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michaelcthompson
October 6th, 2010, 05:48 PM
DISCLAIMER: This story features adult themes and language, and is not intended for readers under the age of 18.


COPYRIGHT 2010 by Michael C. Thompson.


"The Great Pretender"



ďIn darkness one may be ashamed of what one does,
without the shame of disgrace.Ē

- Sophocles

I think I was supposed to die that day.

I donít know what happened. My memory isnít what it used to be. For the hour preceding the accident, and for three weeks afterward, I remember nothing. When I do remember things now, itís randomly. They come and go, sometimes I canít remember what I just remembered five minutes ago. Sometimes I wish that were the case.

I donít like who I am. Thatís why I think I was supposed to die that day. But Satan wasnít done torturing me. He must have kept me alive somehow for his further amusement. My life has been a train wreck. Itís been one disgusting choice after another. I have no discipline. I never have. Iíve been unable to control my impulses. There were many justifications Iíve had over the years for my sick behavior, but none of it has ever mattered.

I do bad things because I want to. Or at least, I used to do bad things. That option has been denied me now. Iím the same person I used to be sometimes. My speech hasnít been distorted, obviously. When I try to recall a lot of memories, they donít come to me. Some I canít erase. Itís strange, because my memory doesnít seem to go blank before or after a particular period of time. For example, I knew my mother, but I didnít know my father - and both played an equal hand in raising me.

There doesnít seem to be any scientific explanation for my disorder. Itís simply the result of my traumatic head injuries - a random medical mystery. One too irrelevant to require much pondering by modern-day science.

It seems that the memories that I do retain are only the bad ones.

I should start from the beginning.

As a child, I was beaten by a grown man. He wasnít my father. He was a stranger, and he was behind a grocery store. He must have been on drugs. He left me for dead. I awoke in a hospital later that night. He had broken one of my ribs and traumatized me for life. I still have nightmares about him. Even in my dreams, heís beating me. It seems like it will never end.

I was walking to the store that day and decided to go through the woods. I couldnít have been more than eight years old. The woods came out at about two-hundred feet from the back of the ďKramers Food & DrugĒ grocery store. I didnít see him when I came out of the woods. He was lying under some newspapers. He was homeless, I guess. The police never caught him. I never saw him again. He probably skipped town, or hopefully died. If thatís the case, his body was never found.

As I was walking to the store, he suddenly sat up. It scared the Hell out of me. Thatís the way most of my nightmares start - him sitting up, that dirty blanket of newspapers falling off of him while he stared at me so strangely.

What was in those eyes? What caused him to beat me?

I wish I had an answer. The fact that I donít makes it so much worse. Or at least, thatís how I feel. Maybe if I knew why he beat me, it would be worse than I think. Did I remind him of someone? Was he just in a bad mood? Sometimes I think he was possessed. Sometimes I think that Satan took him, and he gave me my first lesson in the torture that would be the rest of my life.

Maybe Satan was introducing me to Hell.

Iím afraid that maybe thatís what I feel was really happening. I donít want to admit it, but I guess I have to. There was a demon in that man. And drugs, probably.

I stared at him and he stared right back at me. There was nothing at first, no movement. It was silent. I donít remember even hearing the chirping of birds of the whirring of insects, despite the fact that it was mid-summer - July 7th, to be exact. 1995.

I could see from the moment he sat bolt upright that he was not in the right state of mind. And one look into his bottomless eyes revealed he was damnably, undeniably insane. A lunatic from the bottom of his very heart.

I should have run, but I didnít. I was transfixed, hypnotized by his strange hatred. I sensed it immediately. He didnít like me. I wasnít what he expected to see. What did he expect to see? Another question Iíll never have an answer to.

After a moment - it couldnít have been more than twenty seconds - he sat up and began to approach me. Every instinct inside of me told me to run. My parents had told me to never talk to strangers, and although a specific situation such as this I had never been warned about, I knew my parents would want me to run away from this man as fast as I can.

