All Rights Reserved © 2018, Rick Haydn Horst
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
I belonged to an internet group that inspired this work. It asked, “If you had a planet, what would you do differently?” The next thing I knew, I had authored a book.
When I began this, I wrote it for myself, so I hadn’t intended for others to read it, but I don’t mind if they do. This entire process has given me a much-needed catharsis, allowing me to express ideas contrary to those of my culture and sheltered upbringing. I used many so-called abnormal, taboo, wrong, or sinful things from the lies and control mechanisms of my youth.
This book is a combination of several genres, such as Adventure, Sci-fi, and LGBTQ, but it also has elements of Counterculture. As such, I give the reader a friendly warning. Some people will find this book inflammatory. To those who bother to read it and walk away, finding it distasteful, I appreciate your having taken the time. You have the freedom to think of it as Shakespeare put it in Macbeth, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” but again, I hadn’t written it for you.
I have had no children, no means of passing on my genetic line, not that my genes would deserve it. In a harsh world such as this one, I’m quite pleased that I never brought anyone into it. However, in your hands is my child, created from and filled with me as any offspring I could have wanted. It may not contain my DNA, but it has something better: ideas. So, as a work of fiction, it may not have the longevity or spread of the genes of Genghis Khan, but the ideas contained within it will never go away. They will continue to be reinvented just as I reinvented them.
I would like the reader to know that I am in every character, but none more than Rick, and while so much of them is me, I tried to give them all their own voice.
I hope you enjoy my efforts. It has taken four years of my life to create. It was a passion of mine, and I hope that comes through in the text.
As a point of clarity, you will see the word Jiyū in this series; one should pronounce it Jee-Yoo.
One final thought. This story contains some non-English along with its English translations. I have done my best to ensure they are correct, I hope that is reflected in the text. My apologies to any native speaker of those languages for any mistranslations, no disrespect was ever intended.
Although born and raised in the American South, I always felt out of place there. I hadn’t spoken like the people there. I hadn’t thought like the people there. So, while the born-and-bred, local community might treat people like me well enough, such treatment hinged on the assumption that we shared their cultural view, religion, political position, sexual orientation, or sometimes even their race. The instant they recognized us as other than, the smiles and pleasant demeanor would vanish as if we had crossed an imaginary line of acceptability.
Many of those same people believed they had freedom if they could go to the church of their choice on Sunday and buy guns on Monday morning. It pretty much summed them up. Never mind that the government curtailed or doled out the rest of their freedom via permits to “authorize” them to do a thing. For myself, I realized my disbelief in a deity years earlier, and I had no interest in guns, so I had no difficulty in perceiving my lack of freedom.
The US began an extended period of turmoil when the religious dominionists seized control of the government. Once in power, systemic persecution grew rampant. They pandered to all the common hatreds, like anything various denominations of the Christian church deemed sinful, except when they wanted to do it themselves. They pandered to the hatred of intellectuals, socialists, women, non-whites, liberals, progressives, foreigners, atheists, competing religions, and all those who practiced them, but also that old favorite, a hatred of anything lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. Against several of those communities, some emboldened citizens expressed open aggression and committed acts of brutal violence.
Most of the Western world frowned on the things happening in America, but they couldn’t stop it. So, in response, several thoughtful nations offered asylum to those who asked, but they couldn’t grant it until you stood within their borders. Commitments, financial or otherwise, as well as a lack of funds, held most of us captive, and many of us felt a paralyzing sense of helplessness. Our government treated us as if they rejected us, but then they also made leaving too complicated. I concluded they hadn’t wanted us to go; they wanted us to conform. To ensure that occurred, they resolved to make our lives somewhere istanbul travesti between difficult and hell until we complied with whatever demand they made of us.
We had a stressful time, remarkably so as a member of more than one group. As a secular gay male who lived as a socialist, liberal, progressive, who considered himself an intellectual that liked many things deemed sinful, they would have made me a target of discrimination nearly everywhere I went.
