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Ambitious poetry. The words that come out of my head

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Hello. I've finished the second part of Chapter 10. It is a bit of a climax for Williams. I've tried to capture the sense of being carried away; a lack of control and being caught in a blur with moments of lucidity. It's based heavily on something that happened. Really the theme of this chapter is that you can't escape: just going somewhere else - the same rules apply. You're the same person with the same demons and the something will happen to you, and when it does, it just gets worse the further you run from it. Included is the last paragraph of the last post, to help it flow. Please do let me know what you think, if you have any thoughts.

Beyond the mismatched music, the voices were a foreign hubbub of conversation, laughter and arguments. Mostly it was in Spanish or pigeon English, but behind them were some northern lads wearing loose vests over toned, tanned bodies beneath well-groomed high and tight haircuts. Williams studied them, enjoying this moment of illicit ethnography. In contrast, across the plaza, and spread throughout the crowds were gaggles of pale, excitable Irish girls darting between groups of men and groups of each other, giggling and clasping their smart phones. A group of them had started making their way over to where Jamie and Williams were sitting, exchanging amused expressions.

‘Oh my God you look just like Tom Daley! Doesn't he look like Tom Daley?’

'The diver?'

‘Oh my God he so does!’

‘Can I get a picture with you Tom Daley?’

‘I want a picture with Tom Daley!’

‘Oh my God is Tom Daley here?’

‘No Sorcha, this boy just looks like him.’

‘No he doesn’t’

‘He so does, look…’

And so the girls had swarmed the table, one group crowded around Jamie, about whom they had descended into an argument, in doing so drowning out his protests such that he simply sat and stared blankly at each of them in turn. The other group, smaller but older, had sat with Williams, who sat grinning in triumph with Jamie – triumph at nothing other than having been left alone.

‘I don’t know much about Ireland,’ he shouted above the racket, ‘big O’Driscoll fan though.’

‘Oh yeah, in BOD we trust right?’

He hadn't caught her name but he had got her age; she was nineteen and had straight dark brown hair and pink, sun warmed pale skin. She had a toothy smile; proud white front teeth that were not unattractive, over which plump cerise lips stretched into a warm smile at odds with the oceanic ice cold of her irises, which stood out even in the yellow-stained dark of the plaza.

‘I don’t know these gals,’ she explained, ‘they just tagged on to Nic and I when they heard our accents.’

She spoke with a soft Irish accent, that typical melodic patter that so many people find enchanting. Indeed, her voice carried a certain magic to it, softly toned yet loud above the roaring chatter of the higher, sharper voiced of the girls around Jamie. Williams was struggling to keep track of what she was saying, and harder presses still to keep a grasp of his own utterance. He gave her a smile and signalled that he couldn't hear her; she drew her chair closer. Williams hadn’t wanted this, but he was leaning forward, elbow on his knee, hand supporting his chin – not to hear her, but to remain upright. That alcohol was hitting. The table, with its mottled glass surface refracting the yellow light into shards of bright yellow and deep ochre had been cleared of the bottles and glasses. He’d missed that.

‘You alright there, Jack? You look tired.’

‘I’m fine.’

Williams sat upright. Jamie looked overwhelmed by the chattering horde, who were now standing around the table and talking loudly over and across it. Some of them were bickering over the table, talking about the two young men;

‘They must be gay, they’re on holiday together.’

‘That doesn’t mean shit.’

Jamie, for his part was speaking with one girl who was crouched by the table. Orange hair, very pale, wearing braces. Williams guessed at her being young – fifteen perhaps at most. Jamie’s body language was that of a defeated father.

‘Youse two need some pep, it’s only half eleven.’

‘Watch it, you, Irish.’

‘He’s got some fight in him, Nic.’

‘Don’t see that in an Englishman every day, huh?’

Nic, the other girl, was larger with a soft round face and an awkward fringe that made her look a little big rounder and a little bit paler – her hair being dyed black. Large watery eyes peer from beneath her bangs, nit the rest of her features were lost to Williams, who was mustering himself a rally against the onrush of alcohol flooding his system. He forced himself upright.

‘Alright girls, I’m having none of that.’

‘Slurring your words there Jack.’

‘Just because I’ve actually had a drink.’

‘Well then,’ said the teeth girl, ‘jagerbombs it is, come on Jack: show us poor gals how it’s done.’

The word 'no' ricocheted around Williams’ head, but he thought she was flirting.

‘Ok then, your round though.’

‘What a gentleman.’

‘I’ve already bought loads!’ Williams gestured to the now empty table before sharply retracting his hand. ‘I’ll get the next round.’

Williams looked blinkingly down the mikado yellow-li street, the white paving tiles and whitewash walls stained the colour of urine by the dull street lamps. The only other colour was black, or its ochre-tinged shades, stretching out beneath Williams’ feet in both directions in a grid and sharply swallowing the air behind anything sheltered from the lamps. Jamie stood wavering in front of him, facing away. A cash machine. Williams heaved a foot forward, catching himself against the wall with an outstretched arm so that his head hovered over Jamie’s shoulder.

‘Done yet?’ was all he could manage.

‘Fucking thing…my card.’ Spat Jamie, struggling to punch in his PIN code.

Someone called after them from a long way off, a male voice – Spanish. Williams swung too far around and lost balance slightly, but managed to find the source of the voice a little out of sight but across the street behind a corner. They were at an open intersection, and the voice was diagonally across from them.

He looked at the bag of weed and then back up to the man who had given it to him. He was olive skinned, beneath the piss-coloured light, and had stubble. Very heavy set. Broad jaw. Dark eyes. He might have been wearing sunglasses. Williams was fumbling with a note in his pocket.

‘Twenty Euros.’

‘Si, Enjoy. Is strong stuff. You’ll like it.’

‘Gracias,’ replied Williams, who automatically went to shake the man’s hand, but it seemed like a bad idea so he stopped half way, resulting in a jerky raise of his right arm, the bag of weed still in that hand, ‘smells good dude.’

‘Si, kill this, friend.’

A second man who had been standing behind the first, with a heavy Spanish accent, and who Williams had not noticed before stepped out from the shadows under a porch; his position given away only by coils of feathery smoke, the smell of marijuana and a dull orange glow at about Williams’ eye height. It was a disconcerting aspect. He passed the butt of his joint to Williams and left with the first man, the pair talking hurriedly and quietly. Williams felt a disarming sense of unease; he felt sized up and measured.

At that moment, Jamie brushed past them, walking towards Williams who had been unaware his friend wasn’t even by his side. Placing his left hand firmly on Williams shoulder, partly with affection, partly due to a genuine need for balance, Jamie raised and waved in his right hand a small bag of powder, a crazed, completely vacant smile painted across his face, which was beaded with small jewels of perspiration. It was a warm night, over twenty degrees and the atmosphere, heavy with the smell of weed, thick with the sound of incoherent dance songs vying over one another and the babble of the square around the block pressed in on the pair.

Williams looked up, slumped as he was against a cold wall. He was directly before a street light; a spotlight on his iniquity. His mouth was dry and acidic – no – it was bile. He looked between his legs, knees up and feet planted, to see a puddle of vomit, dark in contrast to the brightly-lit white stone paving tiles, about five inches across each. As red wine and Chinese food pooled uneasily between his legs, Williams became dimly aware that it might stain his shorts. He wretched at the smell and concept, and after spitting, hauled himself sideways about two widths of himself, and fell without catching himself sideways. His head lolled on the pavement, and his eyes rolled around their sockets making him dizzy. The coldness of the stone steadied him somewhat. He saw, retreating into the shadows at the end of the street, Jamie pounding hard and running the other way.

‘Ah fuck.’

Williams blinked back into existence, still under the toxic artificial mustard stain of the street lighting, to see Jamie curled in a foetal position beside him.

‘The fuck…?’

Jamie had laid in Williams’ sick.

‘Sorry man.’

‘D’sn’t matter.’

They clawed each other to their feet, dipping their fingers in the white powder and rubbing it in their gums like some bleach-flavoured medicine. Arms around one another, they looked up and began walking in any direction that led up hill, eventually stumbling onto the main road, which led them directly to the compound on which the villa was located. Jamie leaned into Williams’ ear;

‘This is fucking crazy, man.’

‘Shit. What happened to the Irish chicks?’

‘I dunno, call them.’

‘No number.’

Jamie sniffed dismissively, ‘aad night, it’s warm. I don’t need this.’ He unbuttoned his sick stained shirt and tied it loosely around his waist. He was dripping with sweat. Williams was damp too.

‘The stars man.’

‘Yeah?’

‘No, look. Stop.’

Williams pointed upwards. They were out of the town now, and the night was cloudless. Their eyes, with pupils like hub caps adjusted quickly to the darkness of the sky, greedily hunting for any of the millions of pin pricks of light which burned whiter and brighter than ever before. The multitude of simmering silver candles, fixed points of astral beauty burned and overwhelmed Williams’ consciousness. The darkness grew lighter and the cosmic band of blue-purple dust, seemingly held in place above them by a hundred million cosmic pins revealed itself in layers of clearer and more infinite colour and detail. Williams was so small. So alone. So preoccupied with maintaining an aesthetic, so enamoured by a philosophy that was collapsing around him that centred on the pleasures of the world which no longer gave him any hint of satisfaction; it bored him. This torturous night was a fit of subconscious boredom; a challenge to his subconscious from his conscious – ‘always you make me want more; always nothing is enough; always trying; always watching; always tempted; always the senses; well how about now? How much can you handle? How much until the pleasure you crave is the poison that makes you wince?’

‘Uh Dude. Dude, dude, dude,' said Jamie, patting a stargazing Williams on the arm repeatedly, 'I think I recognise those guys.’

The universe above pulled away from Williams’ eyes as Jamie’s voice ushering in a sudden vicissitude shattered his train of thought. He looked down the hill and saw four burley men. The two at the front – one of them was. Thick set and had a familiar aspect. He wore shades, his broad jaw darkened by stubble. He was pointing in the direction of Williams and Jamie. A bolt of fear shot through Williams. They were vulnerable and outnumbered. The shadows circled them, waiting to pick their bones. The crickets in the bush had eyes and were waiting to sing their songs to the sound of a pummelling. His breath caught in his throat.

‘How far to the villa?’

‘About five minutes this way.’ Said Jamie.

‘Lose them in the compound.’

The two, spurred on by a sudden adrenalin spike shot through their system by a very real fear of the Spanish drug dealers and aided by a healthy paranoia, broke into an uphill sprint, taking great breathless bounds across the road and flying through as many of the warren-like alleys and path ways between villas as they could. There was a blur a moon-lit whitewash, shocked cats eyes glaring out from beneath darkened lemon trees and the occasional an occasional square yellow portal burning through the night revealing night time scenes of human consciousness blurred by the boy’s speed and toxic breaths. They simply made sure they were always heading up the hill, first going far further west than they needed and beyond their villa before treading with light footfalls without their shoes south down the hill and east to where they lived, which they entered by climbing over the back all and slinking through the back door, hidden from the view of the street. Both, once they were at a standstill, were violently sick in the garden. After a quarter of an hour heaving and retching they went inside leaving the lights off while they sat in darkness for a short while, panting heavily, both soaked with sweat. They each voraciously consumed a couple of litres of cold liquid and with a faint glow in the eastern sky, their night was no more.

Drink

By Comrade,

Drink

These chains that are crawling through my veins

Are tightening the rasping in my throat

Under the guise that they are pleasing me

If I take all of the things that I've learned

Stripped, edited down to a single word

Lit up by the light of the loves I burned

What, I wonder, would there be written down?

What, I wonder, would you call beauty now?

One word, one scrawl - one of the multitude

A torch adrift the thronging solitude

Wherein I scream your name, bound yet by chains

A scream of silence; of pleasures and pains

That drifts with me from the club to the bar

To the street in the dark that clings as tar

To the sides of my mouth - awake come day

The soreness of ulcers, biting to say

And it speaks to me, sometimes it whispers -

Sometimes sweet words, and sometimes so bitter:

"I am beautiful, your one true amour,

Come, acquiesce and take me more and more;

Mine is the divine glance that breathes new life

Mine is the claw that shall sink like a knife

And never let go, though I may yet fade

I'm the noise in the scream that e'er pervades"

And then I awake, those chains in my veins

Wracking once more my dehydrated brains

Going has been slow but ever is it heading forwards. I don't have too much time or energy to devote to writing at the moment, but every couple of days I chip away a few more words. Mostly disjointed quotes, phrases and ideas for descriptions, or revisions to that which already exists. I've made a lot of revisions, actually. I've managed to get a bit of the way through the next chapter though, and such is the slow going and my impatience, I've decided to disseminate what currently stands of Chapter 10 and see if anyone is willing to give a little feed back. Even a 'that's not bad' or 'what rubbish!' will do.

Williams' behaviour has caused him to hide a way a bit, but luckily the one man he can trust has come calling...

Chapter 10

‘Honestly Jack, she had the mouth of an angel,’ said Jamie, standing in the middle of the living room, proudly thrusting his arms out energetically and spilling his drink slightly, ‘could have drawn spunk from a stone, I kid you not. She may be the mouth that got away.’

‘You have her number,’ said Williams.

‘Yeah but I won't call it. Christ I don't want to marry her. Besides, it's more romantic if I let her go.’

‘You're a mad-man.’

‘From the mouth of the maddest of men,’ exclaimed Jamie, beaming at Williams as he took a sip.

‘One does one’s best.’

After a week of laying low at home, Williams had opened the door earlier that day to greet Jamie, who arrived with a burst of energy. He had taken the train from London, having finished touring with his band in Europe the day before. Sixty gigs in dive bars and pubs across the continent had blurred the time passed since the last meeting between the two, and Jamie looked beat. His hair was longer and ragged, and his face thinner – his skin sallow and drawn from lack of sleep, but his energy never once flickered. His gaze was one of endless enthusiasm and tenderness towards the world, in which one could sense every moment he had lived; every face he had seen and ever mad-cap idea that had come to pass, and that none of these were enough. The bags beneath his eyes were laden with the poetry of sleepless consciousness; he resented rest and willed himself into constant action. The young men had shared a long, firm hug in Jack Williams’ doorway, during which Williams could feel Jamie’s bones – he had lost weight – but also his strength, which he retained with his vitality. Somehow, months of boozing and drug-fuelled hedonism had yet to take their true toll on Jamie, who despite all of this mad energy and vitality, was teetering on the edge of collapse. After a pot of tea and a few hours in Williams’ bath, he had emerged revitalised and beaming, a little colour back in his cheeks, and had launched into his stories from the road. Some others had come round too, Mark and Liz, who had brought Anne, and Joe was there for the first time in a long time too. In front of a crowd, Williams and Jamie were in roaring form.

‘There was this girl,’ exclaimed Jamie, once more in the middle of the room, words tumbling from his mouth at pace between sips of wine, ‘gave a truly stunning blow job. Really thorough; not just the shaft but the balls as well. She wouldn't just handle them, shed play with them with her tongue. Sometimes she'd even involve my arse crack. Suddenly I discovered that I'm into light anal play. Honestly, I thought at the time that it was true love but now I've realised that,’ Jamie paused, leaning back and shrugging, ‘she was just a bit slutty.’ He paused again and the boys laughed and the girls rolled their eyes and said nonchalantly, ‘still, at least I know what a porn star blowie feels like now. My life has been enriched.’

‘As has ours by your delightful volubility. Thanks for that, Jamie,’ laughed Williams.

‘My pleasure my friend. And when I say that, I mean it. It really was my pleasure.’

‘Christ. Well I too have had a number of eye opening experiences, and let me tell you there is no sexual prop more interesting or sensual than the trampoline,’ said Williams seriously, as if discussing a bank loan.

‘Do you two have any shame?’ Asked Mark, amused disbelief curling his lips as he spoke, casting a half-look towards the girls, who were smirking.

The pair, without a glace towards the other, answered as one; ‘no.’

‘But we do have,’ continued Williams, ‘an extensive and highly creative archive of sexual and narcotic experiences though which we may begin to divine the sensual beauty and wonder of the world in which we live, through the bodies with which we perceive.’

‘Also; we're just degenerate perverts really,’ said Jamie.

‘Well yes,’ Williams feigned annoyance, ‘that too but it sounds somewhat less sophisticated.’

Jamie turned to the girls, ‘the sex to no sex ratio in this room makes me sad girls, can someone liven this place up or do I have to do it on my own, come on!’

The two friends continued catching up with each other, sharing outrageous stories in front of everyone, acting as the night’s entertainment. When the others left, they carried on, culminating in Williams sharing with Jamie his current predicament. That evening the pair resolved to go away, Jamie recommending a friend’s villa in Nerja which was currently deserted.

They booked the tickets for the next day and sat talking into the early hours, taking it in turns to walk about with excited animation; they would spend the week away feverishly writing, drinking absinthe and listening to the sounds of evening through half open doors in the late October warmth. Next, they would be hiring a boat for the week and lazily drift along the shore, picking up local girls from small fishing villages and treating them to wine and olives; they would eat every meal In a different restaurant and become known for their excellent taste, and drink wine into the night as a senior strummed his Latin music while young couples held hands under the street lighting. Both were hungry for something entirely new; faces, people, food, language – women. Where Williams had been confined to his various routines for too long, Jamie had been confined to the road and his band, with little time to escape the cycle of shows and parties, which after months of nothing else had become a thrilling bore. Whatever happened in Nerja, they would be isolated from their respective worlds, and from the temptations of them.

The pair made their way to Gatwick airport by train the next morning, taking a brief detour through London to pick up the keys to the villa from Jamie’s friend who lived in Edgware, a well-to-do sort who introduced himself to Williams as Robbie, an old dog who had been a tour manager for bands in the 1970’s, who had seen and done it all and had fallen quiet – bored by whatever the world had to offer him, but keen to tell his stories and help those in whom he saw something. Jamie had played a gig with his band at Robbie’s local and piqued the interest of the veteran, who had in turn introduced the young musician to some friends still in the industry, who were now behind the band. The two spoke for an hour in Robbie’s living room while Williams looked on, not paying attention. He felt hung over. He browsed the gold and platinum disks on the walls, the pictures of all manner of stars and greats – the memories, displayed as a boast, or perhaps a simply a reminder of days past. Williams felt a little second hand nostalgia, and settled by the window, thinking. This house was a temple to other people’s fame. Jamie was on his way there. Williams felt a stab of envy; how he wanted to be adored. Fame would suit him; he had the disposition to peacock, he was detached, unaffected, in control. Fame robs one of such control, and if one cannot control the perception of oneself, the part being played may well become the real element, and in doing so, the true self becomes condemned to a degree of irretrievable oblivion. He could not allow this. The true problem with fame is that it is perceived, in the twenty-first century, as salvation, whereas it is in fact the loss of everything personal.

They arrived at the Villa early in the evening after a hassle-free journey. They had bought several bottles of wine and whisky in duty free, with clanged in their bags as they let themselves in and abandoned their things in the kitchen. The villa was spread over two floors, open plan and all white, as is typical in warm countries. The tiled floor was covered in ivory-coloured tiles in a diamond pattern with smaller black tiles at the point where the corners of the lighter tiles met. There were few pictures or decorations; some low tables with old magazines and some fake flowers, a picture of Robbie fishing out on the sea, which the villa overlooked from its hill at the top of town. From the balcony, upon which there was a glad-topped table, the sun could be seen hanging low over join between the sea and land in the west, casting over the red clay rooftops long shadows and orange highlights, the sky in the east darkening to reveal the twinkle of stars which took on a foreign light away from home, and seemed filled with a new mystery to Williams. The air was warm and soft, and carried a soft smell of dust from the mountains and moisture from the sea, which mingled with the sweetness of the grass, and the African breeze rolling in from the south; the very air had charisma.

Into this setting Williams uncorked a bottle of wine after a short shower, and with some cured meats, bread and olives, the pair began drinking, looking down at the town. On Jamie’s insistence, Williams read some Baudelaire translations, the French poet’s prose-poem Drunk particularly delighted him, before moving on to reciting passages from Byron’s The Giaour and a rendition of She Walks In Beauty. Jamie replied by softly playing Libertines songs on the battered acoustic guitar be carried everywhere with him, occasionally breaking into a mumble of a song. The music, foreign warmth, the crickets’ playing, and the spice of the Spanish wine – they fired the boys’ imaginations, making them receptive and wonderstruck; they were beginning to get drunk. Invigorated, they started walking into town for a meal.

They wandered aimlessly for a while, coming to a stop at the end of the Balcon de Europa. Here, Jamie looked back at the town as it rose behind them up the steep hillside, the honey cone of yellow windows fading gently into the distant night, the dark earth absorbing the warm moonlight that sought to pick out the white-walled houses and villas. A soft southern wind blew in from the sea, carrying the sound of the breakers as they spawned white crests to punctuate the black water stretching towards Africa. Williams was watching the waves crawl towards the coast where they shattered against the rubble of La Bateria, an old gun battery based upon where they stood, destroyed by the English centuries ago. Williams gripped the black-coated railings with both hands, his gaze lost in the waves. It took for Jamie to place his hand on Williams’ shoulder to snap him out of it, and together they walked back down the promenade, towards a square with a variety of restaurants. They settled at a Thai place and with a fresh bottle of wine they ordered enough food for four; the alcohol and sea air had made them starving.

By the end of the meal both young men were drunk. The lights were a little brighter, the shadows a little darker, and the pair were talking excitedly without remembering what they had just said. They left the restaurant, paying a generous bill – not because they wanted to, but because they had miscounted, which would later cause confusion when paying their tab at a bar, where they argued with the waitress, saying that they were twenty Euros short so they must have paid their bill. They settled the dispute and took a moment’s pause. In forty-five minutes they had populated their small table on the edge of Nerja’s central plaza, a large square ringed with bars with dance floors and a cocktail of dance music mixing into one homogenous off beat, with eight empty shot glasses reeking of cheap tequila and eight glasses with the dregs of Jack Daniel’s and coke. Two bottles of Spanish beer and two wine glasses, one with a few drops of white wine on Jamie’s side, one with red on Williams’ also stood proudly amid the wreckage. The barrage of alcohol was yet to flood their blood streams, so the pair were feeling proud and delightfully light-headed, and took in the square.

Beyond the mismatched music, the voices were a foreign hubbub of conversation, laughter and arguments. Mostly it was in Spanish or pigeon English, but behind them were some northern lads wearing loose vests over toned, tanned bodies beneath well-groomed high and tight haircuts. In contrast, across the plaza, and spread throughout the crowds were gaggles of pale, excitable Irish girls darting between groups of men and groups of each other, giggling and clasping their smart phones. A group of them had started making their way over to where Jamie and Williams were sitting, exchanging amused expressions.

A Student's Room At 3AM

A girl knocked on my door almost every night

And in they'd come, cool and sad;

And we'd chat and fuck and smoke weed

Breathing in the same air

In a low lit lip sync affair...

We'd think that it was normal

If we ever thought at all

That it'd be forever, that it'd never end;

Not even aware of youth, let alone it could end

And sometimes I would turn them down

Just because I could

Sometimes we might steal a kiss

Because we felt we should -

Sometimes they'd just come round to sleep

And sometimes they would;

We'd wake without our clothes on

But all we'd done was sleep

That nostalgic twenties intimacy

The naked secrets that I keep

‘Cause I was trusted to be shallow

And I was trusted to be deep

Friends

By Comrade,

When I've sat down to write recently, there has been a lot of reflection. It has taken a long time for a lot of old dust to settle, and now it has, I feel emotionally free to explore it, as if watching someone else. There is a little whimsy in it, a sense of nostalgia - but no regret. There are a lot of very sexually charged, anxious, excitable emotions viewed through a rose tinted lens. It all feels like another life, but it's right beneath the skin.

Friends

I've lost a lot of my friends

Chasing pleasures for my own ends

Infatuated lips and delicate touches

Do you fancy any of my mates?

Don't get me wrong I'm only asking

'Cause it all depends

Are you high or drunk?

I'm only asking

'Cause you were the last in

Since then we haven't stopped touching

And I know you kind of like him

Over a couple of large whisky cokes

You've got me riled up on hope;

I'll confess all my desires

And all the feelings that transpire

When I talk to you;

I'd never lie to you

And I'll confess all of the things

The moral world considers sins

That I've tried to do

That I won't hide from you

That I want to do to you

But it all depends

Are we just friends?

Realise every time I'm high I've been there before

The haunting of nostalgic dreams that keep me craving more

Now I realise how my parents felt the year that I was ten:

Now the 90's twenty years ago like the 70's were then

Now all my friends are different

Can we just pretend

That the night doesn't have to end

I'm only asking 'cause I like you

But I have to pretend

That we're just friends

Bed

By Comrade,

Bed

"I was thinking about going to bed," she said

Then she started pulling my hair and we were doing it again

"I didn't even like you when I saw you first

But I was riding on an all-time low,"

When we went to bed she started crying again

“You only ever talk about sex and going out with our friends,”

She put a kiss on my cheek, I know how tonight ends

She slipped another bomb in my hand

"We're awake now, aren't you glad?"

She said as she took off her blouse

And started dancing round the house

That totally typical tale, you’re too cool to pin down

But we both know that’s not the reason you’re never around

She’s asleep now, sad dreaming aloud

We were in bed, we knew we shouldn’t do it again;

We were naked but we weren't friends

As she started pulling my hair and kissed me there

She bit my lip and we were doing it again

She said "I didn't even like you when I saw you first,

Now I can't get you out of my head"

And there were tears in her eyes again

Nature's Law

By Comrade,

Nature's Law

In grief it is tempting to claim

The world is ugly; limp and lame -

But temptation, that charming bride

Is the very human beauty

Man's morality seeks to hide

Beauty is not in what we hold;

Happiness too fleeting t'grow old

Ugliness is bleak verity;

So man must become a monster

In passion - true barbarity

My partcial fancy; my great flaw

My monster against nature's law

I'll take that monster à rebours

And conjure up my own beauty

To poison my soul evermore

So I have finally finished another chapter. Hopefully someone out there is reading along in some way. It's taken a long time, this has been chipped away at for a while, but never forced. So what's going on? From here the consequences of Williams' actions begin to make themselves known. It's a sexy chapter, dirty. It's the continuation of the turning point in the story, and the escalation of Jack's life. There are some significant moments in terms of the narrative. If anyone has anything to say, please do. I appreciate all feedback.

Chapter 9

The subtlety of the colours of the darkened room, illuminated by the varying displays of light emanating from the television, which was turned down low in volume so as not to wake those sleeping upstairs, pleased Williams. The lemon chiffon walls danced from egg shell blue to ecru, from pistachio to cerise, yet all the while seemed to Williams’ muddled eyes to be poisoned by the artificial source of the light and so condemned to resolve their displays in a monochromatic powder blue and drew from the room all life, energy and warmth.

Forcing an eye closed, he focused his gaze on the dark brown dome, given sharp highlights of the artificial light that made that the hair upon it seem more bedraggled than it was as it bobbed up and down upon his lap, an occasional wet slurp greeting his ears, which in their disassociated state seemed far apart, distorting the sound and delaying it from its source such that Williams was rendered confused and delayed in his perception. Those sounds mingled with those of the television, which was set on a music channel. Williams recognised the song from earlier in the night, when he had heard it for the first time. The title eluded him, but the dark singer – beautiful, fiercely sexual and smouldering – sung of finding love in a hopeless place. Somewhere, as his focus sharpened once again upon the head that bobbed between his legs, Williams felt a far deeper connection to those words than a pop song intended. A confused surge of emotion – at once clear yet muddy, final yet disinterested – struck him, and resolved itself as self-pity. He began to go soft.

‘What’s up?’ Asked the girl, looking up blankly. She was drunk. She was pretty too. Mixed race of some combination, with large dark eyes and a proud nose, but soft cheek bones and a square jaw that Williams found visually irritating - it didn't work for him.

The words cascaded around his skull like a scream in a cave, muddling his answer and pushing his mind further from the task of replying as it sought to retreat in the perma-lit glow of the television, which was now moving slowly to the left.

‘Nothing,’ he mumbled, an acetous taste to his breath, ‘you’re really good. Real good. Must just be the drink.’

‘I’ll get you up again.’

She kissed him. She was a poor kisser. She kept her tongue between her teeth with no movement, barring entry to her mouth.

She was very static, and forced Williams to do all the work. He enjoyed being the leading man and exploring a woman's pleasure, but she was distinctly unsexy in her movement - or lack of it. She was attractive and knew it, and expected to do nothing, which put Williams off completely.

He had met her earlier that night. Mutual friends had introduced the pair, seemingly having told her all about him, as she seemed familiar with him and the names of those he spent time with, and was keen to impress, bringing into conversation her concerns over the newspaper industry losing traction in the face of digital media, the Arab Spring, and trying to engage Williams about what she perceived to be important male qualities he possessed; the importance of good dress, elegance and the correct cut of a suit. Williams had held her conversation and found her earnest attempts at engagement charming, and so returned the favour, his set-piece questions broadcast as genuine interest and empathy with her own passions, which he had forgotten as soon as they became unimportant in attaining her. Her name clawed its way into Williams’ mind as she sunk her head down again and resumed her work upon him. Somewhere, far away, her mouth felt warm and wet – too wet. There was no friction, no real sensation at all. She simply bobbed up and down and up and down, her hands on his thighs or holding her own hair back. Her name was Georgina with a foreign surname. He wondered where from. Beneath the bright yet intensely dull grey-blue cast upon her skin, he could tell she was tanned. Perhaps she was descended from a line of Emirs or was the great-great-great-granddaughter of a simple maid to a cruel Caliph; perhaps an ancestor of hers had been selling spices and rugs in Istanbul when it was still Constantinople and Byron was penning his great poem where Don Juan, dressed as a woman, was a slave to a sensual Sultana’s advances while the great Sultan was away. How Williams’ heart beat again for such visions while four men danced on the screen, mimicking a heartbeat with their hands. His head cocked backwards without the support of his clueless, aimless neck, and the distant moist, warm wet sensation continued between his thighs.

Light pierced the crack between Williams’ waking eyes. He found himself alone on the sofa, morning streaming through the open blinds. He still had his shirt on, creased, with the sleeves rolled up, but his trousers were on the floor, as was a bra. He couldn’t grasp the name of the owner, but she wasn’t in the room. The night was more or less lost to hi, but as he sat up to resume the position he last remembered being in, he recalled a wave of negativity collapsing upon him; the girl had been upset about something. Williams looked down at his flaccid penis – ah yes – he had fallen asleep and she had woken him as she stormed from the room, upset. There was in the back of Williams’ mind, a creeping, monstrous notion that with every time he intimately shared himself with another without feeling, he lost a small part of himself that could feel, and so a paraesthesia of the soul slowly overcame him, numbing him slowing to his own memories and feelings and to those around him, specifically women, whom he both blamed as the cause and celebrated as the cure. For divine moments while in the act the pulse of life would bring sensation to the depths of him where there was none, but when such a rush retreated, it took with it a little more of his sensations than it had arrived with.

Williams put on his trousers and washed the self-doubt away with cold water in someone else’s kitchen sink. A mere symptom of the hangover, which felt physically fine now, but would later hit hard unless he took on fluids and ate. He heard voices upstairs, where everyone else had headed at the end of the party, and riffled through the fridge. Bread, eggs, ham and peanut butter. He poured some cold water and gulped it down. It was vital to take on water and food as soon as possible, and as much as possible when hungover. It allowed the body to regenerate. Williams cooked the eggs quickly while eating spoonful’s of peanut butter. He toasted the bread, put some slices of ham on it, then poured the eggs – scrambled – on top. The next step was to leave. He already heard someone ask who was cooking, and could not be doing with talking to people; they upset the balance of recovery if you do not wake up expecting to talk. Williams left the house and recognised the street – he wasn’t far from home, a twenty minute walk at most. It was still early, the sky was pale blue and golden, not yet a mature day; still young and fresh with few people about.

He ran the way home, sweating out the toxins as he always did, if not in his gym upstairs then by running around Rochester, and collapsed into his great porcelain bath with its clawed iron feet and baroque bronze taps. The water was warm and nourishing, and took the weight of his aching body, which was paler than it used to be, pockmarked with bruises sustained unknowingly on nights out or marks of passion from girls. As he reclined and sunk to his chin in the water scented with lavender, there was in the back of Williams’ mind a creeping, monstrous notion that with every time he intimately shared himself with another without feeling he lost a small part of himself that could feel, and so a paraesthesia of the soul slowly overcame him, numbing him slowing to his own memories and feelings and to those around him, specifically women, whom he both blamed as the cause and celebrated as the cure. For divine moments while in the act the pulse of life would bring sensation to the depths of him where there was none, but when such a rush retreated, it took with it a little more of his sensations than it had arrived with. All women are experiences to be savoured. Williams ran through in his mind the names and faces of those he had laid, and he lost himself to thought for the rest of the morning as a strange feeling came over him that felt not dissimilar to nostalgia, perhaps for the faces; perhaps for the careless wonder he had once felt. Perhaps for the time before he even felt it at all.

‘So what happened last night mate? Apparently you were gone this morning?’ Mark was at Williams’ sitting opposite the homeowner in his living room, dressed modestly – to be seen in public but not so as to be socialise – in dark jeans and a maroon sweater, drinking a bottle of cool beer. He was in high spirits, having made it with a girl at the party the previous night and waking up with her at his in the morning. It was the first time he had done such a thing, having spent much of his first year at university in Williams and Jamie’s shadow, taking his time in building his confidence under their care.

‘Oh, you know,’ said Williams whimsically, sprawled across his sofa with a glass of red wine in hand. It had not long ago turned seven in the evening, and the evening sun of September streamed into the living room casting everything in a delightfully oriental coral pink that brought to mind the China Rose, ‘needed to make a quick escape.’

‘What did you do?’ Mark’s eyes narrowed, but he bore a playful expression.

‘Well there was a girl.’

‘Of course!’

‘To be fair, she was beautiful.’

‘Yeah?’

‘I think. Hope. See, I can't remember who it was. But I do know that I don’t know if I was too shitfaced to come or she simply gave a disappointing blow job for a girl blessed with such fulsome lips – I very much remember those, and Rihanna or JLS playing in the background – but I know that I was aware that I needed to get out of the situation. Unfortunately I was definitely too shitfaced for my body to acquiesce to that demand so I passed out. I can always trust my mind to have my back,’ he said raising his glass, ‘he's got me out of some very tricky situations. Almost as many as he's got me in.’

‘Your tricky situations…’

‘Hey I’m a victim. I love girls – women – but all girls are heartbreakers. My heart breaks every time I see a beautiful or sweet girl, 'cause I won’t love her and it would break if I did, because love tends to do that. Besides, she only wanted me for my body.’

Isn’t that all you wanted her for?

I don’t want girls for their bodies. It’s not want. I can wank batter than most girls can please me. It’s for the amour; the thrill. See, in some girl’s eyes there is starlight. In others, there are pound signs. In the rest there are just irises. Those are the ones you have to watch out for. You never know where you stand. Those are the heartbreakers.’ Williams took a satisfied sip of his wine and crossed his legs, giving Mark a sincere smile. He genuinely believed what he was saying, and Mark understood that conviction; indeed, he believed Williams too.

‘So how come you’re all dressed up now?’

‘Well I met a pretty young thing last night who I very much do remember and who I very much am interested in meeting again. So much so we’ve been texting all day and are going for a drink tonight. Name is Jordan.’

‘Sales? Kate’s sister?’

‘The very same.’

‘She’s hot mate. They both are.’

‘Yes, but Kate has a boyfriend apparently, and he seemed to be a habit of hers she wouldn’t break and Jordan was there – so what is a man to do? I’m a victim of her beauty. Smart girl too, she seemed interesting to me.’ Williams liked people who weren't as they seemed. He needed people to be an adventure. The complexities of a personality make it. Touching upon the recesses of another person; exposing their hearts to air and the electric spark of vulnerability and excitement induced in laying someone bare was to Williams a most interesting sensation. It gave power in trust, yes, but also a broader understanding of the human condition that was fascinating in its study as it was useful in its application.

‘Isn’t she a bit young?’

‘Nothing that troubles the laws of morality.’

‘What about the laws of the land?’

‘Apparently the laws of the land are based on some kind of morality. If you saw her last night, you’d abandon both for a shot at her.’

‘Oh yeah. That girl is stunning. Let's call it talent scouting for the future.' Mark chuckled to himself, 'but hey, I’m pretty pleased with last night myself.’

‘As you should be, my friend. Ash is a good girl, I know her through Liz. You said she was a goer?’

‘Yeah man, got some good scratches on my back.’

‘A hero’s war wounds.’

At that Williams took a moment to think. One can have had too few lovers and remain ignorant of the splendid diversity in sensation they are missing. On the other hand one can have too many, and be forever resigned to the curse of dissatisfaction, being so keenly aware of female variety that one desires a bite of every apple except those of which one knows the flavour.

The pair continued talking for a while, conversation turned to university, which Williams had already been struggling with since the new term had started two weeks previously. Mark was doing well; in every day, even after the heavy nights Williams pulled him along to in lieu of Jamie, while Williams was failing to attend much. If he did, it was always after three in the afternoon, having stayed in bed until at least eleven, then spent until midday filling in the night's blanks or else catching up on other people’s gossip – or ridding his house of whomever he had entertained that night – before spending the early afternoon sweating out the toxins and bathing thoroughly to refresh himself. There was simply no time for classes. Besides, he had achieved a modest yet acceptable grade the year before, and was confident in his ability to pull through. Mark left by eight, Williams following him out of the door and taking the short walk into town where he was to meet Jordan for a drink. He had chosen a small bar where he knew the doormen and the bar staff, knowing the girl did not have ID, and trusting that due to his familiarity with the place he would be allowed in discreetly and unharrassed for any such formalities as identification.

The doorman have a knowing nod as Williams led the girl inside. The mixed smells of perfumes, aftershaves, cleaning fluid, the faint musk of sweat and cigarette that clung to the smokers filled their noses as they approached the bar. These scents conspired in the warmth of the air to make Williams feel at home as he placed his hands on the silver bar top, making sure to avoid the spills from previous customers.

Jordan waited while Williams ordered. She was petite, a head smaller than him naturally but wearing heels to bring her lips almost level with his. Her narrow face, lightly brushed with make up so that the band of freckles across her nose were still visible looked calmly about; she appeared older than she was to the passing glance, and had been in plenty of bars. Her nose, narrow to suit her face and pointed with a soft upturn at the end was pierced on the left side, a small silver ring gracing the rim of her delicate nostril which flared in the warm air as Williams turned to her with a smile, extending towards her a gin and tonic with a double twist of lime and beckoning her to follow. He cut a raffish figure through the bar, weaving between people and parting them enough for Jordan to follow, his black jacquard patterned velvet blazer close to his waist, accentuating the weave of his hips, his legs wrapped in close-cut grey stalking artfully through the shadows of the floor giving him the sense of motion one might expect of a panther darting through an undergrowth. He found them a seat and sat close to the girl, whose blue eyes - painted to deceive the naivety within - clung to his face and rested on his mouth, which spoke animatedly and with a passionate intelligence foreign to boys her own age.

They spoke and grew closer and Williams revealed to her all his philosophies of pleasure and the nature of love. He spoke of the most powerful drug in the world; the thing that causes the most powerful obsessions, the darkest deeds and the greatest deeds, the thing that Williams was inexorably addicted to, was womankind. Feminine beauty was an addiction he had fantasised about as a child, and had wilfully fallen into as an adult, and even when it clawed away at him and reduced him to his lowest ebb, he was still thankful for it. The touch of a beautiful woman made him forget everything but her flesh and the colour of her eyes. He described her as he saw her and alluded to an innocence within himself, a wonder-struck weakness, then fell silent for lengths of time as she replied forming arguments and considerations non the cusp of her tongue. He paid close attention to every remark and answered with care; he danced about her conversation and soon they kissed, slowly, tentatively, as the music became louder and more electric in the bar and people danced around them they became cocooned in their own reality.

As he waited at the bar to order a final round of drinks, Williams found himself stunned into shock by who he stood next to. His mind closed and his memory faltered, the grainy darkness of a deleted scene crept into his vision as he failed to record what stood before him as he turned and spoke falteringly to the girl beside him. She was blonde, but beyond that and her shocking beauty he was lost for thoughts and words, and focused his attentions of her words as she spoke.

‘....I never talk much to new people on nights out. Guys always just want one thing if they’re not too quiet or drunken wrecks and girls don’t want to spend time with me on nights out, they get catty for some reason. It’s just nice to sit and talk and be taken seriously. Even when guys do, it always ends up them being after something.’

Williams was caught in a rush of adrenaline, which, augmented by the tone of the evening thus far reignited his mind, ‘you know why that is?’

‘Enlighten me,’ she replied with melody - she had an accent Williams could not place, diluted as it was by the background noise and the blood rush he was experiencing. His cheeks were flushed.

‘It’s because you are quite frankly perfect to look at. No – let me finish. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but you... beauty is lusted after, beauty can be used. But perfection is confusing. No one takes it seriously. Thing is, from a young age we’re all told that perfection doesn’t exist. Most of the time that is true, but there are rare instances where actually it is real, and no one knows quite how to react to that. Least of all drunk guys. So they revert to type, they go in for the kill far too quickly, not sparing a thought for you and your feelings or desires, because how could anything to perfect ever feel sad or lonely, or just not happy?’

She looked at him, studying him intently. ‘What’s your name?’

‘Jack, yours?’

‘Elsa.’

'Elsa.'

'Oh, thanks,' Elsa said to the barman, taking a pair of drinks from the par in each hand, cocking her head quickly towards Williams with a courteous smile, 'bye Jack.'

'Yes, bye.'

Williams returned to his seat with Jordan silently, bumping into people on his way, even spilling a drink and muttering an apology without quite knowing what for. He sat and apologised for the lack of drinks, saying the bar was too busy, and proposed the pair leave. The girl was infatuated with the distance Williams, who, as she clutched his hand tightly and pulled him in for a kiss in the street as they left the bar, momentarily pulled him from his thoughts. Still curiously preoccupied but with his mind once more to the task at hand, he carried her on his back to his house, which was not far, and brought her in. They kissed in the hallway, dropping their jackets by the door. The familiar urgency grasped Williams, and he kissed the girl's neck on the stairs. As her clothes fell away he became enraptured by the softness of her skin - the divine youth that was by no means virginal, but was yet to be jaded by experience and age. They reached his room, and there, their bodies and light refracted a thousand times in the soft mirrored light he took her in. Her body was attractive; firm, fresh breasts, a flat stomach, round behind that quivered when he felt it and full, loadable lips concealing a tongue that sought for his mouth in the dark, but Williams was bored quickly. He had felt it all before, somehow. Tasted it before; fucked it before. Each thrust was a conscious effort decided upon - a compromise between the desire to simply sleep, the need to maintain the appearance of interest, and the desperation to feel something at all. When he did finally reach his climax - an increasingly unusual event in itself - it was bitter, animalistic and selfish. He would pull her hair back, open her mouth and pound with all his strength into her. At last, he would think, this creature has done it for me, as he pinned her to the bed and arched his back, throwing his own head back and letting out a roar of relief, before dismounting and going to the bathroom to wee and clean his genitals. As he gazed into the mirror the tragedy of it all struck him; the savageness of beauty - the ruthlessness with which it besieged him. Jordan was inevitable. She represented every good that appealed to Williams' sensuality; her prettiness, her youth, the long pale legs with their soft skin and the femininity of her hips in ratio to her bust. He was helpless in resisting such potent temptation to which nothing called for him not to yield. Except that girl. Elsa. He pictured her, that smile with her straight teeth positioned with a slight overbite, which had the effect of delicately retracting that artistically structured upper lip so as to make even her meaningless, polite smile seem a radiant and heartfelt expression of true joy. He tried to picture her in his bed instead of Jordan, but he could not. Williams brushed his teeth and pushed her from his mind.

So his life continued, a flurry of casual passion and forgotten pleasure - increasing in his frenzy as he found himself less and less satisfied. The next week he went to dinner with a group of newer friends; people who did not know him or his reputation so well, where he knew no one's stories. But here too his nature was revealed to him, and he was made a victim to lust as his senses were stocked by the intensity of the flavours, the excitement of new faces, an the too and fro of good conversation over the best wine at the restaurant, to which he treated those present. Along the table, at the head furthest from him was a girl, Maria. With their first glances they made eyes at each other, and straight away Williams knew if his attraction to her. Her eyes were large and blue; deep, sad oceans stroked by equatorial sun that dashed streaks of azure through each iris, bringing to the senses imaginations of salty spray of the sea upon a cool melancholy breeze. Her hair was naturally blonde, lighter than straw and shit through by the same equatorial sun, creating streaks of polished gold. She was pale, but not quite snow-like, and young looking. All night they exchanged few words but many looks, even as they bought shots together at the bar. Mark warned Williams that Maria was a soft drinker and bad drunk, so he often allowed her to buy two drinks, as she insisted - as drunkards do - that she was able and fine to drink more, and using the slowness of mind and perception that alcohol had imposed upon her stole away both drinks, having them for himself. Williams was in short order beyond his wits and out of his mind, and possessed by the feverish craze that grasps a person when they are disconnected from their soul or reason. All he knew was that he must have Maria. 

By the end of the night, having exchanged fleeting glances that made Williams think of the innocent and nervous first kisses many must have had in their adolescence, that he had spent ears imagining, and cursory touches - light hand falls on the waist, shoulders, back and hands, the two found themselves alone in the high street, illuminated by the street lamps and reflections in shop Windows. Williams took Maria’s hand and kissed her softly, having to reach down on account of the five or six inch difference in height between them. They pressed into each other, dominating the chill around them with their body heat, overcoming the street's permeating scent of kebab meat and the faint twang of urine with the smell of musk and orange blossom from her perfume and the mandarin, bergamot and jasmine of his aftershave. 

She felt soft to the touch. She was slim, yes, but too soft; Williams hands snuck into her flesh instead of holding it, even his lips indented into the skin on her shoulders. She was unhealthy, with none of the firmness of fitness and strength. As his interest waned, so too did Williams' arousal, and despite his need for satisfaction he rolled away from her with a sigh, unfulfilled and uninterested. He no longer simply wanted women, no matter their beauty. He wanted to sample the finest fruit on offer, the sweetest kiss. Through his own good health, which he had noticed - yet ignored - was beginning to decline, he was able to sense ill health in others, and it repulsed him as a weakness. Williams could not deny his attraction to perfection. He took to his study, frustrated by his impotence, and there racked up lines of cocaine that he kept in his desk drawer for nights like these. He used a straw and inhaled deeply, hawking the bitterness down and crashing his fist down on the woodwork as his frustration was inflamed by the powder.

The next day he woke up in his bed, the girl still downstairs as given away by the faint whistling of the kettle. But that was not what woke him; his phone was buzzing by his bedstead. Picking at his nose, which was sore and crusty, he answered to an angry female voice - it was Katy, Jordan's older sister. She was furious that he had slept with Jordan, but never mentioned what it was about it she was angry for.'

'You're being irrational, Katy.'

'Don't you fucking call me irrational, you slept with my baby sister.'

'Christ, don't call her that. Look - what's the harm, she had a good time?

'How fucking arrogant are you?'

'What? Not like that. Fuck sake I took care of her, what's wrong?'

'You don't get it do you?'

'Oh shit.'

