leave you something a bit more substantial. See what you think.
The parcel was planted on my desk, brown and seemingly innocent. It had my name on it, my job denomination (Sub-Editor) and the office’s address. I picked it up, weighted it, shook it…It was too big to be a CD. My heart started beating very fast, and my hands trembled. What I’d been fearing, had happened. Herman had finally got hold of me.
I jumped when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. It’s just…which one of these do you prefer?”
Matt, one of the graphic designers, had been working on the cover of the anthology we were getting ready.
“I…Which one do you prefer?”
“I’ve made them both. I don’t know.”
He looked at me. He was a short, funny looking guy, all head and eyes.
“Is that a CD?”
I was still holding the parcel in my right hand.
“No, it’s a DVD.”
“I think it’s a family video I’ve been waiting for. Do you know if any of the viewing cabins are free?”
“I don’t think there’s anybody there at all this morning. Which one…?”
“Oh…the designs…I like them both. Ask Alan. Or choose yourself. We can always use the other design when we publish another anthology.”
“OK. I hope you enjoy the movie.”
“I’m sure I will…”
He left and I added to myself “not”. I walked fast to one of the viewing cabins, the one on the further and more retired corner. I didn’t want to get interrupted or seen. I had to be completely sure. Once there, I opened the parcel. There was no note of any kind. Only a DVD. I switched the TV on and the DVD player. I watched the disc being swallowed by the machine. And after a few blank seconds, Herman appeared on screen. He looked thinner and paler than last time I had seen him, if that was possible. His hair was long, greasy, and he’d acquired some grey hairs. He looked tired but smiled, toothpaste-ad style.
“Hi, Pat. It’s been a long time since we last saw each other, hasn’t it? Over three years now. Of course, you’re the one seeing me though, I can’t see you. Not yet, anyhow. Or do you think I can?…It wasn’t in very good taste what you did to me. Pack your things and go when we were having such good fun. And send me an e-mail. So impersonal! ‘Don’t try to contact me. Leave me alone or…’ I’ve been wondering ‘or what?’ all these years. That’s not fair. I’ve been bored stiff all this time. Watching our last video. Do you remember it? Here is a selection.”
The screen went blank for a minute and the next images were of a couple, naked in a narrow bed, having sex. Herman, the male in the tape, seemed to be performing for the camera, trying to make the action as visible as possible. Only when approaching the climax did he seem to lose the control and forget about the performance. The woman was hardly visible until the end, when Herman just laid down next to her, caressing her abdomen and kissing her nipples. Herman seemed to suddenly remember the camera and grabbing her face made her sit.
‘Smile at the camera.’
I looked at the blank screen. My image looking at myself from the gulf of three years made me blush and feel humiliated. But it hadn’t finished yet. Herman walked in front of the camera and sat down.
“I hope you enjoyed it. I did. You didn’t give me much of a chance to ask you, actually. But, I’ve been thinking of better angles for the camera. It would be more interesting if you were on top next time. I’ll phone you this morning. Just to discuss the details. Bye. I’m happy I’ve found you finally.”
I went back to my desk and sat down. I put the DVD on the top drawer, the one I could lock. The white phone looked harmless and pure. I could not think or do anything. I contemplated the possibility of leaving the office and going home. Maybe I should have emigrated. But I felt drained of all energy. I just waited for the phone to ring. And it did.
“Hi Pat. It’s Cal here. Are you busy tonight?”
“Tonight?…I don’t know. I’m waiting for a phone-call. I can’t tell you yet. What were you thinking of?”
“Intimate dinner, movie, sex…The usual.”
“I’ll give you a call when I know what I’m doing.”
“Are you all right? You sound a bit…strange.”
“I just feel a bit tired. I’ll be all right, Cal.”
“OK. Don’t forget to phone. You know I have many admirers cueing…”
“I’ll phone you later.”
“Pat…It was only a joke.”
“I know, darling, I know. Sorry, I’m just not myself today. Speak to you later. Thanks for phoning.”
Cal…he was such a sweet guy. How could I explain Herman to him? How could anybody explain Herman to anybody else? If he would just disappear…
The phone rang again. I let it ring a few times, until Tina, the girl in the contiguous office came in. Always fashionable clothes, impeccable make-up, carefully arranged hair…Heart of model.
“Oh, I thought you weren’t in. I was going to answer it…By the way, somebody phoned earlier. Herman…somebody or other. He said he’s your stepbrother. I didn’t know you had any family.”
“We haven’t talked to each other for a long time. I’ll tell you the story some other day.”
I picked up the phone and watched Tina leave.
“Hello. Pat McKenzie here.”
“Hi Pat. Herman Stenson here.”
I didn’t say anything. There wasn’t anything to say.
“How are you? Surprised?”
“Nothing you do surprises me, Herman.”
“You probably thought you had got away with it by now.”
“I didn’t think, I hoped and prayed. What do you want?”
“OK, forget about niceties, hey? It’s only me, it’s all in the family, I understand. What do you think I want?”
