Bozo and the Storyteller is the first part of a trilogy and the second book in the series will be called Last Exit to Bloonland. It’s currently only in a first draft form. If you’d like to read it then please write me an email with a link to that wonderful review you wrote about Bozo and the Storyteller and I’ll send you the pdf of the sequel!
Meanwhile, here’s a taste.
The Society of the Death Wish
A thin, bony hand, pale and wrinkled with age spots, pulled the plastic blind to the side to peer at the thriving street scene some 50 metres below. Cars shunted through the traffic without blowing their horns, Americans of countless racial and ethnic backgrounds trailed peacefully past the store fronts without looking in the windows and everywhere there was a feeling of people getting on with their lives without anxiety, stress or fear.
It was sickening.
The observer allowed a ripple of disgust to flutter over his pallid, mean features and then resumed his habitual staid expression, set with years of hatred, manipulation and deceit. A knot of bitter resolve formed in his wiry neck as he braced himself to look out once more upon that appalling urban scene – look! Only there someone had dropped his wallet and a passer-by had picked it up and handed it back to the owner! People at the bus stops were actually talking to each other and the whole street was alive with people smiling, or just strolling along with a dreamy look of hope and wonder on their faces.
The man released his hold on the blind and returned to the sombre light of the study with a grimace on his face as though he’d just eaten something sour. What was the Story coming to? Decades of work had gone down the drain thanks to that brat at Carnegie Hall and now they would have to pick up the pieces and start again.
Times are bad, it’s true, he mused, as he approached the mahogany bar in the corner of the study and poured himself a whisky, but they can be fixed. Just about anything could be. After all, was that not why they called him the Fixer?
A knock at the door shook him from his thoughts and he set the tumbler down and barked:
A diminutive Filipino maid shuffled in with a tray of salted snacks and gave an obsequious bow before laying out plates of peanuts and pork crackling on the long, hardwood table that dominated the room. Hardly daring to meet her employer’s eye, she approached the bar and gathered bottles of spirits to place on the table. She also placed a box of Cuban cigars and an ivory ashtray next to each of the 7 leather armchairs – 3 along each side of the table and one at the end.
Finally she laid out name-plates by each of the chairs: the Fixer, the War Lord, the Oilman, the Media Mogul, the Investor, the Bishop and the Pusher.
She turned to face her employer who was steadily gazing into an inch of yellow malt whisky.
“Shall I show the guests in, sir?”
The Fixer looked up with a look of tedium at having to address someone so insignificant. He nodded wearily and the maid scuttled off to locate the visitors.
The Fixer adjusted the cuffs of his grey, linen shirt and prepared himself for the speech he would be giving. It would be the first time they had met together in one place like this and a low level of anxiety welled somewhere deep within where all feeling hadn’t yet died. He had invested considerable time and energy in bringing this meeting together and so much depended on it!
A gnashing of teeth alerted him that his Fone was ringing and, removing the handset from his jacket pocket he saw that it was the President’s office ringing. Couldn’t the fools do anything by themselves? He turned off the Fone and replaced it in his inside pocket. The President could wait – there were important people arriving soon.
The maid opened the door and then stood back as the party filed in, each of them entering the room with the alert suspicion and stealth of a predator that would rather fight to the death than be caught in a trap; the Bishop was the first to pass through the door – he wore a long, black smock and waved an incense stick before him to purify the air before him. He crossed himself and took his seat.
The Oilman came next, an Arab sheikh in a long white robe with a checked towel around his head. He sweated with the effort of walking a few metres and he fell into his chair with some relief – but not before tipping half a bowl of peanuts into his chubby palm.
Then came the Pusher and the Investor, both middle-aged businesswomen in conservative grey and brown suits, with their hair tied tightly back. They exchanged glances as old acquaintances would but remained silent as they took their places at the table and waited expectantly.
Just over half their size, came the War Lord, a short man with a bald head and an ostentatious purple suit. He muttered something vulgar beneath his breath but refrained from swearing aloud, given the solemn circumstances.
