Friday, 17 February 2012

A Cup Of Warm Sake

“You mean to say you’ve never seen Jules et Jim?”
I nod, and wonder why this is such a terrible crime. You would think, from the way that Sophie’s eyes have widened, that I’d just confessed to sacrificing household pets.
“It’s a classic,” Sophie tells me, which means absolutely nothing except to say that it is her own favourite film.
“If you say so,” I reply. “Personally, I think it takes more than subtitles and shagging to make a decent piece of cinema.”
For a moment I can’t tell if I’ve offended her, but then she smiles and effortlessly picks up another piece of California roll.  When she suggested sushi for our first date, I thought she was a girl after my own heart, but there’s something curiously emasculating about her nimble manipulation of the chopsticks. I fumble with my own for half a minute, then shamefacedly resort to using my fingers. 
Sophie goes on to ask me what the last book I read was, and I chew my salmon for far longer than necessary while trying to decide whether to namedrop an impressive doorstep of a novel or simply tell the truth.
Freakonomics,” I say eventually.  Sophie gives me a look of sheer, undiluted blankness for a moment, then launches into an impassioned case for why her new favourite read, Chocolat, might be the best book ever written.  I resist the urge to ask her whether she might prefer our date if I were an actual Frenchman, and reach for the tokkuri of sake that the waitress has just brought to the table.
“Oh, no thank you,” Sophie wrinkles her nose and places a delicate, defensive hand over her tiny cup. “I can’t stand that stuff.”
I shrug and help myself.
“It’s an acquired taste,” I say, not meaning to sound half as patronising as I do.
An uncomfortable silence falls on the table as Sophie nibbles on a sliver of ginger and I drink my sake.  Why isn’t this working? I ask myself.  I’m sat across from an attractive, arguably intelligent, attractive woman, but something doesn’t feel right.  And it’s not just the chopstick thing.
I awkwardly scrape the caviar off the one remaining piece of sushi before eating it.  Sophie watches me as I do it, and her expression once again betrays my sacrilege.  I bet she’s the kind of person who drinks champagne, regardless of whether she enjoys it or not.
The waitress brings us the bill. Your server tonight was Aiko, it says.  Aiko is quite pretty.  That’s not a good train of thought to be following on a date, I tell myself. Especially when, if you play your cards right, you could still be onto a sure thing…
I pay, and Sophie doesn’t even slightly pretend to reach for her wallet; somehow that makes her seem charmingly old-fashioned.  I don’t know if it’s the beer I had before dinner, or the sake, or maybe just the way Sophie looks as she stands up and smoothens her dress, but I’m starting to feel pretty good about tonight.  At the very least, I had dinner with a beautiful girl (and I may have written my phone number on the cheque for Aiko).
The taxi rank is just down the street, and Sophie leans into me as we walk out into the cold night air.  I instinctively wrap an arm around her shoulder, and find myself baffled at how naturally all this comes when there isn’t a table and conversation and bloody Jules et Jim getting in the way of everything.
“I had a great time tonight,” Sophie says, and I say the same, even though I doubt either of us really did.  It’s just part of the ritual.  Nobody likes to be rude, not when there’s the slightest chance of coitus in the air.  When we reach the first taxi, she places one hand on the passenger door, but lingers.
This is it.  That brief, tender window in which she decides whether or not to invite me back to hers for a nightcap.  I can tell almost straight away that whatever I’ve done tonight has been enough to swing the verdict in my favour; as I am about to bid Sophie goodnight, she stands up on tiptoe and kisses me.
She’s a little more forceful than I’d expected, and she tastes like lip gloss and salmon, but I’ve kissed worse.  Yet still, I pull away.  Some girls are just like caviar.  I know I should like it, but for some reason I just don’t.
At first Sophie looks confused, then wounded, but they both quickly give way to icy indifference.  “Night then,” she sniffs, and gets into the car.
It was a lovely first date, but I very much doubt there will be a second.  Why? A horny, indignant voice in my head asks as Sophie’s taxi vanishes around a corner. Why on earth would you pass that up?
“Because,” I tell myself out loud, “I am warm sake, and she is caviar.”

