I am letting you see my worldview for your own protection.

Do you remember the evening that we first met? Of course you do. Everybody always remembers the first time they met me. Whether you became my intimate partner after my carefully executed seduction, whether I admitted you to my outer circle or whether you were there to serve me a drink, everyone always remembers the first time they encountered me. It is invariably the beginning of something memorable. But, let’s not be concerned about my coterie, the minions and the strangers, this is all about me. And you. Do you remember on that first meeting what I told you. Yes, I appreciate that I told you many things. Plenty about me, naturally but I also told you many things about you. Yes, you remember don’t you, I can tell. I told you how magnetic your eyes were. You blushed when I mentioned this but I could tell by your reaction that someone else had said something similar to you before. You looked down, those long lashes, defined by the mascara that you applied so carefully a couple of hours earlier. I knew you enjoyed that compliment and I knew that you did think you had attractive eyes. Nobody had called them magnetic before, that much was evident, but you had been told you had beautiful eyes, stunning eyes and such like. Of course I exceeded those standard and quite frankly trite observations with my reference to how “your optimistic eyes held paradise”, “your eyes possessed all manner of desire including the wanton” and “your eyes shone with the inner brightness that so many of us find so delightful.” Great descriptions and they always have the desired effect of prompting a pleased response and a compliment in return. One always looks to give to receive. There is no other way.

I always harked back to your eyes didn’t I? Referring to them in complimentary terms and then as I held you I looked deep into your eyes, holding your gaze, allowing the silent to speak for itself as your body tingled with the heightened anticipation of such a passionate gesture. You never wanted to break that gaze, your almond-shaped eyes, possessing that scintillating emerald colour, that sea-like sapphire hue, that forlorn yet enchanting grey, that dark brown that simmered with sensuality, remain transfixed by my own stare. Nothing was said. Nothing needed to be said as our eyes remained locked together and the emotion poured from those eyes. Such expression resided inside your eyes and on so many occasions I drank deep of the fuel that sprang, well-like, from your gaze. I would enter a room and the delight you sent my way as your eyes widened was edifying. Such expression. From the narrowing in frustration, the wild-eyed grip of anger, the rounded surprised joy, the burning passion, the simmering elation, the eye-rolling orgasmic and the pain-filled tears. Your eyes had it all. I spent so long in your eyes. I often needed no more than you to look my way. It was unnecessary for you to speak, to gesture or to come closer. The emotion which you managed to gather in your expressive eyes was quite something to behold. Of course, I was always the catalyst. Without me you would have no need to provide such a range of heightened emotions. Without me you would not have been able to experience that wide range of emotions and allow them to form and flow from your eyes. As ever, I taught you and I guided you, ensuring that you did as was required. Expert that I am, I noticed your eyes from the first time that I ever placed my own and you. I knew from that moment that I needed to possess those eyes,make them my own, capture them so that they only ever looked my way. Your gaze was never meant for others. They were beneath you and clearly far beneath me. They were never meant to be the beneficiaries of such magnificence from your eyes. It was not for them to experience the prime fuel you generated. Only I was entitled to this. Only I was to receive such a reward and it was right and proper, for I invested much of my time in ensuring that the looks you gave me covered every emotion and providing that high-grade fuel. I encouraged and guided that use of your eyes, like a conductor with his orchestra. I told you when to emphasise them with mascara, eye liner and eye shadow. I dictated when they should be bare and look up on me in naked innocence. I instructed when you should wear spectacles and when you should not. I forbade excessive drinking for those eyes should never be bloodshot from alcohol, although that condition was permissible as a consequence of your upset.

So yes, back when we first met, it was your eyes that gained my rapt attention, my compliments and my flattery as I sought to possess them. I was most attentive and recognised what I stood to gain from your impressive eyes. I looked upon them and I looked into them and that is where I saw something. I saw something in your eyes which mattered more than anything else in the world. What I saw in your eyes was the very thing that made me know that you were the one who had to be chosen. That something which I saw convinced me to ensure I bound you to me. I looked into your eyes and I saw something. I saw myself.

