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My Friends Told Me About You (Tube)

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At 4 in the morning, my iPhone buzzed me awake with the distinctive ding! of a new email. For fucks sake, had I forgotten to turn off the ringer again? Reaching out into the cold air from beneath my toasty duvet, I switched it to silent and tried to will myself back to sleep, but curiosity was too strong. Alright, alright, I will never get back to sleep until I see who it's from. I opened one eye and slid my email open, rewarded with that glowing blue dot that fed my compulsive and slightly dysfunctional relationship with the internet.

A comment from AO3! Aw, now I was never going to sleep now until I'd read it, otherwise I would stay awake all night, buzzing with turmoil as I wondered if it was fan mail, hate mail or just some comment spam. Opening the other eye, I fussed with my phone until the familiar red text appeared in my inbox.

 

You disgust me, you obsene child. First of all, how dare you! To play with the details of a man's private life for your own sport and titilation... Have you no consideration for my feelings, at all? This is revolting, publishing this... this degrading teenage fangirl jerk-off fantasy for the adulation of your little teengirl peers, no doubt. If you do this to your supposed favorite bands, what horrors have you left for your worst enemies? I am a genuine human being, with genuine human emotions as real as yours, and this obsene abomination degrades me... and yourself.

I rolled my eyes, then glared at my iPhone, as if to say 'you woke me... for this?' Dumb hate mail from some outraged middle aged man who could not stand the idea that lowly women were getting their icky fangirl cooties all over his favourite fandom with our disgusting, icky fan fiction. Suck it, comic book store guy, I thought to myself, and was about to drop back into slumber, when my eye was caught by the name attached to the disgruntled comment.

Carlos Dengler.

No way. No, that had to be a joke - no doubt Alice or Evie having a joke at my expense after too many bottles of wine down the pub. That said, it was a distinctly unfriendly time of the morning for drunken after-pub shenanigans by two women I knew had to get up in the morning to go to work. But I was wide awake now, my nerves jangling, and I knew there was no way I was going to be back asleep before my alarm rang at 6.30. Giving up on sleep, I slouched my way to the kitchen, made myself a cup of tea then climbed back into bed, hauling my laptop in with me, to log onto the internet properly and examine the comment in context.

The comment was on Chapter 8 of Exquisite Corpse, a ridiculous vampire fantasy sex romp I'd written for a laugh with an American friend of mine. Chapter 8, huh? So this mysterious reader had persisted quite some time with the 'obscene abomination', it seemed. Oh. Wait. If memory served, Chapter 8 was that chapter, the really problematic one where the thinly veiled Victorian aristocrat, Baron Von D'Engler, raped, sucked the blood and then wrung the neck of an unfortunate servant. My co-writer, the Scarlet Pimp, and I had worked hard to make it the right mix of both shocking in its sudden violence, and yet darkly comic, with hints of The Hunger and Andy Warhol's Blood For Dracula woven through the plot, along with ridiculous allusions to Marx, Foucault and Piketty until we'd both been crying with laughter as we published it. So maybe it was a bit gory, but for fucks sake, it was a vampire parody. You can't have a vampire story without spilling a little blood!

I read the comment again, scanning it for clues. This was one of the few times that I felt nostalgic for the old LiveJournal system where so many of us fan fiction writers had first published our stories - the Track IP Address function came in invaluable in telling whether you were dealing with a complete stranger, a friend yanking your chain or an old, familiar troll. Archive Of Our Own gave you nothing to go on. I fired messages off to Sunita, Evie and Alice, knowing full well that none of them could resist the ping if they were still lurking online to see the effect of their little joke, but there was no reply from any of them. Maybe they were innocent, and asleep - as I should have been.

So the time zone pointed to an American - as did the spelling and slang. Favorite? Well, Alice was American, and still lapsed in spelling, despite having lived in London for 8 years. Jerk-off? My friends - even Alice - would have said wank or even fap. I clicked the name, Carlos Dengler, and realised he had gone through the hassle of making a profile to leave the comment. Whoever he was, he wanted to be noticed, maybe even wanted a reply, if he'd gone to the trouble of registering his email with AO3. And suddenly, I was angry. That comment treated me as if I were a child! Well, fine. Whoever he was, he'd have his reply alright. I had years of experience defending and justifying my slightly weird hobby.