He hung up and tossed the phone to the foot of the bed. Putting on a silk paisley gown, he made his way downstairs, unwilling to confront the new day. Distraction from his thoughts presented itself to him, however as that afternoon Mark visited with Stephen, and told Williams that he ‘would suit fame.’ A smile played across his face. Fame certainly intrigued him. Its pursuit occurred as utterly vapid in of itself, as if the expectation that fame has its own merit or may confer happiness. In that context, Williams had no interest. But the adoration, the validation that comes with deserved recognition – the power it affords over the mundanity of the people awoke in Jack Williams a hunger. As an extension of his fascination with social manipulation and dominance, and the artistry of skilfully weaving façade for the purpose of interaction with the world beyond the confines of his thoughts, the attaining of fame seemed to be the apex of the experience. The draw unto him such a status might create would itself become his muse. But were such a status to find him without due cause, it would be hollow. It would be a false experiment. The pleasure of the game is in the movement of the pieces. Williams buried the thought beneath his ego, and allowed such ideas to fuel it. Was he not, in his mode of extravert life, creating for himself a manifestation of this idea? Was he not playing a part yet standing in the audience at the same time? He was the master of the perception of himself – through his careful positioning of events, he engineered all the reactions to fame on a smaller scale; those who despised him, those who loved him, those who followed him, those who sought to emulate him, and those who merely observed. He had been the architect of each position, and he remained their master. He was one of many Jack Williams; the partier, the womaniser, the thinker, the philanderer, perhaps even the quiet observer. He was at once all of these and none of them, and chose who would know which to suit his purpose. It was all a charade; no one knew the real Jack Williams, and he had little desire for anyone to in the first place, it was too complicated a matter. Somewhere within himself, Williams was aware of the multiple paradoxes that formed him. Sometimes, he wondered if other people felt the same, but most of the time he buried such self-awareness beneath whichever mask he chose to wear that day. Only Jamie, perhaps, through sheer time spent together and depth of conversation, and sharing of mutually enjoyed moments came close to having a grasp of Williams’ pose behind the mannequins, which Williams was content to embrace. No one else interested him as much as did Jamie. Least of all Stephen.

Speaking about his predicament with Katy and Jordan, however, Williams realised the usefulness of having someone of a different mind to his own when considering the next step. It was not animosity but the tension of vital differences in character between Stephen and Williams, who beneath his rueful distaste, wished to be respected by the other. 

‘It’s easy to assume that destruction is the opposite of creation, but it seems to me to breed it. No artist - no great artist anyway - is happy, for example. Their art is the child of their torment. Politicians, scientists, idea makers; they are all dissatisfied with the current state of things. In their quest to advance they must destroy, or erase, or forget - which is a most brutal type of destruction. All the best things in the world come from negative beginnings,’ said Williams.

‘But it's not like it's better for people to be miserable,’ Stephen showed visible signs of disapproving; his stance was rigid, and his face exhibited indications of incredulity.

‘No, no,’ waved Williams in a languid tone, ‘but the best of us are rarely anything else.’

‘So you're not happy?’ Stephen softened, flattering himself with empathy.

‘As long as I'm not satisfied I couldn't ask for better than that. Your glass is empty. That’s not on at all, let me get you another.’

‘Oh, yes, ok,’ Stephen was caught off guard. He did not actually want a drink, but he felt compelled by Williams’ offer, ‘thank you.’

Williams had no time for people who refused to drink, and he certainly didn’t trust them. He found them thoroughly boring and close-minded; unable to expand their consciousness or perception, unable to remove themselves from themselves. They almost always exuded an aura of self-restraint, which is in fact always a fear of oneself, and they never learned or gained because this fear restricts one from making peace with oneself. Anyone who believes they can navigate through life better without alcohol or some form of self-removal is sorely misplaced because it is the lubrication between the joints in human culture, and it reveals to a person their true nature. There is nothing else in the world that is used as an aid for celebration just as it is used as an aid for commiseration, it is freedom. Alcohol is the summarisation of the human spirit. It removes from life the trivialities, and in doing so, reveals the most important motives within human nature. People who choose not to drink deny themselves all of this, and are lesser beings as a result. People either drink, do not drink, or have been too exposed to the nature of themselves and the nature of humanity. Both are bigger than the individual. These people can no longer drink, having once drunk. For these people, the end point consumed the journey, when alcohol has diluted everything from life until all that is left is you and the bottle. That is when one must either stop utterly, having become one with themselves in the grey area where life and death blink into focus together, or push on and embrace oblivion and commit to a half-life where nothing can be touched or savoured without alcohol as your companion – which is addiction, or one must die as there is nowhere else to go.

‘My pleasure,’ said Williams, satisfied while pouring out a cider for Stephen and for himself and mark a dram of something older than any of them, 'I think I'll lay low for a bit though. I know I've upset Katy, and maybe Jordan. I didn't want to...' he became vulnerable for a second, 'I've never wanted to hurt. Quite the opposite. I think I need a fresh perspective. Get some headspace away from this place. It feels cloying.'

'That’s because you never rest. I've not known a night recently where you've not been out or with people. You need to spend some time on your own.' Said Stephen.

'Yeah man,' offered Mark, 'we've got the holidays coming up, see through this week, get the work in at uni early and freshen up over reading week.'

'Yeah. That's not a bad idea. Thanks guys.' Williams smiled churlishly and took a sip, taking in the vanilla notes and rich clove-tinted zest of the whisky, which fortified him.

The redraft of Chapter 8 adds a bit of exposition to proceedings. It still explores Williams' power over people - his manipulation of friends; his manipulation of conversation; his charm and flirtaciousness, but it does so far more in the context of Jamie not being there. Williams finds himself a little alone and a little isolated, and very much surrounded by people who don't naturally see things the way he - or Jamie - do. So he's retreating into himself a little, but exerting his will over others while he does so. There's a bit of subtext to it that it's not entirely his fault; he's more a slave to his desires than he realises, and actually he does have a deep-seated morality - a code. There was a lot of playing with his thoughts and internalisation, and how what's on the inside can be so different to what's on the outside. To me, that is one of the main goals of this book. If you read it it'd be cool to hear any improvements or criticisms that come to mind.

So with this update Senses Prevails is now up to date. Hopefully have the next chapter finished in relatively short order. This post represents the completed story to date. Hope you guys read it and if you do, I'd love to know what you think. :)

Chapter 8

Without Jamie, Williams settled to floating between groups of people, endearing himself to everyone with his relentless energy and easy charm. He had succeeded in quickly embedding himself within various social groups by inviting people to his house on their own not long after meeting them, appealing to their nature and entrusting himself with their confidences. He built a web of secrets and confessions that painted to him a fuller picture of the social scene than anyone else within it had. It placed him at the core of everyone’s business without anyone knowing they all had the same confidant in common. Their lives and the facts of them fascinated Williams. He read every single person, their faces the words, their lives the story, and found himself at the reigns of many narratives. Occasionally he would tug on one and whisper into ears a thread of a story and observe with all the earnest curiosity of a scientist searching the night sky for supernovae the effects of his actions on the balance of the lives of those whom he knew.

Mark had gone to Williams’ for the evening, having been away from university over the recent May holiday after the first of his exams and out of contact for the duration. He had been to Greece, the sun turning him brown and lightening his hair. His style, Williams noted, was no longer a casual assortment of the cheapest clothing the high street provided; rather it was now a deliberately, if not entirely skilfully considered look maintaining the casual, comfortable clothing of his past, but introducing an awareness for matching colours and contrasting designs. Mark had even bought a blazer, similar in style if not in price to Williams’ usual affair, which he wore over his hoodie. It had been commented by many that it was Williams who had triggered in Mark a desire to appear more fashionable, as indeed did everyone who fell under Williams’ influence, whether consciously or unconsciously. In such clothing, Mark sat with Williams and the pair spoke about the holiday, and then Greece itself. At length, they came to silence, prompting Williams to offer a sentiment as his gaze fell into the amber liquid contained within the heavy crystal tumbler in his hand.

‘Sometimes I can’t help but think that my finest thoughts come to me after a hearty glass of whisky, you know.’

Mark, being a more moderate drinker and in Williams’ opinion much less fun creature than he, furrowed his brow, ‘so why don't you stop at the first?’

‘Because otherwise I’ll be bored.’

‘That’s no reason to drink.’

Williams became instantly solemn, and his jaw tightened, ‘nothing is worse than boredom. Nothing.’

Mark looked surprised, ‘I’m sure there –‘

‘Nothing. Besides, after the third, no matter what the thought, I'm convinced it is perfect.’ Williams had regained his composure.

‘But that’s just self-delusion, surely?’

‘Yes, but I determine its parameters. And everything feels so simple after a few drinks, so easy you know? The details that get in the way no longer matter, it's all just absolutes: what is, isn't, can be and can't be. Sometimes it's a pleasure to render the world ineluctable.’

‘What?’

‘Never mind.’ Williams sighed with vexation, but withdrew any obvious signs of the sentiment immediately, instead offering a smile, ‘here, would you like another? It’s expensive, rare, and gorgeous and it makes worrying feel silly.’

‘Yeah, cheers. How could I resist when you put it like that?’ Mark chuckled.

‘How indeed,’ said Williams as he stood and turned to pour the drinks, a bottle of Macallan Sienna, smiling inwardly.

‘I don't know though, I’m not sure how healthy it is to lose your inhibitions like that. They exist for a reason. Thanks.’ Mark took the drink from Williams and took a sip, wincing at the strength.

‘But what reason? No. Look. A wholly negative one.’ Williams sat down again, crossing one leg over the other and leaning back, tumbler in hand. ‘One’s inhibitions are just the phrases people use to comfort themselves in describing the desires they don't have the balls to indulge and the needs they can't fulfil. Self-deprivation is a worse poison than alcohol or whatever else.’

Mark leaned forwards, irritated, but not wanting it to get the better of him, ‘well what if those things don't appeal?’

‘Those people lack curiosity,’ said Williams with a dismissive wave of his hand, ‘they're scared or comfortable. There’s no desire for learning. Not all learning is academic, you know. You only grow with experience. Those people will never grow. They may swell or some such, but they'll never broaden their intrinsic nature.’

‘There's nothing wrong with being comfortable.’

‘You sound like Stephen.’ Said Williams in a languid drawl, lips curled upwards as was his fashion, before pausing to take a sip, ‘for the short term, no, but long term it generates stagnation and isolation from new ideas.’

‘And you really think that glass of whisky is the answer to all that?’

Williams smiled, ‘no, but what it represents – the willingness to step outside of your own norm – that is the answer.’

‘And what happens when it becomes your norm?’ Replied Mark, a sense of triumph in his voice.

‘Then you have become comfortable, and so ensues everything bad that that entails.’

‘I see.’

‘Good. Well. That was all very deep. But what's going on? I'm a little out if the loop. What was it you said Brenden had been up to? You saw him earlier, yes?’

Later that evening a girl came around. Her name was Launa, who turned out to be a friend of Anne, who rarely spoke to Williams except in passing having gained a particularly dull specimen of a boyfriend with a nose rather larger than Williams thought possible. Launa was a pretty girl; large brown eyes that betrayed dark hair beneath the peroxide that bleached it almost white in colour, full pink lips and pale, snow-like skin. She had a delicate jawline and high cheeks, and wore dark, full eyeliner. Williams had been attracted to her the first time he saw her; he could not remember what she had worn – denim dungarees paired with a white blouse, perhaps – but they had made eye contact immediately, and she had given a rye, dark-red lipstick framed smile that exposed a cute beam of naturally straight teeth. They had been at the local club in different groups; him with Jamie, her with some other friends whose faces Williams had seen but whose names he did not know. Williams had seen her mouth something to her friend while looking straight at him followed by a giggle, and her friend looking over and reciprocating the same laugh. He knew he wanted her, and he knew he could have her.

Over the night they had exchanged stolen glances and fleeting looks, until near the end they could avoid each other no longer, both separated from those they had arrived with. They flirted, and he put his arm around her, speaking into her ear and taking in her scent; rose-flavoured perfume; a naturally sweet smell to her skin; almonds in her hair. One of her friends was not drinking and offered to drive him home and they had on the back seat in silence, hands touching, but never clasping. When he got out, her friends insisted she go with him, but Launa declined. Williams liked that. She was curious, but she fought her nature – such battles make for a deeper excitement that mus6t be enjoyed. It was tantalising. Launa gave him her number, and here she was. Despite her beauty, she hid a sadness within her; a restlessness that manifested itself as a carefree nature and pushed her in her ambition to become a fashion designer – another trait which Williams enjoyed – but which left her angst-riddled, and convinced her own life was the most difficult of all. This particular fact irritated Williams, and he challenged her.

‘You know nothing,’ said Launa. ‘You have it so easy. There are so many people out there who have nothing. What do you know about the troubles people face?’

Williams had studied his and his following generation’s preoccupation with melancholy and their occasional glorification of sadness, or rather, the disparagement that meets happiness and contentedness. The internet, he had found, became the greatest propagator of negativity because the otherwise separated inconsolable could reach each other and surround themselves with each other; they made no attempt to reconcile their misery, rather they used it at their identifier. Teenage angst, once a force for the great energies of adolescence, was allowed to be cultivated. Sadness was no longer a negative; it was the accepted and in being so, it lost its power within the human spirit to create. Sadness must never be romanticised. It is unhealthy, as is romance. It is telling that throughout human history, man had inextricably linked the two together and with death. They are the fascinations of the human psyche. It is much better to wish for romance than experience it, because it is never as we hope it to be, just as it is better to be sad than constantly happy, because sadness cannot be lost whereas every day we hold funerals for our own happiness. The human preoccupation with happiness drives us into misery. Sadness is mankind’s superior state; his natural position from which he rescues himself, because it creates the introspective impetus to be rescued. Romance is often seen as the rescuer, but like all fantasy heroes, the reality always falls short. It is better to be sad, so one can be happy, than happy because one will become sad, just as it is better to wish for romance than to experience it. The delusion is always more delightful than the reality, but the reality is always more pertinent than the delusion. Which one chooses marks the subject as the type of person they are, but to view the desire to claw one’s way out of sadness as anything other than the most noble of notions was poison to Williams, and so much of the internet was poisonous.

Williams revelled in human psychology. It engrossed and infatuated him; how the human mind was infinitely complex in its mechanisms and emotions, yet human psychology was often barbarically simple and endlessly mouldable. This dissonance was the very nature of humanity, and it fascinated him; for its mystery and its potential power. In every person, he sought to understand that which made them individual, and that which made them the same as everyone else. With such understanding, he knew, he would be able to overcome any other human and any obstacle they may place before him, while measuring his own output and becoming outwardly invincible to the human condition. The ability to enter into another’s mind occurred to Williams as a precious gift; to understand without the clouding effect of empathy, while taking care of the emotional response in a person is vital. As far as people were concerned, it was beneficial to get inside their heads than to have them inside one’s own heart.

‘I have to hear about them.’ He poured himself a drink of crisp, ochre scotch – an eighteen year old Dalmore now – into a heavy Waterford crystal tumbler, ‘and I’m expected to care. It’s tiring.’

‘You are terrible,’ she said, exasperated, yet allowing a playful smile to creep across her lips, ‘do you really not care?’

‘Would it make their lives better if I did? People care too much. They lose track of what is important.’

‘And what would you say that is?’

‘Pursing want over need. People concern themselves with what they need, and they gain no joy from having it.’ Williams paused and took a sip from his glass, finishing half of it in a steady gulp and supressing the pained expression that naturally comes with swallowing so potent and excellent a liquid, ‘the real pleasure in life is attaining the unnecessary. What do you enjoy more? Plain rice, soft and watery, or chocolate? The rice could sustain you and you could eat nothing else for the rest of your life, but you don’t. You need the rice but you want the chocolate,’ he took another sip, finishing his drink and placing the Waterford on the table before taking a step towards her, ‘the chocolate tastes. It gives flavour to the life the rice sustains. The act of living is a blank canvas, desire is the artwork – the thing of genius. I desire.’

He was close to Launa now, and looking her in the eyes with a passionate ferocity that at once excited and enraged her. His gaze was one of adrenaline; it was the words he spoke. She thought to look away but did not. Her heart was in her chest, and her cheeks flushed. This young man in his dark study and his purple taupe suit that defined his figure with a razor edge, those piercing eyes burning with life, and those crimson lips that drew closer with every word – he was exhilarating.

‘You know – desire is what makes us human. The drive for something,’ Williams’ face was now only an inch from hers, ‘it’s a technical world. I have a phone in my pocket, a laptop on my desk. We text, we talk on Facebook. It’s all constant connection, constant knowing. We don’t think about it anymore but there is electricity in our walls – we could live our entire lives in light if we wanted to. ‘Good’ as society calls it is technological; it is good to constantly know, constantly see and be illuminated by false light and to other people’s actions. There is no reality in technology. It is replacing human impulse and human honesty. No one before this decade thought it necessary to provide constant updates to what they were doing,’ Williams lightly brushed Launa’s lips with his, ‘what we’re feeling, ‘he exhaled heavily but with control, warming her chin and neck as her eyes closed and she softly bit down upon her bottom lip, ‘what we’re seeing,’ he cupped her face with his hand and she opened her eyes, looking straight into his. ‘It has become impossible to be human these days, or at least be real humans. Everything is an act to show off one’s life, or to hide it from the gaze of others. No one simply is anymore. All this technology that supposedly makes easier takes the hard work – the romance – from life, and replaces it with pure imagery and judgement. That isn’t human. This is human.’

He kissed her and Launa tentatively placed her arms around his neck, exhaling with the restrained attraction she had fought to resist, giving herself over to lust. Williams took her upstairs, and she did not leave until the evening, when he feigned a prior arrangement from which he could not disentangle himself. Launa left, and Williams sat back down in the vast comfort of his leather chair, the Waterford glass re-filled. The day felt old, he thought, sighing and closing his eyes. If he wasn’t so tired, he would be looking forward to the next day. What were these sexual episodes, he wondered, if not splinters of a shattered psyche – unable to piece itself together it searches for a different mould. If one does not fit, another must be tried. It was tiring work but necessary and thrilling.

The summer continued in much the same vein, and Jack Williams gained quite a reputation. One that preceded him. He felt like he had met people before he encountered them, or rather, they felt like they had met him before he encountered him, which gave him an element of relatability in return; he saw himself reflected in others constantly. It was a time of meeting many new faces through other new faces. One of these new faces, an ex, as it transpired, of one of Williams’s interests, had confronted the matter head on:

‘I’ve heard a lot of stories about you, Jack.’

‘Oh good, I do like the stories. They give me the sensation of life. Tell me, which ones do you believe?’ Williams very much believed in feeding the idea of him. The greater the extrapolation, the lighter the burden on the real him. A vast shadow cast by a small object.

‘Not all of them.’

‘Very smart of you.’

‘No one person could have so many rumours spread about them and not be famous.’

‘Or indeed remain famous.’

‘Yeah, or do you just have something to prove?’

Williams felt irritated. ‘Humanity's greatest achievements were created by people with something to prove you know,’ he said.

The girl looked at him blankly, ‘Huh?’

‘Never mind,’ said Williams, equably, ‘everyone is facing a daily battle to prove themselves to be who they are. That’s what all these selfies and tweets and statuses are about. It seems people are too busy spreading word of stories to have any of their own. It just makes mine seem magnified. Word travels faster than ever, which speeds and magnifies their meaning, but makes things matter less.’

‘Yeah, quite right. Social media is useful, but everyone is talking and nothing is interesting. There’s so much nothing, it’s boring. When you hear something exciting, it seems so much more.’

‘Exactly! You know, I actually stay away from it all, past maintaining a silent presence. The best existence is a real one. Facebook, Twitter – they’re not for living through, just keeping up a presence.’

It was more than his reputation depending on the people he met; to many he was nothing but another heavy drinking flirt; a provincial wide boy floating through life without remorse or care. To many there was no hint of a person, simply a character. Yet when he finally found himself face-to-face with the others, they found him charming, polite and warm – nothing of the cold, serial philanderer of whom they – if they were women, or jealous men – had heard, and they instantly and amended their view of him, considering Williams erudite and amiable company at least until he was no longer around. More than this, fuelled by his innate yet subconscious understanding of his own insecurity, Williams fostered his reputation as a bird feathering a nest. If people expected certain behaviour of him his first impression was already made – he was already comfortable. Without realising it, he had become more concerned with being known than good, and less concerned with being known well than in passing, when he felt he himself was at his most malleable in character and least answerable for his actions. Williams often used a harsh reputation to soften his way into acquaintanceships, finding that through the correct application of modesty, and adopting a mode of conduct that befitted a person opposite the his supposed characteristics, those who held the preconception would be caught desperate to prove apologetic. It is a matter of human psychology that once one feels apologetic towards another, one feels obliged to please that other, and once obligated to please it is common to unwittingly gain a sense of warmth towards them, especially if the desire to please is rewarded with signs of acceptance and geniality, which Williams was always conscious to do.

Williams became known also for always being ready for adventure; he was always an hour from heading out, a fact that baffled many as those on his degree all confessed to Williams’ grades barely slipping, despite his attendance and attention declining dramatically as the days grew longer and warmer, and the scent of grass and honeyed pollen excited the nose. He seemed invulnerable in the increasing chaos that engulfed him, by turns reliably unreliable and earnest in his arrogance. Williams was happy to fuel this particular repute, indeed, in meeting so many people, Williams believed himself to be at his most interesting when before a crowd, especially one that did not approve of him. The process of bringing them to his side was exquisite fun. Convincing others or contorting himself; that was the pinnacle of intellectual curiosity. It was what Williams called ‘social cartography,’ drawing in his subconscious a map of the social situation, it’s features, flaws and strongest characters, and adjusting is manner accordingly – a trait Stephen, the dedicated journalist from Williams’ degree certainly did not have.

Stephen had taken to spending more time with Williams and Jamie earlier in the year, seemingly caught between his distaste of them and his curiosity for a nature that was alien to him. They were his experiment, and they knew they were being observed on account of his feeble attempts to match them, and his habit for being the last to arrive and first to leave. On a warm evening, Williams sat in a canvas deckchair outside in his garden, sipping a glass of Romanian pinot noir while the rest of the bottle lay on the ground beneath him, ready to refill his glass. As the cars lazily drifted past on the main road in front of the house and urban birds sang in the purpling style above him, Williams recalled a conversation between himself, Jamie and Stephen that brought a smile to his face;

‘I can’t stand her. She’s so loud, she’s a child.’ Said Stephen.

‘Becky? I don’t know, she seems fine. I don’t mind her.’

‘How? You’ve met her, she’s obnoxious.’

‘A little over the top, maybe, but each to their own,’ said Williams imperturbably.

‘She never stops talking about herself though. No one is that interesting.’ Stephen seemed annoyed.

‘Maybe she just wants to be liked? She’s out there – she’s out to impress. She’s insecure really. ‘

‘You seriously think?’

‘Yeah. Listen; people will tell you who they are, but you ignore it. People all too often are only who you want them to be. When they aren’t, there is friction. Like this.’

‘You’re saying everyone else is the problem, not her?’ Stephen looked affronted.

‘No. I’m saying there is no problem. People expect other people to behave certain ways, talk certain ways. As soon as they don’t, people fall out. She just doesn’t know how to get people on side, everything is a charm offensive and it’s all offensive, no charm you know? It is a gift to make yourself who people want you to be, it gets you ahead of the game. She hasn’t got it, but it doesn’t make her bad, just wrong.’

‘I guess so.’ Stephen smiled, and said; ‘never thought I’d hear you standing up for someone like that, Jack.’

‘Well where’s the fun in being predictable?’ He returned a cheeky smile.

‘If you say so, man.’

Stephen just did not get ‘it’ thought Williams. He had cast his mind about, wanting to expose Stephen, and remembered that he didn’t like Sophie, whom Williams had developed a great a platonic care for despite himself, and who he still slept with a couple of times a week knowing she loved him, even though she now had a boyfriend, ‘what about Sophie though? That girl really does try too hard, it’s not even sweet.’

‘Christ I know right? I can’t stand her, she’s so in your face. Like a little girl.’

‘I know, any more than a small dose and she pisses me right off.’

‘I hear she’s into some pretty weird stuff. She’ll do anything. Man, I bet she cheats on what’s his face, that guy she’s with now. I lose track.’

Said Stephen disapprovingly. He was, thought Williams, a man dedicated religiously to the expected and ordinary. An intensely intelligent specimen who had arrived at the conclusion that the well-trod path – the middle ground – was the universal recipe for predictable, and therefore safe success in life. Stephen was, if nothing else, content to settle for what he needed, by virtue of his wants only ever being his needs. This fact reviled Williams.

‘If there is anything one cannot judge another on, it is their sexuality, mate. Quite frankly I think it’s fair to say that sex with children or by force is wrong, but the rest is just the grand old human comedy, unfolding, as it will.’

Well said,’ said Jamie, who had observed the other two the whole time with a smile, ‘sex is the absolute expression of human nature. At its best, it is sublime –‘

‘And at its worst, the most abominable act, finished Williams sternly, ‘as with all native aspects of human nature, it must be respected. Anyone who forces themselves on someone else is less than human in my eyes. My all means, flirt, attract – we’re all victims of attraction, are we not? But the very idea of imposing upon someone? If a girl says no, no it is.’

‘Quite,’ replied Jamie, ‘those folk are lower than scum.’

‘You two do have morality then,’ exclaimed Stephen, surprised by the sudden seriousness and rueful that his contempt for the pair’s sexual frivolity was in some way unfounded.

‘Of course we do. You think we’re good with girls because we make them feel shit?’ Said Williams, his own contempt lacing his voice; ‘we empower. We worship. Beauty is my goddess and she demands reverence. I am a victim to her demands. I don’t conqueror, or dominate. I submit and I revel in seeing another person come to life by my touch.’

‘And quite frankly we spice up their lives, added Jamie, ‘it is win-win for everyone. We enjoy the comfort of the glory that is the vagina, the soft perfection of the breasts, and in return we ask for nothing but the honour of giving pleasure as best we can.’

‘Which we are all too willing to do,’ smiled Williams. ‘Anyway, Jamie, play me that new song you told me about. I want to hear it solo before the band’s arrangement. See you in uni guys.’

Jamie had proceeded to play a song which had now become one of his band’s signature pieces. Williams had tuned in to hear it debut on the radio a few months later, after the band were signed. A slight sadness overcame Williams, as he thought of his distance from Jamie, before his mind turned to the other figure in the memory, Stephen. It was not true animosity but the tension of vital differences in character between Stephen and Williams, who beneath his exterior distaste for much of Stephen’s characteristics, wished only to be respected by the former. Stephen was a man of integrity in a form Williams loathed out of a lack of capacity for it, but admired because it made him strong. Where Stephen stood for honesty, goodness and modesty, Williams was inclined to subversion, selfishness and superciliousness – yet he knew he shared all of Stephen’s traits. This was perhaps the greatest cause for tension between the two; they both acknowledged Williams’ native instinct for what is considered good and just, yet it was Williams who showed himself more adroit in his balancing personal desire with the net gain of those around him. Where Stephen aspired to personal good because he was unable to inspire benefit for those around him, Williams could aspire to personal greed and still make better the given situation for those around him. It was a rare gift, noted Stephen, that worst of all was being abused so knowingly. He still spent quite a lot of time with Stephen, who was good friends with Mark, who Williams meant to spend his time with. Joe would often be around too, and a couple of others, including an ex-solider, Billy, who had moved to the area early to study a sports science degree in September, which was now only a couple of weeks away.

Those early days seemed long ago now – far more than a just less than a year. Gratification had coloured Williams’ life and became his sole motivator, sparking a certain neurotic paranoia that led Williams to crave yet detest being alone without someone to document his character. University had finally ended for the year and the long haze of summer had begun; endless, magical and full of possibility, and was now at its peak. Despite this Williams saw before him the ripples of heat extracting the smell from fresh-cut grass, the taste of dust in the air from dry pavements; the sweetness that followed from sucking on ice cream or cold cider with ice – the girls and women and beauty. Summer had always been neutral, but this one was to be different. It was colour and joy and life, and it felt beautiful. His weariness faded as the sun illuminated the world outside of his house, and warmed the afternoons he spent with people in the park by the sea drinking whisky and cola topless, his hair pulled by a light breeze. The whole world was colour. The more colour he saw, the broader the pallet would need to become, and the closer his dream would seem to the discovery of a new colour. It was marvellous and dangerous. The two sensations all humans are driven to seek, and they were the ones that marked his life. As his life became focused around pleasure and beauty, so he came to emulate it, and after much time, effort and study, he perfected the art of effortlessly doing so by virtue of an extensive and rich collection of clothes, scents and toiletries that grew increasingly complex and eccentric, but always humoured. After all, Williams thought, nothing is worse than serious beauty; it is all in the smile – and what else is fashion for, if not to offend? Clothing exists to cover our bodies yes, but anyone who is offended by nudity, or who views fashion simply as a functional discipline to cover up certainly deserves their offence as he saw it. It is excellent to be outrageous, people these days enjoy outrage. They seek it out. It is the sport of the middle class. He sought to subvert as well as celebrate the age. He could be the perfect reflection of it.

This chapter explores Williams' power over people - his manipulation of friends; his manipulation of conversation; his charm and flirtaciousness. There's a bit of subtext to it that it's not entirely his fault; he's more a slave to his desires than he realises, and actually he does have a deep-seated morality - a code. There was a lot of playing with his thoughts and internalisation, and how what's on the inside can be so different to what's on the outside. To me, that is one of the main goals of this book. If you read it it'd be cool to hear any improvements or criticisms that come to mind.

Chapter 8

Without Jamie, Williams had come to floating between groups of people, endearing himself to everyone with his relentless energy and easy charm. He had succeeded in quickly embedding himself within various social groups by inviting people to his house on their own not long after meeting them, appealing to their nature and entrusting himself with their confidences. He built a web of secrets and confessions that painted to him a fuller picture of the social scene than anyone else within it had. It placed him at the core of everyone’s business without anyone knowing they all had the same confidant in common. Their lives and the facts of them fascinated Williams. He read every single person, their faces; the words, their lives; the story, and he found himself at the reigns of many narratives. Occasionally he would tug on one and whisper into ears a thread of a story and observe with all the earnest curiosity of a scientist searching the night sky for supernovae the effects of his actions on the balance of the lives of those whom he knew.

Mark had gone to Williams’ for the evening, having been away from university over the recent May holiday after the first of his exams and had been out of contact for the duration. He had been to Greece, the sun turning him brown and lightening his hair. His style, Williams noted, was no longer a casual assortment of the cheapest clothing the high street provided; rather it was now a deliberately, if not entirely skilfully considered look maintaining the casual comfortable clothing of his past, but introducing an awareness for matching colours and contrasting designs. Mark had even bought a blazer, similar in style if not in price to Williams’ usual affair, which he wore over his hoodie. It had been commented by many that it was Williams who had triggered in Mark a desire to appear more fashionable, as indeed did everyone who fell under Williams’ influence, whether consciously or unconsciously. In such clothing, Mark sat with Williams and the pair spoke about the holiday, and then Greece itself. At length, they came to silence, prompting Williams to offer a sentiment as his gaze fell into the amber liquid contained within the heavy crystal tumbler in his hand.

‘Sometimes I can’t help but think that my finest thoughts come to me after a hearty glass of whisky, you know.’

Mark, being a more moderate drinker and in Williams’ opinion much less fun creature than he, furrowed his brow, ‘so why don't you stop at the first?’

‘Because otherwise I’ll be bored.’

‘That’s no reason to drink.’

Williams became instantly solemn, and his jaw tightened, ‘nothing is worse than boredom. Nothing.’

Mark looked surprised, ‘I’m sure there –‘

‘Nothing. Besides, after the third, no matter what the thought, I'm convinced it is perfect.’ Williams had regained his composure.

‘But that’s just self-delusion, surely?’

‘Yes, but I determine its parameters. And everything feels so simple after a few drinks, so easy you know? The details that get in the way no longer matter, it's all just absolutes: what is, isn't, can be and can't be. Sometimes it's a pleasure to render the world ineluctable.’

‘What?’

‘Never mind.’ Williams sighed with vexation, but withdrew any obvious signs of the sentiment immediately, instead offering a smile, ‘here, would you like another? It’s expensive, rare, and gorgeous and it makes worrying feel silly.’

‘Yes, thank you. How could I resist when you put it like that?’

‘How indeed,’ said Williams as he stood and turned to pour the drinks, a bottle of Macallan Sienna, smiling inwardly.

‘I don't know though, I’m not sure how healthy it is to lose your inhibitions like that. They exist for a reason. Thanks.’ Mark took the drink from Williams and took a sip, wincing at the strength.

‘But what reason? No. Look. A wholly negative one.’ Williams sat down again, crossing one leg over the other and leaning back, tumbler in hand. ‘One’s inhibitions are just the phrases people use to comfort themselves in describing the desires they don't have the balls to indulge and the needs they can't fulfil. Self-deprivation is a worse poison than alcohol or whatever else.’

Mark leaned forwards, irritated, but not wanting it to get the better of him, ‘well what if those things don't appeal?’

‘Those people lack curiosity,’ said Williams with a dismissive wave of his hand, ‘they're scared or comfortable. There’s no desire for learning. Not all learning is academic, you know. You only grow with experience. Those people will never grow. They may swell or some such, but they'll never broaden their intrinsic nature.’

‘There's nothing wrong with being comfortable.’

‘You sound like Stephen. For the short term, no, but long term it generates stagnation and isolation from new ideas.’

‘And you really think that glass of whisky is the answer to all that?’

Williams smiled, ‘no, but what it represents – the willingness to step outside of your own norm – that is the answer.’

‘And what happens when it becomes normal?’ Replied Mark, a sense of triumph in his voice.

‘Then you have become comfortable... and so ensues everything bad that that entails.’

‘I see.’

‘Good. Well. That was all very deep. But what's going on? I'm a little out if the loop. What was it you said Brenden had been up to? You saw him earlier, yes?’

Later that evening a girl came around. Her name was Launa, and turned out to be a friend of Anne, who rarely spoke to Williams except in passing – having gained a particularly dull specimen of a boyfriend with a nose rather larger than Williams thought possible. Launa was a pretty girl; large brown eyes that betrayed dark hair beneath the peroxide that bleached it almost white in colour; full pink lips and pale, snow-like skin. She had a delicate jawline and high cheeks, and wore dark, full eyeliner. Williams had been attracted to her the first time he saw her; he could not remember what she had worn – denim dungarees paired with a white blouse, perhaps – but they had made eye contact immediately, and she had given a wry, dark-red lipstick framed smile that exposed a cute smile of naturally straight teeth.

They had been at the local club in different groups; him with Jamie, her with some other friends whose faces Williams had seen but names he did not know. Williams had seen her mouthe something to her friend while looking straight at him followed by a giggle and her friend looking over and reciprocating the same laugh. He knew he wanted her, and he knew he could have her.

Over the night they had exchanged stolen glances and fleeting looks, until near the end they could avoid each other no longer, both separated from those they had arrived with. They flirted, and he put his arm around her, speaking into her ear and taking in her scent; rose-flavoured perfume; a naturally sweet smell to her skin; almonds in her hair. One of her friends was not drinking and offered to drive him home and they had on the back seat in silence, hands touching, but never clasping. When he got out, her friends insisted she go with him, but Launa declined. Williams liked that. She was curious, but she fought her nature – such battles make for a deeper excitement that must be enjoyed. It was tantalising. Launa gave him her number, and here she was. Despite her beauty, she hid a sadness within her; a restlessness that manifested itself as a carefree nature and pushed her in her ambition to become a fashion designer – another trait which Williams enjoyed – but which left her angst-ridden, and convinced her own life was the most difficult of all. This particular fact irritated Williams, and he challenged her.

‘You know nothing,’ said Launa. ‘You have it so easy. There are so many people out there who have nothing. What do you know about the troubles people face?’

Williams had studied his and his following generation’s preoccupation with melancholy and their occasional glorification of sadness, or rather, the disparagement that meets happiness and content. The internet, he had found, became the greatest propagator of negativity because the otherwise separated inconsolable could reach each other and surround themselves with each other; they made no attempt to reconcile their misery, rather they used it at their identifier. Teenage angst, once a force for the great energies of adolescence, was allowed to be cultivated. Sadness was no longer a negative; it was the accepted and in being so, it lost its power within the human spirit to create. Sadness must never be romanticised. It is unhealthy, as is romance. It is telling that throughout human history, man had inextricably linked the two together and with death. They are the fascinations of the human psyche. It is much better to wish for romance than experience it, because it is never as we hope it to be, just as it is better to be sad than constantly happy, because sadness cannot be lost whereas every day we hold funerals for our own happiness. The human preoccupation with happiness drives us into misery. Sadness is mankind’s superior state; his natural position from which he rescues himself, because it creates the introspective impetus to be rescued. Romance is often seen as the rescuer, but like all fantasy heroes, the reality always falls short. It is better to be sad, so one can be happy, than happy because one will become sad, just as it is better to wish for romance than to experience it. The delusion is always more delightful than the reality, but the reality is always more pertinent than the delusion. Which one chooses marks the subject as the type of person they are, but to view the desire to claw one’s way out of sadness as anything other than the most noble of notions was poison to Williams, and so much of the internet was poisonous.

Williams reveled in human psychology. It engrossed and infatuated him; how the human mind was infinitely complex in its mechanisms and emotions, yet human psychology was often barbarically simple and endlessly mouldable. This dissonance was the very nature of humanity, and it fascinated him; for its mystery and its potential power. In every person, he sought to understand that which made them individual, and that which made them the same as everyone else. With such understanding, he knew, he would be able to overcome any other human and any obstacle they may place before him, while measuring his own output and becoming outwardly invincible to the human condition. The ability to enter into another’s mind occurred to Williams as a precious gift; to understand without the clouding effect of empathy, while taking care of the emotional response in a person is vital. As far as people were concerned, it was beneficial to get inside their heads than to have them inside one’s own heart.

‘I have to hear about them.’ He poured himself a drink of crisp, ochre scotch into a heavy Waterford crystal tumbler, ‘and I’m expected to care. It’s tiring.’

‘You are terrible,’ she said, exasperated, yet allowing a playful smile to creep across her lips, ‘do you really not care?’

‘Would it make their lives better if I did? People care too much. They lose track of what is important.’

‘And what would you say that is?’

‘Pursuing want over need. People concern themselves with what they need, and they gain no joy from having it.’ Williams paused and took a sip from his glass, finishing half of it in a steady gulp and supressing the pained expression that naturally comes with swallowing so potent and excellent a liquid, ‘the real pleasure in life is attaining the unnecessary. What do you enjoy more? Plain rice, soft and watery, or chocolate? The rice could sustain you and you could eat nothing else for the rest of your life, but you don’t. You need the rice but you want the chocolate,’ he took another sip, finishing his drink and placing the Waterford on the table before taking a step towards her, ‘the chocolate tastes. It gives flavour to the life the rice sustains. The act of living is a blank canvas, desire is the artwork – the thing of genius. I desire.’

He was close to Launa now, and looking her in the eyes with a passionate ferocity that at once excited and enraged her. His gaze was one of adrenaline; it was the words he spoke. She thought to look away but did not. Her heart was in her chest, and her cheeks flushed. This young man in his dark study and his purple taupe suit that defined his figure with a razor edge, those piercing eyes burning with life, and those crimson lips that drew closer with every word – he was exhilarating.

‘You know – desire is what makes us human. The drive for something,’ Williams’ face was now only an inch from hers, ‘more'.

He kissed her and Launa tentatively placed her arms around his neck, exhaling with the restrained attraction she had fought to resist and giving herself over to lust. Williams took her upstairs, and she did not leave until the evening, when he feigned a prior arrangement from which he could not disentangle himself. Launa left, and Williams sat back down in the vast comfort of his leather chair, the Waterford glass re-filled. The day felt old, he thought, sighing and closing his eyes. If he wasn’t so tired, he would be looking forward to the next day.

The summer continued in much the same vein, and Jack Williams gained quite a reputation. One that preceded him. He felt like he had met people before he encountered them. Of course, his reputation depended on the people he met; to many he was nothing but a heavily drinking womaniser. Yet when he finally found himself face-to-face with the others, they found him charming, polite and warm – nothing of the cold, serial philanderer of whom they had heard, and they instantly and forever amended their view of him, considering Williams erudite and amiable company. Williams often used a harsh reputation to soften his way into acquaintanceships, finding that through the correct application of modest, and adopting a mode of conduct that befitted a person opposite the his supposed characteristics, those who held the preconception would be caught desperate to prove apologetic. It is a matter of human psychology that once one feels apologetic towards another, one feels obliged to please that other, and once obligated to please it is common to unwittingly gain a sense of warmth towards them, especially if the desire to please is rewarded with signs of acceptance and geniality, which Williams was always conscious to do.

Williams became known also for always being ready for adventure; he was always an hour from heading out, a fact that baffled many as those on his degree all confessed to Williams’ grades barely slipping, despite his attendance and attention declining dramatically as the days grew longer and warmer, and the scent of grass and honeyed pollen excited the nose. Williams was happy to fuel this particular repute, indeed, in meeting so many people, Williams believed himself to be at his most interesting when before a crowd, especially one that did not approve of him. The process of bringing them to his side was exquisite fun. Convincing others or contorting himself; that was the pinnacle of intellectual curiosity. It was what Williams called ‘social cartography,’ drawing in his subconscious a map of the social situation, its features, flaws and strongest characters, and adjusting its manner accordingly – a trait Stephen, the dedicated journalist from Williams’ degree certainly did not have.

Stephen had taken to spending more time with Williams and Jamie earlier in the year, seemingly caught between his distaste of them and his curiosity. On a warm evening, Williams sat in a canvas deckchair outside in his garden, sipping a glass of red wine while the rest of the bottle lay on the ground beneath him, ready to refill his drink. As the cars lazily drifted past on the main road in front of the house and urban birds sang in the purpling style above him, Williams recalled a conversation between himself, Jamie and Stephen that brought a smile to his face;

‘I can’t stand her. She’s so loud, she’s a child.’ Said Stephen.

‘Becky? I don’t know, she seems fine. I don’t mind her.’

‘How? You’ve met her, she’s obnoxious.’

‘A little over the top, maybe, but each to their own,’ said Williams imperturbably.

‘She never stops talking about herself though. No one is that interesting.’ Stephen seemed annoyed.

‘Maybe she just wants to be liked? She’s out there – she’s out to impress. She’s insecure really. ‘

‘You seriously think?’

‘Yeah. Listen; people will tell you who they are, but you ignore it. People all too often are only who you want them to be. When they aren’t, there is friction. Like this.’

‘You’re saying everyone else is the problem, not her?’ Stephen looked affronted.

‘No. I’m saying there is no problem. People expect other people to behave certain ways, talk certain ways. As soon as they don’t, people fall out. She just doesn’t know how to get people on side, everything is a charm offensive and it’s all offensive, no charm you know? It is a gift to make yourself who people want you to be, it gets you ahead of the game. She hasn’t got it, but it doesn’t make her bad, just wrong.’

‘I guess so.’ Stephen smiled, and said; ‘never thought I’d hear you standing up for someone like that, Jack.’

‘Well where’s the fun in being predictable?’ He returned a cheeky smile.

‘If you say so, man.’

Stephen just did not get ‘it’ thought Williams. He had cast his mind about, wanting to expose Stephen, and remembered that he didn’t like Sophie, whom Williams had developed a great a platonic care for despite himself, ‘what about Sophie though? That girl really does try too hard, it’s not even sweet.’

‘Christ I know right? I can’t stand her, she’s so in your face. Like a little girl.’

‘I know, any more than a small dose and she pisses me right off.’

‘I hear she’s into some pretty weird stuff. She’ll do anything,’ said Stephen disapprovingly. He was, thought Williams, a man dedicated religiously to the expected and ordinary. An intensely intelligent specimen who had arrived at the conclusion that the well-trod path – the middle ground – was the universal recipe for predictable, and therefore safe success in life. Stephen was, if nothing else, content to settle for what he needed, by virtue of his wants only ever being his needs. This fact reviled Williams.

‘If there is anything one cannot judge another on, it is their sexuality, mate. Quite frankly I think it’s fair to say that sex with children or by force is wrong, but the rest is just the grand old human comedy, unfolding, as it will.’

'Well said,’ said Jamie, who had observed the other two the whole time with a smile, ‘sex is the absolute expression of human nature. At its best, it is sublime –‘

‘And at its worst, the most abominable act, finished Williams sternly, ‘as with all native aspects of human nature, it must be respected. Anyone who forces themselves on someone else is less than human in my eyes. By all means, flirt, attract – we’re all victims of attraction, are we not? But the very idea of imposing upon someone? If a girl says no, no it is.’

‘Quite,’ replied Jamie, ‘those folk are lower than scum.’

‘You two do have morality then,’ exclaimed Stephen, surprised by the sudden seriousness and rueful that his contempt for the pair’s sexual frivolity was in some way unfounded.

‘Of course we do. You think we’re good with girls because we make them feel shit?’ Said Williams, contempt of his own lacing his voice, ‘we empower. We worship. Beauty is my goddess and she demands reverence. I am a victim to her demands. I don’t conquer or dominate. I submit and I revel in seeing another person come to life by my touch.’

‘And quite frankly we spice up their lives, added Jamie, ‘it’s win-win for everyone. We enjoy the comfort of the glory that is the vagina, and in return we ask for nothing but the honour of giving pleasure as best we can.’

‘Which we are all too willing to do,’ smiled Williams. ‘Anyway, Jamie, play me that new song you told me about. I want to hear it solo before the band’s arrangement. See you in uni guys.’

Jamie proceeded to play a song which had now become one of his band’s signature pieces. Williams had tuned in to hear it debut on the radio a few months later, after the band were signed. A slight sadness overcame Williams, as he thought of his distance from Jamie, before his mind turned to the other figure in the memory, Stephen. It was not true animosity but the tension of vital differences in character between Stephen and Williams, who beneath his exterior distaste for much of Stephen’s characteristics, wished only to be respected by the former. Stephen was a man of integrity in a form Williams loathed out of a lack of capacity for it, but admired because it made him strong. Where Stephen stood for honesty, goodness and modesty, Williams was inclined to subversion, selfishness and superciliousness – yet he knew he shared all of Stephen’s traits. This was perhaps the greatest cause for tension between the two; they both acknowledged Williams’ native instinct for what is considered good and just, yet it was Williams who showed himself more adroit in his balancing personal desire with the net gain of those around him. Where Stephen aspired to personal good because he was unable to inspire benefit for those around him, Williams could aspire to personal greed and still make better the given situation for those around him. It was a rare gift, noted Stephen, that worst of all was being abused so knowingly.

Since those days, gratification had coloured Williams’ life and became his sole motivator. University had finally ended and the long haze of summer had begun; endless, magical and full of possibility. Williams saw before him the ripples of heat extracting the smell from fresh-cut grass, the taste of dust in the air from dry pavements; the sweetness that followed from sucking on ice cream or cold cider with ice – the girls and women and beauty. Summer had always been neutral, but this one was to be different. It was colour and joy and life, and it felt beautiful. His weariness faded as the sun illuminated the world outside of his house, and warmed the afternoons he spent with people in the park by the sea drinking whisky and cola topless, his hair pulled by a light breeze. The whole world was colour. The more colour he saw, the broader the pallet would need to become. It was marvellous and dangerous.

As his life became focused around pleasure and beauty, so he came to emulate it, and after much time, effort and study, he perfected the art of effortlessly doing so by virtue of an extensive and rich collection of clothes, scents and toiletries that grew increasingly complex and eccentric, but always humoured. After all, Williams thought, nothing is worse than serious beauty; it is all in the smile – and what else is fashion for, if not to offend? Clothing exists to cover our bodies yes, but anyone who is offended by nudity, or who views fashion simply as a functional discipline to cover up certainly deserves their offence as he saw it. It is excellent to be outrageous, people these days enjoy outrage. They seek it out. It is the sport of the middle class. He sought to subvert as well as celebrate the age. It would be the perfect reflection of it.

There's been a long time since I updated Senses Prevail, but hey ho. The Chapter 7 redraft is quite extensive, it's over half as long again as the original text, still all in that one night, but with far more dialogue and a much deeper look at Williams and Jamie's relationship through their interaction with each other and their friends. A lot of that is during the end of the night chat, which is very much grounded in memory. The chapter opens with Williams alone now, still putting Jamie's news that morning that he is leaving into some sort of context. So Williams is starting this night out at a bit of a loss - it's the first time his certainty is in some way challenged.

It was fun to write; a combination of my own and anecdotal experiences. I like to think it adds flavour knowing that everything that happens in this chapter has actually happened in real life to me or someone I know.