Friday, 10 February 2012


You kill the engine at the bottom of Carla’s street and turn off your headlights just like she asked. The clock on the dashboard reads 23:58; not long now.  You circled the block three times before coming this far, have been a nervous wreck all day.  The quiet is fucking unbearable, but you can’t put the radio on because she wants you to wait in complete silence.  23:58 blinks into 23:59 and you can’t stop your fingers drumming restlessly on the steering wheel.  Then the clock tells you it is 00:00, and she isn’t here.  She said she would be here at midnight.  What’s kept her?  Has something gone wrong? 
It is 00:05 when you finally see Carla approaching.  Her face is unreadable as she nears the car, and she doesn’t speak as she gets in on the passenger side. Her trembling hands struggle to fasten the seatbelt, so you strap her in like you would a child, then turn the key in the ignition without saying a word.  It’s 00:09 and you’ve driven at least a mile when she finally says;
“This feels too easy.”
“I know what you mean,” you reply, keeping your eyes on the road.
“Not sure that you do, hon.”
She fiddles with the heating vent and rubs her bare legs.  That’s when you notice the tiny dress she’s wearing, and tell her there’s a jacket on the back seat.  She kicks off her heels, curls up on the passenger seat and pulls the denim over her like a blanket.  For all her lipstick and nail polish, right now she could be a little girl.
You soon leave the town behind, turning your headlights to full beam as you hit the pitch black country roads.  She begins to doze, and you begin to understand that, as anxious as may have been ahead of tonight, she has been living in hell. Your flat is in a village nearly half an hour away; safe enough for tonight, but tomorrow you’ll have to take her further.  You have never met Victor Crane, but you’ve heard enough from Carla to know that you never want to.
A deer appears in the middle of the road, and you barely have time to slam the brakes on. The car stops a couple of feet away, abruptly enough to wake Carla from her doze in the passenger seat. You watch her watching the doe, as it dashes out of the car’s beams, keeping her gaze on the spot where it had been even after it has vanished into the darkness of the surrounding trees.  Your hand finds hers, and she grips it as if holding on for dear life.
You pass no cars on the entire journey, and reach the village at exactly 00:45.  Carla gets out of the car and walks barefoot to your front door, high heels dangling from the one hand as she uses the other to keep the oversized denim jacket from sliding down her shoulders.
You close the door, shutting out the cold night.  How many other times have you brought her here?  It’s become your sanctuary, the one place that her husband doesn’t know about.  She lingers in the hallway, and you can tell she is thinking the same thing.  That this may be the last time you both get to enjoy this secret place.
“We did it,” you say, kissing her neck.  “We did it.”
She begins to laugh, as if finally letting herself believe that their night journey has really happened.  You can’t help yourself from laughing too; it is impossible to picture yourself waiting in your car less than an hour ago.  You pick her up, carry her into the bedroom and throw her on the bed.  She squeals in delight, pulling the denim jacket from around her shoulders and throwing it at you.
You lean over her and yank her dress so hard it rips.  Her eyes widen at the sound, and a playful grin transforms her face.  You tug even harder on the dress and the seams at the back come completely apart.  She tears at the fabric, desperate to be free of it, until she is entirely naked and under you.  You haul your shirt over your shoulders while she unzips your jeans.  Now that the two of you finally have all the time in the world, neither of you can wait.  Your lovemaking is rushed, almost panicked, the fear of being found out still hanging over both of you even as the adrenaline of what you have just done courses through your veins.
“Where will we go?” She asks, afterwards.
“I don’t know yet.  Maybe we could hop on a ferry and have a little holiday.”
“I’m serious,” she says, sitting up.  “Once Victor knows I’m gone, he’ll stop at nothing until he finds me.  You don’t know what he’s capable of.  He…”
“Nothing.  It’s just that, for years, he had this power over me.  And I could never fight it. Not until I met you.  And even though I’m free now, I can’t shake this feeling.”
“What feeling?”
Carla hesitates, as if deciding whether or not to tell you the truth.
“That wherever I go, he’ll know where I am.”
“Then we’ll go far away.  We’ll change our names and learn Spanish.  I’ll grow a beard and you can shave your head.  We’ll be unrecognisable.”
Carla smiles, although it doesn’t quite reach her eyes.  You decide that it’s okay; you have the rest of your life to make her smile properly.  You switch off the bedside lamp, and then you do what you’ve wanted to do for months.  You lay your head on her stomach and close your eyes, knowing that she will still be there come morning.  
Extract from a work in progress.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

