Copyright Eric Feka 2016
The characters, events, and places depicted in this work of fiction are, not surprisingly, fictitious. Any resemblance to real people, places, and events are entirely coincidental, except for the picture at the beginning of story, of course. It shows real graffiti, on a real wall, in a real place called Footscray, which lurks at the bottom of the Australian continent. While I’ve never met the person who was responsible for such a sterling piece of street art, I’m sure he or she would thoroughly enjoy the story it inspired.
No matter how long Metho stared at the sign on the door, the words didn’t change. The Belgradia Hotel, scene of many a drunken debauch and the place where most of everyone he knew had been conceived, was closing down. ‘This is where me mum and dad met,’ he grumbled.
‘It’s the property values,’ said one of the motley collection of individuals standing on the footpath behind him. ‘It’s close to the city, which makes it an attractive prospect for those who can’t afford to buy in one of the more sought after inner suburbs. Especially now that the, um, undesirables that were associated with the old demographic are moving on.’
Everyone looked at the speaker, who blushed. ‘Fucken arseholes,’ he added. He was the newest member of the crew – it was only his third day – and they had named him Little Spaz, which he wasn’t happy about. Little Spaz’s father – the original Spaz, or Big Spaz as he was now known – had introduced him to the crew because ‘the boy’s a bit soft’, and Metho had seemed only too happy to take him on.
Even though he was still learning the ropes, Little Spaz was having doubts about what his father had obviously thought was a good career move. From the snippets of conversation he’d picked up, it was becoming apparent that Metho hadn’t taken him on because he saw potential, but because he was afraid of Big Spaz. The realization that it was fear rather than talent that got him hired was like a metaphorical knee to the groin for his confidence, as well as being a bit perplexing.
As far as Little Spaz was concerned, Popy, which is what he called his dad at home, was as caring and gentle as a father could be. No one had a bad word to say about him. In fact, most people went out of their way to say what a good bloke he was.
‘Fucken yuppies,’ Metho muttered.
They’re not yuppies anymore,’ Little Spaz said, ‘these days, they’re just aspirational.’ He looked around at the renewed stares and knew that he’d erred again. ‘Fuck the fucken fuckers, the fucken fuckers are fucked,’ he added, in order to redress the balance between curse words and normal language.
‘If land values are up like Little Spaz says, and there are all these asperdicks running around with full fucken wallets, then why the fuck is business so bad?’ Metho said, and turned to look directly at his, for want of a better word, men.
The crew replied with silence and a determination to avoid eye contact at all costs. Metho had a reputation for beating twelve textures of faecal matter out of any messenger who dared give him bad news. Or good news, for that matter. Or stood too close when Metho was having a bad day. And today was definitely shaping up as a bad day.
‘Look, what about him,’ Metho said, and pointed to a man strolling, carefree and casual, on the other side of the road. ‘I’m sure we used to sell to him. He was a fucken gold mine, if I remember right. Couldn’t get enough of whatever we had – regular Keith fucken Richards. He can’t of gone straight, could he? They can’t all of gone on fucken health kicks, could they?’
The plumpest of the crew, whose flabby chest had earned him the moniker “Tits” looked towards where Metho was pointing. ‘He might of,’ he said, after a moment’s contemplation, ‘but all these aspirational buggers look the same to me’
A straggler joined the group and Metho turned on him. ‘Skip, yew fucka! Where yew been?’
‘I brung some donuts,’ Skip said, and handed around fried snack treats. ‘I just got back from Brighton. Was with that little blondie what you liked, Tits. You remember that little blue eyed one that used to buy from us a while back? Posh bitch, parents are lawyers? Husband’s one of those councillor dudes?’
‘What? You? With her?’ Tits exclaimed, then paused a moment. ‘What’s she like?’
‘You didn’t miss much,’ Skip said, and the disappointment was obvious in his tone. ‘She looks good, but, I dunno…’
‘Fucken aspirationals.’ Little Spaz said, trying his best to fit in.