Chapter 7

The street lamp shone through the half-closed blinds and shattered the darkened wall with a lateral kaleidoscope of artificial light that occasionally flashed to a violent yellow when a car drove past, headlights on. Williams had spent the afternoon reading and drinking slowly. He found it helped him cope with the hangovers better. The book was called ‘Women.’ Leafing through the pages loosely, soaking up Bukowski’s fervent rejection of the unsexual stasis and cleanliness of society, Williams found himself thrall to the thought that all actions were merely words on the pages that are human lives. He mulled over his glass of wine, and took in the perfectly balanced, fruity red. It was an excellent wine, Malbec. Quite expensive. Taking a sighing breath, his nose filled with dark cherries, blackberries and cinnamon, Williams saw himself as a chief adoxographer of a meretricious world; scribbling his charming nothingness upon the pages of an open journal. Whatever there is of meaning in the world was of very little importance to it, thought Williams, a touch of melancholy dashing against the rocks of his mind.

Williams sat alone in the living room, staring vacantly at the floor whilst the news rolled by on the television screen unnoticed. The sound was off; the only noise in the room was Williams’ breath against the hollow ticking of a baroque wall clock and the soft murmur of Medway at night. He looked at the screen and watched for a few moments. Media, Williams thought, has replaced church, materialism has replaced God. Knowledge is Divinity and advertisement the preacher – somewhere between all of these lies the news media, setting the agenda, glorifying the distractions and wilfully censuring those few who seek genuine improvement by excluding them from the sexy narrative of disaster and fear. Humanity has slipped from one constructed fantasy to another; from shivering in the coldness of the church hall to mindlessly gorging before the glowing screen, from being told what to believe to choosing to be told what to believe. In such a world, constructing one’s own fantasy is the only reprieve. To live is the only intrinsic good. To feel is an exception. That fantasy best be oneself; it is the only thing one has any power over, yet none at all. It was a quite delightful thought to Williams, this absolute totality of a lack of power. Emptiness becomes the power, and before long nothing means anything at all, and value becomes determined by what best fills the gap. Such is the twenty-first century. So few experience living any more – they live, yes, thought Williams, but they fail to experience it.

Jamie arrived. He had brought three others; Joe, who had matured greatly over the past five months into a quietly confident outgoing type, and Greg and Ross from Jamie’s band, which ever since he had met them at that first performance that felt so long ago, Williams had liked. Williams welcomed them in and they made their way into the darkened living room, and sat for a moment in silence before breaking into conversation about sport. Williams had become a passionate fan of rugby over the year, having spent time with the university rugby team while international matches were on. Having gone to private schools too, Jamie and Greg both knew and followed the sport.

‘How’re you feeling Jamie?’

‘Beat, but we’re buzzed,’ replied Jamie, casting an excited gaze towards his bandmates. ‘Girl still upstairs?’

‘No, she left. Not sure when. I went to bed and she let herself out. Can’t say I’m surprised yours isn’t here.’

‘She didn’t take too kindly to my effervescent nature so early in the morning. Got all angry at me for making a racket and coming in and out. Said I was ignoring her. Ignoring her!’ Jamie paused in disbelief, ‘I didn’t even know her name. Ignoring her…’

They began to drink. Jamie and Williams drank whisky, at first with cola, and then on its own. Joe drank cider. He hated beer. Greg and Ross did not, however, and drank that before switching to whisky straight up with Jamie and Williams. After an hour of drinking, they began smoking marijuana. After their second joint they had all started losing the plot.

‘Buttered toast always lands on the buttered side if you drop it – if you have some toast with butter on it, and some without, the toast with the butter will land on the buttered side,’ said Greg looking proudly vindicated.

‘But the other toast has no butter!’ Exclaimed Joe, ‘it can’t possibly land on the buttered side.’

Everyone laughed, and Greg looked a combination of frustrated and stunned, ‘if there is no butter then how can it land on the buttered side?’

Everyone laughed harder.

‘What is even going through your mind, mate?’ Asked Williams, struggling for breath.

‘No. Well…because the buttered slice will land on the buttered side and the other one will –’

‘– not land on the buttered side because there’s no butter,’ finished Williams to a fresh wave of laughter.

‘Listen, I know what I meant, ok?’

‘As long as you did, that’s all that matters,’ beamed Jamie as he refilled his whisky glass, spilling some across the table in the centre of the group as he burst into a fresh bout of laughter.

No one could speak for laughing for a while. It took until no one could remember what they were laughing about for Jamie to recover adequately to ensure everyone had a fresh round of drinks and introduced what he termed ‘the focal point of the evening’s entertainment.’

He handed out to everyone a bomb of MDMA, which everyone – except for Joe, who was not particularly keen on drugs to begin with, and who had had the least marijuana – took without questioning and swallowed with their spirits.

Jamie explained that the next bombs had the LSD and mescaline in them, and that the first were to ensure everyone was in a positive, alert frame of mind. It seemed incredible to Williams that such synthetic structures; mandy, acid, and mescaline could create such organic experiences. They were all so unnatural, utterly man made and scientific, yet they rewarded the biological with a chemical glimpse at the metaphysical soul. Weed made sense. It is a plant, it is grown and sewn – but the act of smoking is so very far from nature’s norm. Inhaling fire and smoke; such an act deserves to end in something entirely mind altering.

‘Tonight is not the night for a bad trip,’ Jamie explained, ‘you’ll need all the serotonin you can muster.’

Ross and Williams cleared the glasses and bottles away into the kitchen as Jamie called a taxi to take them into town for two hours’ time and prepared the bombs for the evening. They did not want any glass or breakable objects, not knowing where their minds may take their bodies. It was agreed unanimously that broken glass would not be a particularly fanciful addition to their evening. Williams, Jamie, Greg and Ross took the bombs at the same time once the room was cleared, and passed a full bottle of whisky around while they waited.

Williams was staring at the wall, and watched the yellow lines cast by the street lamp’s light through the blinds flare white as another car went past, and stared intently as the lines began to run down the wall, wet like paint. The room began to tip left slightly, making the lines pour downwards faster and pool together slightly, meeting as they reached the sofa against the wall. They gushed over it and onto the floor, which by now was at a thirty degree angle. The light dripped on top the carpet, and made the fibres begin to sway, as if caught in a breeze, and then grow like grass. How fascinating, thought Williams, and he got to his feet with a wobble – the room luckily flattened from its tilt as he did so – and made his way to the growing carpet, overcome by an urge to feel the fibres growing beneath his fingertips.

‘Guys, I think it’s hitting you,’ said Joe. His voice was slowed and deepened, its tones creating a ripple in the atmosphere that shook the growing fibres of the carpet and made them shrink back to their original static state.

‘Yeah, me too,’ Williams replied, looking around.

‘I’m coming up, yeah,’ said Jamie, not paying attention. He and Ross were standing and matching each other’s movement slowly in stunned silence, punctuated by Jamie uttering a frustrated curse when they failed to move in time. There was something very childlike about his movements. Greg was lying on his back on the sofa, looking at the ceiling and tracing shapes in the air with one arm outstretched and fully extended.

‘Greg, what are you doing?’ Asked Joe.

‘Constellations. Yes.’

‘Right. I’m going to get another drink.’

‘Get me one,’ said Williams.

‘And me,’ said Jamie, snapping out of his and Ross’ trance and turning around, looking at no one in particular, ‘isn’t this fucking great guys? Just you wait until the music in the club, oh man and the girls. Oh man just you wait ‘till it all kicks in, and we feel it all. We’ll do a couple of dips of mandy to keep it going, keep us up. Every hour. It’s all there guys, all of it.’

Williams felt vibrations course around the room from every word Jamie said, vibrations that shook the room and were absorbed into his body. He looked down at his grass carpet, but it was dead and no longer growing.

‘Can I have that drink now, Joe? My grass is dead.’

‘What?’

‘Never mind.’

‘Right, be back in a second guys.’

The taxi came, but would not let them in, on account of their bewildering state. In protest Jamie sat on the bonnet, and when the driver started the engine in an attempt to get him off, he began shouting and whooping loudly about roaring wind and flying birds. He fell off in his excitement, while the others laughed. Joe called a second taxi, which with some extra money allowed them in.

To their own surprise, they all made it into the club. Jamie and Williams took another of the mixed bombs, and time became intangible. Williams was caught in the centre of the crowded dance floor, pulsing with the hot vibrations streaming from the crowds around him, every movement a ripple in the fabric of time, enhanced by his own bounding about and movement, inducing selcouth sensations in his mind. The light show fused with the blaring dance music to create a spectacular show of shapes and emotion; whole stories played out before him, the flash of the lights creating a matrix of coloured shapes, carved from the things the light had impacted. These shapes fused into whirling lines that were added to by further flashes, forming armies that waged a lighting war against each other, until all was consumed by a reptile-like creature with a vast jaw, which in turn was consumed by a serpent-like animal that split into many writing white lines that whirled around Williams while he jumped and writhed frantically, beaming from ear to ear.

‘Is Jack alright?’ Shouted Joe over the din of the music, slurring even those three words.

‘Fuck knows,’ replied Jamie, who was distant and unconcerned.

‘It’s just he’s not moving,’ said Joe. It was true. Williams had not moved for almost ten minutes. He was staring; eyes glazed, into nothing, his jaw hanging open and a drop of drool poised to fall from his bottom lip, which quivered with a faint smile. Jamie was too distracted by his own experiences to take any notice, and Joe forgot them both. The love between Jamie and Williams was fraternal, unspoken, except in Williams' mind, over and over. So intense was their bond that is was undeniable; everyone but the pair commented on it - but in private it was a point of fixation for Williams, a solipsistic appreciation of their male love; unconsummated by words, completely platonic in intent, yet spiritually romantic such was the way they made each other greater, and worked in harmony. Wit was their war, fun their combat - often their bodies the casualties, nursed by shared memory. An ecstatic, damaging friendship indeed, thought Williams faintly.

He sipped some water, and watched the crowds while perched on a stool at the bar. The hallucinations had eased off, and he was caught in the grip of the elation of Mandy. He smiled at everyone. Some smiled back – those who did gained a glowing, charming aura – while some did not – whose faces contorted into devilish sneers and threw out spiteful vibes. This unsettled Williams, but he was too up to mind too much, and quickly forgot them.

He caught the eye of a girl, who smiled at him. She was very pale, like paper. The lights flashed brightly on her skin, and Williams was overcome with concern that the heat of the light may burn her. The poor paper girl would be set aflame, and no one would be able to do anything about it – she would be ashes in seconds, the lights were so bright. Williams launched the water over her to stop her burning up, and beamed at her.

‘What the fuck are you doing?’ she shouted at him, aghast.

‘I put you out! You might burn!’

‘What? I’m getting security.’

Williams put it to the back of his mind and got up. He was proud of himself, he had saved her life. People often do not realise what is good for them if they are not aware of how bad the alternative might be. Her anger was a case of that. One day, she would see that. He found Jamie and Greg. Ross had been kicked out and put in a taxi home. Greg was barely standing, and Jamie was not present. They stood for a second, until three burly men rushed at them. Williams’ world burst into movement, vibration and confusion. Deep snarls and shouts emanated from the men, large and dressed in black. They were strong, and grabbed and pushed and shoved the three friends through the crowds. Williams caught a glimpse of one; small black beady eyes set into a wide, light face beset by a demonic anger. His head seemed bald and scaly, and his tongue forked, like a snake. The cold, fresh air struck him like a wall, and Williams became disorientated. All three of them were sick. Some shouts echoes behind them, but went unheeded. Together they stood after retching in the street while the demons, who had begun to morph into burley men, watched. Joe stumbled out and found them, slumped against the brick wall of a building down the road from the club, puddles of vomit between their legs. He heaved as he saw this, projecting liquid into the road. Williams looked up to see Jamie standing down the street leaning against a lamp post outside the club, drowned in poisonous artificial light.

‘Chorus of vomit over here lads. Stunning melody, not sure on the harmonies though.’

‘The fuck are you still standing?’ asked Greg, wiping his mouth on his sleeve.

‘Barely,’ Jamie came closer and sat without grace in his fall on the pavement, legs spread into the road. I was sick inside, had a kip in the toilet. Snuck out before the bog wog kicked me out, think he’d got security. Saw Ross escorted out earlier, didn’t want that.’

‘Yeah, we got manhandled.’

‘How you doing boys?’

‘Feeling fucked mate. Can’t even tell if it’s good or bad,’ said Joe.

‘Yeah,’ mumbled Williams, looking into the street light, ‘still pretty up. Can’t remember getting on this pavement if I’m honest.’

‘I ain’t got much,’ said Jamie, ‘fuck me what a night eh boys?’

‘You know it,’ said Williams with a groan, hoisting himself up by Jamie’s sleeve and pulling Greg up after him, ‘seems to be the way of things. Out for a night we’ll never forget only to have a night we’ll never remember.’

‘It’s a brutal truth, man,’ said Jamie, a hand on Williams’ shoulder, ‘but it’s perfect in an eye-of-the-storm-calmness way.’

‘Just as long as we don’t forget we can’t remember. That’s real tragedy, I reckon. See that blue tint to the edge of the sky? I don’t want that right now. I don’t want tomorrow. This is shit, right here, vomit on the floor and up the wall and Joe’s piss snaking its way down this gutter by our feet, but you’re right. It’s a perfect night.’

‘I love you man,’ Jamie bodily embraced Williams, his hand in Williams’ sweat streaked hair on the back of his head, ‘you don’t get this feeling elsewhere, it’s not depravity, it’s something we can all hang on to forever.’

The love between Jamie and Williams was fraternal, usually unspoken, except in Williams' mind, over and over. So intense was their bond that is was undeniable; everyone but the pair commented on it - but in private it was a point of fixation for Williams, a solipsistic appreciation working in harmony. Wit was their war; fun their combat - often their bodies the casualties, nursed by shared memory. An ecstatic, damaging friendship indeed, thought Williams.

‘You two are fucking poets,’ said Joe, finally standing up. ‘Come on lads, time to call it in for the night.’

‘Yeah,’ said Williams breaking from Jamie, ‘got a nightcap at mine. One last drink before it’s tomorrow again.’

Finally, with acidic mouths and slow minds, as the air began to saturate with the scent of dawn and birds could be heard tweeting their morning songs the four hailed a taxi and made their way to Williams’, where they all fell upon the sofas as the sun rose, still fully dressed, and slept until the afternoon.

All Of You

In life there is no soundtrack

But when I kiss you I hear music

You cut me deep, but I don't bleed

Because you're the medicine I need

Every word you say becomes my favourite love song

Every story told the next to win awards

I'm suspicious that you don't plan to let go

A thousand years couldn't be enough to figure and to know

All of you, through and through

It's the little things you do

All of you, these ones are two

Everything about you, it's all of you

In life there is no soundtrack

But your voice is a melody

Your beauty is my vanity

Because you bring life back into me

I know I'll never be the same again

I know I'll always be a little more

The stars go dark, blinded by your eyes

All the truths I used to know all suddenly seem lies

Because of you, you're my truth

It's the little things you do

All of you, these ones are two

Everything about you, it's all of you

Cracking on with the redrafting, I've finished Chapter 6. I've added a lot more depth - more odd little things that just happen on nights out, and in the first couple of paragraphs I've fleshed out some of Williams's thoughts to give more of an insight and more depth to his mental state. There's more fun in the chapter now, I made a conscious effort to remember a lot of those quirky little details from nights out and add them to his. The different people you randomly talk to, the odd conversations, the weird thoughts you have while it's going on

So it's all about one night a little bit later in the year, delving into a particular (typical) twenty-four hours for Williams. Ultimately though, it's a pacing and scene-setting chapter, from here a lot starts to change for Williams in a lot of ways. It's a fun chapter too, I dredged through some drunk memories and curious conversations. There'll be more of both later in the story. For now though, this chapter exists as an exercise in exposition. I'd love some feedback on this, I want to know if it's enjoyable, how people feel about Williams with the added exploration of him.

Chapter 6

Williams rattled the ice around the heavy glass tumbler which was now empty. He gave a slight grimace as the final sip of the amber liquid passed his gullet. He had been drunk so many times in the last five months that he and Jamie had joked that sobriety was now the exceptional state. It may well be; but being drunk never ceased to feel sensational. Alcohol was to Williams an enabler, a serum for inducing a chemical madness that unlocked the primal desires that reside deep within the psyche that modern society – civilisation – does it’s upmost to supress with such lousy devices as morals and accountability. In doing so denies humans the art of humanity that is to feel and desire and live without the devices that in their nature as artificially imposed constraints, act only to increase the desire to indulge, thus producing in mankind all the evils that are described by society, but that might not exist were people to stop setting such rules to be broken. That chemical madness ushered both peace and energy. It allowed access to the hidden clarity that so often eludes passion. Where others may dither in their pursuits and goals, Williams acted with incisiveness and buoyancy, hurtling at an unstoppable pace into each thing that may bring him joy as soon as the last ceased to, which had the effect of rapidly speeding the passing of time in the present while stretching his impression of it in the past such that the previous five months felt to him like years had passed, and all that came before this period of his life was but a shallow memory replete with all the disconnections and uncertainties that come with the passing of time and its degradation of memory. The only things that were clear to him now were the hazy days of the past weeks, and the urge to grasp that which stood before him. Were he to turn his gaze to the side, all became a blur, and if another ninety degrees were applied to his sight, all receded into the distance. Life was breakneck and crazy, his heart constantly pounding. Nothing more thrilling than the enchanting disconnection that allowed him to fly above concern and pass from one great ecstasy to the next without suffering the burden of waiting for the time to pass between. Life was madness, and it was chemical, and it was love. But he felt a pain. The loss of a certain teenage innocence. He spent his life hunting for sensual revelation, but he would never recapture the accidental wonder of being in love, as he had been with Jackie, completely unconsummated at sixteen.

Love was a tainted concept for him. Through Jackie, through reading; his soul – if such a thing were to exist, but for the sake of his reasoning ‘the soul’ was a useful conceptual construct of his combined emotions, morality and desire – was caught somewhere between brutal reality and mythical idealism. He had felt what it was to love and lose, but without the physical affirmation, and through reading so much Romantic literature; the classics, not the modern interpretation, and poetry; specifically Byron’s weighted love and the unrestricted passions of nineteenth century Parisian ardour; Flaubert, Mallarme; Casanova’s Histoire de ma vie, Kierkegaard’s Diary of a Seducer, even Alfie – today’s equivalent of the classic’s sort – had all inflated his sensation of tragic love artificially. Williams wondered how he would feel now if he had never found solace in those pages – if he had been normal and gone out drinking, visiting friends, expanding through action earlier rather than leaving things until the beginning of his third decade. He was full of passion and vitality without influence, he knew this. It would have manifested itself somehow; he had too much energy to contain it. Corking it up had led him to exploding now, of course, but it’d have been no different. This was his choice. Those years spent watching and waiting, reading and thinking now gave him the sense to simply do. He was lucky, of course, that his finances were in place such that he could pursue his every whim. Even were they not he would still be able to; the people would not be different. His house would be student halls or shared accommodation which would have given him a different rather than inferior experience. Less comfortable perhaps, and less satisfying sensually – the house is a sensual palace – but interesting nonetheless. For now however, such considerations were irrelevant. Regardless of why, he had his passion, he had the energy and flame for craziness. Madness.

By March, all of Williams’ energies were focused in his madness for life and everything he needed to do to maintain it. His grades had sharply declined, as had his interest in them. What joy was to be found in that which distracted him from everything he craved? Williams had finished readying himself for the evening; his hair carefully styled to look unkempt. The weather was beginning to turn lighter, and with it, his appearance was shifting. He wore a light grey mac with the waist belt tied behind him, pulling it open to reveal a loose, plain white vest. His trousers were black and slim-cut, and were tucked into large military boots which added over an inch to his height. Williams had just poured himself another drink when the doorbell rang and Jamie’s voice flooded through the letterbox. He brought the bottle up from his study and let those at the door in, offering them a drink as he did so. They bustled in and made themselves comfortable, Jamie laying back on the sofa, one leg forming a ninety degree point at the knee with its foot upon seat, the other resting such that the foot was on the floor, with his loose shirt open three buttons down showing his chest as it deflated and expelled from within smoke from his cigarette. The pale blue smoke which coiled around his breath in the still room gave him a sense of motion not dissimilar from that of a mirage, and between the warping ropes Jamie's eyes glistened with a knowing curiosity, a faint smile playing over his warm lips, as Jack Williams sat before him speaking with an awkward charisma - extremely self-conscious - which interested Jamie beyond his usual regard for people.

The four young men sat in the taxi, Williams, Jamie, Mark and friend of his, Paul, who Williams had met a handful of times at parties but had never really spoken to, and with whom he immediately realised he had nothing in common. Paul seemed earnest by the way he spoke and normally dressed, he seemed to Williams to be one who did not care for materialism or any particular excess, although he wore a brand new Topman blazer – perhaps wearing it out for the first time. He seemed to Williams to be a slight bore – that is – he had no great distinguishing qualities.

Sitting in the front seat and speaking to no one in particular, Williams said, as if vocalising a previous thought stream, ‘you know; drinking in public brings us closer to other people and further from ourselves. That’s the problem with it; it’s cures our anxieties by hiding them. But I love it; I love it because I enjoy it. Suddenly, everything is interesting and nothing matters. Isn’t that the ideal way of the world?’ He turned and smiled towards the others.

‘You mean like hiding in plain sight?’ Asked Mark.

‘Yeah.’

‘I get you, you just get more guts.’

‘Exactly.’

‘Guys,’ interjected Jamie, ‘we’re getting in for free, just got a message from the owner, he’s down by the door. We played a gig here a while back and pulled a crowd in. Favour for us. More dollar for the Dutch courage my friends.’ He leaned forwards and clapped Williams on his shoulder, ‘tonight gents, we will have an excellent one.’

‘Absolutely,’ said Williams, placing his hand on Jamie’s.

The taxi pulled out outside the entrance to the club. They walked straight in, Jamie exchanging a knowing nod to a burly man standing talking to the security, and Williams studied the long queue of chattering, smoking people that snaked around the corner. It would have taken an hour to get in.

After buying drinks – doubles – the four found themselves dispersed around the place; Williams had happened upon Chloe, with whom he had cut all sexual ties, the situation having become too complex and tiresome to maintain. In doing so, both her and Sophie, with whom he had also ended relations were spared of both finding out and being hurt, each having sworn to secrecy. He spent a while with Chloe, who questioned him intensely about his love life, but after buying her drinks to fill both hands and distracting her with compliments, he managed to avoid an uncomfortable conversation. He had lost much of her allure to him; speaking to her strangely drained Williams of energy, and, as soon as he could, he disentangled himself, the opportunity presenting itself in the form of Paul passing by. The pair took to the smoking area to escape.

‘That’s a nice jacket there,’ said Williams, casting an equable eye over Paul, who was swearing a slim fitting navy blue blazer with white piping lining the lapel, ‘where’d you get it?’

‘Thanks man, got it from Topman the other day.’

‘Very nice,’ said Williams, feigning enthusiasm, ‘I got this from Ted Baker. Such a nice fit, really perfect on the shoulders. Don’t you love the lining?’ He unfastened the tortoiseshell button and opened up his jacket, revealing an elaborate jacquard print gold and silver silk lining that contrasted with the fine black fabric of the exterior.

‘Yeah, that’s quite something,’ said Paul, not entirely sure what to say.

‘Thanks,’ said putting on a show of accismus, ‘the shirt is Hugo Boss. Their Black range. I tend to like the fit of Baker shirts, but the elegance and timelessness of Hugo Boss’s slim fit lends an undeniable sharpness. Gives some edge.’

‘Yeah,’ Paul looked around, disinterested. ‘Very nice.’

‘The trousers – sorry, I don’t mean to bore.’

‘No, no, you’re not.’ Paul looked embarrassed, ‘I’m keeping an eye out for a friend.’

‘Yes, of course.’ Williams panicked, a wave of heat coming to his face; Paul didn’t seem particularly interested; ‘I better dash actually, I left a bunch of people at the bar. They’ll be wondering where I am.’

Yeah, no worries mate, I’ll see you later.’

Williams said nothing, and with a smile turned and left. He finished the rest of his Jack Daniels and Coke in a single gulp and tossed the plastic cup to the floor. He burned with indignation, but to everyone whose eyes he met, he smiled warmly, giving an acknowledging nod. He struggled to understand his internal fury. His carefully constructed aspect had failed to impress. It made no sense. Paul was so very blunt in his interests – there was no edge or curiosity. He was yet another person content with his lot and unwilling or unable – Williams could not discern which – to change his lot in life. Such a static mentality was anathema to Williams. He saw the crowd, scanned the faces and clothes; the voices, eyes, hands waving and lips moving, and saw endless possibilities, personalities and ideas.

Returning outside he forgot Paul in an instant as he came across Mark, waving his hands animatedly and leaning forward with intensity, talking to a girl on the edge of a group. She was, smiling and looked interested, if baffled. Williams smiled internally for Mark, it was good to see him coming out of his shell. Her friends seemed too polite – or protective – to leave her behind, and stood in a circle talking. One of them, a delicate blonde girl with a flat chest and over-padded bra but a pretty face, especially lips, look out from the group at Mark and her friend and caught Williams doing the same. They shared a knowing smile, and he made his way over at that cue, voicing his previous thought about Mark to her as an introduction.

The pair stood talking very close, with prolonged eye contact and smiles during the pauses in conversation. Her hand rest on upon his arm just above the elbow, and both acknowledged it without a word. That is all behaviour that could not occur in any other situation; without booze, people standing around them laughing and smoking and not caring about anything, without the night. There was beautiful, inconsequential electricity between them that for the night consumed Williams and gave it all the meaning of love, but come the morning would be a distant, curious memory of illicit insignificance about which neither would purposely think again. It was the essence of living.

It may be taken as fact that the surest way to expand ones perception of the world is to expose oneself to new ideas, which may only be best achieved through interaction. But the surest way to expand ones understanding of that perception and discern for oneself to causality of things is to read - deeply, expansively and privately - and allow those ideas to ferment in a vat of learning. In doing so, the sane ideas archive a time and technique mellowed depth that pervades the soul and weaves its way through the minds pathways like roots of a tree, and like the roots of a tree, interweaving with other roots, such that a Forrest of separate ideas on the surface becomes, below the soil, one being with many access points, each point connected with and easily reached from any given other.

No. Paul was one to value traditional success; the proper way down the trodden path of security and reassurance towards stability and respectability. Such people must exist, they are vital the order and running of the word, thought Williams as he passed through the crowd. There is a quiet nobility to the aspiration towards the necessary – to achieve it is one of the great successes of society. But that was it. Success is merely a superficial status awarded by society, and society is just a construct humanity has built to protect himself from the irrationality of his own nature, to reassure himself that he has meaning, and to safeguard his greed and make it constitutional. Success, therefore, is relative only to other people, and one’s whole success only has meaning according to that which other people bestow upon you. There is no soul in that, no intimacy or passion. To the ambitious there is no success, only dissatisfaction. Success is the game for people who for whatever reason cannot or will not search for the greatness of life within themselves, and so they must assert their search for deeper meaning upon the world, rather than through it While they may well achieve their dreams and all the happiness that comes with them, be it material wealth or familial love, they will never understand the greater beauty of living, nor the extent to which man can be in touch with himself and the universe in which he resides. Williams proposed a style of living which sought to find the uttermost limits to the essence of experiencing life and once each essence was exhausted and done it would not be an achievement or a victory. It would be a mark upon his soul that would never fade as can material success, and if such a lifestyle brought him material gain then so much the better. But material gain is ultimately nothing more than a tool with which to grant one’s wishes. It is true that money bought station and power, and he desired both in order to fulfil his impulses, but he was far more fascinated in the spending than earning of money, and became embroiled in the social process of station rather than the external things that may elevate one. It didn’t suit Williams to obsess over money beyond his needs. He was never greedy, he assured himself. Nothing that matters should be taken lightly, and nothing that doesn’t matter should be a point of concern and success – that tragic concept – certainly didn’t matter. Paul’s brand of sincere traditionalism and conservatism of thought lacked the essential creativity of mind for Williams to find him interesting.

Creativity is the essence of true intelligence. The application or expression of that creativity is irrelevant; but it is the fuel of true intelligence. Paul was smart, of course although Williams did not know the limit of his intellect. There are those who possess raw processing power and no imagination, but those people are not intelligent. It was reasonable to Williams’ mind that one may be intelligent and smart, or perhaps just intelligent, and one may also be just smart – but those who are only smart are not intelligent. They lack the ability to link and connect and flow in ways alien to their input. There is no soul alive who is creative and who lacks the intelligence to access it. It is the currency of the human spirit, and a facility of the mind, and it creates the person. One’s creative capacity is a prerequisite of one’s development and one’s responses to the world and how one overcomes the highs and lows posed by it. It can be crushed by circumstance and experience, just as it may bloom by the same hands of fate. What mattered to Williams was living a life of creative freedom, that is to say, a life where any thought may be explored to its fullest, and the curiosities of the mind and body satiated. One’s creativity dictates not only one’s responses to the world, but one’s inputs from it. These inputs were all around him in this club, yet Paul would grow bored before midnight. A truly creative life is the richest one led. As such, he denied himself nothing but that which he did not desire. Desire was the expression of his creativity – the desire experience those moments of sensual and psychological perfection that only occur if one is open to their happening, and willing to place themselves in their path. His life was devoted to his living of it, on the higher plane of thought, and to making it possible to do so on the lower, mundane plane on which resided the majority of the human race, who often lack the creativity that so marks the species as remarkable.'

His thoughts were interrupted by the realisation that he had come to a standstill, and was gazing at a girl. She was a little too close to the fantasy; his vision of perfection, and Williams was struck immobile. He never could place quite why it caused him to ignore her for the rest of the evening when he saw her as he sought to, but he assumed that it was a reflection of the tragedy of a dream coming true; nothing is more damaging to the human spirit than getting everything one wants, especially in one go. His momentary shyness was merely an expression of his self-preservation. Nevertheless, he wore the moment of bashful wonder with pride and affection. Such notions are the basis of the perfection of feeling, because they are utterly uncontrollable. Those are the only moments that inspire the imagination in a world made cynical by sexuality.

He turned and found a girl putting a Camel cigarette in her mouth. He hated the smell of that brand, but he thought it polite to offer a light.

‘Hello there, need this?’

‘Yes, thank you,’ the girl smiled and took the lighter from his hands. She lit the cigarette and took a drag, blowing the smoke to her left. She paused a moment before giving the small blue cartridge back, taking him in. Williams could see the glint of attraction in her heavily mascaraed eyes, and the curl of approval about her darkly coloured lips, ‘so what’s your name?’

‘A pleasure,’ he said, taking the lighter back and ensuring his fingers touched hers and lingered, ‘Jack, yourself?’

‘I’m Angela,’ she took another drag. This one was shallower, and didn’t last long in her lungs. She began to speak as she exhaled, ‘what do you do?’

‘I watch people, you know, play out the romances of their lives in my head. Maybe have some of that human magic in my own. Rest of the time I’m a student. Got some houses in London too through family, so I’m a bit of a landlord, I suppose. You know, make a bit more money than I should from people desperate to live in places they need.’

‘Oh,’ she replied, sudden disapproval etched into her voice, ‘that sounds a bit extortive.’

‘Why thank you,’ Williams cried with mock delight, ‘though I’d call it a good business plan. Ain’t all that many in their early twenties with something stable behind the wobbles.’

‘But it’s unfair. It’s the whole reason for the mess this country is in.’

The girl was becoming serious. Williams couldn’t be doing with this sort of debate on a night like this, he really wasn’t one for it at that moment. He needed to snip the problem in the bud. She was quite obviously to the left, and judging from her style – wildly dyed hair with greens and blues among a bed of blonde with dark roots crowing a forgettable face made memorable by a nose and lip piercing, and vaguely bohemian clothes that he had read were currently fashionable in Shoreditch and Camden – she was an artist sort, which implied, along with the dislike of capitalism, a liberal bent. Not his sort at all, unless no words were to be spoken.

‘Actually the mess is down to mismanagement and a lack of regulation, or perhaps the underhanded results of too much regulation, actually I suppose. Capitalism punishes ill-discipline and laziness with a loss of profit. I’d call that pretty fair. Marxism, or Socialism, contains a nice final idea, but nothing like a worthy proposal as to how to carry it out. Besides, competition is human nature, and everyone being equal demands a lack of competitiveness. Everyone has to be content not to struggle. That’ll never happen. Of course, the arty shits that carry out all the bloody Occupy protests wouldn’t know a thing about actually thinking it through. Marxism is attractive because it answers the big questions easily and allows for everyone to belong. Which is indeed a lovely thought. But those lot are too busy making monuments out of placards and bin bags and calling it art, and campaigning against hate and calling that love. All I want is comfort and to provide for the people I love.’

It had worked. He had spoken quickly and attacked multiple interests and passions at once, and had made a final stab at a topic beside the point, which would become the focus of her anger, and draw the conversation to a timely close. The girl huffed and drew breath, pushing her shoulders back indignantly;

‘I suppose you hate all modern art, don’t you?’

He looked upon her with languid eyes that enraged her even more as he spoke, ‘sorry darling, but I really see no value in all that modern art silliness. It could mean anything, and anything that can mean anything means nothing at all.’

‘You’re such a fucking rightist! How could you think that – God all you lot’re the same.’

Williams wanted her then and there. He chuckled to himself in a bemused fashion as she stormed off in a righteous, artists rage, as liberals do when confronted by sense. It was of no consequence. He didn’t dislike her; it didn’t even occur to Williams to dislike a person. It is such a vexing disposition to possess; how people managed enduring grudges he didn’t know, they seemed to him to require far too much energy and mean spirit. To hate is to deny enjoyment to oneself. Negativity always dampens one’s mood, and ultimately one’s perception of their environment. This girl had no bearing on the continuation of his life any more than a raining cloud passing in the distance might. The rain may be unfortunate, but it is of no consequence to him while it lies on the horizon. He forgot the matter as he finally headed inside and re-joined Jamie at the bar.

There, Williams watched a girl as she laughed without care, the arm of a handsome-faced, tattooed and well-built young man around her waist. She was a stunning creature – a classic Hellenistic beauty in every sense, with flowing blonde hair, a figure blessed with the curves of a fantasy’s perfection, and a smile that radiated warmth and joy.

‘I hate seeing people I want to shag be happy.’

‘Why’s that then?’ Asked Jamie, distracted from his previous conversation.

‘Self-destruction’s the sexiest evil? I don’t know mate. Because I want to make them happier than they already are, but the more content they are, the less open-minded they are. Doesn’t she know

I’d make her happier?’

‘Don’t worry mate, you’ll get yours.’

‘Look at her,’ said Williams, ignoring Jamie, ‘how dare she be that happy?’

Jamie smiled, ‘I know, what a bitch. Come with me mate, got some sniff.’

‘Yeah in a minute, I hate being without a drink in hand.’

As they ordered their drinks, a pair of girls worked their way between them, in doing so, and with a fluttering of their eyelashes, getting drinks bought for them. One of them, a not unattractive brunette with wide, innocent-looking eyes mentioned that they had not yet bought themselves a drink.

‘Seriously, you’re only seventeen? Well you’re just his type then,’ said Jamie, with characteristic speed and with a manic emphasis on every syllable and an authoritative point in Williams’s direction.

The girl looked amused, ‘Yeah well sorry, I’m taken.’

Williams nodded his acceptance and looked at Jamie, flashing a smile, ‘Well now she’s your type.’

Jamie gave a snort of derision, and led the two away from the girls and onto the dance floor, where Williams caught rueful glimpses of the beautiful girl from outside. As the night wore on and the pair got more drunk, the faces before them and people around them melded into the music and lights, and all the world seemed no more than a seething wall of distractions and enjoyment. They would take it in turns to lift the other up onto their shoulders while dancing, a wildness having overtaken them, manifesting as an absolute inconsideration – or indeed lack of awareness – for anyone around them who did not join in. Finally they tired, and with more drinks they made their way outside, panting and sweat stained, to sit down at some benches and tables in the chill of the night air.

On such a bench Jamie and Williams joined a group of girls, to whom they endeared themselves immediately, storming into their lives in an assault of enthusiasm and energy. They had a unique ability to enhance each other’s personal charisma. Instead of competition, they were support, and through individual native instinct they effortlessly came together to draw the group of girls to them, for fear of living under the yolk of longing for too long. He took the hand of one of the girls in his while they spoke. He spoke about his love of words and people, of the connections between them. Williams new he had a flare for romance; it was the same shade within him that allowed him to comprehend the female emotion as many men cannot. He yearned for a higher romance, but reality overtook him, so he settled for the romantic ideal. He allowed himself to be sensitive to his callings. Temptations were simply reminders of taste. He had an old heart.

They had all left together before the club closed for the night, two of the girls getting a taxi to Williams’s along with Jamie, while the other two and having been disregarded by the boys, made their own way home. As he led his girl through his doorway by the hand, Williams considered the wonder and delight in all selfish pleasures. They are all sugar; mankind craves them until he has engorged himself and overfed – until they revile him. Inspiring joy and pleasure, however, or enjoyment or even happiness never becomes sickening. It may become tiresome, but if one can cause joy while seeking one’s own mortal fulfilment, there is a sustenance that provides vigour and attracts to the person much of what is best about humanity. The twenty first century is the age for selfish selflessness – it is the next evolution of our society. An evolution of hunger.

The next morning there was a sharp knock on Williams’ door. He laboured into consciousness, struggling to come to terms with his surroundings. He was in his bedroom, splayed out over the sheets, while the girl from last night stirred beside him.

‘What’s that noise?’ She asked, groggily. She was brunette.

‘The door.’ Williams checked the time on his phone, ‘It’s eight in the morning. Who the fuck?’

He pulled himself from bed and made his way downstairs. Clutching the door with one hand and his head with the other, ready to shield his eyes from the bright morning light, he pulled it open.

‘Jack, you’re up, good. Let me in.’

Jamie pushed his way in and took to the living room. It was like he hadn’t been out the night before.

‘Jamie? What?’

‘Listen mate, I’ve got some news, come on, sit. Actually mate, put some clothes on, I’ve got nothing against male nudity, but I can’t help but look at your knob end.’

Williams realised he was still naked and stood for a minute, battling the torrent of confusing input that had invaded his system in the past two minutes. He took a coat from a peg in the hall and sat opposite Jamie in the living room, his senses coming to him at last.

‘Why are you here?’

‘I’ve got some big news. I’m quitting uni. Got an email through last night and gave them a call as soon as I saw it this morning. Universal want to look at the band, they want us to play some gigs in London and fuck it man, this is it. Some rep saw our gig at The Barfly a few weeks back and liked it. I wanted you to be the first to know.’

‘Jesus Christ.’ It was too much, Williams couldn’t take it in. ‘Congratulations you rock star. So leaving?’

‘Yeah, and I want to have a big blowout with you tonight before everyone finds out. You, me, and a special little something. We’ll never forget it man. After this – it’s all bad you know. It ain’t good, it’s not for good people. I’ve been at it for a few years, you’re new to it. But I’ve got something to work towards now mate, I love it, but I love the music, I can’t keep procrastinating.’

‘You’re giving up drugs?’

‘No, Jesus Christ. I’m focusing on my career, not dying of lameness. But I’ve got to get my head straight, I’ve got to be clear. I love the guys in the band, but they look to me. I can’t always be fucked up. And neither can you mate, it’s not healthy.’

‘Yeah,’ said Williams, falling back into the sofa and rubbing his eyes, ‘I’m feeling that.’

‘That said, I’ve got something extra special I’ve been saving. I’ve made them myself. They’re these bombs, right, they’re not just mandy. They’ve got some acid in them. A little mescaline too. I say tonight, we fucking have it. Hit the club and go for it. You’ve got that girl upstairs right? Get her in. Whatever, fuck the girls – just you and me.’

The thought of more of anything reviled Williams in that instant, but Jamie burned with an irresistible energy. It was the same energy he himself had burned with the night before –the energy for the very sensation of living. Without further thought, it became an excellent idea in his mind. He had always been merely stimulated rather than transported by his desire to explore the senses, and seek for himself a higher level of attunement. It seemed logical to take those senses and play with them; the input could only reveal to the mind so much – the mind itself must be altered suitably to explore the cacophony of its sensory receptors. Through madness, sanity might be revealed.

‘I’m in, let’s do it. When will you leave here?’

‘Day after tomorrow. It’s what? Tuesday now? First gig is Saturday, we’ll need to rehearse.’ Jamie paused for a second, and flashed a wicked grin, ‘and I’ll have to recover.’ He stood and rushed out of the room to the door, ‘my girl is still at my place. I plan on getting a celebratory blowjob this morning, if I have to give it to myself.’

‘Alright dude, you do that. I’m going to catch up on some sleep. Be here at nine, yeah?’

‘Nine it shall be, mon frère.’

Jamie bustled out of the door and stormed down the road. Williams stood in the doorway for a second, a ringing numbness descending upon his head. A gust reminded him he was standing facing the world with his jacket open and traffic passing by during the morning commute, and he shut the door.

‘Who was it? I heard voices.’ The girl looked up at Williams from his bed wearily. She was not as pretty as he remembered her to be last night.

‘Just a friend,’ he said dismissively, ‘I need to get some rest, I’ve got a long night ahead.

‘You’re going out again?’

‘Of course.’ He climbed into bed and rolled to face away from her, looking at himself in the mirror. Dark shadows traced his eye sockets. ‘What else is there better to do?’

Chapter 6

The ice around the heavy glass tumbler which was now empty. Williams gave a slight grimace as the final sip of the curiously warm amber liquid passed his gullet and sunk, with the slowed assurance of warm honey, down into his belly. The last five months had been such a blur that these moments of solitude and steady were to him fragments of a leaf on a moving breeze; all was random and confusing, and utterly at the whim of the greater force. It may well be; but being drunk never ceased to feel sensational. Alcohol was to Williams an enabler, a serum for inducing a chemical madness that unlocked the primal desires that reside deep within the psyche that modern society – civilisation – does it’s upmost to supress with such lousy devices as morals and accountability. In doing so denies humans the art of humanity that is to feel and desire and live without the devices that in their nature as artificially imposed constraints, act only to increase the desire to indulge, thus producing in mankind all the evils that are described by society, but that might not exist were people to stop setting such rules to be broken. That chemical madness ushered both peace and energy. It allowed access to the hidden clarity that so often eludes passion. Where others may dither in their pursuits and goals, Williams acted with incisiveness and buoyancy, hurtling at an unstoppable pace into each thing that may bring him joy as soon as the last ceased to, which had the effect of rapidly speeding the passing of time in the present while stretching his impression of it in the past such that the previous five months felt to him like years had passed, and all that came before this period of his life was but a shallow memory replete with all the disconnections and uncertainties that come with the passing of time and its degradation of memory. The only things that were clear to him now were the hazy days of the past weeks, and the urge to grasp that which stood before him. Were he to turn his gaze to the side, all became a blur, and if another ninety degrees were applied to his sight, all receded into the distance. Life was breakneck and crazy, his heart constantly pounding. Nothing more thrilling than the enchanting disconnection that allowed him to fly above concern and pass from one great ecstasy to the next without suffering the burden of waiting for the time to pass between. Life was madness, and it was chemical, and it was love.

By March, all of Williams’ energies were focused in his madness for life and everything he needed to do to maintain it. His grades had sharply declined, as had his interest in them. What joy was to be found in that which distracted him from everything he craved? Williams had finished readying himself for the evening, his hair carefully styled to look unkempt. The weather was beginning to turn lighter, and with it, his appearance was shifting. He wore a light grey mac with the waist belt tied behind him, pulling it open to reveal a loose, plain white vest. His trousers were black and slim-cut, and were tucked into large military boots which added over an inch to his height. Williams had just poured himself another drink when the doorbell rang and Jamie’s voice flooded through the letterbox. He brought the bottle up from his study and let those at the door in, offering them a drink as he did so.

The four young men sat in the taxi, Williams, Jamie, Mark and friend of his, Paul, who Williams had met a handful of times at parties but had never really spoken to, and with whom he immediately realised he had nothing in common. Paul seemed earnest by the way he spoke and normally dressed, he seemed to Williams to be one who did not care for materialism or any particular excess, although he wore a brand new Topman blazer – perhaps wearing it out for the first time. He seemed to Williams to be a slight bore – that is – he had no great distinguishing qualities.

Sitting in the front seat and speaking to no one in particular, Williams said, as if vocalising a previous thought stream, ‘you know; drinking in public brings us closer to other people and further from ourselves. That’s the problem with it; it’s cures our anxieties by hiding them. But I love it; I love it because I enjoy it. Suddenly, everything is interesting and nothing matters. Isn’t that the ideal way of the world?’ He turned and smiled towards the others.

‘You mean like hiding in plain sight?’ Asked Mark.

‘Yeah.’

‘I get you, you just get more guts.’

‘Exactly.’

‘Guys,’ interjected Jamie, ‘we’re getting in for free, just got a message from the owner, he’s down by the door. We played a gig here a while back and pulled a crowd in. Favour for us. More dollar for the Dutch courage my friends.’ He leaned forwards and clapped Williams on his shoulder, ‘tonight gents, we will have an excellent one.’

‘Absolutely,’ said Williams, placing his hand on Jamie’s.

The taxi pulled out outside the entrance to the club. They walked straight in, Jamie exchanging a knowing nod to a burly man standing talking to the security, and Williams studied the long queue of chattering, smoking people that snaked around the corner. It would have taken an hour to get in. After buying drinks – doubles – the four found themselves dispersed around the place; Williams had happened upon Chloe, with whom he had cut all sexual ties, the situation having become too complex and tiresome to maintain. In doing so, both her and Sophie, with whom he had also ended relations were spared of both finding out and being hurt, each having sworn to secrecy. He spent a while with Chloe, who questioned him intensely about his love life, but after buying her drinks to fill both hands and distracting her with compliments, he managed to avoid an uncomfortable conversation. He had lost much of her allure to him; speaking to her strangely drained Williams of energy, and, as soon as he could, he disentangled himself, the opportunity presenting itself in the form of Paul passing by. The pair took to the smoking area to escape.

That’s a nice jacket there,’ said Williams, casting an equable eye over Paul, who was swearing a slim fitting navy blue blazer with white piping lining the lapel, ‘where’d you get it?’

‘Thanks man, got it from Topman the other day.’

‘Very nice,’ said Williams, feigning enthusiasm, ‘I got this from Ted Baker. Such a nice fit, really perfect on the shoulders. Don’t you love the lining?’ He unfastened the tortoiseshell button and opened up his jacket, revealing an elaborate jacquard print gold and silver silk lining that contrasted with the fine black fabric of the exterior.

‘Yeah, that’s quite something,’ said Paul, not entirely sure what to say.

‘Thanks. The shirt is Hugo Boss. Their Black range. I tend to like the fit of Baker shirts, but the elegance and timelessness of Hugo Boss’s slim fit lends an undeniable sharpness. Gives some edge.’

‘Yeah,’ Paul looked around disinterested, ‘very nice.’

‘The trousers – sorry, I don’t mean to bore.’

‘No, no, you’re not.’ Paul looked embarrassed, ‘I’m keeping an eye out for a friend.’

‘Yes, of course.’ Williams panicked, a wave of heat coming to his face; Paul didn’t seem particularly interested; ‘I better dash actually, I left a bunch of people at the bar. They’ll be wondering where I am.’

'Yeah, no worries mate, I’ll see you later.’

Williams said nothing, and with a smile turned and left. He finished the rest of his Jack Daniels and Coke in a single gulp and tossed the plastic cup to the floor. He burned with indignation, but to everyone whose eyes he met, he smiled warmly, giving an acknowledging nod. He struggled to understand his internal fury. His carefully constructed aspect had failed to impress. It made no sense. Paul was so very blunt in his interests – there was no edge or curiosity. He was yet another person content with his lot and unwilling or unable – Williams could not discern which – to change his lot in life. Such a static mentality was anathema to Williams. He saw the crowd, scanned the faces and clothes; the voices, eyes, hands waving and lips moving, and saw endless possibilities, personalities and ideas.