 

First of all, sir, I am not a child. A lady never tells her age, but trust me, I was born during the 70s, and I am a professional woman with a job and a career and a mortgage. I'm guessing that this worries you even more than if I were a child - because if there's one thing that scares the shit out of guys like you, it's the idea that there are grown women who are perfectly comfortable expressing their sexuality and their desires without the slightest hint of shame.

Second, no one forced you to read this - and I notice that in your outrage, you managed to read eight chapters of this 'abomination'! There are some things that I find obscene in this life: the international politics of Americans; the domination of our culture by competitive sport; the unequal distribution of wealth; cruelty to animals and young children. The unfettered gratification of sexual tastes I do not share in *fiction* is a thing it is far easier to ignore than to allow to bother me. I kindly suggest you do the same, sir.

And lastly, as to the way I treat my favourite bands and favourite works of art and favourite pieces of ephemeral pop culture: I believe, passionately, in the folk tradition. We live in a time and place where our cultural icons, our national narratives and myths are all owned by corporations. Corporations who would like us to passively consume their products without ever interrogating or responding or even engaging. I resist this with every fibre of my being! Fan Fiction is my way of talking back to Culture. It is my way of engaging, or interacting, of turning a forced monologue into a multi-voiced conversation. I fail to see how Fan Fiction is really any different to a remix or a cover in music; a commentary or critique in fiction; the relationship of a satirical play to current events. This is not about the band, and the people in it, it is about *me*. You have no right to criticise. Now good day to you, sir.

 

But the time I'd finished typing and polishing and adding just the right amount of patronising pique to my invective, it was 5.30. My mouse hovered over the 'comment' button for several minutes, as doubt gently rocked my mind. I'd been having this argument in one form or another since 1994, when I first logged onto the internet and discovered for the first time that hundreds, if not thousands, of other people shared my 'weird hobby' (and, unfortunately, also discovered how threatened others were by it). It was such a familiar argument I could rehearse it in my sleep, so the doubt was not about that. The doubt clouding my mind was more along the lines of... what if this really was the actual flesh and blood Carlos Dengler?

Oh come on, it almost certainly was not. If it was not actually Suni or Evie, no doubt it was someone I knew from Tumblr, just lining up to rattle me. And if it was actually Carlos, well... Well, that self-googling arsehole deserved whatever he got for quitting and then nearly splitting up a band I loved. But there was no way it could possibly Carlos. He hadn't just quit playing bass for Interpol in 2010, he had quit the Internet, quit 'celebrity' and quite possibly quit public life itself, except for a few strange art films self-released through YouTube. The idea was absurd. There was no way it was Carlos.

I hit comment before I could lose my nerve, then headed for the shower, and a much needed second cup of tea.

Sunita's text hit me first, halfway through breakfast, as she was always the most excitable (not to mention gullible) of the gang. 'no way! omg what if it really is carlos? this could be the most amazing scoop for our podcast! can i vlog it l8r 2day y/n?'

'no way,' I texted back almost immediately. 'there is no way we are putting this on the vlog or the podcast. it's clearly someone having a joke on me.'

Alice's text arrived next, laconic and suspicious. 'duuuuuuude, u totally have SUCH a spring in the middle of ur back and someone just wound u up so tight. y even give this idiot the time of day? u know the routine: DELETE AND BLOCK!'

'I dunno. I guess whoever it was, he just hit a nerve, OK? In the future, I will remember: Do what Alice recommends. Alice is always right.'

Evie's answer, perpetually late, and perpetually defensive, arrived just as I was getting on the bus. 'Who the fuck is Carlos Dengler? But, to be frank, I am actually slightly offended that you would accuse me of leaving this comment. I, unlike your secret admirer, actually know how to spell the word 'obscene!''

