“CROSS-CHANNEL” by RYAN SILVA

You’ve got to let the Soylent slip down your throat. Don’t taste it. The moment it touches the tip of your tongue the gag reflex starts activating — especially when it’s been your only form of breakfast for a year or so. It sounds horrifying — I realize that, but it’s one of those things that ends up tying itself to your daily routine pretty tightly once you get into the swing of it. Soylent brings you closer to God — especially if you’ve got the right One.

My God is Patrick Bateman.

As the Soylent self-discipline session gives way to the morning shower, I submit myself to the Islam of Aesthetics. The Kauai-sourced coconut-milk and pumice-pellet infused body scrub goes first, followed by the charcoal face-mask. I do stray a bit from the O.G. P.B.’s routine as I’m partial to an alcohol-based aftershave following the morning shear. There’s something about the burn that keeps me coming back. I compensate with a special Japanese offal-paste lotion that traps free radicals in your hair follicles to prevent inflammation and skin cancer.

Innovation is its own sort of piety.

After stepping out from the bathroom and into the living room, I summon my bitch.

“Ali, can you be a doll and bring up the itinerary for today?”

“Of course, Patrick.” The computerized taint in her voice is almost inaudible now. I customized her — at great expense — to make her, an Alexa 4.0, sound like Chloe Sevigny. A Russian mod-site put the protocols together. I have her call me Patrick, but that’s not actually my given name. That’s Lawrence Lacy. I prefer the actual whores to call me “daddy”, though. Sometimes I think about putting Ali in one of those Chinese body-sex-dolls that they build in the Shenzhen, and just giving her a good fuck in the animatronic ass. But I check myself — I’m not actually a degenerate.

I’m also far too attractive for that anyway.

I wander over to the nearest screen projection area — in the buff — running a hand through my soon-to-be-combed wavy blonde hair. It will be receding soon, I imagine, I’m thirty, after all — purely from a genetic perspective — so I should schedule an appointment with a specialist soon. I’ll have Ali make a note of that. I happen to be partial to the screen projection next to my wall print of Mondrian’s Trafalgar Square, so I’m drawn to it altogether reflexively. My entire apartment is decorated with Mondrian prints, of course — but there’s a certain something about that particular piece that’s just… gravitational, for lack of a better word. His painting of Broadway, which I have hanging right by the doorway, seems a bit too busy in a space that should be relaxing. Trafalgar represents the peak of his form, in my view — right before the Fall of France which sent his work into a rather uninspiring tail spin. A shame, I figure — squinting at the projection nearby.

The print on the screen is too small and my glasses (by J.F. Rey) aren’t in reach, so I opt for Ali’s aid.

“Ali, care to read it off?”

“Of course, Patrick.” she replies, in joyful servitude, “At ten you’ll be taking a call from Mr. Alderson regarding the Malaysia file.”

“Fuck.”

“Should I continue, Patrick?”

“Go for it, Ali.”

“At 12:30 you’ve got plans for tapas at Donostia with Mr. Cheng.”

“That the Basque place?”

“Donostia is a stylish, intimate Tapas Bar and Cafe with traditional—”

“Yeah, the Basque place.”

“Shall I continue, Patrick?”

“Shit.”

“Please affirm to continue, or decline for me to pause, Patrick.” She says, with what I detect as a bit of scorn. Even the fake women.

“Ali, you’re a bitch and if you were real I’d fuck you from the ceiling on fish-hooks. Yes.”

“At two o’clock you will be attending the board meeting with chief shareholder Ms. Jackie Dorsberg and the other VPs in Acquisitions.”

Fuck — fucking, fuck.”

“Would you like me to continue, Patrick?”

No — no.”

“Alright, Patrick.”