It may be taken as fact that the surest way to expand ones perception of the world is to expose oneself to new ideas, which may only be best achieved through interaction. But the surest way to expand ones understanding of that perception and discern for oneself to causality of things is to read - deeply, expansively and privately - and allow those ideas to ferment in a vat of learning. In doing so, the sane ideas archive a time and technique mellowed depth that pervades the soul and weaves its way through the minds pathways like roots of a tree, and like the roots of a tree, interweaving with other roots, such that a Forrest of separate ideas on the surface becomes, below the soil, one being with many access points, each point connected with and easily reached from any given other.

No. Paul was one to value traditional success; the proper way down the trodden path of security and reassurance towards stability and respectability. Such people must exist, they are vital the order and running of the word, thought Williams as he passed through the crowd. There is a quiet nobility to the aspiration towards the necessary – to achieve it is one of the great successes of society. But that was it. Success is merely a superficial status awarded by society, and society is just a construct humanity has built to protect himself from the irrationality of his own nature, to reassure himself that he has meaning, and to safeguard his greed and make it constitutional. Success, therefore, is relative only to other people, and one’s whole success only has meaning according to that which other people bestow upon you. There is no soul in that, no intimacy or passion. To the ambitious there is no success, only dissatisfaction. Success is the game for people who for whatever reason cannot or will not search for the greatness of life within themselves, and so they must assert their search for deeper meaning upon the world, rather than through it While they may well achieve their dreams and all the happiness that comes with them, be it material wealth or familial love, they will never understand the greater beauty of living, nor the extent to which man can be in touch with himself and the universe in which he resides. Williams proposed a style of living which sought to find the uttermost limits to the essence of experiencing life and once each essence was exhausted and done it would not be an achievement or a victory. It would be a mark upon his soul that would never fade as can material success, and if such a lifestyle brought him material gain then so much the better. But material gain is ultimately nothing more than a tool with which to grant one’s wishes. It is true that money bought station and power, and he desired both in order to fulfil his impulses, but he was far more fascinated in the spending than earning of money, and became embroiled in the social process of station rather than the external things that may elevate one. It didn’t suit Williams to obsess over money beyond his needs. He was never greedy, he assured himself. Nothing that matters should be taken lightly, and nothing that doesn’t matter should be a point of concern and success – that tragic concept – certainly didn’t matter. Paul’s brand of sincere traditionalism and conservatism of thought lacked the essential creativity of mind for Williams to find him interesting.

Creativity is the essence of true intelligence. The application or expression of that creativity is irrelevant; but it is the fuel of true intelligence. Paul was smart, of course although Williams did not know the limit of his intellect. There are those who possess raw processing power and no imagination, but those people are not intelligent. It was reasonable to Williams’ mind that one may be intelligent and smart, or perhaps just intelligent, and one may also be just smart – but those who are only smart are not intelligent. They lack the ability to link and connect and flow in ways alien to their input. There is no soul alive who is creative and who lacks the intelligence to access it. It is the currency of the human spirit, and a facility of the mind, and it creates the person. One’s creative capacity is a prerequisite of one’s development and one’s responses to the world and how one overcomes the highs and lows posed by it. It can be crushed by circumstance and experience, just as it may bloom by the same hands of fate. What mattered to Williams was living a life of creative freedom, that is to say, a life where any thought may be explored to its fullest, and the curiosities of the mind and body satiated. One’s creativity dictates not only one’s responses to the world, but one’s inputs from it. These inputs were all around him in this club, yet Paul would grow bored before midnight. A truly creative life is the richest one led. As such, he denied himself nothing but that which he did not desire. Desire was the expression of his creativity – the desire experience those moments of sensual and psychological perfection that only occur if one is open to their happening, and willing to place themselves in their path. His life was devoted to his living of it, on the higher plane of thought, and to making it possible to do so on the lower, mundane plane on which resided the majority of the human race, who often lack the creativity that so marks the species as remarkable.

His thoughts were interrupted by the realisation that he had come to a standstill, and was gazing at a girl. She was a little too close to the fantasy; his vision of perfection, and Williams was struck immobile. He never could place quite why it caused him to ignore her for the rest of the evening when he saw her as he sought to, but he assumed that it was a reflection of the tragedy of a dream coming true; nothing is more damaging to the human spirit than getting everything one wants, especially in one go. His momentary shyness was merely an expression of his self-preservation. Nevertheless, he wore the moment of bashful wonder with pride and affection. Such notions are the basis of the perfection of feeling, because they are utterly uncontrollable. Those are the only moments that inspire the imagination in a world made cynical by sexuality. He turned and found a girl putting a Camel cigarette in her mouth. He hated the smell of that brand, but he thought it polite to offer a light.

‘Hello there, need this?’

‘Yes, thank you,’ the girl smiled and took the lighter from his hands. She lit the cigarette and took a drag, blowing the smoke to her left. She paused a moment before giving the small blue cartridge back, taking him in. Williams could see the glint of attraction in her heavily mascaraed eyes, and the curl of approval about her darkly coloured lips, ‘so what’s your name?’

‘A pleasure,’ he said, taking the lighter back and ensuring his fingers touched hers and lingered, ‘Jack, yourself?’

‘I’m Angela,’ she took another drag. This one was shallower, and didn’t last long in her lungs. She began to speak as she exhaled, ‘what do you do?’

‘I'm a student. Got some houses in London too through family, so I’m a bit of a landlord, I suppose. You know, make a bit more money than I should from people desperate to live in places they need.’

‘Oh,’ she replied, sudden disapproval etched into her voice, ‘that sounds a bit extortive.’

‘Why thank you,’ Williams cried with overplayed delight, ‘though I’d call it a good business plan.’

‘But it’s unfair. It’s the whole reason for the mess this country is in.’

The girl was becoming serious. Williams couldn’t be doing with this sort of debate on a night like this, he really wasn’t one for it at that moment. He needed to snip the problem in the bud. She was quite obviously to the left, and judging from her style – wildly dyed hair with greens and blues among a bed of blonde with dark roots crowing a forgettable face made memorable by a nose and lip piercing, and vaguely bohemian clothes that he had read were currently fashionable in Shoreditch and Camden – she was an artist sort, which implied, along with the dislike of capitalism, a liberal bent. Not his sort at all, unless no words were to be spoken.

‘Actually the mess is down to mismanagement and a lack of regulation, or perhaps the underhanded results of too much regulation, actually I suppose. Capitalism punishes ill-discipline and laziness with a loss of profit. I’d call that pretty fair. Marxism, or Socialism, contains a nice final idea, but nothing like a worthy proposal as to how to carry it out. Besides, competition is human nature, and everyone being equal demands a lack of competitiveness. Everyone has to be content not to struggle. That’ll never happen. Of course, the arty shits that carry out all the bloody Occupy protests wouldn’t know a thing about actually thinking it through. Marxism is attractive because it answers the big questions easily and allows for everyone to belong. Which is indeed a lovely thought. But those lot are too busy making monuments out of placards and bin bags and calling it art.’

It had worked. He had spoken quickly and attacked multiple interests and passions at once, and had made a final stab at a topic beside the point, which would become the focus of her anger, and draw the conversation to a timely close. The girl huffed and drew breath, pushing her shoulders back indignantly;

‘I suppose you hate all modern art, don’t you?’

He looked upon her with languid eyes that enraged her even more as he spoke, ‘sorry darling, but I really see no value in all that modern art silliness. It could mean anything, and anything that can mean anything means nothing at all.’

‘You’re such a fucking rightist! How could you think that – God all you lot’re the same.’

Williams wanted her then and there. He chuckled to himself in a bemused fashion as she stormed off in a righteous, artists rage, as liberals do when confronted by sense. It was of no consequence. He didn’t dislike her; it didn’t even occur to Williams to dislike a person. It is such a vexing disposition to possess; how people managed enduring grudges he didn’t know, they seemed to him to require far too much energy and mean spirit. To hate is to deny enjoyment to oneself. Negativity always dampens one’s mood, and ultimately one’s perception of their environment. This girl had no bearing on the continuation of his life any more than a raining cloud passing in the distance might. The rain may be unfortunate, but it is of no consequence to him while it lies on the horizon. He forgot the matter as he finally headed inside and re-joined Jamie at the bar.

There, Williams watched a girl as she laughed without care, the arm of a handsome-faced, tattooed and well-built young man around her waist. She was a stunning creature – a classic Hellenistic beauty in every sense, with flowing blonde hair, a figure blessed with the curves of a fantasy’s perfection, and a smile that radiated warmth and joy.

‘I hate seeing people I want to shag be happy.’

‘Why’s that then?’ Asked Jamie, distracted from his previous conversation.

Because I want to make them happier than they already are, but the more content they are, the less open-minded they are. Doesn’t she know I’d make her happier?’

‘Don’t worry mate, you’ll get yours.’

‘Look at her,’ said Williams, ignoring Jamie, ‘how dare she be that happy?’

Jamie smiled, ‘I know, what a bitch. Come with me mate, got some sniff.’

'In a minute, I hate being without a drink in hand.'

As they ordered their drinks, a pair of girls worked their way between them, in doing so, and with a fluttering of their eyelashes, getting drinks bought for them. One of them, a not unattractive brunette with wide, innocent-looking eyes mentioned that they had not yet bought themselves a drink.

‘Seriously, you’re only seventeen? Well you’re just his type then,’ said Jamie, with characteristic speed and with a manic emphasis on every syllable and an authoritative point in Williams’s direction.

The girl looked amused, ‘Yeah well sorry, I’m taken.’

Williams nodded his acceptance and looked at Jamie, flashing a smile, ‘Well now she’s your type.’

Jamie gave a snort of derision, and led the two away from the girls and onto the dance floor, where Williams caught rueful glimpses of the beautiful girl from outside. As the night wore on and the pair got more drunk, the faces before them and people around them melded into the music and lights, and all the world seemed no more than a seething wall of distractions and enjoyment. They would take it in turns to lift the other up onto their shoulders while dancing, a wildness having overtaken them, manifesting as an absolute inconsideration – or indeed lack of awareness – for anyone around them who did not join in. Finally they tired, and with more drinks they made their way outside, panting and sweat stained, to sit down at some benches and tables in the chill of the night air.

On such a bench Jamie and Williams joined a group of girls, to whom they endeared themselves immediately, storming into their lives in an assault of enthusiasm and energy. They had a unique ability to enhance each other’s personal charisma – instead if competition, they were support, and through individual native instinct effortlessly coming together the pair drew the group of girls to them for fear of living under the yolk of longing for too long. They had all left together before the club closed for the night, two of the girls getting a taxi to Williams’s along with Jamie, while the other two and having been disregarded by the boys, made their own way home. As he led his girl through his doorway by the hand, Williams considered the wonder and delight in all selfish pleasures. They are all sugar; mankind craves them until he has engorged himself and overfed – until they revile him. Inspiring joy and pleasure, however, or enjoyment or even happiness never becomes sickening. It may become tiresome, but if one can cause joy while seeking one’s own mortal fulfilment, there is a sustenance that provides vigour and attracts to the person much of what is best about humanity. The twenty first century is the age for selfish selflessness – it is the next evolution of our society. An evolution of hunger.

The next morning there was a sharp knock on Williams’ door. He laboured into consciousness, struggling to come to terms with his surroundings. He was in his bedroom, splayed out over the sheets, while the girls from last night stirred beside him.

‘What’s that noise?’ She asked, groggily.

‘The door.’ Williams checked the time on his phone, ‘It’s eight in the morning. Who the fuck?’

He pulled himself from bed and made his way downstairs. Clutching the door with one hand and his head with the other, ready to shield his eyes from the bright morning light, he pulled it open.

‘Jack, you’re up, good. Let me in.’

Jamie pushed his way in and took to the living room. It was like he hadn’t been out the night before.

‘Jamie? What?’

‘Listen mate, I’ve got some news, come on, sit. Actually mate, put some clothes on, I’ve got nothing against male nudity, but I can’t help but look at your knob end.’

Williams realised he was still naked and stood for a minute, battling the torrent of confusing input that had invaded his system in the past two minutes. He took a coat from a peg in the hall and sat opposite Jamie in the living room, his senses coming to him at last.

‘Why are you here?’

‘I’ve got some big news. I’m quitting uni. Got a call not half an hour ago, no idea why they called so early. Universal want to look at the band, they want us to play some gigs in London and fuck it man, this is it. Some rep saw our gig at The Barfly a few months back and liked it. I wanted you to be the first to know.’

‘Jesus Christ.’ It was too much, Williams couldn’t take it in. ‘Congratulations you rock star. So leaving?’

‘Yeah, and I want to have a big blowout with you tonight before everyone finds out. You, me, and a special little something. We’ll never forget it man. After this – it’s all bad you know. It ain’t good, it’s not for good people. I’ve been at it for a few years, you’re new to it. But I’ve got something to work towards now mate, I love it, but I love the music, I can’t keep procrastinating.’

‘You’re giving up drugs?’

‘No, Jesus Christ. I'm focusing on my career not dying of lameness. But I’ve got to get my head straight, I’ve got to be clear. I love the guys in the band, but they look to me. I can’t always be fucked up. And neither can you mate, it’s not healthy.’

‘Yeah,’ said Williams, falling back into the sofa and rubbing his eyes, ‘I’m feeling that.’

‘That said, I’ve got something extra special I’ve been saving. I’ve made them myself. They’re these bombs, right, they’re not just mandy. They’ve got some acid in them. A little mescaline too. I say tonight, we fucking have it. Hit the club and go for it. You’ve got that girl upstairs right? Get her in. Whatever, fuck the girls – you and me.’

The thought of more of anything reviled Williams in that instant, but Jamie burned with an irresistible energy. It was the same energy he himself had burned with the night before –the energy for the very sensation of living. Without further thought, it became an excellent idea in his mind. He had always been merely stimulate

She’s got a Baby Now

Five years since I last saw her

And I've thought of her every day

Until I saw her on the street

And she looked the other way

No she didn't try to be mean

I just don't think she's been seen

The way I saw her way back then

She was the first, so it hurt the most

She'll be the worst but you won't care about that

The very best 'till you meet all the rest

But at sixteen you only need to be needed for the first time

I wanted to see my face in the shine of your eyes

But you took another lover anyway

He didn't treat you right, but was a thrill at night

The way I wasn't the one time I tried

And I couldn't believe when she said she was twenty three now

With a kid and a broken heart and no way out

But I know she still wants it, oh she still needs it

But that baby takes her time, that baby took her body

Nobody knows her name no, she never wanted fame

But now she's sad inside and got no flame

Nobody makes her come, no never has much fun

Sixteen straight to twenty one

And two years later now she's done

Good Reputation

Go out, get shitfaced, find a girl on the town

Take her home to yours and take your trousers down

That’s how it’s meant to be

That’s what they told me

My reputation preceded me

Better follow or else it’ll be

Shot down for eternity

‘Cause it takes a lifetime to build, a night to end

If I’m not who they say I am what’s the point in friends?

My second draft of this chapter, as with chapter 4, resulted in little structural change. There has been a re-jig of some of the middle section where Williams is going through the girls, in order to set one or two of them up as more important later in the story, and some dialogue has been added. Aside from that, changes have mostly been sorting out sentence structure and streamlining.

I've finally finished work on chapter 5 of my book, Senses Prevail. It's an important chapter; it lays down the depth to Jack Williams' friendship with Jamie Lee, and expands on the first few months and escalation of his life at Uni as he becomes increasingly indulgent in practicing his hedonistic philosophy, but still with a sense of wonder. This is a chapter about friendship, mindless enjoyment, freedom, but also denial, and the beginnings of a darker path of a rejection of consequence and manipulation. For me though, it's been about finding out what he's like in the moment, and how that relates to what's going on in his head as well as filling out some of the broader context. There is a grayness to his entire morality that is fun to play with. I hope you enjoy reading, and I would love love love to hear your thoughts on what works, what doesn't and general comments and criticism.

Chapter 5

Williams found Jamie at the bar, taking advantage of the band’s tab. He had caught the attention of a gaggle of five girls in the crowd, and had promised them after-show fun with the band through his friendship with Jamie. They were an attractive assortment bar one, who wasn’t quite as enthused as the others, much to Williams’ relief. He had taken her aside, feigning genuine concern over her that events may take a turn for the wild later on in the night, which had caused her to doubt her attendance. The root, Williams was sure, was the matter of the other girls’ – and indeed his and the band’s – attractiveness was more than her own. It was a night for the beautiful people. Beauty opens more doors than kindness, knowledge or station ever will.

Jamie Lee’s band, finished by three other young men named Greg, Adam and Ross, were similarly like-minded individuals who, in their earnest desire to enjoy themselves for enjoyment’s sake, were anonymous to Williams beyond their good company. All three were entirely affable to varying degrees, and had welcomed Williams with open arms when Jamie had introduced them – the four of them having only met the previous month, this being only their second concert in public together, their band unnamed. Jamie Lee had taken the measure of placing his old band, which had gained some minor measure of success through touring the bars and pub circuit across England, on hiatus while he focused on his studies, but his passion for music had driven him to form a new one almost instantly. Congratulating them all on the success of their show, Williams introduced to them the girls, who added to those already drawn to the immediate charisma of men on stage.

Seven of them; Williams, Jamie, Greg and the four beautiful girls made it back to the perfumed and musky room at Jamie’s where Williams had found himself spending so much time in the past few weeks. It was a low room, cast in a dim yellow light from a handful of lamps littered messily about the place on mismatched furniture that cast more shadows than illumination. Ash trays, bottles and numerous other debris of debauchery littered the room that had no seats, instead there were Bedouin style cushions and low tables beneath marketplace fabric drapes depicting Ying and Yang and fertility symbols that Jamie had found in various markets across the country on his travels. Williams and Jamie fell into cushions opposite each other, letting forth similarly toned sighs of contentedness and weariness, while the girls followed Greg into the adjacent kitchen, one of their number absent-mindedly closing the door behind her as she spoke with a naturally hushed voice that all people use at night in otherwise silent houses to her friend. Jamie smiled at Williams and glanced at the door, absent-mindedly lighting a joint from the table.

‘Fun isn’t it?’ he asked, still looking at the white painted panelling.

‘What is?’

‘This. Them girls.’ He looked at Williams, ‘tonight, mate. It’s fun, isn’t it?’

‘Yeah, it’s the best. It’s what we live for,’ responded Williams, a gleeful joy ringing in every syllable, ‘we’re doing it, the world is beauty and we’re journeying into it.’

Jamie was suddenly despondent, his usual energy had faded. Williams could not tell if it was the night taking its toll or something deeper, but an air of vulnerability descended upon him, and his shoulders slumped backwards. He looked Williams straight in the eyes as he exhaled his first toke and smoke momentarily clouded his face.

‘Y’know mate, all this. It’s all addiction. That dirty little word. Three syllables of menace. I’ll gorge on anything that I've stumbled on, all it takes is to get a kick out of it the first time. After that - food, gambling, smoking, marijuana, music, sniff…’ he trailed off, the energy in his voice taken from him,

‘and love, probably if I’m honest.’

‘But you know,’ he fidgeted uneasily, ‘I don’t think I’m no ordinary addict. Unlike most of the thoughtless bastards who stumble into their infatuations, I understand the consequences. I can't get them out of my head. Eat more than I should? I start worrying how I'm going to look on stage when people see me. I used to be really fat, you know what? I was such a fat kid, and I got so much shit for it. Smoke a cigarette? How long can I keep this up for before I start coughing up blood? Have a wicked joint past midnight? I'll probably oversleep, be late, but it was worth it at the time, right?’

Jamie spoke his final words mimicking speech marks and leaned forward, passing Williams the joint. There was a gentle hatred in his voice that Williams had never before heard from someone. It was self-loathing. He remained silent and watched Jamie Lee with a blank stare as his mind filled with contradictions. In the kitchen, he could hear the others laughing. He vaguely wanted to go and join them, but he couldn’t; it would have been far too rude to simply leave Jamie to his devices while he spoke so very frankly. With that, his mind honed in on Jamie’s voice, which had entered into action once more.

‘Maybe I’m ill or something. I dunno. The thing is, I think all of these things before they pass my lips, yet I carry on. Why? Because gamblers always want to lose, no matter how much they say otherwise. That is what I am.’

He spoke with bolt-action precision, a distant, exposed look across his face, ‘I'm a gambler in every sense of the word. I weigh up decisions in my head, compile scenarios and bet for or against myself. Betting for yourself is preferable, believe me. Betting against yourself can be a dangerous road that erodes your sanity. How can you make decisions if you've backed yourself to fail before? I'm a sports nut, always was. I wanted to be a sportsman…’ Jamie again trailed off, as if straying too far into a dream, or too far from his reality, ‘I love and will watch anything. There's a little voice in the back of our heads that says ‘what if you were to lose half your money on that horse? You'd be in real shit then.’ Why do we do it? Because we're risk-takers in a world that's so devoid of chance, and the odds are stacked against us.’

He thrust his arms forward in emphasis before casting a glance back towards the still-closed kitchen door. He proceeded to pass Williams a lighter as the joint had gone out, neglected by the conversation.

‘And,’ Jamie continued, ‘we love every minute of it until the realisation hits you like a wrecking ball plunging into a house you built from scratch. I'll move on after I get bored onto the next destructive pastime. After I packed in the gambling, I was searching for something new, something that would give me the excitement and rush I'd come to know from a racetrack and betting stalls. That feeling of lumping on an unfancied team and they steal a goal in the final minute of a crucial spectacle. But I'd been hit badly by the betting bug. He'd crippled me almost to the point where I'd lost the respect of everyone; my peers, my parents and even my girlfriend.’

Williams shot Jamie an inquisitive look, inhaling smoke, careful not to say a word. It worked, the crystalline eyes that peered from beneath the dishevelled blonde hair met Williams’s and a wry smile passed across his face, ‘Yeah, until last year I had a girl. Been with her all my teens, she was the sweetest thing. It never occurred to me then, but admitting it to her immediately sent off alarm signals in her head. I don't blame her for ditching me, because as hard as I tried, she became my addiction. No sane person would ever describe love as a dead cert. Look at the form: we were both 18, the poetry of adolescence was about to become the prose of maturity, just hungrily explored each other. We were on an island at sea with a hole in the boat and we needed to get back. When I opened up and let her see inside my head for the first time, I hadn't anticipated her being as shocked as she was. Maybe it was self-defence but she put a wall up against me which I never quite managed to break down. She despised drug use so the night she broke it off with me, I was in the mood for something stronger than drinking. I had my first joint a year and a half ago. Then all it all went from there. Some fucked up desire to prove her right.’

He paused, finally, and the voices in the next room filled theirs, but sounded hollow and distant. Williams felt like his senses had been plunged into cold water.

‘I'm not sure I've even met you sober,’ Jamie continued heavily, ‘why do we do these things? Because a gambler wants to lose no matter what. It's a sickening streak in his head that we don’t give a shit about anything else. But it's more important to realise that people don't gamble for financial gain. Even though we're far advanced for our own good at times, there is one basic animalistic ideal which some have worse than others; the absolute need for validation. And in this case, gamblers feel validated by being right. It's honestly that simple. All we want is to be correct about an outcome. We need to be able to boast about our success therefore proving ourselves to be valuable company. The money, while a glorious bonus, might as well never leave the bookie's hands because how do you think a gambler will spend his winnings? New clothes? A TV? Nah, fuck that. Maybe a fresh batch of the good stuff if I’m running low, granted,’ a smile flicked upon his face, and the lines around his eyes, perhaps due to the light cast from the lamps across the room, looked deep and dark, and for a moment Jamie Lee looked incredibly tired, ‘but no. It’ll be spent on the Arsenal-Fulham match in forty five minutes time. There are times when I've lost everything I owned and felt nothing. There are times when I've won five figure sums and cried my eyes out because I honestly didn't care. I've stolen from friends, I've lied to those closest to me. It was just a sign –’

The kitchen door opened and the others came through, talking, Greg holding a small bag fat with white powder and rubbing his nose, the girls behind him with some bottles of wine and enough glasses for everyone. Jamie shot Williams a strained look, a flash of panic in his eyes, but as Gregory passed between the two and broke Williams’ line of sight it vanished, and when he passed back into view, Jamie Lee was once again the vision of effortless gregariousness, the warm, well-formed smile and beaming, inquisitive passion in his eyes lending him an aura of control that made his frenetic movement and mode of talking feel so comforting. He clasped an arm around one of the girls and kissed her on the cheek as she sat down beside him, resting his other hand on the thigh nearest to him and having her pour wine into his mouth after scoffing at the glasses. Whichever Jamie Lee had been speaking to Williams moments before was no longer there. This was the true Jamie Lee, thought Williams, as his subject took hold of the wine bottle and poured the cerise liquid into the girl’s mouth, both laughing when it spilled.

‘Fuck sake Greg, I forgot about the sniff,’ said Jamie as Greg began to cut some lines, ‘Jack and I just had a joint.’

Greg chuckled, not looking up from his work, ‘so have an extra bump mate, nothing wrong with a bit of a cocktail, eh ladies?’ One of the girls replied, but Williams wasn’t following.

What did it matter – what Jamie had said? The depths within may outweigh the exterior, but it is the exterior that is taken for granted. It is all there is. One’s true self is that which is perceived by others; a perception which through careful and applied consideration, can be manipulated by the self into whatever state one wishes oneself to be considered. By this device, one may in his time live many lives, some concurrently, as long as one’s audiences are kept adrift of each other. To be is to control; Williams was only who others saw him to be – this was the only definition that mattered. As for his own life – his home and his actions in their superfluousness were absolutely necessary and entirely academic, a fact that justified them and made him socially immune to the judgement less refined people may receive. The Jack Williams the world would know was an idea worn, an illusion of society just as sensations are illusions of the senses, or emotions phantoms of the psyche. Through such a mask, he would be able to study others’ – and his own – modes of thought and conduct, and artificially alter the variables without ever jeopardising his inner being. The so-called immorality of his acts were to be hidden beneath a veneer of polite accountability and modesty, and most importantly fashion; being reticent was a precondition, and what stories did travel would be in their nature so far removed from the public perception of him that they would be dismissed as exaggeration. This double life concept was thrilling to Williams, its implementation a challenge he had already begun to enjoy and the benefits a source of satisfaction and gratification to be savoured for as long as it suited him. A reputation that is good is easy to destroy, a reputation that is bad must be savoured, because bad deeds do not affect it, but good behaviour gains greater significance. It is well to acquire both and wear them at one’s choosing depending on the requirements of the moment. Williams snapped to attention as his name was called out;

‘Jack! Jack, your turn,’ it was one of the girls, a golden-haired creature who had taken up the large maroon cushion beside him. She was pouring a glass of wine and indicating with her gaze to the board with the powder which was being offered to him by a brunette beside Greg.

‘Ah!’ He exclaimed, surging to life and dismissing his thoughts, ‘thank you my dear.’ He rubbed the blonde girl’s thigh warmly, exquisitely encased in tight black jeans as they were and smiled broadly around the room, taking up a rolled ten note and placing the board on his lap. ‘To the night,’ he toasted with a bow of his head towards his lap, and up the rolled note the line, about six centimetres in length, went.

Williams lay on the sofa of cushions, daydreaming while twiddling with his phone. It had buzzed several times throughout the night, each a call to join someone in a club somewhere, or else a girl in her bed, or her in his. These messages had gone largely ignored, however, until he had returned to his senses. It was almost four in the morning, yet the lights were still on low. Jamie Lee had taken the girl over whom he had poured the wine to bed; Greg had left with another. The third had taken herself home, having been left out as the fourth, called Lily, and Williams found themselves increasingly entangled, uncaring of anything but each other as the night had progressed. She had a powerful presence; bullishly feminine, overwhelmingly sexual. Her pride was in her large, robust breasts and striking plush lips. Williams had never seen a woman walk with such sexual, Carmen certainty, as if she were defeating sexual rivals with every step, stalking the human wilderness with the countenance of a panther. She was a predator. Her fault, however, that Williams acknowledged immediately, was that she rationalised and wore her sexuality as a weapon of feminism, rather than as the shield of egotism against insecurity as it was; whether she even knew that truth was uncertain, but she was too confident to be truly so. True confidence is not brash, or predatory, nor is it extroverted of self-referential. The raw intoxication of her presence made Williams want her, but it was that weakness - her flaw - so obvious to him as it was, that made him want to know her, biblically and otherwise, and give her the true confidence she tragically lacked. But he was not capable of such brutal honesty and goodness; he would grow bored before her transformation was complete and leave her a more tragic figure, and besides, it was that very tragedy that gave her sexuality it's reality - without it she would be vulgar - and he found it very poetic, a trait distinctly missing from much of the modern world, which is vulgar.

Lily lay across him, wearing only her underwear beneath a blanket loosely draped over the pair, and she slept sounding on Williams’ chest. The details had already faded from his mind, gripped as it had been in the sensational numb of alcohol, weed and coke. They might have taken something else, but he didn’t remember. Despite his ailing state, the physical thrill of the act stayed with him; he felt satisfied – a tiger cub laying prone yet playful after a meal – and momentarily at peace. He had no questions, he required no answers. He absorbed the warmth of the girl’s body as it rose and fell with the silent breaths, and he focused on the rhythm, steadying his inner balance with it when the ceiling began to slip from the grasp of his vision. He burned with the recently obliterated memories of the past hours, the delight at the whole experience filling him with raw awareness. He was all perception.

Williams mustered the energy to check his phone again, this time paying attention to the names and specifics of the messages left. Such trivialities seemed beyond him, but he persevered. An unfinished bottle of red lay beside him, wedged under the girl. He carefully extracted it and took a sip to straighten himself out. Impulse and infatuation led Williams into a series of muddled and intertwined affairs, of which the art of balancing became a delight to him.

The first unread message was from a pretty girl called Sophie, a blonde girl only recently turned eighteen who had texted him asking him to come over to her flat, which she shared with a quite stunning yet delicate brunette, Chloe, who had introduced Williams and Sophie in the first place the night after they had first met at the bar on the university campus. At the time, Chloe had insisted she had a boyfriend, yet the relationship – through emotional and physical – distance was untenable, and from their first conversation Williams acknowledged that she was both attracted to him and conflicted in her emotions. Disregarding her on the basis of her relationship – Williams was keen to uphold the secular honour of not mindfully trespassing on another’s love no matter how dysfunctional – yet keen to see her again, he had sought her out the next night at a local club, where she had introduced Sophie, who, Chloe assured him, was very much single and currently trying to put a failed relationship behind her. As Sophie revealed herself to be the visual treat that she was, and Liz was busy that evening, Williams had taken her back to his house later in the evening, where he had imprinted on his mind a joyful memory of his divan bed drifting apart in the centre as their frenzied movements imparted to their surroundings vast levels of kinetic energy. Finally it parted completely and they fell through the gap together in a naked tangle of limbs, and they laughed bodily, Sophie resting her head on Williams’s shoulder as she struggled for her breath during bouts of giggles. Williams had been winded and grinned silently, his breath having escaped him. It was joyful, and strangely innocent, and they both felt completely at ease with their own humanity.

Sophie, realising Chloe was fond of Williams, agreed with him to say nothing of their trysts to her. Such deceptions fascinated Williams. He was mindful to never lie – he had no reason to. But misplacing the truth was quite entertaining, and preserved the charm of the truth. Attraction is itself an absolute truth, the indulging of it a physical replication of that honesty of the senses. But it was at the same time, to Williams, a dupe; the most honest dupe of them all. In matters of attraction, all parties are fools. Such was the thought that had occurred to him many times before, and would regularly flitter through his mind after the act, for in those moments, he and his partner were utterly open and exposed, and only a fool opens oneself so utterly, especially to a stranger. It was that closeness that provided so much of the thrill. Williams derived a great deal of pleasure from keeping secret such intimacy, all the while sharing it with as many as possible, as was his craving.

Sophie and Williams settled into maintaining a façade of friendship, seeing each other at least once a week while keeping a low profile around Chloe who the following week had found herself having a drunken argument with her boyfriend on the phone, turning up on Williams’ doorstep in the middle of the night all lachrymose and seeking comfort. Williams had offered her a drink as she relayed to him her trouble. In the heat of the emotion and physical closeness she demanded, they had fallen into a passionate embrace from which they did not exit until the morning, finding themselves naked and happy together beneath his sheets. Reality had struck for her however, as it did for Williams, so he suggested that she tell no one – especially Sophie – for fear of news that they had slept together while Chloe had a boyfriend getting out. He also spoke of Sophie dropping hints that she had begun to fall for him, which Chloe confirmed, adding to the notion that it was for the best that she did not find out. Chloe, for her part, however, wished to repeat the incident, and so they did under the pretence that Williams was helping her resolve her issues with her boyfriend from a male perspective, which added to Sophie’s high opinion of him.

This delicate charade very nearly fell apart at a particular house party at Williams’s where both girls were at risk of becoming jealous of a third, a striking Australian girl called Emma, who Williams had met a week before them, and who had immediately struck him as utterly exquisite. She was petite and slim, with long mousey brown hair that formed curtains around her pretty, freckled face. Emma had a penchant for framing her dark hazel eyes with copper and gold shades, lowlighted with dusky black eye shadow. He had slept with her the night he met her, excited by her stories of home – he had a particular interest in Australia, and his fervent interest and entertaining charm had won her over after he vowed to let her have the run of his house as a means to settling in to this foreign country. At that house party she had openly flirted with Williams while he was with the other girls, and it was only through Jamie Lee’s timely arrival, and his subsequent distraction of the others that Williams managed to keep things separate. Emma too had messaged him, asking to visit him, as she had heard little from him since she had in turn introduced Williams to a friend of hers, Amy, who needed a place to stay the night of the house party.

As if switching partners during an intricate ballroom dance, the Waltz perhaps, Williams had taken to Amy immediately; highly intelligent, charming, supporting a dusty dyed blonde mane of wavy hair and with a reputation of her own for enjoying the fruits of life, they had formed an immediate chemistry, and he had offered to her a place to stay that evening. Somewhat inevitably, they had ended the night sharing the bed before Williams, feigning honour, deigned to leave her to his room alone only to be called back up the stairs minutes later to find her standing before his mirrors in her underwear. There she was suggestively inviting him to pick his favourite angle from which to look at her wholesome, tanned figure as she removed her achingly suggestive clothing and spoke to him with her eyes, an understanding between them that they both desired a certain pleasure with no consequences.

But consequences did follow, as Williams found on his phone a message from Amy’s sister, who the week before he had met at a gathering when she came to visit. Another Elizabeth, but one who preferred Beth over Liz, she was just sixteen and the perfect portrait of porcelain beauty but for a slightly oversized nose that overshadowed a pristine smile. She was quite different from her older sister in visage, but equally intelligent and open-minded, and to Amy’s chagrin took to Williams immediately, incensed by the forbidden nature of his allure, leading him upstairs once the house was full and her older sister drunk and preoccupied. There she sat playfully on Williams’ lap, engorging his lust with kisses across his neck and behind his ears, and by the tentative touch of her hands. He had worked his hands beneath her skirt, and the pair abandoned themselves to each other’s touch, but before they could finish one another they heard Amy’s voice outside the door and rushed to stop. Beth left the room, loudly claiming she had needed a lay down after feeling ill, allowing Williams to make good his escape along with Mark and Joe for the three to visit a local night club so as not to end the night prematurely.

Upon arrival, the three boys made their way through the club, exchanging approving looks and quips when they spotted a girl. In the throng, Williams came face to face with someone he vaguely recognised – the girl – the Juliette – with crystal blue eyes and that air of innocence he had proclaimed his love for at the beginning of the year.

‘What’s your name? You’re Jack, aren’t you?’ She shouted above the din when they drew close enough.

‘Yeah, yes,’ Williams had stuttered, caught mildly off-guard, ‘Kat, right?’

Mark and Joe paused for a second behind them until Joe turned to Mark, ‘Well, Jack’s pulled. Come on; let’s see what we can find for ourselves.’

Williams took Kat outside to some benches in the smoking area where he could better hear her, and realised she had sent him a text earlier in the day to see if he was going to be making an appearance. He could only vaguely remember their first meeting, when she had struck him as so very cool and ethereal, and had appealed to his rawest sexual desires. That night he had succeeded in only in giving her his number, apparently without taking hers or saving it if he had. While she spoke to him, he reprimanded himself for having not paid enough attention the first time they met, but he assumed he had been distracted by her looks, the alcohol fogging the rest of his memory until it seemed to him to have all the excitement and intrigue of a first meeting. They spoke at length, until she led him back inside to dance and kiss in the darkness of the crowd where anonymity was to be found.

Later that night, from the dense pulsations of the club they had broken out onto the street and a wave of cold hit them. Kat swung into him and bit his lip hard, exciting a yelp from him, and he grabbed her hair and pulled it back playfully, saying;

‘I want to fuck you. Now. Wait though.’

He put his hand in his pocket and pulled from it a small bag with powder in the bottom. He opened it, staggering back a step with an eye closed in concentration, and dipped a finer in it.

‘Dab, yeah?’ He asked, rubbing it into his gums, ‘right, let’s go.’

‘Where? Where’s your place?’

‘It’s a walk. No time. Fuck that. Let’s go this way.’

He took her hand again and led her down the street. She then pulled him back into her and attempted to kiss him, but they crashed bodily into the wall beside them. She threw her arms around him and pressed him against the wall. Williams’s eyes flashed into operation for a moment; it was a dark street, mostly empty. The crashing noise of the club was in the distance, and the pavement was illuminated by the dull yellow glow of the street lamps. Someone walked past on the other side of the street, dressed in a dark overcoat and cuddling against the cold. The person cast a momentary glance at the pair against the wall, making contact with Williams’s wild eyes for a second before looking away and hurrying on. The girl had undone the top three buttons of his shirt, or they had come undone in the chaos of the night, and was biting his collar bone, leaving marks across the top of his chest, uttering the slavish sounds of a deathly thirst.

‘Not here, too open. Fuck sake stop that and follow me, I’ve got an idea.’

Williams vaguely felt at his collarbone as he recalled the moment, letting his head fall back and his eyes close as the image of Kat looking at him with earnest, glazed eyes filled his mind. She probably hadn’t even see Williams standing there before her. He had barely seen her. The next thing he had known they were in an alleyway, some walk from where they had been. His trousers were down and he was with her against the wall while she faced the other way, her arms crossed against the brickwork where she rested her head while exhaling heavily, almost moan-like. It wasn’t a false moan. It wasn’t a pleasured moan; nor was it one of pain. It was utter, mindless lust. There was nothing but the feeling of their bodies in fervent, frantic unison. They had no minds, no thoughts. The cold was banished by the heaving of their loveless embrace. Everything before Williams was void, and everything he felt was his entire world. Existence began and ended with every passing second; before was oblivion, what was to come was unknown. His mind flickered into action, fighting through the haze of sexual craving, the alcoholic blankness and the sensual siege of the drugs, to capture the image of her standing before him, directly under a light half way down the alley after it had turned from the sight of the street. She had her panties around her ankles, as did he his trousers. She was pulling down her top and removing her bra to reveal a large pair of soft, pale breasts. The bra was thrown to the floor, but his mind followed, and he was cast into the blankness again as the night swallowed him with the same darkness from which he had only recently emerged to check his phone, and into which he once again sank until the morning, a smile painting his face at the consideration of these interwoven threads. All the while Lily slept with her head rested on his chest.

The room spun into focus from between the tensed cracks of Williams’ eyelids, unwelcome light pouring into the room from a window until a figure blocked its path for a moment, followed by the sound of the front door closing with an unintended loudness. Lily was gone, and Williams was alone on the sofa. He heard footsteps descending the stairs above, and Jamie Lee shuffled his way into the room in a loosely fitted shirt and his boxers and nothing else.

‘The girls left,’ mumbled Williams, his throat raw with dehydration, ‘they snuck out, no idea how they held it together. I couldn’t sneak out of an empty room right now. Don’t want to be seen in their little black dresses at nine in the morning I suppose.’

‘Nevermind them. I need some water.’ Jamie made his way to the kitchen and returned with two glasses of water, and passed one to Williams before sitting down opposite him, ‘tut that’s just it though, isn’t it? Sneaking out. Happy to be seen eating the cake, can’t face the crumbs. Part of the problem, that. People care too much about what people think of them.’

‘You think? I couldn’t care less.’

‘I know you couldn’t. What does it matter? It’s, it’s, it’s all that Facebook, this whole thing of having a constant presence. Always watching. Actions don’t last for a moment any more, they’re all captured, permanent.’

‘Well not all actions…’

‘Yeah?’

‘Well I’m pretty sure sex doesn’t last forever. How tragic would it be if it did? It’d lose all of its mystery.’

Jamie laughed and finished his water, shaking his head, ‘I get bored after a couple of minutes.’

‘Well it is a race.’

‘And I always win. This silly idea that it’s meant to go on for hours. If I last more than five minutes I consider it a defeat.’

‘How could that possibly be a defeat?’ Asked Williams, chuckling, yet mindful of the fragile condition of his head. Each recoil felt magnified, as if being shaken violently and all the momentum being in his skull.

‘Because she might come first? I have to win at sex you know.’

‘Winning at sex? Honestly, mate.’

‘Yeah. Otherwise what’s the point? Needs to be a challenge. A risk. Like I said last night, it’s a gamble. It’s not good.’ Jamie paused, grinding to a halt as he collapsed backwards into his seat. He made a motion as if to physically wipe the seriousness and momentary lull in his spirits from his mind before collecting himself, ‘It’s a game. I like the flirting.’

‘I must say I do quite like the challenge.’

‘Exactly!’ Jamie clapped his hands on his thighs and regained his momentum with a laugh.

‘I like it. I like to lose myself in the moment.’

Yes, yes, yes but you’re all moment.’ He paused, running his hands through his thick blonde hair, which found itself in an ungodly tangle, ‘as long as it happens. Hate to go too long without a shag. Quite frankly I feel worse if I don’t feel guilty for something.’

Williams supressed a laugh, and languorously replied, ‘to be honest I’m not sure if I ever do.’

‘Feel guilty or stop feeling guilty?’

‘You know I really can’t tell the difference anymore.’

Jamie looked delighted, ‘nothing is sexier than a little guilt complex. That’s why the mental girls are the most fun. They just need the attention then feel guilty for getting it. And what is a man to do?’ He shrugged nonchalantly.

‘And they’re always the best in bed. Got that thing to prove.’

‘Yeah. But there’s a balance. Some girls go too far into the crazy versus hot spectrum.’

‘Them’s the biters,’ said Williams, pulling open his shirt enough for Jamie too see the marks on his collar bone.’

‘Was that her last night? And scratchers. Fuck that shit, I don’t want to bleed when I breed.’

‘No, some girl in the week.’ Williams couldn’t refrain from laughing this time, ‘You are vile Jamie, you really are. But I know you like the nice girls. You’re a nicer boy than you let on.’

Jamie raised his eyebrows with a smile, ‘not as much as you. You go for the nice ones then not long after all you hear about them is how bad they’ve become. That Chloe girl has been with at least two guys since it all blew up with Sophie. And have you heard about her? And Amy sending her sister packing this weekend. What do you to do them?’

It was Williams’ turn to smile, and he swung his legs around to the floor so that he was sitting facing Jamie, instead of talking up to the ceiling when addressing him, ‘oh you know,’ he paused for effect, ‘I open their eyes.’

‘Not the only thing you open. You’re a bad influence, you are.’

‘Pot kettle black’

‘Did I say being a bad influence was a bad thing?’ Jamie expressed his warm smile.

‘Maybe two wrongs do make a right.’

‘Maybe. I’m feeling pretty wrong right now, I need some water and bacon. Come on, make some scrambled eggs with me.’

Chapter 5

Williams found Jamie at the bar, taking advantage of the band’s tab. He had caught the attention of a gaggle of five girls in the crowd, and had promised them after-show fun with the band through his friendship with Jamie. They were an attractive assortment bar one, who wasn’t quite as enthused as the others, much to Williams’ relief. He had taken her aside, feigning genuine concern over her that events may take a turn for the wild later on in the night, which had caused her to doubt her attendance. The root, Williams was sure, was the matter of the other girls’ – and indeed his and the band’s – attractiveness was more than her own. It was a night for the beautiful people. Beauty opens more doors than kindness, knowledge or station ever will.

Jamie Lee’s band, finished by three other young men named Greg, Adam and Ross, were similarly like-minded individuals who, in their earnest desire to enjoy themselves for enjoyment’s sake, were anonymous to Williams beyond their good company. All three were entirely affable to varying degrees, and had welcomed Williams with open arms when Jamie had introduced them – the four of them having only met the previous month, this being only their second concert in public together, their band unnamed. Jamie Lee had taken the measure of placing his old band, which had gained some minor measure of success through touring the bars and pub circuit across England, on hiatus while he focused on his studies, but his passion for music had driven him to form a new one almost instantly. Congratulating them all on the success of their show, Williams introduced to them the girls, who added to those already drawn to the immediate charisma of men on stage.

Seven of them; Williams, Jamie, Greg and the four beautiful girls made it back to the perfumed and musky room at Jamie’s where Williams had found himself spending so much time in the past few weeks. It was a low room, cast in a dim yellow light from a handful of lamps littered messily about the place on mismatched furniture that cast more shadows than illumination. Ash trays, bottles and numerous other debris of debauchery littered the room that had no seats, instead there were Bedouin style cushions and low tables beneath marketplace fabric drapes depicting Ying and Yang and fertility symbols that Jamie had found in various markets across the country on his travels. Williams and Jamie fell into cushions opposite each other, letting forth similarly toned sighs of contentedness and weariness, while the girls followed Greg into the adjacent kitchen, one of their number absent-mindedly closing the door behind her as she spoke with a naturally hushed voice that all people use at night in otherwise silent houses to her friend. Jamie smiled at Williams and glanced at the door, absent-mindedly lighting a joint from the table.

‘Fun isn’t it?’ he asked, still looking at the white painted panelling.

‘What is?’

‘This. Them girls.’ He looked at Williams, ‘tonight, mate. It’s fun, isn’t it?’

‘Yeah, it’s the best. It’s what we live for,’ responded Williams, a gleeful joy ringing in every syllable, ‘we’re doing it, the world is beauty and we’re journeying into it.’

Jamie was suddenly despondent, his usual energy had faded. Williams could not tell if it was the night taking its toll or something deeper, but an air of vulnerability descended upon him, and his shoulders slumped backwards. He looked Williams straight in the eyes as he exhaled his first toke and smoke momentarily clouded his face.

‘Y’know mate, all this. It’s all addiction. That dirty little word. Three syllables of menace. I’ll gorge on anything that I've stumbled on, all it takes is to get a kick out of it the first time. After that - food, gambling, smoking, marijuana, music, sniff…’ he trailed off, the energy in his voice taken from him, ‘and love, probably if I’m honest.’

‘But you know,’ he fidgeted uneasily, ‘I don’t think I’m no ordinary addict. Unlike most of the thoughtless bastards who stumble into their infatuations, I understand the consequences. I can't get them out of my head. Eat more than I should? I start worrying how I'm going to look on stage when people see me. I used to be really fat, you know what? I was such a fat kid, and I got so much shit for it. Smoke a cigarette? How long can I keep this up for before I start coughing up blood? Have a wicked joint past midnight? I'll probably oversleep, be late, but it was worth it at the time, right?’

Jamie spoke his final words mimicking speech marks and leaned forward, passing Williams the joint. There was a gentle hatred in his voice that Williams had never before heard from someone. It was self-loathing. He remained silent and watched Jamie Lee with a blank stare as his mind filled with contradictions. In the kitchen, he could hear the others laughing. He vaguely wanted to go and join them, but he couldn’t; it would have been far too rude to simply leave Jamie to his devices while he spoke so very frankly. With that, his mind honed in on Jamie’s voice, which had entered into action once more.

‘Maybe I’m ill or something. I dunno. The thing is, I think all of these things before they pass my lips, yet I carry on. Why? Because gamblers always want to lose, no matter how much they say otherwise. That is what I am.’

