The Smoker Tapes (Part 3)
[Pictured: Max, in the process of being changed by the Smoker, and his final form.]
<Pages turning, an uneasy cough, most likely Eric’s.>
Eric: When is your friend supposed to come back?
The Smoker: Don’t know. Kind of depends.
Eric: And you were drawn to him already? But he hasn’t given you consent yet?
The Smoker: No. We’ve talked a bit about it, but he doesn’t quite know what I could offer him yet.
Eric: Do you, well, do you have any problems with the ethics of your work? After all, smoking kills many people every year, and here you are, turning men into heavy smokers. Does that ever bother you?
The Smoker: No, it doesn’t. In fact, I don’t see it as unethical at all.
The Smoker: People do dangerous things with and to their bodies every day. Smoking is just a risk, and it isn’t like the men I change don’t choose to partake.
Eric: True, but you’re vastly shortening their lifespan.
The Smoker: <Chuckling.> You’ve smoked before, I assume? Most everyone has at some point.
Eric: A few times.
The Smoker: And you knew the risks.
Eric: Of course, but smoking a cigar or some cigarettes is different from completely changing someone body and mind.
The Smoker: So, your concern isn’t really about the smoking, is it? It’s about the change itself.
Eric: I’m concerned about all of it. I don’t think this is a concern that can just be waved away with an appeal to ‘consent’.
The Smoker: Maybe not. It’s true that not everyone I help has a full knowledge of what they’re losing. But often they don’t really want to know–they just want help. And if they’re happier people when I’m finished with them, if I can make them happier…isn’t ten years of being happy better than fifty years of mild misery, boredom and frustration?
Eric: I don’t think that’s fair.
The Smoker: Back in the eighties, when I was still fairly new at this–still figuring out techniques, still sorting out what these men wanted from me…well, I made some mistakes, I suppose. I misjudged what people wanted. That’s where some of the rumors started. I remember one in particular, let’s call him Max, he was another tough case, but what he wanted was pretty simple. A big man, cigar smoker, a tough guy. Masculine and a cowboy. The Marlboro men were still around then, still seen, especially in gay circles, as these…paragons of masculinity.
Max consented. I was still new at this, and it took me longer, back then, to get things right. I kept him down in my basement, bound up, gasmask on, and I fed him smoke for days on end. It was like I was inflating him, watching the fat and muscle bulk up on his frame–fuck, it was sexy as all get out. But something I didn’t know about was happening too–he was getting older. In fact, he started out in his mid-twenties, and when I was finished, he was a six foot three, three hundred pound, middle aged cowboy, deep raspy smoker’s voice. He wasn’t happy to have lost thirty years of his life, but he settled into it, eventually. He grew to like it, the maturity.
<A moment of silence, and the The Smoker laughs.>
The Smoker: You know, some people actually like the idea of being older. It isn’t something to be terrified of after all. It happens to everyone at some point, and they can be the best years of your life. Why begrudge someone if that’s what they want? Max ended up wanting it–he just didn’t know that he wanted it. I could sense that he wanted it, and I gave it to him without knowing that’s what I was really doing. It all works out for the best in the end.
That said, the reason I was laughing is that Max’s story is that the first one that turned you on, judging by the hardon in those khakis you’re trying to pretend isn’t there.
Eric: It didn’t turn me on!
The Smoker: It’s ok to admit it. I already know.
Eric: I’m not, I mean…fuck, it’s so fucking hazy in here, could you put out that cigar for a bit?
The Smoker: I’d rather not, and I don’t think you actually want me to, either. Come on, you seem like the kind of guy who’s willing to light one up, probably around the poker table with a bunch of other guys from work, all of you trying to look more manly than you really are.
Eric: I mean, yeah, but that’s different, that’s–
The Smoker: Not that different. You’ve always smoked to seem older. Out behind the convenience store, with your brother’s friends, just twelve but wanting to be so much older, looking at them, turned on my their smoke before you even knew what being turned on was.
Eric:…How…How do you know about that?
Eric: How in the fuck do you know about that!
The Smoker: How do you think I know about that, Eric?
Eric: I don’t–I mean…
The Smoker: Do you mind if I ask you something though? Tell me, why have you never tried smoking a pipe? That’s what always catches your eyes and nose right? That sweet pipe smoke, you love it, but you’ve never tried it. Every time you pick up cigars for those poker nights–you always bring them, after all, as an excuse to smoke yourself–and you’ve looked at the pipes countless times. Why haven’t you ever bought one? Or even tried one?
Eric: I’m not going to talk to you about this.
The Smoker: Come on, I’m just curious.
Eric: How do you even know all of this about me?
<A long silence.>
Eric: Please, I just…I don’t understand…
The Smoker: I’ll tell you, but first answer my question. Why never a pipe?
Eric: ….Because….they just always seemed like something, someone older than me would smoke, but I don’t understand what that has to do with anything. But how do you know any of this? Did you investigate me or something?
The Smoker: Why were you looking for me, Eric?
Eric: That’s just another question, you said you’d answer.
The Smoker: Why my story though? Why this urban legend? Why are you looking for me?
Eric: I’m–I’m done with this, I’m getting out of here.
<The sound of Eric T. Standing up, hurrying to the door and leaving the apartment. The Smoker chuckles, there is the sound of someone picking up the recorder, and The Smoker’s voice is suddenly clearer, as though he is speaking right into the microphone.>
The Smoker: They always do this, this mock outrage. Storm off, pretend this isn’t what they want, but like Eric here? He just left all of his stuff. See, when they do that, it means that they only want to seem scared. They only want to seem uninterested in what I can offer them. It’s a show and a performance. After all, no one is supposed to want what I offer. Not really. Maybe as a fantasy, maybe as something thought of in the dead of night, as nightmare.
Just between you and me though, whoever might be listening to this down the line, I don’t have any regrets about this, about any of this. I mean, sure, I made a deal with the devil, I know that. I’ve ruined people’s lives–I mean, they wanted me to ruin them, but that’s no excuse, not in the long run. I can’t excuse that, I suppose.
But what about you, in there, on the other side, all those years later? What do you want? Are you looking for me? I’m not planning on quitting any time soon, just so you know. All those stories you’re hearing? All those rumors, old and new? Chances are they’re all true. Come and find me, if that’s what you want. I’m right here. I’ll be here for years to come.
Think it over. I have to get some things ready for when Eric comes back up here in a few minutes, once he’s done pouting, and pretending he didn’t make up his mind an hour ago.
<There are some muffled shuffling sounds, the click of a case opening and closing. A clack of something hard set down on the table. The Smoker sighs. Silence for a few minutes. A door opens.>
The Smoker: Welcome back, Eric.