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I have a busy day today. Much to do and many people to do it to but when you have someone’s interests at heart, well, this is what you have to do isn’t it? I have the list of telephone numbers which I have noted down from your telephone when I gained access to it. It was not difficult to do so. Using my famous ability to move around without making much of a noise I stole up behind you and watched you enter the passcode for your phone and I stored that in my memory to enable me to use it when you were sleeping. Naturally I had a good look through all your messages, your diary and e-mails but that is for another discussion. I recognised the names of numerous people and made a note of their numbers inside my little book and then hid that in readiness for when I decided it was time I needed to use it. Now that time has come and it is incumbent on me to take this step.

The first number I enter into my phone is that of Sarah, a friend of yours. She answers after two rings. Like many people she is surgically attached to the ‘phone.

“Hello Sarah it is HG. Listen, I just wanted to let you know, since you are such a good friend of hers, that Gemma is, well I think the easiest way to describe it is that she is not well, not well at all. What do I mean? She has been acting rather strangely. The slightest thing seems to either have her shouting or crying. At first I wondered if it was just, you know, women’s things, but it has been going on for months now. You had no idea? No I know, I have not said anything before because well I was hoping I could help her  deal with it but it is beyond even me. I am going to get her some help. I try and talk to her about it but she just clams up on me, gives me silence and then a little later accuses me of not caring. I don’t think she is sleeping properly either and it takes me an age to get her to eat. Should you come round? No, thank you, that is kind of you, but I don’t want her to do anything which might upset you. She is very erratic in her behaviour but it is something more than just mood swings. I am going to get her the proper help but I am just forewarning you that if she contacts you just be aware that she is not herself. She has been saying things about people, me included, which are not very nice and I don’t want this period of illness to affect her relationship with her friends, you know how some people can be overly sensitive to what someone says and they miss the point they are unwell. Yes, that’s right. Yes I think it would be a good idea if you just give her some space. Yes, absolutely. If she does contact me, let me know, you have my number on your ‘phone now. Yes I will pass on your kind words and thanks for your help Sarah, it is much appreciated at this difficult time.”

I end the call and place a tick next to Sarah’s name. She was most understanding and fully appreciate the need for space in order to allow you to get better. Now, who is next. Ah yes, another of your friends, Helen. I call Helen and explain the situation almost word-for-word as I did with Sarah. She asks more details about what is wrong and I reluctantly tell her about the violence and the lying. She is shocked I can tell and she spends some time searching for an amateur diagnosis as to what it might be. I listen as she drones on, checking my watch and noting I have other names to get through too. Eventually I am able to conclude the call and place another tick. I continue working my way through your list of friends, the ticks adding up. Next is John, your fitness instructor.

“Hello John, this is HG, Gemma’s partner. We haven’t met. Look John, difficult call to make but Gemma is unwell at present. It is pretty serious. Yes, thank you, it is a difficult time but I am doing the best I can to help her. It is unclear at present what it is, I am organising for a doctor to come and see her today but it is making her very difficult to be around. She may be suffering from some kind of breakdown brought on by exhaustion. Yes, it is a worry. I know you would not have thought it to look at her outside of our house but I think this has been brewing for some time, you know, she even started telling me that she was going to marry you. Yes I know that is ridiculous isn’t it? You are already married? I thought you were. Don’t worry, I know nothing is going on, I am sure you are far too professional for that kind of thing, but this is part of the problem, she keeps coming out with outlandish comments and I can handle it but I worry others might not so she won’t need your services until further notice. Payment? Well yes if she has an agreement with you then just continue to take her monthly payment after all this is not your fault is it? I will let you know when she is well again but just in case she tries to contact you I think it would be best if you don’t take her calls, I don’t want her causing you any trouble especially between you and your wife. Thank you John, your discretion is appreciated.”

