A chapter excerpt from a forthcoming novel by Chris Middleton
Black comedy set after the ‘Data Crash’, and co-developed with the late Russ Flynn. Following the mysterious death of US mega-celebrity, Gig Render – a naked, singing priest with a handgun – the lives of an Elvis impersonator, an angry CEO, a grumpy intern, a Tourette’s afflicted robot, and a man who has cloned himself accidentally become entwined in a search for the murderer. They need just one thing: really good PR!
The scene: Elvis impersonator Lol Daily has been arrested for buying illegally unhealthy goods and sent for compulsory psychotherapy.
“Doktors Karlosi, Satyr, and Scream prefer to operate in the dark so you can grope your way towards the light together,” said the receptionist. “You’d better go in: I think your sedatives are wearing off.” She stuck her arm out to the left and Lol set off in that direction, feeling his way along the walls in the half light.
In the street ten floors below, some kidz gathered and began dancing to a solitary beatbox. Poised above them, the frail figure of Doktor Satyr did its best to loom in the half-open window of the surgery. “Listen!” he cooed, as Lol entered the room, “the children of the night: what music they make.” He stared into the gloom with the look of a hunted creature. “Shut that crap up!” he bellowed, and slammed the window shut. “Please,” he said, turning to Lol and gesturing towards the couch, “make yourself… ulp… comfortable. I’m so sorry: that word makes me feel ill.”
Lol eased his bulk onto the couch and felt the folds of his stomach ooze slowly downwards, like blancmange being poured into a carrier bag. “Hell, Doc, it’s just kidz outside fooling around, chilling out, forgetting their woes, you know?” Satyr slid behind his darkly polished desk and settled into a chair of pleated red velvet. His face was grim. “Woes, Mr Daily, yes, how right you are. Each youth traveling his own private course of pain and misery, with signposts of heartbreak, depression, and futility marking the short haul to the grave. How long will it be before I have one them on my couch, I wonder?” He wiggled his eyebrows.
“I guess you work long hours, huh?” said Lol.
Satyr nodded, his eyes settling on something far away. “For many years now, Mr Daily. As long as there is unhappiness in this world I and my colleagues will remain here…”
“Like a charity?”
Satyr looked dazed. “Well, you have to put a little back into society, Mr Daily.” The Agony Uncle’s lips grew as thin as a razor cut. “Which brings us to you, Mr Daily. Putting things back is not, shall we say, your strong point.” Lol looked into Satyr’s eyes and immediately regretted it. “You like pies, Mr Daily. And, on occasion, cakes, puddings, and what can only be described as ‘lard’. Your shopping habits are a worry, Mr Daily. Not to me, of course, but to you. How many counts of Actual Bodily Harm have the Health Visitors lodged against you so far? Thirteen, is it? Oh, that magic number!”
“I figure it’s my body to harm, Doc.”
“Oh, quite so, quite so,” said Satyr unexpectedly.
“With the notion that every trip to the shopping mall should have the same mission as the Lord God… hhhhhuuurrrrgh… gave to Noah? ‘Go forth and multiply’, am I right? That’s your choice, Mr Daily. I merely want to get to the root of the problem to unearth the unhappiness that brings you to such wanton acts. Mine the misery, as it were.” He licked his lips and Lol fancied he could see the tips of some unusually sharp teeth.
“But I’m not sure that I am miserable, Doc.”
“Oh, but you are. We all are! Fear, anxiety, impotence, angst, morbid fascination, moral dread. All coursing through our veins like blood. And it’s my job to relieve you of it.”
“So you take all the troubles of the world on your shoulders, Doc?”
“A weight I bear gladly, Mr Daily. So please: open up to me. Think of me as a blank page in your diary. Write upon me of your misery, with tears as your ink!”
Lol shifted on the couch and tried to focus on Satyr in the dark. “Are you a big fan of country music, Doc?”
“Alas, some things are unbearable even to me,” said Satyr. “Shall we proceed?”
• Nine complete chapters of the book – about 60,000 words – are available for preview.
© Chris Middleton 2005 and 2015. All rights reserved.