The high-schooler’s taking over the company today. The whole shit in Malaysia is done, it’s gonna be gonzo at two o’clock. The whole acquisitions team is probably gonna get axed with it, especially if she brings that prig of a lawyer her father had at the end of his life, the one that restructured the whole goddamn company and left it in her lap to begin with. I’m gonna get fucked. I dive into the fridge, grasping greedily for another Soylent Green.

“Ali, you cunt!”

“Yes, Patrick.”

“Cancel the 12:30 at Donostia”.

“Yes, Patrick.”

 

*           *           *

 

Don’t accuse me of going business casual to the Gotterdamerung. On days that I have to sweat, I go to work in my John Varvatos three-piece. It’s lined with the finest hand-picked, quality-controlled cotton from artisan growers in the Arta region outside of Athens. When I get literally cremated, I think I’ll wear Valentino Couture— but for the spiritual hellfire of the quarterly board meeting I prefer something more breathable.

The morning is uneventful. The exact same itinerary that Alexa supplied me while I was getting ready is written in the small-soul cursive of a tumblrina-trogdolyte fleshbag on my Eames desk. I hate needless repetition. My actual secretary, a homely, rapidly ballooning creature by the name of Zoe, has borderline personality disorder and seems especially distracted today. The one time I slept with her I strained her calf lifting her leg up above my shoulder as I penetrated her. She also doesn’t care to be choked, sadly, so that was that. I’ve filed a complaint to Human Resources sixteen times since then in an effort to get someone more attractive sitting outside my office. Once every month since. My colleague Price ascribes her staying power to the fact that her uncle works in Mergers. Mergers is gonna get axed too, I think.

The call at ten was mostly about how Alderson, who “works” in legal, didn’t get the files I needed faxed over to the Malaysia office until 3AM after snorting his way though a bag of mescaline that my dealer sold to him last Tuesday. I shot a text to my guy shortly after saying that Alderson got caught in a sting last week and that he should stop selling to him. From then until about 1:30, I munched on chewable soy capsules and listened to Phil Collins while flicking through the BondageMe hookup app. At 1:35 I gather my briefcase (vintage Vitton Bordeaux, spring 1987 model) and make my way to the boardroom on the eleventh floor to the face the music, listening to company’s “transit playlist” on the elevator ride. It includes Macintosh Plus’s

リサフランク420 / 現代のコンピュー which nostalgically reminds me of a youth I never had.

Not wanting to interrupt this aesthetic experience, I intentionally lingered in the elevator. It was called back to my floor, the 4th, allowing me to consume this piece of plunderphonic euphoria in full. I step out to grab a cup of water from a nearby cooler, which I gargle before swallowing. Before making my way back to the elevator, I stop at my secretary’s desk. I stare blankly at Zoe, who has a lollipop in her mouth. She’s fiddling with a fidget spinner, occasionally glancing up to meet my goonishly glaring gaze. She’s only about five years my junior but her whole persona right now, along with Urban Outfitters apparel she’s wearing makes her look about ten.

“Hey, hey, Zoe Re—De—Ne!” I greet her.

“Patrick.” I insist that she call me Patrick. She despises it, perhaps understanding the implication at the root of it all.

“What’s the name of that case manager for the Malaysia file?”

“Patrick, please.” She’s had me do this to her a million times. I don’t care.

“Really Zoe, it’s escaping me hun, and I’ve got that meeting in twenty.” I could barely contain my shit-eating grin, adding a slight flourish of my hand to sell it ever so slightly.

“…Cheng Dam-Jyu.” she spits.

“Whoa, Zoe, Zoe! — Cool it with the anti-semitic remarks!”