He spoke with bolt-action precision, a distant, exposed look across his face, ‘I'm a gambler in every sense of the word. I weigh up decisions in my head, compile scenarios and bet for or against myself. Betting for yourself is preferable, believe me. Betting against yourself can be a dangerous road that erodes your sanity. How can you make decisions if you've backed yourself to fail before? I'm a sports nut, always was. I wanted to be a sportsman…’

Jamie again trailed off, as if straying too far into a dream, or too far from his reality, ‘I love and will watch anything. There's a little voice in the back of our heads that says ‘what if you were to lose half your money on that horse? You'd be in real shit then.’ Why do we do it? Because we're risk-takers in a world that's so devoid of chance, and the odds are stacked against us.’

Jamie thrust his arms forward in emphasis before casting a glance back towards the still-closed kitchen door. He proceeded to pass Williams a lighter as the joint had gone out, neglected by the conversation.

‘And,’ Jamie continued, ‘we love every minute of it until the realisation hits you like a wrecking ball plunging into a house you built from scratch. I'll move on after I get bored onto the next destructive pastime. After I packed in the gambling, I was searching for something new, something that would give me the excitement and rush I'd come to know from a racetrack and betting stalls. That feeling of lumping on an unfancied team and they steal a goal in the final minute of a crucial spectacle. But I'd been hit badly by the betting bug. He'd crippled me almost to the point where I'd lost the respect of everyone; my peers, my parents and even my girlfriend.’

Williams shot Jamie an inquisitive look, inhaling smoke, careful not to say a word. It worked, the crystalline eyes that peered from beneath the dishevelled blonde hair met Williams’s and a wry smile passed across his face, ‘Yeah, until last year I had a girl. Been with her all my teens, she was the sweetest thing. It never occurred to me then, but admitting it to her immediately sent off alarm signals in her head. I don't blame her for ditching me, because as hard as I tried, she became my addiction. No sane person would ever describe love as a dead cert. Look at the form: we were both 18, the poetry of adolescence was about to become the prose of maturity, just hungrily explored each other. We were on an island at sea with a hole in the boat and we needed to get back. When I opened up and let her see inside my head for the first time, I hadn't anticipated her being as shocked as she was. Maybe it was self-defence but she put a wall up against me which I never quite managed to break down. She despised drug use so the night she broke it off with me, I was in the mood for something stronger than drinking. I had my first joint a year and a half ago. Then all it all went from there. Some fucked up desire to prove her right.’

He paused, finally, and the voices in the next room filled theirs, but sounded hollow and distant. Williams felt like his senses had been plunged into cold water.

‘I'm not sure I've even met you sober,’ Jamie continued heavily, ‘why do we do these things? Because a gambler wants to lose no matter what. It's a sickening streak in his head that we don’t give a shit about anything else. But it's more important to realise that people don't gamble for financial gain. Even though we're far advanced for our own good at times, there is one basic animalistic ideal which some have worse than others; the absolute need for validation. And in this case, gamblers feel validated by being right. It's honestly that simple. All we want is to be correct about an outcome. We need to be able to boast about our success therefore proving ourselves to be valuable company. The money, while a glorious bonus, might as well never leave the bookie's hands because how do you think a gambler will spend his winnings? New clothes? A TV? Nah, fuck that. Maybe a fresh batch of the good stuff if I’m running low, granted,’ a smile flicked upon his face, and the lines around his eyes, perhaps due to the light cast from the lamps across the room, looked deep and dark, and for a moment Jamie Lee looked incredibly tired, ‘but no. It’ll be spent on the Arsenal-Fulham match in forty five minutes time. There are times when I've lost everything I owned and felt nothing. There are times when I've won five figure sums and cried my eyes out because I honestly didn't care. I've stolen from friends, I've lied to those closest to me. It was just a sign –’

The kitchen door opened and the others came through, talking, Greg holding a small bag fat with white powder and rubbing his nose, the girls behind him with some bottles of wine and enough glasses for everyone. Jamie shot Williams a strained look, a flash of panic in his eyes, but as Gregory passed between the two and broke Williams’ line of sight it vanished, and when he passed back into view, Jamie Lee was once again the vision of effortless gregariousness, the warm, well-formed smile and beaming, inquisitive passion in his eyes lending him an aura of control that made his frenetic movement and mode of talking feel so comforting. He clasped an arm around one of the girls and kissed her on the cheek as she sat down beside him, resting his other hand on the thigh nearest to him and having her pour wine into his mouth after scoffing at the glasses. Whichever Jamie Lee had been speaking to Williams moments before was no longer there. This was the true Jamie Lee, thought Williams, as his subject took hold of the wine bottle and poured the cerise liquid into the girl’s mouth, both laughing when it spilled.

‘Fuck sake Greg, I forgot about the sniff,’ said Jamie as Greg began to cut some lines, ‘Jack and I just had a joint.’

Greg chuckled, not looking up from his work, ‘so have an extra bump mate, nothing wrong with a bit of a cocktail, eh ladies?’ One of the girls replied, but Williams wasn’t following.

What did it matter – what Jamie had said? The depths within may outweigh the exterior, but it is the exterior that is taken for granted. It is all there is. One’s true self is that which is perceived by others; a perception which through careful and applied consideration, can be manipulated by the self into whatever state one wishes oneself to be considered. By this device, one may in his time live many lives, some concurrently, as long as one’s audiences are kept adrift of each other. To be is to control; Williams was only who others saw him to be – this was the only definition that mattered. As for his own life - his home and his actions in their superfluousness were absolutely necessary and entirely academic, a fact that justified them and made him socially immune to the judgement less refined people may receive. The Jack Williams the world would know was an idea worn, an illusion of society just as sensations are illusions of the senses, or emotions phantoms of the psyche. Through such a mask, he would be able to study others’ – and his own – modes of thought and conduct, and artificially alter the variables without ever jeopardising his inner being. The so-called immorality of his acts were to be hidden beneath a veneer of polite accountability and modesty, and most importantly fashion; being reticent was a precondition, and what stories did travel would be in their nature so far removed from the public perception of him that they would be dismissed as exaggeration. This double life concept was thrilling to Williams, its implementation a challenge he had already begun to enjoy and the benefits a source of satisfaction and gratification to be savoured for as long as it suited him. A reputation that is good is easy to destroy, a reputation that is bad must be savoured, because bad deeds do not affect it, but good behaviour gains greater significance. It is well to acquire both and wear them at one’s choosing depending on the requirements of the moment. Williams snapped to attention as his name was called out;

‘Jack! Jack, your turn,’ it was one of the girls, a golden-haired creature who had taken up the large maroon cushion beside him. She was pouring a glass of wine and indicating with her gaze to the board with the powder which was being offered to him by a brunette beside Greg.

‘Ah!’ He exclaimed, surging to life and dismissing his thoughts, ‘thank you my dear.’ He rubbed the blonde girl’s thigh, exquisitely encased in tight black jeans, warmly and smiled broadly around the room, taking up a rolled note and placing the board on his lap. ‘To the night,’ he toasted with a bow of his head towards his lap.

Williams lay on the sofa of cushions, daydreaming while twiddling with his phone. It had buzzed several times throughout the night, each a call to join someone in a club somewhere, or else a girl in her bed, or her in his. These messages had gone largely ignored, however, until he had returned to his senses. It was almost four in the morning, yet the lights were still on low. Jamie Lee had taken the girl over whom he had poured the wine to bed; Greg had left with another. The third had taken herself home, having been left out as the fourth, called Lily, and Williams found themselves increasingly entangled, uncaring of anything but each other as the night had progressed. She lay across him, wearing only her underwear beneath a blanket loosely draped over the pair, and she slept sounding on Williams’ chest. The details had already faded from his mind, gripped as it had been in the sensational numb of alcohol, marijuana and coke. Some amphetamines as well. But despite his ailing state, the physical thrill of the act stayed with him; he felt satisfied – a tiger cub laying prone yet playful after a meal – and momentarily at peace. He had no questions, he required no answers. He absorbed the warmth of the girl’s body as it rose and fell with the silent breaths, and he focused on the rhythm, steadying his inner balance with it when the ceiling began to slip from the grasp of his vision. He burned with the recently obliterated memories of the past hours, the delight at the whole experience filling him with raw awareness. He was all perception.

Williams mustered the energy to check his phone again, this time paying attention to the names and specifics of the messages left. Such trivialities seemed beyond him, but he persevered. An unfinished bottle of red lay beside him, wedged under the girl. He carefully extracted it and took a sip to straighten himself out. Impulse and infatuation led Williams into a series of muddled and intertwined affairs, of which the art of balancing became a delight to him.

The first unread message was from a pretty girl called Sophie, a short blonde girl who had only recently turned eighteen, who had texted him asking him to cover over to her flat, which she shared with a quite stunning yet delicate brunette, Chloe, who had introduced Williams and Sophie in the first place the night after they had first met at the bar on the university campus. At the time, Chloe had insisted she had a boyfriend, yet the relationship – through emotional and physical – distance was untenable, and from their first conversation Williams acknowledged that she was both attracted to him and conflicted in her emotions. Disregarding her on the basis of her relationship – Williams was keen to uphold the secular honour of not mindfully trespassing on another’s love no matter how dysfunctional – yet keen to see her again, he had sought her out the next night at a local club, where she had introduced Sophie, who, Chloe assured him, was very much single and currently trying to put a failed relationship behind her. As Sophie revealed herself to be the visual treat that she was, and Liz was busy that evening, Williams had taken her back to his house later in the evening, where he had imprinted on his mind a joyful memory of his divan bed drifting apart in the centre as their frenzied movements imparted to their surroundings vast levels of kinetic energy. Finally it parted completely and they fell through the gap together in a naked tangle of limbs, and they laughed bodily, Sophie resting her head on Williams’s shoulder as she struggled for her breath during bouts of giggles. Williams had been winded and grinned silently, his breath having escaped him. It was joyful, and strangely innocent, and they both felt completely at ease with their own humanity.

Sophie, realising Chloe was fond of Williams, agreed with him to say nothing of their sexual exploits to her. Such deceptions fascinated Williams. He was mindful to never lie – he had no reason to. But misplacing the truth was quite entertaining, and preserved the charm of the truth. Attraction is itself an absolute truth, the indulging of it a physical replication of that honesty of the senses. But it was at the same time, to Williams, a dupe; the most honest dupe of them all. In matters of attraction, all parties are fools. Such was the thought that had occurred to him many times before, and would regularly flitter through his mind after the act, for in those moments, he and his partner were utterly open and exposed, and only a fool opens oneself so utterly, especially to a stranger. It was that closeness that provided so much of the thrill. Williams derived a great deal of pleasure from keeping secret such intimacy, all the while sharing it with as many as possible, as was his craving.

The pair settled into maintaining a façade of friendship, seeing each other at least once a week while inspiring no hint of a suggestion of illicit behaviour in Chloe who the following week had found herself having a drunken debacle with her boyfriend on the phone, turning up on Williams’ doorstep in the middle of the night all lachrymose and seeking comfort. Williams had offered her his collection of wines as she relayed to him her trouble. In the heat of the emotion and physical closeness she demanded, they had fallen into a passionate embrace from which they did not exit until the morning, finding themselves naked and happy together beneath his sheets. Reality had struck for her however, as it did for Williams, so he suggested that she tell no one – especially Sophie – for fear of news that they had slept together while Chloe had a boyfriend getting out. He also spoke of Sophie dropping hints that she had begun to fall for him, which Chloe confirmed, adding to the notion that it was for the best that she did not find out. Chloe, for her part, however, wished to repeat the incident, and so they did under the pretence that Williams was helping her resolve her issues with her boyfriend from a male perspective, which added to Sophie’s high opinion of him.

This delicate charade very nearly fell apart at a particular house party at Williams’s where both girls were at risk of becoming jealous of a third, a striking Australian girl called Emma, who Williams had met a week before them, and who had immediately struck him as utterly exquisite. She was petite and slim, with long mousey brown hair that formed curtains around her pretty, freckled face. Emma had a penchant for framing her dark hazel eyes with copper and gold shades, lowlighted with dusky black eye shadow. He had slept with her the night he met her, excited by her stories of home – he had a particular interest in Australia, and his fervent interest and entertaining charm had won her over after he vowed to let her have the run of his house as a means to settling in to this foreign country. At that house party she had openly flirted with Williams while he was with the other girls, and it was only through Jamie Lee’s timely arrival, and his subsequent distraction of the others that Williams managed to keep things separate. Emma too had messaged him, asking to visit him, as she had heard little from him since she had in turn introduced Williams to a friend of hers, Amy, who needed a place to stay the night of the house party.

As if switching partners during an intricate ballroom dance, the Waltz perhaps, Williams had taken to Amy immediately; highly intelligent, charming, supporting a dusty dyed blonde mane of wavy hair and with a reputation of her own for enjoying the fruits of life, they had formed an immediate chemistry, and he had offered to her his bed that evening. Somewhat inevitably, they had ended the night sharing the bed before Williams, feigning honour, deigned to leave her to his room alone only to be called back up the stairs minutes later to find her standing before his mirrors in her underwear. There she was suggestively inviting him to pick his favourite angle from which to look at her wholesome, tanned figure as she removed what little clothing she wore and spoke to him with her eyes, an understanding between them that they both desired a certain pleasure with no consequences.

Consequences followed however, as Williams found on his phone a message from Amy’s sister, who the week before he had met at a gathering when she came to visit. Another Elizabeth, but one who preferred Beth over Liz, she was just sixteen and the perfect portrait of porcelain beauty but for a slightly oversized nose that overshadowed a pristine smile. She was quite different from her older sister in visage, but equally intelligent and open-minded, and to Amy’s chagrin took to Williams immediately, incensed by the forbidden nature of his allure, leading him once the house was full and her older sister drunk and preoccupied upstairs. There she sat playfully on Williams’ lap, engorging his lust with kisses across his neck and behind his ears, and by the tentative touch of her hands. He had worked his hands beneath her skirt, and the pair abandoned themselves to each other’s touch, but before they could achieve the climax of the act they heard Amy’s voice outside the door and rushed to stop, Beth leaving the room, claiming she had needed a lay down after feeling ill, allowing Williams to make good his escape along with Mark and Joe for the three to visit a local night club so as not to end the night prematurely.

Upon arrival, the three boys made their way through the club, exchanging approving looks and quips when they spotted a particularly beautiful specimen of a girl. In the throng, Williams came face to face with someone he vaguely recognised – the girl with crystal blue eyes and that air of innocence he had proclaimed his love for at the beginning of the university term.

‘What’s your name? You’re Jack, aren’t you?’ She shouted above the din when they drew close enough.

‘Yeah, yes,’ Williams had stuttered, caught mildly off-guard, ‘Kat, right?’

Mark and Joe paused for a second behind them until Joe turned to Mark,

‘Well, Jack’s pulled. Come on; let’s see what we can find for ourselves.’

Williams took Kat outside to some benches in the smoking area where he could better hear her, and realised she had sent him a text earlier in the day to see if he was going to be making an appearance. He could only vaguely remember their first meeting, when she had struck him as so very cool and ethereal, and had appealed to his rawest sexual desires. That night he had succeeded in only in giving her his number, apparently without taking hers, or savi

Herein lies the re-draft of Chapter 4. I was pleased with this the first time around, so the revisions are relatively small. Some bits have been added and some previously difficult syntax has been corrected. I wanted to maintain a sense of innocence which is soon to be knowingly lost as Williams discovers his pleasures....

For those who are following, this chapter is basically the day - and night - after the night before, as well as an insight into Williams' thoughts and feelings towards his new education and ultimately the progression of the story onward by a couple of months. This was a really cathartic chapter to write for multiple reasons, but it was also a chance to take a look at some more of William's wider outlook towards the world, and some of the willful conflict within his opinions. I enjoy the dichotomy between the social, sexual first half of the chapter and the academic, considered second part, which for me were the two sides of university life.

As always, thanks for reading on and I would love to hear feedback. Be it improvements, discussion, or straight up criticism. :)

Chapter 4

The day struggled by under the burden of sleep deprivation, but Williams was overcome by a foreign energy. He felt awake and charged, his passions were stirring inside him and his mind burned with images of the previous night. Cutting through the fog of dawn was the brightness of midnight. Moments of fleshly delight played across his inner eye as he went about the day, during which he was set an assignment by a lecturer who seemed to him to be distant, as indeed did everything that didnt pertain to his immediate will.

He was the type of man who believed he was the standard by which the world was set and yet fell, unknowingly, far short. Full of self-belief, nothing phased the man who delivered to the class a treaties on the guiding principles of Journalism. He dressed without care in a muted brown and camo-green corduroy suit which looked moth eaten and at least as stuffy as the dreary voice, full of a love for its own sound, which issued from an overbitten mouth rimmed by smokers lips which curled with conceit over teeth stained by nicotine and wine. Williams imagined that the man smelled of a forgotten library, or else moist peat. This professor was a relic of the old guard, ringing the bell of modernism but somehow utilising forward momentum to drag yesterday into tomorrow. The notion of citizen journalism - blogs, self appointed rather thasn formally educated guardians of knowledge and experience - was loathe to the professor. Only the established press, inflexible and decaying, could educate a public who hated it. Blinded by self love, this professor. Put off, Williams looked out the window of the fresh, modern department building.

It was a bright, joyful early Autumn day with all the warmth of August and the freshness of October, and the leaves were still green. Above him, Williams saw afresh the glow of the cerulean sky and gave way to his contemplations at midday, when he went on his own to lay on the grass in a park near the university. Here he sought to capture a few moments rest, but such dreams were dashed by the urgency in his veins. The night before began to fade from his mind, but its lessons remained. The sensations too stayed with him, playing across his skin as he recalled them, divorced from their setting until he brought back the curves of her skin and the hues it took on in the dark grey of night. This, he assured himself, was but the beginning of a greater truth upon which he felt he had always been on the precipice.

Jack Williams took Anne to his house from university, eager to waste no time as she would have to leave early again that evening on account of living with family. He knew that he wanted her for no reason other than that she existed. He spoke softly with her, knowing the girl to be more timid than Liz, and less worldly. To Anne, every step held within it a naïve beauty and significance and was to be cherished, and Williams did all he could bring haste to such notions. He charmed her, of course, by making promises of deeds and thoughts that seemed wild and dangerous to her but were illusions of truth and if they had occurred, would to a more learned ear have seemed tame. She was a sweet and curious subject; keen to impress and learn of all the sins of the world, to which he told her, there is nothing quite so beautiful as the view found out of the window you arent looking out of, yet at the moment of accepting the facts of the matters, she was scared to grasp them and so forever locked into a world of her own making that refused expansion beyond its comfortable limits. This similarity to his childhood state intrigued Williams, despite himself, and he had here the opportunity to present to Anne a situation which she would not happen upon naturally in her lifetime. Everything that was to occur was by his design, her every action his choice.

He made her dinner, and they cleaned up the house from the previous night. Williams showed her around his house, feigning indifference when she marvelled at his decoration and complimented him on his maturity and taste. All the while, he sent messages to Liz, who could not be there that evening, orchestrating with her plans to repeat their night, and he communicated with Jamie and some of the others to come over again and to bring more friends. It was important to display a constant readiness to host and entertain; it was now of vital importance to maintain and improve his standing. Word had spread throughout the day about a fantastic house near to the nightclubs where anyone was welcome, rumours Williams had encouraged by telling his guests to come again and invite whoever they knew. He found the principle of word of mouth to be romantic and slightly elite. Only those who would be of a certain inclination would even hear of his venture.

Williams and Anne finished their food not long after seven in the evening, and were alone in the tidy house for an hour before people began to arrive again. Impatient to touch her yet knowing she would not permit his lust to be quenched, Williams instead held her close on the very sofa upon which he had lost his virginity while they watched a film, Mean Girls. He paid little attention, instead focusing on creating a sense of closeness with Anna, whispering softly and sharing jokes from throughout the day. The atmosphere around them grew heavy as they relaxed into one anothers arms and he opened an excellent bottle of Australian Merlot. The pair found themselves intimately close, their breath warming each others faces when the doorbell rang, and the night deigned to get itself underway.

Before long the house was crowded and Williams, assuming the role of conductor for the evening, presided over the gathering, leading a sweeping concerto of revelry; the dulcet notes of sweet ciders giving way to the crashing thunder of whisky by the bottle, which in turn led to the requiem for consciousness as rum and vodka shots were passed around and the order of the symphony disintegrated into a pall of chaotic energies, but always he kept Anne by his side, propping her up with glass after glass of wine as she breathed deep the atmosphere of dissolution and sought to impress Williams, who allowed himself to be guided amongst all this by the whim of every second.

The time came for everyone to leave and take themselves into town by taxi, there was a highly anticipated student night at the largest club in Rochester where everyone worth knowing was to be found, but Williams lagged behind. He waited until everyone but Anne had gone, and, promising he would catch the next taxi, closed the door and kissed Anne sweetly against it. He led her upstairs, aware of the shortness in her breath and the excitement swelling her breast. For his part, he was void of such sentiment, dominated instead by a simple craving and untouched beyond his senses. He took her to his room, and there proudly bathed her in the delicately arranged light, gorging himself on the sight of her endless reflections in the mirrors as she flattered herself before him dancing while she stripped, eager to impress and eager to please. She took down his boxer shorts with her teeth and sat astride him, and let him take her and fulfil his craving for her. He dashed her skin with kisses, finding momentary peace upon her bosom before descending to sate his taste for her. They heaved together, and in the rose-tinted shadow Williams breathlessly silenced the swarming plea for more that had placed itself in the back of his mind. He made it clear to her that he wished to go and find the others in town, which seemed to irritate her. Luckily, Annes phone rang not long after they had finished, when Williams was already growing restless. She was being called to leave and, upon hearing her parents voice became reserved and distant as if having suddenly awoken from a dream. With a disinterested kiss tinged with sadness she stole out of the front door, leaving Williams to his thoughts.

He ran his hand through his thick dark hair, and it occurred to him that there was a poetic innocence to the pursuit of pleasure for pleasures sake. It is not cerebral; rather is it pure desire. It was a thought that flittered through Williamss mind, and one he would have enjoyed processing and turning over and over, but at that time, and for months ahead of him, he was too busy being occupied only with the craziest ideas, and the most sensual compulsions. Rationality abandoned him, as did reason, while he allowed thought to simply rest as impulse ruled his mind, and he gave in to the nature of his humanity without restriction. In this way he had begun to feel pure, and it sustained him even when he became so toxic that the poisons of the soul became its remedies, and the things people do to enjoy themselves became necessities to sleep at night, which he intended to delay that night for as long as possible. He smiled to himself at the thought of his own mind. It was still early, only one in the morning, and the clubs doors would be open for another half hour. He poured himself a generous glass of Jack Daniels and added a little Coke while he waited for the taxi. Jamie had slipped him some more little parcels earlier in the night, and he swallowed one. What a fantastic drug this was, how utterly thrilling the first rush had been when it had thundered through his body, bringing the otherwise peripheral physically into his being while his heart beat in his mouth.

Williams was greeted at the club by Joe after a short queue. It was a holy place for more; a church to the night. It smelled of spilled beer and musky perfume blended by the heaving air that swirls with body heat and the sweat it generates. It seemed the group had broken up completely and was spread throughout that vast mecca to the shadows of the mind and temptation. The pair made their way through the crowd to the bar, and were there met by Mark and some others, a large sportsman type called Brendan or some such, and a long haired, artistic looking young man who looked most out of place named John, or perhaps Ron. Williams didnt hear his name over the din.

Jack, shouted Joe above the noise, in his ear, so where have you been man? Did you do Anne? He leaned back and grinned, clasping Williams shoulders in his hands, man I knew you would! You did, didnt you, yeah?

Williams smiled at him and leaned into Joe, placing his arm around him as Mark placed a drink in his other hand something with Southern Comfort in it, Does it matter whether I did it? What matters is that youre asking. He flashed a smile as Joe looked at him, slightly puzzled and with a glazed look in his eyes, wouldnt knowing rather spoil the question? Itd be a shame, its a fantastic question. Look at her though man, look at her he pointed towards a girl across from the bar on the dance floor. She was quite obviously obsessed with looking cool, and nothing had her transfixed more than her own reflection in the mirrors on the pillars that interrupted the dark dance floor at uneven intervals. She always caught her own gaze in the mirrors. Williams instantly loved the way she loved herself and was fascinated by her. He wanted nothing more than to understand her thinking and unravel it, and for her fixation with herself to fall upon him; for him to be her topic, and for him to rob her of her coolness as he gained understanding of her and unravelled her. It might be an exquisite experiment. But she was also beautiful in an ethereal, distant sort if way she was tall, a similar height to him, but quite thin, although he could still make out her generous curves and had crystal blue eyes set in a softly rounded, lightly freckled face painted on a pale, ivory white canvas framed by knowingly wild dark brown hair highlighted with streaks of caramel. He was instantly attracted to her physical form, regardless of how she presented it, which was admittedly to her strengths. There was an air of innocence to her, but it felt like a part of her aesthetic, as if placed as a mask upon her to throw-off people she met. She was interesting; no mere Juliet, she was a cerebral assault on the senses; an intoxicating remedy to his unquenched desires.

She is ridiculous. I love her already, look at her. True love! Lets talk to her shall we?

With that, the boys headed over to the girl, and the night, the lights and the faces blurred for Williams into a deluge of stimuli upon his mind, and over the following months found him frequently arriving at university drunk and disinterested, however he never appeared to others as anything short of magnificent, and for the first term he excelled academically, falling upon his voracious appetite for knowledge and his inquisitive nature.

His interest in journalistic principles was from the first day, non-existent. He found it all an inhuman bore; there was nothing beautiful or stimulating in the particulars of the media industry, which he found egotistical and monotonous. The head of his department had given a speech on the virtues of press freedom, the importance of journalism as the fourth estate, and the passion in the investigative process and truth on any level that must be possessed in order to be a good journalist; to be steadfast, determined and honest. Williams cared for none of it, and saw little of such practices in the industry for which he was being trained. Those journalists who possessed or professed to possess all of those traits were often entirely unambitious and content to live a futile life by the pen, or were driven utterly by ego and ruthless as well as shameless in their pursuit of journalistic superiority, power and kudos. There was no elegance or beauty to the profession; it was to Williams the profession of pseudo-intellectual whores who flirted with a deeper understanding of things, but allowed their own self-importance and faith in the world of their industry to cloud them. The journalism industry, it became clear to Williams, was the source of its own corruption. It took well-meaning and good people and inverted them; perverted their talents and the story became a currency. Only those who knew this were good journalists. Excellent journalism is the product of those who actually identify themselves simply writers and who describe the world, and the events within it for themselves, rather than those who take pride in the principal and hunt for the factual and find only the truth as the factual provides. In their desperation to observe, they are blind to the purpose. As the phone hacking scandal and Leveson Inquiry played out along the disapproving headlines of the very industry that deserved its justice, Williams became increasingly aware of the love affair journalism had with itself; it was a beast that thought itself better than it was and that could not retreat for pride. He found all members of the press, no matter the medium, to fall into two types, both of which were distasteful. The first were those who delighted in the principle of journalism and were known for their dullness and modesty, which to Williams implied a lack of ambition or vision, modesty being the most chronic of weaknesses for it blocks one from glimpsing a finer way and disallows them from comprehending it in the first place. No one who attains their dreams is modest in their philosophy, as no one who attains their dreams is ever happy for doing so. The end of a journey is death to the adventurer. The second type were known for their mindless ambition and use of news as currency without consideration for the ideas they proclaimed to uphold. These people were predominantly found to move in the direction of the tabloids, or at least the papers in general, where ego dominated above talent. It was toxic to him, and any entry into it would bring ruin to him. He found most of the theory of the journalistic principle philosophically banal, and banality is death to the senses. There was a third type, a build of human being Williams actually quite enjoyed. They were the individuals who were selflessly passionate about a subject, and sought to enter the journalism industry simply to be the commentator of their niche, and sate their personal love and curiosity. These people had little interest in the theory of journalism past its practical application upon their field of interest, Which Williams was drawn to, as he found other peoples passions quite mesmerising, delighting in the energy that overcame a person when engaged in conversation about their interest.

The problem with journalism is that it is written by journalists; the problem with journalists is that they exist as a law unto themselves, and believe themselves elevated by purpose. He found the academic study fascinating the history and development of the press and its place within society saw him enthralled, reading deep into the early hours of the mornings when he was alone in his house, or he would ignore the syllabus and conduct his own research. History, particularly social and political history was always a point of fascination to him. It allowed Williams to understand and discern the motivations behind man throughout the ages to reconcile the inspirations of the past with the realities of the future and in so doing unravel the demons and delights that roamed the soul of mankind. With understanding came a worldly wisdom, an academic understanding that pure experience alone could not afford due to its linearity and preciseness, but which he could apply to all situations for his own benefit. In short, Williams found himself too impatient, and too concerned with the discovery of beauty in the world. Journalists deal with the ugliness in life. He was devoted to its splendour.

While Jack Williams found himself disinterested philosophically, he derived particular pleasure from the learning of the practical skills of the various forms of media which he came to study; the ability to create any video or radio form he pleased, the manipulation of words to optimise readership online the very modernity of media as a cultural mode, and the incorporation of so many creative principles appealed to him. It was merely their application within the confines of his study that did not. As such he became, in short order, extraordinarily talented technically in all their fields he turned his mind to, obsessing over the minutiae of the practical theory, so much so that he resolved to assist anyone who struggled. There was on the course another who had this natural flare, the curious man he had seen on his first day, who made himself known as peerlessly passionate about the principles of journalism. Nothing, it was clear, came before his objective in being regarded within the industry as one of the most talented greats of his time. His name was Stephen, and Williams found him compelling in his passion to Williams ones passions are always interesting in the way they bring a person to life when asked about them and occasionally funny, but dry in the way one who has no basic similarities with another find them dry. They had little common ground; Stephen had come from a passionately working class, socialist background of low achieving yet hardworking parents, his interests were large found in sport when not discussing the journalistic ideal, and he was utterly disinterested in divining the deeper majesty of that experience we all share; life. They respected one another externally, but internally Williams admitted there was little to bind them. Still, despite being the last to arrive and first to leave, with an air that such distractions were just that distractions Williams invited him to his house with all the others, of which there was, as the first term progressed, an increasingly large and regular crowd often rotating in its membership depending on the day. Around this time Jamie Lee left the journalism department, realising his mistake in his interest in documenting the things he found fascinating rather than merely allowing them to occur, and switched to a degree studying music with English literature, and fell in with a dedicated group of musicians and poets with whom he would regularly play live. Williams regularly attended such gigs, and in doing so came to play host to, or drop in on, many jamming sessions infused with philosophical conversation and careless drug taking that left him hungry for music and ideas and the passions they inspired in his soul.

After one such performance with his band, Jamie had brought Williams, among others, back to his house where they would often while the midnight hours away in a room heavy with incense and marijuana smoke, sipping spiced tea or whisky and talking about music and poetry or women and desire. That night had yielded a particularly potent performance from Jamie, who had spent much of the night beforehand back stage in the dressing room with friends, including Williams, taking lines of cocaine from the body of his ebony wood guitar and opening the window wide in order to loudly beckon people from the street outside the bar in which he was to play to come in and watch. The audience had swollen from the typical handful of students who might already have been there to a sizeable crowd who were there to see him play and hear him sing, and watch him.

It had been a true performance; Jamie Lee swaggered on the tiny stage and rather reminded Williams of Jim Morrison, recalling that singers bluesy poetic music and charismatic, considered movements. He had been resplendent with his long golden hair, loose white shirt with rolled up sleeves and an open black waistcoat, delicate yet strong and very proud. There was arrogance in the way he shook his hips and pursed his lips. Jamie was to Williams the embodiment of the highest good.

Chapter 4

The day struggled by under the burden of sleep deprivation, but Williams was overcome by a foreign energy. He felt awake and charged, his passions were stirring inside him and his mind burned with images of the previous night. Cutting through the fog of dawn was the brightness of midnight. Moments of fleshly delight played across his inner eye as he went about the day, during which he was set an assignment by a lecturer who seemed to him to be distant, as indeed did everything that didnt pertain to his immediate will.

He was the type of man who believed he was the standard by which the world was set and yet fell, unknowingly, far short of it. Full of self-belief, nothing phased the man who delivered to the class a treaties on the guiding principles of journalism. He dressed without care in a muted brown and camo-green corduroy suit which looked moth eaten and at least as stuffy as the dreary voice, full of a love for its own sound, which issued from an overbitten mouth rimmed by smokers lips. Williams imagined that the man smelled of a forgotten library, or else moist peat.

It was a bright, joyful early Autumn day with all the warmth of August and the freshness of October, and the leaves were still green. Above him, Williams saw afresh the glow of the cerulean sky and gave way to his contemplations at midday, when he went on his own to lay on the grass in a park near the university. Here he sought to capture a few moments rest, but such dreams were dashed by the urgency in his veins. The night before began to fade from his mind, but its lessons remained. The sensations too stayed with him, playing across his skin as he recalled them, divorced from their setting until he brought back the curves of her skin and the hues it took on in the dark grey of night. This, he assured himself, was but the beginning of a greater truth upon which he felt he had always been on the precipice.

Jack Williams took Anne to his house from university, eager to waste no time as she would have to leave early again that evening on account of living with family. He knew that he wanted her for no reason other than that she existed. He spoke softly with her, knowing the girl to be more timid than Liz, and less worldly. To Anne, every step held within it a naïve beauty and significance and was to be cherished, and Williams did all he could bring haste to such notions. He charmed her, of course, by making promises of deeds and thoughts that seemed wild and dangerous to her but were illusions of truth and if they had occurred, would to a more learned ear have seemed tame. She was a sweet and curious subject; keen to impress and learn of all the sins of the world, to which he told her, there is nothing quite so beautiful as the view found out of the window you arent looking out of, yet at the moment of accepting the facts of the matters, she was scared to grasp them and so forever locked into a world of her own making that refused expansion beyond its comfortable limits. This similarity to his childhood state intrigued Williams, despite himself, and he had here the opportunity to present to Anne a situation which she would not happen upon naturally in her lifetime. Everything that was to occur was by his design, her every action his choice.

He made her dinner, and they cleaned up the house from the previous night. Williams showed her around his house, feigning indifference when she marvelled at his decoration and complimented him on his maturity and taste. All the while, he sent messages to Liz, who could not be there that evening, orchestrating with her plans to repeat their night, and he communicated with Jamie and some of the others to come over again and to bring more friends. It was important to display a constant readiness to host and entertain; it was now of vital importance to maintain and improve his standing. Word had spread throughout the day about a fantastic house near to the nightclubs where anyone was welcome, rumours Williams had encouraged by telling his guests to come again and invite whoever they knew. He found the principle of word of mouth to be romantic and slightly elite. Only those who would be of a certain inclination would even hear of his venture.

Williams and Anne finished their food not long after seven in the evening, and were alone in the tidy house for an hour before people began to arrive again. Impatient to touch her yet knowing she would not permit his lust to be quenched, Williams instead held her close on the very sofa upon which he had lost his virginity while they watched a film, Mean Girls. He paid little attention, instead focusing on creating a sense of closeness with Anna, whispering softly and sharing jokes from throughout the day. The atmosphere around them grew heavy as they relaxed into one anothers arms and he opened an excellent bottle of Australian Merlot. The pair found themselves intimately close, their breath warming each others faces when the doorbell rang, and the night deigned to get itself underway.

Before long the house was crowded and Williams, assuming the role of conductor for the evening, presided over the gathering, leading a sweeping concerto of revelry; the dulcet notes of sweet ciders giving way to the crashing thunder of whisky by the bottle, which in turn led to the requiem for consciousness as rum and vodka shots were passed around and the order of the symphony disintegrated into a pall of chaotic energies, but always he kept Anne by his side, propping her up with glass after glass of wine as she breathed deep the atmosphere of dissolution and sought to impress Williams, who allowed himself to be guided amongst all this by the whim of every second.

The time came for everyone to leave and take themselves into town by taxi, there was a highly anticipated student night at the largest club in Rochester where everyone worth knowing was to be found, but Williams lagged behind. He waited until everyone but Anne had gone, and, promising he would catch the next taxi, closed the door and kissed Anne sweetly against it. He led her upstairs, aware of the shortness in her breath and the excitement swelling her breast. For his part, he was void of such sentiment, dominated instead by a simple craving and untouched beyond his senses. He took her to his room, and there proudly bathed her in the delicately arranged light, gorging himself on the sight of her endless reflections in the mirrors as she flattered herself before him dancing while she stripped, eager to impress and eager to please. She took down his boxer shorts with her teeth and sat astride him, and let him take her and fulfil his craving for her. He dashed her skin with kisses, finding momentary peace upon her bosom before descending to sate his taste for her. They heaved together, and in the rose-tinted shadow Williams breathlessly silenced the swarming plea for more that had placed itself in the back of his mind. He made it clear to her that he wished to go and find the others in town, which seemed to irritate her. Luckily, Annes phone rang not long after they had finished, when Williams was already growing restless. She was being called to leave and, upon hearing her parents voice became reserved and distant as if having suddenly awoken from a dream. With a disinterested kiss tinged with sadness she stole out of the front door, leaving Williams to his thoughts.

He ran his hand through his thick dark hair, and it occurred to him that there was a poetic innocence to the pursuit of pleasure for pleasures sake. It is not cerebral; rather is it pure desire. It was a thought that flittered through Williamss mind, and one he would have enjoyed processing and turning over and over, but at that time, and for months ahead of him, he was too busy being occupied only with the craziest ideas, and the most sensual compulsions. Rationality abandoned him, as did reason, while he allowed thought to simply rest as impulse ruled his mind, and he gave in to the nature of his humanity without restriction. In this way he had begun to feel pure, and it sustained him even when he became so toxic that the poisons of the soul became its remedies, and the things people do to enjoy themselves became necessities to sleep at night, which he intended to delay that night for as long as possible. He smiled to himself at the thought of his own mind. It was still early, only one in the morning, and the clubs doors would be open for another half hour. He poured himself a generous glass of Jack Daniels and added a little Coke while he waited for the taxi. Jamie had slipped him some more little parcels earlier in the night, and he swallowed one. What a fantastic drug this was, how utterly thrilling the first rush had been when it had thundered through his body, bringing the otherwise peripheral physically into his being while his heart beat in his mouth.

Williams was greeted at the club by Joe after a short queue. It was a holy place for more; a church to the night. It smelled of spilled beer and musky perfume blended by the heaving air that swirls with body heat and the sweat it generates. It seemed the group had broken up completely and was spread throughout that vast mecca to the shadows of the mind and temptation. The pair made their way through the crowd to the bar, and were there met by Mark and some others, a large sportsman type called Brendan or some such, and a long haired, artistic looking young man who looked most out of place named John, or perhaps Ron. Williams didnt hear his name over the din.

Jack, shouted Joe above the noise, in his ear, so where have you been man? Did you do Anne? He leaned back and grinned, clasping Williams shoulders in his hands, man I knew you would! You did, didnt you, yeah?

Williams smiled at him and leaned into Joe, placing his arm around him as Mark placed a drink in his other hand something with Southern Comfort in it, Does it matter whether I did it? What matters is that youre asking. He flashed a smile as Joe looked at him, slightly puzzled and with a glazed look in his eyes, wouldnt knowing rather spoil the question? Itd be a shame, its a fantastic question. Look at her though man, look at her he pointed towards a girl across from the bar on the dance floor. She was quite obviously obsessed with looking cool, and nothing had her transfixed more than her own reflection in the mirrors on the pillars that interrupted the dark dance floor at uneven intervals. She always caught her own gaze in the mirrors. Williams instantly loved the way she loved herself and was fascinated by her. He wanted nothing more than to understand her thinking and unravel it, and for her fixation with herself to fall upon him; for him to be her topic, and for him to rob her of her coolness as he gained understanding of her and unravelled her. It might be an exquisite experiment. But she was also beautiful in an ethereal, distant sort if way she was tall, a similar height to him, but quite thin, although he could still make out her generous curves and had crystal blue eyes set in a softly rounded, lightly freckled face painted on a pale, ivory white canvas framed by knowingly wild dark brown hair highlighted with streaks of caramel. He was instantly attracted to her physical form, regardless of how she presented it, which was admittedly to her strengths. There was an air of innocence to her, but it felt like a part of her aesthetic, as if placed as a mask upon her to throw-off people she met. She was interesting; no mere Juliet, she was a cerebral assault on the senses; an intoxicating remedy to his unquenched desires. She is ridiculous. I love her already, look at her. True love! Lets talk to her shall we?

With that, the boys headed over to the girl, and the night, the lights and the faces blurred for Williams into a deluge of stimuli upon his mind, and over the following months found him frequently arriving at university drunk and disinterested, however he never appeared to others as anything short of magnificent, and for the first term he excelled academically, falling upon his voracious appetite for knowledge and his inquisitive nature.

His interest in journalistic principles was from the first day, non-existent. He found it all an inhuman bore; there was nothing beautiful or stimulating in the particulars of the media industry, which he found egotistical and monotonous. The head of his department had given a speech on the virtues of press freedom, the importance of journalism as the fourth estate, and the passion in the investigative process and truth on any level that must be possessed in order to be a good journalist; to be steadfast, determined and honest. Williams cared for none of it, and saw little of such practices in the industry for which he was being trained. Those journalists who possessed or professed to possess all of those traits were often entirely unambitious and content to live a futile life by the pen, or were driven utterly by ego and ruthless as well as shameless in their pursuit of journalistic superiority, power and kudos. There was no elegance or beauty to the profession; it was to Williams the profession of pseudo-intellectual whores who flirted with a deeper understanding of things, but allowed their own self-importance and faith in the world of their industry to cloud them. The journalism industry, it became clear to Williams, was the source of its own corruption. It took well-meaning and good people and inverted them; perverted their talents and the story became a currency. Only those who knew this were good journalists. Excellent journalism is the product of those who actually identify themselves simply writers and who describe the world, and the events within it for themselves, rather than those who take pride in the principal and hunt for the factual and find only the truth as the factual provides. In their desperation to observe, they are blind to the purpose. As the phone hacking scandal and Leveson Inquiry played out along the disapproving headlines of the very industry that deserved its justice, Williams became increasingly aware of the love affair journalism had with itself; it was a beast that thought itself better than it was and that could not retreat for pride. He found all members of the press, no matter the medium, to fall into two types, both of which were distasteful. The first were those who delighted in the principle of journalism and were known for their dullness and modesty, which to Williams implied a lack of ambition or vision, modesty being the most chronic of weaknesses for it blocks one from glimpsing a finer way and disallows them from comprehending it in the first place.

No one who attains their dreams is modest in their philosophy, as no one who attains their dreams is ever happy for doing so. The end of a journey is death to the adventurer. The second type were known for their mindless ambition and use of news as currency without consideration for the ideas they proclaimed to uphold. These people were predominantly found to move in the direction of the tabloids, or at least the papers in general, where ego dominated above talent. It was toxic to him, and any entry into it would bring ruin to him. He found most of the theory of the journalistic principle philosophically banal, and banality is death to the senses. There was a third type, a build of human being Williams actually quite enjoyed. They were the individuals who were selflessly passionate about a subject, and sought to enter the journalism industry simply to be the commentator of their niche, and sate their personal love and curiosity. These people had little interest in the theory of journalism past its practical application upon their field of interest, Which Williams was drawn to, as he found other peoples passions quite mesmerising, delighting in the energy that overcame a person when engaged in conversation about their interest.

The problem with journalism is that it is written by journalists; the problem with journalists is that they exist as a law unto themselves, and believe themselves elevated by purpose. He found the academic study fascinating the history and development of the press and its place within society saw him enthralled, reading deep into the early hours of the mornings when he was alone in his house, or he would ignore the syllabus and conduct his own research. History, particularly social and political history was always a point of fascination to him. It allowed Williams to understand and discern the motivations behind man throughout the ages to reconcile the inspirations of the past with the realities of the future and in so doing unravel the demons and delights that roamed the soul of mankind. With understanding came a worldly wisdom, an academic understanding that pure experience alone could not afford due to its linearity and preciseness, but which he could apply to all situations for his own benefit. In short, Williams found himself too impatient, and too concerned with the discovery of beauty in the world. Journalists deal with the ugliness in life. He was devoted to its splendour.

While Jack Williams found himself disinterested philosophically, he derived particular pleasure from the learning of the practical skills of the various forms of media which he came to study; the ability to create any video or radio form he pleased, the manipulation of words to optimise readership online the very modernity of media as a cultural mode, and the incorporation of so many creative principles appealed to him. It was merely their application within the confines of his study that did not. As such he became, in short order, extraordinarily talented technically in all their fields he turned his mind to, obsessing over the minutiae of the practical theory, so much so that he resolved to assist anyone who struggled. There was on the course another who had this natural flare, the curious man he had seen on his first day, who made himself known as peerlessly passionate about the principles of journalism. Nothing, it was clear, came before his objective in being regarded within the industry as one of the most talented greats of his time. His name was Stephen, and Williams found him compelling in his passion to Williams ones passions are always interesting in the way they bring a person to life when asked about them and occasionally funny, but dry in the way one who has no basic similarities with another find them dry. They had little common ground; Stephen had come from a passionately working class, socialist background of low achieving yet hardworking parents, his interests were large found in sport when not discussing the journalistic ideal, and he was utterly disinterested in divining the deeper majesty of that experience we all share; life. They respected one another externally, but internally Williams admitted there was little to bind them. Still, despite being the last to arrive and first to leave, with an air that such distractions were just that distractions Williams invited him to his house with all the others, of which there was, as the first term progressed, an increasingly large and regular crowd often rotating in its membership depending on the day. Around this time Jamie Lee left the journalism department, realising his mistake in his interest in documenting the things he found fascinating rather than merely allowing them to occur, and switched to a degree studying music with English literature, and fell in with a dedicated group of musicians and poets with whom he would regularly play live. Williams regularly attended such gigs, and in doing so came to play host to, or drop in on, many jamming sessions infused with philosophical conversation and careless drug taking that left him hungry for music and ideas and the passions they inspired in his soul.

After one such performance with his band, Jamie had brought Williams, among others, back to his house where they would often while the midnight hours away in a room heavy with incense and marijuana smoke, sipping spiced tea or whisky and talking about music and poetry or women and desire. That night had yielded a particularly potent performance from Jamie, who had spent much of the night beforehand back stage in the dressing room with friends, including Williams, taking lines of cocaine from the body of his ebony wood guitar and opening the window wide in order to loudly beckon people from the street outside the bar in which he was to play to come in and watch. The audience had swollen from the typical handful of students who might already have been there to a sizeable crowd who were there to see him play and hear him sing, and watch him.

It had been a true performance; Jamie Lee swaggered on the tiny stage and rather reminded Williams of Jim Morrison, recalling that singers bluesy poetic music and charismatic, considered movements. He had been resplendent with his long golden hair, loose white shirt with rolled up sleeves and an open black waistcoat, delicate yet strong and very proud. There was arrogance in the way he shook his hips and pursed his lips. Jamie was to Williams the embodiment of the highest good.

I've redrafted chapter 3 - not extensively like one and two, but I feel it's stronger. I've kept the dialogue short and snappy, and really just sorted out some sentence structure stuff, added in some more musings and background to Williams' character, and opened him up a little more to the reader. The chapter still stands as the first real chance to explore him and his philosophy in action, add meat to his bones, and then really have fun as he meets people and looses his virginity and just discovers this whole world he's always been looking for. I hope anyone who reads it enjoys it, and I'd love to hear what you think, if anything. It's a more fast paced, exciting passage. I hope some of those thrills are reflected.

Cheers for stopping by. :)

Chapter 3

Williams found his way to the Journalism department building a little later than he had planned. He arrived precisely ten minutes late, and as he approached the door, his nerves receded. The cause for his own anxiety intrigued him. It was not the presence of new people, or a fear of their rejection. He knew the part he was to play, and had spent the preceding weeks preparing. Perhaps it was his treatment at school nonetheless, but it was a lifetime ago. These were only people, not the shadows that haunted his mind. The truth of all social interaction is that one must set one’s own tone; no judgement, for its petty value, is made without precedent. As Williams entered and crossed the busy room towards a group of four people, three boys and a girl of approximately the same age as him and who had an empty seat between them, his anxiety dissipated entirely. From a psychological point of view, all people are merely a form of fashion that one adorns one’s situation with; Williams’ situation required he be loved. His boyish, Byronic good looks - the gentle lips, the shining sapphire eyes, the natural waves of his raven hair that covered his ears and flowed to his neck, vaguely recalling the idea of a nineteenth century portrait of dandyism – made him utterly charming, and the group he joined, who were laughing, immediately turned their heads in unison to greet him.