Another tick and a similar call is made to your choral group and your book club. Next is your employer. I made you take today off under the pretence of you gaining a lie in and then us doing something together. We stayed up late last night so you are still fast asleep upstairs allowing me to make these important telephone calls. Your employer is understanding and I can confirm that arrangements will be made to provide the relevant doctor’s note because I explained this situation is likely to last a number of weeks. My preparation thus segues into arranging for the local doctor to make a house call after I explain to the receptionist, in worried tones, that having you leave the house in your current state might be a risk to both you and other people. She was most understanding and confirmed that a doctor would attend after surgery, around 5pm. Next on the list are your family members. I secured the advantage of persuading you to move with me away from them and they are now a flight away. The inconvenience of having to fly and the distance is something I play on as I call your parents and your sister, forewarning them that they may experience some unpleasant comments about them and especially me given her condition. I assure them that I am taking care of you and there is really no need for them to come all this way. I confirm I will keep them updated and they are pleased I have taken time off work to care for you and that I have arranged for a doctor to attend. I spend considerable time reeling off examples of the terrible behaviour you have exhibited, explaining the awful things I have been subjected to and the lies you have told about me, your friends and family. I explain that I can deal with it but I just feel so sorry for your parents and your sister having to hear such things and in order to prevent it happening again the best thing is to contact me and not you and to keep you at arms’ length. I explain I understand that it is hard but it will be the best outcome for all concerned if you are prevented from lashing out and hurting people. My explanations and good intentions are accepted and thanks is offered for my understanding and support.

The final tick is placed on the list and I place both ‘phone and pen down. I really should go and wash my hands now after smearing all that mud around.

It is a beautiful day. The kind of day that feels full of possibilities. The sun shines in the cornflower blue firmament, birdsong fills the air as the scent of grass, flowers and optimism hangs heavy. You stand at your window and look out across the view of your well-tended garden and then the fields beyond, stretching away to the hills in the distance. Your time is your own and you stand considering not only what you will do this gorgeous day but what is next for you and your life. What direction will you take it in? Where will your steer your good ship to? There have been some stormy waters in the past but you navigated them and jettisoned that unnecessary cargo which threatened to sink you and here you are now with so many choices, so many options and opportunities available to you, unhindered by others that may seek to impose their own values and decisions on to you. You are freedom personified although you must admit there are times when you would welcome someone to share this unparalleled freedom with, but there is no rush to achieve this. It will happen when it happens, you believe in such things. As you continue to look out across the view, the telephone rings and you break off from your thoughts to answer the telephone.

“Hello,” you declare into the receiver. You hear a voice, clear, confident, warm and strangely inviting, speaking to you.

“Hello, I am  Mr Saul Mate calling from Somnium Incorporated and I just wanted to let you know that I am able to deliver whatever you require twenty four hours a day, 365 days a year. Remember it is all about you. Thank you for your continued custom.”

The call ends.

You smile and replace the receiver. It rings again and you answer.

“Hello, Mr Saul Mate calling from Somnium Incorporated. Please remember I am by your side even when I am not there and I am always ready to attend to anything you require. What you need, I provide. Thank you for your continued custom.”

The call ends again and as you stand contemplating this call there is the ping of a message on your mobile phone. You replace the landline receiver and walk over to where your mobile rests on the sideboard. You pick it up and see you have a text message from a number that you do not recognise. You open the message nevertheless.

“Somnium Incorporated – taking you to a new level in the provision of delight and joy.”

The landline rings again and you mutter as you answer.

“Yes?”
“Hello, Mr Saul Mate calling from Somnium Incorporated. We have undertaken an extensive profiling exercising which puts us in the optimum position to understand all your needs and most importantly satisfy them. Every. Single. Time. Thank you for your continued custom.”

“Look, I haven’t ordered anything from you,” you protest but the line goes dead.

Another message arrives on your ‘phone.

“Somnium Incorporated – just say it and you will have it. Heaven awaits when you let us take care of you.”

There is a noise from your laptop and you replace the receiver and walk to the computer to find an e-mail from soulmate@somniuminc.com

“Dear Customer, we just wanted to let you know how much we adore looking after your every need. You are very special to us in fact you are the only one we want to serve.”

“What is going on?” you ask yourself aloud. Your ‘phone pings again and the sound of an e-mail arriving rings out. You are about to look at these messages when your doorbell rings.

“What now?” you mutter.

You open your front door to find a courier stood there holding a huge bouquet of flowers.

“Good morning miss, delivery for Miss Victoria Tim,” he smiles. He hands you the bouquet and walks away. There is a card attached and you read it.

