Fiction: Sunglasses

Warning: This story contains content suitable only for an adult audience

A slow, belligerent line of air-conditioned traffic bisects a shopping precinct

Astride a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, painted talons tap absent time to a bossa nova version of ‘Sympathy for the Devil’

A white gold chain rests on waxen pectorals and an empty macchiato sits impatiently next to a saucer containing a single, half-eaten macaroon

Darren’s sunglasses reflect the pedestrians who wander past in irregular groupings

Josephine is absorbed in a wireless conversation and snickers

Darren wonders what is so funny but is cut off with a silent shake of the head

Darren stares at a homely Scandinavian waitress and imagines raping her on the counter

Two teenagers clop past playing grownups, earrings, fake tan and affordable fashion

One is wearing a short, tight, white dress with side-vents like gills, the other, less

She eyes Darren

Josephine remains hunched into her mobile

Graffiti-printed, knuckle draggers ogle her and she drains her half-empty glass in recognition, gaze affixed to the blue and white interface

Josephine is one cursed with such beauty that she spends large amounts of time engaged in close examination of the pavement

They are husband and wife

They are Josephine and Darren Blakemore

They own a chain of vitamin retail stores and in the sense that one can take one’s work home, each day begins with a handful of A, D, E, B9, B12, Zinc, Omega 3, C, probiotic, prebiotic, calcium and spirulina

The containers take up large amounts of shelf space in their apartment

White silos of inner peace

In case of emergency, Josephine carries a small canister of multi-vitamins in her handbag at all times

They stand to depart

Darren leaves a generous tip and what he regards as an even more generous mobile number

Josephine remains poised to strike the virtual keypad and they walk in silence, back towards their home

An invisible vagrant plays a three stringed guitar

On the penultimate floor of a blue-glass monolith named Metropol, the city’s botanical gardens foreground an orderly skyline that shimmers under the pale crystal of a cloudless sky

Josephine flops onto a black leather settee and Darren makes his way past the marble bench top to the fridge, sleek, silver, 5-star energy rated

Organic, low fat everything stares back and Darren decides he’s not that hungry

Josephine trades her mobile for a laptop

“Babe,” he says

“Yes?” she replies

“I’m going to the gym”

  “OK,” she says, before craning around to add, “Colette is coming over”

Darren doesn’t reply but nods and exits to get changed

He sits on their Egyptian cotton sheets and opens his computer


com inbox: zero messages

Assessing the ambiguous photos, his pointer lingers above hotMILF76 but footsteps prompt a speedy exit

Josephine’s sparkling blues eyes regard him

“Darren,” she says with an air of crushing neutrality, “We need a new sofa”

Darren raises an eyebrow to inquire as to why, exactly, the sofa needs to be replaced

They bought it a year ago

Josephine had chosen it herself, there was absolutely fucking nothing wrong with it

“I think it’s ugly, it’s so… gauche, I don’t know, bachelor pad or something

We’ll go tomorrow and pick out another one, OK?” Darren consents and a small but genuine smile breaks Josephine’s face as she leaves

He reopens hotMILF76 and sends her a photo of his sculpted body, cock in hand, then erases the browser history

Darren emerges from the bedroom in a singlet and compression tights

Josephine is cutting her toenails on the couch and watching Oprah, the laptop deep in conversation

The lift is silent

The gym is empty

The walls are mirrors reflecting infinite running machines

Three large flat-screen televisions hang from the ceiling

A black man wearing a baseball cap stands in front of a Lamborghini

Ample-bodied nymphs writhe



Darren starts with a quick five K then moves on to tuning the finer points of what is already a high-performance musculature

Endorphins glaze his million-fold reflection, but Darren is shaken from his reverie by the entrance of Bradley and Jane Acton

Darren has known them for years

Brad and he were on the rowing team together at high school

Jane used to date an old friend of his, James Maxwell

Maxwell got a job with a mining company based in Sierra Leone, or was it Burma? She is the head of HR at a large bank

Brad is junior partner at a consulting firm

Like Darren, they are wearing black tights and matching singlets

“Hi!” they say

Hands are shaken, eyes met, cheeks pecked

“How is the lovely Josephine?” Jane asks

Darren says she’s great, really getting involved in the business

Brad asks after the vitamin trade

His deliberate use of the word trade irks Darren

It’s a business, you jug-eared cunt

The Actons mount the treadmills and begin to run, as one, left, right, left, right

