Sunday, 23 May 2010

Part Four: The New Direction

splashing water all over the bathroom and knocking the set into the bath. Had I fallen asleep, was I dreaming? I grabbed a couple of bottles from the bench top over the bath, and took some uppers. Sleep was the last thing I needed right now!

I topped up the hot water, took a deep breath, dried off the set and slipped it back on. I ordered a set wardrobe, the Gallo Cork selection for that week, and patched through to the drama gallery to check out the latest on Beautiful Life. As I watched the lives unfolding (I was following Johnny and Martha at the time) I noticed the trace of Rod, so I opened up a chat line.

“Hi there.”

“Dylan! Mate! How’s it going?”

“I just met Bobby and Chrissy.”

“Haw, right, what do you think?”

“Kids, huh?”

“Yeah,” he laughed, “You had an orgy with them yet?”

“Er, no, no, not yet.”

“The andy’s pretty good? Chrissy’s a bit weird, though, eh?”

“Who got them in?”

“I thought you did.”

“Must have been Hugh, then.”

“Right, he left last week. Bastard’s working on this, now, eh?” He indicated Johnny and Martha.

“Lucky cunt, he made it after all, then?”

“Yeah. Hey, what’s this new thing you’re testing. It’s been on the-”

“Oh no,” I’d been flatting with Rod for a few years, he was a good friend, but he worked for Shell and was, technically speaking, the competition. “You’ll have to wait and see like everybody else.”

“Sly old ludd. See you then, eh?”


the air was cold after the hot water and my skin prickled. I towelled down and headed to my room. In the hall Bobby came out of the lounge and looked me over. I smiled and Bobby smiled back. I felt a wee tingle in my balls and wondered about sex with an andy.

In my room, I flicked through a pile of abstracts sitting on my table: a few fashion articles, several days out of date; a cultural analysis of Beautiful Life based around the latest theories of post-structural psychedelic coming out of the French academies; profiles of Capo Capo, my old flatmate Hugh now making it as a image shaper in Auckland, the Loud Bunch thing; an article about the new furniture: “not so much a chair as an artefact of the act of sitting”. The usual craps, nothing very interesting.

at the bottom of the pile that's worth. The many other versions of these events available portray me as at the peak of my career, one of New Zealand’s brightest young stars, destined for international acclaim. As a counterbalance to that I will present some excerpts from the review, which had been copied for me in its entirety. Zac had even taken the trouble to underline selected highlights.

“There’s an awful sameness about Dylan’s performances at present. He seems distracted, vacant and slack. He’s losing his physique, and the lust for life that made his oeuvre so riveting immediately after his graduation is fading. ...Dylan’s work is full of sound and fury, that in the end signifies nothing... His sex and fights are well choreographed, and the editing slick, and the sense track have the familiar ring of quality that comes with all Drugs Office productions, but they are working with poor source material. The problem is, Dylan’s life has made no progress since he left Varsity six years ago and the constant round of drugs, sex and fights is becoming awfully familiar.”

I am not afraid of criticism. I considered this for several long minutes.

and I trotted out in the nude. It was my clothes - I signed the chit and rushed them back to my room. I tried on a variety of outfits and finally settled on the saffron pants; a long black hassidic overcoat, that old stand-by the white frilly shirt, and a turban softly singing the Rubayat of Omar Khayam in original Persian. I experimented with facial hair for a while, eventually settling on a long goatee.

having sex in the hall. They had set up a handy-cam, probably beaming it into the public access media, or some andy gallery. They looked over and I saw Chrissy direct the camera at me with a remote control. It was a set-up, but I played along: I needed some andy publicity.

“Hey,” said Chrissy, teasing Bobby’s undifferentiated pubic mound, “new gear.”

I did a twirl. “What do you think?”

“Lose the beard,” said Bobby and I obediently peeled off the goatee.

“Real,” said Chrissy. “We’ll make an andy out of you yet.”

“I don’t think so,” I said and stepped out the door.

at the bottom of the path. I punched in the course for Flicker Flicker Flicker and switched on the old FM network for a change. After the revolution the old FM net had been left up, the new young technocrats not knowing what to do with the ancient technology (I’d had to have one specially fitted to my car) but there were enough people left in the Tauranga Grey Fringe who knew how to keep it runing, so it was taken over by counter-rebs in the badlands. The best station was broadcast from the fringes of rasta territory, up around the East Coast. It was run with cannabis money like a public service, the DJs were left to play what they wanted what to their presumably blasted audience. I never liked grass myself – too organic and unfocused – but I liked the eclectic mix of Dack FM, the latest grooves and great pre-revolutionary stuff that was never played on the media “classic hits” galleries. As I tuned in they were playing the Old Ears cover of “Beatnik” from back in the twentieth century. In a moment of lucidity, a sudden intense clarity of thought, the lyric seemed aimed at me. “He’s a rabbi, He’s a guru, He’s a Beatnik.”