Skip gave Little Spaz a strange look. ‘Whatever,’ he said. ‘She was like what supermarket fruit is like when you remember fruit from the good old days. Now’a‘days, you buy a peach from the supermarket and it looks great. Big an’ round an’ fuzzy an’ that, but when you take a bite, it dun taste like a peach at all. It tastes like fucken cardboard.’
The crew shuffled uncomfortably and gave one another furtive glances. Metaphors were not a big part of their day-to-day lives.
‘What’s in the bag?’ Metho asked, after a moment’s silence during which the crew tried to understand why Skip hadn’t had a good time last night. ‘Did she make you a cut lunch like your mum used to when you woz her golden haired boy?’
‘She give me these books.’
‘Yeah, books,’ Skip said and handed the bag to Metho, who rummaged around inside. ‘There’s just one book in here,’ he said and pulled out a weighty tome. He read the title like a seven-year-old reading aloud to the class for the first time. ‘Fi-ft-y Sh-a-des of Grrr-ey,’ he said. ‘Isn’t that porn?’
‘No way! It’s not porn! It’s erotica,’ Skip exclaimed, hurriedly. ‘It’s socially acceptable and cultural an’ that. I was gunna give it to Steph because, you know, the problems I had with her. About her not knowing her place an’ that.’
‘Yeah, rumour is she sconed ya with a frypan,’ Metho said. The rest of the crew sniggered.
‘It wasn’t a frypan!’ Skip said, hotly. ‘Anyway, this woman from Brighton wanted me to hit her! On the arse. And she give me that book to educate me on modern seduction. I know Steph reckons blokes shouldn’t hit girls anymore because of changing times, but maybe she’s wrong. That book,’ he said and pointed to the volume in Metho’s grubby paw, ‘is about a bloke that hit’s his girlfriend, and she likes it!’
‘Wot, you reckon you’ll give this to Steph and she’ll have you back?’
‘Yeah, I thought she might be into it. Modern seduction an’ that.’
‘I bet Steph doesn’t taste like peaches either,’ Tits said. The crew did another mass snigger.
Metho shook his head. ‘She ain’t gunna fall for it, mate. She’s too smart for crap like this. If you give her this book, I can guarantee she’ll definitely scone ya with a pan.’ He dropped the book back into the bag. ‘But there’s only one book,’ he continued, and pulled out a black tablet. ‘An’ this? Wot’s this?’
‘That’s an ereader,’ Skip said, in a sulky voice. He’d been looking forward to giving the book to Steph, but had a sneaking suspicion that Metho was right. ‘Got a thousand books on it.’
‘A thousand? How can anyone read a thousand books?’ Metho said, and gave it a suspicious glare. ‘How do ya turn it on?’
Skip took the ereader, fiddled with it for a moment, and handed it back to Metho
‘The screen’s fucked up, mate. Your new girlfriend sold ya a dud.’
‘She’s not my girlfriend, and that’s the way it’s meant to be. It’s ePaper an’ it stooges you eyes into thinking you’re reading from paper. The titles of the books is listed. Just press one and it’ll open it for ya.’
‘They’re all the same – “Succeeding Successfully with Success”,’ Metho said.
‘It’s a series of inspirational books but you can’t see the number of each one cos the screen’s too narrow.’
‘All this reading is bullshit,’ Metho said. ‘Is this why no one’s buying? I was right, wasn’t I? Everyone’s gone all healthy and shit, and is too busy reading about successfulness to take drugs.’
‘Nah,’ said Skip. ‘It’s not just us, mate. Anyone who sells the old way, like person to person, is getting screwed. The internet’s fucking everyone up. It’s called disrupting.’
Metho gave Skip a dirty look. ‘You can’t download drugs, you dickhead.’
‘Of course not. They comes in the mail.’
‘Wot, the posty and that?’
‘Yeah. Blondie does it. She reckons it’s a bit more expensive, but she doesn’t have to talk with smelly, scumbag dealers.’
‘Wot, like the one who was hitting her on the arse?’
