Monday, March 10, 2008

The Horror Show

-Here is another I have been sitting on for quite some time. I was in an ugly space in my life, and that ugliness is all over this. I graphed out its finish, but thank God, I had my catharsis and never fleshed out the grand finale. You should be thankful too, because it wasn't pretty. This one is kinda rough.

Paul just wanted a drink. He stepped into the liquor store on the corner for some beer. His mind wasn’t on what kind of beer; he just wanted a drink. His heart was low, and he was trying to figure it out. He reached for a six-pack of Budweiser. Normally, he never drank domestic beer, but with his low heart, the taste wasn’t going to matter anyway. He waited in line. In front of him was a woman pushing a stroller with what looked like a two-year old boy, rambunctious as hell, fidgeting in it. She pushed the stroller forward, because she was next in line. She purchased a pack of gum. Juicy Fruit, the kind that makes breath really stink after about an hour. Paul looked down at the kid. The way that the mother had pushed the stroller, the kid was engulfed in magazines. The kid was quiet.

Paul’s walk back to his apartment was a slow one. Paul was a sturdy young man. His shoulders were broad, and he had the build of one who may or may not work out at the gym regularly. This was a result of his heavy lifting that he had to do on the job. Paul loaded and unloaded lumber with a forklift. The work sounds relatively easy, but there were many times that Paul would have to use muscle to straighten things out. There was a lot of stacking and a lot of piling to be done besides regular forklift work. Paul had shaved his head back to a fade all over his head. He’d had long hair, but the heat from the job had given his scalp fever blisters. The sun was something that Paul really didn’t like. With his fair skin, he wound out looking ruddy all the time. Paul was in a perpetual blush during the week. On the weekends, he turned back to his normal complexion, but during the week, Paul was always on the lookout for the big sunburn.
He’d had a horrible day. It had been cliché it was so horrible. His forklift had broken at the yard, and it was noon before it could be serviced. He’d had trucks backed up out of the lumberyard and up the street. The only thing that had been keeping him sane was the fact that he was going to meet Linda that evening. Linda had called him just before his shift had ended. She had told him that she had to go and do something with her mother. Paul had accepted it at the time. Plans change. The problem was that as he drove home, he had to drive by her house, and he saw Chuck’s car nearby. Paul knew exactly who Chuck was. Chuck was Linda’s ex. Chuck was a skinny, pasty white guy with bad acne scars. Paul always wondered what the physical attraction had been between them. Paul was no judge of men, but he knew ugly when he saw it. Paul had never surrendered to the fact that Chuck and Linda could just be friends. He knew that Linda had been intimate with Chuck, and it was a slight to him every time Chuck was around. Chuck was humble enough about it, but still, his very presence stated that ‘I did things with your girlfriend long before you did.’

It had always been painful to him. Paul referred to it as ‘the old wound.’ Paul was a romantic. He wanted to be able to put his past behind him and move on. He had always felt that a new relationship with a female meant that the previous relationships were dead in the water. They had to be. Paul knew who he was. He knew that he couldn’t be trusted. He knew that as soon as something bad happened between his current girlfriend and him, that if the previous were around, he could run to them. He had always expected Linda to play the same game. She did not. Linda liked to keep them around, like so many dicks in jars, Paul thought. Keeping them there just in case something bad happened with her current lover, she could fall back on the previous.
This logic had always been obvious to Paul. He had hated it. Linda’s defense was that she valued friendship, and that friendship should transcend the sexual acts of the past. How ridiculous.

So the old wound had pulsed again as he drove by Linda’s house. He knew that Chuck was in there. He knew that they were probably just talking. But it still killed him. He was jealous, but then again, if he were challenged on the jealousy, he wouldn’t really have much evidence to go on.

The day had progressed though. Linda had called again and said that her Mother didn’t need her help, but she was going to call it an early night anyway. Paul had asked if he could come over, and she had told him no. This had shaken Paul. He decided to go over anyway.