I was out that day because my parents were at work and trusted me to stay in the house. It wasnít a very good idea on their part. I was very mature for my age, but I guess eight years old is never really mature enough for something like that. I donít blame them. They couldnít afford a babysitter and we were extremely poor. I have gone through periods in my life where I do blame them, but Iím not in one of those presently, and I canít see myself being in one again.

Itís my own fault that I am damned. Iíve chosen this route. Maybe I could have been something else, maybe God even wanted me to be something else - but thatís not what I chose to be. I took the easy road. I used my ďsurvival instinctĒ to ruin everything. When I got into the accidentÖ well, that comes later.

The crazy man just stood in front of me, staring down. I stared back up impotently, still as transfixed as I was the moment he sat up from under those dirty newspapers.

ďWhat are you doing here?Ē he asked me.

ďIím going to the store,Ē I replied.

There was nothing else said. He slapped me. I stumbled backward, then he punched me very hard. From there on out, I have no memory of the incident. I think thatís when he knocked me unconscious. He must have kicked me in the side afterward to have broken a rib.

My parents felt horrible, of course. They did their best to spoil me, and I took advantage of it. That still didnít stop the nightmares or the terror that I felt every time I didnít see other people around. I have a hard time being in a room alone. There was no one around that day, no one to help me - and thatís how I feel when Iím locked up by myself. And thatís all the time now.

Over the years, my fear has dulled - Iíve become numb to the terror, used to it. I still feel it, but Iím starting finally to accept on some level that heís not going to show up. He probably is dead. Heís twenty years older now, just like I am. Could someone like that last another twenty years?

I hope not. I hope he choked to death on his own vomit, or better yet, was beaten to death by people even more cruel than he was to me. If Satan has claimed me, he had surely claimed that man as well. And he probably collected on his dues a long time ago. I hope I donít meet him in Hell, but I fear I will. Who else would be there but him?

My mother quit her job for six months after that, but then we couldnít afford it any longer. She went back to work, making me swear to never leave the house. I did, though. I went to the mall and sat in the food court. I began to read a lot, then I began to write. Nothing ever came of the writing, though. I never really tried. I had more important things to do. I had to ďsurvive.Ē

They never caught me, because I always came back home before I knew they would. There were never any surprises, neither of them were ever home early - they couldnít afford to call in sick and they worked through their vacations. This still just barely allowed us to make ends meet. They slaved for me.

They died about six years after I was beaten. I stayed home alone that night. I was getting over my fear. I was very proud of myself - I thought I was growing up. That never happened though. Iím still just a little boy who wants to fuck things up.

The police told me that my parents had died in a car wreck. I was assured that they had died quickly, as though that was going to somehow alleviate my grief. It made it worse, how the police chief spoke to me as though it were some kind of blessing that they died quickly. All the sympathy that was shown to me that day was probably the last I would ever receive in my entire life.

I became a ward of the state. I was a foster child. I went through seventeen families in four years. There are probably two of them that I donít remember. That means the other fifteen were full of shit-heads.

When I was seventeen, I went to live with the Andersí. I had my first gay ďrelationshipĒ with the eldest son of my foster parents. His name was Morgan. I think I can only remember him because he was taken away from me. When my parents found out what we were up to, I was - without warning - immediately returned to the care of the state.

Upon return, I was passively punished by the entire staff of the state-run facility to which I had become extremely accustomed. I was ignored, sometimes unfairly penalized, and once a staff member pretended that I was not being beaten by two fat pieces of garbage a mere twenty feet away from her. I learned then that even having other people around doesnít matter - youíll still get your face stomped into the dirt. No one will lift a finger to stop it.

When I turned 18, I was released. The government was supposed to pay for my college intuition, but there were a number of computer errors and the problem was re-routed endlessly until I realized that the system was now stomping my face into the ground as well.

