For longer than detective Cohran has been alive, meticulously clean bodies of girls have been found on the edge of town. Four bodies every year. One body for each season. The police have dropped even the pretense of looking for whoever is responsible. Too many officers have tried and died.
In a world where new crimes and new criminals appear daily, while the old ones go unpunished, where feverish fashion rules debased lifestyles, and an expired biosphere is kept going by artificial means, is friendship enough to save you?
Anton stood on the corner of a bakery, hands in pockets, shoulders hunched. It was a pretentious bakery, naturally. Only pretentious bakeries may survive in the city’s center.
Trying to charm both conservative and modern office rats, it had a two-foot high plump plastic chef with the appropriate white hat by its front door, and on the door itself the picture of a bluehaired moekko girl eyeing a flying croissant with delighted, glinting, wide-eyed awe.
He was smoking his fifteenth cigarette for the day and trying to look inconspicuous. Although an albino—a condition which made him stand out somewhat even on streets of a 21st century city—he dealt with that when the need arose by use of makeup and huge oblong shades, turning into just one of many anonymous aging fashionistas.
He was fifty-two, five foot eight, and lean as some intense smokers tend to be. His hair painted a light orange, was still in considerable health. He was currently on something like a stakeout.
Anton was the director of the city’s N.M.H. office. ‘N.M.H.’ stood for ‘National Mental Hygiene’.
It was lunch hour and here in the center, the streets filled with office workers scrambling to get a coffee and some food into themselves.
Of course, that also included the ones who were scrambling to buy something fashionable, do some shopping therapy in the limited time before the office grind sucked them back in. At this very moment, though, a number of people had diverted from their scrambling. A crowd was gathering at the base of a
bank, looking up in agitation. On the fourth floor, on the ledge of a window, stood a fragile-looking, petite blonde, dressed in tweed pants, a purple shirt, and a thin red tie.
She was obviously a junior something, who was crying, wringing her hands, and looking at the ground below through smeared mascara. “Don’t do it, girl,” a man shouted from the crowd. “It’s not worth it,” a woman standing near him added her opinion.
The girl did not answer, and whether she whimpered or not couldn’t be heard above the noises of the city.
“Where are the police?” a third person demanded indignantly. Others concurred immediately.
The girl gave a forlorn wail, then shouted quite coherently, arms clenched into little fists: “I can’t take it anymore!”
The crowd gasped and surged back as the girl stepped into the air and plummeted. Some of the spectators echoed her scream.
A man stepped forward. He was an ordinary looking young man, in a brown suit, with lime green hair, probably a worker in advertising or design. With unnerving confidence, he spread his arms… and caught
the girl. As the screaming body made contact with his arms, he buckled and grunted but didn’t fall. Gently, he laid her down on the pavement.
For about ten seconds he knelt stroking her hair and soothing her with baby words like, “There, there” and “Everything will be all right,” before the crowd finally digested what had just taken place and the clapping of hands and jubilant hoots commenced.
Within a minute two police cars, an ambulance, and a news team arrived. Business went back to usual, events were now back in sanctioned and governed channels.
Before being lead away, the girl turned to look at her savior. “I’m sorry I be a fool now, no more trying to killing me again,” she said with a shaky voice. A grown woman hugged a surprised man beside her as she
heard these words.
* * * *
Anton stepped on the stub of his cigarette and walked to his car. As he drove his green Moskva Opel back to HQ, he replayed the whole incident in his mind. All in all, a successful operation. A satisfactory crowd had gathered and he could already see the news reports: “Stranger Saves Distressed Girl” and “A Miracle on
The girl and the man who saved her were both professionals. They had signed declarations that they were aware of the hefty penalties were they ever to disclose their participation in such staged events.
Tomorrow they would be on their way to another town, where with a makeover they would be ready to carry out some other morale-boosting stunt. It was part of Anton’s job to devise and oversee such events.
For the most part, his job was to collect and evaluate data with his team. Sometimes, now and then, when he identified an increase in some sort of tension in the city, he would begin offering his superiors plans for relevant scenarios to play out as a sort of counter magic.