 

*           *           *

 

If this boardroom was a balloon, I’d pop it. Tension and hot air have turned this space into a pressure cooker of deep-seated male desires for acceptance and stability. Middle Managers like to feed you a line of bullshit about how they like the unknown — how they adapt well under pressure and embrace entropy and all that utter garbage. They don’t. They quake in fear about it, see their financial managers in jitters after freebasing their last line of whatever, leave existential Xanax-fueled calls to their mistresses about running away to Xanadu, that sort of shit. Most of these guys have people that depend on them in some way — gold digger girlfriends, the bootstrap guys who are trying to secure a nice place for their parents to retire. You even see the occasional idiot who reproduced. Today is the manifestation of all their fears. Worst of all — or perhaps best of all, their Atropos is manifested in the most mythological of ways — the teenage girl, a creature which either these guys don’t remember fucking or never did because they were classics club spergs.

Her name is Jacqueline Dorsberg.

Her father was Jack, “John” Dorsberg, who founded this company.

This company is D.A.F., Dorsberg Affiliated Foods. We own Soylent now.

I’m a Vice President of Media Acquisitions.

The rest of the guys in the room are also Vice Presidents of Media Acquisitions. VPMAs. We all have different responsibilities, nominally — but they’re all fucking nebulous, frankly, and we’re only about an inch or two away from stepping all over one another at any given moment.

“How was Hamburg, Price?” My cool, calculated voice cuts through the silence of five men breathing, introspecting — like a spear through flesh.

Price recoils reflexively. He’s a tasteless slob who’s had his alpha “mindset” crushed by the impending loss of everything he holds dear. He showed up today in a navy-and-white pinstriped Dolce & Gabbana like some kind of slime sliding into his own professional grave. His skin’s as yellow as tooth tartar from his week in Germany, so the whole ensemble looks wonderfully macabre.

“Shit. The worst shit. They gave me a room with a balcony, and you could smell the low tide the whole fucking time. Like every unwashed refugee in the country dropped a turd in the Elbe. Didn’t get a wink of sleep.”

“That bad, huh?” I said, feigning interest.

“Yeah. That bad. How was shit with you and the boys in Mergers?”

“Oh — good, good.”

“Where’d you go?”

“We hit The Darby on Thursday and Pier 17 on Friday.”

“What about the other five days?”

“Went home and prayed.”

“Malaysia file that bad, huh?”

“We’re not gonna be able to put the damn thing on if Biogen doesn’t front their share.”

“Are they?”

“No idea. Alderson faxed over some stuff last night. We’ll see.”

“Shit. We’re gonna get our tits lit in a minute if that doesn’t go through.” Price offered.

“C’est la vie.” I say with a shrug.

“Sauter du coq à l’âne, Lawrence,” said Niles, one of the other VPMAs, while staring at me intently. It occurred to me that Niles minored in French at Cornell. He wears Saint Laurent to work so he must really think he’s an authority or something.

“Impressive. Very Nice.”

“The lady in black’s on her way.” He notes, ignoring my ignorance.

“Shit.” I reply.

Four or five audible “fucks” emanated from the rest of the half-dozen odd VPs and were left to co-mingle with e-cig vapor. Moments later, Niles’s prophecy checked out — although he might have undersold it. Three teenagers entered, two female, one male. The girl who entered first breezes past us and takes a seat at the head of the boardroom table. I can only assume that she’s the elusive Jacqueline Dorsberg.

I like her style. Red hair, dyed I figure. Her father was too much of a swarthy old Sephardi to leave her those genes. She’s wearing a black Moncler knit jacket over a white blouse by… Miyake? Tsumori Chisato? It’s got a very Japanese cut — although she’s definitely not Asian. The other teenage girl standing to her left is. And I really love her look. She knows her shit. Short evening dress by Giambattisti Valli, bleached blonde hair that falls to a perfect point just below her open shoulders and the cut of the blouse. Bellissimo.

The boy looks like he could be a VPMA in another ten years or so if he goes to the right Ivy. He’s got some taste. Oliver Peoples glasses… Gregory Peck model, maybe? Or O’Malley, I’d need a better look at the bridge. He’s also got that sort of 1930s Democrat haircut that Atticus Finch had, it goes well with his overall look. His mock turtleneck looks like a Raf Simons. My guess is that he’s either fucking Jackie D. or the Asian girl. Put a gun to my head and I’d say the Asian. Seems more to his aesthetic taste. Or to mine.