“We must have you two over sometime for nibbles,” says Jane

Left, right, left, right

“Yes, it’s been far too long,” someone says, not meaning it

Darren makes a date to spite them

“Bye,” he says

Left, right, left, right, left

“Bye!” they say without looking around

Darren re-enters the apartment

Josephine is sitting where he left her but an empty teacup suggests movement

“Darren?” “Yes?” “We’ll go tomorrow instead OK? Can you find something to do tonight? Collette is coming over

” “I know

” Collette is Josephine’s best friend, confidant and enabler

Since age 12, they attended a school cloistered in the attitudes of a bygone era and burdened by an aesthetic sense to match

To watch a group of girls from Bayview Anglican Girls School walk down the street, or BAGS, as they are affectionately known, one might be forgiven for wondering if the portal that swallowed the class at Hanging Rock was ejecting them in all their wide-brimmed glory into the present

It may have happened that Collette and Josephine, upon meeting, recognised in the other the pain of unceasing visual molestation and became inseparable

Darren necks a vanilla protein shake as Josephine scrolls through thumbnails of replacement couches

The sun disappears under streaks of soft pink vapour and Darren is ushered gently onto the street

Showered and perfumed, gym clothes traded for stylish, laidback formality

What would he do till the BAG ladies were done? His phone rings


Yeah, I’m nearby, see you soon

” Thank god


Klein is sitting in a booth

There is an attractive infant beside him

Darren puts her at about 19

Klein is wearing a v-neck and pointed crocodile shoes, his hair cropped and blond

His companion is wearing a tube dress and slightly too much make up

She is Racquel

“Nice to meet you

Darren wonders if she likes to be slapped in the face and called names

He gets a bloodthirsty erection

Drinks come and a form of conversation ensues

Klein and Darren begin a long dissertation on finance and investment

Racquel nods along sincerely, doing her best to ignore the growing impression that these two have precisely no idea what they are talking about

The conversation moves to sport and although Racquel knows her footy, she keeps quiet, sensing rightly that a contribution is not required

She puts her hand on Klein’s leg and he slips her a little bag

Racquel disappears to the bathroom

“Where’d you find this one?” Klein waves away the question

Racquel returns, slightly elevated and Klein disappears

“What do you do with yourself?” she asks, twirling her straw in a vodka soda

Darren tells her

He doesn’t ask what she does with herself

Klein comes back and passes the bag to Darren

Six minutes later, a couple of key-loads latch onto Darren’s synapses and he leans against the cubicle wall

Things are going to be alright

Back at the table things have eased up, Klein and Racquel are chatting easily


They wave queasy, wired goodbyes

Klein slaps Racquel on the arse as they leave

Darren walks home through the warm night, weaving through the scum, the prospect of the BAGS beginning to weigh heavy on his mind

A Racquel clone waves down a taxi and is bundled in by a hairless boy

Spiky haired trash vomits in an alleyway

Darren wishes he had a gun, he’d shoot the fucking lot of them

Darren opens the door to the apartment and is hit by a nauseous wave of Britney Spears and Sauvinon Blanc

Collette is dancing to ‘Toxic’ and Josephine is bouncing on her large exercise ball

She slips and falls, sprawling

The two of them roll with laughter

A third bottle of wine sits open but untouched

Darren sits down across from them and feels the atmosphere leech from the room

“Hi, Darren

” “Hi, Collette

” Collette’s eyes inquire as to why exactly he is sitting there so he goes to bed and the cackling ensues

Darren awakes early and alone

The apartment is empty and he calls Josephine

They are getting coffee

She doesn’t ask if he wants one

He masturbates then showers and inhales a handful of vitamins

They are meeting at 11am to pick out a new settee

Josephine is standing waiting on the corner when Darren arrives

She is wearing sunglasses and chewing gum

She looks pale

Paler, that is

Darren is assaulted by a feeling of tenderness and tries to take her by the arm but she slips out and they walk north across the river

Halfway across the bridge, Darren is beset by an acute sensation that his internal organs are about to spill out all over the pavement

He puts one hand up to his cheek and another across his stomach, which draws a quizzical flash from Josephine

Reassured he returns his hands to his sides

A tram rolls past

The store is called Urban Lifestyle Solutions

It is a cavernous, artfully lit warehouse space of two stories, connected by a spiral staircase