I didn’t answer. I wanted to put the phone down on him, but I knew that wouldn’t make any difference. I’d grown up with the bastard.
“I want you to come and see me, Pat. I’m living here too. I moved once I found your address. I’ll tell you where I live.”
“I don’t want to know.”
“I have a very nice place here.”
“Leave me alone.”
“Oh, come on, Pat, be fair now. Have I gone to all this bother to find you for nothing? You must come and see me. I must show you my new video system, cameras…I can tape anything now.”
“I don’t want to…”
“All right, I’m not going to carry on playing Mr. Nice Guy. If that’s the way you want it that’s the way it’ll be. You will come to see me or I’ll send a copy of our tape to your boss and to your lovely Carl Tom…whatever.”
“Cal Tomlinson. What makes you think I’m bothered about that?”
“The sub-editor of a serious intellectual magazine, on educational matters, star of a porn movie. I’m not sure it quite goes with the job.”
“It isn’t a porn movie.”
“I know what it is, and you do too, but do you think anybody else knows? Nobody would understand that. And I’m sure Carl wouldn’t either.”
“I couldn’t care less what his name is. Unless he wants to star in the movie…although…no, let’s keep it as it was.”
“WHY DON’T YOU SIMPLY FIND SOMEBODY ELSE TO…” I suddenly dropped my voice because I realised that probably Tina and half of the office where hearing me by now. “…fuck?”
“It’s a little bit more than that, love. Come to see me and we’ll talk about it.”
I wrote down his address automatically and put the phone down.
Tina entered my office as soon as I finished the call.
“Are you all right? I heard you shouting.”
“I just…Family matters.”
“Tell me about it.”
“My step-brother, Herman. My dad died when I was very young, only five and my mother re-married a man whose wife was in a psychiatric hospital for life, she was so crazy. He had a son, Herman. A couple of years older than me. Always a bit weird, never socialised much or had any friends…Weirdo. He spent all his time watching the TV, with video-cameras taping everything and the rest of the time with his computer. When he left High-School, where he never did too well, apart from computer-sciences, he got a job designing web-pages and other programmes for big companies. Our parents died in a train-accident just as I was finishing High School. I got a job and went to college but I still lived in the same house with him. He became practically a recluse, doing his job from home, shopping via Internet or the TV, and having no life outside. He grew very controlling and extremely bizarre and I couldn’t take it. I left.”
“Yes. I didn’t keep contact, but he’s found me again.”
“Oh…He sounds really strange. I hope he doesn’t create any trouble for you.”
“I won’t let him.”
“I’ll leave you to your work.”
“See you for lunch.”
That was an extremely sanitised version of reality. If Tina thought he was strange she should have known some of the more exciting details. Like the fact that when he was twelve he managed to taped our parents having sex and he kept on playing the video over and over again. He invited me to a session too. My mother and his father kept encouraging him to do things outside, even tried buying him a car, but he sold it and bought more equipment. When our parents died I never noticed any difference in him. Not a demonstration of feeling, nothing…He just moved to our parents bedroom, with all his TVs, monitors, computers…I spent a couple of months with my aunt Rena and when I went back to the house he had painted and redecorated the whole place.
“We need to look forward.” He said.
We had the money from our parents’ life insurance policies, and Herman was making a lot of money with his work, but I still took a job in a nearby shop. We used the same joint account and he never had any comments to make about my expenses. But he still spent all of his time at home and never went out. He paid a cleaning lady to look after the house but he was the only one allowed to enter his room.
Alan popped his face in my office.
“Hey, dreamer, we must go to the meeting about the projects for the new magazine. Come with me.”
I followed him aimlessly, happy to have an excuse to switch off Herman. But Alan had to ask. He is a terrible gossip.
“Then, whom were you shouting at on the phone? I hope it wasn’t one of our clients.”
“My stepbrother. Herman.”
“Your stepbrother? Where did he come from? You never mentioned him.”
“I wanted to forget he existed.”
“I see…But, is he…attractive?”
Alan was always trying to find the man of his life. I smiled at the prospect.
“No Alan. He’s nobody’s type.”
We spent the rest of the day in a marathon meeting. We couldn’t leave to go for lunch and we had sandwiches brought in from the café nearby. I was tired but I felt sorry when the meeting ended. Because that meant that I’d have to decide what I was going to do. I found a note from Tina on my desk.
“Your stepbrother phoned a couple of times. He said he’d be waiting for you. He’ll cook dinner.”
I picked up the phone to dial Herman’s number, but I didn’t. I knew it wouldn’t work. I’d have to face him sooner or later, although if I waited too long he might just manage to destroy my life. I phoned Cal instead.
“Hi Pat! When are you coming?”
“Sorry Cal, I don’t think I can. I should have phoned you earlier but I’ve been trapped in a meeting. Listen, I must go to see someone.”
“You don’t know him.”
Oh Cal, for Christ’s sake, don’t start.
“Herman, my stepbrother.”
“Your stepbrother? I didn’t know…”
“I don’t get on at all well with him. I thought I’d never see him again but he’s found me and I must go and see him.”
