Danny punched his thighs in frustration. “Useless piece of shit,” he said before he poked at random keys on the keyboard of his comatose laptop. He yanked the cables out, swung the screen shut and gave the base of the battered machine a few hard thumps.
You need an extra hard reset, he thought. His mind then focused on a litany of curse words that his mouth was too exhausted to articulate out loud.
The laptop fizzed to life. This time, the blue screen of death gained lucidity and transformed to his desktop page. He searched his pockets for a crumpled receipt and turned it over. There were instructions scrawled on it. He typed in the details and prayed he would connect.
Three thwarted tries later, he logged into the Zoom meeting room he was 15 minutes late for.
But there wasn’t anyone there…
He leaned in and stared at the dark abyss in front of him.
“I’m here.” A tinny voice boomed through the laptop’s speakers.
Danny’s heart leapt to his throat. He rubbed his eyes and looked back at his laptop screen. There was the silhouette of a man, whose eyes seemed to bore right into the dredges of Danny’s soul.
“My laptop, it…”
The man flicked his hand across the screen, as though Danny’s excuse was an annoying mosquito.
Danny’s shoulders slumped even more.
The man growled, “Get on with it.”
“How do I address you… sir?” Danny asked.
“Call me B,” the mysterious figure spoke from the shadows.
“What?” Danny suppressed an awkward laugh. “B for bomoh?”
“It stands for Benji. But bomoh works as well.” The figure sucked on his vape and exhaled a huge white cloud of vapour that filled the screen. “That's why you’re here, isn’t it?”
Danny avoided his gaze.
B leaned in, “Why else would you be so desperate to contact a random stranger in the dead of night?”
"I have tried other, uhm, online services. "
Danny nodded. "I found this one American shaman on Etsy."
The figure took a moment. "American, how exotic! How did that work out for you?"
"Well... I did everything she said, you know. But I guess I must have done something wrong.”
Danny unfolded himself from his cross legged position on the floor. “She cautioned me to scrawl the name of the one I seek to curse on the base of my foot so I will 'crush their spirit with the weight of my being,' like this..." Danny wiggled his right foot into the dim light of his laptop screen.
B flinched in disgust.
Danny sputtered out an apology. He felt like a total idiot for showing the sole of his inflamed foot to the old man. "Instead of writing it, I decided to tattoo it on my foot,” he explained, “So it will be so much more potent, right?"
B shook his head. “So, tell me what can I do for you? I rarely get men requesting my services. I tend to deal with furious wives seeking revenge on their husband’s latest obsessions.”
Danny whispered the name of Malaysia’s biggest heartthrob. “I need him to suffer for what he did to me,” he added.
B relaxed back and puffed on his vape. “I don’t know what you’ve heard, but you must have an actual physical connection with the subject for it to work.”
“I am connected to him,” Danny lowered his voice to a whisper, “physically.”
“I see.” B held his vape and pointed it towards the screen. A light flashed from the base of it. He drew small shapes in the air and hummed an incantation under his breath.
For a brief moment Danny thought that the tune sounded so damn familiar. Why do I keep hearing it? But his mind went numb as the light shapes began to streak across his screen and into his darkened room.
“Bro!” He breezed through the glass doors of the atelier and wrapped Danny up in a bear hug. He thumped Danny’s back and whispered into his ear, “You’re always at a loss for words when I come by.” His hot breath caressed the nooks and crannies of Danny’s earlobe.
Danny stepped away and turned red in embarrassment. Determined to avoid his megawatt smile, Danny looked behind the man towards the entrance of his atelier. He watched the mega star’s entourage file in like a conquering Roman battalion.
Multiple ring lights illuminated their meal ticket. He counted four black clad assistants holding up their latest iPhones and GoPros to record him from the most flattering angles.
He mouthed to Danny, “Are we alone?”
He turned back to his team and said, “You know what guys, this is just a boring meeting, right Danny?”
Danny didn’t reply.
“We won’t need to film this for Insta.”
The battalion grumbled.
“I promise I will do TWO TikTok videos after this. Why don’t you guys head to Starbucks and take a well deserved break. My treat, of course!”
The battalion cheered for their beloved commander.
He continued “Get me a Mocha Frappuccino, Venti. And no disposable cup! Ok, Alia?”
His gatekeeper, Alia, looked up from her tablet and gave her boss a thumbs up and a sparkling smile. She then scowled at the entourage as she corralled them out of the atelier and back into the two Vellfires parked outside.
As soon as the two behemoths glided onto the main road, he placed his hand on Danny’s lower back and nudged him to the back of the atelier. He knew the way to Danny’s creative inner sanctum. He closed the door and looked at Danny.
His eyes twinkled in anticipation as he said, “You won’t believe how many new followers I have gained after last month’s awards show.”
“Oh yeah, congrats on your win.”
He shrugged, “It wasn’t for that, it was for how you made me look!” He pulled out his phone and tapped the screen, “Look babe, six MILLION new followers and all because of you.” He beamed and gave a little laugh, “I’m still trending. They’re calling me hashtag future007!”
Danny peered at the phone thrust into his face. He took the phone and scrolled down on his own, only to see the flurry of posts that featured his couture creations. “You promised to tag me in these posts,” Danny mumbled. “You assured me that I would get star billing for creating your whole new look.”
