[Void Galaxia] Chapter 28: Peeep Show


  The hostel in Compton was so strange I honestly thought it couldn’t be real.

Spanish Colonial/brutalist design.

      Reception desk flanked by Elsinore banner.

      Dorm room signs with different Hamlet character names, several vowels eroded.

      Blanched palm trees, cracked fairy lights.

      Kenneth Branagh standing by the pool holding a polystyrene sword, saying over and over, ‘kin, kind, kin, kind…a little more than clever, but less than Kevin Kline.’

      No, not Branagh, just a guy who looked like him…or looked like Branagh’s version of Hamlet. Maybe an out of work actor practising for a local production. Or a nut wandered in from the street outside.

      Whoever it was, I blanked him and headed to my room.

      Tutted at the Ophelia pic & sign.

      Said a relieved kuso when I beeped open the door and saw it was empty.

      Found my bunk, clambered up the splintered ladder, lay down and stretched my legs out past the footboard.


      Quick nap then head to the common room, wait for Syria and her airtight, WAIF ASTRONAUT t-shirt to show up.

      Feign surprise when I see her? Or go full honesty and thank her for the hostel recommendation?

      Hard yawn, followed by another.

      Ah, decide when you see her, I told myself, eyes closing.


      When I opened them again, the room was covered in a citrine dust strip of LA sunlight and there were voices below. I rotated and instantly felt cold. It was Syria, right there, along with two guys who looked like surfers.

      Somehow, they didn’t seem to notice me at all.

      Maybe they’d forgotten something and were just coming back in quickly to get it?

      I waited out thirty seconds, a minute.


      They were sitting on the bed, talking about sex, one of the guys with his paws all over Syria’s tits, the other pulling off his pants.

      This was not transitory.

      I kept one eye open, scared they’d see me if I opened both.

      They probably wouldn’t…Syria was too busy taking her knickers off now, and the two surfers were rubbing something on their cocks…some kind of cream.


      Here? In the middle of the day?

      I shifted my legs a little, trying to move further back onto the bed so they wouldn’t look up and see me watching them.

      Was this really happening?

      Maybe I’d patched into one of those parallel hostel VR things, where guests could play with replicas of other guests without the awkwardness of actually communicating with them?

      I blinked, gently slapping my face.

      They were still there, all of them kneeling on the bed, touching each other.


      This was bizarre. Their faces were at a pretty high level. Why didn’t they notice me?

      No answer given.

      The scene played on.

      And on.

      I’d never seen this kind of stuff done live before. Syria lay on her back and took one guy in her mouth, while the other alternated between a few strokes in her pussy and then a few in her ass.

      It wasn’t flawless like porn.

      Quite a few times, she lost her grip on the guy’s cock and had to grab it again.

      Then the other guy stopped suddenly and said, ‘it’s okay, I didn’t cum.’

      He did a couple more thrusts to prove it and then stopped again.

      ‘Fuck, I came.’

      Syria stopped sucking and called him a motherfucker.

      ‘Lost focus,’ he said, tone marked by genuine disappointment.

      ‘Fuck you.’

      ‘Couldn’t stop it…’

      She leaned forward and punched him in the thigh.

      The fun was clearly over.

      I tried to pull the duvet over my head, realising they were less distracted now, but it wasn’t enough.

      ‘Hey, there’s someone up there…’


      ‘On the bunk…some perv looking at us.’

      I pulled the duvet back down and tried to act like I’d just woken up. ‘Huh…’

      Syria was frozen, naked on the edge of the bed, legs still spread in a rough diamond shape, staring up at me.

      ‘Hey,’ I said, faux-yawning, stretching out my arms. ‘What time is it?’

      ‘What the fuck?’ she said, accent going full Essex.

      Both guys shuffled their pants back on, looked at each other then back to me. Said the same thing she had then told me to get the fuck down.

      ‘Down where?’

      ‘Get the fuck down here, perv.’

