Sentenced to Obscurity
A tortured tale of forbidden love that degenerates into a dystopian nightmare
Author Indigo Meier does not take risks, but he does have a furtive imagination that spawns the futuristic tale, 'Humanity's Sunset over Osaka Bay'.
His first mistake is to fall for an actress on hard times; the beautiful Charlotte Watson. The second is to allow her to be the only person to read his novel. All subsequent mistakes are written into a history that could destroy them both.
Humanity will never be the same
The future isn’t written, it is rewritten
The past was not written, it was designed...
Lost in time and confined by space
One captivated by another, captivating
A third captive in mind, body and spirit by his captor
Each writing the other’s future, while framing their past
“I’ve been contemplating book signings and burnings.”
Have you a book you wish to write; a signature to scorch?
“Yes, but will I get my fingers burnt? I know the penalties. They burn writers, don’t they… and their books? To imagine is obscene, to form the letters... heresy.”
What is a book, Citizen M-1K1?
“It is only words, am I not right?”
A book is an idea that infects the mind and once the words are in type, the contagion spreads to others.
“Is not Humanity’s Sunset over Osaka Bay full of ideas?”
As is every book, Citizen. I think you should enjoy the view. Osaka sets vermilion and marigold tonight; is your world not perfect?
“Yes, but I dream of a world wrapped in its own anomalies; of a wall within a wall, with humanity pouring through, yet banging their heads against it. There is a world on the other side, but I find it trapped within.”
It is forbidden for a citizen to imagine beyond the histories that are presented to you. Are you certain this is the story you wish to tell?
“The wall in my head is but the boundary of my tale. The story locked within is of a book, a tsunami of ideas, but I cannot see it clearly, for it has no home and is bereft of love. It is utterly alone, trampled beneath Bebelplatz glass by a million unseen feet.”
An empty bookshelf for tomes that no longer exist... that is an interesting concept. If only they were not forbidden. When is a bookshelf not a bookshelf, Citizen?
“When it is empty, when there is no book to reference another, and when the tale of one is lost within the pages of the other.”
Books always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told.
“Is this true of Humanity’s Sunset over Osaka Bay?”
There is no proof that those pages were ever written...
Rice paper musings upon signed book burnings and Berlin walls
Charlotte flipped the pages of the magazine to page 33. She had seen her face on many such covers and didn’t particularly like the picture chosen for this layout.
The article was more important.
How much had they actually used from the one-hour interview a week before? She felt the tension in her fingers
as they balled up. How had they embellished her words? So many quotes were butchered and placed in alternate
contexts. Did her past image match the novel she had just released? Would they praise the personality behind the
words or would the editor lean on her history as a hugely successful teen actor?
She traced her fingers across the image of the novel’s cover, which headed the interview. Charlotte
preferred the rice paper feel of the printed version, and wondered why so many readers
downloaded their reading material. A quick scan of the article was required for closure,
a word she had never applied to work before, even though all of her recent
relationships had been more like a day at the office. She turned the
page and delved into the first question, one she had been
asked many times since this interview.
CeleBrit Magazine: From child star to teen ingénue, from obscurity to sentences. Charlotte Watson
seems to have come full circle. Where does one get the idea for a book like Humanity’s Sunset over
Osaka Bay? What was your inspiration?
Charlotte: Inspiration? I’ve never thought of that before. I think writing is 1% inspiration and 99% desperation.
CeleBrit Magazine: Curious. Was life that bad for you? Or did you just miss the fame?
Charlotte: Was my life that bad? There are people far worse off than me in the world. Some who will never taste the
bitterness of the fall into obscurity, because they have been sentenced to that for their entire life.
Charlotte contemplated her statement, regretting the words, her fingers tracing a circle
over the final sentence. Words so misconstrued.
If only they knew.
She remembered the moment that desperation had taken hold, just over a year ago. It haunted her dreams every night and consumed her thoughts as she dropped her head into her hands.
“Show some surprise, girlie. It’s ten inches long for fuck’s sake. When was the last time you had something like that in your hands?”
The pulse that throbbed at the director’s temple was not unusual, but the feel of it in her hands filled her with disgust.
“I can’t, I just can’t.”