“For you dear customer who we will always serve and provide for no matter what – Somnium Inc”

You carry the flowers inside which are admittedly beautiful as you hear something being shoved through your letterbox. You place the flowers down and return to the door to see several flyers in different styles and colours have been pushed through your letterbox. All of them are from Somnium Inc and contain a variety of promises, declarations and plaudits concerning you and them. The doorbell rings and you pull the door open in irritation, still clutching the flyers. You can hear your landline ringing again and the repeated pinging of your mobile phone and chime of your laptop. A different courier stands at the door this time with a parcel which he hands to you.

“Victoria Tim?” he asks and you nod.

“Just sign here please,” he says with a smile and pushes the signing device towards you. You oblige and he wishes you a lovely day as you retreat inside with the parcel which bears a tag.

“From Somnium Inc to our best and most wonderful customer, we want to serve you forever.”

You shake your head and put the parcel down to answer the landline.

“Hello, Mr Saul Mate here just calling to remind you how special you are to us and how we will only ever have your best interests at heart.” The doorbell rings again.

“Stop calling this number!” you shout and slam the phone down. You snatch up your mobile and see 25 messages have arrived all from the same number. You glance at a couple of the messages.

“We just wanted to let you know that we have never had a customer like you before. You are unique in every way and we just want to give you everything you deserve – Somnium Inc.

“We have never felt this way about one of our customers before it is like we have been sent from corporate heaven to make you happy forever – Somnium Inc.”

The landline rings again but you ignore it. You can hear more chiming from your laptop and you see that you inbox is filling with e-mails from the same source ; soulmate@somniuminc.com You let out a cry as the doorbell rings once again and flinging the door open, phone ringing in the background you are confronted by a line of couriers who snake down your pathway and onto the road beyond. They are all carrying items such as flowers, parcels, baskets, balloons and such like.

“Delivery for Miss Victoria Tim,” they all announce in unison and provide you with a winning smile and a wink of the eye.

“Go away!” you shout, ” I do not want them. I don’t have anything to do with Somnium Inc!”

You slam the door and march back into the living room as the landline keeps on ringing, your mobile pings incessantly and the chiming coming from your laptop will not stop. More flyers land on the doormat as you fling your mobile to one side, placing your hands over your ears trying to drown out this cacophony but to no avail. You hear a loud knocking at your front door as the chiming, ringing and pinging continues. You curse and wait. You consider going to the internet to find the details about this company Somnium Inc and Mr Saul Mate in readiness of making a complaint. This is harassment. No company should be acting in this fashion and anyhow, where did they get your details from? How did they know your telephone numbers, e-mail address and residential address? You never gave them out. The knocking at the door continues and you stomp to the front door.

“I said I – ” you begin as you wrench the door open expecting to find the line of waiting couriers but there is nobody there. Your eyes look down to the doormat on your porch floor and there is crisp white calling card with black embossed letters. You stoop and snatch it up, the din of ringing and alerts seeming to fade as your attention is drawn by this card. You read it.

“Sorry we missed you, we will call again.”

The name Saul Mate is in one corner and Somnium Inc is another corner. You look across the lawn but there is nobody there. You go to the front gate and look left and right along the avenue but it is empty.

If any company or organisation treated you in this manner you would complain. This behaviour is our calling card and you not only embrace it but you want it. And you call us the twisted ones?

Here we are again. In that all too familiar place. I have lost count of how many times I have found myself here. Despite my very best endeavours, my valiant intentions and earnest dedication I am stood in his hallway of despair. Some time ago this hallway was a welcoming place where polished tiles gleamed and marble pillars glinted. The air was filled with the scent of jasmine, bright sunlight pouring in through the glass dome high above. So many corridors and doorways led from this hallway, offering exciting and intriguing possibilities, new experiences and enthralling opportunities. I can still picture you when you had crossed the threshold, invited into my world and you stood open-mouthed impressed and amazed by the grandeur. With a typically generous and expansive sweep of my arm I offered you the free run of those corridors and rooms. You took full advantage of my generosity and why not? You were a very welcome and special addition.

