RAC3R

Mazda RX-7 FD3S at Bathurst – All credit goes to The Lowdown for their incredible photography.

At 100,000 strong, the atmosphere around the race track resembled the Ancient Roman’s Colosseum; excited, energetic and predatory with anticipation.

Down the start/finish straight, the pit-lane was busy with preparations for the upcoming race. Drills whirred, cranks creaked under the strain of hoisting machinery aloft, and there was the usual precise, techno-jargon that all engineers and racers understood better than their native language.

Give me a quarter more boost here.

Turn this exactly 2 more quarter screws.

What’s the tailwind like out of turn 5?

Adjust Mode 75, I repeat, adjust Mode 75

Adjust my front brake bias by an extra 4.7%

Button 9 is now used for overtake function.

You are 4 centimetres too left going into turn 14

If the atmosphere, tension and nerves was getting to Daniel Lockeheart, there were no signs of it as he stood calmly in the garage as engineers fussed over his car. At 19 years old, with dark brown hair that was always cut a bit too short, and emerald green eyes, Lockeheart’s attitude belied his youth, with a seriousness that spoke of much more racing experience than he possessed.

He had the scar to prove it too. A long wicked scar ran across his left cheekbone, courtesy of a stray piece of carbon fibre that smashed through the gap in his visor. Even to this day, Lockeheart recalled the number of stitches required to get his face mended.

It didn’t stop him from getting back in the car, and finishing the race though.

Staring out at the crowd, with his headset over his ears, Lockeheart was busy visualising the track layout of Mount Panorama, for the upcoming sprint race to the sounds of Japanese rock, from his favourite game Gran Turismo – Sport, the inspiring lyrics and addicting electronic rock from maestro Daiki Kasho allowing him to create an internal rhythm of how he would approach each corner.

At a length of 6.213km, Mount Panorama was one of the most unforgiving tracks in the world, with iconic ascents and descents that punished drivers for the smallest of errors. With long straights, that dominate Sector 1 and 3 and incredible difficult braking points, with even trickier chicanes and esses for Sector 2, Mount Panorama barely allowed anyone to breathe, before they start another assault on the track.

Earlier that day, there had already been 4 safety car deployments for the Scuderia Ferrari challenge, with their monstrously wide and powerful Ferrari 488 Evo GT3s crashing at iconic locations that have traditionally always claimed drivers, like The Cutting and The Dipper.

The most spectacular of the crashes caused a red flag, suspending the race, after an overly ambitious Taiwanese driver, pushing his 488 to its absolute limit, came flying down the super long Conrod Straight in excess of 270km/h. With horrible misjudgement of his braking in time for the The Chase corner, the Taiwanese driver sent the supercar flying off into the grass and dirt, plowing through multiple speed signage and flipping the car several times, before coming to a bruising and horrific halt.

Through a miracle, the driver survived the crash, with nothing but a sore neck, thanks to the safety features of the car and his crash helmet. However, due to the severity of the crash and damage to the track, Lockeheart’s tuner sprint race was delayed by an hour.

Whilst other drivers chose to peel off their race suits and get comfortable, Lockeheart instead retreated to the simulator at the rear of his team’s motorhome and played with his lap times, punching in his average lap times from practice sessions and attempting to find the mystery tenths that would enable him to get ahead.

By the time the 15 minute warning came, Lockeheart had driven the circuit so many times, to the point he was driving by instinct, the ideal mental state for a driver as it free up his mind to focus on other tasks. As the announcement died away, Lockeheart merely stepped away from the simulator and walked into the pit garage, his mind clear and still focused on the race compared to other drivers who were now struggling to amp themselves up again.

Interior of the Mazda RX-7 FD3S.

With its average lap time of 2 minutes and 14 seconds, the tuner 20 laps sprint race, was still an exhausting and taxing endeavour, as was atypical of your racing at Mount Panorama. After all, Australian racing, was not so much about clean racing, as it was about who could survive lap after lap of assaulting a course that crashed, banged and trashed every part of your body along the way.

The winner of any race at Mount Panorama was delivered by the elimination of lesser drivers, who cannot handle the stress and were simply not insane enough to post competitive lap times.

45 minutes of long, precise and daring manoeuvring was required by Lockeheart to make up his poor qualifying session starting 7th out of 15 racers. Despite the monumental task ahead of him, Lockeheart was not unduly worried.

His race pace, was something else to behold, and his team knew better than to question Lockeheart’s inherent ability to find gaps where none seemed possible. He was typical of Australian racers …. daring, brash and bordering on insane, but fair on the overtakes and Lockeheart knew he had the machinery to climb where none others could.

His car, a heavily modified Mazda RX-7 FD3S was a 90s JDM that still enjoyed strong competitiveness in hillclimbs and descents. With its iconic rotary engine, providing near perfect power-to-weight ratio, low slung body and precise handling, the Mazda RX-7 FD3S was going to make places over the other modified cars.

But the question was, how many?

As the 5 minute warning came through the garage, Lockeheart stepped into his white RX-7 and listened to the iconic rumbling of the rotary engine at idle. A cross between a growl and a burble, the sound was deafening in the garage, as Lockeheart revved it several times to ensure everything was working well.

Brap … Braappp! Brap .. Brap, Brap, Braappp!

Giving the thumbs up to his engineer, Lockeheart felt the car being lowered down to the floor and waited for the signal from his pit crew, before peeling out into the sunshine and the rough track that only a country like Australia could create.

The starting grid for the Tuner GT Championship, with this final sprint determining the championship leader.

Cheers from the grandstands came through in a muffled roar as they filtered through his distinct red/black crash helmet, and he slid in behind the slipstream of the car in front, a grey BMW M3.

However it was really the top 3 cars that warranted his attention, a dark purple Nissan R33 GTR that belonged to a Japanese racer: Tak Nakigama; a matte red Audi Quattro TT helmed by a young German, Ben Waldorf and the racing green a Porsche 911 that belonged to an Australian, Jordan Chaser. Each car was third, second and first respectively and fine racers all.

It was the Porsche he feared the most though. If Waldorf’s Audi and Nissan of Nakigama could not keep him busy, there was a very good chance, the insufferable braggart at the wheel, Jordan Chaser, would get a clean getaway and pull away on the straights, where the Porsche’s horsepower would outrun anything behind it.

Behind the visor, Daniel Lockeheart scowled at the thought of Jordan Chaser winning the race. Never mind the fact that this race was going to determine who was going to earn a spot at a top level team next season, or that the prize money was enough to cover his rent for 7 months … losing to Chaser was more humiliation than he could bear. Especially after the rude send-off he had given Lockeheart after scoring pole position in the qualifying.

Sighing, Lockeheart looked down at his dash and noted everything seemed OK. Chaser and Lockeheart had a long history and none of it was pretty but his job right now was to catch the man, when he was a full second and a half behind.

As the 20 cars slowly trundled up the track for their formation lap, many began weaving along the straights, attempting to bring more heat into their cold tyres and get them switched on in time for the race. Keeping an eye on the gauge that indicated the tyres’ temperatures, Lockeheart heard his race engineer’s voice over the radio in his helmet.

Just a reminder, 7th position is on the left side of the track when you come to the grid.

Copy that. replied Lockeheart curtly.

As they came through the fastest right-hander that indicated the section known as The Chase , Lockeheart saw Chaser’s green 911 turn left into Murray’s Corner. A strange premonition came over Lockeheart, as he had this strange feeling that his race would depend on a late lunge into that corner.

Shaking it off, Lockeheart heeded his engineer’s advice and parked his Mazda RX-7 on the left side of the track, the inside line as they came to Hell Corner.

The race was now about to begin.

One of the most challenging tracks in the world, Mount Panorama is famous for the Supercar championship and my screams of rage as I scrape the walls and mess up my exits in Gran Turismo: Sport. Many races have been abandoned and sessions ending with me tossing my simulator wheel aside in frustration.

T minus 10 said the race engineer in Lockeheart’s ear.

Silence descended over the grid, with only the rumbling of many different engines to soothe the tension. The crowd’s energy was now suppressed, their excitement now under a bubble of anticipation. People put their food down to watch the start, chatter died away and all eyes were now eyeing the cars on the grie.

Lockeheart flexed his fingers over the wheel of his precious car and found himself murmuring under his breath, as was his habit

Keep it clean. Keep it clean. Clean.

To his rear right, was a eager 8th placed, Taiwanese racer, Tim Wu in his yellow Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, its chassis jumping about as Wu revved his engine aggressively.

His immediate front was taken up by the tail-lights of the 5th placed grey BMW M3 he was shadowing the entire formation lap, driven by an Egyptian, Ishan Koury, a fine racer that had recorded many battles with Lockeheart.

Meanwhile his front right was blocked by a 6th placed orange Holden V8 Commodore, whose engine rumbling was familiar enough to anyone who had the unpleasant experience of being drawn into an impromptu street drag with one at a traffic light and driven by a bogan stereotype, Sam Jones, with his mullet hair peeking out from underneath his crash helemt.

Lockeheart knew his car did not have the acceleration to storm past the Commodore, but if he could draft behind the M3, and judge his braking point right, he could take the Holden in Hell’s Corner.

The 5 dark lights began to flash red, 1 second at a time … one after the other …

5

4

3

2

1

Then they disappeared.

Note the incredible list of decals on the side of the RX-7, each of them indicating the source of the parts in this vehicle. I have always loved RE Amemiya after-market parts and this car exemplifies why I love that brand so much.

Within two tenths of the lights shutting off, Lockeheart slammed his foot down, the rotary engine roaring with all the muscle of its’ 255 brake horsepower and slammed his stick shift into first.

Within seconds, he was shifting into second, and flying down the main straight, following the M3 incredibly closely, with only 2 metres separating the cars from a collision.

Then every single car’s red brake lights lit up, as they approached Hell’s corner.

Up ahead, Chaser had a poor start, mistiming his shifts as he struggled to pull his Porsche 911 away from the pack.

Smelling blood, Waldorf in his Audi nudged closer to Chaser, as they went almost side by side into Hell’s Corner, Chaser desperately trying to protect the inside line, whilst Waldorf struggled for grip around the outside.

Bang!

The two cars touched, bumper to bumper, as the TT’s nose nudged the rear of the 911 and Chaser twisted his wheel to and fro viciously to correct the incoming spin at 90km/h. The over-correction was costly and Chaser cursed Waldorf’s name loudly as the Audi came alongside and overtook him.

The curse became even more pronounced when Nakigama’s GTR also came blazing past, the mighty roar of the Godzilla’s powerful engines screaming in his ears. Slamming his foot down furiously, Chaser punched his 911 down the Mountain Straight, not caring about the small bump that scraped his underside, desperate to regain his lead.

Meanwhile in the pack, Lockeheart had timed his small drag race to Hell’s Corner perfectly, the slipstream behind Koury’s M3 giving him extra speed to out-run the more powerful Commodore. The rotary’s engine kept an running commentary of Lockeheart’s actions with exhaust fire and brapping noises, as he turned the RX-7 into the corner and out-braked Jones’ Commodore by a clear car length.

To both the M3 and RX-7’s delight, Cho’s 86 had gone wide on the exit of Hell’s Corner, the rear wheels of the Toyota scrabbling for grip as it touched the grass. Lockeheart mimicked Koury’s acceleration down the Mountain Straight, as they zoomed past the struggling 86.

Pacing himself and pleased with 2 overtakes, in the space of 1 corner, Lockeheart settled down his heart-rate and focused on following the Egyptian’s BMW through Griffin’s Bend, and then upwards towards The Cutting, the sharp lefts followed by a more sweeping vertical right hander.

As the pair of cars rocketed up the mountain, Lockeheart did his best to keep the car planted and grippy, preferring to not risk drifting his car and destroying the tyres too early. As they reached the peak of the mountain at McPhillamy Park, and begin their slow, technical descent, Lockeheart noted that Koury made a mistake at the Skyline that would compromise the entire flow of his rhythm through the Esses.

Koury had braked too late.

White smoke billowed out from the rear tyres of the M3 as Koury desperately tried to avoid the wall, the car screeching horrifically and filling the cockpit of the RX-7 with the smell of burning rubber.

As the M3 veered raggedly to the right, Lockeheart, without fear nor hesitation, kept his foot steady and the car fast through the smoke of the burning rubber, jinxing his chariot to the left, on the inside line of the corner.

The M3 crunched into the wall, with Koury scrapping the side of his M3 and shattering the left side mirror. Somehow the car managed to right itself, but was now damaged in the most iconic of Mt Panorama ways, the wallrider scar.

Koury’s mistake though, meant that Lockeheart now had nothing between him and the top 3 drivers, with Waldorf still in the lead, Chaser’s 911 having barged its way back into second and Nakigama’s R33 itself only 2 seconds in front.

Clean air, clean laps. whispered Lockeheart inside his helmet, the sweat and perspiration of his concentrated effort soaking into his Nomex balaclava.

The RX-7 slowed down into second gear, as Lockeheart steered the front of the car into the most difficult corner of the track, Forrest’s Elbow, a near blind hairpin, with a steep descent. The turn seemed to last forever, but as the nose cleared the apex, he punched the accelerator, correcting the car as the rear slid out a tiny bit.

It was now time to tackle the Conrod Straight, and achieve top speed.

The rotary engine roared, as the rev indicator went to the red limit, then flicked down as Lockeheart shifted up. Within seconds, the RX-7 was carving a hole through the air, at 240km/h, nearing its absolute top speed, before Lockeheart lifted his foot ever so slightly to swing the car to the left, to prepare for the fast right hander that would end with The Chase’s chicane of left and right turns, a move designed to bring cars from their top speed down to a crawl of 80km/h.

Conscious of the Ferrari 488 that came before, but aware he had to be committed, Lockeheart blasted through the sweeping right turn and then slammed on the brakes, as he approached the turn, downshifting expertly mid-way through the corner, so he could reserve speed. Short shifting as he approached the right turn, he kept his revs high as the car screamed the last 200 metres to the final corner, Murray’s Corner that led onto the main straight.

The braaaaaaapppp of the rotary’s engine thrilled every single spectator on the grandstands as they watched the white RX-7’s front left wheel deftly cut the corner perfectly, millimetres away from the wall, and come shooting through onto the main straight, flames shooting out the exhaust as the engine fired its way up into high revs again accelerating the low slung car across the finish line in a blur of ferocious speed.

Cheers followed the car as it braked hard into Hell’s Corner and once again began its ascent into Australian bushland racing.

The Lowdown has a talent for finding the best modified vehicles, with owners that have an serious eye for aesthetics. Am proud to say that the company is based in Melbourne and that their website is quintessential car porn.

Gap to car in front, is 5-tenths. You are within 2 laps of getting Nakigama. Hunt. Him. Down.

The race engineer’s voice echoed in Lockeheart’s head, as he roared past Hell’s Corner for the 13th time. After the heroics of the first lap, the race had settled down, with drivers now concentrating on maintaining smooth rhythms through turns and chicanes and bumps. Koury in his M3, for a time had mounted a challenge to Lockeheart’s pace, but after 4 laps of chasing, was unable to keep the iconic black strip of the Rx-7’s taillights in view and dropped back to manage his tyres.

On his side of the cockpit, Lockeheart ignored the threat, choosing to focus on his laps and listen to his race engineer as they told him when to brake later and when to relax, to conserve his tyres. Thanks to his smooth and consistent driving, the RX-7 was in a serious contention for a podium finish, with Nakigama’s R33 now within sight, just disappearing around the next corner, as Lockeheart chased.