I shot a text not note for the soundtrack people back at the Ministry to add it to my current mix channel.

and sent the car off to park. Whatever my new flatmates thought of it, I liked the Flicker. It opened about eighteen months after I started at the Ministry and it quickly became our regular. It was one of the things that had defined our group in the past, the Flicker bar where everybody met. But over the years the group had broken up, people had left for overseas or other cities, new people had arrived and, like Jaffa, broken up old loyalties. I sighed, set my cam, and went in.

This time, this night, with my new spiritualised vision, I could really see that the old place was getting tatty. The decor seemed old hat now, not just unfashionable, but tired. The whole theme of the place - blue skies, clouds and angels - the whole twee, self-conscious package enervated me. For the first time I saw the possibilities beyond the plaster cupids gambolling vapidly over the ceiling.

Katy was there, Princess Princess, Jaffa, Carl Schuman, Feral John, Lee, and Brown-Haired Gary. “Hiiii!” Katy stood up and waved me over. “Mwah, mwah,” she kissed air at me, euro-style. She bobbed up and down, holding onto my shoulders, high on something. She wore a black mini-dress with half-teacups for the bust and when she jumped her breasts bounced in and out. “I’m so glad you’re here, so glad! We’ve missed you, oh we’ve missed you tonight! Where’ve you been, where’ve you been?”

“Hey, Katy, chill out. Here.” I pulled out my little wallet bottle and dug around ‘til I found a few downers and handed them over. “Zapata’s Siesta will relax you while enhancing the invigorating effect of whatever you’re on.” Marketing spiel. I popped a few myself.

We sat around for a while and had some drinks, all of us filling broadcast time with small talk, pre-scripted jokes and product placement. I noticed a problem with the Janus here. I knew there was only ever one bar tender at Flicker, but there were two people serving me. I’d order a drink and the guy’d go away to get, then a woman would come over and ask if I wanted a drink and I’d order and she’d go away and get it, then my first drink would arrive. This went on for a while and I soon had half a dozen unfinished drinks in front of me, some of which were real, some of which were not, I couldn’t tell the difference.

“Are you okay, Dylan?” asked Lee over her trademark smoking Cigarettini cocktail. I smiled and gave the thumbs up.

Dr V’s latest journey across inner space. When he started playing someone went up on the dance floor and started the most bizarre, free-form dancing. Like when you’re at Intermediate and there’s a talent quest and there is always one girl, or group of girls, that do a modern dancing thing: it was like that, kind of embarrassing but at the same time admirable. She was really getting into to it. I turned to Jonathan and nudged him, gestured to the dancer with my eyebrows and smiled, it was too noisy for talk. He smiled back and shrugged his shoulders.

When I looked back the dancer was gone.

and caught myself in the mirror on the way out. It looked bad: pale flesh melting from the skull, a gap where I’d lost a tooth last week, bloodshot eyes nearly sticking out on stalks. All the red wine had left a brown crust inside my lips like old lipstick, making me look like a pantomime dame after one too many matinees. I splashed water over my face and took a couple of uppers.

When I came out, the Janus seemed to have kicked in. The faces of all the people around me had changed to animal heads, all somehow fitting for their personality. Vicky had the face of a curious mouse, Katy had a sleek cat’s head, Jaffa the face of an ignorant pig. I groaned: what a terrible cliche. If the Janus was going to be a success, it would have to come up with something better than this.

It’d been nearly three hours and the device hadn’t really come up with the goods. It had all been a bit predictable: my fans (the ones I had left, at least) expected better than this, I was certain. I figured if I complained from the start it might look better on the record if it turned out to be another Frenzy. And if it was a success - well, I couldn’t lose.

As Dr V described super spatial geometry with his electric guitar, I convinced myself that I had to act in my own defence. “I’ve still got fans,” I thought, “And there’re the glossies to think of, the technical journals, I’ve got a reputation, for Derek’s sake. Yeah, I’ve got a reputation, I’ve got a reputation,” I repeated it to myself, over and over.

