Tweet. Swipe. Beep.
Katrina's eyes remained transfixed on the screen. Only once in the last few months had her faithful electronic companion left her side and that had been when it was hurtling towards the face of her not so faithful ex-boyfriend.
No damage had been done however, well not to the phone anyway, and now she was determined to show him she'd moved on. When her Dad left for Paris on business, Katrina had decided to spend the night at the family's luxury, secluded beach house with her new boyfriend, Kent. Her sleazy bastard of an ex would see the pictures, read the updates, realise what a fool he'd been. Who cared if Kent didn’t actually exist? That was beside the point.
The thick oak door slammed shut and she glanced down anxiously at her phone as the dormant Wi-Fi box spurred into action. A few breathless seconds passed and then success! She was connected to her higher power. Boredom, that greatest of 21st century travails, staved off momentarily.
The first thing Katrina opened was Facebook. She sighed ... only five likes on her new profile picture... she shouldn't of worn the sunglasses. People always said how nice her eyes were. This was embarrassing. She acted quickly, deleting and then reverting back to the twenty-liker Cheryl had took that night in Tiger Tiger when the nipple of her right tit was partially exposed.
It was time to implement phase one of operation 'fuck that scumbag'.
Tap Tap Tap.
‘Having a gorge weekend with [email protected] wharf, Tweedview.’
She dropped a pin of her location in the virtual map and the update pinged out into cyberspace. The news would quickly reach her ex. That little pin would be like a dagger through his heart.
The interior of the beach house could best be described as rustic lavish. When the refurb was taking place much thought had gone into preserving the natural feel of the centuries old structure. The floor, the couch, the tables and chairs were all made of a wood designed to look as though it had been salvaged from the beach and not bought from the local timber yard. Any potential guests, or indeed the National Heritage Trust, didn’t need to know that most of the original materials had been stripped out and dumped along the coastline.
It was 5 P.M. and the autumnal sun was beginning its sharp descent toward the horizon. Katrina opened her Instagram and began browsing Kim Kardashian’s page. She showed an almost religious level of adherence when it came to paying homage to this contemporary celebrity goddess. There's was a complicated relationship however and when perusing her pictures, Katrina's feelings fluctuated somewhere between love and hate, usually settling on a kind of seething, broiling jealousy.
'What a fat-arsed bitch,' she muttered silently, grinding her teeth.
If this vacuous, judgmental gaze had ever been cast upon herself she may have observed that perhaps she'd trampled upon and then crossed the line between curvy and chubby; under the ridge of wide hips stood short, bulging thighs and calves compressed into thick ovals. When upright, her stomach folded into two rolls, doubling to four when she sat. Her breasts were large and well-shaped but a cup size bigger than nature intended. Her hair was bleached blonde and supplemented with extensions procured from all corners of the Third World.
A slightly rounded face gave Katrina an almost naïve quality and people often described her as cute. In her late teens she set to remedy this by pasting herself in foundation, blusher, and wearing enough fake eyelashes to make the act of blinking a challenge.
She launched Spotify and set to work preparing some pasta. Who would Kent listen to she pondered? The Arctic Monkeys?
‘Feeling rocky with Kenty :p’ she daubed across her Facebook wall before turning the sound to mute as the music played on in the minds of her friends.
Once the food was done she found herself experiencing a strange sense of satisfaction. Usually she just ordered takeaway but here there were no restaurants for miles around. For a brief moment she contemplated a life in which cooking her own meals became commonplace...And then as quickly as the notion appeared it evaporated and was replaced with the conundrum of how best to photograph her creation. What angle would best compliment the indentation of the tortellini? She pondered.
Twenty minutes later: ‘My other half is good to me Lol.’ Katrina captioned the picture of the now lukewarm pasta.
She checked her messages again. There was one on Facebook and one on Tinder, both from the same guy. Initially she'd swiped right but then they'd met and it was obvious he used the same camera tricks as her in his 'DP'. She'd agreed to meet once more after that when he offered to pay for dinner but then he'd came on too strong.