      I hadn’t realized by looking at them, but they were English too.

      ‘Look, I’ve just woken up. You do whatever you’re doing…it’s fine. I don’t care.’

      ‘Down, perv.’


      ‘Fucking coward…get down here or we’re dragging you down.’

      Syria put some of her clothes back on and walked out of the room saying we were all perverts. The two guys didn’t seem that bothered; they were too busy banging hands on their own bunk ladder.

      ‘Get down.’

      ‘Get the fuck down, perv.’

      ‘Fucking coward.’

      ‘Fucking incel cunt.’

      I didn’t know why, but something in my brain clicked and the two guys morphed into two Japanese kids in a playground. For some reason, I really wanted to beat the shit out of them. And what’s more, I genuinely believed I could.

      Throwing the duvet cover completely off, I shifted over to the edge of the bed, my legs hanging over the side.

      The two faux-surfers put their shorts and t-shirts on, still talking shit.

      ‘Come on then.’

      ‘Get the fuck down.’

      ‘Let’s do this, Ronny.’

      ‘Gonna fuck you up, perv.’

      ‘Okay then,’ I said, jumping down from the bunk.

       My odds weren’t that bad. Obviously there were two of them, but they weren’t well-built. And they weren’t tough. I didn’t know why I knew that, but I was sure of it.

      I moved forward, wordless.

      ‘What the…’

      ‘Not yet, mate…what you doing?’

      ‘Smack him, Ronny.’

      ‘Back fuck up, perv…I’m not fucking around here.’

      Both of them retreated towards the door while continuing with the threats.

       One of them [Ronny] didn’t go quite as far as the other and that pretty much sealed his fate. I paused, faking doubt, then took a sudden step forward and aimed my fist about two inches behind his head.

      It seemed to work.

      More than worked…my knuckles hit him so hard it nearly snapped his neck off.

      At least I thought it might’ve been that hard.

      Either way, he was on the floor. Actually, his head was on the concrete outside as the girl had left the door open.

      The other guy, his mate, said, ‘Jesus fucking Jesus,’ then turned and ran.

      I hovered over Ronny and thought about bending down and smacking him again. But I wasn’t sure if I could get any power on the punch that way.

      ‘Mate…wait…’ Ronny said, holding his nose.

      ‘What’s up, kasu?’

      ‘No, it’s okay…wait, wait…don’t…’

      Ronny got up and tried to grab the door frame, but missed and fell full spread onto the patio outside. I waited for him to get up and try again. He did. This time he managed to grab the trunk of a pale-looking palm tree and stumble away.

      I waited a few minutes then followed him out into the sunshine.

      Syria was in the pool, treading water.

      ‘Nice hostel,’ I said, walking up to the edge, scraping the end of my toes against what I presumed was an old blood stain.

      ‘What did you do to him?’

      ‘Punched him.’


      ‘He called me an incel cunt.’

      ‘Did he punch you first?’

      ‘Why would I let him do that?’

      ‘Good point.’

      I looked at her body under the surface and realised her hand was down there too. She was cleaning herself in the pool?

      ‘Were you really watching us…in there?’

      ‘Bits of it.’

      ‘You were at the other hostel too…I remember you said the thing about Ice Cube.’

      I nodded, leaving the dry blood stain and walking a little further along the edge of the pool, where there were cracks and minor graffiti. We jizzed in the pool, no more war, sleep, work obey etc.

      ‘You must think I’m a slut,’ Syria said, bringing her hands back up, pushing her hair to the side.

      ‘Not really.’

      ‘I’m not.’


      ‘I just like sex.’

      ‘That’s normal.’

      ‘Not to addiction levels though.’


      ‘You really hit him?’

      I looked at my hand and nodded. It seemed strange that I’d done that now. I’d never hit anyone before. Never. Not unless you counted that guy in the club, the one who wanted to drive me to the airport. But that was self-defence, and I only hit the side of his head anyway. Kuso, I was a pacifist, not a brawler.