Shiny, tasteful, beautiful objects executed in mattes, chromes, woods, leathers, bone, black, silver, earthen hues, splashes of retro colour, soft curves, geometric conjunctions, unfinished lines, sophisticated textures and symmetrical classicism

Darren thinks it seems dark compared to outside

They are the only customers

The shop assistant is Chinese

She is average looking and bored

Her parents own the place

She is wiping things down, polishing, adjusting and pays them no attention

That is fine

Josephine begins to wander among the sea of objects, running a hand across this, tweaking that, eyeing another

There is something regal about Josephine when shopping, something commanding, magnetic and totally self-possessed

Darren follows slowly behind, almost on tiptoes

As Josephine is considering a wall unit, the same sensation that afflicted Darren minutes ago returns with intensity

His pulse quickens and a cold sweat spreads from his toes upwards

He clutches at his sides to prevent his liver and stomach from being ejected into a dish of silver apples

He looks up at Josephine

She is at the end of a long tunnel fondling a vase; she splits into two, four then eight

Darren chokes back a rising tide of vomit and inhales, slowly and deliberately

Josephine has become one again, but the situation for Darren is getting worse, not better

Deep, otherworldly laughter echoes amid the chatter of ten thousand malicious gnomes

He staggers off behind a dressing screen, collapses into a white sofa and stares out onto the street

The cool leather provides temporary relief, dampness beads on his forehead

Josephine hasn’t noticed that he’s gone

People give him strange looks as they walk past, then his torso explodes as if he’s swallowed a hand-grenade

Darren emits a small gargle as he watches pieces of his intestinal tract slide down the glass

A kidney has managed to stick to the window like a bloody little limpet and streaks of gore thin out under the influence of gravity

One of his lungs has remained attached and hangs out the side of his shattered ribcage

He glances down as it inflates and deflates

It makes a wheezy bubbling sound

More people walk past but they don’t seem overly concerned

Iris and Josephine are talking about Eames chairs in glowing tones

Iris says her parents have a couple which raises her high in Josephine’s estimation

The conversation is cut by a shuffling sound coming from behind the ornamental screen at the front of the shop

Darren, now mysteriously intact but naked, creeps into view

Josephine’s jaw drops, her piece of chewing gum falls in slow motion to the floor and she reaches automatically for the multivitamins, obliterating three with a furious crunch

Iris’s eyes widen and the two of them rush toward him

“Darren!” shrieks Josephine as Iris backs away

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” The pile of guts has vanished, replaced by the clothes that Darren had been wearing, neatly folded

Darren’s eyes are closed, his mouth slightly open and his penis raging

Josephine reaches out and grabs his arm but he shrugs her off violently and shoves her to the floor

She hits the concrete with a cold smack and her sunglasses skitter away beneath a bedside table

He sways then shoots a jet of urine in a yellow arc out of his cock, shaking it around and painting the merchandise

Josephine pushes herself to her feet, clutching her wrist

She’s a tough one

“Darren? Honey?” she says in a soft, measured cadence, eyes shining

Darren doesn’t seem to hear but picks up a statuette and hurls it, using his considerable strength, at Josephine’s head

Fortunately, she was captain of the hockey team and ducks out of the way, and the statuette shatters a mirror

Iris is on the phone, shaking violently

Darren walks over to a large sofa set, a beautiful, minimalist thing, a paragon of form and function

He climbs up on the backrest and squats, balancing with his hands

He grunts and strains and splatters the couch with a jet of hot shit then falls back into it, rolling around, babbling and smearing

Darren is speaking ancient Sumerian

Josephine is crying

They are tears of rage

Iris has put down the phone and is hiding behind a pillar

Josephine chooses a ceramic bowl in the style of Wabi-Sabi, the Japanese art of the unfinished, $900 dollars and definitely a bargain

She stalks over to her shit-covered, soon to be ex-husband, who is laughing and stroking himself to ecstasy with both hands

Ever the pragmatist, she raises it high and brings it down with the force and accuracy of the natural sportsperson

Darren stops still then opens his eyes in a white room

He is in hospital

There is a policewoman in the corner

He jumps up and lunges for the exit, dragging the bed by his handcuffs

The cop gets up as Darren’s free hand meets her face as a fist and a sickening crack

She falls backwards, dead before she hits the floor

The room goes dark

Wytchfire crawls along the linoleum

Darren looks down at his wrist

The handcuffs fall apart and he makes for the door

Simon Toppin

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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