After driving up to the house, and seeing that Chuck was still there he made his decision. Paul knocked on the door and Chuck answered. Chuck looked flustered and Linda ran up behind him looking flustered too. Paul had intruded. They still had their clothes on, but it was the lie. Linda was looking good with her hair cascading down her back. She was looking good in her Levi’s. She was looking good in her Aerosmith t-shirt. Paul absorbed how attractive she was, but this attraction was being obscured by anger and a flurry of other emotions that he couldn’t control. Linda’s glasses perched on her perfect nose in that was that Paul liked. Her smile seemed sincere. The problem was that there was something foul in the air. Paul realized that Linda had this separate life with Chuck that he wasn’t a part of. But wasn’t Paul Linda’s boyfriend? Even if the relationship that Linda had with Chuck was purely innocent, why? Why would she lie to him about this? Paul didn’t understand, and Linda had no real good explanations. There was anger, and there were words. Paul left her house heartbroken, even though he hadn’t set foot inside. Even though he hadn’t caught them in a sexual act, it was the lies, the lies that Linda told. How many more were there? Did Paul want to know? Paul wanted a drink.

It was a four-year relationship that was tearing him apart. Paul had put in four years. He had trusted for four years. He just wanted to understand the lies. Linda had told him when he had caught her lying to him before that she didn’t want to tell him, because she didn’t want to deal with his jealousy. Paul didn’t understand. He couldn’t. He had cleared his life out for her, but she wouldn’t do the same for him. When his relationship was good with Linda, it was heavenly, but when it was bad, it was hell on earth. It was beer time.

Back at the apartment, Paul pulled a beer and cracked it. He turned on the television and drank. Television was useless. There was a plate on top of the television. A dirty fork was to the side of it. The remains of last night’s chicken still sat on the plate. Paul had been in such a rush to get to work that morning that he hadn’t even bothered to clean up. He surveyed the room. He had been in a good mood in the past few days, but the rooms were messy. His clothes were everywhere. There was the pile of newspapers by the door. That pile had been building for the past month, Paul had just been too busy to recycle or throw them away or whatever the hell you do with old papers.

Paul looked down at the ground and saw that the grit and the pieces and ends of entropy were thick. He hadn’t vacuumed in weeks. Paul accepted the fact that he was a total slob. Was this why Linda still ran back to Chuck? Paul knew that the sloppiness that he was surrounded with was about to get significantly worse. When a man has to heal on the emotional level, things have to take a back seat, or maybe even get thrown out of the back window. House hygiene was one of those things.

Paul couldn’t get the betrayal out of his head. He slugged the beer back, and finished the can. He focused his teary eyes on the television screen to see that he was supposed to be watching an infomercial on quick cash made by uneducated people.

Paul got up for another beer. On the crumb-covered kitchen table, was a pile of papers, receipts. These were the purchases of his life of late. A coffee here, a burrito there. The receipts gave the time and place and price of all of the mediocre purchases. The receipts told him the titles of the CDs, the types of burritos and the titles of the magazines purchased. They spoke of his life on an intimate level that a stranger would really be able to appreciate. As he fumbled his second beer from the plastic ring that kills seagulls at beaches, the phone rang. Paul stumbled towards it. He loped like a man that had been shot in the center of his back. Then he stopped. It was time for Linda to go. He knew that he couldn’t take her anymore. He knew that she would run back to Chuck or whoever she wanted if he was gone. Paul had weighed the pain, and he knew that it would hurt more to keep her around then to let her go. It was time for her to go. His hand hesitated over the receiver. He picked it up.

“Hello.” He said. He kept his voice serious. He didn’t want to reveal to her that he might actually like hearing her voice.

Paul! Paul! What’s up! It’s William!” The voice yelled. Paul had to figure himself out.

Ohhhhh, I thought that this was going to be someone else. Hey William, what’s up?” Paul asked. He wanted to sound as excited as William sounded, but he really was not.

“Yeah, we have a bachelor party going down here, and we need you to be a part of it!” William said.

“Look , Billy, I really ain’t up to celebrating the idea of marriage. I think that Linda and I just broke up.” Paul said.

“Just all the more reason for this! Look! It’ll be just a few guys. Richard is getting married; we thought that a night of drinks and porn could be fun! Come on! Richard just asked Maria to marry him last week. We have to get this thing going now. Like tomorrow night! Come on! If you don’t have Linda, what else are you going to do with your Friday night?” William had a good point.