The Ideal Lestat, And Other Occurrences

To my delight this week, reported that Anne Rice's The Tale Of The Body Thief has been optioned for a film by Ron Howard. Body Thief is, after The Queen Of The Damned, my favourite Lestat novel, and it got me thinking: who would best play the brat prince a third time around? Tom Cruise embodied the role incredibly in 1994's Interview With The Vampire, while Stuart Townsend fared less well in the dodgy Queen Of The Damned adaptation. Below are a couple of suggestions for the film's producers, off the top of my head, along with more news from the web this week.

Tom Hiddleston
(Thor, War Horse, The Avengers)
He pretty much nailed "villainous" in Thor. Plus, cheekbones.

Michael Fassbender
(Fish Tank, Inglourious Basterds, Shame)
Anyone who saw him as fallen angel Azazeal in Hex (a fairly early role) will know he can pull off seductive immortal rather well.

Robert Sheehan
(Misfits, Killing Bono, Season of the Witch)
Stay with me, here. Lestat is a spoiled, selfish braggard, is practically indestructible and lives without consequences. Tell me that doesn't remind you of a certain Misfit...

Ezra Miller
(Californication, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower)
Youthful and incredibly exotic-looking, Miller proved he can go to some pretty dark places in We Need To Talk About Kevin.

Vincent Cassel
(La Haine, Irreversible, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Mesrine)
Alright, so he is perhaps a little old to be playing Lestat, but put him in the right light and Cassel would effortlessly exude the decadent Frenchness that saturates the iconic character.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Saint Pris