They gave me $500 a month and an apartment in the projects of New York City, over a hundred miles away from where I grew up. I didnít complain. I didnít know that I could complain. The thought had never occurred to me.

Eventually, they stopped paying for anything. I had no job skills. I had gone to various schools as I was shipped around from asshole foster parent to douche bag foster parent, but it was impossible for any knowledge to really stick. The knowledge I did gain was from reading. I had a good vocabulary. That doesnít really get me anywhere.

I had never graduated High School. I had no money to get a GED. I did what I felt I had no other choice to do, and I used the good looks God gave me to make a last resort. I became a gay male prostitute.

I didnít join an escort service. Such an idea seemed ridiculous to me. One of my foster parents had given me a laptop, and somehow I had managed to retain it over the years. I donít have it anymore, thanks to the police. I canít remember which ones gave it to me. That means they were probably good people. It picked up free wireless internet. Thatís how I found my ďclients.Ē

This was only one more step on the downward spiral of my life.

My first ďclientĒ was named ďBrian,Ē according to him. He was married. He told me like he was proud of it. Like I should find it attractive. I found it repulsive.

ďWhatís your name?Ē he asked me.

I told him the truth.

ďLawrence Cameron,Ē I said.

I figured later that it was probably a stupid idea to tell him my real name, but that didnít matter.

He gave me $150. It lasted ten minutes. What he did to me is tantamount to molestation, but I was a willing accomplice to the crime and so we canít really call it that. I took money for sex. So he didnít force me to do anything.

I hated myself after that. But $150 paid what the diminishing paychecks from the government would not pay of my rent. I didnít care what other people would think of me. What happened was just one more bad thing. As Mick Jagger sings, ďItís not evil, baby, it just happens every day.Ē

So it was one more shitty day for me.

Brian was very creepy. He seemed to be obsessed with my body. I found it disgusting that he had a wife and a daughter, which he told me afterward (once more proud of himself, like a politician the night before a scandal breaks). I had assumed a married man would display some sense of shame in his cheating on his wife with a young man (I was 19). He seemed to know nothing of shame.

He slapped my ass on the way out of his house. I caught the bus home, then contacted number two. His name was Kevin. He was 67 years old. He paid me $200. I donít really want to get into what happened there, or even afterward.

Unlike Brian, I am well-acquainted with shame, even if I have accepted the fact that I was doing what I had to do to survive.

For seven years I was a prostitute. I quit last year. After the accident. I canít even fake sexual interest anymore. Thatís probably a good thing. The state still isnít taking care of me. Iíve got barely any money left, and what I do have is running out. I donít buy food anymore - no point in that. Now, probably like the man who beat me so long ago, I eat from garbage cans. I donít do drugs anymore. I canít find any. And I certainly canít afford any.

For the first two years, my life was meeting ďJohnĒ after ďJohn.Ē I had a few regulars, some of which treated me very nicely. I was a very cute ďboyĒ back then, as they liked to think of me. I think perhaps on some deeper level they all wanted me to be an actual boy - as in a little one. Thatís what I represented to them. But who really knows. You canít get inside another personís head, after all - you can only make suppositions.

Either way, I grew to hate them. Even the ones who treated me so nicely. I hated what I was letting them to do to me. I would meet at least three or four a week. I had nothing else to do. It also allowed me some luxury. I bought the things I had always wanted - television, videogames, books.

I didnít have many friends. I guess my friends were these pathetic old men, so sad that they had to pay for sex, and even worse that they had to pay such a fuck up like me to have it with them. I was taking advantage of them and they were taking advantage of me and we all knew it. No one said anything, though. That would ruin the whole game. It was just a play, one thing after another. One lie after another. One mask after another.

Once, one of the ďJohnísĒ wives nearly caught us. I had to hide under the bed. He shuffled me out of the back door without paying me a fucking cent. I had half a mind to start breaking windows, but I knew he would simply put me in jail and claim he didnít know me. He was a police officer. I saw his badge on the night-stand. I think he put it there for me to see.