By the end of the 15th lap, Lockeheart was now within 2 tenths of Nakigama, the 4 red tail-lights of the R33 taunting him only metres in front.

As they both cleared Hell’s Corner, and proceeded down the Mountain Straight, Lockeheart kept his RX-7 directly in the slipstream of the much bigger purple car and felt, rather than saw, his car get closer and closer to the rear bumper of the R33.

With just 200 metres to go of the straight left, Lockeheart jinxed his car to the right, taking inside line to Griffin’s Bend, as Nakigama began his braking early.

Carrying more speed, Lockeheart waited for a heart-stopping second as the rear of his car cleared past Nakigama and downshifted, as the RX-7 screamed in high revolutions into the corner, the front right clipping the off-camber kerb and the RX-7 roared again, as Lockeheart upshifted, and put his foot down, the white paint of his car, millimetres from wall-riding out the exit and to the complete shock of Nakigama, was already halfway up towards The Cutting by the time he accelerated.

The victorious roars of his crew came through the radio, as Lockeheart smiled in relief at the daring move and began to negotiate the next series of turns.

Yes mate! Fucking yes! OK, Waldorf and Chaser up next, they are only 9 tenths ahead! breathed his race engineer heavily into the radio, as he struggled for air after his exuberant cheering.

By the time the 20th lap came, Lockeheart was eyeing the Audi of Waldorf’s as it cleared its way through the Esses, Chaser finally overtaking the German on the prior Lap 18, down the Conrod Straight.

It was also at the critical point of the race, where all the drivers were suffering from massive degradation on their tyres and lap times were increasing, as the cars were unable to push their limits any further. Wallriding was now more common, with Tran’s Impreza and Wu’s yellow Evo X retiring in the pit lanes after extensive damage to their front bumpers and side doors.

Other racers like Koury’s M3 and Lowry’s brown Golf kept going, but due to their wallriding scare, were unable to post competitive lap times, falling prey to calmer heads like Suki Fujiwara, the only female racer on the grid, whose pink RX-8 was now entering into the Top 5, her car now attacking the rear of Cho’s 86.

It was also time for Lockeheart to take advantage of the unique properties of his RX-7 FD3S. With lap times such as they were, drifting was now a viable option, although Lockeheart would have to use it sparingly to save the grip for the long straights.

It was this weapon that Lockeheart intended to use for the two cars that separated him from victory.

Is there anything more pleasing to a gearhead than the sight of a beautifully crafted machine, against the backdrop of a gorgeous landscape and road? The answer is no.

Lap 21 commenced and Lockeheart was still behind Waldorf, his Audi employing dubious defensive techniques that restricted passing. As they roared past the spectators standing at Quarry’s Corner, Lockeheart knew that he was running out of laps to hunt down Chaser who was maintaining a strong 5 tenth gap between himself and the two cars running behind him.

Still pressuring Waldorf, Lockeheart began to feint his car to the inside as they passed Reid Park, the Germa gamely blocking the move with a blatant block that covered the entirety of the track.

Lockeheart backed off, braking for a nanosecond, as he allowed Waldorf to retain the lead into Turn 7, before again baiting Waldorf with a move that was never going to work in Turn 9.

Waldorf took the bait, again, blocking Lockeheart’s feint, moving his Audi over to the left, leaving the right side of the track clear into Turn 10.

As the two cars came through the small straight that separated Turn 9 and 10, Waldorf began to brake for the dip into Turn 10, maintaining his left side of the track.

But as he downshifted cautiously, the brap, brap, braapppp of Lockeheart’s rotary engine filled the cockpit of the Audi and the German could only watch in astonishment, as at nearly 100km/h, the RX-7 FD3S came drifting to the right of him!

The white Mazda blazed past in an arrogant showman display of driving skills and insane desperation, and Waldorf could only watch, his mouth agape as the Mazda continued sideways down the track, tyres screeching and burning, before performing an inertia drift the other direction, the car’s long nose facing the right direction, just in time for the Skyline’s Turn 11 right hander.

His astonishment and fear of a crash, had inevitably caused the Audi TT to slow down and by the time he recovered from his shock, Lockeheart’s Mazda had already gong through the Esses and begun slowing down for The Dipper, a full 6 tenths ahead of the stubborn German.

The cheers that came through the radio, was only matched by the flabbergasted screams of delight from the entire circuit as they watched the replay of the overtake in slow motion, each race-fan’s attention now focused solely on the image of the white Mazda RX-7 FD3S chasing down the racing green Porsche 911.

As Lockeheart sped down the Conrod Straight, and into the final corner, a Mexican wave followed his progress, the crowd now fully invested in his pursuit of a win.

I remember seeing this car for the first time, and just admiring the overall curvature of it all. It is such an undeniably attractive chassis and in spite of its age, still remains a stunning representation of Japanese automotive aesthetics.

Lap 24 of 25.

Lockeheart’s mind was now melded completely into his machine. Every single turn was taken even smoother than it was before. The sensation of driving was instinctual, guttural and beautifully balanced. Even the car’s slight wiggles as the tyres struggled for grip, were corrected within a microsecond. After a single lap, it was clear to all, who had the superior pace.

By the time the RX-7 had climbed to the peak of Mount Panorama on the 24th lap, the distance between Chaser and Lockeheart was now within 3 tenths of each other.

Less than 2 car lengths apart.

Game on.

Lockeheart harassed the 911 all the way through the Esses and even managed to nudge his nose past the 911 on the entrance of Forrest’s Elbow. However the 911 was not a machine to be underestimated lightly, the superior horsepower on the precision driving machine instantly checking the RX-7 in place, as both cars rocketed down the Conrod’s Straight.

But it was in the turns where the RX-7 shone, and the crowd were on their feet, as they watched the RX-7 shoot through the chicane of The Chase and gain on the 911 as they approached Murray’s Corner.

They entered the corner, end to end.

Chaser, in his desperation, braked checked Lockeheart. Slowing down more than necessarily, intending for the RX-7 to ram into the back of his 911.

Lockeheart’s green eyes widened, as he recalled the odd feeling he had before the race, in the formation lap.

Man and machine reacted instantly, and Lockeheart spun the wheel, sending his car into a drift, around the rear of the 911 and on the outside.

Boos turned into yells of encouragement as the crowd watched the white RX-7, flames brapping and smoke shredding from the tyres, almost overtook the 911, the two cars crossing the line side by side.

The final lap was now commencing.

Do or die.

The 911 entered Hell’s Corner for the final time, ahead.

The RX-7 completed the same turn, a nanosecond later.

The sounds of the rotary clashed with the aggressive growl of the Porsche all the way down the Mountain Straight.

The RX-7 once again, shows its nose alongside the 911 as they enter Griffin’s Bend almost side by side, the 911 only just edging out the RX-7 as they shoot through The Cutting, then Quarry Corner, up past Reid Park, and into Frog Hollow.

Chaser’s breathing is erratic and his heartbeat is pounding away nearly at the same beat as his engine.

Lockeheart’s breathing is shallow but controlled, the rear lights of his prey all he can see, as he probed for any opportunity.

Then, there it was, at the most critical section of the race, where Lockeheart had seen the most luck swing his way.

Skyline, Turn 11.

Chaser, panicked, stressed and desperate, unaware of the stress his tyres had gone through after 25 laps of hard racing, not caring and frantic for breathing room away from Lockeheart, over-committed into Skyline

Realising a nanosecond after his fatal error, Jordan Chaser slammed both of his racing boots into the brake pedal and yanked hard on the handbrake.

But the tyres had no grip, regardless of how much braking power the 911 possessed.

A huge lock-up occurred, as the wheels refused to spin, and the smoke that came from the rubber burning clouded the track.

Daniel Lockeheart didn’t even pause. He went to the inside of Skyline and neatly overtook the POrsche, as the poor 911 wall-rode for an excruciating 2 seconds, before Chaser managed to peel it away.

Through The Dipper the RX-7 flew, right, left, right, left before slowing down for Forrest’s Elbow.

As Lockeheart came to a crawl around the Elbow, he briefly checked his rear view mirror and within a heartbeat of realising what was going to happen, punched his accelerator harder than he had ever had, as Jordan Chaser came back at him, intent on vengeance.

The 911 almost slammed into the back of the RX-7.

Lockeheart and Chaser flew down the Conrod Straight, both cars whining as they were pushed to their limit for the final time. The 911 roared in Lockeheart’s mind, as it came alongside the RX-7 and was about to overtake him.

NO! screamed Lockeheart in his mind.

But then they had to slow for the fastest right turn on the circuit, and both cars were side by side when they approached the final chicane: The Chase.

It was then Lockeheart did the unthinkable.

He yielded the lead to Chaser. He allowed the 911 to pass him into the final chicane

Chaser braked harder than he had ever done before as he tried to set up his car for a good exit out of final turn of The Chase.

But he had mistimed it all wrong, and he was upshifting poorly as his 911 neared Murray’s Corner. Chaser though was confident. Lockeheart had let him past, he was going to win. No matter what he did, poor entry speed into Murray’s Corner or not, the race was his.

So Jordan Chaser gingerly took Murray’s Corner … much slower than he needed to.

It was then, Lockeheart initiated his plan. He knew, deep down, that the 911 was going to beat him down the Conrod Straight. So this was his only chance. The only time he could catch Chaser off-guard. When he thought he had gotten the final jump over Lockeheart.

The 911 had just begun its left turn onto the straight, to the boos of the crowd, when to their utter shock, delight and disbelief, Daniel Lockeheart’s white RX-7 FD3S drifted around the outside of the 911, the wheels smoking hot rubber on the tarmac of the road, and as both cars found their grip for the final tiny drag race, Daniel Lockeheart with his high revolutions and perfect timing on the upshift, nudged his car a mere 10cm ahead of the 911!

To the spectators, it looked like both cars crossed the line together, but when their eyes ventured up to the leaderboard, it was D. LOCKEHEART that was at the top!

Daniel Lockeheart had won, by a margin of 0.003.

3 thousands of a second.

The roar of a ballistic crowd and his team shattered everything Daniel had managed to build up for himself before and during the race and everything came out in a yell. His joy, his fears, his excitement, and his relief

YESSSSSSSSSS! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YEEESSSSSSS! screamed Lockeheart through the radio, his voice jubilant and echoing through the garage as his team of mechanics hugged each other in a big huddle, jumping up and down ecstatically.

YOU ARE THE MAN BRO! You are the goddamn man! I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT MOVE. You had us so bad with that fake-out out of Turn 22. Insane! screamed his race engineer.

Daniel Lockeheart laughed. Ah man. WE DID IT! YES! Great job today boys. The car felt unbelievable. This one is for us.

As Daniel waved to the crowd on the cool-down lap, through the open window of his Mazda, he looked down at his car, and patted the steering wheel gratefully.

Thank you car. whispered Daniel.

He was now a King of the Mountain. A race winner at Bathurst. A champion.

Author’s Note

Another surprisingly long short story, clocking in at 5K plus words, this one was mostly inspired by my constant re-reads of Hover Car Racer by Matthew Reilly in my teen years. I couldn’t put that book down, such was Reilly’s way with words and my already strong obsession with racing. I tried to do my own imitation of his fast paced writing, but honestly, I doubt anyone can copy his frenetic style.

This one is a love letter to racing, and what I have always loved and raced in video games. I am a self-confessed fan of 90s JDMs, having watch Initial D an unhealthy number of times and falling in love with their aesthetic, despite poor performance in comparison to other cars. Nowadays, the love is less obsessive, but I still harbour a strong soft-spot for them.

In reality, a 911 drive by someone capable, would easily smoke a RX-7 FD3S but then that is half the fun, imagining a scenario where a humble JDM, modified and restored with care and love, could go toe to toe with a high performance vehicle, costing twice as buy. After all, it’s usually the pilot that makes the final crucial difference between winning and losing.

A confession: I have actually never been to Mount Panorama, in Bathurst, but have always wanted to go, after hearing so much about the track and its quintessential Australian nature. I can already attest to the difficulty of the track, mostly judging from the endless number of laps I have put on it, in Gran Turismo – Sport.

I chose this track, because of its hill-climb and sharp descent, as well as iconic straights that can play to the strengths of a lot of different cars. However, that said, it is indeed a power circuit, hence why the Australian Supercar Championship is always held there (and why the 911 was able to stage such a late comeback, despite the wall riding).

Heavy inspiration was drawn from The Lowdown.com an automotive lifestyle brand that is based in Melbourne. I have been a fan of theirs, ever since exploring their high production videos on Youtube and am grateful for all the photos they have taken over the years, many of which are now wallpapers on my PC. I can only express my envy at some of the project cars that they have covered over the years and it was this feature that inspired me to use the RX-7 FD3S as the hero’s car.

As always, I hoped there aren’t too many grammatical mistakes and that you enjoyed reading this.

~ Damocles.

One last glory shot of the RX-7 FD3S, moving at speed at night, it’s luminous paint and black accents looking absolutely resplendent. Nothing beats a drive a night.

Rurouni Kenshin: The Final (2021) – Cinema Review

Y/N? Yes.

Director: Keishi Otomo

Stars: Takeru Satoh, Emi Takei, Mackenyu Arata, Yosuke Eguchi, Munetaka Aoki & Yu Aoi

Review by Damocles

I think I liked it? But then I’m such a huge fan so this bias is probably clouding my judgement.

Let’s just get one thing very clear …. Rurouni Kenshin has had a substantial impact on me through my more troubled years and I won’t deny the fact that I have a huge blind spot for this series. So expect this review to be forgiving.

That said, my cynical and critical side is always active, so maybe I will be a tiny bit balanced.

One of the biggest issues with the Rurouni Kenshin series, is the fact that it is notoriously good if you know the source material (the original 90s anime, the manga and the darker OVAs) and incredibly difficult to appreciate if you know nothing about it.

In fact, whenever I recommend this series, I always hesitate because those who are unaware of the source material will probably take very little from it, beyond an appreciation for the potential high budget Japanese action cinema has, if harnessed properly and how evocative the score is.

Those same people will also have their appreciation be sharply balanced by the fact that live action anime costumes look ridiculous, as does hair and styling and there is a bit too much melodramatic expository dialogue.

Not to mention there are far too many damnable flashbacks.

But for the fans, like myself, this film was an excellent interpretation of Kenshin’s final arc and the primary reason why we chose to watch the film: the fight sequences, did not disappoint at all.

Regardless of what type of viewer you are, the Rurouni Kenshin series have always excelled at their incredible camerawork and choreography, with some truly imaginative swordplay and action that pushes the limit of what stunt-work can create.

The films have always beautifully crossed the line between realism and fantasy, with the cinematography to match such graceful and deadly stunt work. If there is a reason to watch this film, it is the final action sequence, which arguably puts a lot of the previous sword-fights to shame.

But does the plot work as well to heighten the action?

This is where Rurouni Kenshin’s falters, as die-hard fans such as myself will find the plot adequate, but remarkably slow paced and casual viewers will find themselves checking out, due to the lack of context in which a lot of the expository dialogue is delivered and an under-appreciation for the emotional stakes.

Rurouni Kenshin: The Final’s weak plot highlights the unique challenge in which a lot of anime/manga adaptations must face, when translating a huge story arc into a condensed 2 hour viewing experience. In fact, it more than showcases the challenge, it actively falls into the typical Japanese trappings that plague their normal story-telling style.

