As has become a tradition here's a sneak preview of my next story, Camera/Phone v2. This is the second story in my '1 hook/3 outcomes' project (read more about the concept here http://oliverclarke.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/1-hook3-outcomes-revision-to-my-endings.html?m=1).
The first story, Camera/Phone v1, is available for Kindle, iOS, etc and is free everywhere except Amazon for a limited period.
v2 will also be the first story I publish in my 'Story a week' project (see here http://oliverclarke.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/story-week-project.html?m=1).
Anyway, without further ado here's the first 25% or so. The full story will be published on Wednesday 4th July and will be free for the first week of publication.
It was when he saw the second album of photos that Alexi realised something was seriously wrong. The ones in the first album were bad of course, really bad, but they were a normal kind of bad. You could believe that the people in them were doing the things they were doing willingly. None of it was stuff he'd want to do but he wasn't naive enough to assume that the range of human experience began and ended with things he liked to do. He'd seen enough nasty shit on the Internet to know that there were a lot of sick people out there.
The second album was worse. The third album though was the one that made him start to doubt his own sanity.
The albums were all on a phone, one that Alexi and his friend and occasional lover Jackson had stolen from its owner that morning. It wasn't the first phone they'd stolen; they'd been doing it on and off for 6 months or so, more on than off recently.
Alexi got a nice allowance from his parents, the same parents who thought he was still attending all his lectures at Uni, but whilst that covered his rent and food it didn't stretch to weed as well. Besides Jackson got nothing from her parents. Nothing whatsoever from the father who'd walked out when she was a toddler and practically nothing from her alcoholic mother expect for a tiny room in her council flat and a lot of shouting. As a result of that Jackson stayed at his place a lot. He didn't mind that one bit. He'd been to her place just the one time and he could understand why she avoided it.
So the phone stealing helped pay for the extras he wanted and it helped him look after Jackson a bit too. They didn't just steal phones: iPods, iPads, bags... Anything they could grab and carry was fair game but phones were the pick of the bunch by far. With the advent of smartphones people carried their lives around in their pockets: bank details, photographs, calendars, emails. It was the email that was the most important part for Alexi. People didn't use it to communicate anymore, they used Facebook and Twitter, email was dead, drowned by spam and then replaced by the social networks. There was one thing they needed people still needed it for though and that was the same thing Alexi used it for on their phones when he stole them. Resetting passwords. Every website out there gave it's users a lifeline when they forgot their passwords. All they had to do was click a link on the logon page and it would send a link to their email address that let them change it. As soon as Alexi had someone's phone he could take over their online life.
That was one of the reasons he stole them. The money was useful, necessary some weeks, but the thrill of invading people's lives, discovering their secrets, was a drug he didn't think he could give up. There was a financial incentive to that side of things too of course, getting access to someone's Amazon account meant he could work his way through his wish list. Buying the odd book didn't compare to the thrill of finding out a really juicy secret about someone though.
Jackson enjoyed it too, loved laughing with him when he found something particularly disgusting, like the very serious looking business woman whose BlackBerry revealed that she liked being shat on. They'd even forwarded on some of those photos to her boss, although for all they knew he was the shitter.
There was another reason too, for both of them, the risk of the actual stealing thrilled them. It was exciting, like a free rollercoaster with a prize at the end of it. They didn't hurt anyone, just took things.
Alexi was sitting in his room, at his desk, laptop on, the stolen phone in his hand. Jackson was sitting on the bed watching Gok Wan. It was 2pm and they'd taken the phone at about 11am. It had been an easy snatch, he'd grabbed it out of the hand of a nervous looking man walking down a quiet street. The guy hadn't given chase. He had just stood their watching with a look on his face that looked smug rather than angry. As if he knew something Alexi and Jackson didn't. Alexis looked at him over his shoulder as the two of them run away laughing, buzzing from the adrenaline rush of the theft. The man watched them running, watched them closely as if trying to remember every detail, and then turned and walked away. Alexi couldn't decide if he was just resigned to the loss of his phone, happy to claim on his insurance and get on with his life, or if there was something else there.