Rick Hartman took one final puff on his electric cigarette before pocketing it as a skinny girl in a headset ushered him into the hotel room. He reached instinctively for a stick of gum, remembered that was no longer necessary, then decided to have one anyway – it would calm his nerves.
“Don’t fuck this up,” his editor had cheerily told him this morning. “Did you know how hard it was to get a whole half hour with Saint Pris?”
Not that hard, it would appear, otherwise they’d be sending golden boy David Everett instead of Rick, who had gained the unfortunate reputation around the office of being more than a little washed up. Still, interviewing the hottest musical act of the New Year might just be enough to get him back in everyone’s good books.
Rick allowed himself to be led into the centre of the lounge of the hotel suite, where two winged armchairs had been positioned to face each other. Rick took a seat in the armchair on the left, and waited. After a couple of minutes, when the gum had lost all flavour, his nerves returned. Saint Pris may have only been on the public’s radar for five minutes, but it still felt like he was anticipating an audience with royalty.
Almost quarter of an hour into his allotted time, Saint Pris finally appeared, surrounded by a small mob of makeup artists and bodyguards. She waved the entourage away as she sat down, and they vanished into an adjoining room. She looked smaller, frailer, than her photos suggested. Her pale, angular face was almost entirely masked by a massive pair of mirrored sunglasses that gave Rick the impression of looking at an insect.
Every pop star had to invent a persona these days. Saint Pris took hers more seriously than most, though. She claimed to be an extra-terrestrial princess from a distant world, and had yet to be spotted out of character. Rick found it mildly offensive that the girl’s management hadn’t bothered to put the slightest effort into their science fiction research when brainstorming a name; everybody knew Pris was the femme fatale from Blade Runner. A cyborg, incidentally – not an alien.
“Good afternoon,” Rick said, pressing the record button on his antiquated Dictaphone. “Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me.”
“You are welcome,” replied the girl behind the sunglasses, “it is lovely to meet you.” Her voice, expressionless as it was, could almost be that of a robot. Pris by name, Rick thought, Pris by nature.
“This is shaping up to be your year,” Rick continued. “A number one single, the cover of Rolling Stone, and you’re set to support Madonna on her next tour…”
“Cher,” Saint Pris corrected him.
“Of course. Cher. Anyway; very little is known about Saint Pris outside of press releases and music videos. What can you tell me about your background?”
“Saint Pris is an Archalian.”
“I see,” Rick smiled, humouring her. “But what about the woman behind Saint Pris? When did you first fall in love with music, for example? Where was your first gig?”
“Saint Pris comes from the 9th dimension,” she intoned. Another affectation, it seemed, on top of the glasses, was referring to herself in the third person.
“The 9th dimension?”
“Where stars freeze and water burns.”
“Saint Pris, though, it’s a moniker – an alias.”
“Correct. Saint Pris is a chosen name.”
Saint Pris did not respond, and Rick realised he was going to have to spell out the question.
“What is your real name?”
“Saint Pris is an Archalian. To utter the true name of an Archalian in this world is to tear down the very walls of reality itself.”
Rick leant in conspiratorially.
“Come on,” he implored. “Just between us. What’s your real name?”
“You must desist, immediately. Or you will face an unimaginable fate.”
Rick snorted. You could say what you liked about Saint Pris (and the bloggers certainly did), but he’d be damned if she weren’t committed to her art.
“Okay, okay,” he laughed, holding up his hands as if in surrender. But he had no desire to surrender. None at all. Nothing stays hidden, he thought. Even a bloody so-called Archalian has to have a birth certificate.
Saint Pris tensed, as if she had overheard his internal monologue somehow, telepathically stumbling across his intention to uncover her true identity.
“To speak the true name aloud is to condemn the entire cosmos,” she breathed. “This cannot be permitted.” And then, without another word, she removed her sunglasses.
The stare of Saint Pris was unlike anything Rick had ever experienced. At first he thought that his life was flashing before his eyes, but he knew that couldn’t be it, as the images being transmitted into his mind directly from Saint Pris’s eyes were much grander and far-reaching; wars, tsunamis, the moon landing, the hanging gardens of Babylon… The life of the world was flashing before his eyes. And Rick knew that he was done for.
The floor beneath them began to tremble, and a sinking sensation began to seep into Rick’s feet. He looked down, and the carpet itself had started to dissolve, pulling Rick down like quicksand.
“What’s happening?” He yelped, gripping the arms of his chair. “Help!”
Saint Pris simply looked at him with her saucer-like eyes, and shook her head.
“Please!” Rick begged, his knees vanishing into the quagmire. As the armchair started to subside with him, he let out a terrified scream: “Save me!”
“Give my regards to the 9th dimension,” Saint Pris whispered into the void, referring to herself for once in the first person. “And good luck, Mr Hartman. Good luck.”
But there was no reply from Rick Hartman. The vortex swallowed him and the armchair whole, and seconds later there was no trace of him left in the hotel suite except for a battered Dictaphone on the carpet.
Saint Pris sighed, put her sunglasses back on, and carefully retrieved the tape recorder from the floor. She pressed rewind, and listened to the brief interview all the way through, from its delayed beginning to its abrupt end.
“Is that what I really sound like?” She pondered aloud, replaying it again, and again. Finally, she removed the tape from the Dictaphone and crushed it beneath her right high heel. There would be no more interviews today.
This little piece of nonsense was inspired by (and is therefore dedicated to) David Bowie, Lady Gaga and Lana Del Rey, among others.