I'm not entirely convinced I captured Sean's fake bravado sufficiently.
I'll post something different over the next few days. Maybe an earlier chapter. Maybe a music related post. Maybe an old short story. Maybe maybe.
At his hotel, several stories up, he could see a group of men standing outside on a balcony. The men held bottles of VB and Corona and the occasional cigarette. Heavy music – digitally compressed, bland, ready for radio – blasted from within their apartment. They scanned the street below and nudged each other and nodded and smirked. Sean rolled his eyes and counted the steps to the foyer entrance. One of the men, he could have been a Maori, looked at Rachel and pointed.
“Pinky!” he called out.
She looked at her jeans and then her shoes. One of his friends joined in.
“Hey, up here!”
Sean slowly lifted his head. “Don’t fall.”
“Don’t fall!” Sean shouted louder. “It’d be a real shame if you fucking fell!”
He held her hand and the foyer doors slid open and the hotel sheltered them from the propositions of the men.
Inside the elevator, muffled music, played very loudly and not dissimilar in style to what the men had been listening to, echoed in the shaft above. Rachel picked at a pimple on her chin, using the mirror as a reference, while Sean became intensely curious as to what floor the new arrivals were residing on. The volume grew as the elevator ascended.
When Sean had first moved into the hotel, the elevator was in dire need of a service and had made a crunching noise in regular intervals, much like that of a quacking duck. Sometime over the last few days the noise had disappeared.
But he could remember experiencing a sort of sickening horror whenever he had to go down to the foyer or back up to his room, in fear that the machinery was going to fail and that he would be trapped in the elevator for days before anyone noticed his absence. A sort of sickening horror exactly like what he felt now.
When the music could not get any louder the elevator stopped. Sean inhaled a sharp breath. The doors opened. Rachel prodded and squeezed at her chin. Distorted bass thumped and reverberated off the walls of the hallway. A singer sloppily rapped in time to the beat, and men’s voices shouted over the noise. Sean slowly craned his neck to peer around the corner. The corridor was empty and he raised himself to his full height. Full of bravado he motioned at Rachel and quick-stepped to the apartment. The music's intensity grew. The party room was almost directly opposite his room. When he was outside the door from where the music emanated, what sounded like a large object crashed to the floor. The group of men all laughed coarsely.
“Fuck, you’re a cunt!” someone screamed.
Sean flinched and fumbled with his key. Rachel nearly acknowledged the moment. The men laughed again and bottles clinked in salute.
The noise did not dull when he shut the front door behind her. He rolled his eyes and sat on the couch. She unslung her handbag and lowered it to the floor. The bathroom taps could barely be heard as she turned the water on at full pelt. Her phone rang.
“Can you get that?”
He grimaced as he searched her bag for her mobile. The only information to be offered about the caller was a number. He answered.
“Rachel Neutron hotline.”
There was a pause and a hesitant young man replied. “Hi, can I speak to Rachel?”
Sean strutted in front of the windows and looked at the high-rise apartments covered in creeping shadow. He shouted at the bathroom.
“Rachel, are you taking calls?”
She hmm’d to herself in the toilet. “Who is it?”
He addressed the phone. “Who is it?”
The man hesitated again. “Andrew.”
“Aw yeah, I’ll talk to Andrew.”
Sean handed her the phone.
She listened to the receiver as she fossicked in her bag and found her tiny notebook. She lay on the mattress and turned to what she had written. When Andrew was finished talking, she read out her questions.
“Who are you?” She paused. “Andrew. How are you Andrew?”
She listened to the reply and wrote verbatim his answer.
“What do you want? Why are you calling me?”
She scribbled some more.
“Where are you?”
Once again she copied down the reply.
“What does it mean to you? Is it important to you?”
She thought about Andrew’s response.
“I am insane.”
Sean stared at the blank television and watched her from the corner of his eye. She lay flat on her stomach with her legs stretched out. She repeated herself after Andrew had finished stammering.
“I am insane. I am insane.”
Her voice was dull and had no emotion.
“I am insane. I am insane. I am insane.”
She paused and listened.
“What? I am insane. No. I am insane. I am in –”
She halted and scratched her face, considering what he told her next.
“Ok. See you then. Bye Andrew.”
She hung up the phone and dropped it onto the mattress. She rolled off the bed and sat down on the floor, between the bed and wardrobe mirror. He dimmed the lights that hung over the bed.
“Do you want soup?
Her face was six inches from the glass. She did not blink at what she saw.
“I’m making soup.”
He shrugged and switched on the television. She didn’t move. He searched in vain for a cricket score, not sure if there were any matches being played. After the two Test series in India, involving first England and then Australia, against the locals, there had been a popular consensus in the media that the world power of cricket had switched from the antipodeans in New South Wales to the subcontinent. Sean was depressed that the English team was so hopeless. He cracked the remaining can of curry chicken soup and poured it into a pot simmering on the stove. He knew there was a clean bowl somewhere, but nevertheless washed one of the undesirables from the sink. From behind the bed Rachel inhaled deeply.
“I have soup. Do you want soup?”
He sat on the couch and flicked through his notes, waiting for the bowl to cool to his liking.
“I like this soup,” he said mournfully to himself.
He blew on the steaming bowl and stirred the contents with a spoon. He looked over his shoulder in her direction. She was still staring into the mirror. He flicked channels. There were no good movies about to start. He looked at her again. She hadn’t moved. He stood at her shoulder, his eyebrows arched incredulously.
“That’s enough Rachel. Have something to eat.”
She didn’t make eye contact. He grabbed her shoulder.
“Come on, Rachel, that’s enough.”
“Stop it!” she screamed.
He threw up his arms in apathy and went back to his soup. He intermittently flipped through his notes and watched television. He couldn’t focus on what he had written. The music continued to pound through the walls. She stretched out her arms and breathed deeply. She started to chant “Ohm”, much like a Buddhist monk.
The room grew darker as the Sun dropped behind the North Shore skyline.
He killed the television. He placed his notepad next to the pile of untouched, dusty books and walked over to her on the balls of his feet. The armpits of her shirt were soaked through with sweat.
“Do you want a glass of water?”
She nodded yes in reply. She had a sip from the glass he offered her and placed it on the floor. He sat next to her. He looked at them in the mirror. They could have been ghosts lost in some dank, murky tomb, long forgotten to the concerns of the modern world. She turned to face him. She stared at him for a long moment. She didn’t blink. He found it hard to not look away. She finally spoke.
“Do you want to be healed?”
He frowned. His voice was barely a murmur. “Ok.”
She stretched out her arms and focused on her reflection.
He watched as she breathed deeply and traced a slow, arabesque pattern in the air with her slender hands. He attempted to follow her movements. She exhaled a slow “Ohm” and interweaved her fingers centimetres from her face. He tried to follow her movements but stopped as he became self-conscious.
“Wait, what are we doing?”
She broke into a smile and stroked his face. “I’m making it up.”
They looked at each other in the gloom.