‘You have to hear this,’ said one of the boys, a tall, friendly looking young man of approximately eighteen with casually unconsidered high street clothing and wisps of facial hair that indicated he did not care too much about his look, who was looking at Williams while he struggled to contain his laughter, ‘this guy’s flatmate, can you believe this? Tell him, Jamie.’

Williams looked from the unnamed, still chuckling young man to a more composed figure with long, untamed blonde hair and cool grey eyes, in who’s countenance Williams detected an effortless control of the situation by virtue of an obvious and powerful charisma, ‘Alright, alright. What’s your name, man?’

He leaned forward to shake Williams’ hand, extending a indolent arm replete with various leather and beaded wristbands, the forearm exposed by the rolled up white linen sleeve of a loose shirt that deemed draped rather than worn by this intriguing figure, ‘I’m Jamie, Lee.’

‘Jack Williams,’ he replied, firmly accepting the handshake with a warm smile.

‘Nice one. This is Mark,’ he thrust his thumb in the direction of his introducer, ‘this is Joe,’ he gestured to the boy sat next to Williams who was younger looking than the rest and quite pale, with mousey coloured hair and a strong jawline, wearing a dark blue hoodie and slim fitting grey denim jeans, ‘and that’s Anne.’

The girl smiled and greeted Williams, but seemed quite shy. She was petite and had dark auburn hair and large hazel eyes, full lips, and a pretty, round face. She wore a flattering dark green top and tight dark jeans that Williams didn’t notice the colour of. She would be considered remarkably attractive in a room of uninspiring people, but plain in a large crowd with more diversity. Regardless, Williams’ eye was drawn to her.

‘So what Mark here is on about, is basically my flatmate is a bit weird.’ He tossed his rebellious blonde hair to the side during his pause before continuing, ‘We met in the flat kitchen last night. Seemed pretty alright to me, I’d seen him moving a load of hardware in earlier so I asked him about all that. Thought he was doing engineering, something you need to store a lot of data. Oh no. Porn. The lot of it. Four hard drives of porn,’ he broke into a broad smile that revealed uneven yet handsome white teeth, although his left lateral incisor bore a crown; ‘eighty gigabytes of porn on three of those old boxy hard drives, I mean what the fuck?’ he began to laugh, ‘first off who needs eighty gigs of porn when you’re starting uni,’ he thrust his arms out for emphasis while remaining sat back in his seat, his legs stretched out in a relaxed manner, ‘but why not just put it all on one proper hard drive?’

‘If anything I’d say its inefficient masturbatory storage,’ chimed Williams, amused. He flashed a smile to Jamie and then to Anne, ‘how much time does he think he’s going to have?’

‘Eighty gigabytes worth, apparently. And you know what,’ Jamie leaned forward and looked Williams directly in the eyes, ‘had a very strong hand shake, very sure grip. Washed my hands after we spoke, not going to lie.’

‘Probably didn’t need to, all that friction would have burned off the germs. Bacteria couldn’t survive that heat.’

The pair laughed together. Williams felt an immediate affinity for this man, and by extension of the friendly atmosphere, all of them. They introduced each other properly and spoke for a while, but Jamie and Williams dominated the conversation, their shared ability to charm an audience and hold their attention complementing one another’s wit and interests. Jamie was a musician, and he too had come from private education, although he had lived in the boarding house. He had toured the country with his band too, playing in dingy clubs and sleeping in squats, living off the generosity of the people they played to, and crashing from one wild night to another. It all seemed rather fantastic and tinged with a gritty romance to Williams, who devoured such stories and riposted with tales that belonged to the people he had hated at school but which he now claimed as his own. It didn’t matter that he was lying as long as you say the right thing. They took it for truth, and seemed thoroughly drawn in. Anne especially, who smiled and laughed in all the right places, and did not once take her eyes off of him. He looked splendid, even opposite this roguish musician, and offered a tantalising alternative of the same base thrills. Where Jamie was enigmatic; effortlessly cool through his warm inclusivity and off-beat humour, Williams presented an imperturbable, bohemian aura of detachment and confidence. They played off one another quite perfectly, and he invited them all to drink at his that evening when conversation turned to the topic of plans for the night.

In groups, the students took part in a quiz, which he should have expected to excel in. Williams possessed a powerful intellect but memory was rather skittish; strong in the long term for fine details and layers of information, but weak in the short term for facts and truth, although he had a natural inclination towards keeping track of fantasies, rumours and lies, and especially names. Williams' real mental strength came in making connections between pieces of knowledge, people, observations, and in improvisation; ideas, the unconscious creation of new mental materials. Thoughts came to him filly formed, opinions emphatic - he was an intensely curious being, and without thinking sought and absorbed knowledge. He was however, loathe to voicing an opinion not backed up by careful study and an intricacy of detail impossible to deny. He used his intelligence to dominate; people, subjects, knowledge, although he loved to be proven wrong and learn from that process. He made the intelligent feel more so, the unintelligent curious, and the puedo-intellectuals who believe themselves to be smart quite angry. Listening to the questions, Williams was drawn to the matters of their topics, but hearing the answers, given from the journalistic point of view, he realised that he already did not want to be on the course. Most of the topics were based on recent events, none of which Williams had paid much attention to, none less so than politics, which he found distasteful and disenchanting. He felt it rude to talk of politics among people with whom you intend on relaxing with. When various topics of history and general knowledge took place however, he excelled, and his team came second behind a team seemingly led by an interesting fellow who appeared measured yet inquisitive. When he answered a question, the lecturer responded by calling him Stephen. He was very different from Jamie, dedicated to the journalistic ideal and thoroughly knowledgeable about the industry, having memorised the names of the editors and correspondents of all the major paper and television news outlets.

Williams stopped paying attention to the quiz and drifted into daydreams for the majority of the time however, eyeing over the room and trying to discern each person’s backstories. He found his gaze resting on Anne on more than one occasion, and he smiled to himself. The quiz ended, and the lecturer spoke words unheard by Williams to the group pertaining to the coming weeks before everyone rose to leave for lunch.

As Jamie, Mark, Joe and Anna left, Williams stood up from his chair, pulling on his jacket. As he did so, he made eye contact with a blonde girl across the room who was also readying to leave as the others she had been talking to drifted back to their bags, which they had placed in a pile across from their seats. He assured the others that he would be along shortly and waited for them to leave. He smiled at the blonde girl and introduced himself while walking towards her;

‘Hi there, all rather exciting isn’t it?’

‘Sure is,’ she was quite plain, but dressed to accentuate her slender figure, and had a feminine charm to her that shined in her glistening, sky blue eyes, ‘I’m Alice.’

‘Lovely to meet you. Jack.’ He looked about briefly, smiling and nodding at some people as they mouthed good bye to Alice, ‘I hear we’ll be getting an assignment this week already. Still, can’t wait to get stuck in quite frankly – me and a few others are planning on just that tonight. I have a place on the way to Rochester, forty-nine Star Hill; they’re all coming over. You should come.’

‘To work or play?’ asked the girl impishly.

Williams curled his lips and ignited a twinkle in his eye, ‘work hard at playing, I hope.’

‘I take it you’re out for fun then? Not a relationship man?’

‘That’s the question isn’t it? Relationships?’ He paused; ‘limiting, they are. Whatever’s the good in limiting one’s love to just one person at a time? Just seems wrong, you know?’

She laughed. ‘Fair point. So I guess you won’t mind if I bring my flatmate tonight? She’s hot.’ Alice looked him up and down, ‘got a feeling she’ll like you.’

‘Well I can only hope so, I do like to please.’

‘I bet you do.’

‘You’d win good money on that.’

‘Of course I would,’ she said giggling, placing her left hand on her hip, ‘I could spend it on my boyfriend.’

‘Well I am sorry,’ he rushed, ‘but I really cannot stand for blasphemy like ‘boyfriend’ to be uttered in my presence, it really does go against everything I stand for. But I absolutely will see you and your hopefully gorgeous friend tonight; everyone’s coming over about eight. Bring drinks, though I’ve a stack load at mine.’ Williams flashed a roguish smile and span on his polished Chelsea boot heels, sharply catching himself on the three-hundred-and-sixtieth degree, his coal black trench coat billowing behind, ‘don’t miss it, it’s going to be a good one.’ Before she could reply, he smiled again and left the room.

That evening Williams prepared his house for the rush of people. He had collected the numbers of everyone he had spoken to during the day. Everyone was bringing at least one other with them, some their entire flats. A wave of excitement had seemed to have swept through the group when he had offered a place in which everyone can meet and drink without fear of consequence, and over twenty people were expected to start arriving in less than twenty minutes time. Believing that one’s body is one’s best form of advertisement, he had taken time to choose a suitable outfit for the night; a slim-fitting white work shirt from Hugo Boss open to the third button from top, skinny black jeans from a high street brand he didn’t particularly care to remember and his black Chelsea boots that gave him almost an extra inch. He also wore a dark grey fitted blazer from Religion that had a close, Italian fit with worn, 70’s styling. It fitted perfectly. Nothing is more degrading than ill-fitting clothes. His appearance was vital; a person is only who other people say they are, not who they hold themselves to be in the eye of a crowd. Beauty is the perfect state of nature’s destination; it is impossible to be meretricious. There is gaudiness, which is false and often its own downfall – or splendour – of design, of accident and of experience, which is its own value and a currency few have the capacity or will to trade in. Williams had realised a long time ago through observation that it was the presentation of a person or an act, not the reality of that person, or act that determined the social response to it. If one were to act with charm and grace, carry with them an air of intellect, sophistication, and display wit, one can escape judgement for any number of evils. He would be a reasonable man, and reason does not submit to evil. If one were to carry themselves as a beast however, and display lecherous behaviour without charm or guile, and present themself as having no taste or evidence of intellect then they will bear the burden of judgement for their actions and they will be regarded as a beast that does not know better than its innately primitive and objectionable nature. As such, as he had a gift by virtue of his very nature, he sought to be nothing less than perfectly charming at all times and be gregarious in his portrayal of the intellectual reprobate. The universal sin – the pursuit of pleasure – to Williams seemed an art form, and all art a fabrication of intellect. It is utterly unnecessary, and so in its way more human than any of the organic compulsions such as breathing, eating and mating, which are common to all animals. His portrayal of integrity and goodness was not dishonest; he had begun a journey of the mind as much as the senses in unravelling all that was to be unravelled in order to appreciate the very value of experience.

The house filled up and as each person arrived, Williams directed them to the quite formidable stack of alcohol that he had moved to the kitchen table. Everyone who entered thought it was a strange house - too fine for the modern day, too detailed to be organised. No one had seen anything quite like it, which, after the initial bafflement receded, led to becoming very fond and comfortable as the colours framed the welcoming, calming atmosphere and the mystique of the unconventional, eccentric surroundings. They all commented on how splendid his house was, and Williams felt a swell of pride and good feeling towards everyone. All in all thirty six people had arrived and were spilling out of the living room and into the hallway and kitchen, all talking and laughing noisily above music coming from the large speakers Williams had set up downstairs. The atmosphere was that unique one of delightful exploration that overcomes a group of people who do not know each other but wish to make friends, and after an hour of casual mingling and sharing names, everyone descended on the living room, where the tables were put in the middle, and everyone crowded around on their knees to play drinking games. The order of the game, involving cards, quickly deteriorated and became instead a series of increasingly senseless dares and truths, and Williams lost track of events, his perception collapsing into a series of vivid frozen moments in time whereby he was sat at the table beside two girls, his glass held to his mouth and the vile mixture within it pouring down his throat followed by a moment in the hallway with one of the boys whose name he couldn’t fathom and Anne, whom he had made to laugh and whose waist he found his hand gently resting up on. He looked back into the living room, which was dark and loud, and spotted Jamie on a sofa, fiddling with something on his lap while some people at his feet on the floor spoke, one of them, a dark haired girl with a nose piercing threw her head back and let out an uninhibited howl of mirth, and seemed not to care that she attracted some alarmed looks from across the room. Anne approached him, telling him she had to leave early. She gave an excuse and seemed desperately sorry, and Williams, disappointed, told her he would see her tomorrow and arranged to see a film the next evening after university. Nonetheless peeved, Williams passed into the kitchen, the only room in which there was a reasonable amount of light which illuminated a scene of empty bottles and cans strewn on the table and work top while caps littered the floor. The torn cardboard of beer boxes had turned dark and soft where a can had spilled, compounded by the smell of larger, perfume, and cigarette smoke seeping in from the open back door, outside of which people had gathered. By the table was Alice, and with her a friend.

‘Well hello again,’ she said, ‘seriously nice place, how’d you manage this?’

‘Oh you know, bit of luck and charm goes a long way,’ he paused, paranoid that he had lurched rather than stepped towards the pair of girls and straightened, placing a hand on the table. He seemed fine, ‘rich dead relatives help too of course.’ He recovered his composure with a knowing smile in Alice’s friends direction, ‘I am sorry, how rude. Jack Williams, pleased to meet you.’

She was beautiful. Taller than Alice, her eyes were almost level with Williams’. She had a slim build and glowing, naturally olive skin contoured with generous and feminine curves revealed by an outfit seemingly designed to titillate the mind by hinting at everything one may wish to see yet displaying none of it. Her face was fine and pretty, and reminded Williams of nobility, with high cheek bones and a broad forehead. Her nose had been slightly offset by an apparent break, but it did not diminish her looks. She bore a gregarious, large smile, and spoke with a loud, confident voice.

‘Liz. I can see what Alice was on about, bet you’re a bit of a heartbreaker aren’t you Williams?’

Alice blushed, ‘Liz!’

‘He doesn’t mind, do you Wills?’

Williams smiled and feigned a modest sweeping gesture with his hands, ‘absolutely not, but what I do mind is that I don’t have a drink.’ He took up a can of cider and opened it, taking from it a large gulp. At that moment Jamie bustled into the room beside him, nodding in the direction of two boys as they came from outside.

‘Jack. Ladies. Listen,’ he came close to Williams’ ear, speaking softly with a slight slur and leaning heavily on his shoulder while his breath condensed on Williams’ cheek, leaving it moist, ‘taxi’s into town are on their way, but don’t worry, we have adequate time to remove ourselves from this reality and obliterate our perceptions of this mundane realm.’

‘Sorry what?’

‘Drugs, mate. I have in my pocket a diminutive’ – he stumbled over the word two or three times – ‘yet none-the-less potent arsenal of narcotics that should make tonight interesting for us to say the least.’

Alice looked alarmed, but looked nowhere else other than Jamie. She seemed to have forgotten the boyfriend she claimed earlier in the day. Perhaps he had never existed. Liz gave a rye, expectant smile towards Williams, who was overcome by a burning sensation of curiosity, nervousness and the knowledge that a sensational chance was upon him. ‘Best get on it then, eh?’

They went outside where Jamie produced what appeared to be two long, thick cigarettes and a small plastic re-sealable bag full of small white parcels made from cigarette paper. ‘Right mate, you light up our joint, we’ve not got long. Girls this one is for you if you want. We won’t get through two as was the plan.’ Jamie gave one of the joints and a lighter to Williams and Liz took the other. She offered it to Alice, who hesitated, and took a small inhalation, never taking her eyes of Jamie. Williams inhaled the strangely scented and smooth smoke. He had tried cigarettes a couple of weeks before, but this was nothing like it. It felt softer, instead of the harsh chemical tang of the nicotine. He liked it, but did not know why – an enthralling sensation that began a series of considerations interrupted by a wave of dizziness and disconnection as the first, deep drags hit him.

‘Woah, nice stuff.’ He held back a cough as he passed the joint to Jamie who had tucked his little back away.

‘Cheers, right, who’s up for some Mandy? My treat.’

‘Mandy?’ Asked Alice, passing her smoke to Liz.

‘MDMA. Ecstasy. It’s good. I mean, I was going to get coke but I’m as new here as you guys, not got the contacts yet. Sorted this out with the weed though. Looked pretty pure. One now, one an hour later. Trust me guys, it’s the best. You’ll be drifting with the angels,’ he motioned wildly and stumbled backwards slightly, slurring and taking a drag of the joint from Liz, ‘all you want to do is smile and touch people, gets you in touch with each other.’ He made a vague gesture towards Williams and Liz, grinning as smoke billowed from his mouth, ‘also it makes the boring fuckers interesting, what’s not to like?’

Without thinking, Williams took two of the parcels in Jamie’s out stretched hand and swallowed one with a swig from his can. He passed it around, and felt warm, and connected to the people around him. As he passed Jamie the remainder of the joint, an assured calm dominated him and closed around him, and curiosities drove themselves to the fore of his mind. The lights seemed vaguely brighter, everything had its own allure, nothing more so than Liz, with whom he spoke while Jamie lent against the wall, talking to Alice, only looking mildly interested, his real attention being somewhere inside of himself. Williams liked Jamie, he seemed to him to be the absolute ideal – Jamie understood that the world existed to be explored, and that they were the pioneers of the senses. There is nothing left of value in the world other than that which one may feel.

Someone poked their head out of the door to the kitchen, ‘taxis are here. You guys not got glow sticks on yet? Come on, it’s a neon night, loads of paint and glowy stuff in the living room.’

‘Oh shit man it’s a neon night. All that glowing shit!’ Jamie sparked into life and bounded into the house, effervescent with excitement. He could be heard from outside shouting, ‘glow sticks are gonna blow our fucking minds later Jack! Fuck!’

That night Liz and Williams stayed by each other’s side without pause, increasingly enthralled by each other’s apparent interest in each other. She was no fool, and no doe-eyed dear caught unawares. But the girl had immediately been attracted to Williams, who had charmed her with his charismatic sensuality and desire to live and create an atmosphere of joy. He spent the night embracing everyone, secretly in wonder of it all while externally donning the mask of a seasoned veteran, ensuring no one was long or without a drink for more than a second after witnessing them as being so. His urbanity and enthusiasm towards everyone he met set him out, even from Jamie Lee, who ghosted through the evening and passed out early on and needed to be taken home by Alice. Her friend Liz found herself with Williams on the dance floor where the lights flared intensely all round them; through smoky wisps of silver-grey that hung like tortured mirrors in the air, violent reds gave way to neon blues and viridian greens that blazed into searing orange and piercing yellow, all of which burned through Williams’s closed eyelids to map across his senses a dense wall painted by a confused rainbow as each colour lingered a second after its passing, mixing with the next while being muted by his eyes being closed into a vaguely shaded flash of brightness. Overcome, his vision retreated behind his hearing, which was blasted by constant waves of sound that had ceased to be music, and were instead a pure wall of vibrations wracking his body and shaking his mind. Perhaps it was the drugs, but every single pulsation resonated through his skull, swirling and contorting and growing deafening from within his eardrums. All sense of rhythm or melody died to the frenetic movements this audio assault forced upon the pair as they clawed at each other, their hands desperately grasping to keep a hold of each other as the crowd around them seethed and closed in on them from all sides, pushing and swaying them as they never once opened their eyes or removed their mouths from each other’s. Their kisses were no less brutal. Everything had become rage and irresistible, nothing could save them from falling through the night and the only safe place became this point of intimate contact where fury and lust mustered their strengths and forced themselves upon the senses. Touch mixed with taste and smell and created the reactions in the body that satisfy the sexual urge only so far as increasing it; sight and sound, opened utterly by the drugs and crushed completely by the surroundings gave way to only the sensation of the kissing, and Williams’s mind was taken captive by a singular notion; more. More was needed and thirsted after, and his kisses became more furious, Liz’s hands more desperate as her nails sunk into his neck and waist, and he picked her up, her legs around him, and broke away from her mouth to kiss her sweat-streaked neck and finally shout in her ear to leave. Whether she heard him he simply did not care to register, he put her down and took her hand, pulling her through the crowd to the exit.

When they burst into his house, they made it little further. Crashing into the living room, Williams kicked his shoes off and flung his jacket into the room, and fell more upon her than beside her on the sofa. There, she held a tyranny over his senses and held him close as set about each other in a frenzied passion. With hands at once tremulous and timid, but also self-assured and frantic as if time were sure to run out, Williams removed Liz’s clothing, revealing a beautiful body that he sought to devour. There was no time for nerves, or any considerations. The toxic combination of alcohol, the drugs and very essence of this woman cast aside all but the physical reality of the moment. Previous seconds were destroyed by the arrival of next. She kissed him with an amorous sweetness as they grew closer that mellowed his frantic efforts and his lips fell upon her not with an air of desperation, as had taken hold of them both earlier, but with a sense of perpetuity. For that night they felt they were immortal. They entwined in silence disturbed only by the ardent noises that escaped them as he gave her proof of his hitherto unsatisfied passions into the deepest hours of the morning. She did things to him that he did not believe, even in this state of intoxicated inhibition and sexual candidness, he could ask of her, and she awoke in him the primal pleasures and passions that he had contemplated must exist, and which he had often dreamed illicit fantasies of, but which had also never even occurred to him. He had always known it, but now had no choice in them dominating him entirely. She, in turn, was delighted by the longevity imbued to his stamina by the alcohol, and fulfilled by the things he did to her, believing him to not be a virgin for lack of asking him and by virtue of his skills, which he had gained by dint of his natural affinity for touch and care in understanding the body and by having consumed every piece of material on how best to be a lover he could find. It was daylight when they looked out of the window from the sofa, holding each other naked and talking softly. They had to shower and dress in haste and leave before nine without rest. After a strong coffee they left, blinking into the morning brightness and so the week continued, and Williams would see Anne that evening.

Chapter 3

Williams found his way to the Journalism department building a little later than he had planned. He arrived precisely ten minutes late, and as he approached the door, his nerves receded. The cause for his own anxiety intrigued him. It was not the presence of new people, or a fear of their rejection. He knew the part he was to play. Perhaps it was his treatment at school nonetheless, but it was a lifetime ago. These were only people, not the shadows that haunted his mind. The truth of all social interaction is that one must set one’s own tone; no judgement, for its petty value, is made without precedent. As Williams entered and crossed the busy room towards a group of four people, three boys and a girl of approximately the same age as him and who had an empty seat between them, his anxiety dissipated entirely. From a psychological point of view, all people are merely a form of fashion that one adorns one’s situation with; Williams’ situation required he be loved. His handsome good looks - the gentle lips, the shining sapphire eyes, the natural waves of his raven hair that covered his ears and flowed to his neck, vaguely recalling a nineteenth century portrait of dandyism – made him utterly charming, and the group he joined, who were laughing, immediately turned their heads in unison to greet him.

‘You have to hear this,’ said one of the boys, a tall, friendly looking young man of approximately eighteen with casually unconsidered high street clothing and wisps of facial hair that indicated he did not care too much about his look, who was looking at Williams while he struggled to contain his laughter, ‘this guy’s flatmate, can you believe this? Tell him, Jamie.’

Williams looked from the unnamed, still chuckling young man to a more composed figure with long, untamed blonde hair and cool grey eyes, in who’s countenance Williams detected an effortless control of the situation by virtue of an obvious and powerful charisma, ‘Alright, alright. What’s your name, man?’

He leaned forward to shake Williams’ hand, extending a indolent arm replete with various leather and beaded wristbands, the forearm exposed by the rolled up white linin sleeve of a loose shirt that deemed draped rather than worn by this intriguing figure, ‘I’m Jamie, Lee.’

‘Jack Williams,’ he replied, firmly accepting the handshake with a warm smile.

‘Nice one. This is Mark,’ he thrust his thumb in the direction of his introducer, ‘this is Joe,’ he gestured to the boy sat next to Williams who was younger looking than the rest and quite pale, with mousey coloured hair and a strong jawline, wearing a dark blue hoodie and slim fitting grey denim jeans, ‘and that’s Anne.’ The girl smiled and greeted Williams, but seemed quite shy. She was petite and had dark auburn hair and large hazel eyes, full lips, and a pretty, round face. She wore a flattering dark green top and tight dark jeans that Williams didn’t notice the colour of. She would be considered remarkably attractive in a room of uninspiring people, but plain in a large crowd with more diversity. Regardless, Williams’ eye was drawn to her.

‘So what Mark here is on about, is basically my flatmate is a bit weird.’ He tossed his rebellious blonde hair to the side during his pause before continuing, ‘We met in the flat kitchen last night. Seemed pretty alright to me, I’d seen him moving a load of hardware in earlier so I asked him about all that. Thought he was doing engineering, something you need to store a lot of data. Oh no. Porn. The lot of it. Four hard drives of porn,’ he broke into a broad smile that revealed uneaven yet handsome white teeth, although his left lateral incisor bore a crown; ‘eighty gigabytes of porn on three of those old boxy hard drives, I mean what the fuck?’ he began to laugh, ‘first off who needs eighty gigs of porn when you’re starting uni,’ he thrust his arms out for emphasis while remaining sat back in his seat, his legs stretched out in a relaxed manner, ‘but why not just put it all on one proper hard drive?’

‘If anything I’d say it’s inefficient masturbatory storage,’ chimed Williams, amused. He flashed a smile to Jamie and then to Anne, ‘how much time does he think he’s going to have?’

‘Eighty gigabytes worth, apparently. And you know what,’ Jamie leaned forward and looked Williams directly in the eyes, ‘had a very strong hand shake, very sure grip. Washed my hands after we spoke, not going to lie.’

‘Probably didn’t need to, all that friction would have burned off the germs. Bacteria couldn’t survive that heat.’

The pair of them laughed together. Williams felt an immediate affinity for this man, and by extension of the friendly atmosphere, all of them. They introduced each other properly and spoke for a while, but Jamie and Williams dominated the conversation, their shared ability to charm an audience and hold their attention complementing one another’s wit and interests. Jamie was a musician, and he too had come from private education, although he had lived in the boarding house. He had toured the country with his band too, playing in dingy clubs and sleeping in squats, living off the generosity of the people they played to, and crashing from one wild night to another. It all seemed rather fantastic and tinged with a gritty romance to Williams, who devoured such stories and riposted with tales that belonged to the people he had hated at school but which he now claimed as his own. It didn’t matter that he was lying as long as you say the right thing. They took it for truth, and seemed thoroughly drawn in. Anne especially, who smiled and laughed in all the right places, and did not once take her eyes off of him. He looked splendid, even opposite this roguish musician, and offered a tantalising alternative of the same base thrills. Where Jamie was enigmatic; effortlessly cool through his warm inclusivity and off-beat humour, Williams presented an imperturbable, bohemian aura of detachment and confidence. They played off one another quite perfectly, and he invited them all to drink at his that evening when conversation turned to the topic of plans for the night.

In groups, the students took part in a quiz. Most of the topics were based on recent events, none of which Williams had paid much attention to, none less so than politics, which he found distasteful and disenchanting. He felt it rude to talk of politics among people with whom you intend on relaxing with. When various topics of history and general knowledge took place however, he excelled, and his team came second behind a team seemingly led by an interesting fellow who appeared a few years older than everyone else. There was something rather exciting to him; his energised movements perhaps, or his cold wit. He was very different from Jamie. He seemed more alive than anyone else in the room.

Williams stopped paying attention to the quiz and drifted into daydreams for the majority of the time however, eyeing over the room and trying to discern each person’s backstories. He found his gaze resting on Anne on more than one occasion, and he smiled to himself. The quiz ended, and the lecturer spoke words unheard by Williams to the group pertaining to the coming weeks before everyone rose to leave for lunch.

As Jamie, Mark, Joe and Anna left, Williams stood up from his chair, pulling on his jacket. As he did so, he made eye contact with a blonde girl across the room who was also readying to leave as the others she had been talking to drifted back to their bags, which they had placed in a pile across from their seats. He assured the others that he would be along shortly and waited for them to leave. He smiled at the blonde girl and introduced himself while walking towards her;

‘Hi there, all rather exciting isn’t it?’

‘Sure is,’ she was quite plain, but dressed to accentuate her slender figure, and had a feminine charm to her that shined in her glistening, sky blue eyes, ‘I’m Alice.’

‘Lovely to meet you. Jack.’ He looked about briefly, smiling and nodding at the others as they mouthed good bye to Alice, ‘can’t wait to get stuck in quite frankly – me and a few others are planning on just that tonight. I have a place on the way to Rochester, forty-nine Star Hill; they’re all coming over. You should come.’

‘To work or play?’ asked the girl impishly.

Williams curled his lips and ignited a twinkle in his eye, ‘work hard at playing, I hope.’

‘I take it you’re out for fun then? Not a relationship man?’

‘That’s the question isn’t it? Relationships.’ He paused; ‘limiting, they are. Whatever’s the good in limiting one’s love to just one person at a time? Just seems wrong, you know?’

She laughed. ‘Fair point. So I guess you won’t mind if I bring my flatmate tonight? She’s hot.’ Alice looked him up and down, ‘got a feeling she’ll like you.’

‘Well I can only hope so, I do like to please.’

‘I bet you do.’

‘You’d win good money on that.’

‘Of course I would,’ she said giggling, placing her left hand on her hip, ‘I could spend it on my boyfriend.’

‘Well I am sorry,’ he rushed, ‘but I really cannot stand for such blasphemy as words like ‘boyfriend’ to be uttered in my presence, it really does go against everything I stand for. But I absolutely will see you and your hopefully gorgeous friend tonight; everyone’s coming over about eight. Bring drinks, though I’ve a stack load at mine.’ Williams flashed a roguish smile and span on his polished Chelsea boot heels, sharply catching himself on the three-hundred-and-sixtieth degree, his coal black trench coat billowing behind, ‘don’t miss it, it’s going to be a good one.’ Before she could reply, he smiled again and left the room.

That evening Williams prepared his house for the rush of people. He had collected the numbers of everyone he had spoken to during the day. Everyone was bringing at least one other with them, some their entire flats. A wave of excitement had seemed to have swept through the group when he had offered a place in which everyone can meet and drink without fear of consequence, and over twenty people were expected to start arriving in less than twenty minutes time. Believing that one’s body is one’s best form of advertisement, he had taken time to choose a suitable outfit for the night; a slim-fitting white work shirt from Hugo Boss open to the third button from top, skinny black jeans from a high street brand he didn’t particularly care to remember and his black Chelsea boots that gave him almost an extra inch. He also wore a dark grey fitted blazer from Religion that had a close, Italian fit with worn, 70’s styling. It fitted perfectly. Nothing is more degrading than ill-fitting clothes. His appearance was vital; a person is only who other people say they are, not who they hold themselves to be in the eye of a crowd. Beauty is the perfect state of nature’s destination; it is impossible to be meretricious. There is gaudiness, which is false and often its own downfall, or splendour – of design, of accident and of experience, which is its own value and a currency few have the capacity or will to trade in. Williams had realised a long time ago through observation that it was the presentation of a person or an act, not the reality of the person, or act itself that determined the social response to it. If one were to act with charm and grace, carry with them an air of intellect, sophistication, and display wit, one can escape judgement for any number of evils. He would be a reasonable man, and reason does not submit to evil. If one were to carry themselves as a beast however, and display lecherous behaviour without charm or guile, and present themself as having no taste or evidence of intellect then they will bear the burden of judgement for their actions and they will be regarded as a beast that does not know better than its innately primitive and objectionable nature. As such, as he had a gift by virtue of his very nature, he sought to be nothing less than perfectly charming at all times and be gregarious in his portrayal of the intellectual reprobate. The universal sin – the pursuit of pleasure – to Williams seemed an art form, and all art a fabrication of intellect. It is utterly unnecessary, and so in its way more human than any of the organic compulsions such as breathing, eating and mating, which are common to all animals. His portrayal of integrity and goodness was not dishonest; he had begun a journey of the mind as much as the senses in unravelling all that was to be unravelled in order to appreciate the very value of experience.

The house filled up and as each person arrived, Williams directed them to the quite formidable stack of alcohol that he had moved to the kitchen table. Everyone commented on how splendid his house was, and he felt a swell of pride and good feeling towards everyone. All in all thirty six people had arrived and were spilling out of the living room and into the hallway and kitchen, all talking and laughing noisily above music coming from the large speakers Williams had set up downstairs. The atmosphere was that unique one of delightful exploration that overcomes a group of people who do not know each other but wish to make friends, and after an hour of casual mingling and sharing names, everyone descended on the living room, where the tables were put in the middle, and everyone crowded around on their knees to play drinking games. The order of the game, involving cards, quickly deteriorated and became instead a series of increasingly senseless dares and truths, and Williams lost track of events, his perception collapsing into a series of vivid frozen moments in time whereby he was sat at the table beside two girls, his glass held to his mouth and the vile mixture within it pouring down his throat followed by a moment in the hallway with one of the boys whose name he couldn’t fathom and Anne, whom he had made to laugh and whose waist he found his hand gently resting up on. He looked back into the living room, which was dark and loud, and spotted Jamie on a sofa, fiddling with something on his lap while some people at his feet on the floor spoke, one of them, a dark haired girl with a nose piercing threw her head back and let out an uninhibited howl of mirth, and seemed not to care that she attracted some alarmed looks from across the room. Anne approached him, telling him she had to leave early. She gave an excuse and seemed desperately sorry, and Williams, disappointed, told her he would see her tomorrow and arranged to see a film the next evening after university. Nonetheless peeved, Williams passed into the kitchen, the only room in which there was a reasonable amount of light which illuminated a scene of empty bottles and cans strewn on the table and work top while caps littered the floor. The torn cardboard of beer boxes had turned dark and soft where a can had spilled, compounded by the smell of larger, perfume, and cigarette smoke seeping in from the open back door, outside of which people had gathered. By the table was Alice, and with her a friend.

‘Well hello again,’ she said, ‘seriously nice place, how’d you manage this?’

‘Oh you know, bit of luck and charm goes a long way,’ he paused, paranoid that he had lurched rather than stepped towards the pair of girls and straightened, placing a hand on the table. He seemed fine, ‘rich dead relatives help too of course.’ He recovered his composure with a knowing smile in Alice’s friends direction, ‘I am sorry, how rude. Jack Williams, pleased to meet you.’

She was beautiful. Taller than Alice, her eyes were almost level with Williams’. She had a slim build and glowing, naturally olive skin contoured with generous and feminine curves revealed by an outfit seemingly designed to titillate the mind by hinting at everything one may wish to see yet displaying none of it. Her face was fine and pretty, and reminded Williams of nobility, with high cheek bones and a broad forehead. Her nose had been slightly offset by an apparent break, but it did not diminish her looks. She bore a gregarious, large smile, and spoke with a loud, confident voice.

‘Liz. I can see what Alice was on about, bet you’re a bit of a heartbreaker aren’t you Williams?’

Alice blushed, ‘Liz!’

‘He doesn’t mind, do you Wills?’

Williams smiled and feigned a modest sweeping gesture with his hands, ‘absolutely not, but what I do mind is that I don’t have a drink.’ He took up a can of cider and opened it, taking from it a large gulp. At that moment Jamie bustled into the room beside him, nodding in the direction of two boys as they came from outside.

‘Jack. Ladies. Listen,’ he came close to Williams’ ear, speaking softly with a slight slur and leaning heavily on his shoulder while his breath condensed on Williams’ cheek, leaving it moist, ‘taxi’s into town are on their way, but don’t worry, we have adequate time to remove ourselves from this reality and obliterate our perceptions of this mundane realm.’

‘Sorry what?’

‘Drugs, mate. I have in my pocket a diminutive’ – he stumbled over the word two or three times – ‘yet none-the-less potent arsenal of narcotics that should make tonight interesting for us to say the least.’

Alice looked alarmed, but looked nowhere else other than Jamie. She seemed to have forgotten the boyfriend she claimed earlier in the day. Perhaps he had never existed. Liz gave a rye, expectant smile towards Williams, who was overcome by a burning sensation of curiosity, nervousness and the knowledge that a sensational chance was upon him. ‘Best get on it then, eh?’

They went outside where Jamie produced what appeared to be two long, thick cigarettes and a small plastic re-sealable bag full of small white parcels made from cigarette paper. ‘Right mate, you light up our joint, we’ve not got long. Girls this one is for you if you want. We won’t get through two as was the plan.’ Jamie gave one of the joints and a lighter to Williams and Liz took the other. She offered it to Alice, who hesitated, and took a small inhalation, never taking her eyes of Jamie. Williams inhaled the strangely scented and smooth smoke. He had tried cigarettes a couple of weeks before, but this was nothing like it. It felt softer, instead of the harsh chemical tang of the nicotine. He liked it, but did not know why – an enthralling sensation that began a series of considerations interrupted by a wave of dizziness and disconnection as the first, deep drags hit him.

‘Woah, nice stuff.’ He held back a cough as he passed the joint to Jamie who had tucked his little back away.

‘Cheers, right, who’s up for some Mandy? My treat.’

‘Mandy?’ Asked Alice, passing her smoke to Liz.

‘MDMA. Ecstasy. It’s good. I mean, I was going to get coke but I’m as new here as you guys, not got the contacts yet. Sorted this out with the weed though. Looked pretty pure. One now, one an hour later. Trust me guys, it’s the best. You’ll be drifting with the angels,’ he motioned wildly and stumbled backwards slightly, slurring and taking a drag of the joint from Liz, ‘all you want to do is smile and touch people, gets you in touch with each other.’ He made a vague gesture towards Williams and Liz, grinning as smoke billowed from his mouth, ‘also it makes the boring fuckers interesting, what’s not to like?’

Without thinking, Williams took two of the parcels in Jamie’s out stretched hand and swallowed one with a swig from his can. He passed it around, and felt warm, and connected to the people around him. As he passed Jamie the remainder of the joint, an assured calm dominated him and closed around him, and curiosities drove themselves to the fore of his mind. The lights seemed vaguely brighter, everything had its own allure, nothing more so than Liz, with whom he spoke while Jamie lent against the wall, talking to Alice, only looking mildly interested, his real attention being somewhere inside of himself. Williams liked Jamie, he seemed to him to be the absolute ideal – Jamie understood that the world existed to be explored, and that they were the pioneers of the senses. There is nothing left of value in the world other than that which one may feel.

Someone poked their head out of the door to the kitchen, ‘taxis are here. You guys not got glow sticks on yet? Come on, it’s a neon night, loads of paint and glowy stuff in the living room.’

‘Oh shit man it’s a neon night. All that glowing shit!’ Jamie sparked into life and bounded into the house, effervescent with excitement. He could be heard from outside shouting, ‘glow sticks are gonna blow our fucking minds later Jack! Fuck!’

That night Liz and Williams stayed by each other’s side without pause, increasingly enthralled by each other’s apparent interest in each other. She was no fool, and no doe-eyed dear caught unawares. But the girl had immediately been attracted to Williams, who had charmed her with his charismatic sensuality and desire to live and create an atmosphere of joy. He spent the night embracing everyone, secretly in wonder of it all while externally donning the mask of a seasoned veteran, ensuring no one was long or without a drink for more than a second after witnessing them as being so. His urbanity and enthusiasm towards everyone he met set him out, even from Jamie Lee, who ghosted through the evening and passed out early on and needed to be taken home by Alice. Her friend Liz found herself with Williams on the dance floor where the lights flared intensely all round them; through smoky wisps of silver-grey that hung like tortured mirrors in the air, violent reds gave way to neon blues and viridian greens that blazed into searing orange and piercing yellow, all of which burned through Williams’s closed eyelids to map across his senses a dense wall painted by a confused rainbow as each colour lingered a second after its passing, mixing with the next while being muted by his eyes being closed into a vaguely shaded flash of brightness. Overcome, his vision retreated behind his hearing, which was blasted by constant waves of sound that had ceased to be music, and were instead a pure wall of vibrations wracking his body and shaking his mind. Perhaps it was the drugs, but every single pulsation resonated through his skull, swirling and contorting and growing deafening from within his eardrums. All sense of rhythm or melody died to the frenetic movements this audio assault forced upon the pair as they clawed at each other, their hands desperately grasping to keep a hold of each other as the crowd around them seethed and closed in on them from all sides, pushing and swaying them as they never once opened their eyes or removed their mouths from each other’s. Their kisses were no less brutal. Everything had become rage and irresistible, nothing could save them from falling through the night and the only safe place became this point of intimate contact where fury and lust mustered their strengths and forced themselves upon the senses. Touch mixed with taste and smell and created the reactions in the body that satisfy the sexual urge only so far as increasing it; sight and sound, opened utterly by the drugs and crushed completely by the surroundings gave way to only the sensation of the kissing, and Williams’s mind was taken captive by a singular notion; more. More was needed and thirsted after, and his kisses became more furious, Liz’s hands more desperate as her nails sunk into his neck and waist, and he picked her up, her legs around him, and broke away from her mouth to kiss her sweat-streaked neck and finally shout in her ear to leave. Whether she heard him he simply did not care to register, he put her down and took her hand, pulling her through the crowd to the exit.

When they burst into his house, they made it little further. Crashing into the living room, Williams kicked his shoes off and flung his jacket into the room, and fell more upon her than beside her on the sofa. There, she held a tyranny over his senses and held him close as set about each other in a frenzied passion. With hands at once tremulous and timid, but also self-assured and frantic as if time were sure to run out, Williams removed Liz’s clothing, revealing a beautiful body that he sought to devour. There was no time for nerves, or any considerations. The toxic combination of alcohol, the drugs and very essence of this woman cast aside all but the physical reality of the moment. Previous seconds were destroyed by the arrival of next. She kissed him with an amorous sweetness as they grew closer that mellowed his frantic efforts and his lips fell upon her not with an air of desperation, as had taken hold of them both earlier, but with a sense of perpetuity. For that night they felt they were immortal. They entwined in silence disturbed only by the ardent noises that escaped them as he gave her proof of his hitherto unsatisfied passions into the deepest hours of the morning. She did things to him that he did not believe, even in this state of intoxicated inhibition and sexual candidness, he could ask of her, and she awoke in him the primal pleasures and passions that he had contemplated must exist, and which he had often dreamed illicit fantasies of, but which had also never even occurred to him. He had always known it, but now had no choice in them dominating him entirely. She, in turn, was delighted by the longevity imbued to his stamina by the alcohol, and fulfilled by the things he did to her, believing him to not be a virgin for lack of asking him and by virtue of his skills, which he had gained by dint of his natural affinity for touch and care in understanding the body and by having consumed every piece of material on how best to be a lover he could find. It was daylight when they looked out of the window from the sofa, holding each other naked and talking softly. They had to shower and dress in haste and leave before nine without rest. After a strong coffee they left, blinking into the morning brightness and so the week continued, and Williams would see Anne that evening.

This is the re-worked Chapter 2; it isn't as heavily restructured as Chapter 1, but it too has incorporated some of the prologue - less directly, in that little text has been transferred here, but more in a suggestive sense; some interests and traits, instead of being described in detail as in the prologue, are suggested through examples and ideas here, and left for the reader to interpret. I've focused on giving Williams a greater emotional and academic attachment to his house and it being more representative of his ideas and feelings, and using it as a gateway to explore his deeper reasoning behind his neurotic dandyism, which I've made more explicit in detail and knowingness.

I'm pleased with it. I think it's more interesting, more visual, and more sensual. It's stronger than it was to my mind and my eyes, but I can't make it as good as I can without more feedback, so I'd appreciate it so much if anyone who reads this just leaves a thought or two.

Chapter 2

Nine days passed, in which time Williams was made busy by preparations for his new house. It had been a matter of urgency to orchestrate the redecoration of the house as the old décor was rather against his tastes, and was in need of maintenance regardless. It had been almost two decades since fresh paint had been applied, and the colours were far from suitable. Williams had contacted a decorating firm his father had previously used and given high praise to, and entrusted them with his new home after running all suggestions and requirements through an interior designer of excellent repute from Notting Hill his mother knew, who, charmed by William’s concern over the quality of the building’s aesthetic and the good taste in his suggestions for a man of such a young age, offered the contact details of people who could be trusted to bring the property up to standard. Williams wished for the property to reach its full potential after years of merely being satisfactory; the idea of such a perfect building being wasted was a dreadful injustice to him. The debasement of beauty was to him the cruellest of crimes. Williams wished for a place not just of comfort, but of perfect presentation, pleasure and leisure. An abode, to Williams, should be one’s ultimate expression of the self, and must be perfectly in tune with one’s emotions. It would be a charming canvas on which to paint his individuality.

He spent the following days perambulating about the county, in constant contact with his decorators, ensuring, in the moments that he could not be there to oversee their work, that it was moving along satisfactorily and that the results were as he desired. As he researched and came upon each component necessary to complete his house, he would have it sent immediately, or as soon as it could be to that destination with detailed instructions as to where and how it must become a part of his domain, trusting in the skill and good reasoning of the workmen to see that it was done correctly.

Williams approached the issue room by room beginning with the entrance hall, which to the left led into the living room at the front of the house, to the kitchen at the back, a toilet room between them, and contained the stairs to the upper floors and below those the lower floor, both of which were wide enough for two people to use in opposite directions without dispute. The hallway was of vital importance, being the beginning of the house and the first impression of it. In order to convey a sense of warmth and welcome in any light, he elected for a soft terracotta made lighter by mixing into it cornsilk white and lavender blush. This adorned the walls, and was paired with an ivory ceiling, which ran throughout the level in every room. The floors throughout the level were oak wood planking given a dark, mahogany wash, which were both pleasing to the eye and functional for cleaning, which was to be carried out three times a week by a hired firm. In the hallway, the light would be provided by a row of lamps on the left wall, the bulbs suspended by upward-extending brass stalks which he found in an antique shop in Hythe that rather reminded Williams of a swan’s neck, the head facing downwards and sheathing the bright, flame coloured bulbs in clear glass to give the impression of inverted candles, or glowing frozen tears. On the opposite wall was a row of coat pegs near the door, and a large mirror that once belonged to a pub just before the ascending stairs, which, along with the descending stairs beneath them, were given a strip of warm red carpet with a dark goldenrod internal boarder, leaving the edges of the dark wood stairs exposed.

The living room was large and rectangular and would be the central area of the house. It was of utmost importance that it was comfortable, fashionable, and contained no obstructions to conversation. The door entering was at the far end of the room, and was, as were all doors in the house, to be white, four panelled pinewood planks that opened inwards and were set into slight, delicate frames. The two large sash windows that flooded the room with light were adorned with light wooden horizontal blinds. The walls were painted floral white mixed with honeydew, offset by the dark wooden structural beams in the ceiling that matched the dark flooring and which gave masculine cohesion to the otherwise slightly feminine room. In daylight it gained a healthy aura as the bright off-white walls resembled enormous petals, while in darkness it retained the light of the eight spot lights inserted between the beams, which were connected to a dimmer switch by the door. The floor was covered in the centre of the room by a large, elaborate round Venetian rug Williams discovered at an auction, which was decorated by hexagonal mellow jasmine coloured lines surrounded by an ostentatious boarder of the same colour depicting flowers, all set into a deep Byzantium background. It was flamboyant and rather garish, and therefore perfect. It would divide opinions, as all exquisite things should. A large, chocolate divan corner sofa took up the corner opposite the door, and was accompanied on the adjoining wall by a companion piece. In front of these were two low Japanese cherry wood tables. In the corner diagonal to this arrangement was to be a large forty-seven inch flat screen Sony television screen hooked up to surround sound speakers which were to be placed in the as yet unused corners. It was a simple room that at once had the space in which to waltz about by day, but come evening gave itself to intimacy. It represented to him the perfect idea of bohemian prettiness. Williams was an ideas person; his lonely childhood had pushed him into his own imagination, fuelled by his powerful intellect and filtered by his ability to wryly observe, which left a greater mark on him than many due to his native sensitivity. Though his fantasies, locked inside his mind, Jack Williams had, he believed, come upon the means by which he would achieve the experience of authentic being, and living a life as much a piece of art in its sensual creativity as a human life lived, which he observed were often clumsy and marked by inelegance.

The toilet room next door was bright, with magnolia walls, a white porcelain sink with a simple mirror above it and a toilet complimented, all by chrome taps and handles, and illuminated by a white-bulbed spotlight. As a room in which minimal time was spent, minimal detail and expense would be afforded, but being the intimate setting that it was, quality and comfort were of course essential.