  • An over-reliance on flashbacks, that often condense too much in their sequences, without any real stakes established and clear indications of the characters’ (in the flashback) importance.
  • Insufficient development for a lot of character’s motivations, with singular lines that somehow are meant to justify entire betrayals and fight scenes.
  • Too many scenes that showcase a character’s anguish but doesn’t quite seem to delve further into their actual motivation or development.
  • Side characters that are more or less fan service elements than actual people that populate the world of the film.
  • Dialogue that is inherently too Japanese in their interpretation.

To touch further on that, what I deem as excessively Japanese is scripting that requires a lot of viewer’s interpretation and reading between the lines to understand motivations. This is a very short-hand story technique that is common across many Japanese narrative styles, and it was a skill I had to hone after reading the entire breadth of Haruki Murakami’s works all in English.

A lot of the phrases and dialogue in this film will sound natural to Japanese viewers, but will definitely confuse those who are unfamiliar with how Japanese to English is translated and the short cuts in speech the film-makers are employing to inject emotional stakes.

If these elements alienate or detract from your film experience, that is completely understandable

However, it did not affect my own experience as I have come to expect such flaws and narrative quirks, especially in this series. This film did not do any more or less than what I have seen previously in the context of their story-telling.

That being said, there were a lot of backtracking that I thought was unnecessary and padded out the run time longer than it needed to. Many flashbacks repeated lines that I thought were not in need of repeating.

From a more technical standpoint, Rurouni Kenshin: The Final ramps up the cinematography with better shot compositions, more plays on weather conditions and evocative use of slow motion. There are many scenes that stand-out visually, from hot-air balloons over a burning Tokyo, to footage of Rurouni Kenshin performing parkour moves that highlight his speed and agility in a incredibly detailed set.

To highlight the film from a costuming perspective, all the characters, with the exception of the villain, are garbed beautifully in traditional clothing with easter eggs that hint at the anime origins of the characters, like Aoshi’s hint of blue in his dark hair. Kenshin’s wardrobe in particular is extraordinary, with a lot of beautiful subdued colours that highlight the natural lines of the kimono and accent his dark wood scabbard. The final outfits of Kenshin and Kaoru really showcase how rich and layered traditional Japanese clothing can be, and might be one of my favourite pairing of colours on screen this year.

The only issue perhaps is the villain himself, whose outfits are just a bit too outlandish for the period setting and have a strange anachronistic feel to them, in contrast to the traditional outfits on display. In particular the bright orange costume jarred too much with the background, and proved more distracting than fashionable.

Naoki Sato’s score does not delve too much into new territory, with the film soundtrack resembling’s his greatest hits from the previous 3 films. There are just enough new melodies and throwbacks to the series’ strongest themes that overall, create a still pleasing soundscape. I have always love how traditional yet modern the score are in Rurouni Kenshin and this film is no different.

Overall, Rurouni Kenshin: The Final is a decent swan-song to a series that has highlighted the heights and lows of anime/manga to film adaptations.

These films aren’t perfect and will still fall prey to a lot of stereotypical Japanese story-telling problems that can alienate casual viewers but the series has proved that with the right source material, such adaptations can capture the flamboyance of animation without sacrificing realistic settings and still innovate action cinema to another level.

A scene to recall: The film has a lot of attractive shots, that had me pausing. But it was this one that I really liked, with the rain coming in just so with perfect timing. Nothing quite captures moodiness like Japanese forests and traditional garb.

Habitué

Shame (2011). Even now, this film will occasionally creep into my consciousness and remind me how confronting cinema can be in the hands of an auteur. I watched this film, in my university days and it has haunted me since.

WARNING:

This story is about sex, addiction, and pornography. Please do not continue reading if you find such content offensive.

Insomnia gripped me like a desperate woman. Uncomfortably tight and uncompromisingly demanding.

I tossed aside my bed sheets and took several deep breaths. It was another dark, restless night alone. Just another one of those nights where nothing you do will knock you out. It is the middle of the week, and nothing has happened, yesterday or prior, is noteworthy.

I’ve always slept naked. Not only is it supremely comfortable, but it’s a habit I’ve found hard to shake off after lying in so many strangers’ bed in the exact same position, my eyes staring at the ceiling, the feeling of desire creeping up on my mind, and taking it and my body hostage.

I didn’t really feel like masturbating, but nothing else would put me to sleep. I have work the next day, in … 6 hours and I knew that if I didn’t masturbate, I would pull an all-nighter.

So I blearily shoved away my alarm clock and padded over to my computer. As the screen flickers on, I made sure to adjust my headphones so they sat comfortably on my head.

Soon, I am browsing my usual sites and the collection I have building away on my hard-drive. I like to download my favourite clips and organise them by category on my computer. My mind likes to start slow, browsing through artful nude photos of women, in various outfits and poses. My favourite ones involve a woman where she is just wearing panties and a dress shirt.

You can still see the shape of her breasts underneath the shirt, but it is just hidden by the transparent nature of the shirt. The reason why I prefer her to wear panties underneath, is because that is half the tease; half the fun. You can still see the shape of her vagina through the sheer lace panties, and the panties never take away anything from admiring her legs.

Your reward is when she finally takes it all off and lays it all to bare. Nude as the day as she was born and as resplendent as she will ever be.

Breasts, Butt and Thighs … the holy trinity all just hidden or accentuated just so in that outfit.

It’s a combination that never fails to get me hard.

Of course, only European porn does this sort of thing. They tend to try and make porn artsy. Typical Euro-pretentiousness, trying to make something vogue, despite its crude nature. Not that I am complaining, I am an customer after all. I download their photos all the time.

After feeling some heat begin to enter down below and my penis actually starts to awaken, I move onto my hardcore stuff. I prefer POV porn, as it is the only thing that really makes me feel like I am there, pounding and grunting away at the woman beneath me. I love it when the porn actress is a convincing screamer, when she knows how to time her moans and really stretch those vocals when she is about to orgasm.

What is wrong with vanilla sex? I hear you ask.

I’m just not overly fond of the male performers. It takes the immersion out of experience. It feels weird to be watching a couple go at it, even though in POV that is exactly what is happening. But that is just how my mind works. I can substitute another man’s penis for mine, but I can’t unsee his face.

After all, I want it to be me that is fucking the woman I am seeing on screen.

Besides, most of the male performers are damn ugly.

You think there would be more of a harsh criteria for male pornstars and their bodies.

As these thoughts chase through my mind, as I am watching scenes after scenes, I realise that I am still not getting close to that orgasm I crave.

What the hell is wrong with me today? I think to myself. What could it be? Why am I stroking my dick, but nothing is really working?

I move the mouse, onto something that has always worked for me. But now the tip of my penis is cherry red. It is getting rubbed raw. I am holding it too hard.

Cursing, I look at the bottom left of my computer. I’ve been at it for over an hour and nothing is working.

I want to sleep, but now my mind is too preoccupied with nude bodies and the moans of ecstasy.

So in desperation, I pick up my phone and dial my escort service I always use.

The silky tones of the operator answers almost immediately and promises a girl will be over in less than 10 minutes. I keep rubbing my penis the entire time I wait, eager to keep it hard for the call girl that will be over.

Time seems to stretch, and I find myself getting impatient and soft. So I start to envision where I will take this girl. The bedroom, the kitchen … up against the wall. Over by the balcony …. This perks me up again and I find something resembling pleasure creep into mind. My narcissistic, and lascivious thoughts are turning me on properly.

So by the time, I heard the soft knock at the door, I am ready for the stranger that will take me to Nirvana.

Blonde, buxom and bodacious, Serena walks in, and doesn’t even raise an eyebrow at my nakedness. Instead she grabs me by the arm and face and we begin to make out for an intense 30 seconds, before breaking apart.

My hands begin to peel the tight dress off her curves. She doesn’t hesitate to reach down and tug away at me. I toss her dress away and play with her pert breasts, enjoying how her nipples stiffen under my touch.

We start to make out again, no less intensely, as we slowly make our way to my king single bed. She wraps her legs around me, and I carry her to the bed, where I set her down roughly and scrabble at the bedside table for a condom.

She stops my search halfway, with her mouth around me, the sensation so sharp and agonisingly good that I stop moving and focus on the feeling of her tongue all over my cock.

However it is too good. The hour I spent masturbating had made me hard for too long. I ejaculate inside her mouth and at the peak of my orgasm, I feel this hot shame and frustration bubble over and pop inside my mind.

Serena looks disappointed in me., as she picks up a tissue and spits my load out. It was all too quick.

I can’t bear to look at her in the eyes, as she slips back on her dress and is gone from my apartment in less time than it took for her to arrive.

As I lie on my bed, I look across at my alarm clock and note that it was now only 4 hours to work. I had blown my load and 250 dollars in less than two hours, for an orgasm that felt terrible and unsatisfactory.

There was no way I was going to sleep now.

So, for the next 3 hours, I laid in bed, my eyes transfixed towards the ceiling and occasionally glancing over at the open window that overlooked the city of Melbourne. My mind went everywhere, from replaying scenes of porn in my mind to theorising what I was going to do at my job later today.

By the time the sun rose, I was also ready for work. Bitter and sour about my experience last night, a part of me was still fixated on getting a real orgasm.

The itch I couldn’t scratch.

I boarded the train with gritted teeth, and a terrible headache from my lack of sleep. I look a far cry from anything resembling Don Juan. However, despite my splitting migraine and baggy eyes, I still found the time to admire an attractive woman, in her mid-30s, with strawberry blonde hair. She was elfin in her looks, with porcelain skin.

She returned my gaze evenly, and we held each other’s eyes for a long time. I longed to do something with her throughout the entire train ride. My imagination pictured her naked, her long blonde hair trashing in the throes of ecstasy. The way how her voice would sound when I pushed her against the wall. The way how she would run her long fingers across my body.

She got off a stop early, so my chance with her was flushed away.

But I could tell there was something there, it was in the way how she looked back at me, once she left the train.

Perhaps I would see her again, at a similar time, on the same train in the future.

As I entered the lobby for my workplace, one of my colleague came up to me, excited.

Alfie! How have you been man? Keen for tonight?

Johnno, of course I am, my man. I’ll see you in the lobby at 6pm yeah?

You got it bro! Bring you A-Game!

As John dashed off to his desk, I settle into mine. It was going to be a long 8 hours. The work I did for the entire day was mediocre and lacklustre. It was all passable, but nothing to earn me the promotion I had been eyeing. I am unable to resist sneaking peeks at Euro porn throughout the entire shift. It helps that I have my own office with blinds.

To put it simply, I am unable to concentrate properly. Sex is all I have on my mind. I want that euphoria of an orgasm again.

Throughout my entire shift, I fight the urge to reach down and touch myself. Halfway through my lunch break, I think about making a break for the toilet.

The thought evolved into action.

I actually end up in the stall, jerking off. But again, I am unable to climax. Something is amiss today and I don’t know what it is.

Maybe I really do need a woman to get me off. But that’s normal right? There is no shame in that. I just have to score with John tonight and I know I’ll be happy again, and able to get some semblance of normalcy again. I can feel good again with my cock in hand and the sounds of a woman moaning.

The hours count down, until finally it hits 6pm. I look down at my suit pants and relieved that my penis is behaving somewhat normally. It isn’t erect. It’s just slightly engorged, not enough to really see anything. I promise it, that it will have its fill by the end of the tonight.

I meet John in the lobby and we head out to his favourite drinking spot. A watering hole that is more known for its hook-ups than its cocktails.

There, we hit it off with a pair of office-workers like us, two girls out for a spontaneous night of fun. Alice and Sharon. Alice is sweet and a lovely brunette. Without even checking with me, John selects her as his goal for the night. To my surprise, Sharon is the strawberry blonde I saw on the train earlier that day. We both pretend not to recognise each other, and I buy her a drink nevertheless.

As she speaks, all I can hear inside my mind are her potential moans. When she reaches out to touch me, when I make a joke, all I want is her to caress me tightly. Every toss of her hair and flirtatious gesture is amplified to the highest sexual degree in my head.

My pants are no longer able to hide my attraction. Not that Sharon cares, she brazenly touches me twice down there with a mischievousness that belied her casual nature.

As we get drunker and drunker, we eventually call it quits and wave goodbye to Alice and John, who don’t bother to acknowledge us, their eyes only staring at each other.

Somehow, in spite of our drunkenness, Sharon and I end up in a taxi together and she call out her address. The taxi ride itself is the most forgotten part of the night. Only the sense of movement is registered in my mind. I have waited all day for this.

By this time, my head is on her chest, my hands are full of her hips and my mouth is tasting the softness of her skin.

As we stumble together into her small apartment, we start to peel the clothes away. Everything is a haze of sensual alcoholic gratification. My mouth devours her lips, her breasts, her navel and her bush. She is squirming above me in titillation, unable to stop her body from reacting the way I want it to.

In an effort, she spins me around and wrap her mouth around my penis, as I tongue away at her. Soon the foreplay had built up to such an extent that I can feel pre-cum building on the tip of my penis and her vagina getting more and more wet by the second.

I push her head away and without pausing, hilt her. She screams and I ignore them for passionate cries.

But moments later, the fists start coming and flying at me fast. I am shoved off her and deprived of my wanton desires and I snap out of my feverish state to see Alice before me, her hands clutching her lower stomach in pain, tears streaming down, her brunette hair splayed across her face, hiding her pained expression.

I do a double take in shock and horror. Had I unwittingly committed rape? Where was Sharon? Why was Alice here? How did I get the two mixed up so badly? Where was John?

What have I done?

screams my mind above all the other thoughts.

I pick up my clothes and in my rush, hurt my still throbbing penis, it almost getting caught in the zipper of my pants. I stumble out of the apartment, still reeling from what just happened. My shirt is untucked, my blazer is skewed and my shoes aren’t slipped on properly.

What the hell just happened?!?!

I had only taken several steps, down a foreign block, when the weather changed drastically and the first pellets of rain slammed into my head.

I look up and hear the crack of lightning and thunder as it echoes throughout the sky.

Rain lashed at me, the chill killing any lingering thoughts of sex I had been so obsessed over for the whole day and I could only run to find shelter, as water slowly pooled in my shoes.

As the wind and water cut away at me like vengeance from a woman scorned, I struggle to bring out my phone and call for a taxi home. The feat was so difficult, I spent nearly 5 minutes thumbing for the number, my mind still wracked with guilt, shame and confusion.

When it finally arrives, I am soaked through. I am so wet, the driver even goes out of his way to spread a towel over the seats to prevent me from soaking the car further.

By the time I crawl into my apartment, I faced with a similar dilemma only earlier today. Only 4 hours of sleep until I need to get ready for work.

Only this time, no amount of porn, sex and titillation will get me to sleep.

I keep flashing back to seeing Alice. Where was Sharon …. had I made her up?

I glare at my computer and in a fit of rage, delete everything off it. Every single gigabyte of pornography, after years of collecting …. gone in a green bar that indicates deletion.

I feel like trashing my room, but refrain from doing so.

As I lie on my bed, soaking wet, naked and afraid … I come to a horrifying conclusion.

Everything that had happened today … all the misery, all the lack of pleasure, all the shame and delusions …. hallucinations … occurred because I was addicted.

I am an sex addict.

The thought flashed in my mind, as bright as neon, and I knew from then on, I knew I would never be the same person again.