A surgical strike on the city’s morale may diffuse tension and avert an explosion of desperation-fueled violence, by adding a little shard of optimism, a belief that ‘real values’ do indeed still exist and are even practiced, and that everything currently happening in life is just some sort of misunderstanding which just has to be resolved sooner or later.
Who is your favorite author?
While writing Shudder, I was greatly influenced by Vladimir Sorokin.
What is the hardest part of writing your books?
The draft is the hardest bit when I’m drafting. The fleshing out is the hardest bit when I’m fleshing out. Then editing is hell.
What does your significant other and family think of your writing career?
My parents and friends are benevolently skeptical. My wife is loyally enthusiastic.
Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers? If so, what are they?
Don’t copy living masters – learn from the people they copied. Yes, research.
If I came to visit early in the morning would you impress me as being more like a chirpy bird or a grumpy bear?
I’m a moron before the first coffee. I’m a homicidal psycho before the first fag.
Use no more than two sentences. Why should we read your book?
The only one of its kind. You may hate it or almost like it, but you won’t forget it. No matter how much you try.
ANTON: So, are you happy with this book?
AUTHOR: Quite, quite, not the reality shattering ultimate
novel, but still satisfyingly entertaining, I’d say.
ANTON: The style is rather peculiar. Let’s not mention the
rhythm of the narrative.
AUTHOR: Let’s not.
ANTON: How would you define the genre of this ghastly
AUTHOR: Difficult question. Cynical naivism is one epithet
that comes to mind. Cartoon existentialism would also be an apt
enough description. Infantile adventure would be the best one I
ANTON: Infantile in what sense would that be?
AUTHOR: In every sense.
ANTON: Right...I note some residue from your nineteen-thirties
fascination in certain places.
AUTHOR: Yes, it’s abated to a large extent but there are still
hints of American and British sleuths and vigilantes lurking here
ANTON: Aha, I thought I noticed by the end a sort of brighter
buccaneer appearing to save everyone’s bacon. I was half-expecting
him to have a sidekick who wants to give people da woiks wid
AUTHOR: Yes, but he consciously made himself like that you
realize, an Injun albino turning himself into a dashing Celtic fictional
hero. That’s conscious identity construction, center and
periphery, inclusion and exclusion, all that stuff. In the end, also
done by a fictional hero. Now that is postmodernism.
ANTON: You’re being a pretentious tw*t again, aren’t you?
AUTHOR: No, no, certainly not. Not as such. I wouldn’t say so.
ANTON: I’ll take your word on that. About the chloroform…
you realize, I hope, that what you use in your book is not the substance
itself, but the urban myth concerning it?
AUTHOR: Yup. How was the trip anyway?
ANTON: As I said, quite vivid dreams. The bears were indeed
AUTHOR: The liver still okay?
ANTON: I think so. Anyway, time for the last question. Aren’t
you afraid that some people will take offense at the somewhat irreverent
treatment of some serious contemporary topics?
AUTHOR: That would be just spatial and temporal provincialism
from their side. I know they wouldn’t mind if I touched in
the same manner upon topics like WWII, WWI, the Spanish flu,
the Spanish Inquisition, the Bubonic Plague, Stalin, Pol Pot, and
whatnot. If they get all fidgety and indignant when the topics are
closer to home-- they can all just eat sh*t.
ANTON: With these stylistically appropriate and multilayered
last words, it’s time to finish this blitz interview. Thank you
for answering my questions.
AUTHOR: Thank you for having me.
Harry F. Kane started reading at around age seven. At ten, he read The Lord of The Rings, Dune, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy. At twelve, he read all then available Vonneguts, Orwells, and Bradburys. At thirteen, the headaches started. Now he’s thirty and causing other people’s headaches. You’re very welcome.
Harry F. Kane and his family-friendly alter ego Ted Keller are also the authors of: Autumn Magic Playground Sky; Brain Storm; The Badass Bible; Planetfall on Albaid; Sound of Distant Oceans.
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