I spent the rest of the bus ride composing a massive email in reply, explaining about the band, Interpol, explaining all about their minimalist, reverb-drenched music, about their impeccable fashion sense and cut-glass styling and inscrutable semi-surreal lyrics. But mostly, explaining about their distinctively dressed and completely pretentious, yet somehow oddly hilarious bass player, and how he had spent so long building up a cult of personality unrivalled since Bowie in its sheer theatricality - extreme hairstyle changes and nazi gags included - before smashing his own celebrity like a hated fairground mirror, then mysteriously resigning and disappearing, at the height of their fame. Trust me, I could talk about Interpol for England.

Evie's reply was short, but to the point. 'OK, I guess now I finally understand that kind of glazed look that you get in your eye whenever I try to explain the Marvel Comics Universe to you.'

By half an hour into my workday, I had completely forgotten the comment. One of the guys from Compliance asked for some help setting up some pattern recognition software, and I spent most of the day analysing webtrends for mentions of malware and phishing attacks. By the afternoon, we had built up the appropriate tag-cloud and were monitoring Russian hacker activity aimed at a multi-national in Canary Wharf. I fired off a couple of emails to Comms to spur a press release, then finished up the appropriate regulatory report and passed it on to Judicial. A good day's work, and a satisfying game of Cat and Mouse, all in the service of the Good Guys. Damn, I loved my job sometimes.

I was too tired to read on the bus home, so I plugged my headphones into my iPad and searched on YouTube to watch a couple of episodes of a new anime that Evie had been raving about. Then my email dinged with a notification of a new Resident Advisor mix from an Irish DJ who was starting to catch a bit of hype, so I downloaded it, hoping to listen to it while I cooked dinner. But as I climbed off the bus and walked past the mini-Sainsburys, the lure of another ready-meal proved too strong. There was a two for one meal-deal that included Sag Paneer, and though I knew my own home-cooked Sag Paneer was way better than the store-bought stuff, you could not argue with two for £5, especially when it cut out a 40-minute wait for the rice to cook. So I got home and flopped down on the sofa with my microwaved dinner and a nice glass of wine, and the dulcet tones of some Hauntological Vapourwave echoing around my flat.

My iPhone pinged on the sofa beside me - OK, I knew it was a lazy bad habit to check my phone during dinner, but one email wouldn't kill me. A reminder from Sunita that we were recording the podcast on Thursday evening, at her flat. As if we hadn't been recording podcasts on Thursday evening for the past 6 years! But from the slightly snippy comment at the bottom of the email, I realised that the reminder of the start time was more for Evie's benefit than mine, and chortled.

Two minutes later, another email pinged. A slightly wounded reply from Evie, saying she was not a child, she was a busy Public Defender, and it was not her fault if her cases sometimes overran, and being late was not a personal insult, it was an unavoidable consequence of the importance of her work as a civil servant and so on and so forth in Evie's slightly beleaguered tone. I nearly laughed aloud.

Ping! Not even thirty seconds until the email from Alice, telling Evie to open a can of sit down and shut the hell up because if she had to wait until the pizza got cold one more time, she was going to serve her her own ass with a side order of fries and onion rings, so help her god. To be honest, Alice's colourful American colloquialisms were half the reason we loved having her on the podcast, but Evie was from Hull and could certainly give as good as she could get. I looked forward to the next round, knowing Evie to be an absolute champion swearer, to the point where we sometimes had to wonder if we would have to bleep her out to avoid complaints about her language on the next podcast.

Ping! If this was Evie, this was going to be good... Oh shit.

Archive Of Our Own: Carlos Dengler replied to your comment on Exquisite Corpse

The bottom dropped out of my stomach as I clicked on the message. Shit, this one was long, too long to display properly in the body of the email, and a suddenly sensible voice in the back of my head told me to sit down and finish my dinner before reading it, because wow, did he seem to have a bee in his bonnet about something. But the Sag Paneer did not as seem as tasty as before, and the wine was not as sweet, and when the expected reply from Evie pinged in my inbox, I was too agitated to read her gruff Northern response to Alice's Bronx-cheer cheek. I finished dinner, cleared away the plates, then hauled my laptop to the sofa and plugged in.