I marched out of Flicker Flicker Flicker, determined to sort this out.

a gang of sniffers who were lurking round the door. Several shabbies of indeterminate age and sex gathered around me, grubby, clammy hands emerged from pockets and held out at me. I was overwhelmed by the smell of solvents and puke.

“Hey man, you got a twenty buck piece?”

“No, fuck off.” I pushed the stud that called the car.

“Come on, man, you got plenty of money.”

“And I mean to keep it that way.” I gingerly pushed one away with my elbow in his face

“Dirty fucker,” said another, the oldest I guessed from the ravaged scabby face and threadbare voice. God, when I was kid the sniffers were teenagers, the oldest ones were teenagers, you never saw “grown ups” sniffing, you know? But now there were more and more of these old sniffers on the streets, the ones that never got away from it, I guess, like old pot-heads, just never gave it up and public health charities kept them alive. There was something disgusting about a person giving themselves up to something like that. Sure, I took a lot of drugs but it was my job, okay? And I looked after myself too, made a living, didn’t hassle anyone else (that didn’t really deserve it). I mean, sniffing wasn’t even fun.

“Get your rotten meaty hand off me.” I reached for my razor but one of the sniffers grabbed my arm from behind. “Real coat, eh mate?” I cocked my head around, trying to put pressure on the security stud imbedded in my right temple. An arm went round my neck and I was dragged into an alley.

“FarrrrK!” I struggled but they had me and I could feel hands in my pockets, running over my body searching, poking, probing every corner for money. Sharp fingernails caught my skin.
One found my razor. “Cut pretty boy’s dick off, eh?”

“Hoo hoo hoo.” They laughed, wheezing toxic breath over me.

Suddenly the sniffer stopped. Grunted. The veins on his head throbbed, then stuck out like a body builder’s. He screamed hot solvent in my face and my stomach flip-flopped, my head ached impossibly. The sniffer backed off, as his poers leaked blod, his head streaming goreblood, tearing at his eyes and face. With soft crumpling sound, the head caved in like papier mache in the rain.

Standing at the end of the alley-way was a human figure silhouetted in the multi-coloured lights from the street. In the darkness I could make out no details. The other sniffers let go of me and ran, but I was rooted to the spot, something about this person, a feeling, an aura held me. The stranger moved a step closer and, I assumed, was inspecting me. The eyes glowed deep red.

“Who are you? What’s going on?”

The figure said nothing. A moment later a gap appeared in the air, like a hole in space, and the stranger stepped through, the gap sealing itself behind him. I leaned back against the cold concrete wall of the alley and breathed out heavily. I thought it must be the device, but in front of me the pulpy-headed body of the sniffer still twitched and seeped. I gave it a poke with the toe of my sandal: seemed solid enough. I plucked my razor from the corpses hands and stepped out of the alley to meet my car.

(I didn’t care what) and got in the car when it arrived. I was hardly airborne when the radar detector on my dash went off. Coinciding with the pills hitting my stomach, it sent a sudden rush through me.

Red flashing light indicated an infra-red tag for guided missile. In the rear view mirror I saw a black Holden Kingswood bearing down on me and the small shape of a guided shell weaving its way toward me. I hit emergency evade and the car lurched downward. The missile scraped across the roof and the car veered to the left, forcing me against the door.

Shit. I flicked on my cam.

white bikies from up north around Levin and Foxton, Nomads, maybe, or Highway 61. Now, I never had any trouble with the Mob or Black Power, the Maori tribe/gangs that controlled the East and Central North Island, (late last year I’d had a fairly major plotline up there, mixing in with some Robin Hood type thing that De Benoit had been involved in around the Ruatoria shrines, and I made a few good friends) but the meaty white bike wankers hated me. They wouldn’t leave me alone, no matter how much I avoided them. They actually sought me out, considered me an official enemy. I believe there was even a modest price on my head.

Of course, I hated them too, and maybe I had made a few ill-considered remarks regarding elephantine dickless morons with black jerseys, even been on record saying Jap bikes were far better than their US or Euro vehicles, and that the homemade speed and acid they controlled didn’t get you stoned at all, it was just a placebo (and I had scientific evidence to prove it, something they could never get since the Ministry controlled the testing facilities). I will also admit that I made no secret of the fact that their penis-inspired mob mentality smacked of homo-erotic hero worship, and that I thought they hung around with the ugliest women on earth.