With a few variations, we all had a similar choice. For myself, I could choose to acquiesce to their demands; I could live in silence to blend in; I could live in honesty but put up with it, or I could leave. It created a problem for us all and protesting without a permit–because the authorities invariably refused to provide one–only proved to get us arrested and sometimes beaten.
When the leader of what many of us referred to as fascists sought to implement laws to arrest someone for being LGBT under the guise of crimes against god, I chose to leave. We knew it would pass. The Supreme Court, whom they had taken decades to create in their image, agreed with their interpretation of the constitution at every opportunity. They frothed at the mouth over our existence for ages and refused to let the chance slip by.
That’s when I sold everything I owned of value. I packed my important papers, my clothes, and my money. Then, after saying a painful goodbye to my parents and sisters, I booked the earliest flight to the United Kingdom, requesting asylum upon arrival.
I mistook my profession, my financial status, and my squeaky-clean background, as a basis for granting asylum without haste. But it took six weeks, and during the interim, I stayed in an appalling hostel outside London.
While there, I laid in my lumpy bed with its meager blanket, struck down with a critical case of homesickness. I had traveled before, visiting many other places, but I could always go home, a place I regarded as my sanctuary from the world. I held family as the source of my stability and support system. I had never gone without them. Furthermore, I had no boyfriend or spouse, so I had no one to bring with me. My situation as a social and political refugee had left me with no one.
When the grant for asylum came, I had the opportunity to begin again. I decided to live in London (as people do), mostly because of its cosmopolitan nature, and the sizable, openly gay community.
The United Kingdom required foreigners to request permission to work, and I refused to consider living as one of London’s many homeless, so I began pursuing a work visa. It displeased me to learn that, despite my status as a social and political refugee, the United States still managed to enjoy the benefits of my foreign labor. They had the gall to force me to pay income taxes to the same federal government from which I had to flee. I decided I would relinquish my citizenship and become a British citizen the instant I could. That would take six years. I would then only pay taxes to the British system. Their generous offer meant an improved experience of freedom, and I felt grateful. However, I made the mistake of naively assuming a thing we usually take for granted. I came to realize that when it comes to freedom, I, and every other human being I knew, had set our expectations too low.
I had only one marketable skill; I knew ten languages, and since I had previous experience as an interpreter, I figured I would try making a living from that. I also studied the culture of those languages and had a knack for intuition. I thought that would bring to my work an element that others might lack. I had no difficulty getting a work visa as an interpreter. That field of work could always use more professionals, and I knew that speaking so many languages would put me in demand.
As an unaffiliated unknown, I struggled for over a month, barely making enough to keep myself financially afloat. So, it astonished me when a prestigious society of interpreters based in London contacted me. Checking my credentials and some casual testing had me accepted with open arms. It puzzled me how that came about. Some society members informed me that they never initiate contact and that they welcomed me with unprecedented ease. Whatever the case, it thankfully meant my hostel-living lifestyle would end, since my affiliation with the society would open many doors.
I met a French woman who spoke English at the society. I knew her as Maggie, but everyone else knew her as Marguerite Durand. I recall she had just turned twenty-five at the time, as she was three years younger than me. She had begun her first year as a teacher at a local school and disliked the distance from her grandmother, so we became fast friends.
I came to think of her as a long-lost sibling who understood me better than my own immediate family. We shared an appreciation of many things, like French opera, shopping for clothes, and endless conversations about topics one should avoid in mixed company. In the experience istanbul travestileri of our biological family, we also shared a feeling of insufficiency with phone calls and video chat. So, we became family for one another, to satisfy that crucial need for familial proximity.
I had an exceptional two years as an interpreter in London. I acquired a sizable number of regular clients through referrals, and they kept me busy. People asked for me by name, and my reputation, in my estimation, had grown outlandish from what Maggie heard. I thought of myself as nothing more than an interpreter, but instead, she understood that some of my clients had made me out as a miracle worker. I thought my troubles began with those exaggerated claims, but events led to what became of my life for a long while.