“Can’t you just come over after?”
“I’ll try, but don’t wait for me. He can talk nonstop sometimes.”
“Do try to come. I love you.”
Cal could be very sweet sometimes, but I wasn’t in the mood.
“I’ll speak to you later.”
I put the phone down. If he asked me once again if I loved him…Poor Cal, he’d had a very unhappy childhood, he’d been physically and sexually abused by his father, and he was very insecure and needy. I loved him my own way, but he was too intense for me sometimes.
As I was leaving, with the DVD in my handbag, the phone rang. I picked it up and without listening I said:
“Yes Cal, I love you.”
“Do you? That’s sweet. What are you doing still there? I’ve been waiting for hours. You don’t want me to get impatient.”
“I couldn’t care less, Herman. But, I’m on my way.”
His house was on a residential area, expensive, exclusive, and very quiet. I rang the bell of the large Frank Lloyd Wright style house. Pretty.
Herman opened the door and moved to one side to let me in. He was wearing a track suit and he looked worse than in his tape, although his hair was clean and shiny. Once he locked the door, he gave me a hug and tried to kiss me on the lips. I moved my head back. He tried two or three times and finally gave up.
“All right, all right. All in its due time.”
“It will never be its due time.”
“Don’t be nasty. Just come over, have a seat.”
The house was really nice, but I didn’t care.
“What do you think?” He asked after he’d sat down on a white sofa in the living room. He made a gesture for me to sit but I didn’t. He came over to my side and pushed me onto the sofa opposite his and separated from it by a glass table.
“It’s big, expensive, nice…I’m sure somebody else got it for you. You don’t have any taste.”
“You aren’t doing yourself any favours by saying that. Don’t forget I like you.”
I looked at him and then at the floor. I wanted to strangle him.
“Like me? Then leave me alone.”
“I like myself more than I like you. And I want you…”
“You only want my body. Why don’t you find somebody else? I’m not that good at sex. Why don’t you try with a professional, or…anybody else? Why me?”
“How long did we spend going through that last time? An eternity. You know the answer. It’s not sex what I’m interested in. It’s…”
“Voyeurism. Pure and simple. Watch. You want to watch. Watch everything somebody else does. All. But not only somebody else. You want to watch yourself doing things.”
“Yes. What’s so strange about that? Don’t actors do the same?”
“Actors have a life! You don’t! They are performing! They have normal lives outside of their career. You don’t have a life. Come on, Herman. You told me that the only real pleasure you experience is through watching. Although that’s a lie. I was with you, don’t you remember? I know…”
“Of course I experience physical pleasure when I ejaculate. I’m human. But…” I coughed slightly and he looked at me, dead serious, before continuing. “But it’s nothing compared to how I feel when I see myself in film and I see my performance, and I see your face, and your expression when you watch and…”
“Cut it. I don’t want to listen to that. I’m too old for all those pre-adolescent fantasies. I don’t know why you can’t grow up and behave like an adult. You and your masturbatory fantasies. It’s disgusting.”
I saw him pale and shake. He was trembling like a leaf and he stood up and left the room. I heard him being sick in the toilet. I went to the kitchen, well equipped and spacious, and prepared some coffee.
When he came back to the room I had left a cup of coffee in front of his seat. Herman looked at me and sipped the coffee slowly. His voice changed and he became the sad little boy I remembered, always picked on by the older boys.
“Why do you…? My God, Pat…Sometimes you talk as if you didn’t understand anything. As if you hadn’t enjoyed it too. Pat…why are you like this? You know what I need. I really can’t live without it. I tried when you disappeared and I realised you wouldn’t come back. It didn’t work. I didn’t want to watch myself making love to other women. I couldn’t make love to other women. Fuck. Whatever. I can’t…Is it so hard to help me a little? You know you can do whatever with my money, I don’t care. You don’t need to work. You can…”
“Stay all day home so you can watch me. I know the story. I’ve heard it before. I’m not a bird in a cage, Herman. I’m a woman.”
“You’re a bitch.”
“Whatever…Why don’t you get treatment, Herman? You are not well.”
“I’m fine. I might have alternative sexual interests, but that doesn’t make me mad.”
“You never go out of the house Herman. You don’t enjoy anything unless you see it on a screen. That isn’t alternative, that’s abnormal.”
“I don’t care what you call it. I’m happy that way. Let’s stop talking about me, Pat. I know you aren’t interested in knowing what I’ve been doing, so tell me what you’ve been up to.”
“I thought you knew everything. Don’t you?”
“Yes. The only thing I want to know is why you left me that way. You went out in the morning to work and never came back. I got worried. I phoned Sue, from your office, and she told me you’d handed your resignation in and you hadn’t been to work that day. I thought…I don’t know what I thought. When I…Better, look at this.”
Thanks for reading and if you’ve enjoyed it (or been intrigued by it), please like, comment, and share. Oh, and I leave you a link to a preview of my new YA novel, so you can also CLICK!