Sunday, April 10, 2011

Netherworld of Delusion

Previously, on SubGrubStreet:

Nathan awoke from uneasy dreams to find top Internet marketing guru and vampire Nigella Seedlung had been turned into an even more horrible old crone. Nigella’s accusation that he had abducted her and robbed her of her youth failed to register as Nathan searched the house, at last realising that he’s not seen Jane for months.

So, here I am again, in the offices of New Bastion Books, Louis Lovestone’s bunker on the outskirts of Norwich (*). I have been summoned by my publisher, though I can’t say that I’ve been swept up in the glamour of this. I no longer anticipate chats with my editor about my genius and my next moves while Bloomsbury hurries by outside the bistro window. I no longer fantasize about falling in love with my editor (who in my dreams would not have Louis’s sweet potato-shaped head, military obsessions or gender) and going on to breakfast on white wine in midwinter with the snow laying all around and diamonds strewn on a smoked glass tabletop.

Here, the office still smells of fly spray and gas and there’s a pot of tea and a pile of Ginsters pasties (**) on the table. More than this, worse than this, the newly aged Nigella is here. I suspect that she’s pulled Louis’s strings to get me here. I don’t care. I’ve got more that this on my mind and over the last week I’ve come no closer to locating Jane (****). I am, to be honest, incredibly worried, more worried than I’ve ever been, even more than I when I woke up in the snow and thought I was dead (*****); even more than after I realized what I had done (******).

After I finally managed to oust Nigella from the house last week I scoured every room looking for Jane. Not only could I not find her, I couldn’t find any trace of her. Her clothes were gone from the wardrobe. Her make-up was absent from the bathroom. The shelves that used to house her collection of soppy books (*******) was empty and my library of miserable and unreadable early Modernist classics had taken advantage and annexed the space. For a while I thought that maybe she’d left me while I was under Nigella’s spell (********), and perhaps all I needed to do was track her down and explain that I’d been acting weird because I’d been bitten by vampire Internet marketing guru. We have, after all, lived through stranger developments (*********). The thing is, I rang around. I rang her mother, she of the hennaed hair, and not only did she say she’d never heard of me. She’d never heard of Jane. She was quite rude about it and called me a hippy and a stoner. I rang in turn each and every one of the Chorus (**********), Lou-Lou, Sandra and Buns. They all knew who I am, and Buns even asked me out to a salsa class, but none of them had a clue who I was talking about.

Jane has disappeared. I’m trying to take this in: it’s like Jane never existed.

I should explain this to Louis. I can’t be expected to talk about marketing and promotions when I’m trying to find my imaginary girlfriend. My life is becoming a plot that Mike Gayle would kill for. I cannot be expected to whore myself when all this is going on.

‘Louis,’ Nigella is saying, ‘when I took on this assignment, as you know one that I was very, very doubtful about, I did not anticipate that the client was going to kidnap, imprison and assault me.’
This wakes me up.
‘Hang on,’ I say.
‘Look at me,’ says Nigella, ‘he’s aged me by thirty years.’
‘That’s bollocks. I don’t know what happened to you (***********).’
‘I’m afwaid,’ says Louis, ‘I have to agwee with Nathan on this one. You look like you usually look, my black orchid. You appear to have taken leave of your senses.’
‘I demand you cease supporting this author this very moment. He also killed my most lucrative client (************).’
‘I didn’t,’ I say. ‘It was Bollock-On John. Anyway, I could equally say that you have persistently mucked me about, Nigella. You’ve done nothing but suggest I do stupid and humiliating things and you hypnotized me and you bit me and I suspect you’ve done something to my girlfriend, so why don’t we drop all this and start again.’
‘Start again,’ she screeches, ‘start again. How on earth can I start again when I have been cruelly stripped of my youth?’

I give Louis a Paddington Extra Hard Stare until he’s forced to do something.