Paul began to consider this friend William. William was the exact kind of guy that would plan a bachelor party with beer and porn. The thing was that Paul wasn’t really interested in a bunch of porn right now. With Linda gone, it would simply remind him of what she and Chuck were probably doing right at that very moment. Paul had always been indifferent to porn. He could take or leave it. It was fun to look at it from time to time, but Paul was much more interested in the real thing.

“Porno and beers? Is there anything else going on?” Paul asked.

“Hey, this is some real special footage that I picked up from my brother. I guarantee you that you have never seen this stuff before. I really want you guys to see this stuff. It is going to freak you out!” William said.

“What, you have bestiality or something?” Paul asked. He wasn’t curious yet, but it was coming.

“It’s the new level of porn. That’s all I want to say. It takes it to the next level. I think the stuff is killer!” William was extremely excited.
“Killer, huh? Let me drink this beer that I have here, and call you back.” Paul said.

“Call me tomorrow if you want. I’ll give you the directions to the motel. Oh, and bring twenty bucks.” William said.

“Got it, later.” Paul said. He was done. He hung up the phone. Porn and beers on a Friday night? Maybe back when he was fifteen, but now? At twenty-seven? There had to be more for a recently made single man to do.

“I fucked up.” Paul said to himself in the mirror. He was looking himself dead in the eyes. His hair was wet. It hung down his face like seaweed. The steam from the shower he’s just had hung about him like cigarette smoke.

“I should have never trusted her. I should have never trusted her. I should have never trusted her.” He repeated again and again and again. The problem was that he still wanted to trust her. He wanted this rift to all go away. He wanted it all to be as it had been not so long ago. The problem was that she had lied. If she was lying about this, what else was she lying about? Why had she chosen to lie about this? Why couldn’t she have just told him the truth? What was so important about this Chuck motherfucker that made Linda want to lie to him? She was breaking his heart. The problem was that Paul was a man, and a man as far as Paul knew, could not admit to emotional struggles.

Re-calibrating the heart is a hard thing to do. Paul’s method was one of the hardest. Anger from betrayal was the start, but then it would have to descend into all out hatred. Paul was one of those people who could never deal with the same lover again on a friendship level. He didn’t want to keep Linda around. This relationship was going to have to die. Paul now knew that Linda was going to want to keep him around like she kept Chuck around. Paul wasn’t ready for that. Paul knew that he was going to have to hurt her. He was going to have to hurt her is such a way that she would never want to come back to him. If she was going to break his heart, then he was going to have to break her’s back, and hard.

The intimacies that Paul had shared with Linda were not to be trivialized. Paul had actually loved her. If she wanted to keep him around as a friend, she was sorely mistaken. Paul wasn’t geared that way. He couldn’t be. Suppose Paul was to get involved with someone else. Would he always want to have Linda in the background? No. Would he subject his new lover to what he had just been subjected to with Chuck? Paul didn’t will the pain that he felt on anyone. It really frosted him that Linda couldn’t see his angle. Paul was furious with her. If there was one person who needed to feel the pain that Paul felt, Linda was the one. Paul was angry, he needed to stick with his resolve. The resolve was to kick Linda out and never deal with her on an intimate level again. Sure, there was business that had to transpire. Sure, he was going to have to ransack her car and house to get back his things, but this was going to have to be over. He had to bolster up. He had to toughen himself. Paul had to make himself strong, or he was going to get hurt by this woman, and Chuck, again. More beer.

As Paul held his dialogue with himself in the mirror, the phone rang in the other room. Paul, already toweled around the waist, went and answered it.

“Hello?” He asked.

“Paul, this is Linda.” She said. Paul had been bracing himself for this one.

“Yeah?” Paul asked. He was hurt. Why would she call now? What could she want? She had to know how bad he’d been hurt. She had to. He didn’t want to let the guard down. He had to keep the front on. He had to let her know that the distance that was coming across the phone lines were her doing. A plan was hatching in the back of Paul’s head. It was like the opening of an ugly blossom. The potential for pain was about to be realized.

“Paul, it’s not what you think. Why are you so suspicious? Why don’t you just accept the fact that I can have a relationship with this guy? It doesn’t change who you are to me. It doesn’t change it in the least. You are still my boyfriend. Chuck? He’s just a friend. He doesn’t matter on that level. It’s you I want, not him. Can’t you understand this?” Linda was using a soft voice, attempting to disarm him.