He shushed Danny’s concerns, “Didn’t Alia tell you? We have to keep building on the mystique.”
Danny stared at him dumbfounded.
“You won’t believe what my social media techies have calculated.” He grabbed Danny’s hand and placed it right on his left pec beneath his unbuttoned shirt.
Despite his initial protest. Danny could not stop his fingers from being electrified by the hot, smooth slab of perfect muscle.
He whispered, “In another week, I will have 15 million legit new followers… minimum!” He began to hum a little tune. “Na na na, na na na na.”
“I don’t care,” Danny shouted out loud to drown out the dulcet tones of his voice. He stepped back from the star to give himself some breathing room. “This has gone on far enough. Do you know how many copycats are out there selling ugly knockoffs of my designs online?”
“C’mon babe,” he cooed, “isn’t imitation the best form of flattery?” He rubbed Danny’s cheek to calm him down. He began to tap out the beat of the tune on Danny’s jaw.
“No, it isn’t. This is bankrupting me. I can’t even sell the designs I created for you.”
He turned cold and grabbed Danny’s wrist, hard enough to make the designer wince. “You better not be breaking the terms of our agreement.”
Danny pulled away from him. “I’m not. I know exactly what I signed up for.”
His demeanour brightened as he reached across the divide and caressed Danny’s hand and placed it on the valley between his mountainous pecs. He pressed Danny’s hand into his flesh.
Danny’s breath soon matched the heartthrob’s heartbeat.
“Just a few more days,” he whispered to Danny as he lifted Danny’s chin up to look into his eyes. “I promise I will make it all worth it,”
There was a sharp knock on the door and the two men separated.
“Boss.” Alia walked in and held open the door for her boss.
He winked at Danny and grabbed his drink from Alia’s hand.
“Haiyah! You forgot to buy something for Danny,” he said as he sauntered through the atelier.
Alia walked over to Danny and passed him a receipt.
“This is what you owe for dry-cleaning.” Her manicured finger tapped on the eye watering amount at the bottom of the receipt.
“When will you be returning them?”
“Returning?” Alia cocked her head to one side. “Didn’t Boss tell you? He loves this round of designs and has decided to keep them all.”
Danny crumpled the receipt in his fist.
“Danny…” Alia began to hum a tune.
Why do they keep humming that damn tune? Danny wondered.
“They expect payment. Now.”
Danny nodded as he carefully unfurled the receipt and pressed out the creases.
“Here are their bank details,” Alia smiled, “I’ll wait right here while you transfer it.”
Danny sat down at his computer to process the transaction.
Alia then slid another receipt across the desk. “Here’s what you owe for the Starbucks treat for the team.” Alia smiled, “I prefer cash. Thanks.”
Danny nodded. He reached for his wallet and slid it across the table to her.
Alia took out a wad of cash as she hummed the tune even louder.
He began to hum along with her.
“It’s infectious, isn’t it? Na na na, na na na na, na na na.” Her nails clacked the beat of the tune as she placed the crumpled receipt into his empty wallet.
A cackle jerked Danny awake. His body felt so clammy. Why was his singlet drenched in sweat?
“She’s my kind of woman.”
“I told you about them?”
“Every sordid detail,” B said as he exhaled a large white cloud of vapour. He leaned in towards his camera and said, “So… just him?”
“Actually… just her,” Danny returned his hard gaze to the cloudy eyes of B and smiled. “I need her to suffer.”
B revealed his yellowed teeth in a toothy grin.
“I expect this to work,” Danny added.
“Trust me it will.” B hummed the opening bars of the tune.
Danny shook his head but the tune’s fangs had bored past his ear drums. The melodic notes bounced off the bones in his skull and reverberated with each intake of his breath. “How soon will it work?!”
B seemed unperturbed by Danny’s outburst. He hummed the tune louder, snapping his fingers in rhythm. “Don’t you just love this tune?”
“Please!” Danny screamed.
B ceased humming but continued to snap out the rhythm of the tune.
Each snap felt like a 6 inch screw drilled through his optic nerves. He scrunched up his eyes in agony and shouted, “Make it stop.”
B stopped snapping and silently watched Danny convulse on his screen.
Danny used his sweat drenched singlet to wipe away the tears and snot from his face. His laptop screen glowed so much brighter through his closed eyelids. He squinted at his screen and gasped, “Alia?”
Alia’s face filled the screen. “Wasn’t I right, Uncle Benji? Getting positive feedback over a job well done always feels so empowering.”
“Ya, you’re right, sayang. You young people are so smart.” B kissed his niece on her forehead. He turned to Danny, “I’m sorry, Danny. But I was never meant to help you. This is what young people call -”
“A performance review,” Alia hugged her uncle, “You definitely get an A++ from me, Uncle Benji!”
B began to sing the tune with gusto.
Alia turned the computer towards her and said “You will never get me out of your head, Danny. Never.”
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Ooh, did not see that coming! This was really interesting and enjoyable to read! My favorite line: "American, how exotic! How did that work out for you?" lol :P I particularly liked how unique the plot and flow of this was. Nicely done! Good luck this week, and welcome to Reedsy! :)
Thank you so much for the kind words and the warm welcome Wendy! Much appreciated :)