Skip shrugged. ‘I dunno. That’s just what she said.’
Metho watched the crew disperse. It had been a tough few months, and no one had been able to fill their quota of unlawful activity for ages. And it didn’t look like today was going to be any different. If things didn’t pick up soon, they were all going to have to answer to a higher authority, and there was nothing divine about the people who would be asking the serious questions. ‘The fucken fuckers aren’t fucked,’ he grumbled, ‘we are.’
He sat down on the doorstep of his once favourite but now defunct drinking establishment and looked down at the eReader. Idle curiosity sent his finger to the top book and the word “SUCCESS” flashed on the strange, papery screen. ‘What bullshit,’ he said, and snorted a derisive laugh. He flipped the page.
‘Are you a loser?’ the book asked him. ‘Does success avoid you like an A-lister avoids the paparazzi? It doesn’t have to be this way. Just turn the page and find out how you can catch Success like an agile and cunning fox catches a fat and lazy rabbit!’
Metho snorted another laugh, but turned the page anyway. Half an hour later he tore his eyes off the screen and dragged himself to the Dancing Dog cafe, where his specialized business interests guaranteed him as many bad coffees and burnt ham-and-cheese toasties as his digestive tract could handle.
Six crowded hours later and Metho was back in front of the Belgradia, corralling the crew into a semblance of order. ‘Right you blokes, gather round,’ he said. ‘We need a paradigum change around here or we’re all for the dole queue.’
‘We’re all already on the dole,’ Skip said, ‘and I think you mean pa-ra-dime.’
‘Listen fuckwit, I’m sick of you flauntin’ your fucken education in our faces. We all know you finished high school, so there’s no need to fucken show off,’ Metho said. ‘I’ve been reading that success book you got, and I know what we has to do.’
‘It wasn’t my fault they had an amnesty just when I lit the fire, was it? I wanted to get expelled, but the bastards told my old man they’d give me a second chance.’
‘Excuses, excuses,’ Metho snapped, ‘now just shut up an’ listen.’
He gave each of the crew a megawatt stare to make sure that he had their full attention. ‘Skip’s Brighton bitch is right, we gotta clean up our act. We been doin’ it wrong all these years. We been selling drugs when wot our customers want is a drug buying experience.’
‘They’re not customers, Meth mate, they’re fucken druggies.’ Tits pointed out.
Metho slapped him. ‘Ya stupid bugger, you just proved to me that the book is right. You know what’s wrong with this enterprise? Well, do ya?’
‘Na,’ Tits conceded.
‘I’ll tell you what’s wrong, mate, it’s our crappy attitude towards the people that are paying our wages, that’s what’s wrong. Our negativity towards them is ground in, mate, like fucken dog hair in a fucken shag pile rug, right. Failure is part of our bloody cultcha, part of our Dee-eN-Ae, an’ it’s holdin’ us back. We can’t has success until success has us, you know what I mean? And do you know wot we has to lose to get success to have us? Well, do ya?’
Tit’s looked into Metho’s mad eyes. ‘Negativity?’ he said, hazarding a guess.
‘That’s right,’ Metho said, in a voice that sounded slightly disappointed. ‘Negativity! We got ta be more positive. We got ta visualise selling more stuff. Negativity is fucking with our success and that is gunna change, even if I has to kick your arse clear up through your fucken ear hole ta change it. Now shut up or the next one’ll hurt.’
‘That did hurt, you bastard,’ the thug grumbled, but quietly so that Metho, who’d already turned away, couldn’t hear.
‘Now I been thinking. It’s not just us lookin’ sharper that’s gunna do it, is it? Apart from Skip here, none of yous are much ta look at.’
‘It’s all this changin’ times,’ Tits exclaimed, ‘everyone’s shitting on masculinity.’
‘Yeah, yeah, whatever,’ Metho said. ‘Look, the book says we should look for something that we do better than our competition. We got ta think of an angle and fast. What do yous reckon?’