 

My apologies, madam, for misjudging your age. I assumed, perhaps mistakenly, that since the majority of hormonal outbursts of desire for my person originated from adolescents, that your blatant insinuations as to the nature of your lusts originated from someone of a similar immature and puerile stature - or at least mentality. If youth is not the excuse for such shameless behaviour, I am more offended, not less. You should be old enough to know better!

I do not live in a bubble; I am certainly aware of the hooballoo surrounding the cultural phenomenon of middle aged women projected their thwarted desires and withered sexuality into homosexual fantasies regarding such figures as Kirk and Spock, or Sherlock and Holmes. But you mistake one critical difference between the former, and what you are subjecting me to. Holmes and Spock are fictional characters. I am not merely a myth, I am not a 'cultural icon' or a 'national narrative'. There is a human being behind these images you are playing with so casually, a human being with a heart, and a pride, and the capacity to feel hurt and deeply offended by the ways in which you have depicted me. I am not a toy for the gratification of your sexual pleasure; I am not some fictional character to toss about the streams of your fancy like Woolfe's Orlando. I am a stranger to you, but a person with friends, and with family, and with relationships of my own to be disturbed and insulted by these fabrications of yours.

You are right; I did read eight chapters of this filth before I felt compelled to protest. Clearly, you are possessed of some small literary talent, for storytelling and building narrative and a sense of suspense and anticipation. Which makes it all the more shocking and worrying that *this* is the end to which you choose to utilize those abilities! What have I ever done to you, "Pace Is The Trick", to deserve this treatment? Apart from being involved with the writing and performance of some music you claim to love, while abusing its creator so badly? Answer me that, please, madam!

 

Madam! As if! I blinked at the screen, then started to laugh. I supposed I had deserved that, with the patronising 'sir' I'd lead with. But thwarted? Withered? Blatant insinuations? My god, don't flatter yourself, mate! Wait, did he really think that I wanted to fuck him, because I'd written him as an amoral vampire raping and despoiling peasants, for the amusement of my young friend in California? The ego on this guy! Fighting tears of laughter, I poured myself another glass of wine, and sat down at the laptop.

 

Watson, my dear Dengler. Sherlock's partner is called Watson. Here, I thought you were supposed to be an educated man, and you mistake the names of the most celebrated partnership in literature!

First of all, you flatter yourself in presuming that a sexual interest lead to my using your archetypical image in my story. Withered and thwarted you may think this, but I am interested in ideas far more than I am interested in physicality. To put it bluntly - your body, your person holds little interest for me. But your image, your media representation, the cult of celebrity you initially cloaked yourself in, and then abandoned as if it were a mere chrysalis, that interests me, even intrigues me. The questions I ask are far more nuanced than a simple declaration of 'lust'. I am asking questions about the nature of Evil. You played with notions of Evil both in your work, and in your stage image. To dress as a Nazi, a Russian Gangster, a frontier gunslinger, a Victorian Vampire onstage - all of these are almost cartoon representations of Evil. What does it mean to be evil - to be moral, or immoral? But a Vampire is neither moral nor immoral, it is amoral, and that is what holds the fascination. In Foucault, to be immoral is not merely to participate in this specific sexual deviance or that - it is to be ruled by one's passions to the point of losing one's own self control. To be mastered by one's own desires, rather than the master of oneself. Is not a Vampire a person who has surrendered utterly to his animal nature, his lust for blood, literal or figurative? 

So, you ask, sir. What did you do to deserve this? You asked questions, in your art, and your self presentation. I contrived to answer them, in mine.

You claim you are not a fiction, not a myth, but I'm sorry; I invoke Barthes here and Le Mort D'Auteur. This is not *about* you. This is about your Public Image as an archetypical Rock Star. I no more conflate your public image with your physical and emotional person than I conflate an actor with the role that they play. Celebrity is manufactured by consent in an interplay between idol and fan. You are the author of a Mythos called Carlos D, but not the owner. The fabrication of 'Carlos D' is assembled within the mind of the reader - the observer - in this case, me.

The ideas are much larger than you, and have been fed and grown and altered partly by the press, but much more by us, the fans. Rock Stars are a silver screen onto which fans project their own ideas - about beauty, about desire, about creativity, about power, about control, and yes, about evil. I am sorry if this punctures your ego, sir, but I am not the slightest bit interested in silver screens. I am interested in the flickering images which are projected onto them by the audience - most of which are assembled in the minds and brains of the people in that audience at the rate of 24 frames per second or whatever.

