Prism Book Alliance® would like to thank Ingela Bohm for stopping by today.
Title: Not Safe For Work
Author: Ingela Bohm
Publisher: Self Published
Cover Artist: Ingela Bohm
Genre: Contemporary, Erotica, Gay, M/M Romance
It’s Jakob’s birthday, and boy is he getting a surprise. His friend Leo has written a sexy blog about the two of them — all untrue, of course. Or is it? Identity hijacked, fake love life laid out for the world to see, Jakob is devastated. He should deny it all, but he can’t stop reading. Soon, he’ll have to confront Leo, but he’s afraid — can there be a tiny grain of truth in those stories?
Truth and beauty
Close your eyes and imagine that the universe is endless. No, really – try to actually grasp it: the universe goes on forever. Can you really picture it? Endless. It doesn’t stop anywhere.
Okay, now imagine the opposite – that there is an end to the universe. It stops somewhere, and beyond it, there’s something else – or perhaps nothing at all. Is that easier to imagine? Or even harder?
Thinking about the universe as either infinite or finite can drive you crazy. It’s like trying to wrap your head around time travel, to make a spreadsheet of what really goes on in the Terminator films. I feel the same way about the concept of ‘truth.’ In my studies, I have taken courses in philosophy of science, and they all boil down to this one thing: how can we know what’s true?
There are theories, but they’ve all been criticized, and none of them really hits the nail on the head for me. Because in the end, ‘true’ is just a word, invented by humans and therefore with a meaning as diverse as all the humans who use it. We have five senses that help us detect things in the world, but it’s not a stretch to imagine that there are things that these five limited senses can’t detect. This means that we can’t fully know the ‘truth’ about the world – but do we really need to? Isn’t the important part that we have knowledge enough to make our lives work?
For example, how can we know that Stockholm is the capital of Sweden? It’s not a natural fact like gravity. It’s true because people in power decided that it was, and because enough people believe it and act as if it’s true. But in the end, humans made it up. So if everyone stopped believing it, would it still be true? If everybody stopped acting as if Stockholm was the capital, would it still be the capital? The answer is sorta ‘no,’ isn’t it?
Also, we may experience things differently from person to person. Take colors for example: there is rough consensus on what ‘red’ is. We say that things are red and other people agree with us. But if we saw the color with their eyes, maybe we would experience it as blue. Can we really ever know that another pair of eyes see the same thing, even if we use the same words to describe them?
And on that note, if someone thinks they’re in a relationship with you, but you don’t, who is right? Who has interpretative prerogative? The one who says ‘no,’ or the one who says ‘yes?’
This mind-boggling dilemma kick-started Not Safe From Work. In the book, everyone believes that Jakob and Leo are an item, after seeing their changed relationship status on Facebook and reading a blog that follows their path to love. Does this mean that it’s true? Jakob thinks not. In fact, he feels like he’s the only person in the world who knows the truth: they’re just friends. Always were, always will be. But Leo is pretending like they’re lovers, and everyone around them is backing up his story. It’s enough to make anyone question their sanity.
So can a lie like that become true if you repeat it enough times? History shows us that it’s possible. Politicians, lobbyists and revolutionaries can redefine words and phenomena in a way that changes the world and how we perceive it. That’s the macro level – but what about the micro level? Can you, say, make someone fall in love with you by pretending that it’s the case? If you’re insistent enough, can you change another person’s perception of your relationship? Or does there need to be a grain of truth in the lie to make it work?
This last question is the one that bugs Jakob’s subconscious. At first glance, everything his best friend Leo has written about them on his sexy blog is untrue, but the further Jakob reads, the more details he finds that combine to make him uncertain. Unfortunately, you couldn’t find a person less prepared to deal with such uncertainty. Jakob is a scientist at heart, a realist who believes that what he sees with his own eyes is the truth. He relies on facts, he wants answers, not possibilities and dreams.
How funny, then, that he has chosen a research subject as flimsy and changeable as metaphor. And come to think of it, why is he researching the slash phenomenon? He’s a straight guy, isn’t he? Why would he be interested in slash – how can he even know about it?
Well, my poor boy, you have some waking up to do. Everything you thought you knew will be called into question. The foundation you built your life on simply isn’t there anymore. But if you make it through to the other side, there are beautiful things waiting for you. True story, ain’t no lie. Cross my heart and hope to die…
I feel the red hot build-up in my thighs and groin. I’ve had it with fragile. I don’t want any more beautiful. Feathery touches can’t convince me that he’s mine. I need the raw pounding, the eclipsing of the self.
He senses my hesitation and props himself up on his elbows. The look he gives me is full of reproach. “I’m your best friend first.”
I know what he means. What am I doing, keeping him in the dark? We’ve always told each other everything. I release his cock with a sigh and sit up. My hair hangs in apologetic wisps in front of my face, as if to filter what I know I have to say. “Leo…”
“You want something else.”