“You’re an actress. Yours is the face of a generation. They can’t get enough fantasy and sex, so give the punters what they want. What’s the difference between a moan here and a groan with a mock arrow in your shoulder?”
Charlotte knew she had to let the thing go. She couldn’t put it in her mouth or anywhere else for that matter. It was so wrong. The breasts she thrust out, as directed, looked childlike in comparison. There was only one thing for it; she tugged her strapless top into a more demure position and stood up, arms across her chest.
“You can’t? What choice do you have, girlie? Do we have to do the other thing?”
“No, no… leave my family out of it, Sergei. I’ll find the money.”
Captive: 2015 AD
The Boss belted out Born to Run in Indigo’s earphones as he pounded along the concrete path in the fading light. The street lamps failed to illuminate the track, their glow hindered by the clumped boughs of several Moreton Bay Figs. Rounding the base of the largest tree, he missed the convergence of walkways, as did another jogger who headed down from Manly Central.
Neither the dry-weave t-shirt nor the spandex shorts could save Indigo Meier from the concrete grazes and fabric burns as he tumbled arse over tit, but his clutch and roll saved the woman with whom he collided. Her tannin hair hung in a ponytail over his face and dripped sweat onto his nose. The same bodily fluids ran along her ear buds. The music so loud that P!NK was clearly discernible, despite the Boss leaking from Indigo’s identical set of head phones.
“I’m terribly sorry. Are you hurt?”
“Sorry?” Indigo’s natural huskiness, rarely heard over street noise, rose above the din of his iPod Classic, its screen shattered for want of an armband cover. “You oughta be sorry. Watch where you’re bloody going next time,
and get off me!”
“Yes, sorry. I usually take more care. Just didn’t see that the paths crossed.” The young woman scrambled
off her saviour and offered assistance. “Would you like a hand?”
Indigo propped himself up on his elbows, his head spinning. Furious about an accident that
should have been avoided, he couldn’t help but laugh at his own outburst and the ridiculous
situation. Life was generally more sedate. The young woman, who stood astride
his bleeding carcass, shook her head, bemused. Her spandex shorts and
singlet top showed no signs of the clash. The iPod strapped to her
upper arm perfectly encased and protected from the fall.
“A hand? I have two of those, and
yours are a bit
feminine for my liking. A few bandages would be better, and a name to put on the law suit.”
“A name... oh, Watson, Charlotte Watson.”
“Then call me Holmes.”
Charlotte grabbed Indigo by the waistband of his shorts and pulled. She required no leverage as her
action instilled an instant response. He leapt to his feet in a flash.
“That was sudden, Mr. Holmes.”
“You should be careful how you handle a man’s spandex, especially when you grab him so low.”
“I guess a girl never quite knows what its holding in, eh Holmes? Or should I call you Sherlock?”
“Indigo will do.”
Charlotte released her grip on the spandex, which snapped back into place. Indigo flinched. She smiled. Sweat beaded across her forehead, reflecting the bike-path light above.
“So, are you hurt, Indigo?”
“My legs are throbbing... all three.”
“The best remedy is to run it off.”
He clutched the material of his running shorts at the groin, stretched it out, and re-arranged himself. “Isn’t that for a stitch?”
“Why? Do you need one? Have I wounded you that much or stuck a needle in your pride?”
“That bubble burst long ago, luv. I could use a few stitches, though.”
“You men are so squeamish. How many kilometres you planning to run, or have you given up?”
Indigo bent over and stared down the path. “I planned to run ten.”
“How many have you done so far?”
“About one and a half.”
“OK, I’ll meet you at the park, if you can keep up.”
Indigo found himself at the butt end of a chase, but the view of his fellow runner in the Brisbane twilight was worth the extra stress on his aging knees. A solitary jogger, he relied on music as his companion. This evening, beneath the Moreton Bay Figs, with his iPod grinding to a halt, his only company would be his own footfall unless he caught up. His steps were light, ideal for sneaking up on his unsuspecting children. Soon in a groove, he matched Charlotte’s daintier shuffle.
The diminished light prevented further examination of her style. However, the five kilometre turning point completed the picture. Pausing for breath, Indigo discovered that his companion barely raised a puff, her forehead having produced little more sweat than it had when she dripped on him. He bent over, almost double, while Charlotte remained upright with hands on hips.