‘Well, I hate having to wait for my parcel to arrive when I buy something online,’ Little Spaz said. ‘I’d much rather go to the shops and get what I want right away, but it seems I’m part of a dying breed.’
The crew looked at Little Spaz, who blushed. ‘What are you arseholes lookin’ at, fucken?’
‘You, ya fucken dickhead,’ Tits said, ‘ya sound like a fucken teacher.’
The crew tittered at the newbie’s discomfit, except for Metho, who was staring intently at the brick wall above them. ‘Leave Little Spaz alone,’ he said, in a distant voice. ‘His old man’ll make you eat your own ballsack if he hears you been pickin’ on him.’
Metho stood, unmoving, as if in a trance, and stared up at the wall for so long that the crew became uneasy. Those nearest to him braced themselves for an explosion of violence, but it never came.
Instead, Metho smiled and slapped Little Spaz on the back. ‘We’ll make a crim outta you yet, lad,’ he said. ‘Right, the lot of yous are gunnu go home and have a shower and come back tomorrow in ya best clothes. I knows you’ve all got suits for funerals an’ that, so I want to see you in ‘em. Now everyone piss off except for Skip. I need you here.’
The crew dispersed, grumbling amongst themselves and giving Skip dirty looks.
‘What the fuck ya doin’? They’re blaming me for your crazy bullshit. The minute I turn my back, someone’ll stick a knife in it!’
‘Shutup,’ Metho barked, ‘your gunna be in a suit too, but I need you ta go an’ get your cousin Gav.’
‘The tagger? What do you want him for?’
‘Just shut up and go.’
With the working day over, the setting Sun found Skip lurking in the shadow cast by a street lamp and wishing he was a smoker. If there was ever a time for a cigarette, then this was it. Stephanie, the love of his life, was just a few houses down and, if he closed his eyes and strained his ears, he thought he could hear her telling her nieces and nephews to shut the fuck up so she could hear the fucken tele.
They’d been on and off since high school, Steph and he, which was a hell of a long time. More off than on, if he were honest, and they were currently on an extended break. If he hadn’t been so smitten, he would have noticed that, although she always ended it, she never hooked up with anyone else when they were apart. He, on the other hand, felt the rejection like an egg feels a sledgehammer.
Every time she dumped him, his heart spattered and his life quickly spiralled out of control. It never took much time for him to descend into a dark space, where donuts were a staple food, and hollow sex with inappropriate people became a way of life. The rest of the crew admired and envied him for it, but he hated every minute.
Tonight, Skip was determined that the madness would end. He’d visualized his success. He was certain that he was a cunning fox, and was pretty sure that Steph was a lazy rabbit. In his mind’s eye, he’d seen her fall into his arms and promise to never leave his side again.
In his right hand, he held the Kindle he’d acquired from last night’s inappropriate liaison. In his left, he clutched the mighty tome that he knew would be the salvation of his addled love life. Armed with knowledge and bursting with positivity, Skip squared his shoulders and marched out of the shadows, towards his fickle lover’s door.
The crew gathered the following morning – each dressed in his unique version of smart business wear and, as a man, looked up in awe.
‘Fuck Metho, mate, that’s fucken awesome,’ Little Spaz said. Popy had been right. It was getting easier every day.
Metho beamed through his freshly scrubbed teeth and adjusted his tie. There was a silhouette of a naked woman on it, but gentrification is a slow process, especially for those who have earned a nickname like Metho. ‘See, boys, ya don’t need no education to succeed.’
Skip wandered up a few minutes later with a bandage on his head, and looked up at the brick wall that had captured everyone’s attention.
‘Cheaper Drugs Now,’ he read. ‘With your name on it, and Gav’s tag too.’
‘What?’ Metho said, and stared up at the writing on the wall. ‘The bastard said it was an internet meme thingy. “Good Shit No Kidding” or something like that.’ He turned to Skip and seemed to see him for the first time. ‘What happened to your head?’
‘You wouldn’ believe it,’ Skip said, and adopted an anecdote-recounting stance, ‘but I went to make up with Steph last night, an’ we got sooooo pissed that I ran into the bathroom door when I went to have a slash.’