      ‘He was bleeding,’ she added, swimming right up to the edge, putting one hand over the jizzed part of the graffiti.

      ‘Yeah, I guess.’

      ‘No, I saw him. He was really bleeding. Quite bad. Not that I condone violence, but…it’s pretty hot when guys fight.’

      ‘Is it?’

      ‘Especially Asian guys.’


      ‘You must’ve hit him pretty hard to make him bleed.’

      ‘Yeah, pretty hard.’

      She dropped the graffiti hand under the water and slowly peeled up her t-shirt, revealing her right breast.

      ‘You wanna go back to the room?’

       I looked down on her. She really was pretty, prettier than Sadia perhaps…but she was also a sociopath. And a sex-nut. And English.

      ‘Nah, I’m good.’

      ‘In the pool?’

      ‘I have a girlfriend.’

      ‘Ah, a loyal soldier.’ She pushed her t-shirt back down and swam backwards to the middle of the pool, eyes fixed on me. ‘Bet she can’t do what I can do.’

      ‘No. Probably not.’

      ‘Might see you tonight then…back on the bunks.’

      I stared at her legs kicking under the water and followed her last line to its inevitable endpoint. Same room. Lights out. Syria slipping under my duvet. Getting her hands on me. Getting my hands on her. The guy I hit, Ronny, coming back with a knife or a shotgun. Or a measuring tape. Watching to see what shape I was, how long I could last.

      Not a good scene.

      Any of it.


      Luckily the hostel had more than one free room that day. I moved my stuff in to Rosencrantz and waited to see if the guy, Ronny, would call the police and press charges.

      After two hours of hovering near the window, tracing chipped paint on the pane, I concluded that he hadn’t.

      Maybe he realised he’d been a twat.

      Or maybe he was embarrassed.

      I sat down on the new bunk and tried to read more of Moon Prison, but my mind kept going back to Syria in the pool, and then Sadia next to a giant typewriter.

      Pretty soon the scenarios changed, and Syria and Sadia were duelling each other. On the surface of Pluto. Watched by a covert group of Martokras.

      The first time, Syria won.

      Every other time, I made sure Sadia did.


      After letting the Sadia avatar stab Syria in the chest a few hundred times, I added myself to the scene. At first I was watching from the stands like a Roman senator, but it seemed too one-sided, so I moved myself into the victim role.

      Stood statue still as Sadia slashed at my neck.

      Took off my hoodie and put on a t-shirt that said KILL BABY KILL.

      Died fifty, sixty times…painless…last words always cut off…right before the part where I said sorry.


      After getting tired of all the gore and Romanic imagery, I rolled off the bunk and ambled to the computerrs in reception.

      Twenty dollars for thirty minutes.

      Five dollars to print one page.


      Paying for an hour [with an audible grumble], I slouched down in front of the screen and perused their VR selection. It was a brief perusal. Seven titles, five of them ancient, one of them notoriously pro-adventurist, and the last one Harem Survival 3.

      It’d been a while since I’d had a simulated wank, and the staff guy was rooted to his phone, completely oblivious, so I patched in and headed straight for the private onsen zone. There were sounds of other players virtually fucking or getting fucked behind wooden door panels, and those sounds continued as I entered a free onsen room, threw off my yukata and jumped on the whore simulacrum relaxing in the water.

      As with every other open-to-the-public VR sex experience, there was no physical consequence in the real world, though I imagined that my facial expression was probably more crazed than usual. Head between the girl’s thighs. Her mouth on me. Both of us splashed with spring water as I drilled her from behind.

      Completely unreal…yet not.

      After we were done, I attempted two minutes of plot, listening to the girl complain about the new rules implemented by the harem director, but her nipples were bobbing on the surface as she talked and her face started to look like Syria’s and…

      When we’d finished for the second time, I said I had to go invade Mongolia and patched out.

      The screen stared back at me, asking if I wanted to re-enter the game.