“Are you done, old man?”
“I wouldn’t call forty old. I’m just used to running on cooler evenings.”
“It’s never cooler here, or so I’ve been told.” Her English accent supported the notion she had to be a stranger Down Under. “Where do you come from?”
“I’m up from Melbourne, here on business.”
“That’s a long way to run, old man.”
“I was born to run, but are you game?” He straightened, sucked in his stomach, and puffed out his chest. “I’m heading back to the Yacht Club.”
“Give yourself a moment. I need one too. It’s no good killing yourself. This is supposed to be enjoyable and good for you.” Judging by her stalling tactics, she knew his fitness level did not match his time target. Mouth to mouth could be an option if his heart gave out. She continued her attempt to distract him after a short pause for breath. “Did you sail into the yacht club or is that just where you left your car?”
The question had an alternate answer, yet Indigo settled for one of the two provided. “My car’s parked there.”
“See? Not so hard. Now you can speak without gasping for air. Come on, then. It’s five kilometres back,
by your reckoning, and it’s already too dark to run without banging into someone. You might require CPR
Charlotte led out. Together they merged with a dozen other joggers, along with those
seeking a meal at the restaurants facing the Manly foreshore. Hunger forced their pace.
Following a long day, Indigo’s nostrils were already flaring at the thought
of Chinese, Italian or a fresh meal of local seafood.
The sweep of Moreton Bay, here at Manly Harbour, had been neatly
trimmed by bike paths and walkways. The beach, no
more than the remnant of a muddy swamp,
camouflaged by the yacht club
and its row upon row of million dollar boats.
Manly Marina signified the ten kilometre mark. The Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron to their left
and the Manly Marina Cove Motel to the right. Indigo inspected his iPod Classic one last time, resigned
to the fact it could not be repaired. The significance of his action creased the brow of the younger woman’s face,
yet she avoided the topic.
“Was that really ten kilometres?”
“According to my inbuilt odometer.”
“How ironic, this is my stop.”
Indigo raised his eyes from the shattered iPod. “Come again?”
“This is where I’m staying.”
“So the car is just a ruse?”
He offered a weak smile. “No. It’s over there — the crappy work ute.”
“Which boat is yours?”
“Boat! Jesus luv, that’s a bit toff. I’m staying at the motel. I’ve never been into water beds. You won’t find me seasick in wet dreams.” Indigo allowed his mind to drift back to breakfast. He had not seen Charlotte amongst the small gathering. “You’re not seriously sleeping on a boat?”
“Why not? The weather’s good. I’ll be rocked to sleep and there’s no road noise.”
“Hope you’ve got a bucket.” Indigo waited for the penny to drop and, as the smile crept across her face, he continued. “Did you sail here from England?”
Charlotte shook her head. “No, only from Sydney. I did fly in from London, though. When did you guess?”
“At ‘I’m terribly sorry.’ I’ve been to the Old Dart a few times, so I’m well accustomed to Pommy accents, and no one says terribly over here. That’s tantamount to oopsies when someone bowls you over.”
She ignored the jibe. “Were they business trips to London?”
“Nope, purely pleasure. I couldn’t imagine flying all that way without seeing something interesting at the end.” Indigo tucked his mangled iPod into his bike shorts. “Thanks for the designer screen, and the company, but I have to check in with home and find somewhere to eat. Nice to bump into you.”
Indigo gave Charlotte a lame wave and headed into the motel reception. Half an hour’s drive from the office, three previous visits to the area had proved the amenities were worth the distance. Brisbane traffic was nowhere near as diabolical as the Melbourne rat race.
Reception had been vacated for the evening. He wandered through and made his way up the main hallway. His room felt stuffy in the humidity, as expected, so he threw his iPod on the bed, switched on the air conditioner and examined his injuries; nothing a good shower wouldn’t remedy.
* * *
Indigo’s iPhone dripped with sweat as he held it to his ear. The nightly call to his wife, sixteen-hundred kilometres south in Melbourne, obligatory; the balmy atmosphere out on the motel room patio, more relaxing.
“It’s about thirty degrees, but it’s already dark. One day these bloody Queenslanders will cotton on to the benefits of Daylight Savings.”
“Did you get a run in?”
“Yeah, got bowled over by a woman running across the track.”