I am sorry if my actions have hurt you (if, indeed, you are who you say you are). But these stories were not created for your eyes, or for your benefit. You have, of course, the right not to read them, as I suggested before! But you forfeited the right to demand that questions that you pose, in your art, not be answered or interrogated the moment that you thrust your face, your music, your art into the public realm.

 

This time I did not hesitate to hit the submit button. He had riled me, both with his impertinent assumptions and his catty remarks about my age. For a moment, I was tempted to go back and edit, and change that 'I'm sorry if my actions have hurt you' to a snide non-apology of something like 'I'm sorry if you were offended'. It was outrageous how he flattered himself at my expense. As if I wanted to fuck some washed-up former rock star with a penchant for play-acting outrage. As fucking if!

I hung about online for about half an hour after posting it, endlessly hitting refresh on AO3, even as I mucked about on Tumblr. A few desultory posts, some reblogs, some signal boosts later, and nothing had turned up in reply. There was a part of me that was almost disappointed, like I wanted him to come back and argue with me, tell me I was wrong, counter my arguments, you know, like the other girls did on our podcast. The play of wits and the struggle to best one another intellectually was half of the fun of doing it, though we all made sure to drink away any bruised feelings afterwards, so that it all stayed fun. But then again, if he didn't counter me, that meant I won. That meant I'd beaten him, this random internet hater - because, come on, I was not arrogant enough to believe that the real Carlos Dengler had nothing better to do with his time than argue with me. But still, I was faintly intrigued that anyone would really go to these lengths to pretend to be him. But finally I gave up and went to bed, exhausted from missing half a night's sleep the day before.

The next morning, I overslept and barely had the chance to check my email over a rushed breakfast. Nothing from my mysterious correspondent in the inbox. Work was exceptionally busy, as Judicial had come back with more data requests to pursue the Russian Hacker case, and I spent most of the day running complex algorithms and tricky bits of data analysis. When I checked my email, fleetingly, at lunch, there was still nothing. I felt a tiny spike of disappointment that he had given up so easily, but was distracted by another email from Sunita, asking that I pick up a bottle of wine before coming over that evening. I made a note of it, and made a brief detour to Vinopolis for a nice Merlot on the walk back to London Bridge Station.

Sunita greeted me warmly as I arrived at her flat in Kentish Town, then squealed a little bit as she saw the bottle. "Ooh, this is nice! I've got the usual box of old plonk on top of the fridge, but let's get started on this before Alice and Evie arrive to swill down the whole thing in one go."

I thought it tactless to point out that it was usually Suni doing the wine-hogging, but still, I rescued the bottle after she'd poured our glasses, and put the rest aside for our expected friends. "Cheers," I said, knocking my glass against hers, as we both comically, exaggeratedly opened our eyes and stared at one another, then collapsed laughing. A couple of years previously, Alice had told us that it meant 'seven years' bad sex' if anyone failed to make eye contact while clinking wineglasses, and the in-joke had just caught on.

"So," Sunita ventured. "Have you heard any more from your mysterious outraged bassist since your last exchange last night?" All three of my friends now seemed to be watching my AO3 profile like hawks, fascinated to see how the situation developed.

My hand twitched towards my phone, but there was nothing in my inbox except a few notifications of new Tumblr followers. "No."

"Shame," she said, then extended her hand.

"Awww... no, not until Alice and Evie get here..." I protested, loathe to be separated from my tiny electronic friend, but Sunita stood firm.

"Rules are rules. We all agreed. No devices during Four Birds and a Box Set night."

Moaning and rolling my eyes, I let myself be parted from my iPhone, but soon enough Alice was knocking at the door and bounding up the stairs, surrendering her own Android to Sunita's outstretched palm. Ringers off and phones locked away in the bedroom, that was the deal.

"Is Evie not here? Oh come on, I'm starving!" She eyed the waiting pizzas on the counter with blatant lust. "Just whack them in the oven, I'm sure she'll be here by the time they're cooked, and if not... well, she should learn to get here on time!"