‘Calm down, dear,’ he says, steepling his pudgy fingers, ‘and I can’t believe, Mr Flack, that Ms Seedlung bit you in other spiwit than to give you a little fillip, which I think even you will concede you wequire nearly all of the time.’ So, it’s Mr Flack now, is it? ‘And although I certainly have difficulty swallowing that you went so far as to abduct Ms Seedlung and know you well enough to wealize that you are pwobably in the wight here I am a business man first and foremost. As such, I’m afwaid that the gwand expewiment comes to an end.’
Nigella is nodding at me with horrible smugness.
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ I say.
‘Mr Flack, neither of us know what to do with you or your unweadable book, which so far, I checked the pwint-outs late last night seems to have sold no copies at all. We took you out and you disgwaced yourself with our biggest customer (*************), you used the unfortuate phwase in fwont of Mr Phelan (**************) and he’s been on the sick ever since. At gweat expense to you I employed the services of Ms Seedlung and you spurned all those opportunities, even making a fool of this firm on live television (***************). And I hear fwom Ms Seedling that you’ve wejected her ideas about writing something spicy (****************) or something that people would actually like to wead (******************).’

I’m feeling like I might go a bit mental, so I stand up and avoid looking at the lovely Ms Seedlung, who I did appreciate much more when she was undead and I was hypnotized, and although I really want to tell Louis that whatever he’s just said about me at least I don’t have a head shaped like a sweet potato, I know it’s best to be diplomatic.

‘Fair enough,’ I say. ‘Why don’t I buy the stock from you? I’m sure I can do better at car boot sales on my own than a slutty vampire and the giant catacomb of massive bowels that you call a sales agent.’
‘Mr Flack. I must admit that I wather ambitiously only pwinted ten copies, and those I had incinerwated this morning.’

I am now walking away from Louis’s bunker, sort of numb, sort of baffled, sort of not-really-surprised, sort of relieved, sort of back where I started, at square one, the square one that’s the square before the square I was sat on at the beginning of the Touching the Starfish story. Something hits me, though, a peculiar realization.

No one remembers the Death Metal Revelation (*******************). And now no one remembers Jane. I have been attacked by The Old Man of Hoy (********************), dragged around a seaside town that only exists when Big Dump eats a particular combination of savouries (*********************) and been under the spell of a vampire marketing guru. Something is rotten in the state of Nathan. I’ve been here before. The netherworld of delusion. And we all know who pulls the strings there.

There’s something else. Something Shoutyknackers said now seems incredibly pertinent (**********************). The way Shoutyknackers died seems highly significant (***********************). Bollocks to Louis and his rubbish press. The answers lie in the cache of papers Nigella gave me: The Shoutyknackers File

To Be Continued …

* See SubGrubStreet 1: The Great Experiment.
** See SubGrubStreet 1: The Great Experiment.
*** See SubGrubStreet 31: Resurrection Lovesick Blues.
**** See SubGrubStreet 31: Resurrection Lovesick Blues.
***** See Touching the Starfish, page 351.
****** See Touching the Starfish, page 511.
******* See Touching the Starfish, page 248
******** See SubGrubStreet 21: Yes is the Only Word
********* See Touching the Starfish, pages 1-523
********** See Touching the Starfish, page 261
*********** See SubGrubStreet 30: The Murk and Meady Prod of Death.
************ See SubGrubStreet 17: Why I Hate Bob Dylan
************* See SubGrubStreet 8: Love and Bonnets
************** See SubGrubStreet 9: That Unfortunate Phrase
*************** See SubGrubStreet 25: I’m a Writer Get Me Out of Here
**************** See SubGrubStreet 21: Yes is the Only Word
***************** See SubGrubStreet 29: Autarky
****************** See Touching the Starfish
******************* See SubGrubStreet 3: The Duellists
******************** See SubGrubStreet 6: Ginster Rusting with Big Dump
********************** See SubGrubStreet 16: Between the Cauliflowers
*********************** See SubGrubStreet 17: Why I Hate Bob Dylan


Word Count – 1992

Sales – 0

Insults – 6

Next Week: The Shoutyknackers File

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