“I’m OK, but she killed my iPod.” Indigo caught the significance of the silence that followed. The device
had been the parting gift from his former employer, after fifteen years of unappreciated dedication.
His new company was a former customer who had poached him. They paid him more for fewer
hours with less stress. “How are the boys?”
“They’re in seventh heaven — school holidays, remember. It’s all Xbox, Game Boy 3DS, and
computer games. Christmas can’t come quick enough. They need new games.”
“They ought to get out in the backyard and play cricket.”
“And who’re they gonna do that with if you’re up there having a
“Yeah, real good time. Five o’clock start,
ten-hour work day and dinner alone. Have you got any idea?”
“All I know is dinner’s ready, I’ve got three hungry boys champing at the bit, the
dogs are giving me the shits and it’s getting cold.”
“Fine, I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Don’t put yourself out, Indi.”
He hated this part; the accusations of abandonment, even though he only travelled four times a year, and
the sour click at the end of the line. He couldn’t remember how often he’d tossed his phone into the bank of pillows
on a motel room bed. He would have now, except for the knock on the door. Eyebrows raised, he checked his post-shower appearance in the wardrobe mirror as he walked past, and reached for the door handle. The weight of these fire-rated doors provided continual bemusement, as did the face on the other side.
“I counted the windows from the front door after you turned your light on. Had a quick shower on my boat, thought you might like some company for dinner. I know I would. Oh, and my shout. That is what you Aussies say, isn’t it?”
Indigo stood in the doorway, speechless. The trim, spandex form Charlotte had cut on the running track, had been supplanted by a young woman in a tank top, a pair of shredded jean shorts, and thongs decorated with daisies. Her hair had been let loose, cascading to one side of her neck, and she tugged at the damp locks.
“Your shout? I don’t think so. I have a company expense account. You paying would be a waste.”
“So, that’s two for dinner?”
“Why not? I just need some sandals. Come in while I find them.”
Indigo kicked his sweat-encrusted running gear from the middle of the floor and threw a pillow over the boxer shorts he would sleep in. His laptop sat open on the king-sized bed, flashing through pictures from his most recent family holiday in London and Provence. His notepad and some loose A4 sheets, crudely scribbled upon, were strewn beside it.
“Is that your work?”
“No, that’s personal stuff, Watson.”
“Two jokes made of my surname. How many more do you have up your sleeve?”
“I have very long arms.”
“No you don’t, you’ve worn them down with all that scribbling. Can’t you use a computer?”
“I’m all thumbs.”
She stepped closer to the bed. “That’s a lot of writing for something personal. What are you working on, a non-nuclear proliferation treaty, or world peace?”
“Hardly, it’s just a novel.”
“I thought real writers were ghosts. Is it your first?”
Charlotte picked up the notebook. “Are you published?”
Indigo cringed. “No, no one knows I do it. I sent the first one to a few publishers five years ago, but you know how that goes. It’s just what I do when everyone’s asleep, or during my lunch hour. It’s nothing special.”
Indigo tugged the notebook away from his visitor and changed the subject. “What do you feel like; Italian, Chinese or some local seafood?”
“Definitely local seafood; while in Rome, you know.”
“Excellent, I know just the place.” Indigo affixed the final Velcro straps to his left sandal and threw his notepad on the bed. “My boss introduced me to this restaurant. It’s a bit swish, but not expensive. He insisted on three courses, but stressed ‘what goes away, stays away.’ Of course, I told the missus about it. She wasn’t impressed — doesn’t like missing out.”
“Did you make your call?”
“Did you mention me?”
“Yeah, the Pommie broad who knocked me for a six.”
“Ouch. Come on then, it’s a lovely night for a walk and I want to hear about these
mysterious books of yours.”
“It’ll be a boring walk if that’s all we talk about.”
Charlotte cocked her head.
Indigo could not resist playing her bravado back on himself. “If
you insist, but you’ll be reaching for a steak knife to
end it all by main course.”
He led Charlotte back along the foreshore to the crossing where they had
collided. The irony was not lost on him, for the restaurant Indigo had suggested, the Manly
Fish Café, stood across the road.
Being such a balmy night, they were offered a table out on the footpath. The couple chose alternate
pasta dishes for entree, but Indigo insisted Charlotte choose the Moreton Bay Bug Ravioli.