      Not in my current state, I thought, remembering Syria on the bunk with the two guys and quickly setting fire to the whole thing.

      Sadia…sweet, talented Sadia…she was the real one.

      This was nothing.

      Just a stored up too long sex urge.

      And now it was done.

      Switching off the VR, I loaded up the writing site. Clicked and clicked and clicked until I was reading her stuff again…Sadia’s stuff…hoping there’d be some new stories up.

       There weren’t.

      Her last log in date was the same as it was when I’d left Liverpool.

      Fuck. Kuso. Fucking kuso.

      Where are you, Sadia?

       Did I do something wrong?

       I read the last story she’d uploaded, looking for clues, looking for any mention or reference to a Mark character or a guy from England or…even a pervert English rat who tried to get into her knickers…or beyond her knickers.

      Anything to show she was still thinking about me:


Salia tapped the animal card sticking out from the top of the broken box, but didn’t pull on it. Instead, she drank some of the coffee, went back to her laptop and typed something. On the screen, some pictures of a warehousse came up.


Oh, they’re calling it a complex now, she thought, scrolling through the different pictures, each one showing a different artist’s studio space and some of their work.

There was one with some kind of wire sculptures.


There was another with a huge canvas that said ‘Is this Art?’ in large black letters.

Super pass.

That’s the problem with art, she thought, picturing the smirking face of Adam, laughing a little herself too. People get lazy and turn to Dadaism. They don’t know what to say and they don’t have much technique, so they do what they’re already capable of and claim subversion.

Was that Dadaism? Or the other one…post-modernism? Did that even have a definition?


She looked around the living room, at the shadowed reflection on the TV, at the Chinese banner on the wall…at the Francis Bacon prints in her room, still rolled up like abandoned hostages in their imitation-wood tubes.

The image was extracted from memory, and unclear, forcing her to rise up and walk down the short corridor to her room. The door was open, which was fine as there was nothing inside to look at, and the bed was still in the same chaotic state she’d left it in that morning.

Apart from that, there wasn’t much else to describe. The walls were bare, the wardrobe was a quarter full and the only thing the desk had was the prospectus from her new school that Adam had used as an ashtray.

Purging defiantly the words prison cell from her brain, she sat down on the mattress and looked at the cardboard tubes sticking out on the floor below.

They weren’t so bad…

Not if the idea was to stop her doing something.

Cos they were Bacon’s ideas, not hers.

She was simply appreciating them.

Reaching down, she picked up one of the tubes and pulled out the print inside. In her heart, she wanted it to be the Electrified Pope, but when she unrolled it and held it out, she saw it was Blood on the Floor.

There was a noise outside, like someone sawing a tree.

It wasn’t the first time she’d heard it, and she suspected it wasn’t an actual tree sawing, but it was enough to spook her and looking at a Bacon print in a spooked state was not good.

‘Later,’ she whispered, rolling up the print and pushing it back inside the tube.


      I stopped reading.

      Who was Adam?

      Why was there a Chinese banner on the wall?

      Was that her real housse?

      Was I Francis Bacon?

      It was no good…this kind of writing…it was impossible to trace anything. What I needed was one of her shorter pieces, on paper, in my actual hands. Some small slice of authenticity.

      Nodding at my own plan, I went over to the guy behind the desk and asked if the printer was working.

       ‘Five dollars one page,’ he said, staring at his phone. ‘No child porn, Nazi shit or snuff.’

      ‘Okay, well…I’ll probably be printing a few so-…’

      ‘Over there. Plug the cable in, press print.’


      ‘Auxiliary. Main auto-co is down.’

      ‘What, permanently?’

      ‘Plug in the cable, press print,’ he repeated, adding fuck you to his phone screen.

      ‘Okay. Fine. Where is this auxiliary cable?’

      He played out a few more seconds on whatever game he was failing at, then pointed with a death yawn at the printer near the computerr I’d been using.

      ‘Got it. Thanks. Kasu.’

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