“Then why lie to me, Linda? Why the deception? Why would you play me like that? I don’t understand. If you and Chuck are so…innocent, why give me the bullshit line?” Paul spoke. His voice was strong, almost harsh.

“I didn’t want you worrying about it. I didn’t want you thinking other things. Chuck needed to talk to me about relationship problems that he is having with his current girlfriend. He needed me to talk to him. I know how you feel about his and my relationship. I recognized him as a friend and tried to make it work. It backfired. I’m sorry.” Linda said.

“You lied to me. You lied to me about a previous lover of yours. How am I supposed to feel? I don’t keep my previous girlfriends around for you to wonder about. Do you know that I wonder about you two, because I see him around? I wonder how you two were as lovers. I think of his hands on you. I think of him inside of you. I think of you looking at him like he is your one and only. That shit doesn’t just change. There is still some sort of bond there that you two have. I can’t be a part of it. I was never a part of it. And then you are going to go and lie to me so that you can spend time with him, while he talks about his new lover? Linda, I need some time. I need some time to think about whether I trust you or not. I have to go.” Paul slammed the receiver down.

He had thrown it in her face, where it belonged. This selfish woman was only thinking of herself on this one. Was she running a double standard? Paul wasn’t sure. Paul felt the desire to call an ex-girlfriend and talk to her, just to spite Linda. The situation was ugly. Paul knew that it was ugly, and he wanted to make it better. At that time though, Paul had to just contain his anger. He felt the swelling of hatred, not for Linda, but for Chuck. The lingering though of beer tingled in the back of his head again.

Chuck was disrespecting Paul’s space. Paul knew that Chuck knew this. Men know about special relationship issues. A man who is in the space of another man’s female understands the respect that is necessary. Chuck wasn’t playing by the rules. Paul ran the image of Chuck over in his head again and again. He knew that if Chuck was in the room right at that time, that he was capable of murder. Not just any murder, but the kind of murder that is slow and brings lots of pain. Paul thought of bleeding Chuck with paper cuts. Hanging Chuck upside down, and bleeding him drop by drop into a metal bedpan. What would Paul do with the blood? Whip it into a milkshake or something. Paul would have to violate Chuck’s blood in a way that would make Chuck think that if he lived through this horror, that he would never want to see Linda or Paul again. Paul thought of rubbing alcohol on open wounds. He thought of genitals in a vice grip. Paul thought of a sledgehammer to Chuck’s face. Knocking teeth into a skid across the floor. Seeing Chuck’s skull collapse in an unnatural fashion. Having to pull the mallet out of the crater that it had created in his once existent face. It would come with a sucking, gushing sound. Paul was capable of these and other acts of violence at the moment. Paul was furious with this man that he didn’t even really know. He realized that his anger was almost solely for Chuck, and not for Linda. Paul needed to think Linda through again.

And as he thought, he realized how selfish she was. She knew that her relationship with Chuck irked him, yet she continued, oblivious to his feelings. If the whole situation were inverted, how would she feel? He picked up the phone and dialed her back. Speed-dial button. Things were going to have to change around his house.

“Paul!” She said. Her voice was excited. Caller ID. Some things were really going to have to change.

“Linda, listen. Let’s invert this whole situation. Suppose I had an ex around and you were struggling with it. Suppose I lied to you in order to spend more time with the ex? How would you feel?” Paul was trying hard to keep his voice level.

“It wasn’t a lie. I really had to deal with my mother, then I didn’t. I was really off for the evening, and then Chuck came by. I just didn’t tell you.” She said.

“So, you were willing to put the time in with him that was rightfully mine?” Paul asked.

“Chuck is my friend, he needed to talk.” She responded.

“You are evading the question, Linda. How would you feel?” Paul asked. He had to remain stolid in his query. Linda was good at changing subjects. She was good at throwing it back at him.

“I don’t know how I would feel.” She said, calmly. This was the lie. She knew exactly how she would feel. To say that she didn’t know meant that she didn’t want to face the truth. Paul knew this.

“You don’t know? I am hanging out with a woman that I fucked before and we spend all kinds of time together behind your back and you don’t know how you would feel? Linda, tell me the truth. Tell me the truth and we can move on from this.” Paul said.