“You’ve not eaten in Queensland until you’ve had a bug, so you have to have that. And these guys have their
own special take on Sand Crab, in a lasagne. I’ll have the Barramundi and you can sample it; nothing like an Aussie speciality. If you’re up for it, the desserts are to die for.”
“What, so I can explode from eating too much?”
Indigo raised his index finger to his mouth. “There’s always the super model one-finger salute.” He shot his companion a look. She rolled her eyes and sat back.
“How long have you known?”
“I guessed when you rocked up at my door, two and two, you know. Didn’t really put the face and the voice together when you were all pulled in with the spandex and sweating on me.”
Charlotte threw down her napkin and stood. “I think I should go. I don’t like being manipulated.”
“Please yourself. Shame, though. The food here’s really good and so is the company, when you get used to my quirky humour. You know, you’re not as vacuous as I would have expected.”
“Why? Because all teen movie stars are airheads?” Charlotte’s presentation of the stereotype came as more of a low hiss than an outburst.
“I thought you started a university degree.”
“I did. I even finished it, off campus.”
“Good to see you didn’t buy your mortar board. I sweated over mine for four years and then never used the degree.” Indigo tore at a piece of garlic bread. Charlotte sat. He found the moment quite surreal, much as he did most of his life; being just an ordinary guy with an everyday IT job. “Occasionally I have a highlight that’s little more than a dream the next day. I’ve seen some fabulous ancient sites. Been this close,” he held his arms out as if measuring a fine catch, “to Billy Joel twice, and rocked with the Boss three nights in a row. Those moments are more the exception. Even the births of my boys are surreal, although the rubbery sensation of cutting through an umbilical cord seems more tangible. Then there’s you. What the hell are you doing here, Charlotte? Why aren’t you in L.A. or Monaco being fabulous and famous?”
“Is that what you expect of people like me?” She paused as Indigo allowed a smirk to inch across his face. “Oh God, you were joking. I’m still learning about your Aussie humour. My friends warned me.” Charlotte sighed, and allowed a tear to escape her eye. He passed her a handkerchief. “I just needed a holiday. Can you understand that?”
“It’s the same for everyone, and there’s no better place. Queensland; beautiful one day, perfect the next. Wipe your eyes, the entree’s here.” The waitress served the two pasta dishes with salutations and an enormous pepper mill. As she retreated, Indigo continued. “Soak in the atmosphere and forget about the world for a few hours, Charlotte. Enjoy the fresh sea breeze beneath a Moreton Bay Fig, tongue-tingling food and good company.”
She blew her nose and tucked his handkerchief in her shorts. “Well, you have perfected capturing the moment.”
“I’ve had my fair share. That makes me sound old, I know, but I’ve had dinner beneath the stars within the castle walls of Carcassonne. I’ve dined on baby octopus on a rooftop on the island of Skyros. There was a bottle of Chateau-Neuf de Papes serenaded by cicadas beneath the elms in Avignon, and there have been long, flat meatballs with fresh olive oil and tomatoes between the minarets of the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia during Ramadan. It’s easy to waste one’s time on this earth. So many lives appear more ordinary than they actually are.”
Charlotte stood, another tear caught in the lip of her eyelid. She bent down and kissed Indigo on the head; his fine spiky crop, flecked with salt and pepper, highlighting each moment of a life lived fuller than her twenty-five years of fame. “Thank
you for making me feel ordinary and unfulfilled. I needed that. I’ll be back in a few minutes, just going to freshen up.
Don’t let your pasta get cold because of me, and keep your mitts off mine.”
Indigo did not expect the young actress to return. He dug into his gnocchi as if he were dining alone; a state he
had prepared himself for hours ago. The bowl not yet empty when Charlotte returned. Without a word, she
tucked into her own dish, belying the ravenous appetite of a stone-faced catwalk prowler.
“I thought you famous types were supposed to sneak off to the loo after you’d eaten.” He waved
his fork towards the toilets.
“Enough. I’m an actress, not a model, and a healthy face comes from a healthy
diet. Now you’ve got me sounding like my mother. Do you always piss
people off so quickly? Why can’t you just be nice,
like you were before?”
“I’ve been nice all my life —