The kitchen was an opportunity for functional extravagance. The walls were to be the same floral white and honeydew mixed colour as the lounge, adorned with light beech wood units above and below the work surface, which was formed from three dark grey, polished granite slabs with veins of a lighter grey streaking across them as would lightning across storm clouds. The new appliances for the room had been delivered to the house on the second day of decoration, much to the chagrin of the decorators for whom these sizeable objects got in the way. A large multi-layer stainless steel double oven sat at eye level atop a heating chamber on the left hand wall at the end of the work surface after it had negotiated the far corner. Beside the door, against the wall behind which the stairs were to be found in the hall was tucked the large American-style fridge-freezer which Williams had bought with his own money and desired to take with him after his time here. Beside that was the back door which opened on to the paving-stone garden, which Williams found entirely uninspiring. In the centre of the kitchen was a plain and slightly worn pine table that Williams had spotted in a wood chip yard some months before. He enjoyed the character of the piece, and had it stripped, smoothed and re-varnished. Around this were six matching chairs with red inbuilt cushions held in place by bronze tacks, which had once belonged to a pub – the same as the hallway’s mirror, and which Williams had sent to a carpenters to have stripped and re-varnished from their original near-black finish to a bespoke lighter brown that matched the table. This was illuminated by more dimmer-operated spot lights rimmed by stainless steel, which were installed in three rows of two between the two dark beams that divided the ceiling. The decorators had found the kitchen the most challenging part of the house on account of the number of extra workmen who would come and go to ensure that the various elements were correctly installed and finished to the highest quality. Williams himself had unknowingly slowed the process by anxiously appearing unannounced to personally watch over proceedings and asking questions about every technique and every precaution being carried out to ensure nothing was damaged.

It was on one of these visits, three days before he was due to move in that Williams took to the downstairs level, as the finishing touches therein were being finished, in order to think. This would be something he would repeat infinitely, as this was to be his study room, his private compartment in which all of his time would be spent once the house was completed. This study was his London; the dark, murky London of the Victorian Era while the decadent bedroom above was in contrast to be his Paris or perhaps Venice, or Verona, and his living room the Bohemian exploration between East and West. The study room was accessed by the door under the stairs, through which one descended down a dark staircase lines by a brass rail mounted on a wall painted in eminence purple, as were the rest of the walls in the room. On closer inspection, that dark hue of purple was patterned by the yet darker Byzantium purple in a baroque paisley pattern, of which Williams was fond. It conjured in his mind images of romantic Bohemia and yet also regality, and played an interesting dance with the shadows on the wall in the low-lighting of the room. The dark helped him to think, he had always had an affinity for it. The way the soft saffron light played against the mud-red walls brought them to a baked warmth in light, and a natural earthy-crimson in the shadow. Those walls were lined with dark, baroque bookshelves lacquered to a dark bistre, ready to be lined with books.

Reading proved to be Jack Williams’ great escape, discovered young yet only becoming his passion well into his teens, which were a lonely time for him. By virtue of his education, he was exposed to a number of great texts which would leave an indelible effect upon him; 1984, Lord of the Flies and Catcher In the Rye introduced him to the art form – as opposed to the simple practice – of writing. Later, he was presented with Shakespeare’s works; Macbeth, Hamlet and his favourite, The Tempest, which in turn led to his education in Gothic novels; Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Picture of Dorian Grey, which of all the books he ever read, shaped him the most, akin almost the that poisonous French novel Lord Henry lent Dorian, which Williams identified as Karl-Joris Huysmans’ Against Nature, which he too drunk upon. Through these texts, Williams gained an insatiable appetite for the very art of wordsmithery, and was set for a while down the path of Realism, Flaubert’s A Sentimental Education and Tolstoy’s War and Peace, before delving into translations from Emile Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series, finding particular satisfaction in The Drinking Den and The Masterpiece. From these books, he looked within the Decadent movement, already where he felt at home, backwards through history, settling, via Shelley and Keats, on Lord Byron’s form of Romanticism, with which he would forever be in love. Romantic poetry, and by extension of his curiosity Baudelaire, another favourite, did Rimbaud, Verlaine and Stéphane Mallarmé become the source of much of his intellectual and sensual inspiration, and shaped his desires in every sense, for every sense. He preferred to set a scene to read such things; he darkened his room – son to be his study – and lit candles; he sipped a little wine – later a lot of wine – and set about the place incenses, perfumes and scents which, under the tutelage of Des Esseintes, he felt complemented the emotions of what he read, often mysterious odours, like myrrh, hovenia, rondeletia, all-spice and cherry blossom. Williams then happened upon the beat movement in his research of the romantics, the beat’s preoccupation with emotion, experience, sex and drugs – much like the romantics – drawing him in. He read Charles Bukowski’s poetry before his novels, and would re-read them regularly, and felt a grim yearning for the gutter; Ginsberg’s poems and William S. Burroughs’ Junky; Neal Cassady’s letters and the paramount – the enduring heart of the beats, which was again fashionable among the new generation of hipsters, Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. Its pages had a more profound effect on his psyche than anything he had yet come across; it reformed the nature of his understanding of his very desires, and opened his eyes as to how they may be obtained. In Dean Moriarty, he found inspiration. In Jack Kerouac, a spirit guide through whose approach his own philosophy might be realised.

These packed book cases brought the walls inwards, making the space smaller and claustrophobic, a sensation he found sated his nyctophila and thus pleasing and more intense due to the relatively low height ceiling. Between these book cases, against the far wall, he had inserted a large glass four-layered case with a mirrored back and internal spotlighting built into each shelf. It was large enough to reach the ceiling, which in this room was painted to be a uniquely darkened eggshell. The murky floor was adorned in luxurious Persian rugs of conflicting ochre, carmine and imperial purple hues that melded together into a theatrically overwhelming wall of warming, complicated patterns.

The windows were covered with black blinds, so to emit no light save for halos of daylight that gave the room a sepultural essence, and reminded Williams of a solar eclipse, which to him was one of the most stunning events in nature. Below these windows was an old desk found in a maritime antique shop in Rochester and had once belonged to an Officer. On it sat the only functioning electronic light in the room, an ancient brass lamp from the same shop, and his computer. There were also a set of large Jo Malone vanilla-scented candles; Williams’ most adored scent. The flicker of the flames excited all of Williams’ senses; the joyful orange of their burning highlighting and shadowing the room, the near-silent sound of the burning, the gentle heat of their glow, the slight taste of burning that filled the air, and the fragrance that added a fragrant perfume to the room that mixed with the heavy musk of the rug and leather of his chair to invoke a sense of intimate claustrophobia that pleased the young man. It was an absolutely and delightfully decadent atmosphere. The desk was vast and dark, and slightly battered with some small ink stains, which Williams kept for character. It had three draws on each side of a foot-well for a chair, which was large enough for a brand new luxurious leather piece on bronze rollers. It was a seat to sink into and contemplate, in which he felt disconnected from the world and alone with his thoughts. The salesman had attempted to sell him a version with internal heating pads, but seeing as Williams loathed being too warm, especially from beneath he declined in favour of an antique which he had refurbished. He found it uncomfortable for his system. Even summer heat rarely sat well with him, and he was looking forward to the chilled bareness of winter.

Four days later Williams closed his heavy black front door to the decorators for the final time and stepped in with the intention of staying for the first time. Everything was complete, and all of his possessions moved in. He ascended the softly carpeted stairs, thinking about what he had created. He had created freedom. It was more than that; he had created his own life, and set himself on a course from which there was now no turning back. His younger years would be vindicated, his isolation reversed. His sensual drought, which had for so long haunted him, could now be brought to an end and all constraints that for so long had caged his very nature were removed. The passions within him could now find their outlet, his dreams no longer shadows on the walls.

He entered his new bedroom from the landing, which was decorated in the same manner as the hall below. What acts would this room see, he asked himself. If only he could reach forward in time and spy upon what lay in store, the deeds that would transpire. He had designed the room to magnify the sensual. It was a room in which women were to be entertained, and thirsts sated. The bed was in the middle of the room, the head against the wall. It was a double divan. The sheets were satin, soft and dark, so that naked bodies stood out against them. The central curiosity of the room had been inspired by a most fascinating book that sat downstairs in his study; the walls, panelled with light oakwood up to thigh-height, painted lilac up until a protruding white border and indulin blue, which descended from the entirely of the ceiling down to the upper portion of the walls against which the bed was set was adorned with three vast mirrors, divided by matching, plain black frames. Two more were placed in the opposing corners. Together they overlooked the entire room, such that from any position one might see oneself, or one’s muse from multiple angles in an endless reflection. It gave eternity to the body. Beside these mirrors, in each corner of the room were archaic bronze lamps with vermillion shades, so to cast a subtle, warm rose-pink light across the room ensuring that the naked contours of the bodies he would invite back were stepped in contrasting shadows and highlights, their skin bathed in an erotic rosy glow affording the scene an atmosphere of lust and sensuality. The light would rejuvenate tired skin. It would be a voluptuous delight to steep the women he brought to the room in endless reflections of themselves – to witness their every charm from every angle at once, and marvel at their refracted allure made perfect by the dark, delicate conditions of the room. Opposite to the mirrors were the windows, their light during the day reflected back around the room making it bright and warm without the need for heating. The floor was carpeted cream, the slight coolness designed such as to absorb some of the redness of the lamplight, to retain a coolness, and ensure the atmosphere did not become muggy. Beside the bed, on either side, were small hollow cabinets which, like all the furniture in the room, were of natural oak. In one was a large Panasonic sound system and storage for CDs, in the other, connected to the former by wires that ran under the bed, were two large speakers side-by-side. Williams enjoyed the sensation of music rising from beneath him, as it allowed his mind and thoughts to drift upon imagined rising notes. The bass would also give to the bed an enjoyable sensation of movement and intimacy from their position, cocooning the bed in his chosen music. To the side was a large wardrobe built into the wall, where he orderly stores his cascade of elegance, sophistication and quality, all designer labels and fine materials; his preferred brands were Hugo Boss for their timeless cut, clean lines and elegance, and planned for his shoes, jumpers and suits to be of their range. His true tastes, however, were reflected by Ted Baker’s take on the modern dandy; the flamboyant use of colour and unusual patterns, and it was from them that he would design the majority of his aesthetic. Williams chose his coats from Armani for their timeless class and excellent fit, and his leather jackets, as well as casual summer wear from All Saints, and occasionally The Kooples, which allowed him to indulge his passion for the Rock ‘N Roll mien.

Pleased, Williams stood on the landing. To his left was the bathroom, directly above the downstairs toilet room but larger. The floor was covered in water-tight light stone tiles, the walls were bright, and the bath was an enormous cast iron tub with ornate lion’s feet that had required six men to hoist up the stairs. The room was otherwise distinctly modern. The second bedroom on the floor was accessed via a door adjoining that of Williams’s bedroom and the bathroom, and was left relatively plain, with considerations given to comfort and a generic fashionable look that maximised sunlight. In there, Williams had placed two double beds, despite there not being quite enough room as a place for people to stay if they so needed.

The floor upstairs, which contained another two bedrooms and a shower room, was for now to be used as his gym area. Williams had the larger bedroom fitted with impact absorbing tiles all across the floor, and had the floor reinforced with several steel girders inserted beneath the original floorboards so that heavy weights could be dropped as needed without fear of the ceiling below caving in. The walls adjacent to the front wall, with its large windows, were completely mirrored, the back wall given a thick coat of white. A bar crossed the entire room at above eye level, from which Williams could hang and perform any manner of pull up. The room was furnished simply; a squat rack, and three times his bodyweight in weights, along with a selection of bars and benches. Williams would retreat to this room daily, as was his habit, and leave the windows wide open such that a breeze may roll in yet no one outside could look in and disturb his work. The second, smaller upstairs bedroom was given over to storage.

The house was more than he needed, but he wanted no less. He went back downstairs to his study room, where without thinking he poured himself some whisky from a bottle he had placed in the mirrored cabinet, and, sinking into his chair, gave himself up to thoughts of the next day, when he would be meeting the rest of his year at university. A rush of nerves struck him.

Right then, this is the second chapter of my ongoing novel, Senses Prevail. Following

The Prologue and Chapter 1, here the main character sets up his new house and sets about beginning university. It was once a pretty long chapter, but I have since re-worked it an divided it into two.

I really enjoyed writing this chapter, and I hope it shows in the writing. It explores his tastes and psychology somewhat, and it was just a great chance to lay out a lot if hints about his character and inclinations. I hope you enjoy reading, and I'd love more than anything to know what you think - good and especially bad - and anything you guys detect that might make it better upon further drafting.

Chapter 2

Nine days passed, in which time Williams was made busy by preparations for his new house. It had been a matter of urgency to orchestrate the redecoration of the house as the old décor was rather against his tastes, and was in need of maintenance regardless. It had been almost two decades since fresh paint had been applied, and the colours were far from suitable. Williams had contacted a decorating firm his father had previously used and given high praise to, and entrusted them with his new home after running all suggestions and requirements through the house’s owner, who, charmed by William’s concern over the quality of the building’s aesthetic and the good taste in his suggestions, fronted the money required to bring the property up to standard. She wished for her property to reach its full potential after years of merely being satisfactory, and Williams wished for a place not just of comfort, but of perfect presentation, pleasure and leisure. An abode, to Williams, should be one’s ultimate expression of the self, and must be perfectly in tune with one’s emotions. It would be a charming canvas on which to paint his individuality.

He spent the following days perambulating about the county, in constant contact with his decorators, ensuring, in the moments that he could not be there to oversee their work, that it was moving along satisfactorily and that the results were as he desired. As he researched and came upon each component necessary to complete his house, he would have it sent immediately, or as soon as it could be to that destination with detailed instructions as to where and how it must become a part of his domain, trusting in the skill and good reasoning of the workmen to see that it was done correctly.

Williams approached the issue room by room beginning with the entrance hall, which to the left led into the living room at the front of the house, to the kitchen at the back, a toilet room between them, and contained the stairs to the upper floors and below those the lower floor, both of which were wide enough for two people to use in opposite directions without dispute. The hallway was of vital importance, being the beginning of the house and the first impression of it. In order to convey a sense of warmth and welcome in any light, he elected for a soft terracotta made lighter by mixing into it cornsilk white and lavender blush. This adored the walls, and was paired with an ivory ceiling, which ran throughout the level in every room. The floors throughout the level were oak wood planking given a dark, mahogany wash, which were both pleasing to the eye and functional. In the hallway, the light would be provided by a row of lamps on the left wall, the bulbs suspended by upward-extending brass stalks which he found in an antique shop in Hythe that rather reminded Williams of a swan’s neck, the head facing downwards and sheathing the bright, flame coloured bulbs in clear glass to give the impression of inverted candles, or glowing frozen tears. On the opposite wall was a row of coat pegs near the door, and a large mirror that once belonged to a pub just before the ascending stairs, which, along with the descending stairs beneath them, were given a strip of warm red carpet with a dark goldenrod internal boarder, leaving the edges of the dark wood stairs exposed.

The living room was large and rectangular and would be the central area of the house. It was of utmost importance that it was comfortable, fashionable, and contained no obstructions to conversation. The door entering was at the far end of the room, and was, as were all doors in the house, to be white, four panelled pinewood planks that opened inwards and were set into slight, delicate frames. The two large sash windows that flooded the room with light were adorned with light wooden horizontal blinds. The walls were painted floral white mixed with honeydew, offset by the dark wooden structural beams in the ceiling that matched the dark flooring and which gave masculine cohesion to the otherwise slightly feminine room. In daylight it gained a healthy aura as the bright off-white walls resembled enormous petals, while in darkness it retained the light of the eight spot lights inserted between the beams, which were connected to a dimmer switch by the door. The floor was covered in the centre of the room by a large, elaborate round Venetian rug Williams discovered at an auction, which was decorated by hexagonal mellow jasmine coloured lines surrounded by an ostentatious boarder of the same colour depicting flowers, all set into a deep Byzantium background. It was flamboyant and rather garish, and therefore perfect. It would divide opinions, as all exquisite things should. A large, chocolate divan corner sofa took up the corner opposite the door, and was accompanied on the adjoining wall by a companion piece. In front of these were two low Japanese Cherry wood tables. In the corner diagonal to this arrangement was to be a large forty-seven inch flat screen Sony television screen hooked up to surround sound speakers which were to be placed in the as yet unused corners. It was a simple room that at once had the space in which to waltz about by day, but come evening gave itself to intimacy.

The toilet room next door was bright, with magnolia walls, a white porcelain sink with a simple mirror above it and a toilet complimented, all by chrome taps and handles, and illuminated by a white-bulbed spotlight. As a room in which minimal time was spent, minimal detail and expense would be afforded, but being the intimate setting that it was, quality and comfort were of course essential.

The kitchen was an opportunity for functional extravagance. The walls were to be the same floral white and honeydew mixed colour as the lounge, adorned with light beech wood units above and below the work surface, which was formed from three dark grey, polished granite slabs with veins of a lighter grey streaking across them as would lightning across storm clouds. The new appliances for the room had been delivered to the house on the second day of decoration, much to the chagrin of the decorators for whom these sizeable objects got in the way. A large multi-layer stainless steel double oven sat at eye level atop a heating chamber on the left hand wall at the end of the work surface after it had negotiated the far corner. Beside the door, against the wall behind which the stairs were to be found in the hall was tucked the large American-style fridge-freezer which Williams had bought with his own money and desired to take with him after his time here. Beside that was the back door which opened on to the paving-stone garden, which Williams found entirely uninspiring. In the centre of the kitchen was a plain and slightly worn pine table that Williams had spotted in a wood chip yard some months before.

He enjoyed the character of the piece, and had it stripped, smoothed and re-varnished. Around this were six matching chairs with red inbuilt cushions held in place by bronze tacks, which had once belonged to a pub – the same as the hallway’s mirror, and which Williams had sent to a carpenters to have stripped and re-varnished from their original near-black finish to a bespoke lighter brown that matched the table. This was illuminated by more dimmer-operated spot lights rimmed by stainless steel, which were installed in three rows of two between the two dark beams that divided the ceiling. The decorators had found the kitchen the most challenging part of the house on account of the number of extra workmen who would come and go to ensure that the various elements were correctly installed and finished to the highest quality. Williams himself had unknowingly slowed the process by anxiously appearing unannounced to personally watch over proceedings and asking questions about every technique and every precaution being carried out to ensure nothing was damaged.

It was on one of these visits, three days before he was due to move in that Williams took to the downstairs level, as the finishing touches therein were being finished, in order to think. This would be something he would repeat infinitely, as this was to be his study room, his private compartment in which all of his time would be spent once the house was completed. The wall that carried on from the hallway continued it’s warm, light Terracotta fusion colour down the stairs, but the other three were being painted a truer, darker terracotta. The dark helped him to think, he had always had an affinity for it. The way the soft saffron light played against the mud-red walls brought them to a baked warmth in light, and a natural earthy-crimson in the shadow. Those walls were lined with dark, baroque bookshelves lacquered to a dark bistre, ready to be lined with books. They brought the walls inwards, making the space smaller and claustrophobic, a sensation he found pleasing and made more intense by the relatively low height of the room. Between these book cases, against the far wall, he had inserted a large glass four-layered case with a mirrored back and internal spotlighting built into each shelf. It was large enough to reach the ceiling, which in this room was painted to be a uniquely darkened eggshell. The dark floor was adorned in luxurious Persian rugs of conflicting ochre, carmine and imperial purple hues that melded together into a theatrically overwhelming wall of warming, complicated patterns.

The windows were covered with dark blinds, so to emit no light save for halos of daylight that gave the room a sepultural essence, and reminded Williams of a solar eclipse, which to him was one of the most stunning events in nature. Below these windows was an old desk found in a maritime antique shop in Rochester and had once belonged to an Officer. On it sat the only functioning light in the room, an ancient brass lamp from the same shop, and his computer. The desk was vast and dark, and slightly battered with some small ink stains, which Williams kept for character. It had three draws on each side of a foot-well for a chair, which was large enough for a brand new luxurious leather piece on chrome wheels. It was a seat to sink into and contemplate, in which he felt disconnected from the world and alone with his thoughts. The salesman had attempted to sell him a version with internal heating pads, but Williams loathed being too warm, especially from beneath. He found it uncomfortable for his system. Even summer heat rarely sat well with him, in fact, and he was looking forward to the chilled bareness of winter.

Four days later Williams closed his heavy black front door to the decorators for the final time and stepped in with the intention of staying for the first time. Everything was complete, and all of his possessions moved in. He ascended the softly carpeted stairs, thinking about what he had created. He had created freedom. It was more than that; he had created his own life, and set himself on a course from which there was now no turning back. His younger years would be vindicated, his isolation reversed. His sensual drought, which had for so long haunted him, could now be brought to an end and all constraints that for so long had caged his very nature were removed. The passions within him could now find their outlet, his dreams no longer shadows on the walls.

He entered his new bedroom from the landing, which was decorated in the same manner as the hall below. What acts would this room see, he asked himself. If only he could reach forward in time and spy upon what lay in store, the deeds that would transpire. He had designed the room to magnify the sensual. It was a room in which women were to be entertained, and thirsts sated. The bed was in the middle of the room, the head against the wall. It was a double divan. The sheets were satin, soft and dark, so that naked bodies stood out against them. The central curiosity of the room had been inspired by a most fascinating book he had once read; the wall against which the bed was set was adorned with three vast mirrors, divided by matching, plain black frames. Two more were placed in the opposing corners. Together they overlooked the entire room, such that from any position one might see oneself, or one’s muse from multiple angles in an endless reflection. It gave eternity to the body. Beside these mirrors, in each corner of the room were archaic bronze lamps with vermillion shades, so to cast a subtle, warm rose-pink light across the room ensuring that the naked contours of the bodies he would invite back were stepped in contrasting shadows and highlights, their skin bathed in an erotic rosy glow affording the scene an atmosphere of lust and sensuality. The light would rejuvenate tired skin. It would be a voluptuous delight to steep the women he brought to the room in endless reflections of themselves – to witness their every charm from every angle at once, and marvel at their refracted allure made perfect by the dark, delicate conditions of the room. Opposite to the mirrors were the windows, their light during the day reflected back around the room making it bright and warm without the need for heating. The floor was carpeted cream, and the walls seashell white, the slight coolness designed such as to absorb some of the redness of the lamplight, to retain a coolness, and ensure the atmosphere did not become muggy. Beside the bed, on either side, were small hollow cabinets which, like all the furniture in the room, were of natural oak. In one was a large Panasonic sound system and storage for CDs, in the other, connected to the former by wires that ran under the bed, were two large speakers side-by-side. Williams enjoyed the sensation of music rising from beneath him, as it allowed his mind and thoughts to drift upon imagined rising notes. The bass would also give to the bed an enjoyable sensation of movement and intimacy from their position, cocooning the bed in his chosen music.

Pleased, Williams stood on the landing. To his left was the bathroom, directly above the downstairs toilet room but larger. The floor was covered in water-tight light stone tiles, the walls were bright, and the bath was an enormous cast iron tub with ornate lion’s feet that had required six men to hoist up the stairs. The room was otherwise distinctly modern. The second bedroom on the floor was accessed via a door adjoining that of Williams’s bedroom and the bathroom, and was left relatively plain, with considerations given to comfort and a generic fashionable look that maximised sunlight. In there, Williams had placed two double beds, despite there not being quite enough room as a place for people to stay if they so needed.

The floor upstairs, which contained another two bedrooms and a shower room, was for now to be used as storage, as they were of no use to him. The house was more than he needed, but he wanted no less. He went back downstairs to his study room, where without thinking he poured himself some Whisky from a bottle he had placed in the mirrored cabinet, and, sinking into his chair, gave himself up to thoughts of the next day, when he would be meeting the rest of his year at university. A rush of nerves struck him.

I've reworked the story to not need the prologue, in doing so absorbing some of it straight into this and the next chapter, but also taking what the prologue said and writing that freshly into the rest of the book. I decided I wanted people to get to know Jack Williams through things occurring and as the story unfolds, rather than having all the background knowledge on him up front. So this is truly the opening chapter and start of the story; it lays out some key things, it establishes who Williams is and it's got more going on - in action, in characterisation, in language. I felt like the beginning needed to be more gripping and reader-friendly - less 'stuff being thrown at you in big blocks' - and more of an exploration of the sort of language and feel of the book. I'd love to know what people think of the re-written version.

I'll leave the original post below in a spoiler.

Chapter 1

The morning sky was an opaque white, a remnant from the overcast morning that had left a heavy layer of dew covering the dense summer foliage and thick blades of August grass. In the air the lingering scent of fragrant moisture and earth mixed with dampened pollen, and called to mind honeysuckle spring afternoons in the Kent countryside after a heavy rain and scenes of the rolling North Downs where the serenity of the scene is interrupted only by the chirping of birds and old oaks being frisked by the light breeze. It was a day similar in light to one ten years ago; however where this was a warm humid day at the height of summer, that had been a chillingly sharp February day characterised by thawing snow falling from branches, its white crystalline beauty corrupted on the ground by dirt thrown up by passing vehicles. On that day, Jack Williamss grandfather had died and left to him a not inconsiderable fortune made officially in business as a renowned and talented salesman and trader, and bolstered unofficially by monetary affairs regarding but not limited to the sale and provision of alcohol, European cigarettes, used cars, new cars, used new cars, scrap cars, roast beef, roast horse pretending to be roast beef, old jewellery, new jewellery, fake jewellery, other peoples jewellery, public houses, private houses, copper, and gold.

It was a sum of money intended as an investment. From it had already come his education and a small portfolio of properties bought in London during the early nineties while the housing market suffered a down turn in its otherwise upward trajectory a trajectory which had since made an amicable return on paper, and through the renting of said property another small fortune of its own which equated to yearly earnings few in this world will themselves achieve. It represented to Williams the beginning of the rest of his life; a life on his terms in which he could finally break free of the languor that had until now caused for him to endure rather than take part in lifes passing.

This inheritance, however, had been left to Jack Williams on the condition that he only be able to access it once at university and so he was once again trapped by forces beyond his control forced to live according to another. His freedom was hollow and his ambitions whatever they were; he did not truly know stifled by the expectation family and society placed upon him to live a usual life. Yet as it was everything he desired and everything he needed was unusual. There is no pleasure, no ambition in the ordinary, but, thought Williams as he scanned the milky sky from his bedroom window, in every change there is opportunity and with this money he would be able to leave these quiet, idyllic country surroundings and drag his sedentary childhood into the thrill of adulthood, and finally set about satiating his thirst for sensation that gnawing, scratching feeling at the tip of every receptor and fibre of his being that yearned to be pushed beyond his current state of perception and be brought alive; to feel the pulse of life itself that one can feel when removed from the consequences of living. Jack Williams wanted to be excited and to excite.

Later that day there was a languid tone to the hubbub of the high street, bathed as it was in bright midday sunlight, the clouds having parted, whilst the rich scents of nuts roasted in honey and cinnamon wafted through the torpid air, which was hurried along its way by the occasional breeze, gently rousing the bright early summer green leaves of the large field maples that grew down the centre of the high street and beneath which Jack Williams and his mother walked unhurriedly.

Now, this money only goes to you on the condition of you going to university. Bear that in mind before you get too excited about it.

Oh please, mother, replied Williams lethargically, dancing into each step with an enthused bob, as was his custom, with an unconsidered, charismatic energy that gave one the impression that he knew explicitly and imperturbably where he was going, I know this. I have read the will. I must have an adventure in order to pay for it.

Its the education that matters, Jack, replied the woman, seriously.

Of course. The world is a boring place if you dont know a thing about it. But listen, I really have no idea how to talk to these bank people. Its all a bit droll and its too warm for me to think about it all. Youre good with them, cant you do it in my name?

You need to learn these things.

Ill learn when the money is mine. Until its mine, it bores me dreadfully. Besides, I simply dont know what to say. Id look a fool. Its better to be a fool than look like one.

Honestly, Jack. Where do you get these ideas?

It is important to look competent, Mum. Youre a businesswoman, you know this, Williams looked his mother in the eyes, which were blue, green and hazel, and very intelligent, but tired. His mother was a beautiful woman, and extraordinarily strong willed. She was a proud woman too, with arched brows and a disposition towards cheerful indifference to risk. She was never glum, her fifty-something face, as fine and beautiful now as it was in her youth, being lined by laughter, but also marked by frown lines, as it was her habit of frowning while deep in thought or while confronting something she found distasteful. Jack Williams had the same frown, and often looked aggrieved when he was merely pensive. He respected her greatly, but he understood her, and without demanding more than she wished to give, knew how do get from her what he wanted, looks are everything these days, and increasingly so. Besides, I know I can rely on you to do it quickly and get it over and done with. We dont want this whole business thing hanging over our heads.

Fine, fine, she said with a sigh, Ill talk you through the conditions and all the boring bits when we get home. What will you do instead?

I suspect I shall amuse myself, he relied, pondering. I think Ill go workout, itll be nice to go somewhere with some air conditioning. Id prefer to sweat in the cold than in the heat.

The cars ground past slowly along the ring road, rippling in the heat waves emanating from the tarmac, torturing the languid air by breathing out carbon monoxide into the already suffocating atmosphere. Williams felt thirsty. It was a lovely day, but it was wretched. All days were recently, since Jackie left. Since her and Tony. It was a loathsome, miserable situation. But there were plenty of reasons to be cheerful now. School was done with; he had money in his pocket and freedom to spend it, as long as he went to university, which was all in order. New people, women, learning. Experiences. All the experiences he had never had himself, but that he had observed. Jack Williams had never been popular at school despite his natural charm, all because of the preconceptions built of him based on his eleven year old self. Funny how people change so much, but ideas about them do not, he thought. But now he was free from that. He had been on the wrong side of perception, but he was glad; he knew how society worked - the pack mentality of judgement. One must be judged, it was down to him to be judged well. Williams understood well enough now that personality, as far as honesty goes, will only take you so far. One must seem to be what others think one is; there is nothing else. Actions, dress, manner; these matter. What lies beneath is disregarded. Everyone is an advertisement for their own product, but like all advertisement, the advert matters more than what it is trying to sell, which is always replaceable.

Williams spent the afternoon in the gym. It was his meditation; here there was nothing but him and his body, which Williams set about forging to a level befitting the high expectations and sexuality as described by the media he consumed; his diet became a carefully calculated, highly nutritious indulgence of strictly quality whole food goods to fuel a methodical and scientifically planned exercise regime of running in the mornings and weightlifting in the evenings that produced a sculpted athletic figure; a renaissance man wrought in breathing marble. His shoulders, already naturally broad, became strong and flexed with muscle tissue; his chest proud and chiselled; his arms did not have a propensity for size but did become strong and vascular, his legs thick and robust, his stomach was firm and lean, and his grip sensitive yet powerful. Growing up, Jack Williams had been neither the strongest nor the healthiest child. When he was younger he had been shorter than most and quite pale, with full chubby cheeks and a podgy body topped with cropped dark hair atop storm grey eyes that darkened with his mood set into a round and unremarkable face dotted with light freckles. He looked, in fact, mildly anaemic, and was given to inexplicable bouts of illnesses featuring acute headaches which rendered him unable or unwilling to speak or move and further compounded his sense of distance from the world. As he grew older these mysterious afflictions gave way to repetitive cases of debilitating tonsillitis, as many as fifteen cases in a year in his adolescence and which only stopped visiting him in his twenties, by which time he had grown in height to be just a shade over the average. In doing so he had shed his puppy fat to gain a slimmer than usual build, albeit with broad shoulders inherited from his grandfather on his mothers side, whose fortune would one day come to him, while his previously full cheeks had risen and sharpened, between which sat a proud, straight nose with a softly-rounded tip over full, expressive lips that revealed a warm smile forged by several dental operations and two and a half years of wearing braces a smile that crowned a narrow chin set in a strong yet slim jawline. As puberty made its mark, it did so with the intent of creating a man who could seize anything he would if he were only to reach out his hands and take it. He was further blessed with the enigmatic charisma of the leader although with no leading intent and was imbued with the voice of a friend that spoke with the intelligence of an artist, but ruling over all of these traits was the mind that found interest and consolation only in its own amusement. His features were delicate but not without masculinity. He retained a boyish vitality that gave him, and imparted to those around him an energy of spirit.

He returned home and had a cool bath and read a little. Williams hated hot baths or showers all heat, in fact. The summer got him down. It reminded him of being a child, living out in the countryside with no one other than his parents, who had shared a dysfunctional relationship, and his imagination. Summer was to Williams debilitating ennui, which was to be found waiting at every turn, in every colour, every feeling and sensation and aspiration; the most cloying, unbearable numbness to be found in anything that presented itself to his consciousness for a moment longer than was necessary to be anything other than a novelty, of which there are no true examples to a mind tempered by a heat no more energised than tepid for its opening years. It was a life of complete inconsequentiality and torpor lived by a child whose impulse for asking questions was matched only by his native lust for their answers. He had been a child who, with a lack of required input and with only limited resources the stifled conversations with his Father, who owned this country house, juxtaposed against the entire grandeur and beauty of nature laid bare in the view from his bedroom window with which to build his predispositions. Williams had concluded after much study and thought that these are set in all children and can never be changed from the age of nine or ten, and that existence itself was a sort of organism which had but one predator, boredom, against which there was no defence, no antibody and no cure, only a series of placebos with which to cast an illusion of health about that organism which was a beast already doomed by the terminal tumours of mental, sensual and physical stagnation. This mire never overcame Williams, however. As much as he was under the burden of suffering life in this torrid furnace of exasperation, his curiosity was never dampened and often got the best of his situation. His entire mind was bent from this young age on alleviating his boredom through any means at his disposal and in revealing the supposed mysteries of existence as the set of laws and logics which they truly are, duly doing his very best to break or disprove each in kind.

After his bath, Williams found himself pacing his bedroom, and he became acutely aware of how it was a patchwork of his childhood and adolescence, with no thought given to unity or cohesion of taste. There was no taste. It was a practical room, a utility room for a human being to be stored in while he slept and to be left alone when he was awake. Williams had never spent any particularly large amount of time in here there was a small television sat on an IKEA drawer at the foot of his single bed, a small bedside cabinet with glass doors that had been around the house since before he could remember in which he used to store magazines and a torch for when the power occasionally went out. The walls were cream, having painted over the blue he had chosen as a child and the ceiling was white. It wasnt exactly sterile, but it brought nothing to the imagination, and inspired a stillness of thought that felt mildly uncomfortable. The carpet too, was cream, and made from a cheap polyester fabric that felt slightly plastic if walked on barefoot, a sensation Williams loathed, so he always wore socks. The wardrobe was around eleven years old, and was ten years past its best. It had been bought to replace an older, larger specimen as a temporary measure, but the matter was forgotten about and it remained, the chip wood top of it sagging slightly, and the cheap wooden panels on the sides bowing outwards. The doors were a sort of stained blue-grey reminiscent of old denim, and contained clothes that Williams didnt particularly like wearing; his old school suits which had been fitted on him when he was fifteen, with the expectation that he would grow several inches more in every direction than he did, and some poorly fitting shirts to accompany them which had ink stains and all the signs of wear that long school days produce in clothing. It was a tired room, and Williams was wholly tired of it. He viewed it and everything it represented with contempt and a sickened look struck itself across his boyish, handsome face, wrinkling his fine straight nose, and turning up his red, well-formed lips.

This was a life to leave behind, and there was no finer way of doing so than going to university. Williams was looking forward to it; on the one hand it was to be a fresh start completely new and unknown, which he craved. But it was also structured, and imposed upon him. He had always been expected to go to university, and this weighed on him, and tainted his perception of it. The whole concept instantly took on a pallid, tiresome aspect that felt distasteful to him. His instinct was to buck against it and resist going, even though if there were no pressure, he would be overwhelmed with joy at it being on his horizon. But, he reasoned, university was a useful tool to bring about his imagined exploits; the perfect place to revel in the sensual, the social and the academic to learn about the senses and their bearing on his soul and satisfy his lust for a new reality, new experiences, and where he would become a man. At university he could study the nature of humanity and fall in love with raw experience; fun without consequence, kicks being the prime directive, and enjoyment the reward for daring to seek only that from life. That was the essence of life; the freedom of gratification, a considered libertinism.

Yes. His on-going childhood frustrated him. At university he would be unbound and set free and knowledge would be his to seek. It fired his curiosity and set him on edge. The known unknown the perfect playground in which to sharpen his inclinations. For this reason, he had chosen a university that would grant him the freedom to formulate his own lifestyle. Oxford and Cambridge had been well within his academic remit, but they held no mystique, and when he had toured them they reminded him of his school the buildings, the people, the expectations. It sickened him. It was a world of protocol, rules and tradition, which he enjoyed observing from a distance, as an ornithologist might observe birds, but not as a member, when he felt suffocated and caged.

It was this enjoyment of observation that led him to apply to study journalism. He loved the world because it excited him. It was a way for him to study everything at once and disguise it as necessity. He only had a month until his first term started, and had not yet set about finding a place to live. Williams had dallied when it came to applying for the student accommodation, fearing it would not be large enough for his tastes, and not wishing to live with complete strangers. His space was sacred to him and having grown up alone, he was not accustomed or ready to have his ways interrupted by the mindless blundering of whoever he would end up sharing with. To this end, he spent the next week scouting houses near where he would be attending university, The University of Rochester, where the leading journalism course in the country found its home. Much of the area seemed to Williams quite sad and grey, with no hope or joy to be found and a broad spread of a lack of any ideal or higher thought.

Rochester, a constituent town of Medway which had once been a city on account of its marvellous cathedral, but had lost it as part of an oversight when Gillingham, Chatham, Strood and Rochester were brought together as a unitary authority, however, was quite beautiful, and incredibly historic, the surrounding area having been the home of the Royal Navy for centuries. The new campus was itself built into the infrastructure of the old Royal Navy headquarters, and was comprised of many glorious old military red brick buildings built by The Admiralty during the 1700s to house the day-to-day running of the greatest navy the world had yet seen. Here he was to make his home for the foreseeable future, and had come upon a quite delightful building that must have once been home to a Royal Navy officer of some kind. It was the final of a row of Edwardian-looking four-storey terraces of exceptional quality and high ceilings, built with a mid-yellow blasted clay brick and styled with white window ledges and a semi-circular frosted glass window with a thick white rim above the large, heavy wooden door with the number forty-one in bold brass numbers, which was accessed from the pavement by a set of three stairs and a short raised walkway that held beneath it a lower door to the basement level, which he imagined been for the servants of the house when it was originally built. Facing outwards were ten tall, rectangular sash windows that in their shape and layout relative to each other, spoke of military logic and functionality, and looked rather impressive in their regularity. The loft space was given away by an additional small window jutting out of the roof that seemed to shyly peer over the edge of the building and give light to the rafters that held up the leaded tiling above them, which resided between two proud chimney stacks. This was a magnificent house. He bought it and arranged to have the mortgage paid off by a portion of the rent gathered from his London properties. Granddad had set him up well, he thought; Williams was from a wealthy family on his fathers side, and he was convinced, once he had shown them this residence, that they would be more than willing to foot the bill, at least in part, especially if he showed a willingness to take on such an extensive portion of the cost. This place would perfectly exhibit his fine tastes, and would make an excellent place to host any type of party he could imagine, as well as being large enough for him to indulge his desire for quiet and allow him to escape from the world when he wished. It was close enough to his campus to walk, although he had already decided to set up an account with a local taxi firm to ensure there was a cab ready to pick him up according to his time table. It was an extravagance, but a necessary one in order for Williams to live a comfortable life, which was in itself absolutely essential.

He set the date for his move, giving himself two weeks before university began. As things were moving along much more quickly than he had anticipated, Williams found himself with little to do for a few days. In this time he began building a formidable stockpile of alcohol with which to throw a few parties once the first term had begun and he knew people to invite. It was important to get off on the right foot; draw people to him, and establish his as a valid place to go as part of a night out, especially as he was far removed from the regular student housing, but was closer to many of the more popular clubs and venues that he knew the students would be regular attendants of on nights out.

While making these plans, however, he had confronted himself with the notion that he had never drunk extensively before and knew little of it, and so bought in everything, fearing to seem ignorant if he left anything out. A mans character is most evident to others in his actions and his appearance, both of which are measured by his intellect, which in turn is separate from character. In this way it is a relatively simple task to construct for one an external alter-ego to interface with the world that, as a construct of intellect, is an honest deception and as a reflection of character is a complete lie that hides ones true sensibilities from the world while being coloured by the subconscious. There is a power and satisfaction in seeming rather than being good as society may label it and it is far easier to adapt an alter-ego to the perceptions of society than it is ones true self. Williams appreciated the truth because it is unremitting and unchanging and completely dangerous, but he enjoyed lies because they require skill to craft and intellect to bring life to, and because disingenuous information can be made far more important than the genuine article. Lies can be tools where the truth is often merely an answer.

After conducting brief but extensive research, he ensured that his pride of place acquisitions were Jack Daniels and various wines and lagers which all took their place in boxes that would line one of the rooms in this new house. He had them sent there directly, even though he was yet to move in, to make things easier. Williams also took it upon himself to wish Canterbury a farewell, and biting back his disdain for his old school fellows, accompanied them on two night outs in that town, withholding from them the knowledge of his inheritance, or that he was moving away so soon. He was to stay at the house of one of the boys, where four others were also staying, and where they drank before heading out early on the first night at around six in the afternoon. A drink might be good, he thought. Despite the recent excitement over the house and the fresh beginning just around the corner, he had been in a miserable mood for some month, since long before his granddad died. Jackie had gone. Williams felt like a prince laid low. Women caused him great pain, and would do forever.

The sun was a stream of bright gold in the sky as it had begun to lower, dusting the few clouds above in a slight pink, so that as the evening wore on deepened to at first a vivid fuchsia accompanied by honeysuckle yellow, and then a smoky magenta that highlighted mirror-like trails of tea-rose orange against a pale blue sky in the west, and a descending ultramarine blue in the east where night time crept upon the world, smothering it in summer humidity and winking upon it with its flickering stars. Beneath this vista, Williams set about his first unrestricted attempt at drinking.

Everyone around him was accustomed to it through various parties and nights out to which he had not been invited, so he did everything he could to seem used to his surroundings even bored at times and he believed that he got away with it. After the first few drinks, cider for the most part, which was cold and crisp and bittersweet, he started to become affected. His focus would slip, and the people around him became more tolerable, even likeable. His attention would drift, but narrowly focus on one thing at a time, and things which would seem imbecilic to him normally were acutely funny. Williams was growing removed from himself, and yet more at one with his inclinations. A warmth settled over him and furious excitement for everything overcame him. He desired more of the sensation, more of the feeling of removal he grew distant from his thoughts until they no longer troubled his mind, and he was completely at peace without even knowing it. He felt every step, every beat; everything marched to the beat of the night until he didnt notice any of it. The group roamed from pub to pub, but the journeys between escaped him, and the visits passed him by. It felt like he was staying still but the world around him was moving, leaving him in new locations without any effort from him until it became apparent that everything was an effort and his legs gave way, the ground greeting him with a harsh, solid impact that resonated somewhere within Williamss mind but went mostly ignored, except for an angry mumble and a tight grip on what seemed to have the texture of a pavement as lights around him flashed and he was retching as they passed him by.

Williams slithered into consciousness and found himself in a bed, at the house him and the other boys had been due to stay at. He tried to move, but found his body unresponsive, and his head slow. His eyes were open, but what they saw made no sense until a couple of seconds had passed. He rolled onto his side, the world shaking as he did so. The other boys were in various states of undress in bed. Only one of them seemed alert enough to talk. He mustered his energies to his throat, and even so, had to make his attempt to form words in his dry, wretched mouth twice before he managed to utter the question he wished to pose.

What happened last night, Pete?

I dno, the boy replied listlessly, everyone got tanked. You and Martin ended up chundering in the street, dont you remember? We didnt even make it to the club. You were a mess. Fuck, we all were. I ordered a pizza as soon as we got back and puked it right back up.

He pointed to a half-eaten pizza lying on the floor beside his bed. It was strewn round the box as if a violent detonation had torn through it fragmenting and displacing it. From the stains on the bed, it was apparent to Williams that Peter had fallen out of bed in the night into his meal and crawled back in without realising. One of the other boys, Oscar, stirred at the other end of the room;

Pete, Williams, you guys know how we got back here? My feet are killing. Shit Ive got blisters all over them.

Yeah, responded Pete, in a distracted drawl as he nursed his shoulder tenderly and sat up, we walked it. Fuck only knows how. You went on ahead for some reason. I had Martin, Fraps had Williams. He was pretty wasted himself. That was a crazy one.

Yes, it was, thought Williams as he rolled onto his front with his arms under the pillow. The taste of sick was strong in his mouth. He felt ill. But he also felt alive, and eager.

Rather was, wasnt it? So, same again tonight?

Williams, you have a death wish? said the boy at the other end of the room in a disbelieving tone that hinted at being impressed, not drinking for the wrong reason are you?

Whatever might you mean? Williams sighed.

You know, Jackie, replied Pete.

Yeah, what happened there, Williams? Did you ever close that off? asked Oscar from across the room as he sat up, topless, a hand holding his sorry head.

Well not really. We were never really together yknow. The whole thing crept up on us, but it was too late, she was already moving to Hong Kong. Then it got weird, I guess she didnt want to hurt herself, or me. Didnt really help.

Girls and guys cant be best friends without something happening, said Oscar.

Seems so. We were too close. Spent every evening after school hanging out on the field

Yeah you followed her around like a damn puppy, said Pete, with a smile marked with a slight cruelty.

No. I didnt, said Williams, forcefully. Redness rushed at his cheeks, and he felt hot and angry. He felt a choke in his throat, and vulnerable. Tears laid siege to his eyeballs, but he held them back.

No ones blaming you. Jackie was gorgeous, mate, said Pete.

Bright too, she got ninety five percent in maths in the end. Thats mental, chimed Oscar, pulling on a top.

Yeah, she was, said Williams, fighting for his composure, but it was mutual. It sucked for her too. I just wish wed done more, or it had happened earlier.

Before Tony got there, you mean? said Pete again, the smile flickering across his face again.

Whatever. I want to go out again tonight, you buys got it in you or will you bitch out?

Confrontation raged through Williams, but he felt too fragile to act on it. All he had was words. The mugginess in his head had started to clear, but the pulse of head from his indignity brought it back.

I guess so, yeah. Said Oscar, walking across the room to step between Williams and Pete, weve still got some beers in. I reckon some bacon and eggs will get us right. We should get the ball out too; sweat this shit out our systems. Have a shower, well be great.

Williams could not take his mind of that girl now, though. Jackie. She was regarded as the most intelligent and beautiful girl in the school, and by virtue of these popular traits and her own disinterest in the social hierarchy born of having moved to the country only the year before from somewhere distant she was able to remove herself from the judgement and expectation of her peers, and existed instead as a font of exotic mystery. Williams tenderness and desire for her was born of his already advanced awareness for the best and finest qualities of things he was to develop. It was an instinctive sagacity for quality and nobility an intolerance of imperfection, itself born from his days as a child dreaming of what he wanted, and these dreams being his only companions. As all human fantasy tends to be, his dreams forewent the real worlds imperfections, and so be became acclimatised to perfection, not through observation, but through self-realisation, which acted to magnify the blemishes of the world when they came to pass before his eyes.

They had innocently grown close without reason and without expectation, and came to while away every minute they could in each others company, and came to be dominated by one another. Yet they never consummated their desire; neither of them had even kissed anyone before, and they were overcome with nervous teenage anticipation. Without a touch, she had awoken in him every sense that would come to dominate his being. To every question she was the answer; the problem to which he would search his entire life for a solution, and she left, not in malice or hate, or any such reconcilable emotion, but as the dearest person to him. Then at one party to which Williams had not been invited, as was the custom in those days, she drunkenly kissed the captain of the rugby team, that boy Tony a popular, tall and dark haired boy in a heartbreakingly clichéd episode that kept Williams awake at night for weeks afterwards, playing the situation over in his head alternating between imagining the boy was him to simply standing there watching hopelessly while they laughed at him, to him running and punching the boy and standing victorious over his crumpled body. It turned out they had kissed twice, once at the beginning of the party and once at the end, between which time that rugby playing bastard had gone off with another girl. When she found out, Jackie was hurt, and despite his pain Williams comforted her; her pain made him feel better, but brought him no solace. Her exit from his life when she and her family moved across to world to follow her fathers job that summer left a weeping wound that even when it had healed caused scars that would never fade. It was an emptiness within Jack Williams that could never be filled, and it exaggerated his nature.