Now look at us. Your failure has made this a cold and desolate place. The dome has suffered as a consequence of you frequent eruptions of frustrated anger, the once clear panes now either broken or smeared with the grime of your betrayal. The sun has not shone into this hallway for a long time, in fact, neither of us can remember when it last did so. The tall pillars are cracked and chipped, testament to your unwarranted assaults on our person as your forked tongue of criticism lashed out at us. The tiles are fractured and uneven causing you to regularly trip and fall to the floor, the cold slap of your downfall a stark reminder of the change that has gripped this place. You can hear the low moan of the wind as it billows, wuthering and gusting, seeking entrance through the broken windows and dilapidated shutters. That is the wind isn’t it or is it the tortured protestations of the shades and spectres which still haunt this hallway? Sometimes you see them, the forlorn figures which glide haplessly along the dirty passageways, heads bowed as they seem to be seeking something. Whenever you see them you feel a strange sense of familiarity and understanding with their plight even though you are unsure who they are. No doubt a consequence of the empathic traits which still cause you to remain here.

I let you walk these beautiful corridors. I allowed you to marvel at the statues, the ornaments which adorned the walls and alcoves, mesmerising you with their beauty. You felt loved, you felt content and you felt safe as you walked this place never needing or wanting to step back through the door that you once entered all that time ago.

Now you are sat on the icy floor, your hands clasped together and raised in a gesture of contrition and pleading. Your face is etched with wounding woe and the lines of desperation evidence your determination to remain. I brandish the heavy iron key that will unlock the dark door which looms over you and which will reveal the doorway to the cold, uncaring and harsh would beyond, a world you have no desire to return to. I hold the key as I stand over you watching you and although I hear your voice I cannot discern what you are saying. You struggle to your feet, weakness pulling at you as you pull down the sleeve of the tattered garment which you wear and you begin to rub at a nearby pillar. You spit on it and frantically try to remove the grime as if you are showing me that the damage can somehow be undone. You turn and look at me, hand still moving back forth and I see that eternal optimism in your eyes. That look which once looked like paradise to me and now only serves to reinforce your selfishness in wanting to remain here after everything you have done and everything you have not done as you let me down. Again. The distortion that has surrounded your voice and now I can hear you as you are pointing to the windows and the doors which hang from their hinges, holes smashed into them.

” This place was once so beautiful and you have let it fall into neglect, why have you done this? I just do not understand. I helped you keep it shining and in a pristine condition but then you just lost interest, you would not work with me anymore and it began to fall into decline. It was too much for me to maintain alone though heaven knows I tried, I really did. Not only did you not help me but you then started to hinder me, stopping me from carrying out my tasks, holding me back and diverting me.”

Why are you saying such things to me? Why are you seeking to pin the blame on me? Why are you trying to make me responsible for the demise of this once grand place? I shake my head and point the key at you, a clear signal of my intent. Your face twists and the tears start to form in your eyes. Perhaps they might fall into the now dry fountain and bring about restoration. Does such restoration hang from your sadness?

“Don’t make me leave, please I do not want this to end,” you plead, your eyes, which once shone with delight and joy, which are now glazed as your fear of abandonment starts to rise.

“This does not have to happen, ” you continue as you place a hand against my arm, ” let me stay, I only want us to be happy, to be as we once were. Surely we can do that? Our laughter once echoed through this place and it can again. We can repair the damage, it is not about who caused it, I can put that to one side, I just want us to be together and for us to rebuild what we once had. We did it once,I know we can again, let us join forces and re-create that wonderful time once more, let us admit sunshine and clean away the dirt and the hurt that seeks to envelope this place. We can fix the glass, mend the doors, scrub the floors and clean and tidy and make good. We can do it. I know we can. I can sense it deep inside you, I know it to be the case.”

Your words are impressive and burgeoning with hope. Perhaps it can be done but then you let us down and for that you must pay the price. That momentary consideration of allying with you and recovering what we once had is dispelled. We shake our head.

“It cannot be recovered. There is no hope to do so,” we say slowly.

A tear spills down your cheek and hovers on your chin as if unsure of where to go.

“Then let us at least pretend that we walk through gilded and fragrant halls once more. Please ? We can pretend can’t we?”

Yes we can pretend. It is all we ever do.