In mid-August, a Swiss gentleman named Viktor Mettler hired me. He sought an interpreter to accompany him to a private function in London. He spoke broken English, and as he told me, he wanted to avoid making a fool of himself. He requested my presence to ensure that wouldn’t happen.
However, Viktor hadn’t sought a mere interpreter; he wanted an escort who could serve double duty. He had heard of me through a friend whose name I recognized when he mentioned her. Viktor was gay. Somehow, his friend knew I was gay (people always find these things out). So, she thought he might use my services. Viktor seemed a kind, respectable, handsome man, if a bit shortish, and he wore a nice suit, so I agreed to do it.
The black-tie event would take place at Kensington Palace, which worried me. It concerned me that I would meet a member of the royal family, even extended ones, so I brushed up on addressing various honorifics. I hadn’t wished to misaddress a Royal and risk injury to my reputation.
The atmosphere and the décor imparted a sense of luxury for the two hundred people attending. And while all the men dressed alike, I thought my manners and bespoke tuxedo suited me well enough for posh society.
My assistance pleased Victor that evening, and he introduced me to many new people, some businesspersons, government people, a few socialites, and even an extended Royal.
When Viktor met a woman from the Prime Minister’s Cabinet, the tone of the event altered for me, the Right Honourable Amanda Newton held the position of Secretary of State for Home Affairs. Her face and well-kept figure spoke of her age as mid-forties, and her classy, understated, little black dress beckoned many an eye. However, the change involved the man on her arm of whom Ms. Newton seemed a tad possessive. The 40-year-old, six-foot, David Levitt attracted my attention, with his thick black hair, stubble beard, and bright eyes the color of amber. He smiled, watching me interpret for Viktor. I sensed Mr. Levitt wanted to engage me in conversation, but the right moment never occurred. He cornered me when I excused myself for a trip to the lavatory.
“So, have you enjoyed the party, Rick?” he asked as he caught me up.
“The evening has me sufficiently diverted.” I stopped at the side of the passage. “Did you want something else?”
He smiled. “I want to know if you have plans tomorrow night?”
“You mean business, or have you just asked me out?”
“Oh, when I ask a man out, I mean business. But it all depends, I wouldn’t want to step on Mr. Mettler’s toes. He may not like that.” He glanced over my shoulder to where I knew he could see the man still engaged in conversation with Mrs. Newton.
“There’s nothing to fear there,” I said, “but have you no remorse in abandoning Ms. Newton? The vigor with which she held your arm gave me the impression she wouldn’t let you go. Care to comment?”
He pulled the invitation from his pocket. “I’m not Ms. Newton’s plus one. She often plays the barnacle on these occasions, but she knows I’m not interested.”
“Found you irresistible, has she?”
“Something like that,” he said. “So, how about it?”
“You have an unusual accent. I can’t fully place it.”
“I’m not the usual man. Will you say yes to a date?”
I looked at him and considered for a moment. “Yes, on one condition. Until such a time–should it ever occur–I feel I know you well enough, we address one another formally. Will you accept that, Mr. Levitt?”
He smiled as he did earlier. “If it pleases you, Mr. Heiden.”
I had made my life a testament to keeping potential suitors at arm’s length. The few I had allowed closer never lasted, which caused the cautious proviso in my acceptance of Mr. Levitt’s offer.
During a month and a half dating period, we had dinner together often; we walked in St. James’s Park, went to museums, the symphony, and the theater; we spent time together and talked–invariably in public–whenever we were not working, or I wasn’t spending time with Maggie. However, it never went beyond just spending time with Mr. Levitt. As a gentleman, he seemed okay with that. He never pressured me, and I appreciated it.
To his credit, Mr. Levitt never attempted to travesti istanbul charm me. I view charm as superficial, as it holds an intoxicant used to manipulate in the guise of a more reputable quality. I have never fallen for mere charm. Instead, Mr. Levitt displayed admirable qualities encouraging me to hold him in higher regard. He had a certain indescribable je ne sais pas (I don’t know), and as time went on, I felt my defenses diminish.
