The Smoker Tapes (Part 2)
Pictured: The Smoker’s victim (1) at Pride, (2)in his dungeon, and finally (3)living his new life.
<The door opens, Eric walks across the room. The sound of him sitting down again.>
The Smoker: Feeling better?
Eric: How do I even know that you are The Smoker, anyway? How do I know that you aren’t just jerking me around?
The Smoker: Like I said, when the owner of this apartment gets here, I’ll be happy to offer a demonstration, provided he’s interested.
Eric: Well, you have to admit that this is hard to believe.
The Smoker: Of course it is. But just because something is unbelievable doesn’t mean it can’t be true. Hunter existed. All of the men I’ve helped existed. I exist. Why the sudden bout of doubt? You seemed inclined to believe me when we spoke on the phone.
Eric: A journalist has to be skeptical of his sources.
The Smoker: Ah yes. The only way to maintain your integrity is to challenge mine.
Eric: You don’t have to get upset. If you can’t corroborate any of this, then you’re no better than the men spreading legend on the street. You just seem more interested in offering embellishment.
The Smoker: I would call them details. Embellishment implies that I’m lying.
Eric: As far as I’m concerned at the moment, you might as well be lying. I think you’re just trying to shock me into believing you.
The Smoker: If that’s really what you believe, then we might as well stop this interview now. If my testimony has no worth, why seek me out in the first place? You were, after all, the one looking for me. I only contacted you after I heard that someone wanted the truth of things. Like I said, I’m happy to offer you proof when my friend returns. Why not give me the benefit of the doubt until then? At worst, I’m just a fool telling tales. At best, I’m the best story you’ve ever found in your rather lackluster career as a lifestyle journalist.
Eric: It isn’t lackluster–
The Smoker: It is lackluster, and you know it. If I didn’t know better, I’d almost say that you aren’t particularly interested in your career as a journalist. But if that were true, why pursue a story as big as this one, right?
The Smoker: So, while we wait for my friend, I assume you have a few more questions to ask.
<The sound of a notebook’s pages being flipped.>
Eric: How do you choose your…patrons? What do you look for in the men you change?
The Smoker: Well…that’s a bit complicated, actually.
Eric: Complicated how?
The Smoker: I don’t really choose my targets, exactly. I mean, that’s not precisely true. To say…maybe here’s a better way to put it. I can’t just walk down the street, smoking a cigar, changing men left and right. There’s only a small set of men who are even receptive to my assistance. And even then, not everyone in that set is interested in being helped. Not everyone in that set even has a problem that I can solve for them. So to say that I choose anyone isn’t the best way of putting it. It’s more like…there are some people who need help, and I’m the only person who can help them.
Eric: Alright then, so who can you help? What qualities do all of your patrons share?
The Smoker: Well, they’ve all smoked at some point in their life. I can’t do anything to someone who hasn’t tasted smoke before. While it isn’t a requirement that they be gay, I can’t do anything if the person isn’t at least open to the prospect of becoming gay.
Eric: So you make all of your patrons gay?
The Smoker: Considering the sexual nature of my work, it’s hard to imagine how they could turn out any other way.
Eric: Anything else?
The Smoker: Well, they all have a problem. Or rather, they all have a problem I can solve. A problem with themselves…..Again, it’s hard to explain. They have to be dissatisfied with their lives, or with their bodies, but it’s more complicated than that even. They have to be willing to sacrifice, they have to give up and not look back.
Eric: And how do you know when you’ve found someone who you can help?
The Smoker: Well, usually they find me. Or rather, I attract them. The legend attracts them, rather. But when I meet them, I…well, when I meet them, it’s not that I can read their minds exactly, but I can sense their problem and how to solve it. That’s a rather inelegant way to put it, unfortunately, but the details of the process aren’t really…it’s rather unconscious.
Eric: None of that made much sense, unfortunately.
The Smoker: Well, it isn’t something I try and articulate very often. You do something so many times, it becomes a part of you. You don’t think about it anymore. It can become rather dominating at times, and you forget that things could have been any other way. So trying to explain it, is difficult. Perhaps if I used an example.
Last year, during the summer–during pride weekend, actually–I wandered through the street fair in the afternoon. That’s usually how it starts, I end up wandering somewhere with no particular goal in mind, but I’ve come to recognize the sensation of being pulled towards someone who’s looking for me. And in the mob of people, in the street, I saw a young man, beer in hand but not comfortable with it at all. Not comfortable at all, with any of it, and looking at him, I could just tell everything about him. Just started college, but uncomfortable in his own skin. Gay, a virgin, no confidence, desperate for attention and control over his life and situation but he was too busy doubting his own ability and desire to actually attain anything. Overbearing mother, distant father, seeking approval from older men and hating himself for it. Unhappy with his body, but lacking the discipline and determination to change it. Caught at a crossroad, unable to decide where to go. He was lost, and he saw me standing there, smoking a cigar, and I saw this flourish of jealousy there. He wanted what I could give him–well, what he actually thought was, “I want what he has,” but he got the next best thing.
I don’t know if that actually clarifies anything or not. But that’s what it feels like, finding a patron.
Eric: And what happens then?
The Smoker: Well, then I offer them help. In that young man’s case, he was rather belligerent. He didn’t want to admit to anyone that he needed help. Actually, he was one of the harder cases I’ve had recently.
Eric: What was so hard about him? From the way you talk, it doesn’t seem like there’s much anyone can do to stop you.
The Smoker: Well, I do require consent, but even with consent, there has to be acceptance. There has to be a desire to leave the old behind and welcome in the new. But once consent is given, and once the process begins, there’s no going back. It just makes it all the more difficult for me. Hunter, and men like Hunter, the easy ones, they take a matter of minutes or hours. The hard cases, like that young man, they can take days. The longest I’ve ever had took close to three weeks to finish up. Anyway, when we talked in the street, he refused help, but I offered him my phone number and he took it. A few days later, when he was drunk, he called me and wanted to know more. He eventually consented at my home, but in the middle of the process, his doubts and fear stepped in and fought back. I had to go to some…extreme measures.
Eric: Like what?
The Smoker: Well, I have an extensive dungeon in my basement, something I’ve assembled for hard cases. I kept him locked in a cell–he’d already changed quite a bit at that point. His body had grown heavily muscled, but completely hairless. In fact, his body was almost there–it was his head that was fighting back. And so…I made him start masturbating his brains out. He was jacking off almost constantly, and as he came, over and over, the air saturated with smoke, he just got dumber and dumber, and eventually he just lost the will to doubt. He lost all reason to fear. I had to put something else in there of course–he grew into a very aggressive, domineering top. Skinhead, dresses all in leather, keeps a number of slaves now, chain smoking unfiltered cigarettes. He’s very happy, but it was a lot of work getting him there.
Eric: That doesn’t sound like consent, that sounds like kidnapping and torture.
The Smoker: Well, perhaps, but that’s all the consent I require.
<The sound of scribbling, a page turns.>
Eric: There seem to be a lot of rules involved in your work.
<A short silence.>
The Smoker: Nothing. Nothing at all. What’s your next question?