The Fixer looked up at his guests and his eye scanned the name plates.
“I count only 5 – where is the Media Mogul?”
“Fashionably late – that’s where!” boomed a large man in a Hawaiian shirt as brash and tasteless as his personality. “You know how it is,” he explained with a big grin, swinging himself into his seat and reaching for a cigar, “Contracts to sign, movies to shoot and the news to invent!”
“Yes, well, I’m sure we are all equally busy after our own fashion,” the Fixer answered dryly, taking his place at the end of the table and dismissing the maid with an impatient flick of the hand. She closed the door behind her and the 7 most powerful people in the Story were left along together.
“I must begin by thanking you all for agreeing to come here today. No doubt you all have very pressing schedules but I’m sure you also appreciate the importance of the challenge which now faces us.
“Some of you here today may recognize one another, if only by reputation whilst others may be entirely new. It is of no consequence for, whether you realise it or not, we have all been working towards a common goal for quite some time now. Each of you is here because you believe as I do that all Stories, this one no less than any, must come to an end. You have worked in your respective fields to bringing about that end all of your lives. Self interest and ambition satisfied, yet there burned within each of you an unconscious desire to fulfil the same dream that unites us all.
“My dear colleagues,” the Fixer said, smiling for the first time all day and raising his glass of whisky, “We are here to end the world as we know it.”
A hesitant grin broke out on the faces of some of the guests and they began to relax, filling their glasses with spirits to join the toast. The Investor, however, narrowed her mousey eyes and asked:
“How do you presume to know that? As far as I’m concerned I’m just in it for the money.”
“You’re too modest, my dear. Besides, I think you’ve just answered your own question.” The Fixer grinned, revealing protruding teeth and receding gums, “When you choose to invest in a sportswear company, do you object if they make their trainers in sweatshops in Indonesia where children as young as six work fourteen hours a day?
“Of course not. Just as you’re indifferent to the enslavement of the Africans working in the mines where you buy your diamonds in the Congo. Yours, like each of us here, is a pure vocation, untainted by morality or values.”
The Bishop cleared his throat in objection and raised a palm with a sanctimonious expression on his face.
“Excuse me but I, for one, have a strong set of values.”
“Yeah, whichever set suits you at the time, padre!” the Media Mogul guffawed, puffing clouds of cigar smoke into the room. “Like Groucho Marx who said ‘those are my principles and if you don’t like them – well I got other ones!’” The Mogul laughed long and hard at his own joke and with his merriment the charged atmosphere began to relax a little.
“Be that as it may,” the War Lord smirked, half-glancing at his gold Rolex watch, “What are we all doing here? I mean, it’s nice to be social and everything but I’ve got revolutions to arm, guns to sell, mines to buy.”
The Fixer stood and began to pace around the room, his fervour gripping his body as he spoke.
“The times are changing, my friends and we can no longer continue to ply our trades so blindly. For decades I have installed corrupt, incompetent leaders in government around the world but never knowing what drove me to do so; the Pusher here has kept large sections of the public addicted to drugs, both legal and illegal-”
“I prefer the term ‘medicated’,” the Pusher interjected calmly.
“Let us not split hairs.” the Fixer begged her earnestly, “The point is that each of us has heeded a calling: the Oilman here has supervised the burning of the greater part of the world’s energy resources, the Bishop has worked closely with the War Lord to set millions at each other’s throats for the sake of a belief and the Media Mogul has worked wonders for each of us – especially since the invention of the Hypnosis Box.”
“Hell, I try!” the Media Mogul beamed, raising his cigar in salute.
The Fixer turned to face the group and looked them each for a moment in the eye. “But now we must all awake,” he whispered intensely, “I think we all know what kind of setback befell us at Carnegie Hall, 6 weeks ago.” A murmur of gloomy assent assured him that they were more than aware. The Fixer took his seat once more and leant his elbows on the table.
