← Finger Food

This is the second part of Colin's uncompleted NaNo project; Finger Food is the first.

Rob lay back on his bed and closed his eyes. He was scared. Scared of what he was about to do. Or what he'd like to believe he had the courage to do.

"Sexuality is," he told himself, "no big deal. "It's an enlightened age I'm living in, and acceptance of alternate, or non-mainstream, beliefs and lifestyles is at an all-time high. Just try telling that to my parents."

Well, this is more or less what he was about to do. Rob had done a lot of soul searching, and in the past few months had become surer and surer of his nature, and of the impulses that lay in his mind, in his heart, and, more than anything else, in his underwear.

He stood up and walked over to the dresser, leaning forward to look into the mirror. He looked into his eyes and inspected their green irises, framed dazzlingly in, he was sure some would say 'too much', dark eyeliner. He flicked his bleached blond hair out of his eyes, and leaned forward further to kiss the icon pinned to the mirror's frame. A glossy postcard of his idol, Kurt Cobain.

Rob had always been aware that he was different from most of the other boys at school, but it had taken him the majority of his seventeen years to pin it down. And having finally pinned it down, it seemed necessary to do something about it. Like tell his parents.

Popular culture, Rob's shining omniscient guru, who knew how to deal with all situations imaginable, was filled with examples of how to go about that most nerve-wracking rite of passage: coming out to your parents. Rob's favourite was the one in Reality Bites.

It goes like this. The gay character is preparing to come out to his parents. With the help of his best friend, Janeane Garofalo, he rehearses his lines, what he'll say and how he'll say it. The whole thing is captured on video tape by the movie's central character, Winona Ryder. Janeane acts the part of the mother, with an ironically rich parody of the Minnesotan accent he shares with his mother, and a deadpan delivery that foreshadows by contrast the highly emotional responses of his real mother. Janeane asks calmly if there are any support groups that might help her come to terms with this shocking revelation;
the reply is stuttering and nervous, and effected largely by the presentation of a PFLAG leaflet, which Janeane brandishes proudly for the camera.

The actual coming out, as shown in the movie, consists of two short pieces of video again shot by Winona Ryder. Both take place in the street in front of the parental home, and are, respectively, the 'Before' and 'After' shots. The Before shows our hero nervous, procrastinating. The 'After' shot has him deflated, but sanguine. From the background we can hear the angry shouts of his parents rowing with each other, and he grins and says he thinks he's going to be okay.

This is how Rob pictures it in his head. He thinks of the American PFLAG group, and wonders if there might be anyone that could help him out. He pictures the whole thing on videotape. static and all. It's less real, it's easier to deal with.

Rehearsal time. He leans forward in front of the mirror. Puts the words together as simply as he can. So simple that they can be delivered without stuttering or freezing. Rehearses them in his head a few times and moves his mouth in time to the words. It starts to come easily. He can come out to his parents in five words. It'll take three seconds, tops. That's all it'll take. Easy.

But the fear and the adrenaline make it seem far from easy. It's something that can't be taken back. It could change everything. He just wished he knew how his parents would react. Theoretically, he could test the water. "What if..." or "What do you think of such and such a person...", but he doesn't see that one working out terribly well. Let's face it, there aren't many positive role models that his parents would actually approve of that he could use for support.

Time to say the words out loud. Rob's heart beat furiously in his ears. He spun the words in his head a few more times, and moved his lips in sync.

"Mum, Dad..." he faltered, realising that his voice was too loud. He didn't want them to overhear. He didn't want them to hear the words until he could say them with enough confidence. He lowered his voice. "Mum, Dad," he whispered, "I'm a necrophiliac."

* * *

Steve and I, having briefly and nervously made our excuses to the assembled crowd, reached street level and, after exchanging panic stricken glances, came to the unspoken mutual agreement that running away might be a good idea.

We had absolutely no idea where we were running to, because we had absolutely no idea where we had begun. On the way to the flat, we were both too inebriated to pay any attention to where we actually were, and I was personally wired on pure adrenaline, so we were, to all intents and purposes, lost, and running in a direction that neither of us could name with any more certainty than 'away'.

Steve stopped abruptly at a street corner and gurgled through his exhausted pants, "I know where we are. We're safe." I bent over, steadying myself with my hands on my knees, and tried to catch my breath.

"Do you think he thinks we saw anything?"
"No... I don't think anyone saw us. And Craig was busy being the centre of attention since I'd relinquished the honour for the night."
"Right. That's what I was hoping. Come on, there's a 24-hour café just over here."

Steve led us to The Insomniac, where we grabbed a couple of espressos and sat down in a corner. A few moments of silence while we let the world stabilise around us, now frighteningly sober from the exercise and the shock.

"Let's never speak of this again."
"Agreed." I stared at my espresso. "So how many do you think were in there?"
"More than ten, anyway."
"Yeah. There seemed like a lot. What... where.... how do you think he got them?"
"Well, that is something that I do not want to speculate on," he attempted, "but as far as I can see, there are only about two possibilities. Firstly, he may have access to a morgue or a cemetery or... something like that. Which begs the question, why remove peoples' fingers?"
"And the second possibility?"
"Well... we didn't see what was in the rest of the freezer, did we?"

I decided this time that this part of the conversation really was, truly, over.

An uneasy silence descended. A question crossed my mind which so far hadn't occurred to me, and it seemed deeply strange to me that I didn't actually know the answer.

"So... who the hell is this Craig guy anyway?" I ventured, "I mean... admittedly I didn't actually know a fair number of people there but... I should have paid attention to who our illustrious, or as the case may turn out to be, 'infamous' host actually was, and how we actually know him." I watched a puzzled expression play across Steve's face, followed by several confused contortions before he reached a conclusion.
"I have absolutely no idea," he confessed, "I must admit I stopped paying attention after about the fourth pint, and a the fourth random tenuously connected person turned up. I can't even remember when he turned up."

I sat back and closed my eyes, trying to plot in my head the connections between myself and our friendly neighbourhood psychopath, It had been such a disparate group of people that I didn't recognise anyone there other than Ted and Steve. So the first step was simple: Craig must be a friend (or a friend of... and so on) either Steve, or of Ted. Beyond that, it wasn't going to be terribly easy.

The whole thing filled me with a fear that blocked out everything else. Try as I might, I couldn't think of anything but the possibility that my life may well have been in very real danger; that other peoples lives may well have been lost to the same danger.

I tried to figure out where Craig's flat had actually been; recalling nothing of the journey there, and very very little of the panic stricken flight away again. Neither could Craig.

"So, let's review. We found what may or may not be evidence of rather nasty deeds, by a man we don't know and can't identify, located somewhere we can't find because, joy of joys, we were pissed out of our skullls. Great. Let's go to the police and tell them that. Let's see how loud they laugh at us."
"Well, that's one option," I conceded, "or the other option is to make our own discrete enquiries. If we can work out who he is, or where he lives, or at least how we know him, then at least we can go to the police with our heads held at least at neck-level."

Steve nodded. "Myself, I have nothing to plead but alcoholism, no opportunity for saving face or self respect. At least you've got extenuating circumstances."
I shot him a puzzled glance before the realisation and the memory of the events leading up to our discovery reasserted themselves into my consciousness with a sickening urgency.
"Oh... shit..." I mumbled "...Lucy. Well, now I'm horrified."
"You know, Mike, sometimes you have a very fucked up sense of priority."

I could only nod into my empty espresso cup, as I fought back the tiniest of tears. "I shall see you later. And I shall phone you sooner than that." I said standing up to leave and dropping a couple of coins onto the table before bundling up and heading out into the lonely and hostile night.

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