I can’t have this conversation right now.” Linda said. Then she hung up the phone.
This was when Paul realized that it was over. He realized that she wasn’t going to buckle for him. He now knew that on some deep levels, Chuck meant more to her than he did. Paul now had to decide how ugly his breakup with Linda was going to be. Was he going to explode? Was he going to lash out with all of his venom? Or was he going to leave quietly? Emotional man that Paul was, he was going to have to wait and see what he would do, he had no idea. He now made a beeline to the rest of the sixpack.

Friday came. Paul had almost forgotten to call for directions, because his brain had been so screwed up with Linda. Paul really wasn’t looking forward to the bachelor party. Paul really wasn’t feeling sexual at all. He felt little or no desire to see a naked woman, let alone, two porn stars in the throes of pseudo-sexual satisfaction.

William was too excited for Paul. The phone conversation was almost completely William yelling to be there at seven o’clock sharp. There wasn’t even a worry about how much beer or money to bring. William wanted to make sure that everyone saw this new level of porn that he had.
Paul wondered to himself for the rest of the afternoon what it could be. As far as he knew, the serious taboos had already been explored. His friend Keith had sent him an email several years before with a picture of a woman having sex with a german shepherd. Paul had read about the countless kiddie porn busts that had been happening across the nation. There were only so many directions that porn could go in. There were only so many different ways a human could wield his or her sexuality. There were only so many different ways a human body could be violated. Paul knew that whatever William had, it was going to ruin him on a level. There was no real excitement in it for Paul either. A good horror film was what Paul needed, that was the kind of escape that would have worked for him. Paul knew this. He needed his escape. He needed to put his brain on a hook somewhere and zone out. Watching some neo-porn was not going to help him zone out at all.

There was something about porn that made Paul uneasy. In a soft-core sex scene in a standard Hollywood film, it is a given that there is no real penetration involved. This makes the scene ‘safe’. This is actually acting on one level or another. In a hard-core sex scene, it is two actors actually engaging in the sexual act. It is too honest. It is too raw. The voyeurism is too intense. Paul didn’t like porn, because he felt guilty about it. He didn’t like watching the sexual practices of others. He had never reconciled himself to this fact. He would never have wanted anyone to have seen the way he had taken Linda on the bed, or on the floor, or anywhere, so why would he want to view other people engaged in the same thing? He was also afraid that deep down inside of himself, it would corrupt his own performance when it came time for his next sex act. Paul didn’t want to deal with other people’s business, his own was bad enough. The idea of looking at real people involved in real sex scared him. The prospect of real people involved in something that William was saying was new was even further beyond Paul.

Paul wondered what it could possibly be. He wondered if it was rape on film. This had been done. He had read about it. How some of the more recent porn that was coming out was more and more brutal, and that rape was the underlying theme behind it. Paul wondered what kind of man would get off watching a rape scene on film. What did it mean? What had happened to the man that enjoyed watching rape scenes to the point that he would actually feel sexually aroused watching such filth?

The next question was simply that of masturbation. Porn, Paul knew, was merely a masturbation tool. Men play with themselves when they view porn. This is what men are supposed to do. This is what has been accepted. Porn has never had the monicker of ‘stuff to help you whack off’ but just the same, that’s what it is. The idea of sitting in a room, drinking beer, watching porn, crowded in with a bunch of horny, sexually repressed men, scared Paul. It was something that didn’t appeal to him terribly. Paul also began to wonder about the idea of porn being a masturbatory tool. If porn was accepted. If porn was mainstream. If porn was a big part of the juggarnaught known as pop culture, then why weren’t people masturbating in public? Paul began to work this argument through. Pee Wee Herman was busted in a porn theatre for masturbating. The property must have been private where Pee Wee had been located. But Pee Wee was still busted for indecent exposure. If masturbation was ok, then why, would someone be busted for masturbating in a porn theatre of all places?