“The Runaway Child, Theo, did considerable damage that night. He stirred the masses from their unconscious dreams of consumption and pain. He gave hope where there was despair and brought understanding where there was ignorance. He threatened the right and natural destiny of our world to follow its Creator into oblivion.
“Yet he also lifted the veil from our eyes, too.” He looked up sharply and saw that he had everyone’s complete attention. “Is there any among you who can deny hearing the whispers, the secret urgings of the Enemy in his or her dreams? Is there any here today who can say that they do not now understand their role in bringing about an assisted euthanasia to the Story?
“The Storyteller may be dead, my friends and the Enemy along with him but the Story holds onto life like a headless chicken. Like a ghoul in limbo. But its time is coming. Let us awake to the fact that the end of the Story is in our hands – we, the Society of the Death Wish.”
“Cool name.” the Media Mogul whistled appreciatively.
A silence followed in which each of the influential figures in the room allowed the Fixer’s words to sink in. 7 more terrible people could not be found anywhere on the planet though no one would ever recognize their faces or know their names. Between them they held all the world’s power, its armies, its money and information in their hands; the beliefs of the world, its health and resources were all safely in their pockets. A light came to their eyes and they looked at one another with the glow of being among equals, joined by a common purpose.
“My dear Fixer,” the Bishop finally spoke, “You have helped us to see the light today and I think that we are all ready to pledge ourselves to this noble cause.
“But how are we to proceed? Already we work tirelessly to stir up hatred and division between peoples, to encourage exploitation wherever it can take hold, to anaesthetize and distract people from knowing who they really are.
“But since the Child made his address we are besieged on all sides. Hindus have been celebrating with Muslims, Christians have begun to abandon the idea of a hell and atheists have even begun to look inside themselves for answers.”
“It’s true!” the Oilman cried, waving his pudgy gold-ringed fingers through the air and pulling another plate of peanuts close to him, “And now they are saying we must find alternative energy sources. They talk of protecting the environment and conserving natural resources. People have even started riding bicycles to work to cut down on fuel!”
“Smokers are giving up their cigarettes.” the Pusher admitted with a tear in her eye.
“Banks are talking about something called fair trade.” the investor snorted derisively.
“Ratings are bad,” the Mogul sighed.
“Body counts have never been lower!” the War Lord cried with a desperate tremor in his voice.
“Enough!” the Fixer roared, silencing the room in a moment. “Are we to let one child undermine our work of decades, of centuries of labour of our predecessors? My friends, believe me, there is nothing that cannot be fixed.” He gave a cruel smirk and all present hung on his every word.
“Now what I propose is this: the message of hope must be snuffed like a candle flame. We must coordinate our forces to once again sew the seeds of fear, corruption and desire. Any voice of hope or understanding must be discredited, silenced or eliminated.”
“I know all about elimination!” the War Lord laughed, wiping his lips with a scarlet silken handkerchief, “And I suggest we start with the kid.”
A rumble of satisfaction rolled around the room at this but the Media Mogul cleared his throat. “Careful, fellas, you kill someone and before you know it they’ve a martyr, an inspiration for decades to come. I reckon we need to get subtle about this and see if we can’t dilute recent events with a bit of old fashioned show biz.”
“That we can safely leave in your hands,” the Bishop agreed, “But we must also think how to demoralise the Child – take away his crutches and he will fall by himself.”
“The Awakened Ones.” the Pusher hissed. “Take out that interfering bunch of saints and the kid will be on antidepressants before you know it.”
The Fixer nodded. “So it is agreed? The Bishop and the Mogul will begin the propaganda war whilst we dispatch an agent to eliminate all those near and dear to the child.”
A roar of agreement arose from the Death Wishers and they all filled their glasses for a toast.
“To the End of the Story!” the Investor proposed.
“The End of the Story!” they all cried in unison.
“But who will do the killing?” the Oilman asked between a mouthful of pork crackling.
“I know just the fellow.” the War Lord grinned and his smile was matched by one and all.