I would never touch a woman the same way again.

I would never experience a woman’s moans without fear.

I would never approach sex again without anxiety.

I looked down at myself and saw for once, something flaccid and sad.

The true price of addiction.

Humiliation.

Author’s Note

Beyond breaking the normal taboo of writing and creating sexual content, I actually breached one of my personal rules, when it comes to fictional writing: I made the story entirely in first person.

There are several reasons for this, the most important, was that I wanted this Alfie character to be as immersive and haunting as possible. He is not meant to be a character to be liked … but pitied. He is a victim of his own doing, and I really wanted to tap into what life might be like for a sex addict. The only way to make this story as shocking and confronting as possible was to go beyond my comfort zone and really pretend I was an sexual addict. That meant writing in first person.

For the story itself, I purposefully skipped large chunks of his day and focused on the sexual aspects, because that is what an addict’s mindset is like …. always seeking the next fix, always chasing a high. The world and time becomes irrelevant in comparison to the chase. It was bizarre at first, and I thought it didn’t flow, but when I read it again, it made sense.

I will also make a humbling confession that some of Alfie’s traits and taste come from my own experience in pornography and that is part of the reason why I wanted to write something as weighty as this. I knew deep down, this story would have to involve my own experiences, my own taste and conclusions and I’ll admit, it wasn’t easy to write it and see it laid bare for all to see.

When I was younger, I was a porn addict. After all, it is such an easy trap to fall into. You make yourself feel good, with stimulus. A simple spell that has doubtless bewitched many young teenage men. Fortunately, my habit was only ever confined to once a day and it never affected my relationships, work or lifestyle. It was just a habit I fell into when browsing the internet late at night.

But the main reason why I felt so compelled to write this, is because it is such a taboo and sensitive topic. I’ve always loved issues that forced you to confront an ugly truth about yourself. Sexual addiction is one that has always held a long-term fascination for me, primarily due to my interest in sex work, prostitution and the psychology behind sexual desire.

I thought Shame (2011) was a brilliant dissection into the mental state behind a person’s sexual addiction and for the longest time I wanted to write a compelling story about something similar. I daresay, this story was one of the fastest I have ever written, with 2.7K words flying across my screen in a mere 2 hours. I would like to thank Abel Korzeniowski’s work on Nocturnal Animals (2016) to really allow me to tap into something disturbing and the romantic song heard in Lucifer’s Season 5 Episode 6: Galleaux – Tether Me for helping me get over the line and reaching a satisfactory conclusion.

My story mostly parallels the journey of Brandon from Shame except I added the hallucinogenic twist at the end to show how his mental state had deteriorated and succumbed so much to his addiction that he wasn’t aware of the woman he had bought home.

I would also like to acknowledge the sex scenes that I wrote. I hope they were written in such a way that it came across as very unsexy. I myself felt no particular thrill in writing them, as the way how Alfie described women and collapsed his self-worth so heavily into his addiction was more disturbing than thrilling. I actually (surprise, surprise) do not have a lot of experience writing sex scenes, preferring to favour violence as my main means of spilling fluid everywhere.

So believe me, when I say, I would pause slightly before I typed the words “penis” or “vagina” … which goes to show what a silly shrinking violet I am when it comes to writing sex. Perhaps in the future, I shall practice writing some form of erotica, just to make sure I am actually capable of turning someone on with words out there and that my mind can display a healthy appreciation of romance.

For those cinephiles out there, I did name the protagonist, Alfie after the titular movie Alfie (1966) staring Michael Caine.

Any addiction is bad. Don’t waste your time on pornography when you can go out there and develop real relationships with a partner as cliched as that sounds.

But coming to the realisation that you have a problem is always the first step to take. Knowing you have an addiction of any kind is giving you wrestling your life, self-respect and agenda back.

That is the first step towards recovering.

Anyway I hope you, my dear reader, did not mind this short story.

Expect me only to dive deeper into more confronting topics in the future!

~ Damocles

Silverburn

Oh.

The tip of the cigar glowed under the darkness of the city smog.

With the strong cloud cover, the usual brightness of the city that glowed under the stars, was dimmed and could only shine under the power of its grid.

Overlooking the entire landscape, stood Raphael Silverburn, at the precipice of the roof, his left forearm stretched along the thin silver railing, as he leaned and exhaled rich Cuban smoke out of his mouth.

The roof itself, was an extraordinary testament to the contemporary style of modern architecture, a near completely obsidian affair that merged glass, metal and stone seamlessly to create an incredibly rich, sleek effect. The dark pool was infinite in its’ concept, taking up a North to South strip, allowing guests to swim to the very edge of the glass on either side of the building, and feel like they were floating above the city. Piercing lights accentuated the ripples and flow of the water.

In the centre, was an all glass room, that housed the upper bar, storage area for deck chairs, towels, and other necessities. It was the island in the middle of the pool, with a central staircase, and four compass point pathways that lead to ends of the roof.

The entire design was disconcerting, disorienting and offered little consolation to anyone but the architect himself, Raphael. He himself, was standing at the North East corner of the roof, a glass of Japanese whiskey beside him, on a permanent cigar/drink stand that was styled in a black wolf howling, in which the outstretched jaws would hold his whiskey glass.

At 2 metres and 9 centimetres tall, Raphael cut a monstrous figure in his bespoke suit, with a physique resembling that of a professional fighter. His arms were cast of granite, his legs resembled tough California Redwood trees, and his chest threatened to darken the sun above most people’s head in conversations.

Silverburn’s face was no different either, with a serious, perpetually cruel expression across a chiselled jawline, complete with a highly masculine cleft in his chin. His mouth was a thin line, that barely spoke, and his patrician nose gave rise to exceptionally bright blue eyes, that were offset by dark raven hair, kept tight and neat by an undercut hairstyle.

His complexion was genuinely well tanned, a result of his younger years spent endlessly outdoors, chasing the rush that was the Iron Man Competition in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, being a multiple podium finisher, as well as 4x winner. Even still to this day, Raphael would train consistently, pleased that he was still able to finish the gruelling triathlon in a relatively competitive fashion, despite his encroaching age.

Glancing out at the neighbouring skyscraper, Raphael noted the curious flashes that were coming the 20th floor, illuminating the rooms with brilliant spots of light. Each spark would be tempered with a tinge of red that left little to the imagination of the initiated.

Picking up a pair of binoculars, Raphael Silverburn focused the lens to pierce through the darkened glass of the skyscraper and smiled cruelly as he watched a pane of glass become splattered with crimson flecks.

Checking his expensive Omega watch, with its dark Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional face, Raphael noted the time and placed the binoculars down, to look across the more North West corner of his roof.

Whilst the explosion of the car could not be heard, the dark, oily, black plume of smoke that rose lazily into the skyline of the city was unmistakable. Below him, sirens blared angrily, as police and fire brigade units rushed to the site of carnage, their blue and red lights reflecting brilliantly across the lower levels of the city’s buildings.

Raphael turned sharply on his heels and meandered across to the South side of the roof, casting his sapphire eyes over at the easterly direction. There, he noted through his binoculars that a certain office complex was now ablaze, some distance away. It was burning with a fury, accelerated in its’ anger by strategically placed gasoline. Silverburn could even almost see a figure on his knees, in supplication before the might of the flames that threatened to consume him.

A secondary explosion deep within the guts of the office complex soon enveloped the figure, and there was nothing left of him to bear witness to the effigy of sabotage.

Fool thought Silverburn. He was quite fond of the building and its’ art deco architecture. The combination of handsome limestone and modernist style with curves meeting clean panes of glass was attractive and striking.

More’s the pity thought Silverburn pragmatically, his mind instantly dismissing the sentiment, as he glanced at his watch, turning his attention west.

In another building neighbouring his, Silverburn cast his eyes upwards as he noted a helicopter begin its descent to the roof of the building. To his amusement, he watched as the door opened, and with almost comical timing, a very large, man, in a pin-stripe suit fell out into open space.

His suit flapping wildly, his hands grabbing at nothing, with his cane falling at the same pace as he was, the mob boss sunk like a stone, for all 35 floors. He behaved like a beetle, helpless on its back, scrabbling at nothing at all, his desperate scream transforming into a wail as his terror reached a feverish pitch.

The amalgamation of his weight, speed and velocity in which he struck the ground, almost vaporised the corpse upon impact, the skin lying loosely, broken in a million places, torn in a thousand others and now stretched across a pavement that was swiftly emptied as citizens ran in every direction horrified by the sudden appearance of a concrete pancake.

Pleased with all the work performed in the space of 20 minutes, in all compass points, Silverburn retired back to his North East corner and washed the taste of victory with a deep exhalation of cigar smoke. He stood there, still, against the railing, pondering when exactly his phone would erupt in a flurry of calls.

Within 15 minutes, his phone had buzzed a total of 4 times. Each of them were ignored, and then it would vibrate again, as a text message would enter the ether of digital communication. Raphael Silverburn didn’t bother to answer any of them. They would soon be marching here, upon this roof.

As the last vibration ended on his phone, Silverburn walked back to the glass room, and pressed a single button.

Yeah boss? answered his right hand man.

Company will be arriving soon.

Understood. replied his consigliere curtly.

Silverburn looked down at the table, at the array of drinks, weapons and cigars. Plucking an elegant Heckler & Koch P30 off the table, Silverburn loaded in a magazine, before slipping on a large belt with an array of equipment, from spare magazine holders to first aid kits. Adjusting his blazer, so that it sat loosely over the belt, Silverburn tucked the P30 into the holster on the belt, and picked up a large futuristic looking HK433 rifle, with a holographic sight, magnifier, laser designator and a torch attached to the rails.

With a smooth precision that suggested long experience, Raphael tucked in a magazine, pulled the charging handle, and closed the dust cover, before looking through the red circle and dot combination that came with all EOTech sights. Pleased that the torch was also working, as well as his red visible laser, Silverburn set the rifle down and poured himself a single finger of vodka.

Savouring the burn as the still, clear liquid woke his senses, Silverburn slung the HK433 around his shoulder and under his arm, and moved to the edge of the roof once more.

Flicking the magnifier to the holographic sight, he looked down at the street, some 30 floors below and noted the huge array of vehicles that were coming in.

With amusement, he also noted how the 4 different directions in which they were all coming in by, represented each faction.

Without fear, Silverburn waited a bit longer for them to get closer, before flicking the safety off his rifle.

Controlled aggression were the words that entered Silverburn’s mind as he placed 2 rounds into each bonnet of the lead cars, before stepping back to enjoy the show, letting the rifle hang loosely by his side and picking up the binoculars atop the wolf stand.

Predictably, the Triads were the first to scramble out, as they pulled over in their large SUVs and piled out of the car, staring to the west at the Hell’s Angels who were now dismounting their big bikes, submachine guns in hand.

As the firefight erupted between the two, the MS-13 gang rolled up slowly with their low-slung cars, laughing at the eruption of violence in front of them. Unbeknownst to them, directly opposite, on the south side, were the incoming Bratva mob of Russian fame. They were all driving in with modified Mercedes sedans, their leather jackets barely concealing their illicit weapons.

Silverburn waited with all the patience of a saint, letting the firefight between the 14K and the Angels to reach a crescendo, before aiming the red dot upon a pair of MS-13 gangsters.

He had barely registered their slumped bodies, when he flicked the sight over at the Bratva and took out their lieutenant who was ordering the troops to take cover and was in the midst of riling up their spirits with a pompous speech.

The shocked face of the lieutenant as two 5.56mm rounds punched their way through the top of his skull and exited out his chin, caused all around him to yell in shock and the man’s body had barely hit the floor, when the Bratva looked across at saw the Chinese, Angels and Latin Americans staring at them.

Within seconds, bodies dropped faster than they had ever had in the city’s history, as a full internecine war broke amongst all the biggest gangs. The gunfire was beyond immense, the sound reverberating across corridors of wind and concrete, punctuated only by the screams and groans of the dying and wounded.

What was a formidable force, eager for revenge from each respective gang had now turned into a desperate race for survival and pure bloody-mindedness. There was no retreating, no escaping. Insanity now ruled the area.

Each man with a gun in his hand, was now beyond rational thought. All that was left in his mind was a singular thought: kill or be killed. The moment the weapon went empty, they would fumble for a reload and aim in three directions. To the front, to the left and to the right. When no magazine was forthcoming, they would pick a fresh gun off their dead comrades and use it instead.

The 14K was now whittled down to 2 men scrambling for cover behind a BMW SUV.

The Hell’s Angels had fared the worst, with only 1 surviving member of their chapter, hidden by his large Harley Davidson and the corpses of his brothers.

The MS-13 had 4 men, one of whom was gravely wounded and was doing his best to arm a grenade.

The Bratva were survived only in name by 3 soldiers, their weapons being the biggest of the 4 gangs, and now dominating the field with overwhelming firepower.

It was then, within the space of a single breath, the second last 14K was killed by an unknown shot, of unknown origin.

Another exhalation, and the MS-13 man fumbling with the grenade was shot before he could throw it. As 2 of them tried to retrieve him, they too were shot efficiently, with no wastage of time.

The Bratva stared, confused, before 3 of them died, in the time it took the mind to register that the shots were coming from above.

As the last shot rang out, Silverburn’s consigliere with his small squad of men. walked out of the building that had bared witness to the horrific carnage, and swiftly disarmed all of the last remaining survivors, cuffing them tightly with cable ties and dragging them yelling and kicking into the lobby.

Whilst the consigliere stood with the prisoners, the rest of the men walked out and systematically killed the wounded. Singular shots rang out, as coup de grace headshots were delivered dispassionately, the pleas for mercy or assistance ignored with a pithy scorn.

As the men began to collect weapons in garbage bags, the rumbling of 2 large garbage trucks came barrelling out docking bay of Silverburn’s building, the professional cleaners wrapping up bodies in cellophane and assisting the squad of men with the clean-up.

A few minutes later, they were joined by a convoy of tow trucks that began the slow work of removing all the vehicles involved in the carnage. Millions of shattered glass shards were swept up into bags, alongside thousands of shell casings. Each man and woman that worked the scene was silent, focused and fastidious. They were all professionals, used to Silverburn’s methods and unfazed by the daunting nature of the work. Each person was loyal to a fault and prided themselves on being able to work efficiently and effectively to Silverburn’s ever constant watch.

To be late, or slow in their job, was akin to career suicide. Livelihoods depended on the second hand of Silverburn’s expensive watch and it was to be said, that the last person Raphael had to fire was over 5 years ago.

Naturally, his body was removed by the men and women that were still serving.

The warning was enough.

Don’t be late and you will be rewarded well.

Those words echoed in the consigliere’s mind as he lead the 4 remaining survivors into the elevator that would take him to the infinity pool, where Silverburn was waiting.

He had served Raphael loyally for over 10 years now. Each operation undertaken by the pair was meticulous in its detail and near flawless in its execution. For many years, they had toiled together silently, efficiently and effectively. To announce themselves on the map with such a strong show of force was beyond a statement.

It was an affirmation of their inner belief, that the city needed a better class of criminal.

Silverburn’s outfit was to be that new yardstick in which all would be measured.

However, even this plan confused the faithful consigliere. There seemed to be a strange personal touch to it all. An air of distrust and secrecy, that only Raphael could answer. When the consigliere received the orders, he was incredulous. Such bold action invited challenge and a desire to finally throw away the cloak and dagger the two had long wielded for something much sharper and simultaneously blunt.