“Yeah, I…” I gesture limply, afraid to name it.
But he already knows. “Look, when I said I wanted you to use your mouth… I mean, I do, I want that, but fuck it, Jakob… I’d like to really seal it, you know?”
I nod, completely in tune with his thinking. “Mark the beginning,” I translate. “Make it real.”
“Yeah.” His cheeks are flushed, his eyes twinkling with mischief. “So who should… I mean…”
I laugh a little. “Who should fuck who?”
He rolls his eyes and then grins cockily. “Well, I’d offer, but we both know you’re the asshole.”
I move a stiff hand to minimize the window. “I think that’s enough for now.” I sound completely exhausted. Perhaps I am. I don’t know. I don’t know anything.
Merethe looks up with glistening eyes, surfacing as if from a dream. She looks like she’s waiting for something. My confession? My shamefaced confirmation that this is in fact completely real, exactly what happened? Jesus. This is so fucked up. Seriously, psycho fucked up. I’m letting her read Leo’s fake post about his sexual escapades with me? In my name. We’re nowhere near that level of friendship.
“It’s well written,” she says, and I know it’s her way of asking how it can’t be true: something that beautiful just has to be real. She’s always been romantic like that.
“Emphasis on ‘written,’” I mutter, but my voice grates against dry vocal cords and doesn’t sound very convincing. “Written, as in fictitious.”
She doesn’t grace that with a comment. She’s the literary theory buff, I’m the linguist. She believes everything she reads, especially if it’s well formulated. As if an adage is automatically true because it sounds good. While I doubt everything, and suspect lies at every turn.
“It is kind of romantic,” she says.
I want to explode at her, but I don’t have the energy. I just shake my head in despair. “Romantic? Are you completely bloody insane? What’s romantic about hijacking someone’s identity and rewriting their whole life?”
Merethe bites her lip. “In the beginning was the word…”
I roll my eyes. Trust her to believe that. Now she’s going to tell me that writers lie to tell the truth, that Jules Verne predicted the future and that nothing is real but what we clothe in words. The very thing I said to Dahlberg today.
She sighs, looks like she’s going to say something more, but then swallows it down. A minute of silence, then she cocks her head. “Want some coffee?”
“Huh?” I stare at her. She’s strangely out of focus.
“Coffee.” She smiles. “You seem to need it.”
I don’t reply, so she just takes an old mug from my desk and goes to fill it, leaving me a moment to gather my fraying wits. I should be grateful, but I just don’t know where to start. I try to go back to this morning, pick everything apart from beginning to end. Why did I read that blog post in the first place? What made me browse the #nsfw tag today of all days? My dream comes back to me through a fog of confusion. The image of that welcoming smile, the reddish hair, the plea to take me… And then Leo’s text, gatecrashing my embryonic jerking session. As if he knew…
Drawing a hissing breath, I lean my head in my hands. I’m being completely insane. He can’t read my mind, and he doesn’t know what I dreamed. Christ, I’m being paranoid! How could a secret dream ever be related to a spoof blog post? A Professor Dahlberg question if ever there was one. Can he have hacked my computer somehow, seen my Internet history and put his crazy story on the very website I frequent most often?
He probably could do that, actually. But hacking a computer is very different from magically controlling someone’s dreams. No, that was just a coincidence.
Although Leo does have kind of red hair.
“There you go.” Merethe plonks the mug in front of me and I grab it instinctively. Too hot, I remind myself. Take it easy. She watches me while I blow on the coffee, being very careful not to spill it.
After a minute, she sighs. “Okay.” She’s scowling now, radiating disappointment. “I believe you. He made it up, fine. I mean, you’re here. Not in London.”
“Although that photo could have been taken anywhere.”
She makes a face. “Well…”
Clenching my teeth, I reach for the mouse to go back to Facebook and show her: look, for fuck’s sake, there’s a big whopping Westminster Abbey or whatever in the background – but my finger slips and the Tumblr page refreshes, tossing up a new post that actually makes me drop the mug. Like you never do in real life: the kind of shock-limp hand that makes trays of porcelain crash in romantic movies. Coffee splashing everywhere.
I stare at the screen, heart in my mouth. There’s a video. A very real-looking video of me and him, as if we’re part of a game, and this is the promo clip for it. And it’s obvious from the still what we’re doing. What is this? What is this? my brain keeps shrieking at me, and the answer is as inevitable as it is frightening.
It’s ultimate fucking proof.
And I do mean that literally.
About the Author
Ingela Bohm is a sucker for music and words, and whenever the two go together, she’s on board for the long haul. Every story she tries her hand at turns into a love story at some point, but that’s just her sentimental nature making itself known. She occasionally pretends to be a human being (as long as there are no dogs present), and she spends an obscene amount of time in front of really well-made TV series, trying to riddle out how the hell the bastards do it. Her current projects include part four of the series about Pax, and a vampire dystopia.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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