After the storm has passed you will no doubt be sat one hand raised to your head, still numb with shock and a bewildered expression on your face. Where on earth did that come from? You were experiencing blue skies and a golden hot sun which blazed brilliantly in the sky. All was calm, no wind, not even a breeze as you enjoyed this beautiful weather. Everyone was happy and seemingly content. You had only minutes earlier checked to see if you could see dark clouds on the horizon, a gathering storm, but there was nothing to be seen in whichever direction you happened to look. Out of nowhere it arrived. Now as you sit amidst the destruction you play back in your mind what happened which appeared to cause the storm to appear with terrifying ferocity. Enjoying the warmth of the golden sunshine you suggested that you would cook a steak since we enjoyed the one you cooked this time last week so much. You enjoy making delicious meals for us. You are good at it and you like to show how you care about us by ensuring we enjoy our food. It was a simple and innocuous suggestion and surely a fair and logical one. We commented about how good that steak was when we sat down to dine last week so it made sense to do it again surely? Yet as soon as you made the suggestion you heard the words which signalled that the storm was about to erupt.

“I don’t like steak. I don’t want steak. You should know this by now. I want lasagne. I told you that earlier on but you never listen to what I have to say do you? Oh no, what I say is not important enough for you to pay attention to. You never do what I want, always what you want to do. I am sick of it. You are so damn selfish and I have had enough.”

None of this made any sense but you were not given any time to consider the veracity or otherwise of what we had said. Already the wind had got up and was whipping around you, pulling at your clothes and sweeping through your hair. The sky darkened as it became filled with ominous black clouds. You felt the first heavy drop of rain on your face,or was it a tear, you somehow cannot seem to remember. This always happens. You feel punch drunk afterwards and your ability to recall the precise detail of what happened seems to have been affected. The deluge began as a torrent of rain lashed down, driven by the powerful gusts of wind that now tore through your environment. Lightning flashed, great jagged forks which rent apart the churning black clouds followed by the terrifyingly loud thunderclaps which made the ground shake. You seem to recall us continuing to shout at you but you cannot remember what was said for the noise of the whirling wind was too great or was that us making such galeforce winds. Again,although it was only moments ago you find yourself struggling to remember exactly. Hailstones the size of golfballs began to hammer down on to you, forcing you to curl up into a ball inorder to try and shield yourself from the onslaught.You had no time to run to a shelter. You never do. The unpredictable and sudden nature of these storms always meant you were caught in the open, exposed to the full range of elements. The temperature dropped and you remained curled up, shivering with cold or was it fear? Sodden and frightened as the whirlwind continued. You lifted your head and through the sheets of rain you saw the destruction raging through your home as the whirlwind began to smash and destroy. Holes were punched in walls, crockery smashed, books ripped open, curtains torn down as this violent vortex damaged and demolished. You cried out begging the storm to stop but your pleas were like those of a child and could not be heard over the furious storm which raged about you. You curled up tighter, willing it to pass, as the sounds of destruction continued, mixed with the howling wind, the lashing of the rain and your own fearful sobs.

Suddenly it stopped. The noise and the fury was gone. You waited lest it was just the eye of the storm, a brief respite before the raging continued but nothing more came. Slowly you unfurled yourself, water trickling down your face as you felt the soreness on your arms and back from where the hailstones had slammed against you. You sat up and in dismay looked at the carnage around you. Destruction and damage meets you wherever you look. The suddenness by which the storm arrived and departed might cause you to question that it ever happened, yet the broken possessions and damaged furnishings confirm that it was too horribly true. You raise a hand to your mouth to stifle the cry of alarm which is trying to sound. You know better than to invigorate the storm to return when it has just passed. The wind has died down, the rain has stopped and the fearsome dark clouds have rolled away towards the horizon leaving behind blue sky once more. The sun is there yet you feel no warmth from it as you sit amongst the debris from the storm which rampaged around you only a few moments ago. It arrived without warning and did so with great fury, as it always does. Then it was gone. We are nowhere to be seen having left the room and you know better than to seek us out. Instead you rise unsteadily to your feet, the nervousness and anxiety caused by the arrival of such sudden violence having left its mark on you. You begin to try and tidy up the aftermath of the storm as you wonder to yourself how long this break in the clouds will last.