Despite his misgivings though, the consigliere did as he was asked. His belief in Silverburn was unshakeable. His boss had never once led the organisation astray. He wouldn’t know how to. Privately, later, when they shared a drink, the consigliere would ask what was the motive behind such blunt action. But for now, he would do as he was told and to the minute.

The elevator doors silently rushed open and the consigliere deposited the four wretched survivors at the base of the bar, where Silverburn looked over at them dispassionately. Nodding his thanks, he raised two elegant fingers and waved them in a circular motion.

The consigliere nodded, bowed and made his way downstairs to commence phase 2.

Looking down at the four men that kneeled before him with hatred in their eyes, Silverburn calmly looked at each gangster in their eyes, seeing their defiance slowly melt into confusion, as each man failed to recognise the impressive giant specimen before them. His sheer size and physique dwarfed theirs and when Silverburn laid a hand on their shoulder, almost placatingly, there seemed to be a huge weight pressing down on their bodies.

Fear instead replaced rebellion. They had all realised that this man who stood before them, was a complete mystery. None of them had heard of him, seen him before or could work out any angle that they could exploit. He didn’t belong to any of their crowd. He was a cut above. A figure even more terrifying than their bosses.

Raphael Silverburn, for all intent and purposes, appeared like an angel of death to them. He had just orchestrated a symphony of death, that had laid waste to the best of their respective forces. Who else could wield such power? Nothing mortal. The giant before them, had to have some kind of supernatural ability. Perhaps he was a descendant of a god?

As each man struggled to come up with conclusions about Silverburn, Raphael continued to silently stare at them all, with no emotion etched across his face. He was as still and mysterious as the Sphinx and nothing else unnerved a gangster more than a person who refuses to display any sign of emotion.

Gangsters by and large, run the gambit of emotions every day. They are thin-skinned, prone to violence and enjoy giving in to emotional whims. This is a result of the environment in which they are grown in, and the scarce hold on life they possess. When you live life on the edge constantly, it is the heart that dictates what the body needs. The brain merely acts as a tool to fulfill that heart’s desire.

Steal, kill, rape, burn, punch …. all of these actions are a direct extension of a heart’s too afraid of death that awaits it around the corner of a house.

To be confronted by a man, with complete mastery over his emotions, especially anger, is as terrifying to a gangster, as a hunter face to face with a vicious tiger that has the drop on him.

A mixture of fear, respect, and the sensation that you have finally fired your last round and nothing will prevent the jaws and fangs from closing over your head.

The 14K Triad kept his eyes downcast unable to match the intensity of the ocean blues that stared coldly back at him. His mind was full of regret and contemplation of the past. He was ashamed of himself.

The Bratva tried to hold an air of superiority, as if his belief in his gang would protect him. The sweat on his forehead betrayed his demeanour. Vengeance filled his mind. One day, this giant would get his and he would be the one to pull the trigger.

The MS-13 gangbanger counted the number of tattoos on his arms, and wondered if he would be accepted into heaven or hell. He was mentally preparing himself for death, but in spite of this, he was afraid. He wasn’t ready, he still had so much to do.

The Hell’s Angel was the most nervous of them all, his stomach already churning through his poor diet and health. Without his fellow bikers, he was powerless. His imagination ran wild, conjuring up all sorts of torture and horrific ways to go. His heart pounded away, almost bringing him to a cardiac arrest.

Raphael Silverburn remained motionless and silent, his eyes probing each man, studying their psyche and taking mental notes. This continued for a long hour, the atmosphere thick and intense with fear and terror, all 5 men not saying a word.

It was then, at precisely the end of the hour, Silverburn looked at his watch and cast an eye at the elevator, which opened seamlessly, before the minute hand completed its’ revolution.

The consigliere entered once more, with 4 more men. Without a word, he placed each respective man in front of their surviving member. Their backs were towards Silverburn, and they could only stare at their underlings.

The survivors’ eyes widened in shock, as they beheld their bosses. Each man was cable tied similarly to them, their clothes bedraggled and there were red marks from repeated beatings.

Despite their appearance though, their bosses were still angry, indignant even. These powerful men were still under the assumption that they were Kings. Not reduced to the peasantry that had died under their watches. This rebellious attitude sparked the flame of loyalty and hope in the survivors.

Then, Silverburn spoke.

His speech was one of a natural orator. Time itself slowed when Silverburn spoke. The deep intonation, the clear pronunciation and slow delivery of each word held weight. His accent was mysterious, and an amalgamation of English intelligence, American charm and a hint of Russian gutturals.

He chose only to address survivors.

Doubtless, you are all wondering why I have chosen to take up arms against your respective gangs.

Money? Power? Malice? Godhood?

I have no aspirations in any of those ambitions. Your bosses knew that already. I was a rising player in the their game, but had no part to play against or for them. They have heard of me and the power I possess over the city. Yet they kept me a secret, because it galled them to admit that they have lost control over their regions.

Pride prevented them from reaching out to each other in the spirit of cooperation, to crush the common threat; me. Had they swallowed their differences, the corpses of your fallen brothers would not be liquefied and instead you would be enjoy a different type of liquor at each other’s expense. It would be I, who would be disappearing into the depths of criminal history. No one would remember my name. Your respective gangs would have continued your foolish quests and charades none the wiser.

But your bosses fucked up. They did not obey the rules. If you need to injure someone, do it in such a way you do not have to fear their vengeance.

Had they merely left me alone, I would have responded in kind. But your bosses crossed the line. They stole something from me that cannot be replaced. Something so severe and precious that it forced me to shed my cloak of anonymity and placed me into the light of the damned.

However, such matters do not concern you. All that matters is what you shall do next. I am offering you a choice. Please, make a decision within the next minute.

Silverburn nodded at the consigliere and the bonds of the survivors were cut off. As they massaged their sore wrists, Silverburn stood in front of them and placed in front of them, 4 knives.

Then he stood back and watched impassively as the 4 survivors ran through an entire roller-coaster of emotions, as they beheld their bosses’ eyes which were now devoid of defiance and have been replaced with terror and pleas.

Confusion, Gravitas, Fear and Hope. The most toxic combination of emotions that one could experience in a minute.

After half a minute had passed, it dawned on each survivor that Silverburn expected them to slay their bosses, in the tradition of Cain and Abel. Each survivor stared at each other, unwilling to make a choice or a move, unwilling to look at their bosses who were now screaming behind muffled mouths.

They looked at Silverburn who stared back impassively and merely counted down the seconds in his head.

10

9

8

7

Then the MS-13 gang member stood before his boss and plunged the knife into the man’s throat, arterial blood spraying out and onto the MS-13’s face. He stared at his boss’ eyes, watching the light slowly fade from them, a manic look on his face. He staggered back, unable to comprehend what he had just done, as the body slowly keeled over to the side.

6

The Hell’s Angel stood frozen in fear as he was unable to move. He could not believe what had just happened. The knife felt like a leaden weight in his hands.

5

With a vicious war cry, the Bratva copied the movements of his MS-13 counterpart and almost hacked his boss’ head clean off, the knife slicing through the entire throat, causing the remaining skin to fray and tear apart from the weight of the head, as it toppled over, the silent scream behind the mob boss’ eyes captured forever, as it rolled on the floor.

4

3

The 14K Triad exploded into action, his hands a blur as he rushed towards Silverburn, a desperate scream cutting through the air, as he moved the knife towards Silverburn’s stomach.

With a speed and ferocity that could only come from a professional fighter, Silverburn brushed aside the outstretched knife hand with a casual bat of his hand, and moved towards the 14K gangster, shortening the distance between them.

As the gangster reacted in surprise at Silverburn’s move, Raphael slammed the hard, callused edge of his hand into the man’s throat, crushing his larynx, causing all oxygen to disappear from his brain.

As the 14K Triad staggered back, Silverburn gripped his neck in a vise-like grip and staring at the boss, shattered all the vertebrae and brittle bones in the gangster’s neck with a sickeningly audible crack.

Without pausing, Silverburn allowed the limp corpse to drop, and without mercy, picked up the knife and stabbed both the boss’ eyes out, before sticking the knife in the man’s throat and coldly allowing the man to bleed out, as he screamed in agony.

2

1

Silverburn walked behind the desk and looking at the frozen Hell’s Angel who had still not made a decision, picked up his P30 pistol and blew the brains out of the survivor, with two precise shots that were millimetres apart on his forehead.

He then shifted his aim, and executed the Hell Angel’s captive boss in the traditional Russian way, with 3 bullets into the back of the head, so that the face could no longer be identified once the rounds exited out the other side.

A punishment even beyond death.

Silverburn looked at the two surviving men, The MS-13 gangster whose chest was heaving from the emotional exertions and furious attempts to wipe the blood of his deceased boss off his face. The Bratva, recognising the execution method, merely stared, shell-shocked at Silverburn, before going down on one knee, in subservience.

Silverburn did not acknowledge the gesture, but merely turned around and proceeded to wipe the blood off his hands at the bar.

The consigliere cuffed both survivors once more, before escorting them out of the building and allowing them to walk away, into an unknown future with an envelope stuffed with bills. He waited until they were out of sight before taking a small cigarette break, for precisely 2 minutes. His hands trembled slightly as he lit the cigarette up and the consigliere scowled at his weakness.

As he climbed into the faithful elevator once more, the consigliere took a ragged breath of clean air, before exiting out onto the infinity roof. In the 4 minutes he had been away, the bodies and blood had already been cleared away and it was just the solitary figure of Silverburn staring out at the cityscape, a whiskey glass atop the wolf’s head once more.

Looking at the bar, the consigliere moved towards the glass of whiskey that Silverburn had made for him, and paused slightly at the neat handwritten note on the napkin left behind. Alongside the note, was the key to a safe that the consigliere knew contained several gold ingots.

With gratitude.

The consigliere stared at the figure of his own boss and wondered whether he could do the same as the men did today. Then he realised, he couldn’t. If anything, he would reverse the knife and plunge it into his own stomach before betraying Raphael Silverburn.

He raised a glass to the figure that stood at the edge of the roof, downed the whiskey, before walking back towards the elevator. As he turned, the consigliere saw a small framed photo of a woman tucked away in the corner of the bar.

She was dark, beautiful, mysterious and had an ethereal quality to her.

Disturbed by this new knowledge and aware of what Silverburn had said in his speech earlier, the consigliere gave a sad glance at the giant man on the precipice of infinity and left his boss alone, to grieve.

Author’s Note

Originally inspired by a youtube musical compilation that described itself as A playlist for a 19th century villain plotting their revenge this story has evolved into a very long and surprisingly difficult piece to write, with many stop/start attempts over the course of 2 weeks.

I genuinely struggled to create Raphael Silverburn as a formidable character, as the idea of creating a story with the villain as the protagonist proved to be very challenging. I wanted him to be cruel, dark and yet possess some attractive magnetism that is crucial for any main character for a reader to identify with.

I didn’t want to make his motive as simple either, but struggled to find some real emotional hook as to why he was doing the things he was. In the end, the slain spectre of a lover is still something we can all semi-relate to, so I ended up making it more of a mystery why he was performing such wickedness.

I modelled much of the roof setting on the scene in the first John Wick film, where Viggo has his first discussion with Aurelio regarding the physical punishment of his son. I was struck by the lighting, setting and reflective nature in that scene and wanted to emulate such lonely luxury for Silverburn, only with a slightly more Blade twist to it (recall the strange penthouse sequence with Deacon Frost and the vampire familiar).

As an amateur architecture critic, I have always long admired luxury hotels and their infinity pools and I thought of no better way to capture existential loneliness than to depict a single person standing by one, using it for the adverse purpose of internal reflection, when in reality, infinity pools are celebratory in nature.

I would also like to point out, I took elements of Jack Reacher, Mr Big (in the Bond novel, Live and Let Die) and Viggo Tarasov for the characterisation of Raphael Silverburn. The name itself, had to be intriguing as with all villains, and the only way I came up with it, was by researching old English ancestral names, and then playing on the words that were suggested.

Silverburn is completely made up, but has such a lovely way of rolling off the tongue, so I kept it, whilst Raphael is taken from my favourite quartet of names in any mythology; the archangels – Michael, Raphael, Uriel and Gabriel.

This proved long to write, standing proud at 5111 including this note, but I am glad it eventually came to fruition. I hope you enjoyed it!

~ Damocles.

The Crush at Napier (Screenplay)

My first and greatest screen crush of all time, Rachel Weisz as Evelyn Carnahan in The Mummy (1999). It didn’t help a single iota that there was a girl in my high school year level, who possessed the same curly hair, thin eyebrows and delicate beauty. I was too shy to say anything, even though I longed to. Would I meet her today, would probably still freeze up today.

INT. UPSCALE CAFE

The NAPIER QUARTER is a bustling, vibrant and elegant Melburnian cafe, with plenty of people coming in and out, ranging from hipster types with long beards and trilbies to suited up office workers, eager to get their fix of caffeine.

French lounge is playing softly from speakers, and there is just enough noise to create a gentle murmur to the cosy, intimate environment. It is late afternoon and there is a relaxed air to the interior, people are already mentally preparing themselves for their ride home and post-work activities.

At the window sits, EVELYN, the perfect cross between the two demographics that attend Napier Quarter. She is an attractive woman in her late 20s, confident, and poised, her dark brown curly hair tied up in a loose bun. She is wearing a white cardigan, and a minimalist shawl over the top to fight against the chill. She is nursing a cup of warm coffee in her hands and blowing on it gently to cool it down, as she stares out, absent-mindlessly at the traffic that goes by.

Behind her, DAVID is leaning on a counter, chatting to the barista about his coffee and how only Napier seem to get it right every time. David is handsome, lofty in his disposition and lean. With his crew-cut hairstyle, and his old-school black vest, white shirt and tapered suit pants combination, he looks like a stylised, updated gangster straight out Peaky Blinders. Possessing a stunningly disarming smile, dark hair and blue eyes, David could easily charm his way out of trouble and often did.

With a thankful smile he lifts the reusable coffee mug he bought in salute.

DAVID

Thanks man. I’ll see you tomorrow!

As David leaves the front door, he turns and continue to walk, until he spots Evelyn in the mirror.

He stops and gives her a puzzled look. Evelyn returns the look, before both smile. David saunters back to the cafe, coffee in hand, and gives her his sunniest smile, his head poking around the door frame, amusingly.

DAVID

I know you from somewhere don’t I?

EVELYN

Yeah …. I think so. You look familiar too … I ….

DAVID

*snaps his fingers* High school! Ummm …. Evelyn right?

EVELYN

Oh my god. Yes! David, right?

David laughs delightedly and pulls out the stool next to her. He turns to face her and is slightly awestruck by her looks.

DAVID

How have you been? What are you up to nowadays?

EVELYN

Not much. I’m just here, enjoying my lunch break.

DAVID

Where do you work nowadays?

EVELYN

I’m afraid it’s nothing too glamorous or flashy. I work for an accounting firm.

David shoots her one of his disarming smiles. Evelyn is visibly distracted by the transformation that she is seeing before her. David used to be much more quiet and chubbier than she last saw him.

DAVID

That’s .. funny … I …

EVELYN

(interrupts) What happened to … I mean sorry, you go on.

DAVID

I was going to say, I never saw you as a math girl. I remember you use to read all the time.

EVELYN

(small laugh) Oh yes. I still do. I just switched over to audiobooks.