I dressed behind his shed and caught the bus, spending my last $2.00 to go home. When I got there I cried for an hour. I had never been ripped off like that before.

After a few years had passed, I began to meet some very ďinterestingĒ people. One guy liked to wear a leather mask, tie me up and slap me with his belt while Britney Spears played in the background. He would never hurt me. It was always very light. It was an easy $800. He video-taped the whole thing. I didnít cover my face. Itís not like I was going to be a celebrity anytime soon. That happened about once a month for four months. I did a lot of cocaine for that time period.

I also once met a multi-millionaire. He made me his ďNew YorkĒ boyfriend. I knew he had plenty of other ďNew YorkĒ boyfriends, but I didnít really care. I knew what I was. A call boy. He put me up in a nice place and began to shower me with presents. He would drop by once a month as well. His name was Roger. After I met him, I stopped taking ďclients.Ē

After about a year, he simply stopped paying my bills. First my electricity went off. Then, after thirty days (during which I consumed the remaining food in my dark apartment very sparingly), I was kicked out by the police. I wasnít allowed to take any of my possessions, including the laptop which I had been given by my foster parents so long ago. The police assumed he had bought it for me. I got another one later, but that wouldnít be until after I met my next ďsugar daddy.Ē

I donít know why he kicked me out like that, but I had known it was only a matter of time from the beginning. No matter how much I fake it, my ďregularsĒ always eventually figure out Iím disgusted by them, and they stop wanting to pay me for sexual favors. I canít help it. Itís just natural.

After Roger, I was homeless for the first time. I hated him. I still do. Maybe as much as I hate the man who beat me when I was eight years old, maybe as much as I hate the government for helping grease the cracks so that my slip through them would be easier. But really, I guess I canít blame any of them. Itís all my fault. Iím the one who chose to do those things. I could have found another way. I could have done something else.

Iím pretty sure I could have.

I was too attractive to be a street corner prostitute. I wasnít doing drugs, so I looked relatively healthy and well-fed. After two days, standing amongst scab-ridden transvestites and skeleton-thin, meth-addled twink boys, I was picked up by another wealthy millionaire, this one named Lucien.

Lucien was from Europe and he seemed to have a messiah complex. He wanted to save me. That was perfectly alright with me. I needed saving. Of course, in between all the saving he also wanted to fuck, but once again, that was fine with me. Lucien was about fifty years old. He told me that he had saved ďboysĒ like me all around the world.

First he put me up in a nice penthouse - much nicer than the apartment that Roger had paid for. Unlike Roger, however, Lucien wanted to live with me, at least for awhile. He was in New York on business for about a month, and during that month, we stayed together.

Although I was not sexually attracted to Lucien in any way, shape or form, I think I fell in love with him. What he did for me was so kind, even if he did want to have sex with me and treat me like his boyfriend. I realize now that he was really just paying for me and taking care of me like a pet. Although he was loving, he was only loving because of what I was to him - a prize, something he could own and have complete control over.

I didnít really care.

After he left, I continued to live in the apartment for two years. Every few months he would come back, and I was even grateful sometimes that he would.

Once for about two weeks I almost had a ďboyfriend.Ē His name was Louis. He was my age. Not to sound arrogant, but he wasnít quite as attractive as me - but still, relatively cute. He was 32. Lucien was out of town, and I hadnít mentioned him to Louis. He thought I was living off of the money of my rich, dead parents.

Eventually Louis revealed to me that he believed that the Holocaust had never happened, but that it should have. Then, uncomfortably, he asked if I was Jewish.

I have no idea if I am or not. I responded as such.

He stared at me for a few minutes, and for a second he reminded me of a much younger version of that man who beat me behind the grocery store.

Then he got up and left. I guess he figured I was probably Jewish if I wasnít willing to immediately respond ďHell no!Ē

I never talked to him again, and frankly, never really wanted to.