Brooding on all of this Williams and the others went outside and kicked a ball around, sweating out the previous nights alcohol. He enjoyed the running, but Williams disliked football. He often claimed to hate it, but he found the concept of hateful distasteful in the extreme, finding that those who welcome hate often became hateful themselves. He turned over and nodded into the pillow silently, and gave a slight moan of approval. Later that night the boys decided against the pubs again, and took their drinks to the large park along the city walls. Once night had fallen and they were all in that place where their senses were beyond their wits, and their wits beyond their reasoning, they sprinted up a large war monument on a great mount that rises above the city wall in Dane John Park, in the East of town, barrelling over the bushes and fences along the way. Williams could barely contain himself. This was it. This was the mindlessness of what life had to offer, the thrill of the ordinary made extraordinary by a simply alteration of the senses. He reached the top of the hill first, panting. The others caught up with him, but he ignored whatever comments they made about him having beaten them. He didnt care. He was looking out across the city wall, over the city lights banishing the nights darkness to the sky. Williams had a sense, through his upbringing, that he would like to live a moral, honest and useful life, but he had no idea where to begin. It seemed difficult, monstrously so, and harder by virtue of his temptations, and the thought of temptation, which he did not want to resist. Duty and work seemed so dull, when all he wanted was what he needed, and all he needed was what he wanted. It was a closed situation; a catch twenty two where he was prey to his senses - he was a servant to his nature, which was as amorous as it was enigmatic. He possessed the charisma and a forceful spirit, and was imbued with the voice of a friend that spoke with the lust and creativity of an artist, but ruling over all of these traits was the mind preoccupied with itself, that found enduring interest and consolation only in its own satisfaction. Years of bullying had made Williams neurotic, but he passed it off as deep thought, and a consideration of every point. He appeared as a young man who had thought of everything. So fearful was he of flaws that outwardly he had none to be picked up on, except a tendency towards arrogance, which he truly believed to simply be the expression of truth; Williams referenced his good points, as he saw them, as facts and his flaws as conjecture.

Williams breathed deeply, and just looked. This was it, he thought again. He had it, whatever it was. He was ready to explore and ready to savour everything his senses allowed him to experience. He and the other boys made their way down the mound and back into town, Williams walking slightly behind them, lost to his thoughts, studying the bitter taste in his mouth from the beer, enjoying the lamps made brighter and given a haze by the alcohol in his brain, and, wilfully letting such considerations escape him, he allowed himself to be swallowed up by the night.

Sorry to double-post my blog within five minutes of the first post, but I wanted to get the entirety of my finished draft up. This is now the 3rd draft of the first chapter of my book, Senses Prevail. This even more than

the Prologue (which I have made some quite large changes to) is a work in progress, but I'm comfortable sharing. I want feedback, basically.

This is where the story of Jack Williams and his descent into - well his own misplaced, materially hedonistic philosophy - begins. His life is about the change completely, and he is about to put to test the assumptions and considerations he had put together during his isolated, disenchanted childhood. From here on the story will follow what happens to Williams as he seeks not only to validate his beliefs, but his voyage to master the very art of experience and his attempt to manufacture his dream lifestyle. Whether the reality lives up to the fantasy.

Chapter 1

The sky was an opaque white, a remnant from the overcast morning that had left a heavy layer of dew covering the dense summer foliage and thick blades of August grass. It left in the air the lingering scent of fragrant moisture and earth mixed with dampened pollen. It called to mind spring afternoons in the countryside after a heavy rain and scenes of rolling hills where the serenity of the scene is interrupted only by the chirping of birds and old oaks being frisked by the light breeze. It was a day similar to one ten years ago, differentiated only by the season. Where this was a warm, slightly humid day at the height of summer, that had been a sharp February day characterised by thawing snow falling from branches, its white crystalline beauty being corrupted on the ground by dirt thrown up by passing vehicles. On that day, Jack Williamss grandfather had died and left to him a sum of money intended to reach him on his eighteenth birthday and ensure he was financially secure enough to get through his time at university and now, having deferred the receiving of the money until after he had finished his education at school, was due to receive it. It represented to Williams the beginning of the rest of his life; a life on his terms in which he could finally break free of the languor that had until now caused for him to endure rather than take part in lifes passing. This money had been left to him on the condition that he only be able to access it once at university, however, and so he was once again trapped by forces beyond his control forced to live according to another. His freedom was hollow and his ambitions stifled by the expectation society placed upon him to live a usual life, yet everything he desired, everything he needed was unusual. There is no pleasure, no ambition in the ordinary, but, thought Jack Williams as he scanned the milky sky from his bedroom window, in every change there is opportunity and with this money he would be able to leave these country surroundings and drag his sedentary childhood into the thrill of adulthood, and finally set about satiating his thirst for sensation that gnawing, scratching feeling at the tip of every receptor and fibre of his being that yearned to be pushed beyond his current state of perception and be brought alive, to feel the pulse of life itself that one can feel when removed from the consequences living.

He had spent that morning at the bank with his mother, finalising the money reaching his account. She had taken care of most of it; all the paperwork and tedium that comes with money was of no interest to him, besides, he was quite ignorant to how it all worked and was happy to remain so for as long as he could rely on someone else to do it all for him. It is important to look competent, even if one is not, because looks are everything and increasingly so these days. So, that business had been dealt with, and it now fell on him to set about creating the life he had always dreamed of.

Pacing his bedroom, he became acutely aware of how it was a patchwork of his childhood and adolescence, with no thought given to unity or cohesion of taste. There was no taste. It was a practical room, a utility room for a human being to be stored in when he slept and to be left alone when he was awake. Williams had never spent any particularly large amount of time in here there was a small television sat on an IKEA drawer at the foot of his single bed, a small bedside cabinet with glass doors that had been around the house since before he could remember in which he used to store magazines and a torch for when the power occasionally went out. The walls were cream, having painted over the blue he had chosen as a child and the ceiling was white. It wasnt exactly sterile, but it brought nothing to the imagination, and inspired a stillness of thought that felt mildly uncomfortable. The carpet too, was cream, and made from a cheap polyester fabric that felt slightly plastic if walked on barefoot, a sensation Williams loathed, so he always wore socks. The wardrobe was around eleven years old, and was ten years past its best. It had been bought to replace an older, larger specimen as a temporary measure, but the matter was forgotten about and it remained, the chip wood top of it sagging slightly, and the cheap wooden panels on the sides bowing outwards. The doors were a sort of stained blue-grey reminiscent of old denim, and contained clothes that Williams didnt particularly like wearing; his old school suits which had been fitted on him when he was fifteen, with the expectation that he would grow several inches more in every direction than he did, and some poorly fitting shirts to accompany them which had ink stains and all the signs of wear that long school days produce in clothing. It was a tired room, and Williams was wholly tired of it. He viewed it and everything it represented with contempt, and a sickened look struck itself across his boyish, handsome face, wrinkling his fine straight nose, and turning up his red, well-formed lips.

This was a life to leave behind, and there was no finer way of doing so than going to university. Williams was looking forward to it; on the one hand it was to be a fresh start completely new and unknown, which he craved. But it was also structured, and imposed upon him. He had always been expected to go to university, and this weighed on him, and tainted his perception of it. The whole concept instantly took on a pallid, tiresome aspect that felt distasteful to him. His instinct was to buck against it and resist going, even though if there were no pressure, he would be overwhelmed with joy at it being on his horizon. But, he reasoned, university was a useful tool to bring about his imagined exploits; the perfect place to revel in the sensual, the social and the academic to learn about the senses and their bearing on his soul and satisfy his lust for a new reality, new experiences, and where he would become a man. At university he could study the nature of humanity and fall in love with raw experience; fun without consequence, kicks being the prime directive, and enjoyment the reward for daring to seek only that from life. That was the essence of life; the freedom of gratification, a considered libertinism.

Yes. His on-going childhood frustrated him. At university he would be unbound and set free and knowledge would be his to seek. It fired his curiosity and set him on edge. The known unknown. The perfect playground in which to sharpen his inclinations. For this reason, he had chosen a university that would grant him the freedom to formulate his own lifestyle. Oxford and Cambridge had been well within his academic remit, but they held no mystique, and when he had toured them they reminded him of his school the buildings, the people, the expectations. It sickened him. It was a world of protocol, rules and tradition, which he enjoyed observing from a distance, as an ornithologist might observe birds, but not as a member, when he feels suffocated and caged.

It was this enjoyment of observation that led him to apply to study journalism. He loved the world because it excited him. It was a way for him to study everything at once and disguise it as necessity. He only had a month until his first term started, and had not yet set about finding a place to live. Williams had dallied when it came to applying for the student accommodation, fearing it would not be large enough for his tastes, and not wishing to live with complete strangers. His space was sacred to him and having grown up alone, he was not accustomed or ready to have his ways interrupted by the mindless blundering of whoever he would end up sharing with. To this end, he spent the next week scouting houses near where he would be attending university, which was to be in Medway. There was a new university campus set up in Chatham, where the leading journalism course in the country found its home. Much of the area seemed to Williams quite sad and grey, with no hope or joy to be found and a broad spread of a lack of any ideal or higher thought.

Rochester, a constituent town of Medway which had once been a city on account of its marvellous cathedral, but had lost it as part of an oversight when Gillingham, Chatham, Strood and Rochester were brought together as a unitary authority was, however, was quite beautiful, and incredibly historic, the surrounding area having been the home of the Royal Navy for centuries. The new campus was itself built into the infrastructure of the old Royal Navy headquarters, and was comprised of many glorious old military red brick buildings built by The Admiralty during the 1700s to house the day-to-day running of the greatest navy the world had yet seen. Here he was to make his home for the foreseeable future, and had come upon a quite delightful building that must have once been home to a Royal Navy officer of some kind. It was the final of a row of Edwardian-looking four-storey terraces of exceptional quality and high ceilings, built with a mid-yellow blasted clay brick and styled with white window ledges and a semi-circular frosted glass window with a thick white rim above the large, heavy wooden door with the number thirty-nine in bold brass numbers, which was accessed from the pavement by a set of three stairs and a short, raised walkway that held beneath it a lower door to the basement level, which he imagined been for the servants of the house when it was originally built. Facing outwards were ten tall, rectangular sash windows that in their shape and layout relative to each other, spoke of military logic and functionality, and looked rather impressive in their regularity. The loft space was given away by an additional small window jutting out of the roof that seemed to shyly peer over the edge of the building and give light to the rafters that held up the leaded tiling above them, which resided between two proud chimney stacks. This was a magnificent house, and extremely expensive to rent, but while he had the money, Williams would use it. The landlord turned out to be a kind woman who lowered the price for him and agreed to split the costs of a cleaner. He charmed her simply by dint of being interested and wealthy enough to look into her property, and she was quite delighted to have a young man of his demeanour in her property. It was to burn though a huge portion of his money, but he chose not to concern himself with that to begin with. He was from a wealthy family on his fathers side, and he was convinced, once he had shown them this residence, that they would be more than willing to foot the bill, at least in part, especially if he showed a willingness to foot a portion of the cost. This place would perfectly exhibit his fine tastes, and would make an excellent place to host any type of party he could imagine, as well as being large enough for him to indulge his desire for quiet and allow him to escape from the world when he wished. It was close enough to his campus to walk, although he had already decided to set up an account with a local taxi firm to ensure there was a cab ready to pick him up according to his time table. It was an extravagance, but an necessary one for a comfortable life.

He set the date for his move, giving himself ten days before university began. As things were moving along much more quickly than he had anticipated, Williams found himself with little to do for a few days. In this time he began building a formidable stockpile of alcohol with which to throw a few parties once the first term had begun and he knew people to invite. It was important to get off on the right foot; draw people to him, and establish his as a valid place to go as part of a night out, especially as he was far removed from the regular student housing, but was closer to many of the more popular clubs and venues that he knew the students would be regular attendants of on nights out.

While making these plans, however, he had confronted himself with the notion that he had never drunk extensively before and knew little of it, and so bought in everything, fearing to seem ignorant if he left anything out. A mans character is most evident to others in his actions and his appearance, both of which are measured by his intellect, which in turn separate from character. In this way it is a relatively simple task to construct for one an external alter-ego to interface with the world that, as a construct of intellect, is an honest deception and as a reflection of character is a complete lie that hides ones true sensibilities from the world. There is a power and satisfaction in seeming rather than being good as society may label it, and it is far easier to adapt an alter-ego to the perceptions of society than it is ones true self. Williams loved the truth, because it is unremitting and unchanging, but he enjoyed lies, because they are the opposite, and were tools where the truth is often merely an answer.

After conducting brief but extensive research, he ensured that his pride of place acquisitions were Jack Daniels and various forms of larger. Spirits, Beers, Ciders and Wines all took their place in boxes that would line one of the rooms in this new house. He had them sent there directly, even though he was yet to move in, to make things easier. Williams also took it upon himself to wish Canterbury a farewell, and biting back his disdain for his old school fellows, accompanied them on two night outs in that town, withholding from them the knowledge of his inheritance, or that he was moving away so soon. He was to stay at the house of one of the boys, where four others were also staying, and where they drank before heading out early on the first night, around six in the afternoon.

The sun was a stream of bright gold in the sky as it had begun to lower, dusting the few clouds above in a slight pink, so that as the evening wore on deepened to at first a vivid fuchsia accompanied by honeysuckle yellow, and then a smoky magenta that highlighted mirror-like trails of tea-rose orange against a pale blue sky in the west, and a descending ultramarine blue in the east where night time crept upon the world, smothering it in summer humidity and winking upon it with its flickering stars. Beneath this vista, Williams set about his first unrestricted attempt at drinking. Everyone around him was accustomed to it through various parties and nights out to which he had not been invited, so he did everything he could to seem used to his surroundings even bored at times and he believed that he got away with it. After the first few drinks, cider for the most part, which was cold and crisp and bittersweet, he started to become affected. His focus would slip, and the people around him became more tolerable, even likeable. His attention would drift, but narrowly focus on one thing at a time, and things which would seem imbecilic to him normally were acutely funny. Williams was growing removed from himself, and yet more at one with his inclinations. A warmth settled over him and furious excitement for everything overcame him. He desired more of the sensation, more of the feeling of removal he grew distant from his thoughts until they no longer troubled his mind, and he was completely at peace without even knowing it. He felt every step, every beat; everything marched to the beat of the night until he didnt notice any of it. The group roamed from pub to pub, but the journeys between escaped him, and the visits passed him by. It felt like he was staying still but the world around him was moving, leaving him in new locations without any effort from him until it became apparent that everything was an effort and his legs gave way, the ground greeting him with a harsh, solid impact that resonated somewhere within Williamss mind but went mostly ignored, except for an angry mumble and a tight grip on what seemed to have the texture of a pavement as lights around him flashed and he was retching as they passed him by.

He found himself in a bed, at the house him and the other boys were due to stay at. He tried to move, but found his body unresponsive, and his head slow. His eyes were open, but what they saw made no sense until a couple of seconds had passed. He rolled onto his side, the world shaking as he did so. The other boys were in various states of undress in bed. Only one of them seemed alert enough to talk. He mustered his energies to his throat, and even so, had to make his attempt to form words in his dry, wretched mouth twice before he managed to utter the question he wished to pose.

What happened last night, Pete?

I dunno, the boy replied listlessly, everyone got tanked. You and Martin ended up chundering in the street, dont you remember? We didnt even make it to the club. You were a mess. Fuck, we all were. I ordered a pizza as soon as we got back and puked it right back up.

He pointed to a half-eaten pizza lying on the floor beside his bed. It was strewn round the box as if a violent detonation had torn through it fragmenting and displacing it. From the stains on the bed, it was apparent to Williams that Peter had fallen out of bed in the night into his meal and crawled back in without realising. One of the other boys stirred at the other end of the room;

Pete, Williams, you guys know how we got back here? My feet are killing. Shit Ive got blisters all over them.

Yeah, responded Pete, in a distracted drawl as he nursed his shoulder tenderly and sat up, we walked it. Fuck only knows how. You went on ahead for some reason. I had Martin, Fraps had Williams. He was pretty wasted himself. That was a crazy one.

Yes, it was, thought Williams as he rolled onto his front with his arms under the pillow. The taste of sick was strong in his mouth. He felt ill. But he also felt alive, and eager.

Rather was, wasnt it? So, same again tonight?

Williams, you have a death wish? said the boy at the other end of the room in a disbelieving tone that hinted at being impressed, I guess so, yeah. Weve still got some beers in. I reckon some bacon and eggs will get us right. We should get the ball out too; sweat this shit out of our systems. Have a shower, well be great.

Williams hated football. But he turned over and nodded into the pillow silently, and gave a slight moan of approval. Later that night the boys decided against the pubs again, and took their drinks to the large park along the city walls. Once night had fallen and they were all in that place where their senses were beyond their wits, and their wits beyond their reasoning, they sprinted up a large war monument on a great mount that rises above the city wall in Dane John Park, in the East of town, barrelling over the bushes and fences along the way. Williams could barely contain himself. This was it. This was the mindlessness of what life had to offer, the thrill of the ordinary made extraordinary by a simply alteration of the senses. He reached the top of the hill first, panting. The others caught up with him, but he ignored whatever comments they made about him having beaten them. He didnt care. He was looking out across the city wall, over the city lights banishing the nights darkness to the sky. He breathed deeply, and just looked. This was it, he thought again. He had it, whatever it was. He was ready to explore and ready to savour everything his senses allowed him to experience. He and the other boys made their way down the mound and back into town, Williams walking slightly behind them, lost to his thoughts, studying the bitter taste in his mouth from the beer, enjoying the lamps made brighter and given a haze by the alcohol in his brain, and, wilfully letting such considerations escape him, he allowed himself to be swallowed up by the night.

My Queen

By Comrade,

Ah! A return to my blithering attempts at some faux neo-Baudelairean linguistically decadent Romantic poetry for the first time in a while. Feels good to be back in 'brooding romantic hero' mode. If my writing, be it poetry or prose, has any given theme then that theme is honesty, and honestly, this style feels the most honest to the vulnerable corners in the back of my mind.

My Queen

Shatter me whole; let it begin

Hold your breath, push the needle in

And lose yourself to this feeling;

The fire in my heart annealing

Your eyes in which the mornings dawn;

The moon and the stars’ denouement –

A dance to bring the coming light

To illume the porcelain sight:

Those eyes an ode to days to come

Soft lips to kiss life into death;

Angel or devil, heaven, hell

Such notions wither ‘neath your spell;

Dazzled moths flock; you a candle

Casting perfumed light – a mantle

Softening the world around you

Forcing it to reveal what’s true;

My Queen you kill vulgarity;

Render beauty asperity

By your smile, skin, your eyes and hair

Yours is the very earth and air;

The sky your slave, the sea your own

The endlessness of time your home –

Your beauty is the greatest tale

I will write ‘I love you’ in braille

So you can feel the way I feel

Nude

By Comrade,

Nude

Time makes changes

Everybody starts strangers

The strangest times are with you

Time moves over

Even we get older

We live our lives in the nude

Time is changing

Rushing through faces

The last thing I want to rush is you

The crime is aging

People scared of their changes

Just as long as I live my life with you

That's all I want to do

Live my life long in the nude

Bare my soul to you

Live my life long

Even though there are scars

Heirlooms from the past

I'll kiss your scar tissue

No matter the pain I'll

Not live in denial

And wrap my wings around you

Time is flying

I've seen you crying

You've seen me crying too

Heard me whisper

Laughter, I'll kiss her

Stripped down and in the nude

With nothing left to lose

Showing it all to you

Live our lives in the nude

Even blood gets drier

And families die

But we are not ending soon

Memories fade

Lose tracks of names

But I'll never forget you

Times get stranger

The less we change when

The dream for our lives come true

We'll have lived our lives in the nude

Everything is for you

After The End

By Comrade,

I'm taking some time out from writing my book while I'm busy and focusing on poetry/verse again. This has little or no real structure. Bit of fun that came out of a nostalgic reflection on some drama and goings on back in the day. It's light hearted, but it's gritty and it's honest.

After The End

A night out on the town and I’m feelin’ down

‘Cause I keep hearing rumours you spread around

I'm the villain for ending that relationship

Even though it turned worse than a sinking ship

It's not like it wasn't at least half your fault

Had to take what you said with a pinch of salt

I'm the first to admit it takes two to go wrong

And it only takes one to drag it along;

But I wasn't ever gunna do that to you

To be honest I just wanted to be one not two

And it's not like I did what I did out of spite

God sake I always was the one to end our fights

So did I appreciate it when you told everyone

That I'd hit you in the face, after all you'd done

While we were together? Think I honestly should

But I'm really not the kind of guy who ever would

Here's exactly who the kind of girl you are:

You'll kiss every other guy when we're at the same bar

Late one night you're knocking at my door

Tears streaming down your face saying “it's all my fault;

Can I come in and we can have a chat?”

“No you can't and no, I'm never taking you back”

‘Cause I know you'll just scream and shout

At me for being out shagging about

When you do the same like you're playing a game

Finding out my girls’ names to give yourself pain

Any way just to gain the moral high ground

And justify the way you’re riding around

Taking two in one night, I hear at the same time

Then you boast about how all the dudes are forming a line

An’ that you're doing fine but you couldn't decline

A dick if it hit you right between the eyes

I can't deal with this twisted hypocrisy:

Slagging me off for having fun as if you're still with me

Gabbing it off; creating social complications

Getting people coming together with your oral relations

Setting a social struggle, people always on your side

But they don’t stay for long ‘cause the way you’re so snide

But I'm doing my own thing, not hurting anyone

You're just hurt from the burn from not being The One

How did you never realise, because it was written in my eyes

And I could never disguise that I fucking despised

You - and all that you stood for

So I took my anger out fucking you on all fours

The Fear & Screw

By Comrade,

Screw

It’s the same.

She’s just got a different name.

Each day a different name.

Sad, each thrust does nothing.

It’s me, not her who’s bluffing.

Just another pair of legs spread,

Charmed by compliments I’d said

To every other pair of legs spread.

Lights flash by the window –

It’s open onto the street.

The curtains blow and billow

Strange voyeurs hear my deceit.

But she doesn’t know,

She doesn’t have a clue.

She’s laying there aglow;

I’m just there for a screw.

It’s the same.

Again and again and again.

By the time I’m finished, I have diminished

And she wants me to go home;

The thrill of something intimate –

The death of something pure;

She sees straight through the masquerade

Straight to every slut I fucked before.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Fear

Waking up with acid lining my teeth

And feeling on the brink of tears

Curled up in my sheets, hiding beneath

From the comedown into my fears

Turning, tossing, throwing up my guts

Restless, empty and feeling sad

The shameful itch, I grasp my nuts

And I re-taste those drinks I had

Crawl towards the toilet bowl

Crawl out of my wretched hole

Nurse my aching tummy here

‘Til I recover from the fear

Alien Bum

By Comrade,

Alien Bum

Think about it – yeah think about it

I’m an alien in my own mind

Crawling down these steps to my own future

Each a fall to my knees, I feel like a loser

Craving like air, the empty roads

Silent fear not knowing where it goes

Oh they say to think about it, yeah think about it

All – I thought about it all, I live without it

There's a key in the door, yet it didn't open

But you drank that whisky in a single motion

Yeah our lives have started turning blue

You don't miss it man, do you?

What lie are you chasing today?

We both know it wouldn't last that way

All these strands and I can’t help it;

Red eyed stares through red coloured wine

That I don’t drink now to keep just fine

They say live without it, yeah live without it

And I thought about it, oh I thought about it

Now I’m an alien in my own mind

But I don’t mind, it’s easier to surrender;

Be a bum for once and forget your name

Got a steady heart, beat now all the same

Just drink slow, and drink just so;

You don’t want to wreck your head

First time I've written anything poetical for a long time. Came off the back of some nostalgia for the years I spent at university. It'd be nice to hear what people think, it's just lyrical verse really. So much of that period of life was characterised by the fun and drama of just going out and seeing what happened.

It’s only just nine and the girls are crying.

The boys outside can’t be bothered with trying,

Get involved if you want, but I warn you this time

Save us all the trouble and keep it quiet

She said, ‘hey you, laughing about,

What makes you think its ok –

To go outside while the girls are crying and just concentrate on getting high?’

Now its five past ten, we’re on our way

Spilling wine on each other cause we're drinking all day

Get a taxi from the quays, get in the club for free

Cause Scott's got a guy on the door for him, you and me

Inside - straight to the bar, keep an eye on the surround;

Better get where we’re goin’, ain't no fun standing your ground

When a bigger lad gets a clinch in his jaw,

I think I've been here before;

Well he’s tall as fuck and built like a truck so I’m probably gonna run away.

On the brighter side, ‘least the girls didn’t see you

They’re gagging for it now it’s getting on for two.

Look at her with it all out, he said ‘You could do better than that.’

Her insistence on substance abuse and keeping hold of her youth

Like she don't know we can't all smell the truth

But it's three in the morning so what’s the point in hanging about?

Started chatting, didn’t take much, took her back to my place alone.

We've come down next day with so much to say so I’ve got Alex on the phone.

This is the first part of a book I am writing, called Senses Prevail. I have posted this in the Writing club before, but for the sake of keeping order and cataloging what I show people online of this project, in future all updates will follow this post here in my blog.

Note on the text: The working blurb is: "A decadent novel following an aesthetically obsessed, reclusive young man as he seeks to validate his hedonistic philosophy by indulging his every desire, taste and whim by any means necessary, no matter the consequences." It is a single character story. He isn't me, although there are elements of me in him and his back story. I've used a number of real life people to construct him and make him as real as possible. His views aren't necessarily mine, nor is his morality meant to reflect our reality. He is a study and reflection of materialism and modern society; isolation, constant hunger yet never learning. I would love to receive any and all comments and criticism. Don't hold back, I want this to be the best it can be. If you do read it all, thank you so much, I know it's a long slab of text. If you don't, but you'e still interested, do say so!

Prologue

The isolation of being an only child in a small family of few aunts and uncles and cousins and absolutely no nephews and nieces is a cursed treasure that can never be naturally regained once adolescence has arrived and then taken its leave.

It was a splendid isolation on the one hand, full of great adventures among endless fields rich in the dust that drifts from the husks of ripe wheat on a searing August day and endless fantasies of heroic battles fought on the great green rolling hills that were actually England’s countryside, but to the imagination constituted the lowlands of faraway mythical kingdoms. But on the other hand, it was a banal isolation utterly devoid of interest. No conversation, no fresh ideas, no influence, no rivalry, no friendship; no company at all and nowhere to go, all compounded by living and growing and learning in a completely sensible, if pretty brick-built farmhouse in the company of fields and only fields for at least five miles around in the most sensible county, Kent, of the most sensible country, England, in the most worn out and tired continent, Europe. These were the thoughts of Jack Williams, who since the year he had been born until he was fourteen years of age had lived in such conditions.

Having had the fortune of being born into a wealthy family, but barred from that wealth until adulthood it was a life utterly unchallenging and insipidly predictable. The young Jack Williams was denied all but his imagination. It was a turgid style of living imposed on a mind that by design was structured such that a constant stream of stimuli and incomprehensible wonders were required in order to attain mental comfort, resulting in instilling in Jack Williams an insurmountable sense of degenerating monotony about all things except that which he wanted. This was exacerbated by his few material childhood demands always being met, his wait between desire – knowing it possible to be sated – and fulfilment always long, and for an inquisitive, restless child arduous. He wanted for little because he knew of little, but such was his over-curious yet under-fed mind, the very sensation of wanting a ‘something’ became his nature.

Debilitating ennui was to be found waiting at every turn, in every colour, every feeling and sensation and aspiration; the most cloying, unbearable numbness to be found in anything that presented itself to his consciousness for a moment longer than was necessary to be anything other than a novelty, of which there are no true examples to a mind tempered by a heat no more energised than tepid for its opening years. It was a life of complete inconsequentiality and torpor lived by a child whose impulse for asking questions was matched only by his native lust for their answers. He had been a child who, with a lack of required input and with only limited resources – the stifled conversations with his Father, who owned this country house, juxtaposed against the entire grandeur and beauty of nature laid bare in the view from his bedroom window – with which to build his predispositions. Williams had concluded after much study and thought that these are set in all children and can never be changed from the age of nine or ten, and that existence itself was a sort of organism which had but one predator, boredom, against which there was no defence, no antibody and no cure, only a series of placebos with which to cast an illusion of health about that organism which was a beast already doomed by the terminal tumours of mental, sensual and physical stagnation.

This mire never overcame Williams, however. As much as he was under the burden of suffering life in this torrid furnace of exasperation, his curiosity was never dampened and often got the best of his situation. His entire mind was bent from this young age on alleviating his boredom through any means at his disposal and in revealing the supposed mysteries of existence as the set of laws and logics which they truly are, duly doing his very best to break or disprove each in kind.

As a child Williams cast his mind out from his body and surroundings and inhabited worlds fraught with unknown perils and wonderful monsters; the hills became mountain ranges, the gardens’ orchard an impenetrable wicked forest and without intervention from his parents, who had separated before he could remember and who lived distant and successful busy lives or his fellows at his school which was itself small and held within its confines a small number of children, he was untouched by the wider world and naïve to its various poisons, which he later discovered to be its finer flavours. Left to his own company and proven to be without academic peer in these early days when learning, he sharpened his intellect to a knifepoint by generating vast worlds and realities of fantasy, consolidating his ideas through the art of thorough thought and consideration. He fostered a wry sharpness by observing the natural processes that occurred in the fields of his upbringing. He allowed nature to be his chief teacher and his absolute master, and always gave in to it, learning from a bird’s death at the paws of a cat, the magpie’s strength in numbers, the fox’s predatory opportunism – and in conjunction with a secular education characteristic of the policies of the government at the time despite his school being of the Church of England, he concluded that the processes these natural realities were representative of the universal truth that strength is relative to one’s situation, and those with it have the right, by dint of that superiority, to exploit it.

Williams took consolation in this, despite being neither the strongest nor the healthiest child. When he was younger he had been shorter than most and quite pale, with full chubby cheeks and a podgy body topped with cropped dark hair atop storm grey eyes that darkened with his mood set into a round and unremarkable face dotted with light freckles. He looked, in fact, mildly anaemic, and was given to inexplicable bouts of illnesses featuring acute headaches which rendered him unable or unwilling to speak or move and further compounded his sense of distance from the world. As he grew older this mysterious afflictions gave way to repetitive cases of debilitating tonsillitis, as many as fifteen cases in a year in his adolescence and which only stopped visiting him in his twenties, by which time he had grown in height to be just a shade over the average. In doing so he had shed his puppy fat to gain a slimmer than usual build, albeit with broad shoulders inherited from his grandfather on his mother’s side, who’s fortune would one day come to him, while his previously full cheeks had risen and sharpened, between which sat a proud, straight nose with a softly-rounded tip over full, expressive lips that revealed a warm smile forged by several dental operations and two and a half years of wearing braces – a smile that crowned a narrow chin set in a strong yet slim jawline. As puberty made its mark, it did so with the intent of creating a man who could seize anything he would if he were only to reach out his hands and take it. He was further blessed with the enigmatic charisma of the leader – although with no leading intent – and was imbued with the voice of a friend that spoke with the intelligence of an artist, but ruling over all of these traits was the mind that found interest and consolation only in its own amusement. His features were delicate but not without masculinity. He retained a boyish vitality that gave him, and imparted to those around him an energy of spirit.

He was not naturally physically strong however, and loathed physical competition knowing himself unable to compete and reasoning that physical capability had been superseded by mental prowess and an acute sense for the subtle arts of self-depiction and engineering a given situation to meet one’s requirements. He was not concerned by his imperfections because perfection, far from being unobtainable, required such dedication and such time that the goal lost meaning before it had been reached. The only perfection to be readily obtained was that of experience itself – for every new sensation was to Williams perfection itself that could be refined through repetition but never, as a pure act of the soul, improved; every repetition was nothing but a copy that, no matter how skilfully recreated, could never recreate the thrill of the original experience. Each repetition was a debasement of the original nirvana until what was once fresh became habit, and what was once hell had fallen into a ludicrous parody that one might compare to hell. To Williams, repetition often felt like it.

No, it was for fools to amuse themselves with the same old kicks, and if such a person could be used to one’s own ends, they would be. Williams had for as long as he could remember found that he thought nothing of deriving enjoyment in proving an idiot to be just so and would ruthlessly exploit such failings, resting upon the notion that a fool needed to be made a fool of. He believed that he never would and never could deceive a woman, because when attraction is involved both parties must be affected by it and as such are both duped. Love, whether it lasts a night or a lifetime, makes fools of everyone. There was no guilt or crime in the art of deception because falling foul of it is its own punishment. Those who can be must be, and it occurred to Williams that such an act is the vindication of the intelligence of the deceiver. It is within the nature of one not blessed with acute faculties to show themselves up without help, but with his aid they may learn a lesson – if not then they had served his purposes and entertained him, an remained none-the-wiser. In this way, Williams rarely found his wallet lightened by his various activities and distractions, his willingness to use others’ money matched only by his skill at attaining it through charm and his utter revolution at them once he realised he could have his own way with them. No trait was more admirable to him than that of the ability to deny him his various desires, for nothing is more tiresome than achieving one’s ambitions.

Having spent hours alone as a child with whatever distractions he could find, he found that quality rather than quantity of a given experience or item would sate his thirst for distraction the best; the perfect casting of a metal figurine, with exquisite craftsmanship that revealed itself only under a magnifying glass; the softness and long lasting, deep colours of merino wool when woven into a jumper that only the highest quality retailers produce; the added effect of freshness given to a glass of orange juice when the fruit has been kept refrigerated up until the moment of having its liquids removed and separated from any bits of the flesh; he postulated over the increased pleasure experienced after spending weeks entering the pathways of the mind of a woman and hours awakening her body to the fullness of every sense that may be heightened during arousal – the quality of an experience often gave added depth to it and increased the lifespan of its intrigue to him. There is nothing more vital to the art of entertainment than the intricacies in the stimuli, which, if one can train one’s sense to such a level of detection, reveal a hidden universe of delights in the same way that a microscope reveals an entire unseen world of cells, mitochondria and divine complexity to an otherwise plain green leaf or shard of onion skin. It is training that can only be conducted through the practical application of learning, and Williams was nothing if not a practitioner of his many thoughts and whims.

Examples of this school of thought had been present throughout his childhood in the joint forms of his formal education and his social horizons within it, residing as each did, at opposite ends of the spectrum of quality and enjoyment. Williams had always been subject to an exceptional, if narrow-minded education in only two schools over the course of his life with very few school fellows who he felt were worthy of his attention – or indeed he of theirs. His primary education had been conducted at a small Church of England boarding school somewhere in the heart of Kent’s hills, an idyllic setting for that formative period of untold monotony, trapped as he was in a world populated by just one teacher all day, every day, who covered every subject for his class of ten pupils all of whom were less intelligent, and none of whom held any interest to Williams’ young mind. He would spend hours alone in a room built for two but populated by one, the friendly but distant faces of the school’s staff his only company for long periods, the other children, less intelligent as they were, a bore for the boy. These years were punctuated only by the summers, when he would run around in the fields, imagining those great battles and pretending to be a fearless warrior, or his parents would take him to Australia, where he would visit golden beaches and tropical forests that left Williams with a lifelong thirst for foreign climbs, and an affinity for Down Under. It was in all a life of kindly induced tedium which cosseted him in a blanket that shielded him from fears, concerns and contact with the meaningful human society that was torturously hinted at but never fully revealed.

This left Williams ill equipped to form relationships with other children upon attending his secondary school, another boarding school, this time a Methodist private establishment located in the City of Canterbury. It was a grand Victorian red brick building on a hill that must, at its time of building, have brought to mind Dickens’s London warehouses. It overlooked the city and was supplemented by a chapel and multiple modern buildings all set into playing fields that in the autumn and winter served as a rugby pitch, and in summer formed the outer boarders of the cricket field. Here he was disadvantaged by a lack of general social knowledge thanks to his wasted days of imagination at his previous school, and as a result resigned himself, on his first day, to the role of observer. It was a decision which he was later glad to have made as it quickly became apparent that this too was a place consigned to its own bubble, a separate universe within which otherwise sedentary and insignificant acts and people became self-professed legends, gaining importance and power. It was a bizarre world inhabited and dominated by disharmonious personalities who were all too desperate to never break free from its gravity and construct for themselves castles from which to rule over the insignificant lands that they felt and said meant so much. Williams found it pathetic yet interesting in the way one might find a dread fascination in observing maggots writhing through a putrid corpse, and had no desire to play a part in this madness, for which he was condemned and made prey to their petty life games. For seven years he was excluded at every possible opportunity unless amusement could be made of him, but far from crushing his spirit, he was increasingly aware that it was all a game in which every player was revealing their hand to him – a game which, if played surreptitiously and with adequate planning, would be made a complete mockery of when the time came.

Around this time he found himself privy to his first and perhaps greatest relationship at the age of sixteen, with a girl of the same age. She was regarded as the most intelligent and beautiful girl in the school, and by virtue of these popular traits and her own disinterest in the social hierarchy born of having moved to the country only the year before from somewhere distant, she was able to remove herself from the judgement and expectation of her peers, and existed instead as a font of exotic mystery. Williams’ tenderness and desire for her was born of his already advanced awareness for the best and finest qualities of things he was to develop. It was an instinctive sagacity for quality and nobility – an intolerance of imperfection, itself born from his days as a child dreaming of what he wanted, and these dreams being his only companions. As all human fantasy tends to be, his dreams forewent the real world’s imperfections, and so be became acclimatised to perfection, not through observation, but through self-realisation, which acted to magnify the blemishes of the world when they came to pass before his eyes.

They had grown close without reason and without expectation, and came to while away every minute they could in each other’s company, and came to be dominated by one another. Yet they never consummated their desire, neither having experienced passion of the flesh before and being overcome with nervous teenage anticipation. Without a touch, she had awoken in him every sense that would come to dominate his being. To every question she was the answer; the problem to which he would search his entire life for a solution, and she left, not in malice or hate, or any such reconcilable emotion, but as the dearest person to him. Her exit from his life left a weeping wound that even when it had healed caused scars that would never fade. It was an emptiness within Jack Williams that could never be filled, and it exaggerated his nature.

In this atmosphere Williams incubated, watched and learned, and gained great satisfaction from allowing the pawns to play, learning from their mistakes what they could not; knowledge in place of the direct experiences that he would one day practice himself later on. It was a period of study and finely-tuned tedium during which all the secrets of human behaviour, which only reveal themselves when the most precise, uninterrupted attention is paid to them became known to him and in gaining such insights Williams passed the years making experiments of the people who laughed at his eloquent, archaic method of speaking and who laughed behind his back over the rumours that he was in fact be gay – as if such a thing was even bad – by placing these fellow pupils of his in finely constructed traps of happenstance and wordplay in which they never even realised they were caught.

It was ironic that such rumours were spread about him; of all of Williams’s inclinations, it was his taste for and appreciation of the female form that in time came to dominate all else. Despite a native respect for women that came as a result of having an authoritative and intelligent mother, Williams would become a willing slave to his desires. He took pleasure in straying into explicit considerations concerning the opposite sex, and he would knowingly place himself in such a place that only failure was an opinion because he simply could not overcome his craving for the female form. He consoled himself in this through his awareness in doing so. Girls would govern this every thought and every plan for months on end, a mysticism over the subtleties and tones unique to womankind building in his mind until he could no longer contain himself over the imagined beauty in his mind. He often wondered, when lying beside a breathless woman at night later in life, whether it was his absolute lack of sexual contact before the age of eighteen or whether it was his natural predisposition that drove his insatiable lust for the fairer sex. Regardless, he thought, it was a devotion he likened to servitude; a condition forced upon his brain that ruled him and punished him as well as rewarding him as would a master to whom he was all too willing to submit. Women, to Williams’s virginal mind, represented then as they would for the rest of his days an ignition of every sense, and in their sheer variety – as humanity is riddled by diversity without end – served to summon and play these senses in infinite combinations, as he saw them, reminiscent of the sections of an orchestra or the members of a band with their various instruments and arrangements, parts and melodies, each unique to each song within each genre, of which there are endless examples and differences between them that can all be distilled down to different methods, practices, needs. All different disciplines of bringing about pleasure within the human body and imagination through lascivious embraces. That all human beings have the capacity for sex in common but an endless array of appreciations, desires and reactions excited him beyond all else and he yearned to sample every delight that a person could inflict upon another with every person. It almost made gender irrelevant to him, more he thought about it. It occurred to Williams that there was no act other than that of giving pleasure physically that evoked every sense so utterly – used every receptor in such harmony and had the ability, with the correct application of skill, experience and attention, to bring all senses to a shuddering nirvana in unison, and that there was no greater challenge than that of attempting to do so. No willing act of sexual gratification, no craving, no depth of depravity held any moral bearing to him; it was neither good nor bad, moral or immoral. Rather, it was quite simply and merely action, and that was justification within itself. Williams found the moralisation and intellectualisation of physical desire distasteful and dated, although he was himself given to the study and exploration of sexual conduct across the world’s cultures and within modern society, because to understand something is to master it.

Music, played an unusually small part in his life for a twenty first century teenager in his isolated upbringing, but it was important to him. His earliest tastes had been informed by those of his parents – Eddie Grant and The Eagles, with contributions from Bob Marley, Meatloaf and the greater deal of the old Motown record label from the 1960’s through to the mid 80’s, particularly Marvin Gaye for whom he would maintain a lifelong appreciation. Music more than any art form is made better by its distinct purpose, thought Williams.

It was reading, however, that proved to be Williams’ great escape, discovered young and only becoming his passion well into his teens. By virtue of his education, he was exposed to a number of great texts which would leave an indelible effect upon him; 1984, Lord of the Flies and Catcher In the Rye introduced him to the art form – as opposed to the simple practice – of writing. Later, he was presented with Shakespeare’s works; Macbeth, Hamlet and his favourite, The Tempest, which in turn led to his education in Gothic novels; Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Picture of Dorian Grey, which of all the books he ever read, shaped him the most, akin almost the that poisonous French novel Lord Henry lent Dorian, which Williams identified as Karl-Joris Huysmans’ Against Nature, which he too drunk upon. Through these texts, Williams gained an insatiable appetite for the very art of wordsmithery, and was set for a while down the path of Realism Floubert’s A Sentimental Education and Tolstoy’s War and Peace, before delving into translations from Emile Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series, finding particular satisfaction in The Drinking Den and The Masterpiece. From these books, he looked within the Decadent movement, already where he felt at home, backwards through history, settling on Lord Byron’s Romanticism, with which he would forever be in love. Romantic poetry, and by extension of his curiosity Baudelaire, another favourite, Rimbaud and Verlaine became the source of much of his intellectual inspiration as an adult, and shaped his desires in every sense, for every sense. Williams then came across On The Road, and in the course of its pages had a more profound effect on his psyche than anything he had yet come across; it reformed the nature of his understanding of his very desires, and opened his eyes as to how they may be obtained. In Dean Moriarty, he found inspiration. In Jack Kerouac, a spirit guide through who’s approach his own philosophy might be realised.

It was the basis of what would be another new hedonism – reserved for him and real only in his mind, based on a gratification for all parties where it might be found that required a strict obligation to repay an amusement for as long as it was amusing to do so. The art of gratification is at its peak when the act is shared. However, benefiting another, Williams mused, was only to be done while it remained novel to himself. Thereafter he would disentangle himself from the situation and all would end for every party involved.

All such considerations had once only existed in order to subdue his easily distracted and readily bored temperament, but in later years they became his obsession as his days became more of a burden. Such a lifestyle was quite beyond his current situation he reasoned bitterly as these thoughts had come to him. He was but a schoolboy dependant on the distant patronage of his parents and so was confined to allowing these ideas to excite his imagination only.

Jack Williams had come to realise that the social shackles upon him were forged by preconception; the seven year old ideas of him that existed in the minds of his colleagues. Such deeply held perceptions could not be changed – they were too old – and even if they could, there was no point to the vast expenditure of energy and time that would be required. It opened Williams’ eyes to a new reality, however; that those whom he had not yet met were without such preconceptions. That they will be formed upon meeting him. He must, therefore, appear to be the perfect product of society. His insatiable desire for yet more knowledge, more beauty, more understanding – to him the very essence of the beauty of thought – equipped him with the tools necessary to undertake the endeavour. Of all things, nothing was more fascinating to him than humanity and the structures they built with which to define and control themselves. His natural intuition was to study and observe them – he would apply these finding to himself, tempered by his tastes, and construct a visage at once fulfilling for him to live through, and captivating for others to live with. His was a superficial world, and he would make himself, superficially at least, it’s great proponent.

As such, he set about planning a wardrobe of elegance, sophistication and quality, all designer labels and fine materials; his preferred brands were Hugo Boss for their timeless cut, clean lines and elegance, and planned for his shoes, jumpers and suits to be of their range. His true tastes, however, were reflected by Ted Baker’s take on the modern dandy; the flamboyant use of colour and unusual patterns, and it was from them that he would design the majority of his aesthetic. Williams chose his coats from Armani for their timeless class and excellent fit, and his leather jackets, as well as casual summer wear from All Saints, and occasionally The Kooples, which allowed him to indulge his passion for the Rock ‘N Roll mien.

This fashionable edge was to be augmented by a comprehensive and impassioned knowledge of music past and present, specifically the bluesy rock of the sixties – Jim Morrison, Mick Jagger and David Bowie – and the nineties’ alternative rock – Billy Corgan, and Jarvis Cocker all to Williams held as the modern synonyms and inheritors of his beloved romantic, decadent and symbolist poets of the eighteen hundreds. So too did he have a love for pop music, which to Williams represented the ultimate challenge to a songwriter; to render myriad ideas, genres and ideas – a complex assortment on inputs – simple and inclusive for all. His was an ear for melody, honed by a passion for poetry and a mind for prose.

He made sure too to keep well informed on all goings on, placing subscriptions on The Economist, Financial Times, Dazed and Confused, British Vogue, NME, Empire, The Independent and The Literary Review. His person would have to reflect his outward perfectionism too; he wore his hair long through preference already, but kept it soft and shiny without shampoo, but scented oils. These were to be supplemented by two chosen scents; Escada Pour Homme, and Aqua De Gio by Giorgio Armani, however, until he could afford such luxurious potions, Williams settled for Yves Saint Laurent L'Homme. He maintained his skin with only natural products; crystalline scrubs and mud-mint face masks without alcohol. Williams set about forging a body befitting the high expectations as described by the media; his diet became a carefully calculated, highly nutritious indulgence of strictly quality whole food goods to fuel a methodical and scientifically planned exercise regime that produced a perfectly sculpted athletic figure, as if of an ancient Olympian wrought in marble. His shoulders, already naturally broad, became strong and flexed with muscle tissue; his chest proud and chiselled; his arms and legs thick and robust, his stomach was firm and lean, and his grip sensitive yet powerful.

All the while, his school fellows had their parties, enjoyed their first relationships, and shared their stories of misadventures especially loudly whenever Williams drew near, purposefully asking him of his own tales knowing full well he had none and mocking his silence and rueful blush. The joke, he assured himself, was on them. This was their peak and they lacked the sense to acknowledge it – and how far from his eventual lofty heights was theirs! Williams pitied them, and while they had another party to which every person in his year had been invited except for himself, his mind drifted while listening to especially mournful music that emphasised his mental state and sense of alienation, to their current revelry, which they were incapable of appreciating to its fullest, and how his own would one day eclipse all his imaginations and waiting while their lives faded to a deserved grey, the grey that hangs over a previously glorious summer day ruined by a sudden rain.