Discover and follow our latest adventure,
The CatGPT Project

The Elsewhere

Lily Coyote
I – Just Opposite
‘Are you going to Elsewhere?’
Baffled by the strange question, Juliet stared at the young raven-haired woman sporting a nose ring.
‘Excuse me?’
The Elsewhere,’ the woman repeated. ‘Are you waiting for someone too?’
‘No…’ Juliet hesitated. ‘I’m going to the pharmacy.’ She’d been trying to remember what brand of cough mixture to buy.
‘Come on, let’s go,’ interrupted a young man, in a blue cardigan, who popped out of nowhere. He took the woman’s hand and dragged her into the alley behind the pharmacy. It was one of those alleys no one ever noticed.
The woman turned towards a perplexed Juliet with a knowing smile before she disappeared with the man, behind a metal door. A door Juliet hadn’t noticed before just as she’d never paid any attention to the alley either; even though both were opposite her block of flats.
Juliet followed the couple with the curiosity of a child and the courage of a thirty-something woman not afraid of venturing into a dark alley. There was no sign on the metal door or outside the building to indicate what might be on the inside. She pushed open the door and walked down a dark corridor towards a softly lit room. It looked like a reception area. Access to the room was blocked by a tie-wearing bruiser sporting dark shades. Peeking around the bouncer’s massive bulk, she saw a man and a woman standing behind a white marble counter. They seemed mesmerised by an enormous flat-screen streaming a live feed from several surveillance cameras. Men and women in various stages of undress filled the screen. Suddenly, the woman behind the reception looked up and saw her.
Caught gawping, Juliet backtracked quickly, closed the door behind her, and hurried out of the alley and into the pharmacy. Remembering the name of the brand she wanted, she bought a bottle of syrup.
Back in the third-floor flat she shared with her husband and son, Juliet threw her keys on the hall table and went looking for her men.
She found Caleb in the sitting room watching a football game. ‘Thank you for going to the pharmacy for me, princess,’ he said taking her into his arms.
‘Hey, you... you okay?’
‘Just worried for Nico that’s all.’
‘Over a teeny cough?’
Juliet didn’t answer. Caleb shrugged and went back to his football game. Juliet took off the high heels that had been torturing her all day and went to her son’s bedroom.
Nicolas made a face at his spoonful of syrup.
‘Come on Nico, it’s not that bad,’ Juliet said as she tousled his hair and nuzzled his ear playfully.
‘Mama stop it.’
‘Ok then, tell me what we’re reading tonight? Three Little Pigs or Puss in Boots?
Little Red Riding Hood,’ he said jumping down from the bed to fetch his favourite bedtime story.
A little while later, with Nicolas fast asleep and Caleb transfixed by the tense match he was watching, Juliet took advantage of the quiet. She typed Elsewhere followed by her address into a search engine. Scrolling through, she found a blog, written by someone called Lily, which described the place. Juliet instinctively knew what the club was but perhaps she hadn’t dared admit it to herself or perhaps she hadn’t known what to call it. The Elsewhere was a swingers’ club.
Just out front.
In a little alleyway she’d never noticed because it was too dark, too uninteresting. The kind of dead-end you didn’t look at for fear of seeing it. She could glimpse the club’s dull metal door from her bedroom window if she craned her neck. There were no streetlights in the alley, but it was a full moon and she could just make out a couple pushing the door open.
Did couples go together to these places? Of course, they did. How stupid of her.
Juliet moved away from the window when she heard Caleb’s anguished roar. Oh dear, the opposing team had scored. His rage meant that there’d been no time for an equaliser. Juliet allowed herself a small smile. Whenever Caleb got upset over a game, he would make up for it in bed by being extra considerate. She took off her clothes and slid under the covers.
A swingers’ club.
What on earth for when one had everything one needed at home?
II – In the Clouds
‘I hope it’s nothing serious.’
Mr Simon, Nico’s new headmaster, was better natured than the previous head of the junior school. He welcomed Juliet with big hand gestures, a plate of shortbread biscuits and a pot of green tea.
‘Oh no, don’t worry,’ Mr Simon said, ‘serious is such a big word. A word that should be used sparingly when talking about a five-year-old. No. No. Please don’t worry. More biscuits?’
‘They’re delicious,’ she said, dunking the shortbread into her tea.
‘I asked to see you because I prefer prevention to cure, so to speak. Which is the correct approach as I’m sure you’d agree. Your child is disciplined. There’s nothing to say on that front. He’s smart, no question about that. However, he is often ... I mean he has ...’
‘…his head in the clouds. And it’s not often; it’s all the time. I’m certain he comes from somewhere else, like a neighbouring planet, or something. I don’t know how that’s possible, but yes, you’re right, I agree that he’s not like us.’