They went straight back to his Alexi's place after stealing the phone so that he could get what he could from the phone quickly in case the owner decided to remotely erase the data. That was a feature most phones had but only a few people actually did it. Most just called their mobile company and got the SIM card cancelled. Still, Alexi didn't like to take any chances. Best to work quickly and then reset the phone himself, ready to sell it on.
While Jackson chilled out on the bed Alexi set to work, accessing a number of sites the owner was signed up to and changing his password for him. That done he changed the email address registered against the sites to anonymous one he owned. The details of all the new passwords he wrote in the little Moleskine notebook that never left his side.
Once he'd finished with the web he started looking at the owners email account. There was just the one on the phone and it was pretty barren, lots of mails advertising special offers but nothing of interest to Alexi. Nothing useful. There weren't any personal mails at all. Not a massive surprise but a little unusual. Most people had at least one with a photo from mum or collection of funny animal pictures. Unsociable guy. He didn't seem to be signed up to any of the social networks either. He had a MySpace account that hadn't been used in three years but that didn't count any more.
Alexi moved on to the photos, although he wasn't expecting to find anything interesting there. The pictures were very neatly arranged into 4 folders. They were named 'Friends', 'Fun', 'Meat', and finally 'Memories'. The phone had sorter the folders alphabetically. Alexi clicked into the first.
At first he thought he was looking at porn, and he guessed in a way he was. The overwhelming colour when he opened the album and saw the thumbnails laid out before him was pink. The pale blandness of caucasian flesh. There were flashes of red in some of the thumbnails too and Alexi avoided clicking on those for now.
The first one he clicked on opened up to reveal a woman, probably in her early twenties so a little older than Alexi. She was naked, standing in front of the camera proudly displaying her nudity. Her hands were on her hips and her head was cocked to one side, exposing a long expanse of pale neck, stretched tendons visible beneath the skin. She had a slight smile on her face and a glint in her eye. Although she was skinnier than he liked, almost anorexic looking, and had tiny breasts, Alexi decided that on balance he probably would have. He glanced guiltily over at Jackson but she was quite happily listening to Gok recommending the items EVERY woman needed in her wardrobe. She had a glazed look in her eyes that he knew meant she was pretty stoned already and he knew she'd sit happily in front of daytime TV for a couple more hours. The photos were interesting, and unexpected given how straight the phone's owner had looked, but Alexi wanted to have a look at a few more before he shared them. He clicked on another of the mostly pink ones at random. Another girl, naked as the first and posed similarly. This one was fatter, plump as a opposed to skinny with jet black hair and the excessive eye make up of a goth. Her chest was freckled and her pubic hair ginger so Alexi knew her hair was dyed, not that it really mattered. She was pretty hot, much more his type than the first girl. She was smiling, she looked happy in an expectant way, like something she'd been looking forward to was about to happen. What was it, he wondered, what was she waiting for, hoping for? He felt his cock harden a bit as he looked at her, she looked like she'd be fun.
He was getting into this now, enjoying what he was finding, it certainly beat the photos of people's dogs and kids he normally found on the phones he took. Over on the bed Jackson's phone rang and he heard her answer it. She spoke for a bit and then all of a sudden she was getting up off the bed. Alexi's thumb flew to the home button on the phone and he pressed it, clearing the photo of the goth girl from the screen and filling it instead with a grid of app icons.
"What's up?" he said.
"It was Jen. Come on, we're going out."
"I'm busy." he gestured at the phone.
"No fucking way, Lex. We're not staying inside all day. It's fucking gorgeous out there. Let's go get some beers and meet her by the river."
He let out a long sigh to let her know how pissed off he was but nodded. "Just let me do one thing." He found the settings app on the phone and switched it into Airplane Mode so the owner couldn't connect to it and remote wipe it. He didn't need the data connection to look at the photos anyway. That done he put the phone in his desk drawer and got up.