Quarantine Diaries Vol. III
Sex, Ghosts & Videotapes
Something tells me I shouldn’t go into the mansion. It is beautiful, no doubt, standing a proud three stories high and stretching across two long acres of crisp, sun-roasted land. With its sangria walls, black-tinted windows and eggplant purple roofs, the mansion nearly disappears into the backdrop of the night sky. A thin aura of light traces the outer edges of the building. I don’t know where the light is coming from, but as I look closer, my eyes catch the reflections of the stars in the windows. They stare back at me like a dozen tiny white pupils.
The thought strikes again- Don’t go into the mansion. Normally, I’d go with my instincts, but I can’t bring myself to pass up the opportunity to explore a place like this. I go inside, despite the hesitations.
The interior is just as extravagant- and just as purple- as the outside. It has many rooms, many long and winding corridors. But it’s hollow. Nobody is here. The maids and servants cook and clean and continue their service, but no family resides there. I venture out back into the maze-like garden. In the middle of the garden, hovering above what appears to be a stone fountain statue, is a pulsating ball of light. A ghostly figure is trapped inside, knocking violently against the shell of the orb, causing it to fly sporadically from one end of the garden to the other and bounce off the walls of the house. It’s clear that whatever is inside is desperate to get out. I turn around and try to find something, anything, I could use to help get the poor creature (or creatures) escape the orb. When I do, I see the staff standing around the garden, staring at the frenetic bubble. Some casually smoke their cigarettes, a few of the maids start crying. This is a nightly ritual for them. I ask them why this is happening, but they remain stone cold silent, their tired eyes entranced by the light.
And then something weird happens. All of a sudden I’m thrust back inside the mansion, only this time, I’m not myself. My lightly tanned skin is now wonder bread pale; my short frizzy hair is longer and straighter; when I look in one of the hallway mirrors, I see a different face with different eyes staring back at me. I’ve somehow become someone else, a stranger. Before my mind has the chance to process this, it begins to fill up with strange thoughts and memories.
My estranged “father” is dead. That I am now convinced. I want to know more about him, and know whatever secrets he has kept hidden from me. There’s honking outside. I walk out into the front yard and see my “cousin” sitting in a grayish green snowmobile, despite it not being winter and there being no snow on the ground. Doesn’t bother me for some reason. I hop on the back of the snowmobile and he takes me to my “father’s” house. I don’t remember what the house looked like, but I know it was just as empty as the purple mansion.
I run to one of the upstairs bedrooms and rummage through the drawers and closet. I find what I think is a box of old family videos. But upon closer inspection, I realized they are sex tapes my “father” had made with various men and women. Yep, turns out he was a sex addict. To make things more awkward, each tape is labeled as having a specific theme- cowboys and indians, Alice in Wonderland, circus acrobats, murder mystery, masquerade ball. It’s quite the eclectic set.
Just as I finish sorting through the tapes, his extended family busts through the door and storms into the room. In a collective uproar they demand that I not watch the tapes. The walls are practically rattling they’re freaking out so much. Annoyed, I call for a family meeting. I herd the group downstairs to the parlor room. We huddle together in a loose circle, and the family listens closely and calmly as I explain how upset I’ve been about losing the “father” I’d never known, and how finding the tapes has helped me learn more about him. When I reach the end of what’s supposed to be on a touching speech, the raisin-skinned patriarch of the group reveals the big twist- my “father” isn’t really my father. (Dun, dun, dun!)
I should be devastated. I should feel sad and bitter and shaken. But the news doesn’t surprise me. It’s more of a mild bummer, really. The family’s angry voices stir up again, this time directed at one another rather than at me. It’s impossible to make out what they’re saying. The speed and sharpness with which they’re spitting insults at each other reduces their voices to a deafening verbal mush. I can’t even get a word in. I try to settle them down, but the family won’t listen. They’re too far gone.
Accepting defeat and with nothing better to do, I go to the fridge and take out a chilled bottle of vodka and a 2-liter of brown soda. I march back upstairs to the master bedroom and close and lock the door behind me. While sifting through the neat pile of VHS tapes, one in particular snags my attention. The tape is as orange as a tangerine. A long strip of masking tape is stuck on the front with the title “Studio 54 + Burlesque” written in thick black marker.
Something tells me I shouldn’t watch it. That something is probably right. Nonetheless, I push the tape into the VHS player and press Play.