She makes a gesture to her wireless headphones, before shyly continuing.

EVELYN

I’m actually currently listening to an maths audiobook right now actually. I only just got the job recently, so I’m trying to catch up as much as I can.

DAVID

Wow, that’s clever (laughing). I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it soon Evelyn. You were always one of the smartest and prettiest girls in our high school. Anyway, what were you going to ask me before?

EVELYN

(blushing) Thanks. I was just going to ask you … you … you’ve shaped up very nicely yourself.

DAVID

I … thanks. You know, I hope it’s not too much of a personal question, but are you seeing anyone at the moment?

EVELYN

What? I … No, I’m not.

DAVID

I had the biggest crush on you in school. I actually always wanted to ask you out. Do you remember when we walked a little bit of the way home together?

EVELYN

I do actually.

DAVID

I was going to ask you out then, but I was too shy (laughing)

Evelyn joins in David’s laughter. She seriously considers his question.

EVELYN

Now I’m the shy one.

DAVID

How the times have changed huh? (raises eyebrow) Does a Friday, 7.30pm suit you?

EVELYN

Are you seriously asking me out?

DAVID

I am.

EVELYN

(pauses) Alright, I’ll bite. It’s a date.

David flashes one of his infectious smiles and Evelyn returns it.

DAVID

I’m glad I ordered a coffee today and bumped into you. It’s nice catching with you Evelyn. Here’s my card.

David proffers his business card and she reaches out, pausing ever so slightly longer than usual to grab the card. She looks up at him, surprised by his occupation.

EVELYN

You run your own restaurant?

DAVID

And … I’ll be cooking for you. Don’t be late. Lobster bisques are always tricky to create. It’s lovely to see you again Evelyn. Wear something nice and come in with an empty stomach.

David winks at Evelyn, and daringly gives her a peck on the cheek, leaving her flushed, as he disappears out the door and waves merrily to her through the window before dashing to his car.

Evelyn stares out, still surprised by the sudden reappearance of a changed high-school acquaintance, before cupping her coffee with both hands and taking a cosy sip, smiling as she does so. She looks down at the card and stares wistfully out at the traffic once more.

Author’s Note

Easily the most wish-fulfillment screenplay I’ve written yet, with more sickening self-insert references to myself than ever before, this one was difficult to write for some odd reason.

When you put too much of yourself in, you actually become more lost and confused about how the story should go. Hence I, more or less, wanted to get this written and over and done with. I will say, I am happier with it, than when I was writing it, but overall am displeased with the flow and the overall structure of this screenplay.

However, it is a short scene and it is meant to capture some of that fleeting feeling one experiences when you want to catch up with someone longer, but life pulls you in another direction.

As I have mentioned before, regardless of how horrible something is, I shall publish it, because to throw away all my poor writing is to be ashamed of it, and honestly … I learn more from my struggles than my smooth writings.

Until the next one!

~ Damocles.

Wrath of Man (2021) – Cinema Review

Y/N? No.

Director: Guy Ritchie

Stars: Jason Statham, Holy McCallany, Josh Hartnett, Jeffrey Donovan, Scott Eastwood and Niamh Algar

Review by Damocles

Guy Ritchie … just film only in Britain please.

It is often the case that the American who goes to Europe, is the one who sticks out like a sore thumb. To quote an infamous character, I was a dumb American, in a place where dumb Americans are less popular than the clap.

However, I feel with Guy Ritchie, it is the other way around. He is this cockney lad, feeling and looking decidedly out of place, whose witticisms, fast-paced dialogue and British sensibilities just don’t mesh with the simpler American values and customs.

This contrast, is clearly reflected in the film, where we follow “H” as he works undercover in a security company to uncover the mystery of who was behind the murder of his son. If you find a lack of mention being granted to secondary characters or antagonists, then that is deliberate, as all of them suffer from real depth.

The story is simple enough, but it lacks the more direct formula of the initial John Wick film.

In the first John Wick film, there is a focus at the very beginning of the film to establish the emotional stakes and the grief that Wick himself is experiencing., Thus the loss of his dog, expounds upon his sorrow and causes him to lash out at the NYC Russian Mob. A clear villain is established in the pairing of Iosef and Viggo and there are a lot of scenes to establish their characters and the obstacles that Wick himself need to clear to achieve his revenge.

In Wrath of Man, there are simply not enough emotional scenes to establish the motivation of H, nor to the villains. If anything, this film takes too many liberties with time, pacing and poor devotions to scene that don’t really pay off in any meaningful way.

I also fail to see how H’s British nature really lend any meaningful story contributions, which is where I felt Ritchie’s natural cockney leanings were completely out of place with the setting of the film.

Of particular criticism is the lack of Ritchie’s signature flair in the film. So many scenes were lacking his usual energy and vibe and many I felt spent too long on strange elements of H’s actions (not his character) that never necessitated anything to the overall plot of revenge.

There are just so many scenes dedicated to establishing what a “dark spirit” H’s character was, but they never truly pay off. Instead they serve to undermine a character who doesn’t seem to emote, react in any way or speak. This is in stark contrast to a character like John Wick, who does behave stoically, but there are scenes with him, in private, where he displays raw emotions.

H, on the other hand, is repeatedly referred to by other characters as a dark spirit, but is never really shown to be one. He has a moral code, and is repeatedly shown as a relatively dull anti-hero.

In particular, the way how the film handled the actual villains of the story was very poor, which so little scenes dedicated to them and I particularly felt their introduction was very weak as they were randomly introduced half way through the film. There was so-so Richtie-esque ribbing in the dialogue, but it never set them up as anything meaningful. In addition, the story of the “turncoat” was so obvious, that the reveal meant very little in the end.

In regards to the cinematography, it was remarkably average, with a big nose-dive in the action sequences. Statham looked like he had very little to do, beyond holding the gun out with one hand and shooting with comical precision. Whilst I am sure, to some, it made him seem badass, to me, it looked so lazy instead, like the stakes weren’t high enough and the goons were so, lacklustre in their competence that they simply get shot on the spot.

So many action sequences went by in a blur of boredom, with gunfights ending predictably and in boring fashion. Something about the rhythm, choreography and the way how they were filmed, felt very flat, lacking the usual energy of Richtie’s earlier works.

The few saving graces of this film lie in 2 barely acknowledged departments of film, sound and costume design.

The score is excellent. Composed by Chris Benstead who collaborated with Guy Ritchie on The Gentlemen (2019), this score is brooding and moody in all the right ways, with an excellent remix of Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues. It elevates the film more than it should, an effect I like to describe of as the “Prequel Score“, in which John William’s incredible score did so much heavy lifting, that the actual film, seen in the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy, seem a lot more epic than it actually is.

Benstead does the exact same thing, with a lot of scenes, despite how flat and uninteresting they are, elevated in atmosphere by the score. The film has a dark tonality throughout, maintained mostly by Benstead’s excellent work. There is a beautiful cello melody that truly boost the vibe and it should be said that all the scenes I liked the most, was when the score was at its height.

The second element I wanted to praise was the costume design. In what I suspect, is a heavy influence from himself and his famous Victoria Secret Angel wife, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, H’s outfits in the film are fashion-forward and timeless, with a lot of excellent casual wear and beautifully layered outfits that work both casually and formally.

I was struck by the wide breadth of costumes that H employs, from his well tailored shawl collar cardigan, to his loafers, Statham legitimately looked like he picked most of his outfits from his personal wardrobe, and should have every reason to, as he is often short-listed on GQ’s Best Dressed lists for his timeless tailoring and choices.

Perhaps this is an odd thing to praise, but it is not often that I see such a wide variety in looks, tailoring and styles on one character and I thought Statham was particularly dressed well, in comparison to his compatriots.

To sum up, Wrath of Man had me stretching to find positives in a thoroughly underwhelming viewing experience. Its’ key issues lie with a proper focus on the emotional resonance of the protagonists and antagonists actions and lacklustre action sequences that provide nothing unique nor inventive.

I would also like to mention that the set of the security company was used so often, I wondered if COVID-19 affected the filming, schedule and budget, as it seems overly-used for many of the scenes, and thus lent a vague “cheap” vibe to the overall film.

If I had to really sum up, I found this film sadly disappointing, considering I have followed Ritchie’s career for so long and with great pleasure, from his more mediocre fare like The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) and Aladdin (2019) to Sherlock Holmes (2009) and RocknRolla (2008).

It is just sad, that this is probably the worst out of his filmography.

A scene to recall: The only scene where I felt vaguely something and that is because the mixture of blood, bullets and a big fuck-off gun, the G36K is a cool combo.

Boom, Boom, Boom … and yet …. I felt nothing.

Flint & Powder

Justified – One of the best shows ever created and the most underrated.

Arthur looked at himself in the mirror and glared.

The salt and pepper was slowly increasing at his temples, lending him an air of seniority that he didn’t particularly like but didn’t detest either. After all, Arthur Flint was a man who never really cared for his looks, women came easily to him, as did his natural swagger and laid-back charms.

What he was truly angry about, in his reflection, was the fact that his brown eyes were beginning to develop crow’s feet and they only served to heighten the similarities between his father and the man who stood slim and tall before him in the mirror.

He had spent most of his adult life overseas, fighting someone’s else war, in a desperate attempt to get away from the long, notorious shadow cast by his overbearing, powerful father.

Now he had finally been sent back home, to the highlands and dark forests, and much to his annoyance, he cast an uncanny resemblance to his father to everyone with eyes and half a brain.

Arthur turned away from the mirror in disgust and went to his closet where he picked out a neat flannel shirt, threw on a skinny black tie and a dark blazer that offset his dark jeans and brown Chelsea boots.

Moving over to his bedside table, Arthur thoughtfully placed a weathered Casio G-Shock watch on his left wrist, a silver ring on his right hand and then picked up a large appendix holster, housing his customised Glock 22 with a Surefire X300U light attached to the bottom of the rail.

Arthur looked at the weapon and sighed heavily before slipping the entire weapon system in between his underwear and the front of pants, adjusting his belt as he did so, to ensure the entire package was snug and hidden. The only thing left was the tin star that he liked to clip to his belt. He slowly ran a hand over the silver polished metal, that made the difference between crime and law and reminded himself of the oath he took.

Now he was ready for work.

Running a hand through his long wavy hair, Arthur placed a wide-brimmed hat on his head and headed out into the blinding sun and heat.

~

Arthur Flint! yelled his boss, Morgan Crewstone, as Arthur was about to leave his desk for lunch. Frowning in puzzlement, Arthur slowly approached the office of his formidable boss and peeked his head through.

You rang boss?

This paperwork … bad news for you.

Why? What’s up with it?

He got away. Jumped his bail officer and now he’s loose.

Arthur moved his entire body through the door and scowled. He took the proffered manila folder and flicked it open with a practised hand.

Jody Davies. That sonvuabitch. How is the officer?

Not good. Lacerations across his neck, after Jody used his handcuffs to grab him. He died on the scene, after getting shot twice by his own gun.

Arthur winced. He could already picture the ugly scene. Jody using the element of surprise to jump the officer as he taking him out and then digging the steel cuffs into the man’s neck. But then ….

Was there an accomplice? Jody couldn’t have gotten free without some help.

Crewstone nodded approvingly at his best Marshal.

The bail officer managed to shoot the guy who helped spring Jody. He’s alive, but in intensive care. Wont be talking for a while. According to the forensics, the second guy had spiked the car’s tires and then tried to shoot the bail officer. Somehow in the scuffle, the guy got shot, and Jody broke free from his cuffs and then killed his bail officer. He left the scene on foot apparently.

So, I guess it falls down to me to find this guy and bring him in again …

You got 24 hours, Flint, before the trail runs cold. Crewstone paused and with a stern look in his eyes, sarcastically said By the way, do your level-headed best to bring this one in alive?

Arthur didn’t bother responding. He merely nodded wordlessly and tipped his hat. Escaped convict or no … he had to get lunch first. No manhunt could start on an empty stomach, and he was going to start his right, with a few buttermilk fried wings, and sweet corn at Princes.

~

His stomach sated, and his mind razor sharp, after the distractions of his stomach had been dealt with, Flint paid a brief visit to the crime scene and put himself in the mind of Davies. Which way would he go? Looking south up the road, Flint thought about what was further up …. the border to Tennessee was at least a solid 2 hours drive, whereas North, the way Flint had came, was towards Lexington, the closest town and best way to find a car.

Then there was always the possibility that some kind hitchhiker had come along and given a man in an orange jumpsuit a lift.

Flint dismissed that as improbable, before recalling the gas station he had passed on his way here.

Sauntering back to his car, Flint drove the 7 minutes to the nearest gas station and casually entered the store, the doorbell ringing annoyingly to announce his entrance. He noted with cold amusement that the attendant was not at his usual post behind the counter. But then he could merely be on a toilet break, judging by the Be back in 5 minutes. Don’t steal nuthin’. sign on the counter.

Making his way to the back of the small store, past endless rows of snacks, chips and quaint road necessities, Flint stopped by the refrigerated section and grabbed himself a can of Red Bull and a pack of gum. Still pretending to browse, he waited patiently, when to his surprise, the attendant actually came back.

Flint walked up to the register and placed the items on the counter.

It was then, he noted the attendant’s nervousness, and the way how his brown eyes kept darting behind Flint, and the slow beads of sweat running down his face into the collar of his white Visit Kentucky for a Swell Time! shirt.

Flint’s eyes raised in consternation, as he noted the mirror behind the attendant and was in the process of lifting his shirt to pull his Glock, when the sound of a shotgun racking in a shell stopped him cold.

Marshal Flint … is that youse? exclaimed Jody excitedly as he moved close to observe Flint more closely. Having ditched his orange jumpsuit, he was dressed similarly to the attendant with the same with Kentucky tourist shirt, and a pair of loose jeans. He was a ferret of a man, unpleasant and possessing a vicious streak.

Jody Davies …. said Flint in a low, threatening voice.

I’ll be gawddamned. I knew it was youse. The cowboy Marshal in the flesh. Didn’t think they would send youse after me again. Did ya miss me?

Next time I won’t.

Hahahahaha. Funny one Marshal. Especially considering I’m the one with a scatter gun aimed square at your back. I still remember the last time youse pulled on me. Still got the scar from when the docs got your bullet out of my damn chest.

I’ll be sure to write a complaint letter to the docs for letting you live.

Davies laughed scathingly. Gawddamn Marshal, I’ve forgotten just how cool youse are in the face of death. Now time’s-a-wastin and I got somewhere to be. So take that gun of yours out, nice and slow. Any funny business and both youse and the fatty gets it.

Flint slowly took out his Glock 22 and raised his hands once more.

Now toss it where the sun don’t shine and don’t forget that back-up I know youse got somewhere.

Flint threw both his service weapon into the corner of the store and the much smaller Glock 19 he kept in the small of his back.

Good job Marshal. Now throw me back the keys to your car … I’ll be gone before you know it.

Flint smiled at the reflection of Davies in the mirror and slowly pulled the keys of his car out. In an act of defiance, he flicked the key directly back at Davies, hard and swift.

The key rattled against the shotgun, throwing Davies aim off, as he tried to catch the keys before they striked him in the face. The move bought Flint precious time, as he threw himself over the counter and tackled the attendant to the floor. Buckshot exploded above their heads, a second too late.

Without hesitating, Flint pinned the attendant to the floor, as he grabbed a bottle of bourbon from behind the counter and aimed it directly at Davies, who racked in another load and manages to shatter the glass mid-air.