“Please don’t mind my spiritual advisors,” Jackie began solemnly, “Let’s begin.”

 

*           *           *

 

“Whatever you need,” I said in between drags, “I can get you into their rooms, I can tap their phones. This is Malaysia we’re talking about, and they’re spending whole week there. I can tell you the porn they order on pay-per-view. I’m in charge of the whole fucking song and dance as soon as they get off the plane.”

The two men seated in front of me blinked with open mouths. Their names — if you even care — are Jon de Rosa and Joe Roman. One’s a journalist of some repute. The other’s his chauffeur. We’re sitting at Sevilla in Hell’s Kitchen. I come here for the cognac sangria and octopus stir-fry because it’s a stone’s throw from the Dorsberg office building. Sevilla’s a good spot. Wood paneling, Andalusian rhythms. Perfect place to meet two professionals.

“I think we’d just need some face-time with them,” Jon began. I fucking hate Jon, he’s the type of cuck who wears a bow-tie outside of a fetish party. Must be a journalist thing. “Right, Joe?” Jon asks his partner.

“Right, a couple questions.”. Joe is wearing a satin jacket. I’m not even sure what to say about that.

“Ahaha, questions, right. To the kids.”

“Dante and Kasumi, preferably.” Jon noted.

“Perfect, because that’s all you’re getting.” I said, pointing my fork at them. The octopus stir-fry arrived shortly after.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Joe asked without a hint of tact.

“Don’t snap at me, you fucking prole,” I barked reflexively, but, after a moment of regaining my composure, “listen, you guys were asking around for the two kids. Two grown adult men, asking around a company full of grown adults about the kids. I don’t know if you’re familiar at all with the surveillance state and all that shit, but,” I paused as I took off my spectacles for added resonance, “that makes it seem more than a bit suspicious.”

“We told you about what happened in California.” Joe pressed.

“Yup. Cool fuckin’ story, I believe it, man, California’s a weird spot. All those tech goonies and all that. But this is New York.” I noted with a tap on the tablecloth.

“We realize that.” Jon added, attempting openly to diffuse, “we’re just trying to figure out why we got drugged and why I saw them in Libya.”

“Ever try asking them?”

“It’s been impossible to reach them,” Jon noted, after taking a peck at the stir fry on his plate. “We’ve looked them up at their school, offered them money — I’ve burned through a rolodex of contacts just trying to get a coffee with them.”

“Rolodex. Nice.” I note.

“I just want to know why they keep appearing at all these… odd places.”

“Yeah, yeah.” I affirm.

We all return to our plates. I take long, desirous gulps of the cognac sangria, prompting Jon and Joe to look at each other in what seems to me like equal parts bemusement and fear. After a time, Jon clears his throat.

“Mr. Lacy.”

“Jon.” I reply.

“I appreciate you listening to us, believing what we’re saying here. It means a lot because we’ve run into every possible brick wall in the two months we’ve been running around since Joe and I met in California.”

“Don’t mention it, Jon.”

“And I don’t want to seem ungrateful for asking this—“

“Ask away, Jon.”

“Why are you helping us?”

I nearly choked on my stir-fry in laughter.

“Jon. Joe. I’m sure we’re of a like mind here, gentlemen. You want to ask Dante and Kasumi questions. All very good. Understandable, they’re very mysterious characters and seem like they have some wondrous secret that they’re hiding — what with Libya and California and their disappearing acts.”

“Right.” Jon noted.

“My motivation is very simple Jon, Joe. This afternoon I was given a gift from God — divine inspiration, gentlemen. It was writ to me that I want to get Jacqueline Dorsberg alone and then I want to suspend her from fish hooks in her hotel.”

Jon dropped his fork.

I boarded the 8:30 to Kuala Lumpur from JFK the following morning.