You’re sitting in a grey, nondescript, four-door sedan with tinted windows and a worn leather interior next to your twin brother. The old streetlights, glowing eerily as if thirsty for power are casting a dim, atmospheric haze that fills the air almost against its will. The leather fingerless glove on your left-hand matches your black leather jacket and holds a cigarette – from the end of which grey-blue smoke spirals off and dissipates into the night through the passenger window, left slightly ajar. The familiar ocean winds that accompany life in the notorious seaside city of Knuckle Bay, have once more brought the midnight rains. As the droplets pair off and trickle slowly down the windscreen in gravitational matrimony, you flick the radio on to something rhythmic, something jazzy, something…cinematic.
Your name is Sal, your brother’s name is Sal, your father’s name is Sal, and your Grandfather was Sal Domino, the famous bear wrestler and founder of the family business Sal’s Meats, where you work your day job. A butchery which has provided a money laundering veil of legitimate trade for the real family legacy: The Domino Bros – historically some of the city’s heaviest heavies; unscrupulous, uncompromising debt collectors and hit-men for hire.
You mentally prepare for the job ahead. After picking out a sinew of home-slaughtered steak from between your teeth, you remove an old black and white photograph of your Grandfather from your beaten-up wallet and stick him pride of place on the dashboard. His monochromatic presence has long been a good luck charm on jobs, and serves as a visual reminder of the Italian family that plucked you and your Asian twin brother from mysterious obscurity and adopted you both into their inner circle all those years ago. You catch Sal’s glance in the rearview mirror as he pulls on his sweat and blood-stained Lucha Libre mask, a Mexican wrestling disguise that has become synonymous with your infamous, incognito negotiating techniques. You recognise the seasoned glint in his eye, the glint that means he’s flicked over.
It’s time to do business.
As Sal slowly creeps the car off the curb into the maelstrom of neon-coloured comic book turf wars, the Power Ranger heads on the dashboard begin to bobble and a narrator starts talking platitudes with a knock-off Tom Waits growl: “As the sun sets on Knuckle Bay, the freaks come out to play”. The city is rife with assorted clandestine sci-fi criminal activity from every conceivable walk of life, and tonight the streets are populated with a maelstrom of opportunistic criminals, cyborg police officers, perverted priests, corrupt officials, masked villains, hyper-coloured-clad skeleton pimps and alluring alien prostitutes.
The city’s power grid spends as much time off as it does on, keeping its inhabitants periodically lurching between a colourless world of contrasted black and white, and a disorientating structural mass of surreal colours. There is no public transport system, and what’s left of the infrastructure is in a constant state of disrepair. Gunshots followed by police sirens are an ever-present soundscape, an optimistic aural veneer on a city living in denial that there is some semblance of law and order. Your car heads towards Redfern, a notorious hotspot, as you direct your eyes out the window and take in the familiar surrounds. The bitumen still holds the heat of the day, allowing steam to cast a poetic haze over marauding groups of life-beaten men in trench coats, standing in circles, smoking cigars and bemoaning what has become of their lives. Billboards advertising inter-planetary trips for the social elite provide shelter for the homeless, where they seek solace from their alternate reality with whisky on their breath, exhaling tired vapour in spurts of sporadic, whispered conversation.
It’s just another night on the job.
You’ve been hired by a nefarious city counsellor who is heading up a secret project to silence the voices of the city’s artists, writers, intellectuals, thinkers and anyone with enough cognitive wherewithal to challenge and expose the injustices of the status quo to the city’s citizens. Crooked injustices that once revealed, could threaten the comfortably orchestrated living arrangements of all double-dealing politicians syphoning the life out of what was once a prosperous city. Sal passes you the briefcase holding the money and contract, which outlines the terms of the agreement and provides a back-story regarding the subject in question. You pop open the briefcase, count the down payment, study the enclosed identifying photograph, then read out the instructions. You’re not to hurt him, too much, but let him know his presence in Knuckle Bay is under threat, should he continue to dissect the social discrepancies and deconstruct the civil injustices of the city and its movers and shakers. It describes your target tonight, one James Jirat Patradoon, as:
“A skilful artist, who is sensitive to the social nuances of his environment and capable of comprehending and exploring a broad spectrum of expression. He is aware of the restrictions that operating in only one medium brings, and is cognizant to the fact that any medium is merely a vehicle for ideas, the vessel to express thoughts, tell stories and portray concepts. Frighteningly imaginative, he has created fictional worlds filled with character-driven narratives on a tapestry of appropriated visuals, contemporary digital mythologies and a stylistic flair that is second to none.