In fact, it was (and is) my belief that these meatheads actually made the women around them ugly: you could see it happening sometimes as you passed them in the street: at sixteen they looked light, almost elfin, like the Middle Earth fantasy maidens they imagined they were but, after just a couple of years of the treatment they got from the oafs they clung to, they became hard and coarse, deep lines etched from their noses to their chins and around their eyes. Hair became stringy and lank on these women and an increasing desperation crept into their movements and their voices. The boys would drop them before they were 20 (liking them young) and they were left to go on the block at bike meetings, bare their breasts for biker media servers, cook up enormous pots of food for the man and his mates and bare generations of fatherless testosterone-addled brats.

A message came through on the fax, like it was scrawled by an animal: “You’re dead fucker.”

installed in the car when I was travelling through the Canterbury Wastes a couple of years back, so I flicked them into action. As long as he had no armour, I’d be okay.

A missile flew past my passenger-side window, and I slammed the break. The Holden sped past above me and I accelerated after him, cannons blazing. A closeup on my screen showed only shallow pits appear in his body work: he was armoured. I fired again, aiming more carefully this time, and the back wind-shield shattered. Idiots hadn’t fitted re-inforced glass: honestly, if you don’t do something properly, it’s not worth doing at all.

I kept my finger on the trigger, emptying the magazine, and, in the close-up, I saw two heads blossom into red mush. The front of the Holden dipped and fell quickly into the old BNZ Building, smashing another grey hole into the black facade.

I pressed my security stud, calling the Watties over, and landed nearby to check out my work and record the aftermath.

There were no bodies, no wrecked Holden, no hole knocked into the black shiny building.

A cop arrived on a mount and walked over. “What’s the problem, cocksucker.” He obviously knew who I was.

I struggled for words. “Er... I thought I ... well... False alarm I guess.” I laughed lamely.

He wagged his finger at me. “I’ll be reporting this. We’re getting pretty pissed off with you, y’know.” He ran a finger over his moustache. “Might take you out myself, one day.”

“Sure, meat-face.” Giving him the finger, I hopped in my car and took off.

on my car’s link. His message agent appeared on the little screen: “Zac is busy right now and his messages are being screened. Please state your name.”


“Your call has been logged. Zac has left a message for you. Would you like to hear it now?”


The agent flickered out and Zac came up. “Dylan, I thought you might be phoning. If it’s still dark, come up to my place. Otherwise, I’ll be at the office. Bye.”

and had a quick car bath, wiped my pits and cleaning gelled my face. I I changed into a sedate evening outfit suitable for Zac’s upper crust friends from the mini-closet in the boot - deep purple frilled shirt, crimson tailcoat with red neon piping, Dali print leggings, a large Flintstone bow tie and two-tone musical winkle-picker shoes. It was one of my top fave outfits: just catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror added minutes to my burn-time.

in Wadestown, looking out over the harbour in an angular, open-plan house built in the mid-20th century minimalist style. Zac had restored it to its original condition as a bachelor pad after his divorce. I’d helped him, we’d all helped him, strip away the decades of ornamentation and decoration and bring back its former elegance, followed on a daily basis by a crew from the Mitre 10 Ministry of Homes & Leisure Nice Up Your Pad Show. The whole mid-20th hipster thing was popular among the middle-aged professionals back then, throwbacks to the Playboy era that had gotten popular after Hugh Hefner had been revived from cold-pac. The video was packaged up into a special and picked up on HomeAmerica, UKLiving Home and the Playboy’s own Live Like Hef channel. We got loads of exposure, it was brilliant. I presented an award at the MTV Asia Awards that year!

Some guy in Auckland actually had the Hefner license in the end (fix-up if you ask me), but Zac did his best. There was usually something going on here, like a mini-version of the Hefner place: a cool jazz band and guys with close-cropped hair and grey flannel suits chasing “playmates” ‘round the pool. Tonight was no exception and as I walked up the drive Miles Davis trumpet bebopped from the lounge. There were a couple of media-hacks laying it all on disk: I waved over at them but they didn’t seem to notice me.

and someone was already up being roasted on a spit. A couple more were being gutted and prepared. Although it was still technically illegal, bigwigs like Zac could easily get away with cannibalism. It was sort-of accepted, I mean everyone was doing it, and the wannabes couldn’t afford proper protection or representation. There was already a vocal pressure group campaigning for decriminalisation, but Medlicott’s blocked it for moral reasons. Even in these libertarian times there were limits.

Zac was over by the pen where the last wannabe was being baited before the slaughter. A blonde in an old-fashioned bikini was poking the squealing pinky with a sharp electric prod, egged on by a couple of red-faced middle aged guys who didn’t miss an opportunity to touch her on the back or put a grey flannel arm around her waist. “Come on baby! Good shot honey! Poke his eye for Metzger!” The girl giggled and squealed with delight.