Alcohol sprayed the immediate area, blinding Davies. Moving quickly, Flint dove for the two pistols he had thrown into the corner and as his body hits the floor, another shotgun round perforated the snack stand near him.

Grabbing his Glock 22 with his right and his Glock 19 with his left, Flint, spun around on the floor and began pumping rounds through the air. Davies ducks through the hellfire and manages to scrabble out the front door, the bell ringing above the echo of gunfire.

Scrabbling upwards, Flint looked at the attendance and yelled whether he was OK. The man nodded meekly and Flint waited by the door and poked his head out. Immediately ducking back, Flint crouched as the door’s glass exploded inwards towards him, the roar of a shotgun shot across the Kentucky wooded landscape. Holstering his Glock 19 in the small of his back, Flint checked the load of his Glock 22 and did a swift mag change.

Hearing the sound of his car starting up, Flint risked a move and ran out the door and laid flat on the ground as he saw a shotgun barrel stick out the window of his car.

But it clicked empty.

Smiling coldly, Flint raised his pistol to fire, when the car stopped and a pair of hands popped out the window.

Frowning, Flint stared as Jody Davies came out with a shit-eating grin on his face. The distance between them was at least 60 feet.

OK! Hokay! Marshal, youse got me again. I ain’t gonna cause youse no trouble deadeye.

Davies kept walking towards Flint, until they were now down to 30 feet.

Youse got me Marshal. Come on, now, just slap the cuffs on me and git it over with.

Flint suddenly smiled as he understood what was going on and holstered his Glock 22 in its’ appendix holster. The exact opposite of what anyone would do in this situation.

Davies froze, as he read the cold look on Flint’s face. His bluff had been called out. Flint knew about the officer’s weapon he had stolen.

Standing there with his hand on his hip, Arthur Flint stared at Jody Davies’ brown eyes and flashed the U.S. Marshal star near his trigger finger under the twilight sun.

I want you to be very aware of one thing, Mr. Davies. The last time we did this tango, it didn’t end so well for you. Are you sure you want to be dancing this close again?

Cos I don’t pull, unless I shoot to kill.

Somehow … the last time, I made a mistake with you.

I don’t plan on repeating that err.

So … what is going to be Jody? We gonna settle this like regular human beings, or outlaw style?

Jody Davies looked at Arthur Flint and felt his own resolve hardening. He had the drop on the Marshal just a second ago, didn’t he? There was also no way he was going back to prison. That wasn’t an option. Besides the Marshal had to clear his shirt to draw his Glock. Maybe it would get caught on the shirt. Maybe his finger would hit the mag release and all his ammo would drop out.

The last time they had drew, Davies knew that he almost caught Flint out. Just maybe, ol’ Jody was actually faster this time.

There was only one way of finding out. Davies felt his hand slowly creep back to the big pistol he had tucked in the waistband of his jeans.

Arthur Flint kept his eyes trained on Davies the entire time. The moment was coming. The tension was rising. Jody Davies had no intention of going down without a fight.

Besides, there was the fact that he had killed an officer of the law.

Flint was old-school … an eye for an eye, may the best man win. There were too many dumb, stupid hicks out in the world, to lose sleep over the murder of another.

The way Flint saw it, if a man was willing to die for his ill cause, it might as well be his sword that killed him.

The seconds ticked over, but it felt like hours. Davies felt his hand start to bead over with sweat and it getting increasingly clammy. The silence was unlike anything he had ever experienced. The whole world seemed to shrink until it was just the figure of Arthur Flint, standing there, as cold as death, his hand on his hip, the U.S. Marshal star glinting in the sun, seemingly burning a hole in his mind with how bright it was. The hat he wore, covered his left eye just so, all Davies could see was the cold glimmer in Flint’s right emerald.

A wind blew through both of them, Davies felt he was getting colder, despite the searing heat of the twilight sun.

Marshal .. I just got one thing to say to youse …

I’ll see youse in …

Davies’ right hand whipped behind him and grasped the cold steel of the gun.

Flint’s shirt flew up and his hand grasped the warm metal grip of his Glock 22, and the weapon was flipped from side to straight in a nanosecond and spoke twice eloquently.

Davies’ right hand was still outstretched, far away from the silhouette of Flint, when he fell to the ground, a stunned looked on his face, that slowly replaced by pain. Flint, with his Glock 22 still at hip height, fired once more, his arm now outstretched, finishing off the convict that tried escaping.

Looking down at the pool of blood that was creeping across the front of the Kentucky shirt and behind the lifeless eyes, Arthur Flint holstered his Glock, kicked away the gun, and took out his phone.

This is U.S. Marshal Arthur Flint. I’m going to need a ambulance and a coroner. The Jody Davies case is resolved.

What? No … It’s not for me. There’s a civilian who needs looking after.

Huh? Yeah. It was legal.

He drew first. I shot him.

Author’s Note.

Drawing heavy and I mean …. excessive inspiration from one of my all-time favourite shows, Justified, Flint & Powder was actually slow to start but then once I remembered some of my favourite episodes and lines, the flow and unravelling of the story became a lot easier. In fact, the final line is stolen verbatim from the first episode.

I shall be waxing lyrical about Justified soon, once I rewatch a couple more episodes. Rest assured there will be plenty of quotations about that show and my big man-crush on Timothy Olyphant.

While I have yet to read any of Elmore Leonard’s work, I do plan on doing so very soon, as a good crime writer is always of interest to me.

In addition, I stole from Ian Fleming, his habit of writing literal phonetic spelling of certain words, like youse or gawd to add extra flavour to the reading experience.

Hope it was fun reading! This was more in line with being a short story than it is a screenplay.

~ Damocles.

The American from Europe (Screenplay)

Akaiito – Modern Japanese Restaurant/Bar in Melbourne.

INT. RESTAURANT

The underground bar is well lit and accented by red stripes that give the atmosphere an attractive, seductive glow. The place is busy, with waiters busily attending tables and patrons laughing, chatting excitedly about their week.

However in the very far back, in an all red booth, are seated an attractive couple; DANIEL and EVELYN. Daniel is the classic young, American whose temperment has been softened by Europe’s culture. Evelyn is an older woman, still in excellent shape, and with a fun English vibe. They are both dressed in classic cocktail evening wear; Evelyn wearing a simple black dress that emphasise her curves, accessorised with a string of pearls around her neck. Daniel is more casual, with an elegant black and white suit combination, the top two buttons on his shirt are undone, and his bow tie is hanging loosely around his collar.

They command attention with their poise and charisma and people can be seen looking in their direction distractedly, entranced by this power couple.

The beginnings of a meal is scattered on their table and Daniel lifts his glass to sip at his cocktail, mirroring Evelyn’s movement. Neither of them are bothered by the attention they seem to attract.

DANIEL

No … I don’t have a plan yet.

EVELYN

That’s unlike you Danny, dear.

DANIEL

I just got out.

EVELYN

How long was it again? 2 years?

DANIEL

and … 3 months, but I wasn’t really keeping track.

EVELYN

No doubt, those extra 3 months helped you reformed …

DANIEL

It’s only been 2 days since I was a citizen again.

EVELYN

Yet here we are, eating and drinking like a couple would.

DANIEL

I only thought of you, whilst locked away, Evy.

Evelyn laughs uproariously, and places a hand on Daniel’s cheek. Daniel gives her, his most roguish and flirtatious smile.

EVELYN

I see that brazen American inside of you coming out. Europe has not softened you at all.

DANIEL

I made sure if I was to go away, it was to be as comfortable as possible. Italy seemed appropriate.

EVELYN

(smiling) Come on, Danny. Don’t tease me like this … haven’t I been good to you?

Daniel gives her a mischievous look and leans in, close to her ears. Evelyn, holding her drink away, listens intently as Daniel whispers.

She reels back after the final sentence and stares incredulously at Daniel. Daniel shrugs back at her nonchalantly and takes another drink, before motioning the waiter over.

DANIEL

We’ll have our main courses now. Can you please give the lady your Robata toothfish and I’ll be having the Lobster tempura. In addition, can you get us your Akaiito Deluxe Nigiri Platter and I’ll try your Spice and Ice cocktail.

How about you, Evy? Another drink?

EVELYN

(recovering from her shock) I’ll have one of your Niigata cold sake. Thank you.

WAITER

Of course. I’ll be right back with your meals shortly!

Daniel waited until the waiter was out of earshot, before smiling at Evelyn, who lightly slaps him on the shoulder, in a angry but playful manner.

EVELYN

Bastard. I should have you shipped back to Italy for that little stunt. You always find such naughty ways to embarrass me.

DANIEL

Forgive me Evy. Being locked away has robbed me of my manners.

EVELYN

You’re lucky, you are my favourite protege.

DANIEL

Well, you are my favourite patron. So the feeling is mutual. I do owe most of my success to you.

EVELYN

And don’t you forget it, you impudent rogue. Now, tell me more about this job.

Daniel let the mischievous air drop and a cunning expression crept across his handsome features.

DANIEL

(quietly and seriously) It’s never been tried. At least … not by someone like me.

EVELYN

You mean, by a well financed, professional collector with a shady past and thieving fingers?

DANIEL

(waving his hands around with the flair of a magician) Abracadabra, your wish is my command Evy.

EVELYN

(laughing) Come one Danny, try to be serious, darling.

DANIEL

(smirking) Very well, as I was saying, before an attractive woman interrupted me, it’s never been tried. Never in this country. For a place with such a strong criminal history, people here are very law-abiding. Naturally, I don’t want to raise a big furore in a place like this, but it is very untested here.

EVELYN

How do you know that?

DANIEL

Let’s just say, the past 27 months weren’t all in vain, Evy.

Evelyn looks at Daniel, and notes his serious expression. There is a pregnant pause as she considers what he just said. Just as the answer dawns on her, the waiter interrupts with their meal.

WAITER

I have here, a Robata toothfish and a sake?

Evelyn motions to her side of the table, still staring at Daniel.

WAITER

And …. the Lobster Tempura and Spice and Ice cocktail?

DANIEL

Thank you, kindly.

WAITER

Enjoy your meal!

As the Waiter waltzes off, Evelyn continued to stare at Daniel, as he takes an appreciative bite of the lobster.

EVELYN

You mean to tell me, that you locked yourself away for 2 years … on purpose?!? What on earth for?

Daniel looks sideways at Evelyn and smiles enigmatically. He continues to focus on his meal, preferring her to digest the news he is telling her. Evelyn is pointedly ignoring her food. The mystery is consuming her.

EVELYN

You allowed yourself to get captured … I should have known better than to assume that you would ever get caught at a diamond exchange. 27 months … there was someone in that prison. You wanted to get sent to that specific prison didn’t you. My God … did you meet Renard?

Daniel nods proudly and takes a sip from his cocktail.

DANIEL

I was only meant to stay in that shit-hole for 12 months. But there was so much I needed to learn.

EVELYN

So you caused a ruckus and made sure you were stuck there for another year …

DANIEL

I got an extra 3 months for insubordination. The Warden was happy to see me go. Renard … less so.

EVELYN

You chose to lock yourself away for research purposes. Even by your standards Danny, that is insane.

DANIEL

Titian demands that level of research.

EVELYN

It must have annoyed you to know that the Venus of Urbino was going to be moved to here.

DANIEL

Actually, on the contrary, I was relieved. Renard had told me of the difficulties he faced against the Antiquities Squad in Rome. Hopefully the Australian variant will prove less tenacious.

EVELYN

So the plan I assume is a trip to Southbank?

Daniel nods as he finishes up his meal.

DANIEL

I hear the opera is lovely this time of the year. I’ve always wanted to catch the finale show.

Evelyn looks at Daniel, her eyes trying to penetrate her favourite thief’s inscrutable mind.

EVELYN

You clever bastard.

DANIEL

As I said, Evy … 27 months weren’t spent in vain. I want that Venus as much as you do.

Daniel motions to the waiter once more with a flirtatious smile which is returned.

WAITER

Hi, how can I help you again?

DANIEL

Just two of your Apple Tarts please. You’re doing an amazing job tonight.

WAITER.

Thank you so much. I’ll put the order through for you!

DANIEL

Thanks sweetheart.

Evelyn looks over at Daniel curious and with renewed respect.

EVELYN

You’re practising aren’t you?

DANIEL

Was it that obvious?

EVELYN

Only if a girl has known you for more than an week. I assume all this flirtation is for the job at hand. The string of hearts you leave broken behind you ….

DANIEL

Good thing I never stay anywhere longer than 24 hours.

EVELYN

But you’ll stay for your Venus.

DANIEL

(chuckling) Well, there is always one is there? Besides I heard you were in town.

EVELYN

I should have never accepted those tickets, you sly rogue, you. But thank you. Am I the first person you visited?

Daniel pauses as the desserts arrives. He smiles at the waitress and nods appreciatively as she pauses a second longer than necessary to maintain eye contact. He pointedly ignores her question.

DANIEL

I’m in the cultural capital of Australia. It would be shame if I didn’t stay to enjoy the art.

EVELYN

(with bemusement) Amongst other things … I do wonder, my dear Danny, how did you ever give your parole officer the slip?

DANIEL

I have a VPN … (smiling) I’m kidding. An old friend is posing for me back in Rome.

EVELYN

Not that despicable Rory?

DANIEL

The one and the same.

EVELYN

Next time you see him, remind him of the diamond he stills owns me.

Daniel smiles and chuckles to himself as if he remembers seeing the exact diamonds, the last time he saw Rory. Evelyn takes an appreciative bite of the Apple tart in front of her.

EVELYN

You know Danny, you never told me why you want this Venus as much as you do now. Don’t say that just because I want it for my private viewing, means you are equally entranced. What is the real reason?

DANIEL

27 months … is a long time to think about anything. I only ever gave one man my attention. Titian. I can tell you everything about the guy. How he died, where he lived … what brushes he liked to use … I can identify every single one of his paintwork by brushwork alone.

(pauses in reflection)

More importantly, Renard has never stolen a Titian. He told me just before I left, I was to continue his work. I aim to do just that … I will become the new Fox.

Evelyn nods in approval. She raises her glass silently and they toast together, to a new legend of a thief and the daring art heist that will rock Melbourne to the core.

Author’s Note

I seem to have a fixation on writing scenes in bars. Perhaps it’s my own personal vice coming through, but bar conversations just seem to have a life and rhythm of their own, in comparison to other settings.

I have obviously modelled this screenplay of the idea of An American in Europe, in particular, George Clooney, who has always struck me as a very unique American male role model.

While he possesses the accent and upbringing of an American, he is clearly a much more Europhile at heart, judging from his enthusiastic endorsement of coffee, his tailoring, his films (The American (2010) is an excellent example) and his enviable Lake Como estate. Even his wife, after years of self-imposed bachelorhood, is a quintessential European beauty, with the brains and wits to match.

I have always found this a vaguely, romantic notion, that American movie stars can have the looks and charms of an All-American, whilst retaining a sophisticated European sense of style and mannerism, as they used to in the old days of Sinatra, Bogart, Hepburn, Kelly and other icons of the Golden Era.

Clooney, with his handsome looks, mannerisms and sophistication gives me a similar impression. I tried to make Daniel (a clear reference to Clooney’s best known character, Daniel Ocean from the Ocean Trilogy) similar, in that sense. I was also basing a tiny bit of the character on Napoleon Solo from the film The Man from U.N.C.L.E . (2010) which features a character exactly as I described … an American thief, with European affectations.