Metho gave his friend a long, slow look. He’d known him for more years than he could remember, which was always a problem for someone who mixed alcohol with any and every drug he could find. ‘You gave her that stupid book, didn’t you?’ he said.
Skip cast his eyes down to his feet. ‘Yep,’ he mumbled.
‘An’ then you probably said something stupid like, “assume the position” or “it’s time for your punishment”, didn’t you?’
Skip shuffled his feet and nodded.
‘I told you, didn’ I? Metho said. ‘You’ve only got yourself to blame cos you wouldn’t listen ta good advice. You blokes remember it, don’t ya? Me telling Skip not to give Steph the porn book?’ he looked around for validation and the crew murmured in response. Meth took this as support and smiled. ‘I tol’ you she’d hit you with the frypan, an’ hit you with the frypan she did, huh lads?’
‘It wasn’t the bloody frypan!’ Skip snapped. ‘She sconed me with the fucken eReader.’
The crew sniggered at poor Skip and his dented head.
‘Things is changin’,’ Metho said, and gestured towards the sign daubed inexpertly in white paint on the red brick wall. He sighed like the world-weary man that he was and gave Skip a friendly slap on the shoulder, which almost knocked him over. ‘The internet’s disruptin’ everything. Fucken books, fucken drugs. Even Skip’s fucken skull.’
Other Books by Eric Feka
Episodes 1 to 5 now available in one volume!
Herakles is the most celebrated hero of Greek mythology and famed as a warrior without equal. Born through Zeus’s infidelity, and with phenomenal strength and agility, Herakles found himself constantly pitted against vicious monsters and vengeful Gods.
Volume One includes the first five episodes of the series and begins in Thebes, where a young man named Alkides commits a horrible crime and, as a penance, must change his name to Herakles and complete ten tasks. The story then follows his exploits through the first four of these tasks: The Lion of Nemea, The Hydra, The Golden Hind (during which he joined Jason on the Argo), and the Boar of Erymanthus.
Otto was having trouble relating to people, which is why the virtual world of Sword of Valour was so appealing. Here was a world where excitement replaced tedium, where you could kill annoying individuals, and where the level cap kept you from growing old. It seemed like virtual heaven. Sadly, it wasn’t.
In Sword of Valour, you could be whoever you wanted to be. What was puzzling was that everyone seemed to be exactly the same as they were in the real world. The same hang ups, the same egos, the same bloody mindedness. The only real difference, as far as Otto could tell, was that if you killed someone, instead of rotting, he or she complained. It was enough to make a conservative young man unsheathe the virtual daggers and go rogue.
Emmet Storch was an unemployed sponger who thought he had no calling in life. All that changed when he landed a job in the call centre at the monolithic Star Insurance where, from the very first day, he was magnificent. It was as if the very essence of insurance ran through his veins and he and his telephone were as one. Irate policyholders found comfort in his soothing words; recalcitrant contractors became polite and respectful.
It would have been perfect had it not been for his lecherous and treacherous hormones. A humorous look at love and lust in the iAge where consumerism runs rampant and integrity can get stuffed.
The Mad God Monos, who insisted that his worshipers eat meat only on Wednesdays and have, um, relations only during the fool moon, had mustered an army and was poised to invade Helvenica. He was determined to drive the old Gods into the spiritual wilderness and establish himself as the One God.
The people of Helvenica needed a hero, a brave warrior to stand up to the usurper and defend their right to eat meat every day and relate whenever they pleased. What they got was Fotio, a reluctant hero with a bad attitude towards religion and a tendency to daydream.
Metho and his motley crew of petty scofflaws were having a hard time of it. Business was down, and no one could figure out why. It was as if all their customers had suddenly sworn off recreational drug use and turned to living virtuous lives of thrift and honest toil. Thankfully, one of the gang was a little more switched on than your average street thug and had worked out that it was all the internet's fault. Now all they had to do was figure out how to fight back...