After another year, Lucien told me that he could no longer afford to pay for me to live in the apartment. He gave me $20,000, kissed me, told me he loved me, and wished me the best of luck. He bought me off again, but at least he wasnít as much of a piece of shit as Roger.

I moved into an extremely cheap apartment in the projects again. I returned to my old habits, and I added one new one. Alcohol. I had never tried it before. Once, on a whim out of boredom, I bought a bottle of extremely cheap vodka. I took a shot, threw up, took another shot, threw up again, and then took a third shot. I managed to keep that one down. Then I took a fourth, and a fifth.

Eventually, I managed to find myself drunk. That was the first of many nights with the bottle. After awhile, I could no longer bring myself enough to care about being a prostitute. I would drink and cry, cry and drink. My client list dwindled down to three, then to two, then to one, then to none. Still, I didnít care.

The alcohol stopped my dreaming.

I went on like that until I was literally one day from being thrown on the street. I had run out of money. I called Lucien via Skype on the internet and much to my surprise, he answered. He cried when he saw me. He felt horrible after I told him my situation. I cried as well. I think he feels genuine sorrow for me. He probably knows me more than any other person in the world. More than any other person has ever cared to. I donít care if he used me. Thatís over now, though.

He came to New York that very night and gave me another $20,000. He had sex with me, stayed the night, then got up while I was asleep and left. There was another $5,000 on the dresser. When my landlord showed up with the police to throw me out, I gave him $4000 in rent, both back and future payments. This calmed him and he decided to let me stay. I paid my bills, then once more went on as predicted.

Drinking.

I bought a cheap car for $3000. I didnít buy any insurance for it, or for myself. Also, I had never learned how to drive. I decided to drive it anyway, hoping to kill myself, and maybe take a few low bastards out with me. I was hoping God would select the right people to take out so that no innocents would be harmed, but really, I didnít care.

I got the hang of driving fairly quickly. The man I bought the car from stared at me strangely as I drove away. It must have looked awkward. I was guessing from what I had seen others do. I had a pretty good idea - I can be very observant. My fake driverís license also helped seal the deal. I got the hang of it within a few minutes. It was still a little awkward up until the accident, but that doesnít matter.

I stopped at a liquor store, bought expensive vodka (I still had the bulk of the money Lucien gave me), and decided to cruise around the city. Eventually I picked up speed and rammed myself into the side of a wall to a condemned building. It collapsed on top of the car, nearly killing me. It must have crushed my skull to some degree. I have nuts, bolts and metal plates in there. And I can even feel them.

They found me alive under the rubble. I donít remember running into the building, like I said earlier. When I woke three weeks later from a dreamless sleep, I was told that I had been granted a miracle. When they brought me into the hospital, I had been originally diagnosed as having a 2% chance to live. Somehow they kept me alive. I wish they hadnít. I donít think they were supposed to.

The hospital took all of my money. It was quickly deduced that I had no insurance, but they had found about $5000 on me. The rest was in my apartment. They took the $5000, and one day after I awoke, they kicked me out of the hospital.

I returned to my apartment to find an eviction notice under the door. I called the landlord and offered another $2000. He said he would take it, but he was only counting $800 of it toward rent. That means he pocketed the other $1200 like it never even existed. Thatís fine. I didnít care anymore. He didnít care what had happened to me either. I tried to explain, but he told me to ďShut the fuck up, you worthless piece of shit.Ē

I ran through the rest of the money fast. For an entire week I thought I was dead. I was done with the prostitution. That would never happen again. I couldnít get an erection and I certainly couldnít fake it. My memories were scrambled at that point.

Iíve got $2.32 left. My laptop isnít picking up wireless internet anymore. I donít think Lucien would talk to me this time anyway.

I know I was supposed to die that day. Iím done being tortured. Iím done hating myself, and hating life. Iím out of alcohol and money, so thereís no more time to waste.

I think as I fall, I will feel free for the first time. I know it wonít be for more than a few seconds, but will it feel longer? I hope so.