I headed for the salad bar.

He’d changed body to a smaller party model - festive, approachable, several mood enhancers plugged into the data slots in his chest. He took the pipe out of his mouth and waved it at me. “Dylan, good to see you, glad you could make it.”

“Hi there, just thought I’d look in and report. About the uh, you know what. Let you know how it’s going.” I could feel my face stuck in a hopeful grinning mask: I didn’t want to piss him off.

“There’s someone I want you to meet.” He put his arm around and me and led me into the house. We pushed through the small throng in his open-plan lounge area, stepping carefully over arms and fingers around the crowded spa pool, and up the stairs to the darkened mezzanine where, I knew from earlier parties, Zac laid out mattresses for anyone looking for the beast with two (or more) backs.

“Aw, Zac, I don’t know if I’m really in the mood...” He was peering into the darkness, not listening to me. I couldn’t see a thing, although I could hear all manner of grunts and groans, but I knew Zac had all his senses enhanced.

“Ah,” he said and stepped into the darkness. I heard voices talking quietly then he reappeared. He was followed from the gloom by a small fat man with a black beard shot with grey and a few strands of black hair which looked like they normally sat greasily across his shiny, bald head but at the moment stuck out crazily to one side. He looked me up and down, podgy hands sitting on his hips, a little erection sticking out from underneath a paunchy stomach.

the CEO of our branch in Belgium.”

“Hi there.” I grabbed his erection and gave it a friendly twist. He giggled.

“Hello,” he said in a heavy Belgian accent which I will not attempt to reproduce here. If you want to hear what his voice is like it was captured best in Dylan et Moi, his own retelling of these events.

“Monsieur Sebertondorff is in charge of deploying the Janus in the market place worldwide, isn’t that right Robert?” He pronounced it Ro-bear.

“Ah yes, yes.” He nodded, looking back into the groaning darkness. His erection was beginning to flag.

“Oh,” I said, “Really.” We stood there for a few seconds in silence. Social embarrassment soaked into Zac’s face like blue fluid on a tampon ad. His eyes darted between us. “Well...” he said, “We’ll leave you to it then, Robert.”

The little fat man nodded, his erection jerking back into life. “Ah yes. Good evening.” He disappeared back into the darkness. There was an excited, high-pitched shriek and Zac and I turned away down the stairs.

As we walked, I took a deep breath and spoke. “Listen Zac, we need to talk about the new technology. I’m having second thoughts.”

Zac laughed, good-naturedly and bustled me into a well-lit niche in the large open plan living area. “Come on, Dylan, no guts no glory! Are you really going to give up on expanding your art form so soon? I can’t believe it, not you!”

“I don’t like it. I don’t like the fantasy element. It messes with ... it messes with my verité style.”

Zac smiled again, looking distant, nodding his head spasmodically, “Um, um, yep.” He was treating me like an idiotic child. “Right, Dylan, look, don’t worry about it, OK? I can’t give anything away without ruining it all, so just Metzger for now, right?” He spread his hands and but his unconvincing smile gave him away.

“I don’t know, man.”

Zac gave me a tough look. “It’s that or retire, Dylan. Anyway, I’m not sure we can take the thing out.”

“You're not sure if tou can what? Derek Metzger, thanks for the warning!”

“Don’t get like that, Dylan. I told you what you were getting into.”

“Well, I don’t remember being given much choice.”

“Dylan, I don’t want to talk about this now. I’ll just say this: we still own your contract, we can do whatever we like with you.”

“I’ve got a reputation you know, I’ve got a... a... a reputation.”

“Now, look, you know I like to work with the talent, that’s my style, but I don’t have to, okay?” He stared at me for a couple of seconds, a hard cold stare, almost daring me to contradict him. “I’m keeping an eye on the output, so don’t worry. You’re doing fine. Just stay the course.” He walked away.

Suddenly, something clever occurred to me and I turned around to stick him with it and he was still looking at me. I said nothing. It was that face again, that open face. God, he was useless as a Svengali, he couldn’t hide a secret to save his career, not with that face saying “Everything is going according to plan,” like the whole conversation was part of some little script he’d cooked up with his sister. This was my first inkling, one I hardly took any notice of at the time, that my days as a physically incorporated human being were numbered.

Next: Silver Machine

In the meantime, here's Release the Bats by the Birthday Party

The image at the top of this post is by flickr user reedwade and used under the terms of the creative commons license.

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