Blind Control

The throbbing of the plane vibrated the air gently as Alan watched Dima opposite. Fat and balding, he was quietly helping himself from the iced crystal dish on the round, wooden table to his fourth serving of blini with caviar. His slightly crooked nose and the scar across his top lip always gave Alan the impression that Dima was some corrupted and jaded middle-aged Buddha that had traded in his robes for a business suit.

Finished with eating, Dima took a drink from his glass of champagne as he leaned back into the dark brown leather sofa, and stared intently at Alan.

“Very good caviar, and the blini are excellent, Mr. Barter.” His eyes squinted quizzically, wrinkles forming across his broad forehead. “Or, as we are to do business, perhaps I can now call you Alan? ‘Mister Barter’ is very formal, no?”

“If you want.”

Dima tilted his glass, gesturing towards the table in front of them. “You are not eating?”

“I’ll wait.”

“You seem to be, how shall I say, lost in your mind?”

Alan reached out, took his glass, and had a sip of champagne, gazing unfocused before him. Finally, he looked up at Dima. “You seem to have an answer for everything.”

“And this is bad?”

“In business, that makes you a conman, an arse licker, or a salesman. You don’t look like the type of person who bows down for anyone, and it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between a conman and a salesman. So which are you?”

Dima ran his hand over his jaw’s stubble. “What exactly are you trying to say?”

“The problem is that I am the blind man in the desert, and you are a stranger promising water for gold.”

“And how does the stranger make the blind man see?”

“He can’t.”

Dima laughed, a short, punchy burst of noise that exploded into life. “Come now, you are rational, yes? Why cheat the man once, when you can show him and others to the water many times?”

“Maybe someone offered you more gold for the blind man.”

Dima leaned forward in his seat. “Stop this and listen to me. I sell a service. No trust and I cannot sell it. For me, I get what I want by giving you what you want. Understand?”

“Why should I trust you? You’ve told me nothing about yourself.”

“So, in your country, when you pay the lawyer or builder, you must know about him?”

“When it’s my life, I would like to know I’m going to get what I pay for.”

Dima shrugged and sat back in the seat again, hands clasped together on his lap. “Then what is it you wish to know?”

Alan stared at him for a few seconds, wondering just how much he should reveal. May as well be direct, he thought. “How does an ex-FSB man involved in private security and the Russian mafia end up as my contact for a medical operation that would get any British doctor stripped from his profession and thrown in prison for a very, very long time?”

He had hoped he would catch Dima off-guard, crack open that stone-like face just enough for a revealing hint of … something, anything. Instead, Dima let out another bellyful of laughter, almost causing him to spill his glass of champagne. The laughter died down, and still chuckling to himself, he grinned, this time with real amusement.

“It is true what they say about the British sense of humour. This is what’s been bothering you?”

“Partially.”

Dima cocked his head to one side slightly, his grin turning into a sly smile. “Do you know why you are here?” he asked, his fingers absently tracing the contours of the glass in his hand.

“Well, my wife –” began Alan, but Dima raised his stumpy hand and waved him into silence. He paused for a few seconds as he downed the last of his champagne, put the glass back on the table, and leaned back into the sofa once more.

“No, no, I know about Annette. She is frozen, lifeless, in London at the Cryo Labs. She is there, but you are here instead. So, no, it is nothing to do with your wife.” Dima jabbed his finger at Alan. “You are here for two reasons: security, and power. Your security, and power,” he repeated, leaning forward again, his rotund jaw set hard. Alan had the feeling that the interrogated had become the interrogator. Silence descended between them.

“How are you so sure?” asked Alan.

“You know what’s needed for transference, no?”

Alan nodded, looking unflinchingly into Dima’s eyes.

“In the FSB”, continued Dima, “in Chechnya, you see how far people go: theft, torture, rape … murder.” He reached out and began pouring himself another glass of champagne. “The reason was never, ever for anyone except themselves. Like you, now.”

Just at that moment, the stewardess came out pushing a trolley with two silver platters of steaming red lobsters in the middle of a ring of rice, covered in a rich, fragrant sauce that permeated the cabin. They waited in silence, eyes locked, until she had finished serving and left.

“So,” said Dima, “The answer to your question is not about me, it is about you. You will pay, do anything, for security. It is the same for the rich everywhere – and the rest, if they had the money. You come to me, because I can give what you want.”

With that, he reached out, picked up his champagne glass, and raised it in a toast.

“To security, so you can keep enjoying meals like this.”

Their glasses clinked, and with Alan joining in with Dima’s laugher, they sat down and ate the tender, white lobster flesh ravenously from its red shell.

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  1. […] Blind Control It seemed a lifetime away, but that was how he always remembered her: freckled skin, thinning, auburn-dyed hair, and a red lipstick smile full of life. Not like now. Did she dream in her cryonics chamber, he wondered – not for the first … […]

  2. […] claims regarding the defeat, or cure, of ageing fascinate me. In my most recent short story, “Blind Control“, I explored the idea of someone obsessed with the idea of extending his life, but I’ve […]

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June 30, 2008