Patradoon is an artist with X-ray vision, with the ability to see through things for what they are, and a disposition that distils behaviours and contemporary trends into articulated pixels. He exposes truth, often turning the gun on his own intimacies by putting himself in the analytical crosshairs. Dangerously educated, he is an artist who has fostered and developed his creativity whilst immersed within intensive tertiary institutions. He celebrates, embraces and succumbs to the unknown, allowing himself to fall through the never-ending universe of imagination without fear. Patradoon is an artist who compares himself to the best in the world, and his lack of satisfaction with what he achieves fuels his need to develop as a creator.
He is operating on levels of hyper-awareness and reflection that most of the population will never know and have no desire to comprehend. His work is unapologetically bold, his portfolio reveals a true craftsman, who takes full responsibility for creating highly polished, resolved and dynamic works of art rich with painstakingly detailed line work – always challenging himself with ever more menial minutia. He is both a professional practitioner and a liberated artist, embracing the digital age and the creative experimentation which it allows, as well as celebrating art’s traditional hedonistic ideals unapologetically, devoting himself to a life of constant observation and communication.
As such, his continued presence in our city, is unwelcome….”
You finish reading the contract and click the leather briefcase closed as Sal pulls the car up at what the GPS (which has started to behave erratically) tells you is the correct address. You adjust your mask and finalise the plan with your brother, then step out of the car and survey the apartment building and its immediate surrounds. As you soak in the environment, intense waves of nostalgic déjà vu start to flood your consciousness – the gardens, the kids playing on the street, the arrangement of the windows and the names scrawled into what was once the wet cement all seem oddly familiar. You exchange uneasy glances with Sal, who is evidently feeling the same way. As your leather boots echo their way up the stairwell, the unusual feeling intensifies and you begin to feel light-headed, dizzy and disorientated. Drawn to the door, you let yourself in with a heightened sense of foreboding with Sal following closely behind. A bead of sweat trickles out from under your mask and you become aware of the sound of your brother’s unnervingly heavy breathing. The interior of the apartment is devoid of light and home to a disorienting, deep darkness. You fumble around in the lightless room and as your groping hands locate what you thought was a light switch, the physical realm to which you had become accustomed to, dematerialises instantaneously. You find yourselves alone in a stark white never-ending void in every direction.
An ethereal light emanates from the nothingness and the only thing you can see is a white desk and white chair with a large white computer screen on it; the screen-saver is cascading through space as if it’s never been interrupted. You approach the screen apprehensively, not sure if you’re dreaming, awake, tripping, dying or are arriving at the gates of a digital heaven. As you swipe the mouse and reveal the contents behind the stars, you become instantly, frighteningly and uncompromisingly aware that your sense of self and reality is not everything you’d been led to believe. Your life literally flashes before your eyes as thousands of deconstructed illustrations of you and your brother in various stages of development flick through the screen faster than you can comprehend. Your sense of reason struggles to grapple with the magnitude of the situation, the electrons in your brain react instinctively to the information your eyes are supplying. You feel weak, sick, stunned and anxious – as if you just received the answer to a question you never asked. Sal breaks you out of this trance by tapping you on the shoulder, all pigmentation has drained from his face and he looks as if he’s seen a ghost.
With his hand noticeably shaking, he slowly points to a note next to the computer which simply reads…“welcome home”.