Nonplussed, the principal smiled uneasily. ‘Well, I wouldn’t go that far. It’s... umm... You know how kids can get distracted... or hyperactive. It’s nothing to worry about...’
‘He has imaginary friends, you know. This is normal for a boy his age, but he has dozens upon dozens. I tried to make a list once and reached more than forty. And there’s a new one every week. He spends more time with them than with his father and me. Perhaps he communicates telepathically on his native planet.’
‘Umm... haha... very funny, very funny. And... umm... What does his father think?’
‘Oh, he agrees with me.’
‘Okay. Yes. Yes, I see. That said, may I suggest a few concentration exercises…’
It was at that point that Juliet’s concentration deserted her. At thirty-two, she had perfected the skill of feigning interest in a conversation when she was planning the rest of the day in her head. She had no trouble at all interrupting her mental preparation of lemon pie to nod attentively at the principal’s list of concentration exercises.
‘All okay?’ Juliet asked Nico while preparing the lemon pie for their dessert.
‘Yes… What did Mr Simon say?’
‘That you’re not concentrating. But we knew that already. You’re just like your grandma. She always got into the wrong car. Riding with strangers. It drove your grandpa crazy.’
Nico smiled, relieved.
‘One time,’ Juliet continued, ‘we saw her get into a red Beetle and vanish into the distance with a stranger. The driver hadn’t even noticed he’d picked up a strange woman. It was hilarious… but your grandpa lost it.’
Nicolas giggled as his mother recounted his grandmother’s fantastic adventure.
‘But I’m not like grandma. I can tell one car from another.’
‘Especially since your grandpa drove those big American cars. Anyway, that’s not the point Nicolas. What’s important is to live life fully in the present. If we’re always elsewhere, we can’t take advantage of things… of people around us. We miss the good moments. It’s nice to be a dreamer. To have imagination. But we need limits. You need to learn to have fun with others… doing silly things. You can’t feed your soul by only looking inwards. Do you understand?’ Juliet finished her homily and looked up to find her son half asleep.
‘I wore you out,’ she laughed. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘I didn’t get everything.’
‘But you got the idea?’
‘I think so.’
‘Then that’s enough for now.’
III – Facing the Door
Twenty-eight days after her discovery of the swingers’ club in the alley opposite her flat, Juliet found herself home alone, without a plan. Caleb was working late, probably through the night. She received his text just as she’d dropped Nico off with her best friend Irene who loved babysitting him.
Unhappy her planned romantic evening was cancelled, one she’d been anticipating for a while, she walked over to her bedroom window and craned her neck. The alley was dark. Spotlit by the beams of a full moon, the metal door beckoned.
From the day she’d pushed that door open, she’d been reading Lily’s blog. The woman had a way with words. The blog’s motto had caught her eye: ‘Demanding exclusivity is madness. Giving it a sin’.
The mysterious Lily made the goings-on at Elsewhere sound normal, almost acceptable. But they weren’t normal. It was a new deliciously wicked world.
Juliet felt she knew the place. Lily had posted photos of the club’s interior. There were no shots of people in there but she could imagine them; especially in the room covered in mirrors. The blog also said that one could go there and just look. One didn’t have to participate. Just look.
Looking was not cheating. Right? Right.
Besides, wasn’t the moon sending her a sign? She could never say no to the moon. Giddy as a teenager, Juliet contemplated her makeup and downed a double vodka. For her nerves.
She went through her closet and chose a racy short black dress, one she hadn’t worn in ages. As she dressed, she tried to convince herself that she wouldn’t be granted access, that it would require a password or a contact on the inside.
Looking was not cheating. Hadn’t she worked hard at her last job? Hadn’t she nursed Nico’s cold? Didn’t she deserve to have some fun? Of course, she did. And anyway, she’d tell Caleb all about it in the morning.
Looking was not cheating she repeated the mantra as she slipped on a pair of black patent leather heels. Besides, she was sure she would be refused entry because she didn’t know the password and of course, one always needed a password to enter such places. Some kind of open-sesame spy speak. Right?
The bouncer with the dark shades would bar her way and say, ‘The dogs are in the jacuzzi’ and she would respond with ‘Dogs barking. Can’t fly without an umbrella.’ She giggled. She knew it wouldn’t be the correct response and Mr Dark Shades would frown, become menacing. Her heart would beat faster, her body trembling all the way home. She’d be so ashamed, and she wouldn’t tell a soul about it.
On the other hand, if she did gain entry, well then, she promised to have a good laugh and tell Caleb all about her adventure. They’d laugh about it together.
She opened the metal door.


Buy this book