The final road that Paul’s mind went down before he decided that he would have to wait and see William’s new find was that of the unexplored. Paul as a youngster had watched the Faces of Death movies. After he had sat through three of them with his friends on a Saturday afternoon, Paul had felt violated in some way. The movies showed autopsies and damaged corpses. They showed murder caught on film. They showed suffering and brutality. Men, women and animals were mangled before Paul’s young eyes. Paul was also keenly aware that a lot of this footage, if not all of it was quite real. Paul was aware that these were things that had actually happened to other human beings, and that these were things that he should not have watched. Paul was thinking about how far the sexual act could be pushed. The only things that he could think of was necrophilia. Paul was sure that whatever William had to show them that evening had nothing to do with sex with the dead. Paul was sure of it. But why was William so gleeful? Why was William so giddy about all of this? Paul was going to have to wait. The feeling that Paul had was that of morbid curiosity. He knew that what he was going to observe that evening was going to stay in his brain for the rest of his life. He knew that no matter how drunk, or how stoned he got, he was going to have to contend with whatever images darted off of the television screen in just a few hours. He was aware of this, but he also wasn’t a coward. William had been selling the idea that this was a new dimension in porn for a while now. The other people who were invited to the party had been talking about it. They had been speculating as to what it could possibly be. There was a buzz in the air, courtesy of William. Paul knew that it was something, but he didn’t know what. It was intangible, and Paul felt like a lamb headed for the slaughter.

“Paul? Is that you?” Linda asked through the phone.

“Yeah, Linda, it’s me.” Paul said. His voice was resigned. Pissed, but resigned.

“Paul. Look, I’m sorry about lying to you. I know that it must have hurt you when you realized that it was all about Chuck. I’m sorry. I really am. You have to understand that I don’t feel for him the way that I feel for you.” Linda’s voice was humble. It was smooth. But she wasn’t backing down.

“Linda, I can’t hate you. I can’t stay angry with you forever. I am going to try to understand this whole thing. I am going to try and work with this thing. Yes, I think Chuck is a total prick, but that is my opinion, and he is your friend. I need to respect the fact that you have friends. Listen, don’t lie to me. I hate it when you lie. It kills us.” Paul said. He wasn’t going to make it. He knew that what Linda wanted to do was all about her selfishness within the relationship. He knew that the only way that he could have her back in his life was to allow this Chuck guy in too. Paul wasn’t going to do it, unless there was a way to pay them both back for the damage that they were inflicting upon his psyche.

“Paul, we all lie. We all lie to protect ourselves and to protect those around us. I will try not to lie to you, so long as you promise not to flip your lid next time you see Chuck and I together.”

“It’s a deal. I wish that we could hang out tonight, but I have this bachelor party that I am supposed to go to.” Paul said.

“That’s okay, I need some time to myself. Can we have a date tomorrow night?” Linda asked.

“I would really like that. I mean really. I will also need to decompress after I deal with whatever is going down tonight.”

“Do you guys have a stripper or something?” Linda asked. He voice wasn’t accusatory; it just accepted the fact that this is what men did at bachelor parties.

“No, no stripper, but this guy William keeps on saying that he has this new dimension in porn that he wants to show us.” Paul said.

“Ooooh, new porn? Maybe I should come!” Linda said.

“Yeah, at this point, you could take my place, I am apprehensive about this. The guy is pushing it almost to maniacal proportions. He is so hell-bent on all of us seeing this stuff. It is actually beginning to make me wonder what the hell he really does have.” Paul said.

“Well, tomorrow we can meet and we can swap notes. Have fun, honey!” Linda said.

“Yeah, I’ll try.” Paul said.

“I love you.” Linda proffered.

“I have to go, I’ll call you tomorrow.” Paul said. He wasn’t going to step in the love direction. He was still sore. On paper they were still together. But in his heart, that bitch had walking papers.

“Bye-bye.” Linda responded. The conversation ended.

Paul wanted to feel that it was all over. He wanted the peace that said that this grudge match between Linda and himself was done. Inside he knew it was not. Inside he knew that she had sabotaged his trust. Inside he knew that it was going to be awhile before she could earn that trust back. Paul wanted to trust, he really did, but he couldn’t put his whole heart into it at this point. The relationship was going to die...but at this time, is could limp of life-support. Perhaps the distraction of a wicked porn film was what he needed.

There were four teenagers, bound and gagged, being led into a warehouse at gunpoint. Their eyes were wide, like that zebra having his entrails eaten by tigers on the Discovery channel. They were all boys. They were all men. As one stepped closer to camera range, the scene changed. It was a flashback to previous footage. It was the same kid. He was wearing the same clothes, he just wasn’t bound, gagged and scared looking.