Evelyn’s design was more or less tailored around the always wonderful female characters that seem to inhabit British gangster films. She’s greedy, fun, petty and powerful. I had a lot of fun putting little British touches in her dialogue and honestly, she was quite easy to write.

One day though, I will have to write a proper heist sequence, explaining in how detail how one of my heists would actually be pulled off.

Until the next one!

~ Damocles

MUSE (IMPACT Series)

Chris Wolstenholme (bass), Matt Bellamy (vocals, guitar & keyboard) and Dominic Howard (drums) doing their best impression of a English rock band.

Welcome to the IMPACT series where I dissect notable and iconic sequences from games and movies, and how they broadened my mind and left a lasting impression on me, years to come. 

She burns like the sun
And I can’t look away
And she’ll burn our horizons
Make no mistakes

– Sunburn from the album Showbiz

The Backdrop.

I am a former pianist.

Reluctantly talented and recalcitrant about showing any of my skill to anyone, I was pigeon-holed into learning the piano when I was very young, approximately 7 years old.

I say pigeon-holed, because I had no real concept of what was going on, and didn’t realise that this was a typically egotistical Asian parenting method enforced on many young boys and girls at my age.

For some bizarre reason, all Asian parents have an obsession with classical music and enjoy putting their child through the musical wringer in order to boast to other Asian parents at just how talented their child was at banging keys on a board or moving a string across other strings in a cacophony of shrill sounds and clacks of long fingernails on ivory.

I played for my parents, my grandparents, random people … 4x in a concert hall … everyone except myself.

As you can probably tell … I am still embittered about this Asian tradition.

But what is the key behind this anecdote?

Classical music.

That was all I heard for the majority of my childhood. My father was obsessed with classical music. He incessantly bought endless CDs and played them relentlessly. The only sounds I would experience was classic. I played classical, lived classical and heard classical.

The man was so obsessed, be bestowed upon me, my middle name, ripped from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

So imagine my incredible shock, when a friend introduced me to the sounds of MUSE.

MUSE along with DREAM THEATER were my first real taste of music outside the prison of classical and ever since … I have never looked back once, obsessed with all types of music from synth, pop, jazz, metal, electronic and even begrudgingly listening to old operas.

Nothing would or will whet my appetite for music.

There are two items that I consider essentials in my life and they are called headphones and an Ipod.

I can lose everything else, but never those items.

Knights of Cydonia – A bizarre schlocky tune that perfectly captures the vibe of a Western Space Epic made in the style of 80s cheap B-Movies.

The Impact.

MUSE is known for its experimental style. Every album of theirs has them exploring all avenues of music. In fact, I like to think of MUSE as the band that creates an album that I absolutely despise at the beginning because it sounds so damn different to anything else they created before.

Then I wait for 2 months, and I recall their singles from that new album in my head. I visit it again … and somehow it hits different and suddenly, my opinion changes like a switch, from sickening disgust to rabid enthusiasm.

This has been the case since I was first in love with the first three albums that I was exposed to … Absolution (2003), Black Holes and Revelations (2006) and Showbiz (1999). I somehow skipped Origin of Symmetry (2001) for the longest time, but it was The Resistance (2009) where I was saying … “What the hell is this? This isn’t similar to Assassin.”

However over time, I grew to appreciate just how dynamic MUSE has remained in comparison to some of my other favourite bands. Each album continues to explore the themes that the band wants to tackle and do so in a way to really show how much passion they still have for their music.

Simulation Theory (2018) is a prime example of that. Diving full blown into the current 80s fever, MUSE throws their spin on synth, power-rock and electronic pop. The soundscape heard in Algorithm could not be any further removed from their cover of Feeling Good way back in 2001.

But the signature of MUSE is still there. Bellamy’s falsetto voice floating high, near operatic levels, whilst the experimental sounds crafted by Wolstenholme, Howard and Bellamy himself, buzz away underneath, eventually drowning out the vocals in a glorious mess of guitars, drums and pianos.

Even their MVs (Music Videos) carry over that same manic energy of constant innovation and a desire to be different every time. Some of their earliest songs like Hysteria has this incredibly grimy and Se7en like atmosphere to them, with a real narrative and style that seems to be in complete harmony with the music being played. It is disturbing and haunting … a stark contrast to the crimson themed, dream like bizarro atmosphere of Feeling Good, a song only released 2 years prior.

I mean, the latest series of MVs has Terry Crews fighting Gremlin like creatures and hacking a algorithm that is purported to hold the answer whether life is just a simulation.

Time is Running OutOne of the first songs I ever really fell in love with.

The Enrichment

MUSE opened my eyes to the huge variety of sounds that can be found in the world. They not only freed me from my prison, they comprehensively smashed it to pieces and told me to find the sounds that could be waiting for me, if I looked hard enough.

Now with a collection of music that could play for 127.5 days, and over 2767 albums, I can’t thank MUSE enough for introducing me to all kind of music.

Beyond that, I also grew to appreciative modern music more. After all, a band that can create songs like the intriguing Time is Running Out, the sensual Undisclosed Desires and rocky New Born and the revolution march Resistance has to be worth celebrating.

They also happened to be the perfect band to be exposed to as a teenager, with their hard and soft songs able to really help me channel some of the emotional excess I was experiencing at the time.

I have always found myself a kindred spirit to the Brits, so MUSE allowed me to explore that aspect of myself more, diving deeper into British styled music, and how the Brits can express themselves in truly zany ways, to compensate for the iconic stiff British resolve.

The Culmination.

MUSE was the gateway drug into the world of music for me. Their songs really allowed me to appreciate how modern composers can twist, turn and transform sounds, despite certain things on paper not really making any real sense.

How does a falsetto like Bellamy accompany the rock-like grunge that the band is producing? Only MUSE could work it out and make it an Platinum record.

Even now, as I revisit their songs, to prepare this post, I am still shocked at their ability to create such unique sounds and melodies that make me want to shake my head and scream along with them.

The dream then, is one day to attend their concert and truly see their mastery at work. I still recall downloading HAARP (2008), their iconic Live Album and thinking to myself, What the hell … these guys sound even better live!!

Take a Bow MUSE, because you’ve certainly achieved a legendary status in my mind and created inside me a Stockholm Syndrome for your Hyper Music.

IMPACT

~ Damocles

Once formally known as the Rocket Baby Dolls … I almost wish they kept that namesake. But MUSE just looks and sounds way better.

UZUMAKI (IMPACT Series)

Kirieinnocent beauty drawn and designed to perfection.

Welcome to the IMPACT series where I dissect notable and iconic sequences from games and movies, and how they broadened my mind and left a lasting impression on me, years to come. 

Spirals.

The Backdrop.

Recommended to me by a friend, Uzumaki by Junji Ito was one of the first manga I had read since my days in high school, having fallen out of love with the style and genre (hint: too many goddamn volumes).

To put it bluntly … I was thoroughly under-prepared for what was to come.

A Lovecraftian styled horror, based around the central theme of spirals, which are a common motif in Japanese culture (fishcakes to Zen gardens), Uzukami is a brilliant piece of work by renowned horror mangaka Junji Ito.

The manga deftly balances creative ways to twist the innocent symbol of a spiral with a foreboding atmosphere, to create body horror artwork that showcases Ito’s incredible visual style, blurring the line between horror and beauty.

The story follows Kirie, a young woman trapped in her coastal town, Kurozou-cho, as supernatural spirals begin to take over the denizens and twist them in increasingly bizarre ways.

Uzumaki kept me up for 2 nights, a no small feat. The story gripped me so thoroughly that I almost read all 3 volumes in a single sitting, after my first initial shock.

Shuichi’s father obsessing over spirals … much like how I became entranced by the story after the first chapter.

The Impact.

Like any good book, Uzumaki works best in a written format. Whilst I was unable to track down a physical copy, I was grateful that an online version kept the format relatively the same. What made Uzumaki work so particularly well, as the fact that it actually understands the actual concept of turning a page to properly shock you.

The end of the first initial chapter, ended with such a spectacularly gruesome, creative and bizarre image that I couldn’t actually stomach reading another page.

I had to stop and literally stare, my eyes transfixed by what I was looking at.

In a lot of ways, Junji Ito’s style remind me of H.R. Giger. Both men are capable of creating such twisted and bizarrely beautiful forms that your mind is unable to fully comprehend all the details that are being shown to you.

In Ito though, there is a simplistic beauty to his work, in contrast to Giger’s overly detailed art. Ito grabs you with his incredible eye for the right detail, so that his artistic creations get all the horrific glory they deserve amongst the more traditional beauty of his backgrounds and main leads.

In particular, there is an lovely juxtaposition Ito employs in all of his work, from Tomie to The Enigma at Amigara Fault. In all of his work, people are drawn beautifully, with particular attention paid to the hair, eyes and facial expressions. There is a simplistic faithfulness to the human expression, that is magnified further when people are screaming or reacting in horror to what is happening. It is this ability to craft people with varying details, from glasses, larger noses or different hair that make Junji Ito’s worlds seem realistic, thus magnifying the horror of the supernatural that occurs within them.

I was particularly struck by the accuracy in the way how Ito drew Shuichi‘s slow descent into nihilistic depression, that is only stirred momentarily by his love for Kirie.

Kirie in particular impressed me. I am always in awe at how beautiful the women in Ito’s worlds look. There is a tragic innocence to her beauty that only heighten the horror around her and make you long for her to escape intact, away from the situation she finds herself in.

In a lot of ways, Junji Ito’s artwork reminds me of Japanese aesthetic and style in general. Simplicity and obsessive attention to detail in equal measure, harmony achieved through a marriage of simplicity and complexity.

The moment I saw this, I knew that this story would only continue to worsen. Like a moth drawn to a electric light, I kept going even if it meant the doom of peaceful sleep.

The Enrichment

Beyond the obvious exposure to Japanese Horror which is, like everything concerning the Land of the Rising Sun, solely unique to the Japanese culture, Uzumaki made me appreciate the art of turning a page.

I realise now that there is a conscious decision to turn a page and actually be willing to commit yourself to what surprise is on the next page.

I was so used to what I call the Matthew Reilly effect, where I am so hooked into the pace of the story, that pages almost seem to flip themselves. I call it the Matthew Reilly effect, because his “airplane thrillers”, books you can read in a single sitting on a flight, are so furiously paced that you almost look like a adrenaline junkie reading his novels.

His books are like the ultimate, fast paced thrillers … they hit you so hard and fast, you’re on the floor gasping before you even register what just happened.

With Uzumaki I experienced the opposite. I didn’t want to see what was on the next page. Each page turn was a decision made purely out of morbid curiosity. I was afraid of what I was going to see, my imagination unable to keep pace with the twisted genius of Ito.

In some respects, reading a Junji Ito book is a lot like exploring abandoned buildings. You have absolutely no idea what is around the corner. But it is dark, moody, terrifying and somehow your feet propel you forward despite the dangers.

You approach each corner, expecting the worst, slowly and with a fast-beating heart.

Only in Uzumaki, you actually encounter something way worse than a squatter asleep in a corner of a room.

Another thing I learned to appreciate is the way how body horror works. What I am terrified of the Alien in the film Alien, isn’t the actual creature itself. It is the fact that it inserts its’ bizarre appendage inside of you and creates something inside of you, that burst out of your chest.

Body horror in Uzumaki takes a whole new meaning, with snails, hair, pseudo-cannibalism, pregnancy and drills. Ito even throws in a goddamn Jack-In-The-Box horror gimmick that never made me look at a car the same way again. Each fresh take on the spiral drove me further and further into the story, my initial revulsion now twisted into a bizarre obsession with how Junji would interpret the spiral in new horrific ways.

I completely understand now, why body horror is arguably one of the worst genres. The idea that your body can transform into a nest of thorns or is inextricably linked with thousands of others in a mass of limbs is unsettling in the extreme and I can still picture Ito’s all-too-detailed artwork depicting those situations.

Body horror … that stuff will never make you look at your body in the same way again …The Fly (1986) anyone?

The final element that really helped me become a fan of Junji Ito’s work, was his exploration and mastery of Japanese Horror. Horror in a Japanese setting has always been it’s own creative niche.

It predominantly plays on the aesthetic of Japanese culture, which is full of simple, clean lines that really plays with light in a special way, capable of creating vibrant atmosphere or moody shadows. J-Horror also delves heavily into the lonely, isolated psyche, with suicide and a certain fatalistic acceptance of fate being key themes that influence the narrative.

In Uzumaki, Junji Ito uses the coastal isolation of Kurozou-cho as a prison of sorts, to seal the town to it’s fate. The people are unable to escape the overwhelming power and influence of the spiral, thus touching on the fatalistic themes of J-Horror. This inability to do anything about what is happening, is a signature of Lovecraftian Horror, in which characters are literally powerless to the whims and desires of the supernatural acting on them.

There is actually a bit of a strange link between Kurozou-cho and the H.P. Lovecraft novel, The Shadow Over Innsmouth which features a similar plot and atmosphere to Uzumaki, in that a quiet town on the coastline is experiencing supernatural phenomena, only in Lovecraft’s novel, it is the doing of the Deep Ones.

I particularly despise reading Lovecraftian Horror novels, as they invoke such a strong feeling of fatalism, helplessness and dread. I hate that sensation of powerlessness, that nothing you do can prolong the inevitable. As a rebellious bastard, this is the ultimate form of horror that can be conjured up.

Zombies can be shot, Lycans can be neutralized by silver, Vampyrs by garlic, crucifixes and stakes and Kaijus overwhelmed by firepower.

But the one thing that can never be defeated are the Old Ones and that … is something I find deeply disturbing.

Which is why the atmosphere of dread works so brilliantly well in Uzumaki. Once drawn in, you can only go deeper and deeper into the spiral. There is no way out.

What the fuck. Why am I reading this still? Why do I keep feeding my nightmare fuel? I remember thinking to myself when I saw her eyeball just … disappear into the void of a spiral.

The Culmination.

Uzumaki by Junji Ito is a masterpiece of manga writing. It is a tour-de-force of Ito’s creativity and interest in the horror genre and an actual piece of artwork in its’ own right.

It is Ito’s arguably most complete work as well, with a relatively clear overarching narrative and a lot of fun and bizarre ways to interpret the spiral. I must credit him for his ability to keep the theme of the spiral going through each iteration of horror, because I will confess to not really seeing that many spirals in nature itself.

Even now, whenever I see a spiral, I get this strange feeling of dread, something that I associate directly to this manga. What was once an innocent symbol, has now been indelibly linked to Junji Ito’s work.

That … is talent and a clear example of how badly (in a good way) Uzumaki has affected me.

If you have the time, definitely go buy a copy of Uzumaki, as all 3 volumes are now compiled into 1 cohesive book.

I will say, the images in this blog post are just some of the artwork that Junji created. I deliberately avoided some of the best and most shocking parts to ensure you get maximum enjoyment upon your first foray into the world of Uzumaki.

Even as a non-horror fan, I was entranced all the way through and that is why it has left such a strong impression on me.

I hadn’t felt a proper rush in reading something truly original in years when I first started the first page of Uzumaki and to this day, I am thankful my friend recommended me it, despite being thoroughly horrified and potentially scarred by the whole experience.

IMPACT

~ Damocles

The fate of their story still occasionally haunts me. So much beauty amongst such ugliness.