Andrew Sarchus has the worst designs. He has them on Natalie Glass, Sam Haine’s best friend, and on Brimston. He probably has them for all of us, whoever we are and whether we are living, dead or fictional. Sam Haine can stop him, so long as she doesn’t go home again first…
Of course the dead had escaped from this prison, this exile, it was only natural.
So, was the world full of ghosts?
The world held six billion people. Was every single one of them real?
A psychopath is incapable of feeling for anyone the same way that he felt for himself. To him, everyone else is simply not as defined, as significant. He lives in a world of phantoms, of consequences but no responsibilities.
Was that psychopath’s view actually more realistic, more useful, now? In a world where we cannot fathom the awesome swathes of population, the terrifying panorama of all we are, all we number? In a world where we have to take a database’s word for what is real and who is alive, do we have any word to take at all? In the beginning was the word – part of our life sentence – was this now a punctuation wound? Period pains?
Did the dead have ideas? Did they make anything new? Or did they just cynically rotate identical iterations to engender greater choice at the expense of actual development? Did a dead man sell the patent on a CCTV camera? Did a dead man profit?
Were the dead better at being criminals, since they couldn’t be picked up on CCTV, since they couldn’t be impaled on reality television? Denied a life span, did they have more time to become better predators?
Did the dead appear on reality television? No, but perhaps they had stock options in the companies that sold them. Perhaps electric echoes of their long-silent voices still trailed across our telephone networks, perpetuating an extinct signal, running up the death tolls.
All from a lie. All from something out of nothing.
All from a town that everyone real had abandoned decades before. Was she gagging now from the reek of pestilential, rotting flesh piling up around her? Or from some curdling, wretched and wet fantasy leaking from her imagination?
Andrew Sarchus had walked these streets long ago, had chatted with adolescents who would grow up to be crime victim rock stars and absentee parents, and he had seen the profit in an infection that could thrive in an open wound like this.
How many people in the world are actually dead?
Am I dead?
People believed she was the fantasy figure Vincent Horn had created in that ridiculous magazine article.
So perhaps she was that fantasy figure. After all, up until that moment in Tessa Wrack’s toilet, she had always been a sane and healthy woman. It was only after that denuding denouement – that anagnorisis in the dark – that she had realised that she had been…
That’s a simplification, darling, interrupted the voice in her head.
(c) Ian Bird 2009