I learned much about Mr. Levitt throughout that time, yet he left things unsaid that I longed to know. However, he proved a master in misdirection. He always managed to get away with never telling me where he came from, or what he did for work.
The first week of October, it concerned me when Mr. Levitt disappeared for three days. He contacted me upon his return, saying that work had called him away. While apologizing for his sudden absence, he confided in me the nature of his duties. As it turned out, Mr. Levitt worked for the government.
He asked me if I were willing to, as he put it, “do a few odd jobs for the British government.” I agreed, stipulating that I did not work for tuppence. I had moved from a hostel, located in central London, to my new flat in Knightsbridge. So, like most everyone else, I had bills to pay. He assured me I would receive adequate remuneration for my time and effort.
At first, it seemed no big deal when I agreed to take the job. However, I hadn’t realized the agreement would put me under a governmental magnifying glass determined to make my life a chaotic misery. I enjoyed a calm, quiet home life, filled with books, classical music, and unplugging from the world. Instead, they interviewed me–which felt more like an interrogation–five times by three different government agencies over a fortnight. Throughout this, they dug into my past, and I began getting phone calls at night from family members, and people with whom I lost touch years ago. They told me some representative of the British government contacted them and asked questions about me. I had no idea how to explain that to them, and how some of them obtained my mobile number remained a mystery. I thought the level of scrutiny by airport customs agents wracked my nerves, but my experience then smacked of a real invasion of privacy.
On Saturday morning, five days after my last government interview, I had no clients scheduled, and Maggie had no classes, so we took the day off. Two months prior, I closed on my convenient but overpriced flat with two bedrooms down the street from Maggie’s in Knightsbridge. That day, we made use of that convenience by planning some much-needed retail therapy to take my mind off my troubles.
Descending in the elevator of my flat’s building, I checked my look in the mirror one last time before entering the public arena. In my estimation, I have an average height and overall appearance. The depth of blue in the eyes I looked out of–and into at that moment–seemed unremarkable to me. I have teeth and skin no better or worse than the average guy. As a man who despises shaving, my clipped beard and mustache covered much of my face, and although mostly bald, I trimmed my remaining hair neatly to the skin.
The chilly day in late October hadn’t required a topcoat, and while the forecast for cloudy skies hadn’t called for rain, I learned to bring my umbrella anyway. That day I wore my newest bespoke suit, a grey three-piece tweed, with a charcoal silk tie.
Maggie smiled in response to mine when we greeted one another in front of the tube station at 9:00 a.m. as planned. I remarked how attractive she looked in her forest green pants and a cotton sweater in antique white.
“If you can believe it, my grandmother made this.” Maggie had such a lovely French accent.
I studied the sweater in detail. “Hard to believe it’s handmade. I wish I had a grandmother who loved me that much.”
“Hadn’t you once told me all your grandparents had died?” she asked.
“Yes, so I never hold my lack of hand-knitted sweaters against them.”
She laughed. “Would you wear one? You always wear a suit.”
“I would wear one,” I said, “…at home.”
“Right, where no one would see you.”
“Of course, one must keep up the public persona for potential clients.”
She shook her head, laughed, and looped her arm around mine to guide me toward the steps of the station.
“Oh no, dear. I have a cab set to meet us here at 9:05.”
“I see. So, why would we leave Knightsbridge? There’s tons of shopping here.” She gestured at the myriad of stores before us.
I told her I wanted to visit Savile Row to see my tailor, as I often did. It perplexed me how a nice suit made a grander impression on clients, causing them to feel they got what they paid for before I even opened my mouth. Also, I planned to visit a shop with dresses she’d love but could never afford on a teacher’s salary, so I intended to pay for them.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spied a black car pulling alongside us. I mistook it for the cab I ordered, but then I recognized the Jaguar, having ridden within it several times. When the front passenger exited the vehicle and opened the back door, I saw Mr. Levitt on the far side. Having scooted over to make room for me, he leaned down to look me in the face.