“Yeah, I want to show you all how I can fuck.” He said to the camera. He smiled, then broke out with a maniacal laugh.

“I am going to be the star of your new porno!” He yelled. It was obvious that the footage had been filmed in a greasy spoon somewhere. The contrast of this kid’s boyish like features and his zest for life against the original shot of a bound and gagged prisoner was revolting.

The scene cut again. The next young man was paraded before the camera. His long hair obscured his face. The duct tape over his mouth had his hair caught in it. The obvious thing was that his hair was going to rip when the tape was pulled. There was another cut. This time, the young man’s hair was pulled back into a pony-tail. This time, the kid had French fries that he was eating as he talked to the camera. It was the same sort of machismo posturing. How good he was going to be in bed. This happened two more times. First, there were shots of the prisoners, then shots of them at a previous time.

Paul was beginning to feel sick. He knew where this seemed to be going. He looked around the darkened hotel room. His friends were sprawled on the bed, the chairs and the floor. They all seemed totally enraptured with what was on the screen. Paul was disturbed. He knew that this wasn’t going to end in a nice way. He looked over at William, whose curly hair looked like an afro in the dim light. William was smiling. A big satisfied smile. The kind of smile that comes after a hard day’s work.

William!” Paul said.

“Shut up! This is my debut!” William said. Then there was shifting in the room. No one had known that William was actually going to be in this film.

“I don’t want to see you naked!” Jonathan yelled from the floor. His baseball cap was on backward; he was lying on his stomach.

“Yeah! Who wants to see you naked? And what’s up with these guys? I thought that we were watching a porno! This is some gay shit!” John yelled from the bed. John was John so that Jonathan on the floor could keep his name as Jonathan. Neither of them wanted to be called ‘Johnny’.

Suddenly, Jonathan jumped up and shut the television screen off. He hopped over to the door and flicked the light on.

“This is beginning to look like some sort of homo-snuff film, Billy. I think that you have some explaining to do!” Jonathan said. His shirt was off. The baseball cap on his head looked out of place, his swollen pink, hairy belly hung over his pants.

“Look guys. I’m in this. This movie I guess is technically not porno. This is a thing that me and my brother came up with.”

“Ah shit! Now you are going to show us some incest?” John yelled from the bed. There was laughter in the room.

“William, this is my bachelor party, and this is beginning to look really fucked up.” Richard said from the chair. Richard really looked disturbed. His eyes were wide and he was pulling at his moustache with his fingers.

Paul looked around and examined the rest of the people in the room. Mike was on the floor. He was a square-jawed follower. He would do anything that Jonathan told him to do. Jonathan and Mike were inseparable. There were two empty beer bottles next to where Jonathan had been lying, and there were two empty bottles next to Mike. He wore his hair in the surfer, feathery look of the eighties. He was blond, and dumb as a post. Then there was Ian who was standing in the corner, sort of half leaning on the nightstand. Ian was by and large, the sharpest guy of the bunch. He was educated. He had a degree in marketing or something, but he still drove forklifts with the rest of them. The quietest of the bunch was Mitchell, who was sitting at the edge of the bed. He was a large man, with an extremely muscular back. His blue and white plaid shirt was pulled tight across his back, giving him the look of Lou Ferrigno just before the shirt ripped on ‘The Incredible Hulk’. Mitchell had nothing to say, he was simply listening.

You guys, I don’t like this, I’m outta here.” Ian said.

“Awww, come on! You have to see my debut!” William said. William was beginning to look worried.

“William, you know how I feel about porn, and whatever the fuck is going to happen on that screen is nothing that I want anything to do with.” Ian said.

“Don’t be such a party pooper! Stick around for Richard! It’s his bachelor party!” William said.

“Richard, I’ll be at your wedding, but seriously, I don’t think that I need this.” Ian said.

“Yeah William, I mean, what the fuck is this stuff?” Paul asked.

Ian made his way out of the corner that he was in. He didn’t even bother saying goodbye to the people in the room, he just left.

“Guys look, let’s just roll it for ten more minutes and then if you still don’t like it, we can turn it off.” William said.