"I heard that," snorted Evie, banging the door closed behind her and huffing and puffing up the stairs. "Now quit your cavilling, I'm on time, so help me god and the Metropolitan Police."

Sunita put on a CD, and the four of us sprawled across the living room, drinking wine, munching pizza and gossiping and catching up. It wasn't as if the four of us didn't talk every single day - by email, by Tumblr or by Twitter or Facebook - and yet there still seemed to be an inexhaustible flow of news to be announced, speculation to be shared, and titbits of gossip and drama to be exchanged. Alice kept us up to date with her ongoing running feud with a rival lecturer at the university where she lectured, while Sunita gushed on and on about the crush she was nursing on one of the other developers at her job, and Evie kept up a running tab of which judges and QCs she suspected of conspiring against her cases. Alice and Evie both had long-term relationships to be endlessly problematised and complained over, while Sunita and I were perpetually single, and shared our dating disasters and Tinder travails.

And then, once the pizza was finished and the dishes were cleared away, Sunita poured us all one glass of wine and one glass of water each, then set up the four microphones and fixed them to our lapels. "Give me a line-check," she directed to each of us in turn, fiddling with her Mac's input controllers to get us all balanced.

"Hi, I'm Alice. I'm the resident film buff with Four Birds and a Box Set, and I'll be guiding you through this week's new cinematic and DVD releases, as well as upcoming events you won't want to miss, on the BBC, Sky and iPlayer."

"'Ey up, I'm Evie. I am your expert on comic books and graphic novels, and this week, I have something really exciting for you - special news about the new Kieron Gillen series, which we will be talking about later, in greater detail."

My turn. "Margaret here. I've got all your news about music in London this week - live bands, DJs, events, as well as a run-down on the week's best new releases, plus some excellent new mixes from around the web, and of course the weekly Soundcloud hall of shame." In the background, Sunita triggered a sound effect of booing and hissing and consternation that she'd sampled off some Bollywood comedy. Honestly, Sunita's insane samples were half the joy of the program, and never failed to set us off giggling, no matter how professional we were pretending to be.

"And I'm Sunita," she suddenly blurted out, realising that she'd almost forgotten to introduce herself. "I'm your host, every week on Four Birds and a Box Set, as well as your correspondent from the thrilling, fast-paced world of games development."

So for the next hour and a half, the four of us riffed off one another, ad libbed, and read out little pieces we had prepared earlier about our various specialities. Although the podcast was only 40 minutes - officially the exact same length as Sunita's commute, she claimed - we always recorded an hour and a half, and then cut out the ums and the ahs and the jokes that failed and the awkward silences. Not that there were many awkward silences any more. After 6 years of of podcasting and video blogging together, we seemed to have developed our own little in-jokes and allusions, and odd communal sing-songs we lapsed into whenever particular topics came up. We weren't the most professional podcasters in the world, or the most slick, but I was always surprised, upon listening to the playback, how warm and funny we came off, even when we were ripping the piss out of each other.

Once the podcast was down, we sat down together and compared notes, and figured which had been the best bits of each others' segments, and the show in general. Then, with our ad-libs turned into a cohesive narrative, we sat down, by ourselves, or more commonly in pairs, in front of a video-camera and recorded a 5-minute vlog version of the podcast to stick on YouTube. Originally, the videos were supposed to be just ads for the longer podcast download, but the shorter - and possibly more slapstick - format had picked up its own viewership. We had started uploading little bite-sized vlogs over the course of the week, and over the past year, the YouTube ad revenue had almost started paying for the hosting space for our website. Our own fandom had at last started paying for itself - or perhaps started eating itself, depending on your viewpoint.

After recording was done, we always swore we were going to go straight home and get a good night's sleep so that we weren't wrecked at work the next day, but we never did. Sunita would open another bottle of wine, and Evie would put on a DVD, and the party would grow more and more raucous, until at the last minute, Alice and I would remember that neither of us actually lived there, and make a dash for the last tube. Several times, we had mistimed it, and ended up flipping coins for the lumpy sofa or the freezing cold floor.