And when I hit the water, I want it to be over. I want to be swallowed by the darkness of the river, and swept away forever.


END

Vorrec
October 9th, 2010, 07:44 AM
A rather unique choice of content. I like. However, while reading through, I discovered that I was aching for more intimacy with the main character. I felt that although it is good and all that you chose more of a summary form to deal with the events, I was missing that extra in-the-moment detail that would pull me into the story further, which you could do through more characterisation, action on the part of the main character, and more emotion, especially at the part where he crashes into the wall and almost kills himself. I think it's a bit awkward because I can see your attempt to blandly write over the topic without much detail to add to the apathetic overall theme, but I think you should either focus more on the scene or just leave it out entirely, skipping from the simple fact that he had a car crash to "They found me alive under the rubble". Also, there was a specific grammatical problem that stood out to me. You wrote: "...was beaten to death by people even more cruel than he was to me." Here, I think you're comparing characters (people) with actions (than he was to me), which is rather awkward. Changing one of the two (by people who were - 'to be' being the verb, or more cruel than him, where 'him' would be the object) should do the trick. That said, I really liked your approach to the story. It's straightforward and, although not explicit, involved. The ending few sentences were simple but powerful. Reading through your other works, I must say I really enjoy your content. Your poetry is amazing. I would like to see more of both that and your stories.

V.

michaelcthompson
October 10th, 2010, 06:06 PM
Thanks so much for reading my story! I think you are correct, I could definitely add more characterization to it. I initially just wrote the story to get some dark feelings outside of me. This is only a second draft, so I should follow your advice when I go through and do another one at some point in the future. As for the grammatical mistake, thanks for pointing it out. I will try to view this as more of an outline to the story when I go through on the next draft.

SilverMoon
October 10th, 2010, 08:01 PM
Hi, Michael. Your story has a wonderful flow. Easily, it could have read choppy if not for your ability to marry sentences so smoothly. Yes. I agree. Adding characterization, here, will add much colour to your piece. For example, I just read two millonairs as being just two millionairs only differenciated by their monetary means.

I might give some breathing space, allowing your character to experience some times of joy, for lack of a better word right now. A few scenes motivating him to reach deep into his heart (not that you haven't shown us!) and "go good", recovering his integrity. However, it should probably last long enough to have the reader "just" about buying it, then "crash". He's down and out again for "some" reason. Adding a bit of the climatical to the story. And this can only really be done when you take the reader on a smoother ride for awhile.

I enjoyed this immensely! I will be looking into your other works and look forward to reading more. Laurie

michaelcthompson
October 11th, 2010, 01:16 AM
Thanks for your input SilverMoon. Something I love to do is to take a very short story and flesh it out into a novel. I have done this a couple times. Maybe I will take this into consideration. I could certainly add much more. When I was writing it, I was thinking more in terms of keeping it an intentionally short story - almost like a sort of homework assignment. But there is no reason to stick to the rule. If not an entire novel, perhaps a novella or something. God knows I have a lot more I could say from the mind of this character. I might put it into present tense and work through it that way, it would make me automatically want to describe the scene more.

You guys have inspired me to pick up on a story that I was pretty much done with. Thanks for the encouragement, it really makes me very productive!

namesake
October 15th, 2010, 12:31 AM
I am going to add more to the excellent posts. I am going to reinforce the idea that this needs deeper characterization and that would be accomplished by making the charcater be more intimate. It is tough I know to make it more so. I think the range of emotions could be better described. Think about describing the emotion in original ways that are fresh. That will be key in seeing the emotions come through. So I am going to say that it was smooth reading. Be honest and accurately describe the emotion as you have felt it. That way it can come through easily to the reader when reading it. Be convincing when depicting it.Don't tell, but show, and try to show it through action and thought and I think that could help.

I think we need emotions to tell us, well this person was a pretender. That was your premise, and I think it needs to be touched upon more.