From the comfort of the sofa she glanced up from the screen as the dying light of the day poured through the giant front windows. The sky remained cloudless save for a few sharp cirrustic cuts slicing through the yellow centre of the buttery sun. The light radiated outward from this focal point in a cacophony of colours smearing the ceiling of the world with smudges of orange, pink, blue, purple and finally black as it died in the east.
Across the gently undulating dunes, the only landmark was the silhouette of some Celtic ruins. What a view they must have had, safe from distraction, lost in the fireworks of creation.As Katrina gazed into that sunset something flickered momentarily in her soul. It was like a shockwave through time, a fleeting glimpse through the eyes of ancestors who had once witnessed that great fiery beast fall into the sea and plunge the world into darkness.
Rising up from under the layers of civility, came the wails and cries of those primitive forbearers calling out to their shamanic Gods. She felt in unison with that great unknowable force which amazes and terrifies and intrigues, which fills a person with a yearning and a belief that it may be possible to transcend the material world around us.
She unlocked her phone and trained a lens upon the sky.
An image appeared on the two by four screen. Although the colour remained, the shades of meaning had vanished, any truth or beauty washed out by that blinking eye which looks but does not see.
Type. Type. Type.
‘Such a pretty night down by Mariners wharf#beauty#love#stunning#paradise.’
She ran the picture through some filters and decided on 'vintage'. A few minutes later and the phone vibrated. Katrina quivered with excitement, opening the fresh comment.
‘Is Kent as bored with you tonight as I am?’
She looked away in disgust, mouth ajar, ready to communicate her anger to a boyfriend that wasn’t there. 'Tom Wellbeck.' She enlarged the profile picture, bringing a thumb down atop his cocky, smiling face. She didn’t recognise him. He wasn’t particularly attractive and she had almost three thousand friends. If truth be told, Katrina didn’t actually know many people in her Facebook network, not that it bothered her. She was a performer and every performer needs an audience. She was in this for fans, not 'friends.'
‘Who r u like?’ Her fingers slashed across the screen, the left side of her glossed lips turning up into a snarl. ‘U fucking stalking my wall or summit?! U shouldn’t be looking.’
She waited in anticipation until the response came.
‘That's like pressing your face against my front window and being annoyed that I glanced over.’
Katrina tried to formulate a rebuttal in her mind but the idle cogs of her brain had long since been decommissioned.
‘Fuck off creep!!’ Her thumb hovered over the unfriend button ... No, she thought, this guy might pick an argument in the future. She wanted her public to know that she had a feisty side.
So the evening wore on and night draped its opaque veil over the deserted beach. The wind outside had picked up and the sand itself seemed to have come to life. Those solitary grains formed into vast dancing clouds blasting the side of the house before resuming their migration down the coastline.
Katrina settled down for a marathon of YouTube makeup tutorials. At around nine she realised that it had been half an hour since her last new follower, match, or notification. It was time for another selfie...
She turned the phone around, holding it at arm’s length and with ceremonial precision enacted a routine long since honed to a tee. Lips pouted, eyebrows raised, head tilted, chin down, she silently repeated the mantra. Katrina looked into the lens, that window to the world, basking in the gaze of an unknowable amount of eyes.
She waited pensively as the photo hung in the ether. The court of public opinion,the purgatory of popularity.
Suddenly, the lights went out. She jumped back in shock dropping the phone. And then everything was black.It was the kind of crushing darkness that seems to settle on the skin and turn drops of sweat into leaden beads. Katrina felt her heart rate rising. For the first time it dawned on her how remote the beach house was and how lost she felt without technology.
She fumbled around blindly in the cushions of an armchair searching for the phone and was overcome with relief when her fingers brushed the smooth chrome back. As she unlocked the screen light poured out into the room. It took a few seconds for her eyes to readjust.
She looked down at the image of herself frozen in time. The selfie from minutes earlier. Even in the midst of those disquieting shadows she couldn't help being drawn to her own gaze, that hypnotic beauty. But something wasn't right. She blinked hoping to dislodge the uneasy feeling and when her eyes met the screen again she froze in horror.
There, in the background, the face of a man peering out towards her.