That night, fortunately, we remembered at just about 11 on the dot, retrieved our phones and trudged out to the Northern Line. When our train came, we were still bickering faintly about the names of the robots in The Forbidden Planet and The Black Hole, resolving to look it up on Wikipedia as soon as we came above ground at London Bridge to transfer to the overground.

"Robby the Robot was in Forbidden Planet, Maximilian was in The Black Hole," Alice crowed with triumph as we stood in the large waiting area, waiting for our connections to be announced. She was waiting for the express to New Cross while I was trying to catch something headed towards either Herne Hill or Tulse Hill. "Repeat after me: Alice is always right."

"OK, OK," I conceded. "But that Interpol remix we were talking about - it's definitely by Mmoths, not by Burial."

Alice smirked at me from under her twist-out. "Speaking of which, have you heard from a certain bassist again?"

Like I hadn't been teased about it enough during the podcast - and I'd made Evie swear to edit those bits out! - she just couldn't resist getting in one last dig. But as my train wasn't due for another ten minutes, I dug in my jacket pocket and retrieved my iPhone, flicking through the email that had accumulated over the evening. "No, I haven't," I sighed, wondering why it was that I actually felt slightly disappointed by that.

"Oh well, there's my train. I gotta run!" Alice embraced me quickly, kissed me on the cheek and broke into a trot.

"Send my love to Robert!" I called after her as she disappeared behind the gate, then flicked through my iPhone to bring up the comment thread on AO3. Had I been too rough with him? Too rude? Maybe that 'sorry if my actions have hurt you but I have no intention of stopping' bit could have used some sugar coating. Ah well, it probably wasn't him anyway, and I had wasted my time arguing with some dumb hater. My train had finally arrived, so I found a seat and flicked idly through Tumblr, made a couple of snippy 'my god do Thameslink trains ever run on time to Herne Hill or is the whole line just cursed?' tweets on Twitter, and reblogged Sunita's announcement that the next Four Birds and a Box Set would be out as usual on Friday afternoon.

Evie was lucky, in that she had Friday mornings off, so she could sleep off her hangover and edit the latest podcast before going in to work to cover the late shift for what she called 'Midnight Drunk Court'. I was not so lucky, and was faced with a pounding hangover, and a frenzied rush to make it to work on time. I grabbed a takeaway breakfast on my walk from the bus stop, and ate it at my desk, blearily rubbing my eyes as I checked my work email - no major crises, thank god - then logged onto my personal gmail. My eye went straight to the new message at the top.

Archive Of Our Own: Carlos Dengler replied to your comment on Exquisite Corpse

Oh, fuck. I was not in the mood for this. Not now. Really, I should have left it until after work, should ideally have left it until after I had gone home and got a decent night's sleep and slept off my hangover and restored my sense of humour. But no, I couldn't help it, I compulsively opened the email and read the new comment in its entirety. The first thing that confronted me was my own name - not even my screen name or my AO3 author name, as I used "Pace Is The Trick" for all of my Interpol fan fiction, and "The Morgon Ambassador" for all of my Space Station Nebuchadnezzar stories. What the fucking fuck?

 

Margaret from Four Birds and a Box Set sat on the N68 bus to Herne Hill, clutching the exceptional South African Merlot she had purchased earlier at Vinopolis. She cackled as she leafed her way through The Cliff Notes Guide To Post-Modernism, looking for more ersatz philosophy to twist into justification for her favorite hobby. Her favorite hobby, of course, being ruining the lives of any unfortunate men whose 'celebrity' she deemed interesting enough to 'interrogate' with her depraved and disgusting sexual imagination. For sexual imagination was all she had to go on these days, her last few dates from OK Cupid and Tinder having ended in disaster, embarrassment, and a considered re-evaluation of whether heterosexuality was really for her, or if she should pursue her rampant lesbian crush on Tilda Swinton. If lesbianism was the way forward, which was certainly in alignment with her Marxist Feminist principles, she certainly had a choice of lush beauties from her fellow Vloggers at Four Birds and a Box Set!

Do I need to go on, or have I made my point perfectly clear?

Carlos.